Sunday, September 22, 2013


When I had my first night market experience in Bangkok, it was rather overwhelming because I hadn’t quite expected what I saw. Clothing stores filled the criss-crosses of narrow streets, there was an entire section dedicated to food that was separate from the clothing stores. A point to note is that night markets are not exclusively open at night; some are open in the day as well. That said they are a whole lot of fun, so I talk here of some of my favourite night markets. So carry with you lots of change, don’t get excited at the first food vendor you come across, first look around and don’t shy away from bargaining, but surely not at the food stalls or where you feel that the price is already reasonable! Happy shopping on that note…

Street after street of clothing stores, food stands, all light up brightly every night, at the Shilin Night market, which opens every evening at 6pm. The lights, the sounds, the smells will enchant you no end. It is very popular and divided into two parts. I loved the food court that housed countless of hawkers selling yummy snacks and local delights. I suggest one should stroll along the Yang-Ming section first for some retail therapy before hitting the food court where one can rest one’s legs and tuck in cheap food in comfort. It is the perfect place to fill up on a variety of Xiao chi alias small eats! The long queue of locals flow with swift ease and stand as a testament to these tasty and simple treats, Sample this…I was sipping a huge glass of fresh pineapple juice from one hand and nibbling on a hot grilled sausages from the other…I sure was in my element. For dessert I tried silky, custardy, and decadent tofu. This smooth tofu is ladled into a bowl and drowned in a rock sugar soup, and topped with your choice of peanuts, almond agar, tapioca, and other goodies, far from putting off, I was a convert! The best thing is, in the Taiwanese street market, everything is made right in the open on grills and portable stoves, so all you have to do is stroll, gorge, point, and devour!

White Beach which is the main beach is stunning, probably the nicest beach that I have been to on my travels and it goes on forever stretching around three km long. The main area is entirely along one long stretch of white beach and that is where all the action is i.e. restaurants, shops and bars. The sand is beautiful and soft and the sea is crystal clear, a great place to spend a week or two. What caught my fancy here was that it’s not man made, apart from a few places on the far end of the beach, so there is no developed resort feel and the beach is so big that even when it’s quite busy at the weekends it still feels quite empty. I did get to do some shopping, one of my favourite past-times; at the longest shopping beach in South East Asia … I was sold! It houses numerous shops selling trinkets, souvenirs and clothes, a supermarket, local vendors and best of all they also sell every name brand knock off under the sun! Great quality products which you couldn’t even tell were knock-offs at all!

As you walk across the Karlov Most (Charles Bridge), one of the most amazing and famous bridges in the world. You will discover that not only does it connect the two parts of the city but the actual structure itself is gorgeous and it comes alive post sunset. Open to foot traffic only, the bridge is full of people who are selling things, playing music or are simply there just to check out the vibe. With the Vltava River underneath, it indeed is a place to capture the stunning views of the city with the Old Town Square on one side and Prague Castle on the other. Its array of 16th century sculptures, the stories of saints drowned and the general ambience is quite unexpected of a bridge. Call it a day by stopping over at one of the many little watering holes across the bridge where you can indulge in one of the great beers of the world whilst refuelling on Czech staples.


The buzzing Gran Via spans from the Calle de Alcala to the Plaza De Espana is a Shopping paradise for the local and tourists alike. Begin your shopping spree from Puerta Del Sol Plaza which is one of the main centres of the Spanish capital and stroll along the busy alleys and streets that sprout from the plaza. Do drop by at El Corte Ingles an acclaimed commercial Centre that offers a variety of clothing lines, shoes, cosmetics and even electronic gadgets. The H & M store is rather quirky here replete with the changing rooms in the galleries of a former theatre. Zara as we all know is a celebrated Galician store famous for turning round catwalk designs at lightning speed, but out here you would find everything at amazing deals. From Calle Mayor head on to Plaza Mayor a beautiful square completely surrounded by old Spanish architecture, it is a place for festivities, and the perfect place to watch street performers and tourists over a cuppa coffee. This area oozes the essence of modern Madrid, serves as a chill zone, and is where you’d like to spend your evening! However it isn’t open until very late at night.

Many of the over hundred stalls stretching at this miles and miles long nightly shopping area open around 4 p.m. though the market picks up only  late evenings, when locals and tourists alike browse the array of goods, and haggle over prices. The vendors sell artisan wares, textiles, teas, and paintings that hew to local traditions. Just a dozen or so handicraft vendors gather around the main square, hoping to catch the late-night revellers who pour out of the neighbourhood’s clubs, bars, or music venues. It’s an ideal place to pick up antiques, fake Rolex watches, and handicrafts, colourful silk and other goodies at bargain prices. Later you can hit up the street food stalls or the fortune-tellers at the end of the Street or probably just go for a nice foot massage after all that shopping.

The Yau Ma Tei aka temple street market stretches a mile long and is the liveliest after its gets dark. Interestingly it’s also termed as ‘Men’s Market’ as it sells many goods for the Male customers. It’s absolutely a great sight to watch Hawkers trying to grab your attention by flinging clothes and other goods. The Air is filled with various kind of music running the gamut from Cantonese opera to pop and the whiff of delicious food from the myriad of food stalls. Vendors calling, shoppers bargaining, fortune tellers, acrobats…it’s all there. Needless to add I spent the entire evening browsing the different duplicate outlets of expensive brands (read Gucci, Burberry etc.) and actually ended up buying some and why not? They were so real and at such amazing rates.

published in Tlf