Just 25 minutes south of Downtown Vancouver on the Canada Line lies the city of Richmond, which offers an unexpected voyage into the Far East; street signs and advertisements are in Chinese characters and you’ll hear Cantonese spoken. Up to 60 percent of Richmond residents identify as Chinese – many of them immigrated in the late 1980s from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China. The sweeping mountains that surround the city don’t disguise the admittedly unlovely architecture of somewhat tatty strip malls, but what the city may lack in suburban beauty it more than makes up for with its dining scene, acknowledged as the Asian food capital of North America. Food Street (as Alexandra Road is called), makes up three blocks of some two hundred dining options of every kind of Asian cuisine from Cantonese to Korean and Thai. It’s also a fun place to shop, with a trio of Asian malls: Parker Place, Yaohan Centre, and the Aberdeen Centre in Golden Village. You’ll find both screamingly modern and traditional Asian goods at all of these; if you’ve time for only one, go to Aberdeen Centre (4151 Hazelbridge Way; w aberdeencentre.com) where you can browse high-tech toilets and aromatic herbal teas, beautiful chinaware and the budget Asian “dollar store” chain, Daiso (w daisocanada.com). After the thrills of shopping, head for a peaceful retreat to No. 5 Rd, aka the Highway to Heaven, where you’ll find some twenty different places of worship from global religions and just a little beyond that, North America’s largest Buddhist temple.
Richmond Night Market (w richmondnightmarket.com) is one of the summer highlights for Vancouver foodies; it has some 20,000 visitors a night on busy weekends and is the only market of its kind in North America.