There are many night markets in Taiwan, and for all the appearance of extensive set-up — the only thing I can (inadequately) compare them to is a gigantic fair, which only blows through my town at most a few times a year — they are there every night. By day, the streets are clear (ha! the streets are never clear here — but relatively), but at night all the doors raise and crowds choke the streets and the smells and heat and steam and noise hover heavily, smothering. We went to the Shilin Market, which is one of the largest, and it was a completely engrossing experience. Stalls, booths, shops, in spaces like deep narrow closets with narrow, overhead, garage-style doors, all crush together in a tangled mass of choas, where people pulse like a swarm of insects, around, behind, even over the wares of the sellers.
The food is awesome in the purest sense of the word. I wandered slack-jawed past cart after cart of meat and fruit I could not name: Steaming meat laying in rows, strung up in long strips, or piled high bin after bin, charred black, steamed red, spiced yellow; fruit carts festooned with bright, glistening color in textures both familiar and foreign.
You can buy anything here. Shops, carts, even blankets spread in the walkway offer an incredibly disparate selection, from finely tailored dress shirts to touristy trinkets and stacks of candy or rows of pretty paper and newly marinated victuals; all manner of sellable (and questionable) items are ready for perusal. And, adding to the ambience as you browse, the aromas… (Oh, and nevermind that smell wafting up from the vents underfoot, but do pause for gratitude for enclosed sewers at home!)
The night market is vibrantly, squirmingly alive. People move, shop, and mingle without benefit of "personal space," and everything from buses to scooters (Scooters! So! Many! Scooters!) ease steadily through the swarming crowd without pause. (I chuckled to note that the little man on the walk/don’t walk signal runs when it is his turn!) Nothing and nobody pauses here. The misty rain is barely noticed, the crowds are a non-factor, one cart lacking your desires only means a hundred more to explore. I wonder how they must scurry in a monsoon?
The Shilin Market completely fascinated me, a place I could get lost describing, so I’ll leave it at this. A note on the photos: We have few and mediocre photos of this trip. (Why else would I be posting photos with that hair??) We were without our camera charger and got by with a disappointing cheapie with instructions and symbols we could not read. I am choosing not to spend time in regret over this and just journal A LOT.Read More