Victoria’s Chinatown: Of Wonders, Treats and Memories

chinatownpics-rsz_chinese-table_m191kuuuThere’s something about Victoria’s Chinatown that not only draws you in but also keeps you coming back. And it’s not just one particular place or cuisine. A lot of amazing treats await in the oldest Chinatown in Canada.

For vegetarians, one of most reliable finds is Don Mee on Fisgard Street. You can easily spot this restaurant; just keep an eye out for its giant bright white sign with bold black letters. When you enter, a wide red carpeted staircase leads to the dining room, where most of the diners are Asian (which usually means the food is real good).

On the menu, try the classic chop suey and mushroom fried rice. Odds are both dishes will make it to your list of vegetarian favorites and just might get your kids excited about eating veggies.

Yes, Don Mee is child-friendly and bringing your little ones here is a great way to create a fun family tradition. From the simple joys of running up the restaurant’s staircase and giving the Lazy Susan in the middle of the round table a spin to the thrill of picking up a bag of White Rabbit candy before you leave, it’s bound to be a memorable and enjoyable experience for your kids. The chewy White Rabbit treats are a must-try, by the way. Each piece is wrapped in edible rice paper—always a big hit with children who love the idea of getting to eat paper.

The Alley that Made it to Hollywood

Just as visit-worthy: Chinatown’s Fan Tan Alley. It’s famed not only for being the narrowest street in the country but also for being featured in the movie Bird. Parts of this 1990 Hollywood film starring Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson were shot in Fan Tan Alley, which was quite an exciting treat for Victoria residents at the time.

Although editing tricks made it look like the street stretches for thousands of meters, Fan Tan Alley is in reality about 200 meters long. Back in the day, it was lined with gambling dens and Opium Parlours and had secret doors, windows and alleyways.

Today, Fan Tan Alley hosts a variety of unique stores where you can score some pretty interesting finds. If you or a friend are interested in getting a haircut, try the barbershop here. It may be a challenge communicating with the barber, who speaks little English, but you can always put your nonverbal skills to a test and gesture what kind of cut you would like to have.

The Gateway to More Treats

chinatownpics-rsz_chinese-table_m191kuuu

Asian style porcelan bowls and turquoise chopstick over gray metal background. Top view

Asian style porcelan bowls and turquoise chopstick over gray metal background. Top view

If you’d like to drop by more shops, head to the Gate of Harmonious Interest. Installed in 1981, this place has vendors selling everything from produce to clothes and trinkets.

While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the fascinating time capsules and the exquisite Chinese Lanterns hanging from the wires above. The music’s great too, as are all the other cultural wonders you’ll discover here.

Victoria’s Chinatown was designated a National Historic Site in 1995. While it is constantly seeing changes, it never fails to provide a fun and fascinating glimpse into Chinese culture and create memories you’ll always enjoy looking back on.

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