What is a Night Market?
Night markets are a concept that seemed to have originated (and gained popularity) in South-East Asia. They are very popular among both locals and foreigners in countries like Malaysia, China, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. The layout of a night market often consists of small cubicle-like stalls (that can be dismantled). They often stand in rows that snake around a street, or a block – and are generally open-air. Sometimes, they can be circular in nature, or have extra permanent establishments at the sides of the market (like shops in buildings). Each area has a day of the week where the market is held, and on this day, the stalls open up around early evening – however, the bustling starts a few hours later, as night falls.
Although the trend started in the East, the Western countries have also followed suit to this trend. For example, New Zealand has caught onto the trend and night markets are gaining popularity in Auckland and Wellington. The large overseas Asian communities bring with them their culture, and markets in North America (in San Francisco, Vancouver, California and New York City, to name a few) reflect this. The concept is fairly simple; however, the charm of a night market lies in how lively and convenient it is. Stalls have so much to offer, ranging from baby clothes to fruits and fast food. Often night markets happen to have food that is native to the region, so a unique culinary experience is guaranteed. Since they tend to be reflective of the local culture and palate, it provides good ground for foreigners to explore the resident tastes.
What do I need to know if I am going to visit a night market soon?
As for how to get here, you can usually take a cab or public transport to the edge of the markets. You will have to walk through most markets though, as the streets are small and packed with people. Often, the seating area is common and limited, and you might have to move outside the labyrinth of stalls to find it. It’s not that hard to spot, but standing in front of a stall and eating isn’t always possible with the human traffic.
You might not be able to sit at a night market and have a whole table to yourself – although, this depends on the size of the table and crowd. You may want to bring your own bag as well: even though stalls will have a packing option, and this is generally used. The packaging is usually thin plastic covers, though – you definitely won’t be able to put all your items into the same bag (for fear that it will tear), and many small plastic bags just contribute to the waste and non-biodegradable consumption. It may also be good to use a washroom before you get into the night market, as this may not be easily found whilst inside.
Now that you know what night markets are and things you can do to enhance your night market experience, the next step is to debunk some common myths.
5 Common Assumptions Related to Night Markets
1. Night Markets are Unhygienic
Many people believe night markets to be unhygienic. They are full of small stalls and often have more than one person working at them. They also tend to be outdoors, and on grass, tar or other outdoor surfaces – making them more susceptible to dust. However, this is not true of all night markets. Sure, after a rainy day, there may be more mud coating your shoes as you walk through them, but otherwise, you might not find anything different compared to a regular market elsewhere. Food from stalls here often doesn’t disrupt your stomach (again, depends on the market and the stall), but it is good to exercise caution and have a look at the stall and conditions before you purchase.
2. Night Markets are Crowded
Now, this is an assumption about night markets that are often true. Since they usually cater to locals and are priced competitively, you will find that many people flock to stores here. As a word of caution, make sure that if you are travelling in a group, you can always see each other – as it is hard to pinpoint exactly where you are with landmarks. Night markets involve rows and rows of small stalls, so to say you’re ‘near the noodle stall’ doesn’t really help: there are probably ten stalls that sell the same item. Nevertheless, it is always an interesting experience going through each bracket: and the people really add to the liveliness of the place!
3. You Can Bargain for Things at a Night Market
If you’re talking about a south-east Asia night market, this is not usually the case. Even locals do not bargain at night markets, as the prices are already lower than usual. Some night markets are more popular than others, and those are the ones many foreigners usually flock to – hence the prices may be higher than usual. We suggest that, instead of going to these, just ask a local for their pick and go with that – the cost will be lower, and you won’t have to bargain. Often, bargaining might also offend the person selling you the items.
4. It Makes A Difference if You Don’t Have A Local with You
Well, this depends. It is often better to have a local with you, simply because many of the vendors may not understand what you want, or because you may not know the layout of the market. That being said, the ones closer to the heart of the city will be easily able to be traversed by your own. Some might think that if you have a local with you, you will get a better price, but as we said earlier, bargaining isn’t usually the norm. If you have never experienced a night market before, definitely go with a local, but don’t be scared to try out new ones by yourself after.
5. Night Markets Are Only Food Places
Not true at all! Night markets sell all sorts of things. Because of the way they are portrayed on popular reality television channels, you’d think the main purpose of a night market was to sell food. However, you’ll find clothes, accessories, electronics and household items along with edibles. And even in the food category, there’s much to explore – from mains to snacks to starters and drinks, stalls are diverse and there’s many to go around.
6. Night Markets are Unsafe
People may feel that night markets are unsafe because they are ‘just a bunch of stalls’, or because it is held after dark. Night markets usually start functioning well into the evening, even before night falls – and since there’s usually a crowd, it’s unlikely for you to be alone and vulnerable. Again, crowds might be the source of discomfort, in which case you don’t have to go inside each turn, and can stay around the periphery of the market – with lots of stalls here too. Carry your valuables close to you, and make sure you are easily able to move around (no fancy clothing and shoes or hard-to-open-and-find bags).
And that’s it! Your comprehensive guide to the concepts of night markets. Of course, each trip still comes with its own difficulties, even after you’ve prepared to travel – but its own benefits, too! If you’d like to get a visa to ensure your travel is hiccup-free, check out our website at Visa2Fly.com. Check out our other blogs on solo travel and travel essentials for a post-covid world as well, so that you can further secure your chances of having an amazing trip.