If you want the ultimate Taiwan night market experience look no further than Shilin. I know I will have arguments from some of my Taiwanese friends over this statement but the fact is there is no other market with the size and variety of food, snacks, shops and entertainment on the island. Plus the loads of characters that work, linger, and entertain throughout the streets and alleys of the area.
The Shilin Night Market has been around since 1899 and has experienced many form changes. The latest was the demolition of the old covered building in 2002. It has been replaced my a more up to date structure that houses many of the food stalls, shops, and entertainment of the market. The new structure is really only one portion of the night market that covers many streets and alleys of the area near the Jiantian MRT station.
Why will I get flack from night market aficionados for the above statement in regards to Shilins’ status in the night market hierarchy? Well some of this is due to the loyalty that locals have for their neighbourhood night markets and towns. Don’t get me wrong. There are many amazing night markets all over Taipei and Taiwan-Shilin is not the only one I would recommend you visit.
Some of my other favourites include The Raohe Night Market in East Taipei-they have some amazing seafood and sushi stalls. Keelung’s Miaokou Night Market which has a huge variety of delicious seafood and their main row of stalls, each with a description of it’s specialty in Mandarin, Japanese, and English exudes the vibe of a gourmand’s pilgrimage site. I also love Kaohsiung’s Liouhe Night Market with it’s bounty from the sea. I actually saw huge prawns skewered and tossed on the grill while they were still flipping around. Many fruit and fruit drinks that are famous at this tropical end of the island can be found every few stalls as well.
But Shilin is the king. It’s massive and draws the largest crowds by far of any other night market in Taiwan. If you had only a limited time in Taipei or Taiwan Shilin must be on your list. Not only to sample the many xiochi, or small eats, including the famous stinky tofu, but to experience it’s vibrant atmosphere.
Alleys jam-packed full of people slowly squeezing around carts, stalls, and shops. Store clerks yelling out specials and demoing their wares. The sounds of blenders whizzing up juices and iced fruit teas. People taking their chance at the many carnival style games like dart throwing, bottle tipping and shooting galleries. The copious amounts of local specialities, frying, steaming, barbecuing. Chicken, pork, fish, seafood, tofu, dumplings.
You might put all of these descriptions together and think, Oh it sounds just like a carnival. It’s not. I really don’t think there is any kind of sensory overload in the Western world that compares to Shilin or any of the night markets of Asia. It is a gathering place to eat, to meet, socialize, shop, to be entertained after work, school, or a stressful day. Many even come to pray at The Cicheng Temple located in the center of the market area. A visit to the Shilin Night Market is an insight into the culture of Taiwan. An experience that will turn your mind around and upside down and give you a completely different view of another world of living.
For a few days in June I took my Fuji XPro-1 rangefinder camera into the depths of The Shilin Night Market for a monochrome photo essay of one of my favourite spots in Taiwan. I hope it inspires you to make Taipei and Taiwan a stop on your next visit to East Asia.
More on night markets in Taiwan:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_markets_in_Taiwan
I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.
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