Travel – Taipei 2007: Shilin Night Market

19 07 2007

We visited the Shilin Night Market thrice during our short Taipei trip. That speaks for the attraction of this bustling food and shopping paradise which comes alive in the evening. In fact, it’s my favourite night hangout even if I had to swop perspiration with the crowd there and tax my feet further weary from the day’s walking. And Shilin Night Market is crowded every night of the week – not just weekends.

To get to Shilin, the best way is to take the MRT to Jiantan Station. Yes, there is a Shilin Station but it’s much further away from the night market. Upon exit of the station, just follow the throng of people and helium and neon lights will greet you ahead. You can’t miss it. Shilin should begin operations by 5pm in the afternoon. Shops there start to close at about midnight. Make sure you don’t miss the last train back to your hotel.

The main street as seen in the first picture is flanked by buildings on both sides. While the street is rather broad, illegal hawkers (i.e. selling clothes, food, toys, etc) jostle for the center of the street to peddle their wares. As such, traffic going into and out of Shilin usually ends up in single files. These hawkers really add to the bustle of the area not only through adding variety to the goods available. Every of our visit to Shilin saw the cat-and-mouse game the hawkers play with the police. Once the police is sighted, the hawkers disband, transform and roll out pretty fast. If your back is turned to the hawkers, you will hear some commotion and on turning around, the hawkers are gone. And the big crowd help by moving into the space on the street vacated by them thus ‘covering’ their tracks. Pretty amazing stuff.

For the foodie, there’s LOTS of stuff to eat. The challenge is to find everyone of them! There are side streets branching from the main street so remember to explore them as well. In one of these side streets is the locally famous Ah Chung Mian Xian (rice noodles). Even if you do not find it, there’s little to despair as there’s really so much food to choose from. We literally walked and eat all through the night. My favourite digs were dou hua(tofu pudding), grilled mushrooms and squids, the different buns and a whole bunch of stuff that I do not remember their names. And when you are thirsty, you can always wash down all that food with a papaya shake or watermelon juice. Pigging out outdoors was never more heavenly!

Shopping is great too. Ladies will have a fantastic time shopping for clothes, shoes, bags and accessories. There are similar stuff for guys as well but as I am not too much into clothes I just lingered outside the shops Mrs SWFToys was shopping in. Of course I always had some food in hand to keep myself occupied. I found that with the mouth munching on something, the weary feet don’t complain too much. Sensory distraction.

My take is that Shilin Night Market beats Hong Kong’s Ladies Street hands down. There’s more variety of things to shop at Shilin. Take clothes for example, there are so many shops selling trendy clothes. For food, I found myself eating so much more at Shilin. I was always looking into the stall of hawkers to see what they were selling. And then there was the action of illegal hawkers hidding from the police. Those that were fined sometimes band together to seek clemency and waiver. I believe none were successful. The Taiwanese police do have strong influence and authority or the hawkers would not have to run several times in a night.

You can walk down a brightly lit street one moment and on returning minutes later to find it much darker because the police has gone through it. Sometimes, customers of the hawkers are left eating in the dark without a hawker in sight. Pretty amusing sight.

Shilin also shows the hardworking and enterprising nature of the Taiwanese. They take pride in making their food. They are really good at making a sale with their compliments. And those illegal hawkers are serious about their business even if it means running and pushing their stalls several times each night when the police comes. Don’t miss Shilin Night Market if you are in Taipei! And do let me know if there is another comparable night market there. I’ll mark it down to visit should I be heading there again.





2 responses

24 07 2007
25 07 2007

Haha, yeah. Seeing the hawkers run away from the police is quite an amazing sight. They pack up so darn fast, like Transformers. ROFL.

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