When I first heard rumors of the Vancouver Night Market, images from Neil Gaiman’s floating market of London Below came to mind. A night market should be a little weird, a little gritty, and full of eccentric individuals. I should be able to buy roof maps or rooks, or maybe a few fresh dreams. And lost property—surely someone would be selling some properly lost property. And the place should be lit up with Christmas lights and oil lanterns. Filkers and medieval jugglers should busk between stalls full of hard-to-find wares, and the eccentric people should look that way all the time, not just a couple weekends of the year.
That’s the way my night market would be, anyway.
It’s important not to build up expectations. We found that out when we arrived at the tent village wedged between a warehouse and an arm of the Fraser River. Right off, we were met by Chevrolet pushers who invited us to apply colored sharpies to the color-by-number car stationed near the entrance. My hopes for a Gaimanesque evening were killed before we started.
Still, coloring a brand-new, white car with indelible ink does have its appeals.
The Night Market is located in a predominantly Asian part of the Vancouver area, so it was no surprise that the sales tents were predominantly full of Asian goods—largely directed at teenage girls: cute cartoon-decorated socks (8 pairs for $10), clothes, jewelry, hair ornaments, stuffies based on anime films…and Hello Kitty. Lots and lots of Hello Kitty.
Daughter #2 and I perused the tables in search of treasure while my husband paced behind us. (I could feel vibrations from his grinding teeth through the pavement under my feet.) The prices were surprisingly reasonable and we bought some stuff.
To understand my delight at finding the robot necklace, you need to watch the video below.
Stay with it to the end.
Feeling peckish, we moved our explorations to the food section of the market. And oh, my throbbing taste buds!
Even if you’re not into buying Hello Kitty or colored contacts, the food alone is worth the visit to the Vancouver Night Market. This was not your usual carnival fare (though they did have the ever-present mini-donuts and corn on the cob). The food was (predictably) predominantly Asian. Faced with a vast array of dim sum, noodles, and bubble tea, as well as edibles I’ve never seen anywhere else, we ate our way up and down the lanes. I probably did not need that last custard-filled wheel cake.
As we browsed and ate, the crowd began to thicken. Sellers shouted out their wares, sometimes in English, sometimes not. Oddly dressed folks began to appear; some deliberately odd and others stumbling into oddness by instinct. The market began to feel like I imagined an outdoor market should feel. Not quite London Below, but charged with energy and a touch of the exotic nevertheless.
Twilight approached and more oddly dressed folk began to emerge. I started to think maybe my criteria for a night market were not so far off, after all. Maybe the true spirit of night market was merely waiting for dark to fall.