There are people who spend their days sitting in the shade outside their homes, just waiting for a passerby to buy their fresh vegetables, their kumquat sauce and and the best pineapples I’ve ever had. Tables are set up with small wood carvings, jade pipes, others sell shoes or hair-cutting scissors. Butchers do their business through a curtain of raw meat, fish and squid shine in their ice bowls.
The market is open every morning, and vendors make their circuit through Miaoli County so it’s different every day. My mother and I went often, strolling through the street, shared with pedestrians and mopeds alike. She pointed out a favorite snack from her childhood: popped rice seasoned with seaweed, and packed into rectangular blocks. She said that when she was younger, children would gather around the rice man with their own bags of rice, anticipating the popping sound and their treats.
The most fun for us though, was the gradual but steady purchase of lemongrass, mint, camphor, and sandalwood oils from one particular vendor. They were gifts of course, for we would be going to my mother’s high school reunion in Taipei at the end of our trip. We may or may not have indulged in our own. The oils were claimed to have medicinal properties as to help with blood circulation, to wake you up, to help out your skin in addition to being natural bug repellents.
The market was a good source of entertainment when we were home-bound taking care of my grandmother. How lucky to be so close to where people can bring what they have grown, what they have slaughtered. These are the hands that feed the community, what keeps this place alive. It is something special, seeing something so truly local to this neighborhood. How beautiful.