On The Way To Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market Image District

Someone once Googled – “When is the best time of the day to visit Shilin Market?” – only to realize later on that it is a `night market`.

That was me. When I was doing my research on the popular local attractions of Taipei, Taiwan. I have always heard my former work colleagues in Singapore talk about Taiwan with their many markets being a foodie’s heaven and a shopper’s delight.

To answer that question though, Shilin Night Market opens after 5PM and ends around 1AM. So the best time to go there, depending on the weather and season, should be some time after 6PM and before 11PM. This is according to mostly what I have read on the Internet.

When my Babu and I went there last October of 2019, it was already past 8PM. I think we spent the whole night going around Shilin Market, seeing whatever there was to see, and eating street food that we thought was quite enticing to try. It helps to research in advance, but if you are just going to wing it, your best bet would be to queue where many of the people are lining up. Also, use your better judgement and don’t just follow blindly. For example, stinky tofu is really disgusting odor-wise, and is not very appealing in the looks department. Your taste buds might not be suited for it as well. You have been warned.

It is a huge place. In fact, it is one of the largest and most famous night markets in Taipei. So try to budget enough time when you are there so you won’t miss out a lot of things.

But this story is not about all that. The Internet is literally littered with thousands of blogs, vlogs and reviews of the other kinds about this fine cultural attraction of Taipei. Well, I am not going to be one of those statistics. Not really. What I am about to share is something of our unique experience that we had when we were on our way to this well-known tourist attraction.

We were on the way to Shilin Night Market after visiting The National Palace Museum. The latter is around that area. A bus and a hop on the MRT, and one station away, we should have been there. But fate decided we were not going to take that route. It was already well into the night, there were still a lot of people going about, and the bus we chose to take instead was supposed to have its route pass nearby the market, thereby saving us from the MRT ride. That was the plan. I don’t know if we took the wrong one, or we underestimated the nearby part. This is when our sort of adventure happened.

Right after stepping on board the bus, we asked the driver if the bus route would stop near Shilin Night Market. Not being a mandarin speaker, I asked him in English, and when he nodded afterwards in what we thought was a yes, then we relaxed thinking surely the driver would tell us when it was time to get off. Of course, Shilin Night Market is a common tourist destination, the driver would have been questioned many times by foreigners.

Just to be doubly sure, we Googled on how many bus stops were there going to the market. You know how Google only shows how many stops were there in between point A and point B, without showing it in the map? So that was where we kind of erred. Because the bus would pass along point B but that does not mean the walking distance was that near.

As the big bus rumbled onwards, we lost count of the stops, as me and my belle was happily chatting of the places where we had been that day. A lot of people were getting on and hopping off by then and we got confused. We checked again and it seemed we were not going anywhere nearer to Shilin Night Market. The bus was not going away too. Thus we decided to get off the next stop before things got out of hand.

The next stop came. Tapped our EasyCards to exit. Walking towards the sidewalk first to find the nearest bus stop on the map, it was but a matter of seconds, time enough for the bus to have sped away, I was suddenly, yet vaguely aware of some distant noise and moments laters felt a looming presence behind us. I felt a slight tap on my shoulder. Turning around, I was surprised, to find someone excitedly talking to me. That sound I heard earlier was actually the bus driver yelling at us, telling us that we got off the wrong stop! LOL! He was speaking in mandarin so we could not have understood him. He was making gestures, pointing somewhere with his finger. Slowly, we understood what he was trying to say.

We followed him back on the bus. He gestured for us not to tap in. We complied without hesitation (Free ride, yeah baby!). He kept on talking. I must have looked at him with bewilderment all over my face. Finally, he took out his mobile phone, started an app and spoke something into it. Then he pointed at it to signal us to take a look. Lo and behold, it was a translation app, beckoning us to choose what language should it translate it to. After that, the app blurted out in a weird robotic female voice, words in Tagalog, that to my amazement was structured in correct sentences. As if somehow the speaker was a native Filipino but minus the tone and accent. He spoke into the app again, more instuctions came. We too had some questions for directions translated by that smart app. All this happened in a few minutes, the bus still at the stop for what seemed like ages. It was embbarassing that we were holding up the bus ride, although when I looked at the faces of the locals aboard, they did not seem to give a care in the world.

Stepping behind the driver, for what was going to be a short ride after all, we finally arrived at THE stop. Mister driver pointed to his left, instructing us to cross the street and walk up this lifeless road. Saying our good byes and thank yous, this time we used Google Maps just to be sure that we were headed in the right direction.

The walk up to Shilin Night Market was almost a kilometer away. Probably around 800++ meters. It did not matter. Tired and hungry as we were from a day’s worth of sightseeing around Taipei, all that took the back seat because of what mister bus driver did for us. We were truly grateful by his actions that went beyond his duty.

Later on we would ask ourselves if that was an act of kindness and/or social responsibility by the bus driver, or were they merely instructed by the Taiwanese government to do so when it comes to hapless tourists who easily get lost in the big city of Taipei.

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The End

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