The next few posts in my People of the Night series are all going to be from Taipei's popular Raohe Tourist Night Market (饒河街觀光夜市) Raohe Night Market is my personal favourite night market in Taipei. It is a 600 meter long street that has lots of delicious foods and due to the narrow nature of the street, there are a lot more food stalls than there are of other varieties of stalls.
It has some of the best food including the famous black pepper buns, lots of seafood choices, Japanese cuisine and one of my favourite dishes - lamb stewed in Chinese herbal medicine. It also has the beautiful Ci-You Temple (慈祐宮) which is one of my favourite temples in Taipei.
With this series, I'm going to split up the posts with different themes which will focus on the various aspects of the night market and the people who set up shop there. The themes will focus on different kinds of foods, fortune tellers, games, and salespeople. I also won't put a cap of five shots per post like I did with the previous series - although I'll try to keep it close.
If you missed the first post in the series click here: Rao-He Night Market 1
1. Traditional Facial Threading (挽臉老闆)
One of the strangest things I saw when I first arrived in Taiwan was this woman who set up shop in an alley between a couple of buildings in downtown Zhongli. There was a long line for her services and every time I walked by I tried to figure out what she was doing. She had a couple of strings in her hand and she was moving them around the face of a young woman who had some sort of powder on her face. I eventually struck up the nerve to ask the boss what she was doing and she explained that it was a type of traditional hair removal. No shaving required! As a guy whose family history is almost 100% of Scottish origin, this interested me quite a bit. One of the things I hate dong most is shaving - and I have to shave quite often. The lady shattered my dreams however when she told me that if I were to try this type of hair removal, It would be extremely painful. In this shot we have quite a large shop set up with several facial threading stations on the outside with Taiwanese foot massage services inside. The boss stopped to look at me as I passed by. I'm not sure how much this costs, but women sure seem to like it.
2. What's in a Name? (算命者)
When I covered the Zhongli Night Market I had a shot of a similar fortune teller. This type of fortune teller is a master of names and they advise people whether or not their name is lucky or not, the name they've chosen for their baby is appropriate and whether or not their companies name is one that will allow them to make loads and loads of cash. As a North American, I find it strange when people change their names. In our culture, someone who changes their name is usually a criminal and doesn't want to be recognized when they rejoin society. In Taiwan however, your name might not be lucky enough to score you a high paying job, or a rich husband, so it's important to have the right name.
3. Mole Fortune Teller / Remover (美容點痣專家)
Moles, moles, moles.. What can I say? North Americans are not fond of moles. We consider them somewhat unattractive and worry about their cancerous side effects. In Taiwan however, moles can be considered good luck charms and a mole in a certain position on your face may mean big things for you. This woman is a type of fortune teller who will analyze the moles on your face and tell you if they're good or bad. More importantly if your mole is unlucky or unhealthy, she will help you to remove it. Given that Taiwan's Health Care System is so exceptional, I'm not sure I'd want to have a mole removed at the night market. I'd much prefer to visit a dermatologist! I asked a few friends about this kind of fortune teller, and they informed me that they are actually quite popular.
4. God Bird Fortune Teller (神鳥卜卦)
The "God Bird" type of fortune teller is a pretty rare variety in Taiwan's night markets. You don't see them that often, but when you do, they are usually quite busy. This type of fortune teller uses birds which will choose certain pieces of paper and the fortune teller will analyze what is on the paper to tell you your fortune. It only costs about 10 US dollars for the bird to tell your fortune, which isn't expensive although I'd much rather pay that money to have the bird released.
5. Shoe Saleswoman (鞋子老闆娘)
Over the course of shooting the Rao-He night market, I took a shots of this vendor on each visit. Each time I visited, she was doing the same thing - reading the newspaper. I had close up shots of her and wide-open shots as well. In the end I went with this shot because it showed more of her environment. This vendor sells affordable shoes for children and teenagers which makes it popular with parents who are looking to save a bit of money. The shoes are mostly all cartoon characters or knock-offs of popular brands. This vendor has to set up shop and tear it down every day, so as you can imagine, having a chance to sit down and read this newspaper is probably a welcome break for her!
6. Night Market Day Care (夜市保姆)
This vendor makes her living selling cute socks. Things that are "cute" sell very easily in Taiwan, especially with young girls. I'm more of a white sock kind of guy and to tell the truth I actually buy all of my socks at the night market. In this shot, I focused on the small child doing his homework rather than his mom, who was busy at work. I'm assuming that working at the night market means that she may not have much time to spend with her child, so she brings him along from time to time. I can't imagine the night market being a boring place for a child, but it's probably not the best environment to grow up in.
I'll be back this weekend with a post about some of the artisans and traditional games at the Raohe night market.
If you have any questions, criticisms or corrections - send me a comment below!