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China Daily Website

Eat, Drink and Play

Updated: 2012-08-20 10:59
By Eric Jou ( China Daily)

"Shida is still very vibrant, we still get loads of people coming here," says Parng. "Many come to see what's left and are surprised to see the market still very much there. Loads of tour buses drop off tourists from the Chinese mainland."

The impact tourists from the Chinese mainland have had upon the Taiwan night markets have been very profound.

Parng and Lin both say that it was immediately obvious that cross-Straits tourism has opened a steady flood of visitors eager to experience this Taiwan tradition.

Taiwan blogger and foodie Camie Tao says the night markets are the best way for foreigners to learn about Taiwan culture.

"If a tourist only has a few days in say, Taipei, they can't physically go to all the special local restaurants," says Tao. "But with night markets, they can stroll down the food section and sample a little of everything. Basically, they can eat and taste the local food culture at one spot."

Tao, a regular on Taiwan television's food shows, says the success of the night markets owes a lot to their ability to cater to what Taiwan residents want.

Tao cites the example of Eslite, one of Taipei's most popular bookstores.

"Eslite became what it is today because it catered to what the customers want. Customers wanted more than just books, they wanted coffee and food, and one-stop shopping," says Tao. "Night market patrons wanted more than just food from the night market, so the markets adapted and have become one-stop entertainment locations."

One thing that makes night markets particularly interesting is the fact that they are special to Taiwan, Tao says. While many places on the mainland have night markets, they are not the same spectacles found in Taiwan.

Parng also attributes this uniqueness to the Taiwan way of life and culture.

"Night markets are a special part of the local night life," says Parng. "Compared to night clubs, a night market is a very family oriented affair."

For 23-year-old Taiwan resident Candy Fan, night markets are an important part of her life. Fan recalls growing up in Taipei and visiting the various night markets with her parents.

"I really liked going to the night markets when I was younger, in fact I still love it now," says Fan. "I used to love to play the games, like fishing for prawns, catching fish with a paper net and shooting balloons with darts or a BB gun."

For young people like Fan, the night market has become a place to hang out with friends. The affordable food and vibrant atmosphere are attractive, and Fan says she and her friends visit night markets at least once or twice a week.

"The night market is a part of my life," says Fan. "It's a part of my culture and an inseparable part of Taiwan life."

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