Thinking of travel to Asia but the economy has you pinching dollars instead of pennies?
Forget the costly airfare! Forgo the jetlag! Within a 20 minute drive from the heart of Vancouver, you can find yourself in a seemingly new land where the signs and languages speak to you in Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese to name three.
You have entered the city of Richmond where more than 60% of the population is of Asian descent and the restaurants and hospitality services invite you in with characters that are not a part of the English alphabet.
Over a decade ago, the heart of Canada’s Chinatown was in downtown Vancouver on the avenues that connected to Hastings Street. Over the years as the area became ridden with drug addicts and vagrants, people began to shy away from going there.
While it is still a popular area, with a goodly number of markets and restaurants doing reasonable business, many of the merchants made the decision to relocate. The area they selected, almost as though by referendum, was the nearby community of Richmond.
Its eco-friendly design uses wormwood, which are trees destroyed by devastating pests, then cut down and recycled into the ceiling of the dome, giving it a unique architectural look.
Since the games, the Oval became part of a lasting legacy as it transformed into a multi-sport complex and wellness centre for Richmond and the rest of Greater Vancouver.
But it becomes clear who is using the facility most frequently when you observe the mix of people taking advantage of the open public skating opportunities available now on a regular basis.
Hundreds of people lace on their skates to create their own vision of crossing the finish lines well ahead of the former Olympics competitors who they envision leaving behind them as they speed past them.
It is here where you fully realize the face of Canada has changed, with the presence of so many different visible minorities who have chosen to make this country their home in the last one to 100 years plus. On the evening I was there, those visible minorities filled more than 80 per cent of the skates that traced that oval.
On the evening I was there, those visible minorities filled more than 80 per cent of the skates that traced that oval.
They were novices and skilled. They were stumbling children and senior citizens. And with a sense of pride they were all enjoying the edifice that is now theirs for decades to come.
While shopping options abound in Richmond, the Aberdeen Centre again underscores the Asian personality that is now so much a part of the business mix. While many of the recognized retail brand names exist there, you are more likely to come across outlets like Lotus Seats, Tokyo Renaissance, Luk Fook Jewelry, Santayaya and Taiwan Yong Lai Xiang Dried Foods.
The food court is, for the most part, an Asian culinary mix that enhances the perception of a country within a country. But don’t worry, everyone can speak English and they provide exemplary service to all.
But it is the culinary options also available outside the mall – which can be easily found in the strip malls or as freestanding locations situated around the heart of the city, often referred to as the Golden Village – that draws Vancouverites and makes a Richmond stay worthwhile.
Pick your pleasures. If you want traditional Chinese menus they are common. Think of an Asian country whose food is your favourite and you will find it.
Blend that with the ideas of the young Asian entrepreneurs who have created new restaurants for a modern society, built upon the principals of the old with the fusion of the new.
Trendy new names lead customers in to exceptional presentations of an interesting mix of culinary tastes. But make your reservations early because dining out is a popular pastime in Richmond where you will see lineups of both Asian and Caucasian couples and families, looking to squeeze their way in.
Vancouver itself of course is a worthwhile tourist destination for anyone who has yet to experience our Pacific coast. But the journey to Richmond will build upon that experience. You are sure to get excited about the changing face of our nation, and the contributions our citizens of Asian descent have rewarded us with.
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