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.
1. Taiwanese Glass Artist (琉璃師傅)
There is a small Taiwanese company you might have heard of called "Liuligongfang" (琉璃工房) that designs coloured glass sculptures for world leaders and the rich. This type of traditional glass art was a dying art before the company revived it and amassed a large fortune in the process. Through the work of Liuligongfang, Taiwanese glass art became popular on the world stage and people who like that kind of thing may consider visiting the country for dorm handmade art. This specific artist set up in a quiet section of the nightmarket and carefully works in her art to sell people. Her designs are usually traditional objects and are often the same colour as jade because it makes you look rich. It's cool to stop and watch to see how she does this stuff. That or you can just stare at the flames.
2. The Faux-Painter (Bead Art)
While walking past this guy the first time I thought he was an amazing artist who was in the middle of the night market painting traditional art. Upon further inspection however I realized that he was attaching coloured beads to a stencil almost like a paint-by-numbers artist would do. Artist or not, this guy was in the middle of making something beautiful and if the frames behind him were any indication of his skill, I would have to say he's quite gifted. This vendor will sell you a box with the stencil, tools and all the beads you need to complete the project. All you need is a bit of dedication and lots of free time.
3. The Puzzle Lady (拼圖老闆娘)
In a world where smart phones, tablets, computers and video game consoles consume the majority of a child's free time, it's refreshing to see that a vendor selling puzzles can still be so popular with all age types. When I walked past, kids were yelling out the names of the designs they wanted to see while adults patiently waited behind them. She had all sorts of puzzles including famous Taiwanese scenery, world landmarks and the most recent Japanese anime and Disney characters. I had thought that this kind of activity died off with my generation but if her business on that night was any indication - then I was wrong.
4. Pinball (彈珠遊戲)
Pinball is a popular game in all night markets, just like in my last series from Zhongli Night Market, you can see a few pinball vendors in the Raohe night market. It is really cheap to play a few rounds of pinball and if you play, you will always get a little prize. If you do well, and invest more you may even get a much better prize. In a world where kids are constantly using smart phones to play games, it is nice to see that they can still appreciate old games like this.
5. The Sticker Maker (姓名貼)
Stickers are important in Taiwan and guys like this are quite busy. People like to print stickers with their names on them and they will put the stickers on every piece of stationery that they own - making it quite difficult to steal a Taiwanese person's pen. These stickers are relatively cheap and it is normal for kids to always have some in their pencil cases. I had some stickers of my own printed a year or two ago with my name and a batman logo beside them. I was pretty proud of my stickers, but I couldn't bring myself to use them as religiously as kids here do. If you visit Taiwan, some personalized stickers might be a great souvenir to bring back home with you.