It has become pretty obvious that the Vancouver area has a substantial Asian population, so it’s understandable that many people want to have some of the things they had back home. For much of Asia, the “night market” is a way of life. It’s just the thing to do, whether you’re talking about the Shilin Night Market in Taipei or “Woman Street” in Hong Kong.

And so, the phenomenon was imported to the Vancouver area with the arrival of the Chinatown Night Market in the 90s, but even more profoundly with the original Richmond Night Market in the summer of 2000. That is changing substantially this year, as there are at least three night markets set to open next month. The question is whether the local economy–and the availability of local merchants–is enough to sustain this kind of expansion. After all, they’re mostly the same thing, offering a variety of street food and selling a range of inexpensive products, from random toys to iPhone cases.

All three Vancouver area night markets are set to open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and select holidays.

Richmond Night Market

The original Richmond Night Market started at Continental Centre, but it was eventually moved around to several locations, finding itself in the parking lot of Lansdowne Mall, at the northern end of No. 3 Road, and near the water by Vulcan Way. Then, due to an unaffordable rent increase, it went out of business after the 2007 season. Well, Target Event Productions is resurrecting its old Richmond Night Market this year, moving to a location near the River Rock Casino Resort.

Richmond Night Market kicks off on May 18, 2012 and runs every weekend until October 8, 2012. It is located at 8351 River Road, a few minutes walk from the Bridgeport Skytrain station. This will certainly help with getting people who don’t live in Richmond to the market, since this location is much more transit-friendly. It also means that hotel and casino patrons are more likely to visit, just as folks at the night market are more likely to gamble a few dollars at the casino.

Summer Night Market

It was in 2008 that a new promotional company (Lions Communications) stepped up to the plate, launching the Summer Night Market to fill the void by the defunct Richmond Night Market. In fact, it even took over the exact same location (at the time) and most people didn’t even know that the “new” event was being organized by entirely new management.

Summer Night Market returns on May 11, 2012 and runs until September 16, 2012. The market is located on a 10-acre site at 12631 Vulcan Way, behind the Home Depot on Bridgeport Road. We can probably imagine much the same here as in previous years, but there are reports that the “original” Richmond Night Market is tempting many of the vendors away from Summer Night Market. Will there be too many empty stalls? Will this spell the death of this “second” night market?

Chinatown Night Market

Even though the night markets in Richmond get the lion’s share of the attention, there is also a smaller night market in Vancouver’s Chinatown too. This smaller promotion has been able to coexist with its Richmond counterpart, possibly because it has been able to keep its scale in check. That said, due to the shifting Chinese demographic in Vancouver, there is nowhere near the same kind of regular foot traffic in Chinatown as there may have been ten or twenty years ago.

The 17th Vancouver Chinatown Night Market is scheduled to begin on May 18, 2012, running until September 9, 2012. The market is located along Keefer Street between Main Street and Columbia Street. I’m honestly quite surprised that the Chinatown Night Market has been able to survive as long as it has, but it is clear that the tourism people have been trying to promote Chinatown more heavily in recent years.

The Future of Night Markets in Vancouver

When I was traveling through Taipei, it was quite astounding just how many “night markets” there were. I imagine it’s much the same in other major Asian cities where the “street vendor” marketplace is the norm, not only at night but also during the day.

For Vancouver and its surrounding suburbs, though, I’m not sure that having three separate night markets is sustainable over the long run, especially if two of them are in Richmond. I can’t say for sure, but I’d be curious to see if there was any interest to open a night market in Burnaby or Coquitlam where the Asian population is growing.

What are your thoughts? Do you enjoy visiting the night market? Do you think we have enough of a population to sustain three night markets in such close proximity to one another?