Dec 23, 2008

Shi-Lin Morning Market

101History Tina Yu-Ting Huang 497220255
Instructor Charles Lin, Advanced Level Class A

Visiting Taipei, the Shi-Lin night market is a must see destination. But what if you’re an early bird? Is there not a place you can taste your breakfast with spices of Taiwanese culture? Well, you’re in luck. The traditional Hua-Rong (華榮) market is the place for you! It is located a few blocks from the first entrance of the Shi-Lin MRT station, and it only takes around a ten minutes’ walk to get there from the station. It is an alley full of vendors and shops on both sides. Because it is covered with rainproof ceiling it kind of looks like a long tunnel.

“All for only a hundred bucks!” “The best in all of Taiwan!” “90% off!” All sorts of energetic and lively shouts alarms and lures sleepy potential customers who happens to walk by from as early as nine o’clock to late at two in the afternoon. Here, you can not only hear the convincing shouts of bargains but also be part of bargaining and try your logical reasoning in Taiwanese. Short men, tall men, strong men, fat men, men with different shapes and sizes are all equipped with loud roaring voices to draw all the attention to their selling goods.

The morning tunnel is also filled with the mixture of the aroma of delicious foods and the unpleasant smells of raw yet freshly cut meat on butcher’s tables. The place will make your saliva drip and at times it will force your nostrils shut. Whenever my family wants to take the tunnel as a short cut, my brother would complain about the uncomfortable smells and I would excuse myself to take the longer route for fresh air. The caged chickens and the dripping intestines of pigs decorating the butcher’s display of raw meat, all the meat exposed to the air contributes to the choking smell and the mere sight of it adds to the reasons why my brother and I would back off from the place. Other than the sounds, smells and views of the market, the taste of the tongue is also available by the free food samples. The fun of sampling foods is to see how the weigh of economical profit shuffle a salesperson’s affections. On a sweating summer day, I was offered a native flavoured popsicle because the man in charge was selling well and was feeling generous. However, some samples are intended solely for your money. My family once sampled a fish-ball vendor, finding its taste not so special and we walked off. The man selling it was so furious that he started cursing us for eating and not buying. Emotions of people selling and tasting are stirred in the sampling process, cooking up a genuine dish of Taiwanese culture.

The market is rich with odd products and different types of people. For example, the “cockroach killer” reveals the common frustration of dealing with the roaming insects in Taiwanese homes. Hundred-dollar bags and clothing can somewhat reflect the appetite of shrinking wallets under the global economic depression. The service of embroidering names on school uniforms gives you a peek at the local school life of the young in Taiwan. As for the variety kinds of people, housewives and grandparents are the main portion of the market’s population. In the lively morning market, grandmas and grandpas are seen slowly strolling through to entertain their habitual morning walks, while housewives are seen hunting for the family’s next meal. Many other kinds of people appear in this market tunnel. You might bump into religious monks drumming a wooden instrument in one hand and holding a bowl for coins in the other. “I have seven children and no food, no shelter, no money to live! Have mercy!” moans a sobbing woman you pass by who is poorly dressed in the middle of the crowded market. Sometimes there will be limbless beggars, snaking their half naked bodies in the middle of the road. They won’t threaten you to spare money, buy they sure know how to cook up a pitiful atmosphere by playing sorrowful music while begging on the road.

This market is not on the top list of touring destination; yet it is a place where one can experience local culture. It offers you a sniff, a sound, a look and a savour of the life-styles on the island. Though there may be fishy smells, moaning beggars and other weird things you don’t see on a regular day, they make the tunnel of traditional culture complete. All in all, the Shi-Lin Morning Market is a good choice one can make to smell, see, hear, and taste a bit of Taiwan in an early morning.

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