At 3:30, the food vendors have already begun to set up shop, hauling crates, lining up their wares, and staking out their preferred spots. By 5:00, most of the clothing storefronts have opened as well. Blink twice, and what was once a graffitied garage door is now a shop overflowing with footwear.
As sunset approaches, Shilin roars into full swing. The shoppers are earnest now, scouring the racks of clothes for bargains. 7:00, 8:00: wherever there is food, the crowd throbs like a clogged artery. All around are crawling lines and frazzled workers.
By 10:00, the wave of hungry diners has subsided, and some stalls are beginning to close up shop. A police officer makes his rounds of the market, and sellers who lack the proper license scurry to pack up their goods. At midnight, the last of the customers slowly ambles home, and the neon signs of Shilin shut off one by one.
This timeline will repeat itself tomorrow, and the day after.
Back when I flirted with the idea of event management, I read a profile of an event planner who described how, in another life, she would want to be an interior designer. How she wished that the creations she had labored over for months could last for more than a day.
What she wants is this: a thousand servers moving in tandem, a thousand guests milling about, food and fanfare throughout. What she wants is an elaborate choreography that unfolds every night, laughter commingling with sizzling grills and bright lights, for as long as the city wills itself to exist.
Perpetually teeming with people, Shilin is the largest and most iconic night market in Taipei. The market sprawls across several streets, but food, retail, and games are largely segregated in separate zones. Clothes sold here are cheap and low-quality; unless you’re looking for accessories or one-off pieces to wear, come for the food. Staples like oyster omelette, Taiwanese sausage, and stinky tofu are ubiquitous (and taste about the same no matter where you go), so just opt for the first stall you see. If you’d prefer a more streamlined alternative, the Tonghua and Raohe Street Night Markets are smaller and centered on a single street.
Name in Chinese
Lane 101, Wenlin Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City
Around 150 TWD per person