Kiwi Adventures in Vancouver: Discovering the Sights and Sounds of Lotusland

Swinging suspension bridges, sensational sandwiches, vintage shopping and the skinniest building Vancouver has to offer

Credit: Lydia Millett

Vancouver through the lens of a visiting Kiwi is about food, shopping and quirky landmarks

Steam clocks, sensational sandwiches and swinging suspension bridges: these are the things I discovered in Vancouver

Sometimes when you’re travelling and you decide to stay somewhere for awhile, you put your camera away and stop being a tourist. When I arrived in Vancouver I promised myself I wouldn’t do that. I wanted to make sure I did fun, touristy things every weekend.

And so I have. I’ve visited famous landmarks, eaten unique and local foods, attended festivals, visited the museums and art galleries and frequented the designer and vintage stores. Here are some of the highlights.

A Gander through Gastown

(Image: Lydia Millett) The famous Gastown steam clock.

I had heard lots about Gastown; that it is a designated National Historic site, that there is clock that blows steam and that I would find the best coffee shops, galleries and boutiques in the city. Needless to say, I had expectations.

It was a sunny afternoon and a friend and I walked along the cobblestone streets past people sitting out on patios sipping coffee. We were feeling rather aimless, which is how one should feel in Gastown, so we wandered in and out of gorgeous boutiques coveting summer dresses and sandals, and gazing up at larger-than-life masterpieces at ArtSpeak and Spirit Wrestler galleries.

Before we left I embarassed my friend by revealing myself as a true tourist; taking photos of the famous steam clock built in 1977 and powered by steam from downtown businesses. Love it!

Swinging on the Lynn Canyon Suspension bridge

(Image: Lydia Millett) Braving the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge.

The Lynn Canyon suspension bridge is perfect butterflies-in-your-tummy fun. It’s super narrow and swayed far more than I expected. Especially when people were jumping on it!

The drop is a dizzying 166 feet down into a roaring canyon that had me mesmerized. It was one of those situations where I was scared to look down but couldn’t resist doing it anyway. I felt very brave, especially when I learned the bridge was made way back in 1912.

The bridge is what enticed us of course, but the walking trails on the other side were a pleasant surprise. We wandered through the forests admiring the lush ferns and river-side boulders and pools. We decided it felt like we were in a scene from The Princess Bride or maybe Shrek — a magical forest. We felt far, far away from the city.

Chinatown: Outdoor Markets, Pork Buns and the World’s Skinniest Building

(Image: Lydia Millett) Chinese lanterns galore in Chinatown.

Chinatown, an area settled around the mid-19th century by Chinese immigrants, is now one of the most interesting places in Vancouver. In the summer the Chinese markets are bustling both day and night.

I love gazing into the baskets and bins filled with weird and wonderful edibles; fresh ginger and bunches of bok choy, dried fish, shrimp and mushrooms in every shape and size. I love the food too! Delicious pork in a bun can be found in most bakeries in Chinatown and no visit is complete without tea and dim sum!

The highlight was the world famous Sam Kee Building. It’s a two-storey building on West Pender Ave, but it’s only 1.5 metres deep! No dim sum for the Sam Kee, it’s a building on a serious diet. Apparently it was built as a bit of a joke when the expansion of West Pender left only 2 metres for the property owner to work with. However it may have come to be, it’s a a fascinating piece of architecture, worth checking out.

A Rainy Day at the Museum of Anthropology

(Image: Lydia Millett) The Museum of Anthropology: A great way to spend a rainy day in Vancouver

I spent a whole day at the Museum of Anthropology, walking around the exhibits while the rain poured down outside. It has arts and cultural artifacts from all over the world packed into the one building, making it one of those museums where, honestly, you could probably spend a week and still not see everything.

There are so many amazing cultural displays on the walls, in addition to all these little drawers with amazing treasures to discover. I even found a New Zealand section. Who would have thought I’d come to Vancouver and learn about my own country!

The museum’s guided tour was definitely worth my while; the volunteers who lead the tours are a wealth of knowledge and will tell you all kinds of quirky things about the exhibits that you would never otherwise discover. An awesome way tto pass a rainy spring day.

Vintage Shopping on Commercial Drive and Main Street

(Image: Lydia Millett) I love Adhesif Clothing for hand-picked vintage pieces and clothes made from vintage fabrics.

I love vintage fashion, so when I discovered the myriad of vintage stores on Commercial and Main, I was in vintage heaven. I loved Mintage Vintage on Commercial for its expensive selection of  vintage clothes ranging from jackets to skirts. And then there’s the shoes – they have a whole room full!

I adore Adhesif on Main which has pure vintage that was “too cute to cut,” upcycled vintage pieces and new pieces made from vintage fabrics.

F as in Frank is a must see, as it has a fun funky atmosphere, awesome summer dresses and accessories, sunglasses, purses and nick-nacks galore!

Sunshine, Ice Cream and People Watching at Kits beach

(Image: Lydia Millett) Nothing beats Kits beach on a sunny day.

I doesn’t get much better than Vancouver on a sunny day, except maybe if you are in Vancouver at Kitsilano beach with a huge waffle cone full of gelato in your hand.

I spent as many sunny days as I could at Kits beach eating ice cream, reading my book and people watching. On a sunny day Vancouverites and their pets flock to Kits to take advantage of the weather and wander, bike or skate the seawall. The dogs aren’t usually biking or skating actually, that is left to the neon-lycra-clad humans. But If you’re lucky you might see a cat being taken for a stroll. It’s true!

Bao Bei for the Best Sandwich I Have Ever Eaten

(Image: Tiffany May photography) The gorgeous Bao Bei makes the most divine sandwhiches – among other delights.

Bao Bei is an adorable little Chinese Brasserie in Chinatown. A friend who knows his food took me, so I knew I was in for a treat. Things got off to a good start with divine cocktails. I asked for “something not too sweet and a bit fruity” and recieved a sparkling gin and grapefruit number. Perfecto! 

We had dumplings and prawns and even tried beef tar tar (do it if you’re feeling brave) but the highlight was the sandwich. Oh the delightful sandwich! Ask for the Shao Bing, a braised pork sandwich with pickled onion, Asian pear and mustard greens. You won’t be disappointed.

Now I talk quite a bit, but all conversation stopped when we bit into these outrageously good sandwiches. Silence is the sound of the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

Lydia Millett hails from New Zealand and has recently moved to Vancouver. She has an English literature degree and a diploma in creative writing.