The City That’s Always Awake

The City That’s Always Awake


“This place has the best soupy dumplings (湯包).”  Crystal and Cynthia both say, matter-of-factly. It is about 12:30 a.m., we have just ridden the  yellow public bikes from the Liu Zhang Li (六張犁) metro station to Tong Hua Street (通化街) night market. The modest mom-and-pop restaurant is a short block north of the main street of the night market. It has just a few tables, very little decoration, and a well-lit sign declaring its history and authenticity.

“Where is the daughter?” Crystal asks the middle-age couple, owners of the place, who are busy making the dumplings from scratch. “We would like to have two orders, thanks!”

Having lived in Miami and visited NYC regularly, I am intimately familiar with the “cities that never sleep.”   True, Time Square is never empty, and South Beach clubs are blasting music at 6 o’clock in the morning.  Taipei, however, is more.

It is a city that is always awake, and alive. On any given night, well into the early hours, locals fill late-food (宵夜) spots near the night markets and elsewhere, ball players challenge each other to continuous three-on-three games at public parks, massage parlors (mostly legitimate ones) keep their “open” neon lights bright, yellow taxis roam the streets, and certainly, night clubs and KTVs never really close.

(About 2.6 million people live in Taipei City (台北市), which is about 1/4 the size of New York City and barely 1.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.)

IMG_3242The soupy dumplings, by the way, are juicy, fresh, and heavenly. At about $2 USD per plate, I can’t help but imagine how many plates some of my Taiwanese-food-loving American friends would eat. A group of three Chinese tourists stumbled into the shop as well and demanded five orders.

“We’re still making them – very sorry – we have two orders right now.” The male owner responds, barely lifting his head and continues to rapidly shape the dough for the dumplings.

Taipei is a city that is always awake because it is not just a few patrons grabbing a bite at a few restaurants, it is groups of friends deciding which of the countless places to go for a “food” night-cap. It is not just an aspiring young athlete getting some extra practice, it is non-stop, sweaty, competitive groups of young students playing straight-up-to-six match-ups against each other. It is not just “nightlife” – it is every-day-life: think couples strolling around in the neighborhood, grandfather and granddaughter walking the dogs, long taxi lines at popular spots, all well into the night.

Before you know it, it is time for the early risers to get to the parks, students to get ready for school, and the first metro trains to depart from their respective initial stations.

(Banner Photo: Taipei 101 at night.  Photo Courtesy of Bart Kang @

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