As I wrote before, the first thing you’ll hear about when planning a trip to Taipei is the night markets — and for good reason.
Night markets are street markets that begin operating just before sundown and close late at night. Many began as a collection of goods and food vendors clustered around temples, and now tourists and locals alike can choose from the larger, destination night markets as well as the more suburban, lesser-known, localized night markets. We visited both large and small night markets. Regardless of size, you’ll usually find that stores facing the street will fling their doors open to sell household goods or clothes, while food vendors will crowd the sidewalks and the middle of the street to hawk their xiaochi, the snacky foods at which Taiwan excels.
Shilin Night Market is one of the largest in Taiwan, and even featured carnival-like games on one edge of its expanse. There’s also an underground food court area that’s almost as crowded as the street level. At one point, I asked my uncle Doug whether Taiwanese locals go to night markets, or if we were just surrounded by fellow tourists. He said night markets attract both — it’s a social thing to do, and the food is so cheap and easy to share.
Unfortunately for me, by the time we arrived at night markets at the end of the day, Taiwan’s oppressive humidity had sapped much of my hunger and appetite. The snacks I did try were delicious, though, and there was no shortage of food options. Night markets, especially the larger ones, can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of vendors, pedestrians and bright lights, but I think we succeeded in trying the foods we’d wanted to, and in immersing ourselves a bit in Taiwanese culture.