Things to do in Taipei, Taiwan: A day in the life of the market
The wet markets of Taiwan usually are not on the regular tourist schedule.Most guides or local people would never think of bringing their customers or friends anywhere near them. The floors are wet, vegetables are still dirty with the mud from the fields, slabs of meat are cut open on the stands, all kinds of smells float in the air. This does not make their home, Taiwan, looked civilized.
The morning markets in Taiwan are actually similar to farmers' markets in the West. All the food supplies are fresh. Packaging food nicely would be a waste of time, and would stop the shopper from feeling or tasting the quality and freshness of the produce.
From picking out of the fields to handing to a customer, the whole process has to be done within less 12 hours.
This is a day in the life of a typical morning market:
The day starts in the late afternoon of the previous day. At hundreds of farms outside the city, farmers begin picking the fruit and vegetables that will be sold in the next day's market. Some of them work late into the night.
12 midnight: The market vendors wake up and set out to drive to the farms.
2am: The vendors visit many farms, buying good vegetables and fruit from each one. They also visit wholesale markets near the city to buy fresh fruit and vegetables that have been driven up from the south of Taiwan overnight.
5am: The vendors return to the city with the produce.
6am: They arrive at the market and being preparing their stands. They are busy displaying the goods on the stands or shelves, awaiting their early customers to arrive. Local people like to shop in the morning markets, because they always have the most freshest ingredients to offer.
8am: I like to shop for my ingredients in the morning, to get the freshest products at a good price, and to see my friends running their stands. It's a great way to start my day. I usually go to the same stands to purchase certain items. For example, some stands are good at supplying mushrooms, some are good at supplying organic vegetables or fruit. The markets are full of colorful food, the sun shines on them and the smiling faces behind the stands.
9am: Usually the most quality-conscious morning market shoppers finish their shopping before 9 o'clock. The vendors know those picky customers are willing to pay more for good quality food.
10.30am: The market begins to slow down. The most successful vendors may already have sold out of many products and be preparing to shut up shop for the day.
11am: After 11 o'clock, you will find many vendors start to drop their price. As the goods have been displaying on the stand since early in the morning, and the market will soon finish by noon. Now, you will also find the customers who are into bargaining arrive. The vendors are trying harder to sell the goods, they reduce the price much to encourage people to buy more. If they keep the products till tomorrow, they won't be as fresh, and it will cost even more to keep them.
12 midday: Most of the market is closed by now. Stallholders go to eat and return home to rest in preparation for another day's work.
Visit a market and see for yourself! Here's a list of markets in Taipei with their opening times.
Photos by Joyce Tay