Posted by: jowanderer | April 7, 2008

Hit the Streets

Friday, Mar. 28, 2008

Hit the Streets


Jalan Surabaya, Jakarta
From Dutch colonial homes to leafy parks and monuments, the charms of the Menteng district in central Jakarta are many — and they’re not confined to sightseeing. Shopaholics and souvenir hunters will love Menteng’s kilometer-long row of antique stores and boutiques, Jalan Surabaya. Most of the tourist stores are clustered at one end, offering Indonesian daggers, wayang puppets and some textiles. Close by are antique shops that look as though someone has taken the contents of a Dutch burgher’s attic, circa 1910, and emptied them right there on the shop floor. First rule: don’t assume that something is an antique just because it is advertised as such — examine all purchases carefully. Second rule: haggle as if your life depended on it.

Nishiki Ichiba Market, Kyoto
It may be in a city of temples and shrines, but to epicures the centuries-old Nishiki Ichiba market is Kyoto’s most blessed place. Sunlight streaming through colored glass above the 1,300-ft. (400 m) street highlights the kaleidoscopic panorama of nearly 130 bustling shinise, or old-fashioned market stalls. The market first came to prominence in the Edo period (1603-1867) as the place with Kyoto’s finest fishmongers. Today, though, you can find everything from traditional tsukemono (pickles) and seasonal vegetables — like autumn’s prized matsutake mushrooms — to soy-milk doughnuts. The famous, 400-year-old knifemaking firm of Aritsugu also operates premises there.

Shilin Night Market, Taipei
The people of Taipei love night markets, and they love the century-old Shilin Night Market most of all. Ride the subway to Jiantan, where around 500 vendors await, offering a smorgasbord of local favorites like fermented tofu, octopus balls, “pig-blood cake” (like the European black pudding), oyster vermicelli and cuttlefish chowder. Refresh yourself with winter-melon tea or the grass-jelly drink (made from the plants of the mint family). For dessert, try the flaked ice with fresh strawberries or mango. That should give you plenty of energy for shopping. The sprawling alleys around Shilin sell fashion, pets, phones, you name it, while arcades and carnival games make the atmosphere family-friendly. Shilin is open from 4 p.m. until around 1 a.m. every night of the week.

Sampeng Market, Bangkok
Bangkok is virtually one huge street market, but of all the markets in this city of relentless selling, the most colorful is Sampeng. This impossibly narrow and crowded mile-and-a-quarter capillary of commerce has been the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown since 1782. Glimpses of bygone eras are what make Sampeng special, rather than the endless selection of costume jewelry, Chinese knickknacks and cheap clothes. At the intersection of Sampeng and Mangkon Roads stands the Tang To Kang Gold Shop — a gaudy mix of early Bangkok and European architecture dating to the mid-1800s. A peek down some of the warrens winding off Sampeng’s main laneway provides scenes worthy of a daguerreotype. One can easily imagine stumbling upon opium dens and gambling houses in the dark alleyways where Teochew and Thai dialects fill the air. If all Bangkok is a marketplace, Sampeng is still Old Siam.


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