A World of Bucket List Spa Experiences

For thousands of years, people have been travelling for the therapeutic benefits of spas, springs and massage therapies. Today, just about every major resort offers spa services, for relaxation, sport injuries, or romance. Over the years, I’ve had some unusual spa treatments. Perhaps these will inspire you to do the same.

The Goa Rub Down

A cramped, overnight train ride from Mumbai resulted in stiff muscles and one achy Esrock. Walking on a dusty road in the village of Arambol, I saw a sign: Ayurvedic Massage, 1 Hour, $8. Anytime I see a massage that cheap, I pay attention. I was ushered into a small, steaming room. Three men poured a bucket of warm, herbal oil over me, and got to work. Kneading, squeezing, and rubbing my skin with such concentration that sweat dripped from their brows. For thousands of years, Ayurvedic medicine and massage has helped people in India, and now around the world. One thing is for sure: An hour later, I was relaxed, loosened up, and in the perfect mood to explore the beautiful beach towns of Goa.

The Fire Doctor of Taiwan

In Taipei, I found myself sprawled on a massage bench in the office of Master Hsieh Ching-long. For more than a dozen years, this fire doctor has been using open flame to untie the knots and heal the muscles of Taiwanese sports and movie stars. He tells me it took years of martial arts training to channel his inner energy so he can use his hands like iron. Lying on my stomach, he pasted herbal goo on my back, doused it with alcohol, and took out a blowtorch. I felt a quick burst of heat, after which the Fire Doctor used his bare hands to spread the flame around. Something smelled like burning skin. My burning skin! Still, with his iron fists, the Fire Doctor hammered out my stiff worries, creaked here, twisted there, and wished me well. Out of the frying pan, and into a scorching summer Taipei day.

Balinese Massage

Balinese massage is a mix of aromatherapy, acupressure, stretches, kneading and skin rolling. At the fantastic Hotel Nikko in Bali, we were treated to a family spa that relaxed our muscles, put big smiles on your faces, and literally head-massaged my youngest into a blissful slumber. While friendly attendants painted my five year old daughter’s nails, my wife and I became puddles during our couples massage, and while little Gali continued to dream, we transferred him to the bench and us to the large adjacent outdoor bubble bath.

The Communal Thai

In Thailand, massages are as a cheap as a beer back home. Small, lithe masseuses twist and crack joints, often chattering away as they do so. Off Khao San Road, where thousands of backpackers flock to cheap hotels, bars and markets, the massage shops might pack a dozen clients into a single room. Here you can chat to your friends too, in a rather social environment, all the while having your body subjected to the type of pain and discomfort that can only be good for you. Thai massages are heavy on the elbows and knees, penetrating deep into the tissue. Off resort, at $6 to $10 an hour, the price is always right, especially on the beach.

The Georgian Backwalk

In the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, you must visit the famous 17th century Orbeliani bathhouses. Blue tile lines old eggshell domes, housing hot sulfur springs that have been revered for their healing properties for centuries. After my dip, I was shown to an adjacent room and told to lie down naked on a marble slab. A man wearing naught but a small towel came over in the steam and poured a barrel of boiling water over me. He then proceeded to give me a rub down using rough hessian rope, scraping away layers of skin with a thick, foamy soap. It hurt, but not as bad as the sulfuric water poured on afterwards, or when he started walking up and down my back. There is a separate bathhouse for women, but not, alas, for the Georgian Rugby Team, who joined me in the baths shortly afterwards.

Something afoot in Shanghai

I had wandered a couple blocks from my hotel looking to experience traditional Chinese acupressure. Based on the same idea as acupuncture, acupressure uses hands, elbows or props to stimulate various pressure points, which help with circulation and energy balance. In a small shop, I was shown to a chair. My feet were scrubbed clean, and then a tiny lady with iron clamps for hands got to work. Pushing and probing, she honed in on my sensitive pressure points, and proceeded to punish them with vigour. My ears were throbbing, my lower back was sweating, my armpits were singing – I don’t know what she was doing, but when she finally stopped, the relief was well worth the agony.

Hungarian Healing

Budapest sits above a sea of natural thermal baths, which Turk conquerors once developed into exquisite palaces of swimming pools. There are still several enormous bathing complexes, exhibiting grand architecture, and well-maintained baths. For about $15 you get a locker, and access to dozens of baths of various temperatures, along with saunas, spas, whirlpools, showers, and for a few bucks more, massages. I spent the afternoon at the Szechenayi Baths, amazed there could be so many options to enjoy. Hot, cold, big, small, indoors, outdoors. A large, sour masseuse however, ensured my massage was as tranquil as a Soviet prison.

A Spa for Two

Occasionally I’m lucky enough to travel with my wife. Many resorts offer couples spas as relaxing alternatives to long walks on the beach, or in the mountains. The wonderful Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs offers various couples packages, encompassing rose-infused side-by-side scrubs, rubs, and baths. In South Africa, we soaked up our pampering at the luxurious Gary Player Health Spa, getting matching facials to enhance our romantic glow. You don’t have to be on your honeymoon to treat yourself to a couples massage. Although after you experience one, you’ll feel like it anyway.

Bucket List Family Trips

Gone are the days when vacation meant leaving the children at home. Bring the kids with, and throw them in the deep end of immersive, cultural trips. From golf lessons with PGA pros to learning the art of Thai dance from a local expert, here’s a round-up of bucket list family trips for the summer – and beyond.

AFRICA

Language (and chocolate) Lessons

Royal Mansour turns little ones into global citizens with a dedicated Kid’s Club, complete with Moroccan art activities and Arabic lessons. The newly renovated hotel also offers a hands-on chocolate making experience for children in their on-site Chocolate Laboratory, allowing kids to taste-test their creations.

 

Kids on Safari (Credit: &Beyond)

Tanzanian Treehouses

Every child’s dream-come-true – living in a tree house – can become a reality at andBeyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge’s new Family Suite. The stilted two-bedroom accommodation in Tanzania’s mahogany forest opened in December 2016. Kids can enroll in the WILDChild program, which consists of butterfly walks, cycling through a village, bow and arrow shooting, playing soccer with the staff and roasting marshmallows on a fire.

ASIA

A Child’s First Job

Budding botanist? Future Michelin-starred chef? Belmond Napasai in Koh Samui lets young travelers indulge their career aspirations with the “My First Job” program. Guests can join the hotel’s head chef in the kitchen to create chocolate roses, or blend local papaya and coconut juices with the bartender for a delicious mocktail. Kids can also learn the art of Thai dance from a local expert.

CARIBBEAN

Coconut Carving with Ian Fleming’s Former Gardener

Jamaica’s GoldenEye was the former home of Ian Fleming and the site where he penned all 14 James Bond novels. His gardener, Ramsey Dacosta, still works on the property and leads activities, including coconut carving and nature walks for children. Daily complimentary kid’s yoga is also available.

‘Maman’ (Mom) & Me

The littlest guests checking in at Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France this year will be delighted to find teepees set up in their room with games and a doll. Kids can also romp around St. Barth’s beaches in matching mommy-and-me pareos (wraparound skirt).

Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice

St. Lucia’s Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort’s Sugar Club and Spice Club offer kids and teens their own version of paradise. The Sugar Club welcomes children ages 4-12 and offers treasure hunts, arts and crafts, and coconut bowling, while the Spice Club caters to teens and tweens with ping pong, croquet, pool tournaments, and pinball machines, as well as a sailing school.

EUROPE

Evian Golf Resort

 

Golf Lessons from PGA Pros

Nestled within a 47-acre park between Lake Geneva and the French Alps, Hotel Rôyal is home to the largest Kid’s Club in France, offering everything from circus lessons to ceramics classes. Offsite activities include skiing in the Alps, sailing on the lake, and the Golf School at Evian Golf Resort – the only major course in continental Europe and host of the Evian Championship – where kids can learn first-hand from PGA pros.    

Treasure Hunting in the British Museum

Claridge’s has partnered with children’s entertainers Sharky & George on new programming for kids. Experiences include everything from an MI5 race against time around the Houses of Parliament to a Harry Potter quest using the Marauder’s Map. The duo will even put together a bespoke adventure tailored perfectly to a family’s favourite activities.

A Private Treehouse for Kids Only

Rising above the shores of Lake Geneva is La Petit Réserve at La Réserve Geneva, a treehouse with game tables, an obstacle course, suspension bridge, and fireman’s pole. In the summer, the property offers swimming, diving, sailing, paddle boarding, wind-surfing on the lake as well as tennis lessons.

City on Scooters

Explore the streets of Barcelona with Majestic Hotel & Spa’s scooter program, offering folding scooters and helmets (both child- and adult-size), a backpack with water and snacks, and an iPad loaded with themed maps and itineraries. Extra credit: families can select the Spanish language tour option to take in La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila in the native tongue.

Behind-the-Scenes at the Zoo

Head down the rabbit hole for a Mad Hatter Afternoon Tea Party aboard Belmond Northern Belle, complete with purple cakes and strolling magicians. Alternatively, arrive in style at the Chester Zoo, where Belmond guests receive an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek with a zookeeper.

Be Our Guest

Inspired by the recent movie release of “Beauty and the Beast,” Town House at The Kensington in London is offering a ‘Tale as Old as Time’ Afternoon Tea, with Mrs. Potts and Chip Potts dishware, a Cogsworth Chocolate Tart, and a Lumière White Chocolate Mousse.

Learn How to Play Petanque

Domaine de Manville, a 250-acre restored farming estate in the heart of Provence, has allocated two caravans amidst the olive country as aKid’s Club where children can participate in a French immersion program including language lessons and cooking classes. Additional activities include how to play Petanque – the outdoor sport similar to bocce that’s traditionally played in the South of France. At night kids can watch French and American films in the private cinema while parents sip rose in the courtyard.

NORTH AMERICA

Facials and Massages Sweet as Honey

The “Bee Pampered” children’s treatment at Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa’s Kinan Spa includes a honey facial and a foot massage tailored to tiny feet. The honey is sourced from Kinan Spa’s own hive of native Melipona bees, and is known for its strong anti-microbial and healing properties. As a memento, tots take home Meli, a Melipona bee stuffed animal.

The Unexpected Napa Valley

While Napa Valley is famous for wine, the region has plenty to offer to families. Sign up for a tour of the Castello di Amorosa, a 13th-century Tuscan castle and winery perched on a hill just south of Calistoga, where kids can sip on grape juice. Gondola rides and colouring books are also offered. Stroll di Rosa, a museum where families can participate in activities including painting portraits.

In-Room Camp-Out and Mini Chef Program

Nantucket’s White Elephant, situated on Nantucket harbour, will launch the Mini Chef program, where children are invited to decorate cupcakes and cookies in 45-minute weekly sessions in July and August.  For a fun night in at the hotel, children can snuggle up in kid-sized robes and have an in-room camp-out, complete with teepees and faux, indoor campfires. 

SOUTH AMERICA

Capoeira for Kids

At UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa  in Trancoso, Brazil, kids can learn the ancient art of Capoeira, a traditional Bahian sport that blends martial arts, acrobatics, and dance at the local school sponsored by UXUA. Guests are invited to either train privately in the hotel’s studio, or side by side with over 65 local children and young adults at the Casa da Cultura (Cultural Center).

Under the Radar Islands in Thailand

The postcard islands of Thailand offer the paradise of our imaginations. Yet alongside the coconut trees and squeaky white beaches, expect to find hordes of tourists. Thanks to direct flights from Bangkok, the crowds – and the businesses that compete for them – can be somewhat overwhelming. If you’re looking for alternatives to hotspots like Koh Phi Phi and Phuket, put these less-known islands on your radar.

Credit: Khunkay Wikimedia CC

Koh Ngai

With no roads, motorbikes or cars, Koh Ngai is a small island on Thailand’s west coast, surrounded by coral and known for its long sandy beaches and turquoise sea water. It’s an ideal spot for relaxing on less-crowded beaches, sea kayaking, snorkelling along the coral, or enjoying a coconut cocktail in the rustic thatched beachfront restaurants. Inland from the beach are some great jungle hikes in pristine forest. There are a few good resorts on the east coast of the island, overlooking jagged limestone outcrops that make for spectacular sunrises. The must-see island excursion is popping on a boat to the nearby Emerald Cave, known as one of the seven wonders of Thailand.

Credit: Dronepicr Wikimedia CC

Koh Lanta

This long, narrow island, located in the Krabi Province off the Andaman Coast, is known as a quieter, more relaxing destination for sun and sand seekers. Its white sandy beaches and outstanding snorkelling and diving, coupled with affordable guesthouses and hotels make it one of the Thailand’s kept secrets, although in recent years it has been getting more popular. Koh Lanta is made up of an archipelago of some 50 uninhabited islands (a boon for marine life), culminating in the Mu Ko Lanta Marine Park located in the southern end of the island. The local population is known to be more conservative than on other islands, and together with their conservation-minded outlook, and the calm, tranquil seas, Koh Lanta radiates a peaceful ambience and family-friendly vibe.

Credit: Guyon Moree Flickr CC

Koh Tao

Koh Tao’s past is as colourful as its turquoise waters and emerald jungles. Long a fishing post, it was also pirate hideaway, and later, a prison for political prisoners. Today, it’s a prison most visitors will be sad to leave. Koh Tao literally means Turtle Island, and it’s the abundance of marine life that makes this southern Gulf Coast island one of the best diving spots in Southeast Asia. Keeping the environment pristine is taken seriously, which is why you’ll find no plastic bags on the island. Rent a scooter to explore some of the fantastic beaches and viewpoints around the island, or explore various trails and sea kayak routes. An important breeding area for marine turtles, Koh Tao’s diving reputation makes it the ideal spot to get your PADI certification, or simply snorkel out from its many white sandy beaches.

New Years Eve Traditions Around the World

new-years

 

All around the world, people will be celebrating (or lamenting) the New Year on December 31st.   While music, friends, family and fun seem universal on this night, some countries have unique customs and traditions.

SCOTLAND

In Scotland, New Years Eve is known as Hogmanay, and there’s a rich heritage associated with its celebration.   Its roots date back to Viking, or Norman, or Flemish traditions (depending on who you speak to) but all call for an epic night of partying. Friends and strangers are made welcome, while ladies freely dish out New Years kisses, much to the delight of the gents. A custom called “first footing” is still common throughout the country. After midnight, a male should step first into the house for good luck. Since he’s typically bearing a bottle of fine Scotch, it’s good luck indeed.

THAILAND

Thais love to party, and they love to party on New Years Eve.   Perhaps that’s why they enjoy three annual New Years Eve celebrations. Fireworks and celebrations abound for our Western New Year as well as the Chinese New year. But things really go crazy for Songkran, the Thai New Year.   It is tradition to throw or spray water, drenching anyone you see, friend or stranger. The water is seen as a symbol of cleaning away the pain and sorrow of the year past. Sometimes the water is mixed with good luck herbs or talc, caking everyone in milky goo.   Songkran is a time to pay respect to elders and family, and also cleaning the household for the year to come. Buddha statues are also gathered, paraded, and sprayed with water for good luck too.

ISRAEL

While the Hebrew calendar differs greatly from the Western Calendar, most Israelis are happy to have one more excuse to party.   New Years Day in Israel is known as Sylvester, after a Pope who ruled around 325 AD.   Canonized by the Church as a Saint to be honoured on December 31st, Sylvester was behind various anti-Semitic legislation and restrictions. In fact, during medieval times, January 1st was typically accompanied by attacks on synagogues, Jews, and book burnings. On January 1st 1577, Pope Gregory required all Roman Jews to convert to Catholicism under pain of death.   With this in mind, many Israelis and Jews celebrate New Years Eve as a poignant reminder of their survival through the ages.  The Jewish New Year typically takes place in September or October.

SINGAPORE

Should you be in Singapore for December 31st, head to Marina Bay for huge celebrations (last year there were over 250,000 people), or walk amongst the crowds on the Esplanade or at Merlion Park.   Fireworks and parades abound.   If you happen to stick around until the beginning of February, you can enjoy the two-week festival of Chin Jie, or Chinese New Year.   This is a time of colourful markets, lavish family dinners, dragon dances, fireworks, and of course, shopping for gifts.  Singapore’s Chinatown holds large parades and street parties, but since Singapore has such a large Chinese population, celebrations are held just about everywhere. Various ornaments and flowers are use to denote different types of luck, which is why you’ll see pictures of koi fish (for success) and find plum blossoms (for luck) and chrysanthemums (for longevity) on sale at local markets. Dance, musical shows and floats take place throughout the period.

ICELAND

Icelanders call News Year Eve “Gamlarskrold”, marked by parties, feasts, and large bonfires – a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.   It is custom to welcome strangers into homes and celebrations, which makes it especially fun to be a tourist at this time of year.   Fireworks are everywhere, and particularly encouraged.   Large groups gather in communal feasts to celebrate with steaming drinks and song.   Reykjavik, the capital city, hums with celebrations throughout the night, holding one of the biggest fireworks displays anywhere on the planet.     If you’re hoping to party until sunrise, you’re in for a long night. This far north, the sun only comes up around mid-day, but during the darkness you might be lucky enough to welcome in the New Year under the Northern Lights.

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia operates according to a different calendar, and a different clock. Unlike our Gregorian (or Western Calendar), they use the Orthodox Julian Calendar. Days are divided into two 12-hour blocks that begin at 6am Western time.   Entutatash, the Ethiopian New Year, takes place annually on our September 11th.  The Julian calendar is also several years ahead of ours, which is why the Millennium was celebrated in Ethiopia in 2007.     A tradition on Entutatash calls for bundles of dry leaves, sticks and wood to be collected as torches, and given to family and friends.   This served the same purpose as greeting cards, which younger people prefer to use these days.   Families enjoy meals of traditional stew served with injera (bread), tejj (honey wine) and tella (beer). Bunna (coffee) is served in a wonderful ceremony that slow roasts the beans, served in small cups to friends and family.

U.S.A

Watching the time ball drop in Times Square is perhaps the most well-known image Americans associate with New Years Eve.   The ritual has been copied in other famous New Years destinations, like Rio’s Copacabana, and Sydney Harbour in Australia.   Yet some American towns have taken the ball drop and modified it with local peculiarities.   In Orlando, they drop an orange. In Elmore, Ohio, they drop a sausage. In Memphis they drop a guitar, in New Orleans a pot of Gumbo. In Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, why a pickle of course!

ECUADOR

Like other parts of Latin America, Ecuador celebrates the New Year by the burning of effigies. Each effigy, made with paper or straw, is decorated to represent a person, an event, or anything from the previous year that needs a fiery send-off.     Come midnight, the matches are lit and the effigies burn, symbolically releasing emotions and anger.   The tradition dates back to pagan times, having being brought to the New World by Spanish colonists.   Julius Caesar noted around 40 BC that burning effigies were used by Gaul Druids to accompany human sacrifices. Apparently, the gods liked thieves and murderers placed in the middle. In Ecuador, an effigy might resemble an unpopular politician, but he’ll still be around to cause trouble in the New Year. Ecuadoreans might also wear yellow underwear to help attract good luck, along with eating 12 grapes (one wish per grape). One more tradition I’m particularly fond of: If you walk with a suitcase around the block, the New Year might bring you to a dream journey.

A Bucket List of the World’s Best Night Markets

night-market2

 

There’s simply no choice between a mall and a night market.   Instead of food courts, you have local cuisine cooked before your eyes. Instead of multinational clothing chains, you have handmade knits and knock-off fakes.   Instead of sterile hallways, you have cluttered narrow pathways full of smiles, smells, and secrets.   After shopping around, here’s our pick of the best:

  1. Luang Prabang, Laos

Night markets in Asia are usually loud and chaotic, yet my memory of this sleepy city’s night market, located along Sisavangvong Road, is one of calm. There is very little pushing and prodding to buy this or that, in stark contrast to markets found in neighbouring Thailand or Cambodia. Around 300 traders sell a wide range of goods – from pillows and covers to lanterns to cheap Beer Lao T-shirts, the perfect souvenir from Laos. Without the pressure, it’s almost impossible not to spend your kip, the local currency. It’s always advisable to haggle, and don’t expect the best quality.   Open daily, the market closes early at around 10pm.

  1. Queen Victoria Markets, Melbourne Australia

During the summer months, Melbourne has several vibrant night markets, gathering local artists, designers, traders, with food and entertainment from around the world. Every Wednesday November to March at the Queen Victoria Markets, on the corner of Peel and Victoria streets, you can find the popular Suzuki Night Market, with 35 ethnic food stalls, art, clothes, and jewelry traders. On Fridays in late January/February, you can shop away and enjoy the atmosphere at the Geelong Night Market in Johnstone Park.   Besides the stalls, there is also a health and harmony section, and licensed bars to enjoy a cool drink on a warm summer night.

  1. Huaxi Street Tourist Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan

There are six major night markets in hot and sticky Taipei, with the most famous, and most notorious, being Huaxi, also known as Snake Alley. Once a legal red light district, Snake Alley is known for the exotic dishes served by its restaurants and stalls.   These include snake meat, including their blood or even their venom, milked from their fangs. There’s also turtle meat, deer penis soup, and other delicacies that draw tourists. Surrounding the market are stalls selling all manner of goods, proudly Made in Taiwan.

  1. Summer Night Market, Richmond, BC

During summer, some 300 traders set up stalls each weekend in Richmond, one of the growing satellite cities next to Vancouver.   Reflecting the multiculturalism of Richmond’s large immigrant population, the night market features strong Asian, Indian and Latin American influences. Grab yourself a bubble tea and catch a live salsa performance on the 60ft stage, or just roam the alleys looking for bargains on clothing, electronics and souvenirs. The market attracts some two million visitors a year, and often features themed nights, like Taste of Asia, or Chinese Karaoke Night.

  1. Chiang Mai Night Market, Thailand

Crammed into three blocks on Chan Klan Road, the night market and bazaar of Chiang Mai is extremely popular with visitors.   All manner of goods are on sale from traders packed on the sidewalks, or in purpose-built malls. Friendly tailors beckon you into their shops, old ladies fry up noodles, and lanterns cast a soft glow in the night. Operating every night of the year, the market is considered to be amongst the cheapest in the country.   Don’t expect lasting quality from the goods on sale, although I still have various candleholders and even some shirts I bought many years after my visit. Traders will typically start their price at double what you should pay, so remember to bargain.

  1. Batu Ferringhi Night Market, Penang, Malaysia

The Malay word for night market is “pasar malam”, a popular example of which can be found in Penang at Batu Ferringhi (literally, “Foreigner’s Rock”). Vendors in small stalls sell the usual knick knacks – clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, watches, jewelry, and other goods of authentic or dubious origins. The night market draws tourists with the sweet smells of local cuisine, and is close to a beach and pool area as well.   It sets up each day in the late afternoon and operates from 6pm until the customers thin out.  International hotels are located along the beach strip, with some directly facing the market.

  1. Christmas Market, Nuremburg, Germany

Every Xmas, markets pop up all over the Germany, differing from region to region. Frankfurt has the largest Christmas Market in Germany, along with the tallest Christmas tree. But the most famous Christmas market is in the Bavarian city of Nuremburg. This market is a popular place to pick up toys, ornaments and candles, along with treats like biscuits and sausages roasted over wood fires. Located throughout the old town, the market has nearly 200 wooden stalls, many sporting red and white cloth.   They even compete for the most beautiful and tasteful stall award. More than two million people visit it each year.

  1. Temple Street Night Market, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a legendary destination, and its most popular night market doesn’t disappoint. There’s a wild variety of goods and services on offer, including fortune tellers, palm readers and impromptu Opera street performances. Open from 2pm onwards, the market is located on Temple Street next to the Jordan MTR station in Kowloon. As with most night markets, street food features prominently. Try some of the sticky sweet desserts and browse for electronics, antiques, and lamps. But remember, you break you buy

  1. Marrakech Night Market, Morocco

Enter the Jemaa El Fna night market near the heart of Marrakech’s medina, and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled onto a set of Indiana Jones. Expect a cacophony of snake charmers and monkey dancers, hagglers and hustlers, juice being freshly pressed over the sounds of salesmen beckoning their next client. Each night, over 100 open kitchens are set up, serving cheap but delicious Moroccan cuisines to patrons seated at long rows of wooden tables. Each kitchen typically serves one dish, and you might want to watch your food being cooked to avoid any tummy upsets later. The night market is open until 2am in summer, and around midnight in winter

  1. Donghuamen Night Market, Beijing, China

Here’s what I like about this particular night market: where else can you find rows of stalls featuring raw insects, scorpions, crickets, centipedes and lizards, ready to be deep fried in wok for your culinary enjoyment?   Sure, you can stick with dumplings, noodles or fresh fruit, but sometimes, you just find yourself craving a deep fried starfish.   All the prices are marked (in case you’re too hungry to haggle) and conveniently displayed in both Mandarin and English.   Don’t know about you, but I’m salivating at the thought of it!