The Wonderful World of Taiwanese Night Markets
The Night Market is an integral part of Taiwanese life. Whether you live in Taiwan, or are just visiting, a visit to a Night Market is a right passage that you must experience. Though I visited most of the Night Markets in Taipei and in other cities, my favorite by far was the Shilin Night Market. Located conveniently close to Jiantan MRT station, this Night Market happens every night, rain or shine (I've been during all types of weather!) There is so much to see and do! Let me break down to you the different sections of the Night Market so that you can more easily manage it.
The first section you will see upon exiting the Station is the food area. Many stalls selling everything from boba drinks to tea, noodle dishes to soup and shave ice are all available there. The prices are cheap! Many of the menus aren't in English, so just look at the pictures and point saying "Wo yao!" and they'll understand (if they're not English speakers, which more Taiwanese are becoming). It's also fun to just randomly point to something you don't recognize, hope for the best, and try it!
Leaving the "food court" area and walking away from Jiantan Station and towards the lights and sounds, you will enter the marketplace. Now, there is no rhyme or reason for what you will see. The stalls aren't in any particular order. You may pass a shoe store, lingerie shop, Chinese Medicine place, and a candy shop all next door to each other. On one street you get a haircut, a Taiwanese foot massage, buy new clothes, and have a snack.
In the middle of the pedestrian walkway you'll find more street food. Anything from stinky tofu to deep fried duck heads. If you can imagine it, you'll probably find it there. The Night Market, as it continues, twists and turns into smaller alley ways, all connecting back to the major vein of the place.
A note about prices in the Night Market: they aren't always fixed, but much of the time they are (definitely different than Middle Eastern bazaars). A rule of thumb is that if you buy two or more you can generally get a cheaper price.
So go to the Night Market! The best time for a full experience is to go on the weekend when everyone is out and about. Travel on!