Vancouver has the third largest Chinatown in North America, next to NYC and San Francisco. I was only in Vancouver for two days following my Alaskan cruise, and it was on my agenda. Being that my time overall was limited, I didn’t have too much time to spend in Chinatown (and we didn’t have the best weather in British Columbia) so I went to its top attraction: Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Garden, pictured above.
I know, I know, it’s practically criminal to visit a Chinatown and not eat there. But on my first day in the city, I did have lunch at Hon’s Wun-Tun House, a well-known Cantonese cafeteria-like restaurant that’s on Robson in the West End and not in Chinatown. I actually kept hearing that these days all the best Chinese restaurants — and Asian restaurants and Asian shops, for that matter — are located just outside Vancouver in Richmond, a suburban Asian enclave. But I didn’t have a chance to get out there.
After eating brunch at the delightful chain Cafe Crepe on Granville St., we hopped on the Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Tour. Our bus wasn’t that big; it was a vintage red bus whose roof only went back half-way for those who wanted to sit outside. We then hopped off right at Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Garden in Chinatown.
The garden is truly a beautiful oasis within the city; from most vantage points within the garden, you can’t see any highrise buildings. Although it looks ancient, the garden was actually completed in 1986. But the entire complex was built in just one year by 52 Chinese craftsmen using traditional techniques — no nails, screws or glue. Even without knowing the history of it, it’s still a very impressive sight.
I’d only recommend going in and paying the admission fee if you’re going to take the guided tour, which is included in the $14 adult ticket. While it’s nice to see the traditional-style Ming Dynasty study and some old Chinese artifacts, I assume that the tour (which I didn’t take) is what makes the fee worthwhile. Because there’s not really that much to see, and you can visit part of the garden for free from a different entrance. And I thought that the garden was really the best part of Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Garden — not that surprising, I suppose, given the name.
Comped But Never Compromised: I received a free pass to city attractions from Tourism Vancouver. While I was in Vancouver, I was a guest of the Sunset Inn and Suites.