Steam rises from a Guabao stall

Douliu Night Market 斗六夜市

A couple of months ago I randomly took the train to Douliu, the capital of Yunlin, the most rural county on the western plains of Taiwan. Douliu is regularly the subject of jokes so I was pleasantly surprised by what I found there: an old street lined with Japanese colonial buildings, the quirky “Hungry Ghost” covered market, and an abandoned entertainment complex to explore. Even more surprising was the size of the Saturday night Renwen Park Night Market 人文公園夜市 located southwest of the downtown core. I have become something of a night market connoisseur since living in central and southern Taiwan and wouldn’t hesitate to declare this night market one of the biggest and best on the island.

A first look at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
The entrance to Douliu’s Renwen Park Night Market.
A huge night market in Douliu
A surprisingly huge night market for such an otherwise quiet city in southern Taiwan.

Renwen Park Night Market, hereafter simply Douliu Night Market, is a large-scale open air night market in the style of the excellent Huayuan 花園 and Dadong 大東 night markets in Tainan. According to Chinese language Wikipedia it occupies 3000 píng 坪 (approximately 10,000 m²), the same as Huayuan Night Market. Everything you see in these photos is set up and taken down in a single night. When the night market dissolves there is nothing more than an enormous vacant lot in this space. The transience of such open air night markets is part of the appeal for me. So much human energy is invested in what takes place here.

Obama BBQ at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Obama BBQ… you can’t explain that!
Fresh dumplings at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Fresh dumplings on the hot plate.
Sugar-roasted chestnuts at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Sugar-roasted chestnuts fresh out of the oven.
Huge scallion pancakes at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Huge scallion pancakes at Douliu’s Renwen Park Night Market.
Purple yam pancakes at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Purple yam pancakes. These are actually pretty good!
Steam rises from a Guabao stall
One of the more popular stalls is this guabao vendor near the front of the market.
Assembly line guobao at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Not the usual toppings for a guabao (a “Taiwanese hamburger”) but it was pretty good by my standards.

As with any other night market in Taiwan there is a staggering variety of small snacks to be had ranging from novelty items to more traditional fare. All the usual suspects can be found at Douliu Night Market: barbecue corn, baked potatoes, fried chicken and squid, guabao 刮包, luwei 滷味 (braised food), takoyaki (squid and octopus balls), okonomiyaki (a kind of Japanese seafood pancake), fresh dumplings, oyster omelette and vermicelli, thick soup, sugar-roasted chestnuts, crepes, hot pot, and so on. If you’ve seen it at more than a few night markets in Taiwan it’s probably available in Douliu. The selection is truly extraordinary and everything I sampled was pretty good. With so much activity it was easy to identify the “famous” vendors: just look for the queue and join it to find out what the fuss is all about—but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be chicken feet or something like that!

So much to try at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
The night market just goes on and on.
A huge night market auction in Douliu
A huge night market auction. The auctioneer must put a lot of energy and humour into their delivery to get people to hang out and maybe even bid on something.
Night market fashion in Douliu
Night market fashion in Douliu.
Hipster fashion at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Hipster night market fashion.
A book shop at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Not something I’ve seen before: a bookseller in the night market.
Crazy glowing things at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Anything that glows, flashes, or lights up.
A wall of shoes at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
A wall of shoes in the night market. This is actually the side of a truck that opens up.
Dancing with you, it’s the best thing for me
“Dancing with you, it’s the best thing for me.”

Another regular feature of Taiwanese night markets is the shopping. I have no need for cheap junk so I seldom pay close attention to what sort of stuff people are selling. Mostly I’m interested in amusing permutations of night market fashion, particularly clothing emblazoned with lousy English or strange designs. Douliu certainly had a lot of that!

Night market birds
It isn’t at all uncommon to see exotic birds at night markets in Taiwan. I suppose the idea is to get people to stop and take a closer look at the vendor’s wares. Most of the time it’s the gaming tables that put birds out.
Many pets can be seen at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Toy dogs in handbags are a common sight at Taiwanese night markets. Cats over the shoulder, not so much.
A modest pet shop at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
One of many pet shops in the night market. Puppies in tiny aquariums under bright lights? Not cool.
Unusual offerings at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
An unusual vendor selling exotic pets and cute little plants.
Animal rescue at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Another thing I’ve never seen before: animal rescue in the night market. These kids are all volunteers helping to find these pets a home.

One of the stranger features of Douliu Night Market is the preponderance of pet shops, pet accessory vendors, and pet owners. There were dogs in handbags, dogs in strollers, dogs over the shoulder—and even a couple of cats! I can’t say I’m a fan of the regular pet shops you’ll see at most central and southern Taiwan night markets—the ethics of this practice are questionable to me—but it buoyed my heart to chance upon an animal rescue society staffed by young volunteers in the middle of the market. There is hope!

Candied sweet potato vendor at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Candied sweet potato vendor. This kid was so cute and took his job very seriously. Dad must be proud.
Signs of a successful business at Douliu Renwen Park Night Marke
Signs of a successful business: a table full of empty milk jugs. Taiwan has been hit by a number of tainted milk scandals in recent years so people are wary of certain brands. I can’t be sure but I think they might be selling Imei brand milk, one of the few companies that people still trust.
Corn dogs at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Corn dog vendor at work.
Hot potatoes out of a giant urn at Douliu Renwen Park Night Mark
This old lady was baking potatoes in an old school oven mounted on a truck.
Creating a cotton candy mushroom at Douliu Renwen Park Night Mar
Cotton candy is surprisingly rare at night markets in Taiwan despite the fairground atmosphere. This vendor sculpts cotton candy into recognizable shapes. Here he is making a mushroom.

No night market experience is complete without a tour of the many fairground games. I almost never play the games myself but I sometimes stop to watch people having fun. Douliu Night Market is huge—and many of the games were also on a grand scale. There were, for instance, two go-kart arenas next to one another—one for boys and another for girls. I suppose that’s one answer to overaggressive little tykes smashing everything in sight!

A children’s art space at the night market in Douliu
A children’s art space at the night market. Yet another thing I’ve never seen before.
Playing games at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Night market gaming table.
Bingo at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Night market bingo!
Hot pot area at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Hot pot restaurant at the edge of the night market.

Douliu Night Market is a bit of a trek from the train station. I walked there the night I went but you might want to spring for an 80 NT taxi ride there. Probably all the Chinese you’ll need to make yourself understood is encapsulated in “yèshì 夜市”, the word for night market, but here’s a map of the location. Douliu Night Market runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays according to Wikipedia in Chinese. A word of warning: the washrooms are an inconvenient 5 minute hike away from the main night market area for some unknown reason.

Mochi lady at Douliu Renwen Park Night Market
Mochi lady at the back of the night market. Not bad!

Douliu Night Market is easily one of the biggest and best open air night markets in all Taiwan—a great surprise given Douliu’s diminutive size and unremarkable reputation. It likely isn’t worth a trip down from Taipei unless you’re a real night market junkie—but if you’re travelling around southern Taiwan on a weekend I would certainly recommend adding it to your schedule.


  1. I personally prefer night markets down south/east (the one in Taidong 台東 is actually very nice but small) since my focus is on the food and the ones in Taipei tend to be way too crowded with tourists or vendors selling non-food items.

  2. This nightmarket used to be located in the northeast corner of town about 5 years ago, but moved to its current location (I’m not sure why). Now, there is a Wednesday and Thursday night nightmarket on the old spot. Much, much smaller, but still a decent selection of food and games.

  3. I’ve also visited that night market a while back, also liked it.

    Went through your blog a little, really like the style and your writing.

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