snapshots from the Shilin Night Market

Shilin, like any night market, is an assault on the senses. flashing lights beckon you towards cheap trinkets for sale, while whiffs of stinky tofu drive you in the opposite direction. balloons whirl amidst the pop of darts and the crinkle of plastic-wrapped prizes. the warm glow of a gua bao stall draws you in, glistening red candied tomatoes and strawberries water your mouth. the whir of fruit in blenders makes music with sizzling sausages, clinking glasses, and the laughter of children up way past their bedtime.

from deep in this maze of scents and colors, a temple emerges. nearly every night market has one - the heart of the market around which all this poetic chaos has formed, sometimes over centuries. red lanterns illuminate the night, golden deities shimmer behind a smoke screen of incense.

but most people walk by, more interested in bowls of soup and dog costumes at this time of night.

the people flow through the crowded alleyways, snacking on crispy fried squid and inappropriately shaped desserts. they buy giant stuffed broccolis wearing mustaches, cartoon character luggage tags, bedazzled cropped sweatshirts, iPhone cases shaped like superheroes, and anything decorated in cat faces or Totoro.

you might be elbowed or have your foot stepped on, but don't take it personally. look around and take it all in. whip out your phone for some photos [as I did] or brave your lens in the crowd. play a carnival game or fish for shrimp. buy a funny t-shirt and stuff yourself with questionable street food. that's just what you do: another night at the Shilin Market.

Shilin Night Market can be found just off the MRT at Jiantan station, most stalls are open between 5pm and midnight-ish.

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