Hukou’s Monday Night Market

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Photos by MJ Klein

It’s been awhile since we had a visit to our local night market on Monday evenings, so this time I took my Nikon along with me.

Hukou Monday Night Market

Even from this far away you can see the bright lights in the distance.

Hukou Monday Night Market

We park our car up at the beginning of this road (same road as the above photo).  Lately, young kids have been going up and down this road very fast, on scooters, no helmuts and as many as 3 people on one scooter.  Just the week before I saw one kid very nearly crash into a line of parked cars because he took the curve just a bit too wide at that speed.  Do you think he slowed down?

Hukou Monday Night Market

Up at the entrance to the night market.  Just as I snapped this photo, someone almost ran me down on a scooter.  Why are people in such a hurry to go nowhere important?

Hukou Monday Night Market

Every week we eat at the “quick fry” restaurant.  Here we see the boss whipping up some great local cuisine.

Hukou Monday Night Market

Right behind the Quick Fry is one of those iron plate steak places.  Notice the space between the tables.  Can you guess what happens when any space is left between tables and chairs like this?

Hukou Monday Night Market

If you answered: “Some people, with total disregard for your meal and contents of any drinks on the table, will forcibly push past you and use that space to cut through to the other side, most likely knocking over said drinks and spilling your food.” – you would be correct.

The rocket scientist above nearly fell flat on her face as she tripped on the tires embedded in the blactop which are supposed to demark the selling spaces. We’ve had our drinks knocked over, food spilled, and we’ve been violently pushed right into the table by selfish people forcibly pushing their way past us in the dining area and not on an actual walkway.  These concepts are lost on people here.  If you get upset or try to explain it to them, they’ll think you’re crazy.  I usually position the tables so there is no gap and i sit in between them to discourage passing through.  It’s all part of the night market experience. That and being called names.

Hukou Monday Night Market

This is a parting shot of the boss cooking up another excellent dish.  This guy is on his feet all night and he really works hard.

Hukou Monday Night Market

Sometimes, Hui-chen likes to get some other dishes, and there are quite a variety to choose from.  Here you see her ordering some of Taiwan’s famous stinky tofu.

Hope you can join us in Hukou some Monday night for our excellent market!

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19 comments

  1. Hi Mj great pics as always.

    I checked out the specs of the pictures as I really love the colours in the opening picture. I like to see what other people use in their settings when taking these type of pictures. I have been playing around with all different settings but have so much to learn.

    Did you use a tripod to take the first and second picture? There is no camera shake, or what is your secret to such a steady hand?

    In the third picture there is a man sitting down who looks very much like a monk. Was this the case? I have looked at the larger picture and from teh orange robes and also his bag, he has to be a monk.

    It is against the precepts that monks undertake to collect alms after dark, they should be in their temples for the night. They can collect donations and food only after sunrise and cannot eat after 12 lunchtime. Here people would call the police and dob the monk in.

    I love markets, a great place to take pictures and just people watch. Sadly we don’t have the really good street markets here in sleepy Isaan.

    I love market food. It looked great but the “stinky tofu” I am not so sure about!!

    Not trying to pigeon hole most Asians, why don’t they have common sense and do such stupid and rude things all the time? Here in Thailand they are the same and like you said “you point this out” and they think you are crazy and rude.

    That could be a sound off!!

    Great blogging mate.

    Bruntys last blog post..Clothes, a buffet and papaya salad, Thailand.

    1. Brunty » nice to hear from you again, as always.

      night photography is one of my favorite modes. i normally don’t try to white-balance for artificial light, as i like the wild colors. i’m using an optically stabilized lens, in this case a Sigma: http://www.sigmaphoto.com/lenses/lenses_all_details.asp?id=3329&navigator=6 . the OS system makes a huge difference as you can see. those shots are all hand-held and while i do have a lot of experience hand-holding long exposures, the OS system really does smooth things out. shots that would be unusable with a standard lens come out looking good with the OS system.

      in the third photo that is a monk for sure. in Taiwan they have both Buddhist and Taoist monks. i couldn’t tell you the differences (mostly because i couldn’t care less) but i do know that whatever the “rules” are in Thailand, they are different in Taiwan. i’ve seen monks here with mobile phones and daytimer organizers, and there are at least 10 night time television channels with monks talking for hours on end. you can’t tell me that someone isn’t making money there. i’ve also seen a monk after dark in Hong Kong, and he was rather pushy towards me about wanting money (i told him to go screw).

      to answer your last question – it’s all about what your mother taught you (or not). today, there is an entire generation in China who had never had to lift a finger, they having been treated like an “emperor” or “princess.” mother never taught any of these new generation, what’s socially acceptable, and that violation of personal space or other personal transgressions are not acceptable. even this weekend in Taiwan, people purposefully stepped right into my path while walking. i just kept on walking and bumped right into them. eventually they’ll learn but not overnight.

      i’ve heard HK people claim that after 100 years of British rule, they consider themselves to be the most “civilized” of all the Asian societies. yet i find the same crap there too.

      thanks Brunty. take care my friend.

  2. MJ,

    Stinky tofu. I didn’t appreciate during my stay in Taiwan, but now I miss the smell. For me, it’s a genuine and unique part of the experience of the night market.

    MJ, I really appreciate how you’ve talked a bit about the good as well as the bad aspects of people, places in Taiwan – for example, rude people, being called names, etc.

    As I have noted here, I get a good sense of the place from your very unique perspective. Too often bloggers are too absolute in either praising or criticizing their experience in a new country.

    1. DWu » thanks for your kind comments. i try to tell things how they are, albeit from my own perspective. as you know, no single place is 100% positive and good, but overall Taiwan is a wonderful place to live and i consider myself to be privileged to live here.

  3. You summed up the night market experience perfectly MJ! I think going to night markets has become less and less enjoyable since I first moved to Taiwan.

    Todds last blog post..Take it off

    1. Todd » i go a couple of times a month, so it doesn’t get too old. fortunately ours is quite large and more fun. i enjoy taking visitors there. maybe you guys can join us some Monday evening? thanks Todd.

  4. MJ,

    I love stinky tofu. I need to learn how to make that. I’m sure all my neighbors will thank me when the scent wafts through our complex. Smells like garbage but tastes so good.

    The people pushing and invading my personal space really drives me crazy. That’s probably my biggest complaint abut Taiwan. Have you seen the people on scooters trying to squeeze between the buses and the sidewalks while people are trying to get on or off the bus? What’s up with that?

    owshawngs last blog post..Calling From The Toilet

    1. owshawng » i don’t think the smell is any worse than making kimchee.

      what’s up with that, is 2 fold i think. first, people aren’t taught to respect anyone else. secondly, is the concept of the “hao peng yu” where if you aren’t a friend, then “eff you” (i’ve blogged on this before). i’ve had Chinese people treat me with indifference, and even contempt, only later to have them introduced to me by a mutual friend. suddenly, i’m in a new category and they show respect and courtesy. in Taiwan, if you’re not in the good friend category you are just another bothersome thing to be tolerated. this explains why you’ll be walking along and someone will jet right in front of you with a scooter and park it directly in front of your path so you have to walk around. their mother never taught them that this kind of indifference to another person is demeaning to them. instead of waiting one single second and coming in behind you, people press forward (how many times have you ever seen someone back up to get out of the way for you?). but on the other hand, these kinds of things don’t register with the local people at all. you can do that all day and no one will think twice about it. if i stand and hold the door for someone, often they will give me a suspicious look as if i’m then going to hit them up for a favor afterward. i remember stopping for a second in a bank to hold the door from slamming in a person’s face as he was coming in right behind me. care to guess what he did? he brushed past me without a word, and stepped right in line in front of me, actually breaking into a little jog in order to get in front of me. needless to say, i don’t hold any more doors.

      when China takes us over it will only get worse. a lot worse.

      1. Thanks for the more detailed explanation. The complete indifference to others is so bizarre for me.

        I agree if Taiwan gets taken over by China it will be a lot worse. The worst plane ride I ever had was from Sydney to Hong Kong on our way to Taiwan. The plane was full of mainlanders. They were loud, pushing, shouting, taking stuff right off the carts the flight attendants were pushing. Even spitting on the floor. I won’t even get started about NYC’s Chinatown. I love Koreatown, but have zero interest i ever going back to New Yorks Chinatown.

        owshawngs last blog post..Calling From The Toilet

        1. owshawng » it’s bizarre because your mother would have smacked the back of your head if you did something like that.

          in one of The Most Embarrassing Moments I’ve Had In China(TM), the men at the table were blowing their noses “farmer’s kleenex” style and spitting right on the beautiful marble tile floor. when i expressed displeasure, they said “may guanchee” (like “nevermind” or “it’s ok”) but i wasn’t able to get them to understand that it wasn’t ok for me. no one wants to see that going on but that never occurred to them.

  5. it’s been a while since we’ve been to a night market and I kinda miss it. we might go the our local night market soon after looking at these photos, which by the way are great as usual.

    andress last blog post..baby flying kick

  6. I had an invasion of personal space this afternoon. I was sitting at a table at a roadside cafe, relaxing after work. Picture a small table and two chairs, one occupied by myself, the other with my backpack. Suddenly, three betel-nut chewing middle-aged guys pull up three chairs to my table, set an ashtray down in front of the magazine I was reading, and proceeded to make themselves at home with their drinks and cigarets! I started yelling at them to go away, they started yelling back, I told them what they could do with the table, and then stormed out.

    I know this has nothing to do with night markets (though there is one a few meters away from the cafe), but I was wondering what your take on all this is.

    Kaminoges last blog post..Signs all around

    1. Kaminoge » i’m sure they thought that you couldn’t possibly be put off by them – and of course if you were, eff-you because you’re a foreigner. sad but that’s my take on it.

      were all the other seats taken?

    1. Kaminoge » that’s a good question. since you are asking me i’ll tell you what i (probably) would have done, and my take on such situations.

      holding onto the last table in a crowded place is an opportunity to show people what kind of person you are. strange as it may sound, when i’m in one of our local places and it’s near capacity, i’m usually the one who finds seats for newcomers. just last week, some Vietnamese people were taking up 2 tables in front of me; one woman had her purse on an empty chair, while one of the men was using an empty chair to hold the karaoke book. a Taiwanese couple came in and while there was an empty table right in front of the karaoke machine, there were no available chairs. not one single person even acted as if they noticed the couple standing there, looking around (we’ve talked about this indifference before). i stood up, walked over to the purse (which was parked at my table) and handed it to the woman who owned it. i gave that chair to the woman with no seat. next, i handed the karaoke book to the man who was singing and took that chair and gave it to the man who had no seat. they thanked me profusely, and i responded in Chinese. i’m sure that gave them some positive impressions regarding foreigners.

      in your case, you were at the last table and your backpack was taking up one of the remaining chairs. often we talk about free and open societies, but one often-overlooked aspect is that in an open society, one risks being occasionally offended (which is why Chinese demand “apologies” for everything – their society isn’t open and free and they don’t get it). those 3 guys had nowhere else to go. granted, they could have been less crass about how they sat down (that indifference again) but in reality, even a foreigner probably would have ended up sitting there with you, although they probably would have asked first.

      in this society, people don’t feel guilty, they feel ashamed. the key to these types of interactions is to get everyone in “apology mode.” let me give you a different scenario:

      the 3 men walk over and proceed to sit down. you take your backpack off the chair, and apologize profusely. they in turn, respond that it’s nothing. then you cough and say that smoke bothers you. now it’s their turn to apologize, and you may find that they might even remove their cigarettes for this unusually polite foreigner.

      this is how i handle such situations. in the first 30 seconds of any given encounter it’s important to demonstrate that you are a polite (and thus reasonable) person. i have found that an apology goes 1,000 times further than a complaint (in Asia that is). apologize for being neglectful and not noticing those guys didn’t have a seat while removing your backpack. now it’s their turn.

      this is not the same as allowing someone to blame you for something you didn’t do. this is setting up the tone of the encounter. apologizing in the first 30 seconds establishes some key important points:

      1. you can speak Chinese.
      2. you recognize that the situation is rather embarrassing in the context of Asian social interactions (it doesn’t matter that no Western person would find this embarrassing at all).
      3. your recognition of #2 establishes that you are not an ignorant person (foreigner) and that you’ve been here long enough to know how things are.
      4. you are reasonable and not looking for trouble.

      this is one of the most important things i have learned living in Asia. foreigners demand, Asians apologize.

      as much as it goes against the grain, the next time someone does something like that, apologize to them “bu hao esu” and see what happens. it’s virtually impossible to ignore that kind of apology. the response will be immediate and favorable.

  7. Thanks for the comments. Good advice as always. But the last thing I would want to do in that situation is to share my limited space with three betel-nut chewing, Long Life-smoking yahoos. The twist to all this is that there were originally four chairs at my table. Two of them were taken by a couple of women at the next table who, to my great (but pleasant) surprise, actually asked me if it was OK to do so (most of the time people just walk up and take an empty chair away without bothering to ask if I may need it. True, it usually happens when I’m alone, but how do they know I’m not waiting for friends to arrive soon?). The unusual bit of politeness was quickly followed by the unusual act of rudeness (this is the first time anything like this has happened during the years I’ve been here) – why do things always have to happen in the extreme in Taiwan? 🙂

    Kaminoges last blog post..Signs all around

    1. Kaminoge » Taiwan certainly is a country of extremes! that’s just how it is here. nothing mundane or ordinary. yeah i dislike the red-mouthed smoking idiots too but there isn’t much you can do about them except leave, unfortunately.

      your recent posts about signs is quite interesting! seems that Taiwanese don’t consult about Japanese language before making signs, same as English.

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