There are more than five cool things about Richmond, British Columbia, of course. A city of 190,000 just south of Vancouver, Richmond is considered by many to be the most Asian-orientated city in North America. About half the residents are recent or long-established immigrants from Asia, especially Chinese Canadians. I recently visited Richmond to check out its vibrant Chinese New Year's celebrations.
You may know Richmond as the home of Vancouver International Airport (YVR). There is much more of note there than the airport, however. Here is my shortlist of five cool things, in no particular order:
Food Street - Formally, Alexandra Street, this is home to dozens of mainly Asian restaurants spread over several blocks and standing nearly shoulder to shoulder. B.C. residents consider Richmond Food Street to be the best place in this gorgeous western Canadian province to eat Asian food, and who am I to argue? I didn't try every place, of course, but one I particularly liked was the Jade Seafood Restaurant (8511 Alexandra Road, www.jaderestaurant.ca). The cuisine, which included a whole fish the night I dined there with a group of 16, is intensely flavorful, imaginative and varied. You'll want to keep that tabletop lazy susan spinning your way if you eat at Jade Seafood. There's a good international wine list, too, a rarity among Chinese eateries, in China and overseas.
Parker Place and other Asian shopping malls - The dining, shopping, exploring and, again, eating, is fine in this most Asian of Richmond's indoor malls, which comes complete with an active Buddhist shrine in the parking lot. Inside are herbal, candy, trinket and butcher shops and a savory food court, where you can sample the likes of dragon beard candy (the rough equivalent of cotton candy) and sweetened bubble waffles. Parker Place (2035-4380 Hazelbridge Way, www.parkerplace.com) is far from the only Asian-influenced mall in town. Among the others: Yaohan Centre, with its enormous Japanese-style supermarket Osaka, Landsdowne Mall and Aberdeen Centre. Many of the malls are helpfully located near TransLink stations. Which brings us to ...
Trans Link SkyTrain - An automated, driverless, elevated light-rail system in Richmond and environs and a subway in Vancouver, SkyTrain is a wonderfully efficient and inexpensive (no fares from Richmond over $3.75 CAD) public transport network. It has three lines; the Canada Line joins downtown Richmond to downtown Vancouver via a pleasant, 20-minute ride. (www.translink.ca).
Richmond Olympic Oval - This is an architecturally stunning legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics held on B.C.'s Lower Mainland and centered in Vancouver/Richmond and Whistler. The $178 million CAD Oval hosted long-track speed skating competitions. These days, it is an expansive and well-used community sports and recreation hub. Situated on the banks of the Fraser River, the sparkling facility includes two Olympic-sized skating rinks, indoor soccer fields and basketball and volleyball courts. Oh, there's plenty of workout equipment, too. (6111 River Road, www.richmondoval.ca).
No. 9 Restaurant - This nondescriptly named, 24-hour dining spot is indelibly local, reasonably priced, boasts an enormous menu and is popular with Asian Canadians who flock there for comfort food. I had breakfast at No. 9 and was able to finish at best a quarter of my huge bowl of chicken and mushroom congee. I sipped Chinese tea, then switched to a local specialty, called yin-yang - a hot drink (in winter, anyway) composed of roughly half coffee and half black tea and flavored with cream. It tastes better than it sounds and is a sustaining way to finish a meal.(812-5300 No. 3 Road, www.richmond9.com).
For more information, contact Tourism Richmond, tel. 604.821.5474, www.tourismrichmond.com.