Australia and Tasmania: Night Market

This is the Melbourne Night Market. The primary attractions are greasy food and clever t-shirts.

This is the Melbourne Night Market. At first glance, one could assume that the primary attractions are greasy food and clever t-shirts.

Nice to see gangs of motorbike riders on this side of the Earth too. They look a bit cleaner and nicer than their American counterparts.

Nice to see gangs of motorbike riders on this side of the Earth too. They look a bit cleaner and friendlier than their American counterparts.

Check out those huge boxes of vegetable oil. Make way for greasy food!

Check out those huge boxes of vegetable oil. Make way for greasy food!

... And clever t-shirts!

… And clever t-shirts!

My mission, as given to me by the locals, was to attend the Night Market and procure a sausage-inna-bun. At first I thought I was out of luck...

My mission, as given to me by the locals, was to attend the Night Market and procure a sausage-inna-bun. At first I thought I was out of luck…

... But then I found a booth with plenty for sale.

… But then I found a booth with plenty for sale.

Sitting on the ground chomping food is apparently a Night Market tradition.

Sitting around on the ground chomping food is apparently a Night Market tradition. Can do!!

The evening's entertainment was a klezmer/gypsy band hailing from Russia.

The evening’s entertainment was a klezmer/gypsy band hailing from Russia. Hey look; more redheads!

... Accompanied by a wedding dance.

The performance included a traditional wedding dance.

It was a fun way to spend an evening, and it got me thinking about all the things that I would insist a foreign visitor go see if they were staying in Oakland. One of the local farmer’s markets? A ride in Bike Party? A walk around Lake Merritt? The botanical gardens? These are all things that I enjoy as a local, and in that way they constitute both local color, and a good time in general.

But then I thought about what happens when I go traveling: Often there are small, surprising experiences that affect me in ways no one could predict. A local might direct me to an event like the Night Market, knowing I could enjoy things as they do, but what about my own biases and history?

When I visited New York I was told, “You’ve got to see something on stage here. It’s a classic and unique New York experience.” With help from my sister and our hosts, I got to see Les Miserables live on stage, and I enjoyed that for sure. But one of the most insightful experiences I had there was when I got up in the morning seeking breakfast, and walked in the deep shadow of the towering buildings for less than half a block before I ran into sidewalk deli that was crammed so full of produce and candy and drinks and papers that there was hardly room to breathe inside, and a guy in a suit was having an animated conversation in Italian with the guy behind the counter.

That little experience gave me a sense of uniqueness of place, and of history, and of my own limitations, all at once, and I remember it just as clearly as I remember anything about my time in New York.

As a local, well-established in your own environment, what are the experiences that you can recommend for visitors that are not just a good time, not just impressive or unique, but are truly insightful? Experiences that might show them something new about themselves?

Tough question!

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