Saturday, November 20, 2010

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Huaxi Street Night Market, Taipei

11/20/2010 Taiwan Explorer

Huaxi Street Night Market 華西街觀光夜市 (officially Hwahsi Street Tourist Night Market or sometimes called Snake Alley) is said to be the oldest tourist night market in Taipei. It's opem over 50 years. I went there mainly, because I wanted to try the snake soup, but actually failed to do so. This must also be Mark Zuckerberg's favorite night market in Taipei. The founder of Facebook spent some time here last new year and I'm sure he had fun.

MY IMPRESSION: This would not be my favorite night market in Taipei. In fact, I might seldom return here. I have to say, so far, my best night market in the Greater Taipei area would be the Miaokou Night Market, but that one is in Keelung, which is at least 1h away from Taipei. I love all the food there, it's really my favorite night market in Taiwan so far. I'd bring my friends to Huaxi just to see the snakes, but I'd probably not eat here, I rather go to Shilin for the food, especially because of the famous chicken cutlet. The night market is covered by a roof, which is good, if you want to got to a night market during rain. It looks pretty clean compared to the tourist part of the Shilin Night Market. But there are less people, because snakes are not really a gourmet's magnet.

WHAT KIND OF FOOD IS COMMON: Besides snakes (snake soup, snake blood, snake semen and snake venom), you can have the famous dish from Tainan called danzi noodles (擔仔麵, dānzǐ miàn, also tan tsai noodles), which is a type of oily noodles in a shrimp soup topped with a stewed meat sauce (see a photo here). Another type of food common at Huaxi Street are the thick cuttle fish soup and a thick pork soup, as well as a plenty of other unusual dishes, such as the turtle soup, but also some dishes with mice and crocodiles. I must say I haven't seen any of these, though. A lot of this type of food is nowadays hard to find, because it's a bit controversial (Info: Source). Besides the "special" food, there are many massage parlors in the area. If you're into these things, then Huaxi Street Tourist Night Market is the place for you. Check the video below to get a feeling of the atmosphere (the video is in Chinese).

MUST-TRY FOOD AT HUAXI STREET: Besides snakes, try the turtle soup, the cuttlefish soup and the danzi noodles, those are definitely the highlights of this night market.

The famous covered area, where Mark Zuckerberg was spotted in 2011.

This is the northernmost part of the Huaxi Night Market.

This is the second half of the market, the southern part. Snakes are here.

You have many artists here selling paintings.

This shop sells souvenirs and many similar ones are found nearby.

The main area of the southern part, we're closer to the snakes.

And this is one of the few famous Snake shops selling snake blood and soup.

They don't like taking photos, I didn't know that at first. So be sneaky and don't be caught.

A shop selling turtle meat.

Longshan Taipei Map

Finding the market is very easy. Take the Blue Line train and exit at Longshan MRT Station. Walk to the temple and then left, where you will first reach the Guangzhou Night Market and then turn right and you'll be at the Huaxi Street (Map by Google, click on it for a Google Map).

IN CONCLUSION: If you really have a lot of time, add this night market to your itinerary, but don't plan to spend too much time here. I'd say it's a pretty interesting experience to see the snakes getting killed and snake blood being drunk, but if you ask me, skip the snake soup, it's full of small bones and it's hard to eat, that's what my friend told me. Of course, if you're into eating crazy stuff, go for it and try the fresh snake blood. I honestly can't. That's where I draw the line. Apart from that, there's nothing much to see here, the area is pretty boring. If you want to eat some normal and tasty local food, go to the nearby Guangzhou Street Night Market. And there's also a lot of cheap stuff for you to shop, it has a real Taiwanese atmosphere. So go through Huaxi street, but eat at Guangzhou street. Finish your evening with a prayer at the Longshan Temple and leave home with a smile on your face. There will be a plenty to digest during your sleep, trust me (see the map above for directions).

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