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Apparently, there's much more to Richmond than just Ikea.
It’s funny how easy it is to make the assumption that you know all about a place. After living in Vancouver for years, I’d decided I knew the city of Richmond pretty well. After all it’s just a bridge away, and to get from Vancouver to just about anywhere else (from Victoria to Vienna) you need to pass through Richmond.
In reality our forays into Richmond never took us much beyond the airport or shopping at Ikea. Richmond just didn’t strike me as a destination; it was the place where planes landed and where I inevitably got lost if I strayed too far from the highway.
But with the new Canada Line open for business, we decided to take another look at Richmond, and I discovered there’s a lot more to it than Ikea…
To get there, hop on the Canada Line and get off at Brighouse Station Southbound and transfer to 410 Railway for the remaining trip into the village of Steveston.
Once a distinct village, Steveston is now a sleepy suburb on the south arm of the Fraser River that happens to boast one of the largest commercial fishing fleets in Canada, as well as some great attractions:
The Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site includes a 1900’s era production line, where we learned fresh fish were turned into canned fish—right down to the cans being assembled.
From the cannery we went out and walked the docks—meeting the modern day counterparts of the fishermen we learned about in the cannery. Maia asked if fishermen still catch the same fish they did 100 years ago and discovered that some fish, including the Fraser River White Sturgeon and a few ground fish, are now too rare to catch. Fresh sockeye is still around, though not nearly as abundant, and was for sale on the dock.
While you’re at the docks consider heading out for a sea lion or whale watching tour (the sea lions are pretty fun and reminded me of a group of frat boys with their burping and belching), then finish up with the tasty fish and chips at Pajos.
The best way to see the rest of Steveston is to bike along the dykes that line the river. We found plenty of places to rent bikes and headed up-river to Britannia Heritage Shipyard. Formerly a cannery, the shipyard reached its heyday building rum runners from 1921–1933. The historic site is also the home of the Murakami House, a traditional Japanese home built on stilts over the water in 1885.
From the fishing fleet we moved on to farmland—and a little further up the river we came to London Heritage Farm, a 4.6-acre farm, garden and house that is owned by the City of Richmond and is open to visitors.
Built in the 1880’s, the house’s six rooms are furnished to portray life in early Richmond. Maia strolled through the house and garden, feeling quite convinced that she would have made an excellent old-fashioned girl. The formal tea confirmed her belief. Sitting on the front porch, with warm scones slathered in homemade jam and a fancy tea-cup filled with lemonade, she looked out over the river and declared she had been born during the wrong era.
She then asked if time machines were real.
If you stay on the CANADA LINE to ABERDEEN STATION, you’ll get off in the neighbourhood called the “Golden Village” by tourism staff (but not necessarily the locals). With nearly 60 percent of the city’s 182,000 residents being of Chinese or South Asian decent, Richmond is considered one of the most multi-cultural cities in Canada.
While Steveston felt quaint and welcoming, it can be more difficult to get your bearings. Home to several malls built in a modern Asian architectural style, the coloured glass and unexpected concrete angles make the centre of Richmond feel exotic. The pace is also quicker, and while people are friendly, the layout of the shops and the ingredients listed on menus (white jelly fungus, anyone?) can seem unfamiliar.
We decided the best way to explore this modern Richmond was through food. With more than 400 restaurants in the area, Tourism Richmond produces an Asian Dining guide to help visitors understand the cultural variations between Hong Kong café, Taiwanese or Northern Chinese cuisine. Dining in Richmond has come a long way from the ubiquitous sushi or chop suey.
After sampling the restaurants, we went for a wander through Aberdeen Centre. I explored the Chinese medicine shops and Asian sweet shops and tried to work off some of my lunch so we could indulge in a Papa Beard cream puff.
Our wanders took us into Daiso, a big department store that is the Japanese equivalent of a dollar store, except everything costs two dollars. Maia insisted we needed to stock up, on stuff, “because two dollars is a huge bargain.”
With my head spinning and the urge to buy Japanese house goods overwhelming me—it was time for a moment of calm. It turned out we were next door to the International Buddhist Progress Society, a Fo Guang Shan temple that is home to Buddhist nuns. It’s located on the 6th floor of the Radisson Hotel and anyone is welcome at this peaceful retreat.
After regrouping at the temple, we headed back out and finished the day with a stroll through one of the Asian supermarkets, Osaka, found in Yaohan Centre. Wandering the aisles I eyed the fresh soup mixes, which contained all the meat, vegetables and herbs needed to create a hearty meal and help with any number of conditions, from improving circulation to increasing concentration. Maia was more interested in all the different sushi and dim-sum that was available for take-out.
Found at the end of Steveston Hwy
12138 Fourth Ave, Richmond
5180 Westwater Dr
6511 Dyke Road
Bound by No. 3 Road, Garden City Road, Sea Island Way and Alderbridge Way. It is just over the Oak Street Bridge from Vancouver or the Sea Island Bridge from the Airport.
Over the past few decades, tens of thousands of immigrants—from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan and India—have flocked the city of Richmond. Along with the new immigrants has come a range of vibrant religions (take a bike ride down Number 5 Road, which has been dubbed the Pathway to Heaven to get the idea).
Many of the temples and places of worship are open to the public. One of the most welcoming is the International Buddhist Temple. With koi ponds, bonsai gardens, huge golden sculptures of Buddha and various bodhisattvas, and the spectacular Gracious and Meditation Halls, visitors are invited to enjoy this haven of spirituality and peace. Maia and I really like the temple of a thousand Buddhas, where we had our fortunes told.
Then we stopped in at the vegetarian restaurant for a bowl of delicious wonton soup.