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Taipei to clean up their night markets

Taipei's rag-tag, dirty and popular night-time food markets are about to get a lot cleaner.

by: Reuters | 15 Jul 2008

Authorities are planning roofs, toilets and zoning rules to impress the hordes of Chinese tourists are expected in Taiwan.

City Hall will straighten up seven sprawling, mostly outdoor markets that bustle with crowds pushing down greasy aisles to buy oyster omelettes, stinky tofu or just about anything on a stick from noisy stalls that often spill out into the street, Mayor Hau Lung-bin said.

"We want them to be cleaner and neater," Hau said. "Our night markets are bit of a mess now."

Night markets began earning a name in the 1960s for snacks and drinks sold by vendors, who often bark at passers-by or play loud music. Some stalls also sell clothing, shoes and handbags.

Most guidebooks for Taipei recommend visiting the markets, and many tourists go to at least one during their stay to sample the local cuisine and soak up the culture.

As tourists begin coming to once forbidden Taiwan from its political archrival China, Taipei wants its night markets to make a good impression, Hau said. City officials would not give a price for the upgrades.

Nearly all the Chinese tourists, who began arriving in large groups, will visit Taipei, dropping up to 20 billion Taiwan dollars ($658 million) per year in the capital, the mayor estimated.

But some tour guides said they hoped the clean-up campaign won't go too far as visitors still want the night markets to live up to their higgledy-piggledy reputation.

"Messiness represents the culture of night markets," said Anthony Liao, president of Phoenix Tours International Ltd which organises trips for China tourists.

"If they totally change these into a mall, no one will visit."

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