lanternsA few weeks ago I wrote about how I’ve been walking to work and back and promised I’d post about Chinatown. Vancouver has the second largest Chinatown in North America–runner up to San Francisco. Funny, it doesn’t seem all that big; it’s just a few city blocks.  Yet when I was a kid it seemed huge.

When I was growing up my family would go to Chinatown for lunch and a bit of shopping. We didn’t do it very often, since we lived in the suburbs. Sometimes my mother and I would go during the week.  Other times the whole family went on the weekend. It was a special outing that I always looked forward to. I remember wandering through the streets with my parents, feeling transported to another country as I clutched onto my mother’s hand, extra terrified of getting lost. The smells were unfamiliar and exotic, the streets raucous and noisy.

Still, I loved everything about it. The little tarts and pastries we would pick up at the Chinese Bakery, the dumplings we’d have at dim sum, the silk-covered notebooks my mother would buy me at one of the local merchants. I loved looking at all the silks and rarely went home without a new pair of Chinese slippers. For awhile it was fashionable for Western women to wear traditional Chinese dresses.  My mother had a blue silk one, printed with tiny gold birds.  She wore it to parties with a couple of chopsticks in her hair.

Now when I walk through Chinatown I always remember these little outings and stop to buy a pair of red silk slippers or one of those notebooks I loved so much. Of course, with great prices on produce, Chinatown is a perfect place to buy groceries. I must admit that I often have no idea what I’m looking at as I wander through some of these shops, but that’s the fun of it all.

chinatowngate

The gates of Chinatown.

driedstuff

moredriedstuff

Hmm. No too sure. Some of it is dried seafood.

herbs

There are many shops where you can buy the herbs and such used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. I’ve tried some of this stuff. It really works!

stickyrice

I know what this is, at least. Sticky rice! A dim sum favourite. Did I mention I love dim sum?

chsfruit

But what the heck are these? Anyone know? I assume that they are some kind of fruit because I have seen them in the fruit section of my grocery store. They could be anything. Mushrooms, anyone?

church

St. James Anglican church is right on the edge of Chinatown. Suddenly I’m no longer in China …. not in Vancouver … I’m in … Greece!

How about you? Do you have a Chinatown in your city?

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