Taiwan Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in Taiwan
One of the best ways to shop is to visit the island’s famous night markets, which you’ll find located everywhere from Taipei to Taitung. A lively atmosphere of steaming food carts, thumping music and strolling families make them hugely enjoyable places to spend time. What’s more, if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll be able to hunt down some serious bargains. Purchases include: Formosan sea-grass mats, hats, handbags and slippers, bamboo items, Chinese musical instruments, various dolls in costume, handpainted palace lanterns made from silk, lacquerware, ceramics, teak furniture, coral, veinstone and jade items, ramie fibre rugs, brassware, handmade shoes, fabrics and chopsticks (decorated, personalised sticks of wood or marble).
Night markets often stay open later than regular shops, and the Shilin Night Market in Taipei stays packed well into the evening on Sundays. It’s worthwhile setting aside at least a couple of hours for a visit - find everything from dumpling stalls and reflexology parlours to knock-off watches and designer clothes, and it’s normally possible to pick up decent souvenirs at a reasonable price.
Mon-Sat 1000-2200. Some convenience stores are open 24 hours per day.
Nightlife in Taiwan
Taiwan has an abundance of nightlife, and Taipei in particular is lively at night. Western-style entertainment can be found in various international hotels, and in the many discos, clubs, restaurants and cinemas around the city. Popular amongst local people are KTVs, a type of sing-along club modelled on Japanese karaoke bars; and beer houses, which sell draught beer and snacks. The northern district of Tienmu contains a street of open-air beer houses.
Kaohsiung and Taichung are also renowned for their after-dark entertainment. In both these cities, as in Taipei, you’ll find a decent spectrum of late-night venues, from swish hotel lounges to unfussy beer joints. In smaller cities, however, drinking holes tend to be thinner on the ground, so it’s advisable to seek prior information rather than just wandering the streets in the expectation of chancing on a bar.
As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that all recreational drugs (including marijuana) are illegal, so dabbling is strongly unadvised. There have even been reports of police turning up at venues and subjecting clubbers to on-the-spot urine tests.
The visitor can also sample both traditional and modern tea houses, open all day and in the evening. In the tea-growing countryside around Mucha, it is possible to visit all-night tea houses and sip locally produced teas such as 'iron Buddha' tiehkuanyin tea. High-quality meals and snacks are also provided. These tea houses are popular with local families, particularly on special occasions.
Back in Taipei, there are night markets selling a variety of items, both modern and traditional. These are bustling with browsers and bargain hunters, whose persistence can be spectacularly rewarded. It is advisable to take a pen and paper to assist in the bargaining process, as most vendors speak only Chinese. Taipei's largest night market is probably the aforementioned Shilin, famous for its good-value clothing and food. Many shops are open at night.