Keelung Night Market: Not Recommended for Toddlers

Disclaimer: I do not consider myself someone who caters to her child. Of course, there have been changes to the way I live since having my little bundle of joy, but I strive to continue my life as it was. There are very few things that I feel are not suitable for me to bring Zoë to (hence this trip of ours). An example of something I would not include Z in would be taking her to the movie theater, I would probably be unable to pay close attention to the whole film, so why waste the money. Another example would be taking her to a dance club, it’s just not easy to dance well while holding a toddler, although at least the loud music would cover the sound of any tantrum she may throw. May have to reconsider that one… Regardless please remember this as you read the post.

On Monday, we decided to check out the Keelung Miakou Night Market. It was a particularly hot day in Taipei and we thought that Keelung, a town just northwest of Taipei, would be cooler. We also wanted to experience more of Taiwan and Keelung is close and relatively easy to attempt without prior planning.

In all honesty, I was unaware that there was a famous night market in Keelung until we recently watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show “The Layover” that highlighted it as the best night market in the Taipei area. I had high hopes for this epicenter of Taiwanese street food.

We hopped on the train at Taipei Main Station that ends in Keelung. The tickets cost about 40 NTD and they have trains leaving every 15-20 minutes.

Be aware-there is a train that goes to another destination that says it stops in Keelung, but actually passes it and you will end up on the train for 6 hours or so instead of 40 minutes. The correct train will be the one that has it’s final stop in Keelung.

Keelung is a port town, and quite often there is a cruise ship in town filled with mainland Chinese people ready to experience Taiwan. What this means is that Keelung is a tourist mecca, they are set up and prepared for an influx of tourists at any moment. The night market is no different, that is if you are used to massive amounts of people squished in a small street. Personal space is truly a foreign concept.

We arrived and made our way towards the Miakou Night Market. It was a 15-20 minute walk from the station straight down the road the station lets out on and is on the right. It was impossible to miss. The smells, sights, and sounds were overwhelming. There was every type of Taiwanese street food that I could think of. We walked through it all once slowly, taking it all in, traversing as best we could through the crowds. Then we turned around and decided to try some of the food offered.

Anthony Bourdain ate food from this stall, and the line proved it!

Anthony Bourdain ate food from this stall, and the long line proved it!

One of the food stalls at Keelung Night Market

One of the food stalls at Keelung Night Market

We started with a famous Taiwanese dish, the oyster omelette. The omelette’s are made with canned shelled oysters, eggs, and tapioca starch and covered in a ketchup type sauce. Chad and I sat down and dug in, but neither of us could finish it. The texture was slimy, and was actually rather tasteless. It is not often that I am unable to power through a plate of food, but this dish left me feeling a little nauseous. We decided after that to go with things we knew and also things that could be easily carried as I wanted to get out of there. The crowds, the heat, and having a toddler with us just got the best of me.

Zoë and I making our way through the crowd

Zoë and I making our way through the crowd

There are always a couple of options that parents have to take their children places. The child can walk, ride (usually in a stroller), or be carried.

Letting Zoë walk could have easily been disastrous, people did not look where they were going, but at what was around them. She could easily have gotten trampled and hurt, if not worse. Also, the people were very excited to see a child with blue eyes and blonde curly hair, and we could have easily lost her in a crowd of people that mobbed her to take her picture.

Using a stroller would have been impractical, if not impossible. That is unless Humvee makes a stroller/tank that could part crowds of people in its way. (Not a bad idea actually, maybe I should contact Humvee…)

Carrying a 30 plus pound squirming child is like carrying a large heat blanket meant to test your patience, fortitude, and strength. It is like Navy SEAL Hell Week… or so I’ve heard. It is easier when done for a short period of time, and it helps when it is not 90 degrees outside.

We carried Z. Between the heat, the people crowding to take her picture, and the constant pressure of thousands of humans surrounding me, I couldn’t take it. I got a little cranky. Lucky for me, Chad is an understanding husband, and we left the market.

On our way back to the train station we stopped at a large pier with a bunch of wooden sculptures that apparently were slides according to all the children in the area. We let Z run around and play. She had a blast, there is nothing so wonderful than seeing her smile, play and laugh. That was the highlight of my evening in Keelung.

Her smiling face always makes me happy

Her smiling face always makes me happy

So my advice to the parents out there that want to see the Miakou Night Market in Keelung is to get a babysitter. Go by yourselves, sans kid(s), and join the crowds, eat the street food, and enjoy the experience. It is embarrassing to say that I had to throw up my hands in defeat and walk away from this, but I feel that I need to be completely honest about all that we do on our travels. Even if I fail at being able to be the best traveler and am just me.

To the parents out there that have achieved super-parent status and have enjoyed taking your small child(ren) to the Keelung Miakou market, my hat is off to you. And if you want to leave hints and help on how to make it more child accessible, please leave it in the comments. I may be just stubborn enough to try it again.