Welcome to the Night Market! This is something that I have been looking forward to for a while. Ask anyone where to go while you are in Taiwan, and they will tell you that this is where you need to go.
It is called the night market because business generally begins to pick up at sundown. We arrived at about 6:00PM via taxi. The market itself is a series of winding alleys that are crammed with tiny shops which are crammed with stuff for sale. Once night falls, these alleys are crammed with people meandering and browsing. Get the idea? It's crammed. For all you Minnesotans out there, I would equate it to taking all the food stands at the State Fair and condensing them into one square block.
There was a movie theatre right where the taxi dropped us off. And guess that they were playing? That's right . . . Snakes on a Plane! I asked Dad what the Chinese translation was, and I think that it basically is "On a plane there are snakes." You wanna help me with this one Paul?
The Night Market is basically divided into two areas: clothing and food. I'll bring you through both of these areas one at a time . . .
The clothing area is a series of connected alleys that are filled with shoe, clothing, and accessory shops. You can hear Taiwanese pop music coming from one shop and American hip hop blaring from the next. Shop owners stand outside their stores and lure customers in with the deals they shout as they walk by. The clothing itself is very influenced by American and European fashion, however, there is definitely an Asian flair to everything. Trucker caps, Air Force Ones, and Polo shirts with oversized logos are real hot right now.
While walking around, I bought a few pairs of iPath socks from a stand dedicated to logo-ed socks. The man selling the socks began to talk to me in Taiwanese, but I promptly told him, "English." He, in turn, promplty ripped me off. Oh well. I ended up paying $200 NT, which roughly $6 US. (For those that are interested, the exchange rate is $1 US = $32.5 NT.) Nowhere did the word "iPath" appear on the packaging. Hmmm . . .
This is where things start to get interesting. The food night market is basically crazy. As you walk around, you are assaulted by the smell of all types of food. The market itself is shoulder-to-shoulder, and you have to be rather deliberate as you move, lest you get run over by a black-haired mob. I'll give you a short tour of the market by showing you all of the food I ate along the way.
The first food we ate were these little gelatin balls. They are filled with 3 different pastes, one of which I think was red bean paste. Yummy with a strange texture.
Next up was some fruit. Dad got some guava and bell fruit that had some spices on it. This is one of my American grandma's favorites.
And the food on a stick begins . . . this time it's grilled corn with spices. It's not as sweet as Minnesota corn in July, but it was pretty good anyways.
I didn't eat either of these, but they were notable for their American counterparts: donuts and corndogs.
We stopped for a minute to sit down and eat one of Dad's favorite snacks, fried oysters and eggs. It is covered with a mayonnaise that is ketchup-based and is served on lettuce. Next to this is deep-fried fish paste and pickles, which I found quite delicious.
As we passed some of the food stands, I would catch a whiff of a nasty odor. It smelled like hot garbage or rotten diapers. I imagine that it is not unlike the "panther perfume" from Anchorman. The smell comes from a type of tofu known as "stinky tofu." The scent originates from the fermentation process that is used to make the tofu and is released when cooked. While it smells quite bad, it tastes quite good, surprisingly.
I washed all of this down with a bubble tea (boba), which you can find in the U.S., but was invented in Taiwan. For those of you that haven't had this, it is tapioca balls in a cold milk-tea. This was actually my second one, and was taro-flavored. Mmmm . . . tapioca balls . . .
Having stuffed myself silly, we took a cab back to the van and headed home. My self-induced food coma knocked me out on the ride, and I woke up when we got there. Looks like it's bed time . . .