Friday, May 20, 2011

The Night Market

by Megan S.

photo by Olikau
A dark night.  The fog blocks out the moon and leaves your skin clammy.  You're lost in a sea of people, well, they look people-shaped anyway; some are just a little too tall, a little too disproportionate, or a little too blue.  The others are constantly banging in to you, brushing past, getting too close to your wallet.  The air smells of sweat, alcohol, trash and mouth-watering hot food.  Your heart skips a beat and adrenaline begins to flow when someone laughs in your ear shrilly over the cacophony of music and too many conversations.  A barker promises gruesome oddities if you only step this way.  The crowd is suddenly illuminated by a fire breather spitting alcohol on an open flame and then  it's dark once more, only faintly lit again by strings of christmas lights, some burned out, more broken. You're at a night market.

Night markets have always been my favorite settings in fantasy novels.  The bazaars are full of wonderful things and terrible things, sometimes all wrapped up in one.  The markets are brimming with promise and the heroine always find something momentous there though it's usually not what she needs and rarely ever what she wants.

I've always wanted it to be real.

Turns out, it is.

Video may be not safe for work.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a floating night market, Lost Horizon.  Some have claimed it's based on Neil Gaiman's Floating Market in Neverwhere.  The bazaar rolls up to a predetermined illicit location like abandoned lots or side streets in rented moving trucks and attendance is by invitation only.  The trucks cum market stalls are part performance art, part celebrations of hedoism.  Some stalls offer elaborate games, others food, and others more base entertainment like smashing delicate items to pieces.

The Mac and Attitude truck. Photo by Mr. Nightshade
The Lost Horizon Night Market is based on a similar event in New York City.  There are plans for additional carnivals in Portland, Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.  Read more about the fantastical San Francisco event on NPR and check out photos of a previous evening on Mr. Nightshade's photo stream.

And if anyone associated with the Lost Horizon Night Market is listening, I'd like to be invited please.  Don't make a girl beg.
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  1. If you ever travel to Asia, there are night markets aplenty! I basically never cooked when I lived in Taiwan and just lived off of night market food. I never saw a fire breather, but lots of fortune tellers.

    On the west coast a lot of cities have regular summer night markets in the Asian communities, so I assume there's something similar in San Francisco. Might not be as glamorous as the Lost Horizon one (which sounds awesome), but I bet the food is good!

  2. I'm so jealous of you big-city dwellers! All we've got 'round these parts are county fairs and fruit-based festivals.

  3. Curious, We do have more mundane night markets here and they definitely are fun but they just don't have the touch of absurd that the Lost Horizon seems to embrace. The ones in Taiwan sound awesome, though. When I was looking around for stock photos for this, I came across several Asian ones and they looked really cool.

    Sara, Don't disparage fruit-based festivals. The humble apple and the high-spirited orange have done much for this country.

  4. The Asian ones are admittedly a lot of vendors selling knock-off designer labels and cheap souvenirs, like anywhere. But still, lots of good food, and the atmosphere was new to a foreigner like me. Plus one time a bird told my fortune for like 5$, that was neat.

  5. I saw this appear just the other day because I follow the local neighborhood news for the part of philly where I work: