Asia has a lot to offer travelers, from vibrant cultures and traditions to amazing food and breathtaking architecture, whether modern skyscrapers, sacred temples or ancient palaces and fortresses. Another thing you can and should experience across the continent is the plethora of markets. What they sell and what purpose they serve varies. Some occupy streets while others are tucked away underground. There are day markets, dry markets, wet markets, fish markets, food markets, textile markets and more, but the night markets are among the best. From Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh, these are eight of our favorite. No matter if you’re hoping to find the perfect memento to take home, delight in the local cuisine or just looking to people watch, these markets will not disappoint.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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In general, Vietnam's Hoi An is a delightful city with an abundance of old town charm. It's well known for its food and nightlife, but Hoi An's night market is a worthy draw as well. While you'll find the expected food and handicrafts being sold among its vendors, the real treat of the market is just to see it. Hoi An is famous for its traditional silk lanterns and the market is full of them. Stall after stall along the Hoai River together become a colorful and enchanted scene.
Photo by Tom Blackwell, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The world-renowned temples at Angkor are most likely what will bring you to Siem Reap, but you shouldn't miss a visit to Angkor Night Market either. After a day exploring the nearby ancient complex, head to Sivatha Street for Siem Reap's popular night shopping district. It offers a little bit of everything from souvenir shops to restaurants, bars and other experiences. Don't miss Coco House for traditional Khmer cuisine with a modern twist or drinks at Island Bar. You can't miss the latter, just look for the giant conical thatched roof.
Photo by Alan Wat, CC BY 2.0
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Luang Prabang's night market is considered one of the best in Asia. Hundreds of vendors, mostly from various local hill tribes, begin setting up their stalls along Sisavangvong Road just before sunset. You can find an impressive collection of Laotian handicrafts and apparel, including scarves, purses, blankets, ceramics, spices, paintings and paper lanterns. The market spans the entire length of the road and is open daily between 5:00 and 10:00 PM. After you've perused the stalls, head toward the end of the market near Settathilat Road where you'll find an assortment of food vendors dishing up the country's culinary classics.
Photo by Paolo Macorig, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Hong Kong's Temple Street is popular day and night, but things really start to bustle come dusk. Located in Kowloon between Man Ming Lane and Nanking Street, this night market is home to hundreds of stalls and countless visitors. Vendors sell just about everything from clothes to vintage cassette tapes, all of which can be bought at a bargain with the right amount of negotiating. When all the haggling leaves you hungry, there is plenty of food options as well, from small shops to food carts serving up Hong Kong's quintessential culinary dishes.
Photo by inkelv1122, CC BY-NC 2.0
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Purveyors of vintage and kitsch will love Bangkok's Rot Fai Market, also known as Train Market. Located behind Seacon Square Shopping Mall, it is arguably Thailand's coolest night market. It's divided into several sections, including the main Market Zone, Rod's Antiques and Warehouse Zone. The latter deals almost exclusively in antiques and vintage wares ranging from old memorabilia, to classic cars and home goods. The Warehouse Zone is where you'll find a traditional Asian night market with more than 2,000 vendors selling everything from clothes to toys. Like any good night market, there is no shortage of food and drink options as well. Options run the gamut from Thai classics to cocktails.
Photo by Jonathan Lin, CC BY-SA 2.0
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Seoul is home to countless markets of an impressive variety, but among its best is Namdaemun Market. It's Korea's largest traditional market, largest wholesale market and one of its oldest. It's located in the heart of the city next to Namdaemun, Seoul's ancient south gate, for which the market is named after. Visitors can find just about everything, including fishing gear and ginseng to clothing and lacquerware from the more than 1,000 vendors. The alleys around the market are also famous for their pojangmacha, or tented street food stalls, serving a variety of Korean staples like hotteok, mandu, odeng and tteokbokkii. Namdaemun Market is open most hours of the day, but wholesale vendors typically operate between 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM.
Photo by Jennifer Yin, CC BY-NC 2.0
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Considered Taipei's best and biggest, Shilin night market is a bucket list stable for those planning to visit Taiwan's capital. Named after the district it's located in, the market has two areas focused on food and non-food items. Most flock here to indulge in the more than 500 food vendors offering local favorites like oyster vermicelli, fired chicken steak, tempura treats, stinky tofu, bubble tea and fried buns, among many others. Shilin market is open just before dusk and things stay busy into the early hours of the morning.
Photo by Allon Lim, CC BY-ND 2.0
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While some might call it a tourist trap, others have deemed Ho Chi Minh's Ben Thanh market a must-see and we're in the latter camp. Located in the heart of the city in a distinguishable building, the market is home to your typical vendors selling clothing, home goods and jewelry from dawn until dusk. What really makes Ben Thanh worth the visit, however, is the food. Long after the rest of the market's vendors have closed for the day you can join locals at the sidewalk stalls that pop up around the building as they sip coffee or bubble tea and dine on grilled meats and seafood, along with a variety of Vietnamese stables like pho, banh nam, bun cha and so much more.
Photo by David Conger, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0