Immerse yourself in Chinese culture

written by James Sinks
photography by Tourism Richmond

The Canadian city of Richmond, located just south of Vancouver BC, sits a mere three feet above sea level. So, like other major low-lying locales, the place guards against flooding with dikes and pump stations—which here can expel 1.4 million gallons every minute.

Yet Richmond has long welcomed a flood of a different sort: The city of 210,000 has attracted waves of migrants from across the Pacific, and today the former farming and fishing community boasts North America’s highest concentration of people who identify as Chinese, at 53 percent. Three quarters of the population is of Asian descent.

As a result, just a twenty-five-minute drive from the U.S. border, you can immerse in the vibrant culture and rich flavors of the Far East, from dim sum to spicy hotpots to karaoke. The New York Times in 2018 declared that the unassuming city had the “best Chinese food in North America.”

(You don’t even need to drive to get here: From Vancouver’s International Airport, it’s only four elevated train stops to Richmond’s mall-filled Chinese district, known as Golden Village.)

The dizzying array of Chinese restaurants—there are hundreds dotting the map—can admittedly be a little intimidating. If you like dumplings with your chopsticks, though, you’re in a bit more luck. A “Dumpling Trail” highlights fifteen top local spots for lovers of the delicate filled-dough pouches. At Fisherman’s Terrace Seafood Restaurant, you can even get your shrimp dumplings deep fried.

Weekend nights from May to October, you won’t want to miss the Richmond Night Market, the largest Asian night market on the continent. Here, $6 gets you into a buzzing bazaar of vendors, entertainers and street food booths serving up fare from stuffed crab claws to wonton nachos to barbecue. There are also roving characters like dinosaurs because, you know, Instagram.

Richmond’s night market is abuzz with food and retail vendors.

Richmond sits on an island in the Fraser River delta and, prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 1800s, it was home to seasonal settlements of the Coast Salish people. The rich soil attracted farmers, and plentiful salmon runs lured Japanese fishermen. More recently, the immigration surge has been from Hong Kong, plus mainland China.

There’s more to Richmond than Chinese food, but let’s face it, if that’s all you’re here for, nobody is going to judge.

The city offers more than 100 miles of paths and trails, 145 parks, and several golf links. Enjoy exploring on two wheels? Follow the Bike the Dyke trail route along the coastline. Rainy outside? The former ice racing oval from the 2010 Winter Olympics has been repurposed into an indoor multi-sport facility.

Biking along the boardwalk in Richmond.

For a journey of the spiritual sort, head to the “Highway to Heaven” where more than twenty churches and temples welcome visitors and coexist peacefully on the same street. Also nearby is the sprawling International Buddhist Society complex, modeled after Beijing’s fabled Forbidden City, where you can meditate, get your fortune read, explore pond-filled gardens, and lunch at renowned vegetarian restaurant Taste of Zen.

On the southwest waterfront is the historic Steveston Fishing Village, home to a boardwalk, preserved cannery and shipyard, a popular (and floating) fish and chips stand, and a Fisherman’s Wharf where you can buy fresh-caught seafood from the dock. If it looks vaguely familiar, the village was the setting for the television show Once Upon a Time.

At Steveston Fishing Village, you will encounter (and love) Pajo’s floating fish and chips stand.

Like animals? Richmond parks are rife with rabbits, whale watching tours depart daily from Steveston and, on weekends, you can buy tickets to Canada’s largest house cat sanctuary, where once-homeless felines live out their days in patios and gardens without fear of euthanization.

West of the fishing village, trails meander through waterfront Garry Point Park, where you can relax, watch the sun set lazily over the Pacific, and figure out which Chinese restaurants will be serving your dinner.

 

RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA

EAT

Chef Tony
www.cheftonycanada.com

Dumpling Trail
www.visitrichmondbc.com/food-drink/the-dumpling-trail

Fisherman’s Terrace Seafood Restaurant
www.fishermansterrace.com

Kirin Restaurant
www.kirinrestaurants.com

Pajo’s Fish and Chips
www.pajos.com

Taste of Zen
www.buddhisttemple.ca/taste-of-zen

STAY

Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport
www.radissonhotels americas.com

River Rock Casino Resort
www.riverrock.com

Versante Hotel
www.versantehotel.com

PLAY

Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site
www.facebook.com/britshipyards

Fisherman’s Wharf
www.stevestonharbour.com/fishermans-wharf

International Buddhist Temple
www.buddhisttemple.ca

Regional Animal Protection Society Cat Sanctuary
www.rapsbc.com/cat-sanctuary

Richmond Night Market
www.richmondnightmarket.com

Richmond trail system
www.richmond.ca/parks/overview.htm

Vancouver Whale Watch
www.vancouverwhalewatch.com

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