Thursday, November 04, 2010

Chinatown Series: Vancouver

As a result of the large ethnic Chinese presence in Vancouver, the city’s Chinatown is the largest in Canada and, in fact, one of the largest in North America. In 1890, early Chinese immigrants settled in Vancouver in what was then called “Shanghai Alley” and this year, Vancouver’s Chinatown celebrates its 125th Anniversary. Spanning between Pender Street and Hastings, Georgia, Gore, and Taylor Streets in the city center, Vancouver’s Chinatown is a dynamic and ever-expanding community. Chinatown remains a popular tourist destination as well as a favorite spot among the locals. Read on for a few must-stop spots in Vancouver's Chinatown:


Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie (163 Keefer St)
In Chinese, “Bao Bei” means “precious” and this upscale, contemporary restaurant is just that. The interior setting is intimate and cozy with tucked away booths and walls lined with eclectic vintage photographs and mirrors. Serving sustainable seafood and hormone-free organic meat, Bao Bei takes a contemporary twist on traditional Chinese food. In addition, they have a killer cocktail list with intriguing concoctions such as the Kai Yuen Sour (Forty Creek Rye, Dried Chinese Plum Syrup, Lemon, Bitters, and Egg White). A perfect spot for a dinner date or a night out with friends, be sure to keep Bao Bei on your list.

New Town Bakery (158 E Pender St)
After a busy day of exploring the city, you may be in need of a sweet treat to give you that second wind. All of their goodies come highly recommended but it is the egg tarts that are absolutely out of this world. If you’re lucky enough to get them hot out of the oven, you won’t regret the indulgence. Other tasty treats include the Coconut buns, egg twists, and for those of you who prefer the savory goodies the pork buns are a house specialty and a neighborhood favorite.

Radha Yoga & Eatery (728 Main St)
If you’re in need of a little physical activity after all that eating, head to Radha Yoga & Eatery. Drop in for any of the various yoga classes they offer but make sure to work that appetite back up because their incredible vegetarian restaurant featuring local and organic ingredients offers a delicious menu that you won’t want to miss.


Bamboo Village Oriental Folk Art & Craft Shop (135 E Pender St)
This fascinating shop is stuffed to the brim with numerous hidden treasures. From paper lanterns to carved statues and even home furnishings including Chinese antiques, this store certainly has something for everyone. Navigating the tightly packed aisles in the shop can be overwhelming but you will be rewarded for your efforts with many unique finds.

Chinatown Night Market (Keefer St/Main St - Between Main & Columbia St)
Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night during the summers this shopping extravaganza takes over the streets of Chinatown offering everything from traditional Asian handmade crafts to delectable ethnic food items. You can always find some great bargains at the Chinatown Night Market so make sure to keep this on your list for next time the weather is warm!


Sam Kee (8 W Pender St)
This is the world’s narrowest commercial building (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) measuring in at a tiny 6 feet wide! The narrow base is actually only 4 feet 11 inches but the building widens as it gets taller in order to make the most use of the narrow space. The building was not originally planned to be this small but in 1912 a government decision to widen Pender Street caused Chang Toy, the stubborn owner of Sam Kee Company, to change his building plans when all but 6 feet of his land was reclaimed.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Gardens (578 Carrall St)
The first Ming Dynasty Scholars Garden to be built outside of China, this incredible garden is one-of-a-kind and an absolute must-see spot in Vancouver. Adjacent to the Chinese Cultural Center, it offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city. All of the structures in the garden were even built in a traditional mode without using any nails or screws. In addition, Radha Yoga offers yoga classes in the garden on Sundays in November and December.