Ethnic Adventures - Chinatown - Vancouver

by the whole family


Have you ever tried eating chicken's feet, or seen a Chinese dragon?  These are a couple of the delights awaiting you at Vancouver's Chinatown.  Out of the four Chinatown's I've visited, Vancouver's has the most to do and see.  With buildings dating back to the mid 1880's, it has some of the oldest architecture found in the city.  If you go during Chinese New Year, you'll be sure to see a real live Chinese dragon.  Nathan loves to see the colourful dragons dancing in the streets.  Jen, on the other hand, finds the loud banging (it does sound like pots and pans) a bit much, and prefers to look in the stores, particularly those selling TOYS.  She has discovered that she gets more for her dollar in Chinatown than anywhere else in Vancouver.  And if we go on a weekend night during the summer she can get some real bargains at the market.  Nathan came home with a four inch fan that actually worked for about $2, and Jen got a Casper key chain for $1.50.

If you have a Chinese husband, you won't be able to leave without buying some barbecued pork buns (I get mine at Maxim's) or some tasty potstickers (which, by the way, make a great heat-up meal when you're pressed for time).  But really these are only the tip of the iceberg.  Chinatown has so many eating delicacies, you could go every day for a year and always cook something different.  I like the Chinese greens, eggplant, and fresh prawns.  It has many of the Oriental vegetables and fruit that you can't always get at your local supermarkets.  The prices are always cheaper, but you have to shop around, because the quality is not always consistent--I've seen some pretty unappealing fish and veggies.  And if you don't feel like cooking--eat out--there's plenty of restaurants to pick from.

Aside from food Chinatown has several shops you can browse for fine silks, rattan, jewellery, knick-knacks, and especially herbs.  If you're interested in alternative forms of medicine, the Chinese have herbs for almost any problem you could imagine.  The only thing is, be prepared for some extreme ingredients--cockroaches or bear testicles anyone? 

Age group:

All ages.  (Having said that, I'd avoid taking elderly people or children in strollers during peak times-- there's a lot of hustle and bustle). 

Expense rating:

You can go to Chinatown and not spend a nickel, or you can empty your wallet out; it just depends on how much shopping you do.  In general, the prices of almost everything is cheaper in Chinatown than anywhere else (but you do have to shop around). 


Going to Chinatown gives you a small taste of what Chinese culture is like.  It won't be like stepping into a village in China, (Vancouver's Chinatown is much too Westernized for that), but you will experience Chinese people, food, merchandise, customs, and traditions.  I can guarantee, no matter how old your family members are, there will be something of interest for everyone. 


As I mentioned before, it can get busy in Chinatown (the occasional pushing does occur), which doesn't always agree with infants and elderly people, or even you and me if we're having a bad day.  Parking is not always easy to come by either, and you will have to pay.  The only other drawback is that Chinatown attracts many of Vancouver's down-and-out people.  In other words, you may see people drinking or sleeping in the outlying parks, or looking through garbage cans for food. 


Chinatown is alive all day, every day.  Most of the shops close around 6:00 PM, and some businesses are not open on Sundays and holidays, but for the most part it is open.  Definitely the restaurants are open at night.  In the summer visit the popular Chinatown Night Market.

There are several main roads that lead to Chinatown:  Pender, Hastings, and Main are three of them.  East Pender goes through the heart of Chinatown with Gore and Carrall streets bordering it.  All these streets are on major bus routes, i.e. you'll never have to wait longer than ten minutes. On the edge of downtown Vancouver. 





All seasons 

Educational highlights:

Vancouver's Chinatown lets you see how another culture lives.  It opens your family's eyes to what Chinese people eat, how they talk, what they make, and what they do, as well as their customs and traditions.  Young children often cling to the notion that everyone is exactly like them--Chinatown shows them, first-hand, that we are all different. 

Fun for the adult?:

As I mentioned earlier, Chinatown is great if you like food--especially if you're game for something different.  Shopping can  be fun also, particularly if you're a bargain hunter or want something Chinese.