Snake Alley (Taipei)
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Snake Alley (Chinese: 華西街夜市; pinyin: Huáxījiē Yèshì) or formally known as Huaxi Street Night Market or Huaxi Street Tourist Night Market (Chinese: 華西街觀光夜市) is the oldest international tourist destination of Taiwan. The market is located near a well-known temple, Mengjia Longshan Temple as well as other night markets located on Guangzhou Street, Wuzhou Street and Xichang Street.
The Huaxi Street Night Market shines in its own unique fame; the distinct feature that distance the Huaxi Street Night Market from the other night markets is the entrance of the market is welcomed with a Chinese traditional structural gate, with red traditional lanterns hanging to create a distinctive national feature; the distinctive gates leads to a roofed indoor market, which further intensifies the sense of local and traditional Taiwan feel.
The Huaxi Night Market is a two-block long night market in Wanhua District, the oldest district of Taipei, Taiwan. It is noted to provide various local snacks, seafood restaurants that serve traditional Taiwanese dishes and many delicacies including snake blood and meat, turtle blood and meat and deer penis wine, which can't normally be found anywhere else. But, what stands out the most from the crowd are the various snake delicacies and drinks that the market has to offer; hence the emergence of the nickname "Snake Alley".
Many Taiwanese have a negative view of Snake Alley, which was once a legal red-light district. Adventurer Charley Boorman visited and tried some of the delicacies such as snake penis and turtle testicles on offer during his television series By Any Means 2 in 2009.
The Huaxi Street Night Market has a history of over 50 years, as the safety and quality of the night life was not always what we can see today. Up until the 1990s, the Huaxi Street Night Market was once a red light district, with pornography shops and strippers congregating along the two sides of these streets. Prostitutes could be easily found in the brothels in the area, where they waited for customers in plain view. Many of these were quite young, clearly minors and had been sold into this life by their parents. It was not until 1991 that the Taiwanese government banned prostitution all throughout Taiwan, although it is still common. As a result, the quality and safety of the night market has seen improvement.
There are countless local and unique “delicacies” and dishes on offer in the Huaxi Street Night Market; anything ranging from junk food to herbal soup to traditional local dishes:
Just by hearing the nickname of this night market, you will know that snake is on the menu. The snake meat can be served in many different ways: soup, medicine, wine and also can be used in various cooked dishes. Every last bit of the snake will be put to use, and this includes the blood. The blood of the snake is to be drained first, and can be drunk straight like a shot or can also be mixed with various other beverages, such as alcohol.
Another specialty of the Huaxi Street Night Market are its fresh seafood; with the most notable are the squid dishes, fresh fish and shellfish, fish head and fish steak stew.
Then there is the oyster omelette, it is a well-known dish throughout Taiwan; you can find an oyster omelette dish or similar to it almost any night market you look in Taiwan. Despite its commonality, the oyster omelette dish is one of the most famous signature dishes of Taiwan and it’s a tourist must try dish.
From the roosts, there are the ever popular pork hock, pork tails and intestines.
Then, after a fulfilling feast of savoury food and meat, you can relax and settle down with some delicious sweets, pastry and fresh fruit.
The Huaxi Street Night Market comes with all the seasonal needs; in summer, chopped ice plates and fresh juice are in great demand, and one shop to note is the Longdu Iced Fruit Shop. It’s one of the oldest shops in Huaxi Street Night Market, serving delicious traditional sweets with an authentic Taiwanese flavour, which keeps the locals and tourist coming back for more. When winter comes, dishes with Chinese medicine or a hot bowl of “Pork Stew” from a shop named “Dading Pork Soup”, which have been operating for more than half a century, will definitely warm you to your core.
With the countless variety and types of food, this list can continue on and on.
Along the two sides of the Huaxi Street Night Market, you can find various massage parlors to let you cool off and relax so you can continue on again.
If massages are not your thing, there are also many jewelry stores and China craft stores to browse as you enjoy the lively atmosphere of the night market.
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