MUZHA MARKET, TAIPEI — It’s hard to think of Taiwan and not immediately think of the market scene. Throughout majors cities such as Taipei, so much commerce, community, and camaraderie takes place in the thousands upon thousands of market stalls.
Among the oldest daytime markets in Taipei is Muzha Market, and I’m fortunate enough to live within a 10 minute walk of Wenshan District–my home for the next six months.
A short-but-somewhat-treacherous walk across the river and through a few very narrow alleyways lets out into a lovely-yet-intense cacophony that hits every sense. Hawkers out-bark each other for the attention of the troves, armed with bags and buggies and New Taiwanese Dollars to spend on anything from tea sets to cuttlefish … and you can have those dried, wet, live, fried, and just about any other way. None of these wore 3D glasses, however.
Making sense of the marketplace is simply not possible for a newcomer, so waft and wander through the isles. I let my ears and my nose take me through the alleys. Strange-yet-friendly faces greet me, careful not to “hard sell” me too much lest I scurry off, but still helping me make sense of the market.
It’s very clear that I’m the “newbie” here, and Taiwanese hospitality kicks in–polite and gracious replies to my surely-butchered “你好” (“Hello” said “nĭ hăo”) and “谢谢” (“Thanks” said “xièxie”). My garbled attempt to introduce myself “我叫尼克” (“My name is Nick” said “Wǒ jiào níkè”) is met with nearly flawless English from several vendors. The world and it’s linguistic skills amaze and elude me.
Today’s market has a bit of an extra excitement in the air, and banners overhead remind us why: national elections are ongoing today, and many are either coming from their polling place, or heading to it. I suspect this evening to be an exciting one, no matter the election outcomes.
My main reason for visiting the marketplace? Culinary adventures. I found out pretty quickly that this market was more for stocking one’s pantry and one’s belly and as a result, lunch was more of a series of snacks than a sit-down event.
Jetlag sets in bit, and after a quick snack on a square of candied ham (I’m sure it has an official name, but I’ll sort that out another day), I scurry back towards the fringes of the market. I’m sure I’ll be back here many, many times … but my body’s not quite sure if it’s Friday or Saturday, and seems a bit confused by the daylight.
But first, a quick stop for some gaming.