Although the lights never really seem to turn off in Taiwan, they were made for the darkness. When night falls, the city cores come aglow, with dazzling marquees stretching far into the distance in every direction. Some buildings are completely framed in multi-colored lights and some have none, but almost no building is completely devoid of signage, each vying for the passerby's attention in a mix of Chinese and English.
The night life pulses beneath. Many are headed to or leaving the central attraction: the night market. Nearly every city in Taiwan has its own night market, a walkable web of stores and stands selling everything from bras to barbecue. These informal bazaars are a common sight across East Asia, although particularly in culturally Chinese areas. Luodong's, hugging the city's central park, is one of the best-known on the island.
Each member of the Yilan Fulbright crew has hit either the Yilan City or Luodong night markets at least once a week since we arrived. Street food (particularly the local specialty scallion pancakes) is the usual purchase, although clothing, accessories and fruit have also been gotten. Food is significantly cheaper here than in the US: a street food dinner can be easily had for $2-3 US. Other items are not quite as cheap, but are rarely expensive: I purchased a highly practical wallet featuring a handy coin pouch for $200 NTD (New Taiwanese Dollars), approximately $7 US. As in many other countries, coins dominate everyday transactions, making a coin purse/pouch quite useful.
Poorly-translated English t-shirts and food items unfamiliar to the American palette (chicken feet, grilled squid, tripe, and more) make any walk through the market amusing, if not fascinating. And the food and shopping make it valuable. But it's the bustling people and the dazzling lights that make it feel alive, and that will keep me coming back.