NOTE: The Wangfujing Night Market is no longer operating. Closed in 2016, the area is now being repurposed. Here’s what you would have experienced:
Wangfujing Street Night Market – Fried Insects Anyone?
We were incredibly happy when we ended up meeting up with our fellow travel blogger/adventurer, Emily, back at the hostel after our day at the Beijing Zoo and the Black Bamboo Park. We had a great time at the Great Wall and were hoping we’d get a chance to say goodbye before she left the following day to continue on her journey in China.
We were all interested in seeing the Beijing Night Market, or Donghuamen Night Market, off Wangfujing street, we had heard so much about and decided to find our way, once again by foot, to this infamous market.
Walking down Wangfujing Street, it was clear that this was a downtown location (although we discovered that there are many downtown looking areas across Beijing). Major stores and brands such as H&M, Gucci, Prada, and the like lined this busy street.
At a particular portion, the street turned into a pedestrian only route with tents showcasing Maseratis and other expensive cars. We turned into one of the smaller streets off Wangfujing and it was here that the experience of the Beijing Night Market really began.
It was, in one word, chaos. An assault on all the senses. True, much of our experience in Beijing could be considered a sensory assault but this was sensory overload.
Exiting from the main strip of Wangfujing street into the maze of winding and interconnected alleyways, we were bombarded by the sights, sounds and smells of the Night Market.
It was difficult to process exactly where we were. On one street there were souvenir vendors anxious to sell you something and on the next, there were vendors of fabrics, purses, jewelry and pretty much anything you could think of.
All these tables of items lined both sides of alleys anywhere from 7 ft to 10 ft wide and were packed from end to end with people.
We walked around at first in astonishment, trying to get our bearings and adjust to the onslaught. People yelling “hello! hello! do you want [insert any and every item here]?”, the smells of cooking food, stinky tofu and Beijing itself permeating the air, the push and shove of the people trying to get by, and the visual display of goods and art and food and people overwhelmed and enthralled us.
We stopped at a few souvenir stores and vendors to browse and to practice some bargaining. It was surprising to see a price start at 198RMB and be easily dropped to 40RMB simply by saying “too much” and starting to walk away, a few times.
Bartering was pretty big at all the places we went to in Beijing and it is a skill you need to learn fast if you want to get the best deal for what you are buying.
The Beijing Night Market is EXACTLY the place where these skills would come in handy as virtually everything has an initial price, and a significantly lower final price.
After a bit of perusing the stands and wandering between the small roads, we hit snack street. The Wangfujing snack street is a busy, narrow stretch with tons of food vendors.
If you’ve heard about strange fried insects and animals in China, this would probably be one of the places mentioned.
We first passed pretty typical looking foods: chicken skewers, squid and prawn skewers, some dumplings and takoyaki (balls of dough with octopus in the centre). There were stands with candy, nuts and even BBQ quail.
Then we hit the creepy crawlies. Rows of fried or BBQ insects and other creatures on skewers. We’re talking beetles, scorpions, crickets, lizards, starfish, snakes and seahorses…
We had heard about these stands and knew what we would be coming across but it was still a shock when we saw them live and up close. Apparently, these stands exist for the tourists with many locals completely baffled as to why anyone would even want to try these critters.
We’ve got to say, we were pretty baffled too, especially when we saw the skewers of uncooked and sometimes live scorpions, but we did see people buying and eating them.
Carolann had mentioned early on that she wanted to brave the Night Market and try something weird, probably a tarantula, just to say she did. So we hunted for a while among the other fried creatures until we finally found a tarantula on a skewer.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos of the stand itself, so she decided against the tarantula and we all opted to try something different and fried…
No, we didn’t try any of the above fried “delicacies”. Instead, we opted for something a little more appealing and bought some deep fried ice cream.
This was definitely a better option and we enjoyed the tasty treat as we walked through more of the twisting roads of the Beijing Night Market. We found a street of restaurants at the end of which had a small stage with a performer dressed in colourful, traditional clothing.
It seemed as though the things to do and see at the night market were endless and we could have walked around for several more hours without experiencing everything it had to offer, much like our experience of Beijing City as a whole and it’s surrounding areas: An incomprehensible amount of sights, smells and sounds and around every corner you turn, the unexpected.
Comment below and let us know which of the creepy crawly skewers you would?choose if you were brave enough!