The man with a bouncing belly shouted at the crowd, directing the patrons’ eyes toward a massive waist-high fish tank. Above him a sign warned that photography was “strictly forbidden.” Entombed in glass, a bright yellow boa constrictor slithered slowly.
“Have you ever seen a snake so big?” he asked three squirming girls clutching sparkling cell phones.
“So powerful!” he exclaimed with a laugh, eyeing the men knowingly.
“Now, then,” he continued, “who’s hungry?!”
Taiwan is known for many things — the towering Taipei 101 skyscraper, excellent food, and being perpetually confused with Thailand. Among those three, it’s the food that sticks out the most. This is a country seriously proud of its cuisine. So proud, in fact, that nearly every single neighborhood has its own unique night market — a permanent community fixture that’s part carnival, part cafeteria.
Out of all of Taiwan’s night markets, the Huaxi Night Market — otherwise known as “Snake Alley” — is the most infamous. Now a popular tourist destination, the area was once a famous red-light district. That’s where the snake comes in.