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Monday, January 30, 2012


The dragon danced in the rain this weekend at the annual Chinese Lunar New Year parade.  It was appropriate because this was the celebration for the year of the water dragon.  In spite of the icy drizzle, the streets of Chinatown were crowded with spectators who came to enjoy the festivities.  Lions performed their good luck rituals in front of merchant’s shops and exploding firecrackers filled the street with clouds of smoke. 

 Chinatown Gateway

I found a good vantage point near the Chinatown Gateway across from the notorious Shanghai Alley.  The vantage point had some nostalgia for me, because on that corner is the Sam Kee  Building which Ripley titled “the world’s narrowest building’ where, back in the 1950’s my husband and I were invited to celebrate the Chinese New Years with the proprietor and his friends.  At that time it was a jewelry shop with living quarters above, barely wide enough for a sofa in the main room and under Pender street in the proprietor’s rec room tables were set up with mahjong games and expensive bottles of whiskey. I’ve never forgotten that fascinating evening.

Sam Kee Building

Vancouver has one of the largest Chinatowns in North America. Besides the many fascinating shops there are many designated heritage buildings and intriguing stories behind the history of this area. The Millennium Chinatown Gateway entrance across Pender St. was built as a testament to the early Chinese's struggles and triumphs. 

 Lion Dancers

The Lunar New Year parade is a colourful display of the Chinese culture from the lion and dragon dances, traditional performances believed to scare off evil spirits and summon good fortune.  Colourful flags fluttered above the parade of men and beautiful young women dressed in traditional costumes. A variety of bands played, from bag-pipes to a Chinese youth marching band and Vancouver’s familiar Carnival Band decked out in funny costumes. Red envelopes filled with candy were handed out to the bystanders, a tribute to the lei see, traditionally filled with money and given out on holidays as a sign of blessing.

Vancouver has one of North America’s largest Chinese communities. In the late 1890's early Chinese immigrants settled in an area known as Shanghai Alley and Canton Alley. These two alleys were the site of a vibrant nightlife, an opera house, shopping and political and cultural activities. A panel featuring some prominent Chinese people and places depicts the history of the alleys. The West Han Dynasty Bell, unearthed in Guangzhou, China in 1983 is located in Shanghai Alley.  The bell, weighing just under a tonne, was a gift from the City of Guangzhou to Vancouver in honour of the 15th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities.
Dragon Dancers

Balloon Dragon

Parasol Dragon

At the turn of the 20th century, Chinatown prospered as Chinese merchants invested in property extending Chinatown east along Pender St. to Gore St.  Today the “Silk Road Route” is marked clearly with colourful banners and road signs making it easy for a self-guided walking tour. You’ll see some interesting heritage buildings along the route. At the end of Keefer and Columbia streets the Monument of Canadian Chinese has been erected to commemorate historic achievements of Canadian Chinese.

Pretty Ladies

Dragon bearers


Although most of today's Chinese residents live outside of the downtown core, Chinatown's centre is still a busy, interesting hub, situated around the Chinese Cultural Centre on Pender Street marked by a beautiful arch. Be sure and visit the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park and Gardens located just behind the cultural centre.

There’s a lot of interesting stores where you can browse, buy souvenirs and even purchase Chinese antiques. To celebrate the New Year the shops were gaily decked in red and gold banners and lanterns. There’s an abundance of  traditional Chinese medicine shops, grocery stores with colourful arrays of veggies, herbs, dried fish, fresh poultry, meat and seafood, tea shops and bakeries.

Ladies riding horses

The rain didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this annual event. After the parade ended my friend and I went into the shopping mall and warmed up with a bowl of hot soup at the food court.  The parade crowd moved indoors too and filled the mall, where entertainment was provided on a small stage. The Chinese New Years celebrations had started a week ago and ended this weekend with the annual parade.  Even the grey skies didn’t stop people from flocking to Chinatown to enjoy this fun multicultural event.

Gung Hay Fat Choy: Happy New Year!

Monday, January 02, 2012


I spent this Christmas in Salmon Arm, a beautiful little town tucked below the mountains, straddling the shores of Lake Shuswap.  My family members are skiers and snowboarders so one day we went on an excursion to the Silver Star Mountain Resort, a special treat for me even though I'm not a skier.

I'd been to Silver Star a couple of times in the past but only during the summer.  This time it was truly a 'winter wonderland'. It's a pretty village with Victorian-style houses painted pastel colours. There's a number of shops and eateries there and it isn't as high-end and expensive as some other resorts, such as Whistler, on the Coast.

I spent the day strolling the village and checking out the shops while the family skied.  There is 3,066 acres of hills with ski runs, and 12 lifts. There's very much a family atmosphere here and the slopes were teeming with family groups.  For the youngsters, there's a Kid's Zone where they can play on their own and have ski lessons while mom and dad tackle the steeper slopes. I saw one tiny fellow, couldn't have been more than two, on a wee pair of skis, being guided along by his grandparents.  And lots of children skiing on their own or being pulled in sleds.

If you've never been skiing there before you can take some tours to acquaint yourself with the mountain.  Free tours leave from the centre of the village every morning and afternoon. There are also Nordic XC Camps held on the mountain and heli-skiing from the village. If you want to spend your holidays there there are plenty of accommodations. (

The 'boarder and the skier, Mike & Alex