I had heard that the Raohe Market had good food, so it was actually the first night market I had planned to visit… that was back in my initial state of ambition, before I was conquered by jet lag and summer heat.
I didn’t actually make it there until later, after the Aussies had gone, and I was back from my visits in Shanghai and Manila. Google Maps told me it was an easy direct bus ride, but after waiting a half and hour at the bus stop I decided to go maverick. I hopped on the train to 捷運南京路站 MRT Nanjing Road Station and decided to figure out the buses when I got there.
When I got there…. I found myself waiting at a stop on a dedicated bus lane with a hundred people waiting for a dozen buses that were going by every minute. The bus schedules were all in Chinese, and I wasn’t sure what my stop would be called, I just knew that I had to scan all those schedules for the 饒河街夜市… so of course I gave up and asked a Taiwanese lady.
The lady was sitting on the bench next to the schedules, and she looked tired… long day at work tired. When I asked her which bus goes to 饒河街夜市, she stood up to address me, and told me that she knew the 306 went there, and then started scanning the other schedules. She gave up after a second; it was dark out already and trying to read those schedules was a pain in the ass. Here you try!
Admittedly, the game is easier if you read Chinese.
So anyway, tired lady was up out of her seat, and didn’t want to sit down again, just wait tiredly. I wasn’t sure what bus she was taking, but after a few minutes of waiting and a little bit of checking on her phone, she caught my eye and told me 還有八分鐘, it’s still going to be eight more minutes.
So there we stood, quietly sweating, with a hundred other people on a sweltering traffic island in the middle of 南京東路 Nanjing Road East, at a bus stop that was not dingy, but it was cruelly-lit. She looked tired, and I wondered if it annoyed her that I had asked for her help; she certainly didn’t have to stand up on my account.
When I saw the 306 at the stop light, I inched toward the curb, and I saw the lady check with the corner of her eye to make sure had noticed as well. She looked again at me as she got on the bus, just to see if I was getting on; she didn’t make any eye contact. She got on and went all the way to the back; I stayed near the front so I could follow the posted route map, watch the streets go by, count the stops. It was kind of a dark and crowded bus, not like the bright buses I was used to in the 大安 Daan neighborhood.
So my stop came up, and I moved to the front, swiped my card (it’s a magnetic card, so it’s a matter of laying my wallet on the card reader, and waiting for a “beep” indicating that it had detected my card and deducted 15塊 from my account). I got off the bus and walked to the curb, and turned back to watch the bus leave. I put my hand in the air to wave a “thank you” to the tired Taiwanese lady in the back seat; I wondered if a big American wave would embarrass her.
To my surprise, she actually saw me from the back seat of the bus, and as the bus pulled away I saw her stand up and give me a huge “your welcome” wave, that was way bigger than my big American wave…. it was like an Oklahoma wave, a huge one, as if she was drying the windshield of an 18-wheeler. Her arm might have hit another passenger, her wave was so wide.
So the food at the Raohe Night Market really was good; I ended up eating a lot of eggs. The first thing I stopped for was a cheesy tamago, made with two eggs and a slice of cheese that didn’t look like much but when I bit into it there was so much cheese I might have choked. There was a long-ish line for them, and although other, more spectacular-looking toppings were offered (kimchi! shrimp!) everyone seemed to be getting cheese.
When I got mine, I took it across the street and stood under an awning to eat it, just to be out of the way of the market crowd. There was an older couple sitting on the some stools next to me outside of their business, and I heard them commenting on my tamago. “It’s one of the omelets” they said, “he got cheese.”
I turned to them and chuckled, and they asked me if it was good. “It’s good,” I said, “from just over there.” I pointed to where the tamago cart was.
“We know,” they said, in that cheerful Chinese way, and asked me to join them on a stool. I thanked them, but I was almost finished with my snack, so I answered their “where are you from” and “why do you speak Chinese?” questions and continued on my way. They were super nice.
Besides the tamago, I also tried an interesting looking skewer… I didn’t know what it was until I watched the guy make it… they were quail eggs cooked in a muffin pan, with chunks of ham in them. I also had an amazing pork burger baked into a bun in a tandoori-style oven; the outside was crispy and spectacular.
Finally, there were some small dumplings that I ate out of a cup with some short skewers.
I decided to take a cab back to the subway, and the cab that I stopped looked a little sketchy. I got in and told him I wanted to go to Zhongshan station, and it seemed like he didn’t know where that was… he called in and told someone, and then it seemed like he was getting directions. I knew that couldn’t be the case… it was a long, straight drive, with no turns.
So when I saw my stop go by, I said, ok, you can pull over and stop. But the driver said, that’s not your destination, it’s still further down the road. So we drove another long block and I thought, was I wrong? I saw another subway station go by, and thought, no, I was not wrong, this guy is cheating me.
So I asked him to pull over, and when he said that I haven’t arrived at my destination yet, I told him it didn’t matter, I wanted to get out there, change of plans. He explained that it was still up ahead, but I told him I wanted out. So he said, 150塊. I looked at the meter, which clearly said 130塊，and thought, this guy is a piece of work. It’s not 130塊, I asked?
Yes, he said, but there is a 20塊 charge after 11pm. It’s after 11pm.
Whatever, I thought, I paid him his 150塊 and hit the pavement. Such a small amount, I thought, to try to cheat me. I walked into the subway station and went home, just on auto pilot. When I was halfway home, I looked up at a subway map, and realized… I didn’t want to go to Zhongshan station; I wanted Nanjing station. The taxi driver was trying to take me to Zhongshan station because I had asked him to; I had told him the wrong station.
Well no wonder!