Douliu Night Market 斗六夜市

Updated:
The entrance to Douliu’s Renwen Park Night Market.

A couple of months ago I randomly took the train to , the capital of , the least developed county on the western plains of . Douliu is regularly the subject of jokes in Taiwan (when people aren’t trashing , that is) so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there: an old street lined with Japanese colonial buildings, several old Japanese era dormitories and historical landmarks, the quirky Hungry Ghost covered market, the temple of fried chicken, and an abandoned entertainment complex to explore (all things I’ll try to post about at some point). Even more surprising was the size of the Saturday night Renwen Park Night Market 人文公園夜市 located in the southwest corner of town. since living in central and southern Taiwan and wouldn’t hesitate to declare this night market one of the biggest and best on the island.

A surprisingly huge night market for such an otherwise quiet city in south Taiwan.

Renwen Park Night Market, hereafter simply Douliu Night Market, is a large-scale open air night market in the style of the excellent Huayuan 花園 and Dadong 大東 night markets in . According to Chinese language Wikipedia it occupies 3000 píng 坪 (approximately 10,000 m²), the same as Huayuan Night Market. Everything you see in these photos is set up and taken down in a single night. When the night market dissolves there is nothing more than an enormous vacant lot in this space. The transience of such open air night markets is part of the appeal for me. So much human energy is invested in what takes place here.

Obama BBQ… you can’t explain that!
Fresh dumplings on the hot plate.
Sugar-roasted chestnuts fresh out of the oven.
Huge scallion pancakes at Douliu’s Renwen Park Night Market.
Purple yam pancakes. These are actually pretty good!
One of the more popular stalls is this guabao vendor near the front of the market.
Not the usual toppings for a guabao (a “Taiwanese hamburger”) but it was pretty good by my standards.

As with any other night market in Taiwan there is a staggering variety of small snacks to be had ranging from novelty items to more traditional fare. All the usual suspects can be found at Douliu Night Market: barbecue corn, baked potatoes, fried chicken and squid, guabao 刮包, luwei 滷味 (braised food), takoyaki (squid and octopus balls), okonomiyaki (a kind of Japanese seafood pancake), fresh dumplings, oyster omelette and vermicelli, thick soup, sugar-roasted chestnuts, crepes, hot pot, and so on. If you’ve seen it at more than a few night markets in Taiwan it’s probably available in Douliu. The selection is truly extraordinary and everything I sampled was pretty good. With so much activity it was easy to identify the “famous” vendors: just look for the queue and join it to find out what the fuss is all about—but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be chicken feet or something like that!

The night market just goes on and on.
A huge night market auction. The auctioneer must put a lot of energy and humour into their delivery to get people to hang out and maybe even bid on something.
Night market fashion in Douliu.
Hipster night market fashion.
Not something I’ve seen before: a bookseller in the night market.
Anything that glows, flashes, or lights up.
A wall of shoes in the night market. This is actually the side of a truck that opens up.
“Dancing with you, it’s the best thing for me.”

Another regular feature of Taiwanese night markets is the shopping. I have no need for cheap junk so I seldom pay close attention to what sort of stuff people are selling. Mostly I’m interested in amusing permutations of night market fashion, particularly clothing emblazoned with lousy English or strange designs. Douliu certainly had a lot of that!

It isn’t at all uncommon to see exotic birds at night markets in Taiwan. I suppose the idea is to get people to stop and take a closer look at the vendor’s wares. Most of the time it’s the gaming tables that put birds out.
Toy dogs in handbags are a common sight at Taiwanese night markets. Cats over the shoulder, not so much.
One of many pet shops in the night market. Puppies in tiny aquariums under bright lights? Not cool.
An unusual vendor selling exotic pets and cute little plants.
Another thing I’ve never seen before: animal rescue in the night market. These kids are all volunteers helping to find these pets a home.

One of the stranger features of Douliu Night Market is the preponderance of pet shops, pet accessory vendors, and pet owners. There were dogs in handbags, dogs in strollers, dogs over the shoulder—and even a couple of cats! I can’t say I’m a fan of the regular pet shops you’ll see at most central and south Taiwan night markets—the ethics of this practice are questionable to me—but it buoyed my heart to chance upon an animal rescue society staffed by young volunteers in the middle of the market. There is hope!

Candied sweet potato vendor. This kid was so cute and took his job very seriously. Dad must be proud.
Signs of a successful business: a table full of empty milk jugs. Taiwan has been hit by a number of tainted milk scandals in recent years so people are wary of certain brands. I can’t be sure but I think they might be selling Imei brand milk, one of the few companies that people still trust.
Corn dog vendor at work.
This old lady was baking potatoes in an old school oven mounted on a truck.
Cotton candy is surprisingly rare at night markets in Taiwan despite the fairground atmosphere. This vendor sculpts cotton candy into recognizable shapes. Here he is making a mushroom.

No night market experience is complete without a tour of the many fairground games. I almost never play the games myself but I sometimes stop to watch people having fun. Douliu Night Market is huge—and many of the games were also on a grand scale. There were, for instance, two go-kart arenas next to one another—one for boys and another for girls. I suppose that’s one answer to overaggressive little tykes smashing everything in sight!

A children’s art space at the night market. Yet another thing I’ve never seen before.
Night market gaming table.
Night market bingo!
Hot pot restaurant at the edge of the night market.

Douliu Night Market is a bit of a trek from the train station. I walked there the night I went but you might want to spring for an 80 NT taxi ride there. Probably all the Chinese you’ll need to make yourself understood is encapsulated in “yèshì 夜市”, the word for night market, but here’s a map of the location. Douliu Night Market runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays according to Wikipedia in Chinese. A word of warning: the washrooms are an inconvenient 5 minute hike away from the main night market area for some unknown reason.

Mochi lady at the back of the night market. Not bad!

Douliu Night Market is easily one of the biggest and best open air night markets in all Taiwan—a great surprise given Douliu’s diminutive size and unremarkable reputation. It likely isn’t worth a trip down from unless you’re a real night market junkie—but if you’re travelling around southern on a weekend I would certainly recommend adding it to your schedule.

2 Responses

  1. I personally prefer night markets down south/east (the one in Taidong 台東 is actually very nice but small) since my focus is on the food and the ones in Taipei tend to be way too crowded with tourists or vendors selling non-food items.

  2. This nightmarket used to be located in the northeast corner of town about 5 years ago, but moved to its current location (I’m not sure why). Now, there is a Wednesday and Thursday night nightmarket on the old spot. Much, much smaller, but still a decent selection of food and games.

Respond

HTML enabled in comments.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *