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626 Night Market Sadly Disappoints

Kristie Hang |
April 15, 2012 | 9:18 a.m. PDT

Staff Contributor

(Kristie Hang)
(Kristie Hang)
The Chinese have an expression “人山人海,” which literally means “mountains and seas of people,” indicating that the entire setting is either obscured by or literally composed of millions upon millions of bodies, so much so that not even an ounce of landscape can be seen past or among the bodies of people.

Seas of people all right. Perhaps individuals unfamiliar with the saying are best left with this picture to imagine the scene. Imagine the insane lines at the Disneyland Theme Park on steroids times three. The sight is a familiar phenomenon for those who frequent night markets in Asia, but at the first 626 Night Market in Pasadena the scene was the only thing that was comparable to the Asian Markets it was trying so hard to emulate.

Touted as a festival of street food-eating and shopping, akin to the night markets of Asia, and a better alternative to going to the popular Coachella festival (also this weekend), the 626 Market had prepared for the onslaught of bodies with more than 80 vendors ready to serve its visitors.

The marketing boasted takoyaki, Taiwanese tofu, Indonesian satay, Chinese sausages, Filipino tacos, lamb skewers, and other delicious eats. Good food notwithstanding, the entire market was a case of great concept and bad execution. The shops were lackluster at best, and there were only a handful of somewhat interesting booths. With more than 8,100 confirmed visitors on their Facebook invite page, and many more that arrived with unconfirmed friends and family members, the 626 Market was a madhouse of hungry, angry people.

It seems as though there were some cultural differences as well. Night market first-timers seemed both intrigued by and loving every moment of the market. For those that have never experienced the “人山人海” scene, it is quite the spectacle, but for others expecting an authentic experience, it was disappointing.

The reason why Asian Markets, such as the Shilin market in Taiwan, work is because of their promptness, convenience, and efficiency, all pillars of night market etiquette.

In Asia, it’s a market no-no to bring children in strollers. It seems as though those that have not been to night markets before treated the night as a nighttime farmer’s market, bringing their kids for a nice stroll in the park – a stroll among more than 8,100 people that were walking toward each other in all directions. Night markets are all about getting in and out. There’s no room to walk, but any shopping transactions should conclude in two minutes tops. (Ten minutes tops for a food booth that is very popular.) There was no room to move at all, and lines were muddled and blocking the walkways. You couldn’t even see what was ahead.

Walking at an Asian night market is also an art form. It’s like the old Frogger video game where each frog must avoid cars while crossing a busy road while navigating a street full of hazards. The same goes for people walking at the night market. It takes a strategic shopper. No stopping and watching out for people from all 10 directions and getting out of the way, all at the same time.

Despite the failure, the marketing campaign run by 626 Market through social media was admirable. With casting, raffle, and prize booths sprinkled with beauty queen galore stationed throughout the aisles, it was definitely a sight to remember for night market newbies.

The market brought Pasadena traffic to a standstill and left neighboring businesses with congested traffic. Some visitors were left scouring streets for parking for more than an hour. But with most cars paying $4 or more for a parking space, I’m sure nearby parking attendants were left very happy.

Hopefully the market can reopen and reorganize itself for a better experience.


Kristie Hang is a food blogger from “I Eat Therefore I Am” and a MYX TV Correspondent. Reach her here.



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