the more formal and orderly shopping malls, Taiwan's public markets are
a must-see. Most markets open from morning till midnight, and are usually
packed with market dwellers shopping for their daily groceries. Varieties
of fresh vegetables, fragrant fruits, meats, fish, poultry, spices and
condiments can be bought at the markets.
Come night, the scene
at the markets changes. Fresh food vendors retire after a day's selling
and out comes the food stalls or hawker stalls that serve amazing kinds
of Chinese snack food at reasonable prices.
The most bizarre
night market is the two-block-long lane in the Wanhua district called
Snake Alley, named so because of the type of business that is run by some
of the vendors on that street. As you pass by their shops, the 'products'
they display will stun you. Snakes are the item of trade here. These serpents
are sold for their blood and bile that is said to contain potent spirits
and herbs. Customers do not only get to drink the snake potion, but the
snake vendor will also entertain them as he displays the method of unzipping
the snake to retrieve the potion. Those who are daring enough may ask
to add a bit of poison venom to the mixture. This snake concoction is
said to help strengthen men's eyes, lower spine, get rid of fatigue, and
encourages the male sexual vitality. When the snakes are drained of their
venom, their meat is cooked in soups - a scrumptious and nutritious dish.
Snake Alley also
offers other more interesting and peculiar selection of stalls. Among
them are fortune-tellers, vendors of herbal potions, tattoo parlors, fresh
fruit stalls and hawkers of adornments and gems.
Other available markets
include the Jaoho Street night market (near Sungshan Railway Station,
east of Taipei) and the Shinlin market, which is one of Taipei's largest
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