Travelling without going away

It’s something that authors tend to be good at, and it can be a blessing in those long meetings or when the bus timetable yet again proves itself to be the only work of true fiction in the universe.

This time I did something I very rarely do, and betook myself to play tourist in my own backyard, using the excellent excuse of family in town.

Vancouver’s Chinatown is something I tend to take for granted, which is a shame because as well as great steamed buns (New Town Bakery is a must-visit), there’s also a lot to see there and some great tea shops. I recommend coming in on Pender Street and taking a few photos with the entry way arch, it looks very impressive.

Although I’d explored the Sun Yat-Sen park before, I’d never caught the garden itself open, so we armed ourselves with tickets and some of the tea on offer, and went to explore the traditional architecture and admire the garden courtyards.

It was raining that day (it does that a lot in February, I find), so unfortunately the central rock garden was closed to careless tourist feet, but the rest of it, from the moon gate to the intricately-paved courtyards, was definitely worth a visit.

Since an episode a couple of years back involving a travelling river otter and the garden’s koi, there aren’t many fish still living in the ponds of the Park and Garden, but the imported boulders and the plants are very much worth looking at, and the ponds themselves are very pretty.

As you can see from this photograph, it’s remarkably hard to tell that about a kilometre behind me is the absolute centre of Vancouver’s Downtown, with all the massive glass monuments to the P-type personality that usually involves. (Hint – disaster projections for Vancouver’s Downtown that involve an earthquake of any great magnitude revolve around 5 foot of broken glass in the streets…)

Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest in Canada (its only rivals for size in North America are both in the States), and it’s separated from Downtown along the waterfront by Gastown, which used to be a moderately dodgy area and is now pretty much tourist central, including highlights like the steam-powered clock, and a Spaghetti Factory to make our American visitors feel at home.

In other categories of travelling local, we also went up Cypress Mountain for night snow-shoeing plus cheese and chocolate fondue, and were lucky enough to get about four inches of snow. One of the great things about Vancouver is that the coastal mountains offer great snow between about Christmas and Easter most years, but once in town again, we have a lot more reprieve from snow than most of Canada. (Admittedly the downside to that is that when a few flakes do hit town, the entire city comes to a screeching halt…)

All in all, Vancouver’s a fun town to tourist in. Even if you happen to live here.