Friday, August 24, 2012

Night Markets

Before I came to Taiwan I imagined that at night every street would be full of lights and crowded with people browsing shops where everything is incredibly cheap and nothing is impossible to find. I think that my imagination was more affected by movies from Japan then by China or anywhere else in Asia, but in Taiwan I found night markets that exactly matched my imagination. Apparently the night markets in Taiwan are quite famous for their variety, popularity and food. 

There is really nothing from America that I can compare night markets to because in America they would probably be shut down immediately. The markets are a combination of low end and high end stores, food carts, counterfeit goods stalls. Every now and then the government shuts down parts of the market for violating building codes, health codes, patent law or some other reason, but the markets are so popular they always start back up.

            There are a number of prominent night markets around Taipei city in addition to the randomly occurring groupings of food stand and knock-off purse vendors. My two favorites are Gongguan which is directly across from the university. Gongguan is not as big as many other markets and certainly not as crowded but the selection of food is top notch. Chen SanDing’s milk tea and the GuaBao (pork buns) stand in front of it make for a great late night snack.

Shilin Market is considerably bigger and based on the 6 established markets I have seen, its probably the best. The food selection is good and they even have an underground food court where the quality is more closely monitored, which is a nice change from the questionable meat vendors on street level. Shilin is also the most crowded market which I hope is because it is the best market in Taipei. They have a very wide selection of cheap souvenirs and clothes but unfortunately because I am almost 6’3” (190cm), there is almost nothing that fits me. My height does have one advantage though; I can see clearly over the crowd to take pictures.

In the middle of Shilin market there is even a full sized Temple. It blends in quite well with the surroundings because it is fully electrified. They have electric signs, multicolored lights and music playing inside. It still makes for a peaceful place to get away from the worst of the crowds and maybe try to use some Oracle blocks or pray to Mazu, the goddess of Taiwan.  

        One other night market that is worth mentioning is Huashi Tourist night market. While it looks fairly modern, its not all that impressive as a night market. It apparently used to be in a dangerous part of town but the area has been developed recently. Huashi mostly markets to foreigners and is the only place in town that I’ve found that sells snake soup and turtle heads. If you are feeling adventurous the snake isn’t bad, it mostly tastes like chicken.

I’ve been going to a lot of Markets recently to buy souvenirs before heading home. It definitely makes for a great and unique experience for remembering Taiwan. There is nothing like it in the states and in my opinion night markets are pretty quintessential experience for anyone visiting Taiwan.  

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