All night markets have one thing in common... food. Lots of food, for ridiculously cheap prices. I mean, what right-minded person wouldn't eventually begin snacking on roasted squid jerky if a bushel barrel full only cost 75 cents?
The point really is that anything goes. Picture a big city wholesale district, with salespeople hawking $5 dress shirts with a wireless microphone, like a carnival barker. Next door is a wheeled cart spewing mysterious steam, and dozens of people crowded around eating, smelling, experiencing. Next to the cart, a shop run by an elderly man selling corn on the cob (on a stick) by placing the corn in a hollow tube which is specifically designed for roasting corn. (Of course in true Taiwanese style, this immediately Western-compatible concept of roasted corn is subsequently slathered in some kind of funky mystery sauce that may or may not appeal to you.) The larger night markets have integrated actual retail stores, some you may actually recognize. I've seen Levis stores in several locations, and of course 7-11 is inexplicably everywhere (containing the same old rotating hot dogs, but with bubble milk tea and pork stuffed steamed buns instead of Mountain Dew and nachos).
On the main drags, you are at all times surrounded by flashing lights and scooters zipping past and missing you by inches. There are so many things trying to get your attention simultaneously that you must eventually either begin tuning out or to try and escape, if only for a moment to clear your ears and your mind. You decide to walk down a narrow alley, a distinctly quiet corridor which belies the activity that you're about to experience. Although you've dodged the main bustle, you're now in the side alleys of the night market, which are even more compelling by virtue of their understatement. Away from the carnival barkers and the glaring lights are the darker shops connected by seemingly endless narrow, winding roads and the ubiquitous steaming food carts lining every step of the way. Around each corner you feel as if you've discovered some exotic new world, always seeing or smelling something you'd never dreamed of before. But of course you didn't have to dream of it, you silly American or other generic Western stereotype. The Taiwanese have done it for you.
I've got more descriptions as well as photos of Mr.chon's bloody rice cakes. Not to be missed.