COMPASS MAGAZINE, August - September 1998. VOL. 5 ISSUE 5

Hitting the Night Markets

By Lisa Chiu

It's crowded, noisy, smells bad and most of all, the games are overpriced and sleazy - but the food sure tastes good, and it's cheap! Most foreigners view the night market as a place to enjoy a side of Taiwan life that is not all that apparent through the typical day because it offers a candid insight to a culture otherwise shrouded in mystery and wonder. Just take a look around at some of the more popular "Yeh-shr's" and you can see for yourself what Taiwan is really all about.
Frequently viewed as a place for dad to take the wife and kids on a nice little family outing, it is not at all unusual to step into a bizarre arena of gambling, buying pirated music, scanning through mounds of knock-off clothing, plastic DKNY purses and chromium-plated Rolex watches. Of course, it's family time. Night markets are the one place you can go and see father and son playing jump rope in the street at 3:00 in the morning and you can rest assured that this is a normal activity. To the average foreigner, the thought, "What's the matter with this picture?" should come to mind, but to the locals, it's just regular healthy family bonding.
And if you're still stumped as to why diarrhea is a common topic of conversation among locals, just visit a night market and go bold! The important rule is to try everything, especially the island-famous "chou dou-fu." DO NOT ask your friends how it is made before trying it, just hold your nose and swallow. After the fact, you can have your companions fill you in on the details as to how such a smelly-but-tasty cuisine could come about. Now aren't you glad you waited?
Afer years of living in Taiwan, I have found that for those unwitting few who find themselves having little else to do with their evening hours, the night markets offer a refuge of fun, games and food. Who knows who you'll meet next, what you'll see, or what new exotic items you'll take home. So go out and bargain, practice your negotiating skills and/or Chinese. And keep these tips in mind when bargaining:
Approach the vendor with three things in mind: a.) The price you are willing to pay for the item that you are interested in b.) The price you WANT to pay (aka. target price)
Take out any extra cash that you may have in your wallet and leave only the amount that you are only willing to pay. Only use NT. Dollars will just double your cost.
DO NOT make the initial offer. Ask "Duo shao qian?" and you will be granted an opening price. If it is below your target price, you may wish to go a little lower or just save yourself a potential fight and hand over the money. Most likely, the initial quote will be above your target. This is your cue to make your target price known. Stay as close to this price as possible.If it turns out that the vendor will not accept your highest price, much less your target price, show him the money and your empty wallet, say you don't have any more and that this is your final offer.
DO NOT bargain just for fun and then walk away. Not only is this bad karma, but it will also enrage the vendors and they may unleash their hairless gutter dogs on you. Happy bargaining!
Where the markets are
(head out anytime after 8:00):

Tunghai Night Market - Every Tuesday; Drive north on Tunghai Rd. past the university until you come to a white walking bridge. The night market is just after the bridge on the right-hand side. Kuochi Street
Fengchia Night Market - Every night; Located to the right of Fengchia University¡¦s main gate; Wenhwa Rd.
Chunghwa Night Market - Every Night; The market starts at the intersection of San Min Rd. and runs arounds along Chunghwa Rd. all the way to Chung Cheng Rd.
Hsitun Night Market - Monday Night; near the end of Chinhai Rd.
Chunghsiao Night Market - Every night; Behind the Taichung train station on the other side of the tracks, between Fuhsing Rd. and Chiencheng Rd.

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