As local governments are showered with money for local leisure projects, many of Taiwan's more famous streets have received makeovers in the form of stylized brick paving to give them an "authentic" feel. Tihua Street is no exception to this touristy trend.
Tihua Street in Taipei

The area around Tihua Street  in Taipei is one of the city's most colorful and interesting regions. For decades it was the locus of the city's imported cloth and spice retailers. Even today it remains an important retailing area for those two goods. Tihua street itself is lined with nearly-identical sellers of spices and medicines -- the overlapping categories can be appreciated by understanding that many of the items we use as spices in cooking, such as turmeric or fennel, have medicinal functions in Chinese culture. Unfortunately the best part of Tihua Street, its incredible array of smells, cannot be reproduced in pictures.. So you'll just have to imagine the musty sharpness of the aromatic world of Tihua Street, flavored by salted fish, cinnamon, five spice powder, bay leaves, dried mushrooms, preserved sea slugs, candied fruit, fennel, soy sauce, and a million other things whose names I have not yet learned. Enjoy this redolent mix of past and present.....

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Welcome to the confines of Tihua Street in Taipei!

A store selling religious wares.

A cramped alley off of Tihua Street displays many of Taipei's most singular attributes -- indifferent drivers who force large vehicles the wrong way down tiny streets filled with foot and bicycle traffic, the lack of rational parking policy -- and parking spaces --  due to the island's insane land use laws that ensure that precious urban space is filled with vehicles,  the lack of urban renewal to open up these dark spaces, the constant construction, often left unfinished, the sheer ugliness of the buildings and the tremendous population density.

Vendors sell stinky tofu to passers-by.

A view up Tihua Street near the Cloth Market. Tihua Street is always packed with vehicles in a never-ending cacophony of deliveries, buying, and selling.

A seller of stinky tofu waits for customers.

The sidewalks lined with goods. Because of the lack of space in urban areas in Taiwan, goods for sale frequently spill over into the sidewalk. This is also an excellent way to attract foot traffic.

Flowers used to make tea.

Small eateries surround the cloth market.

Retail marketing on Tihua Street.

....leaving just enough room for pedestrians to sidle by.

Neat bottles of Chinese medicines provide a dizzying backdrop to a shop's wares.

Dried sea cucumbers.

This end of Tihua Street is about three blocks from the Cloth Market.

A steamed bun vendor.

A baking equipment supply store. When I lived in Taipei many years ago, I often shopped here. Old stores are like old friends, found again.

The unending flow of delivery trucks.

A shopkeeper arranges her goods.

Dried goods sold as Chinese medicines.

Huge bags of garlic left on a corner for pickup.

One view down Tihua Street.

The musical fruit.

Signs on Tihua Street.

Artfully displayed to emphasize abundance and hygiene......

A medicine shop.

A bulk spice shop sells an enormous array of western spices and flavorings.

Bulk spices. Years ago you could hardly find cumin (far left) or cardamom and when you did, it was tiny little bottles at premium prices. Now western and Indian spices are available in bulk all over the island.

It's always a traffic jam on Tihua Street.

Exploring Tihua Street with my parents.

What are they? Eat it and find out.

The brightly-lit interior of a spice shop.

A storefront.

Shoppers check out the spices.

Tihua Street is a major tourist destination for both local and international tourists.

Apricots, my favorite.

Traffic creeps along..... Whatever.

Soon to be someone's delicious soup.

The square in front of the Cloth Market.

Looking north up Tihua Street.

The men grab a book while the women buy cloth.

The traffic thins for a moment.

The facade of the Cloth Market. It got a makeover when the street was redone. The building itself is old and quite prosaic.

Bowls in an eatery in the cloth market.

The interior of the Cloth Market. It is full of tiny shops selling cloth, similar to the computer center of Nova.

My wife says cloth prices here are not as good as she gets elsewhere.

Searching for just that right piece.

The family pauses for a photo.

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