As you can see on this map Richmond is highlighted in red. The city of Richmond is located on what is called Lulu Island and from what it looks like I believe to be reclaimed marshlands. I know this because there were dykes everywhere and that makes sense because its lower than sea level and is surrounded by water on all sides. Sucks for them if a big earthquake hits..
For those of you who don't know, my husband and I live in Port Coquitlam (Poco). On the map it doesn't look far but it actually is quite an undertaking to drive through Vancouver traffic from Poco to Richmond. I checked google directions and the route we took was 40 kilometres and it took an hour to drive in 6pm traffic on a Friday night. Not too bad..
To say Richmond is an immigrant city is an understatement. 60% of its residents are immigrants and 70% of those immigrants are Chinese. Putting it bluntly, there may be a traditional China Town in downtown Vancouver, but Richmond is like a China away from China. And theres not just Chinese but pretty much every other Asian immigrant group you can think of. But from what Ive seen and heard Id say the far majority are Mandarin speakers and practically every commercial building in the area has Chinese letters THEN English letters. I was surprised that their local Starbucks store and sign wasn't written in Mandarin.
So anyway, for quite a while I had been hearing tons about the Richmond Night Market and how awesome it is. I was hardly told anything about the food but told that there was tons of interesting stalls with practically anything (most like black market stuff). With sellers who were happy to haggle. I thought, that sounds cool, so I dragged Steven along in his sleep deprived state on what I thought would be a spectacularly awesome date. And well... It was pretty pathetic actually. Except for the food. THAT was amazing. Don't get me wrong it seemed pretty popular with the local residents. There was a big stage with Asian radio DJs doing a kind of Amjerican Idol thing and getting folks to do karaoke (rather badly I thought!) or playing Psy's Gangnam Style over and over again... Im like, thats ok, I know Asians are really into that but Im not, so I left that area and walked around the stalls which I came to find were quite frankly very disappointing. The stalls had the same things in them - bedazzled cell phone cases and random electronic junk that really were just junky; pokemon and other asian manga stuff that I believe should be reserved for children not grown men, glittery fake costume jewelery for women and lots of 'sponge bob square pants' socks and other stuff that you typically find in trashy 1 dollar lucky dip buckets. I guess I was hoping to see more fake higher end stuff or actual asian homewares (which I really actually love!). The only thing we did buy non food related was a man selling 'As seen on tv' microfibre mops.
On the other hand, despite their shoddy merchandise stalls Asians really do know how to make some amazing and weird food! And I was in the mood to eat some strange new stuff. They had a lot of foods I had never seen before and others Id heard of but never tried. I ended up trying some squid which Id never had before and hoped would taste like calamari (which it didn't). The flavour was awesome but it was a lot more chewy than I thought and felt like I had to bite through nerves or something like that. The second thing I ate which I would definitely eat again was a Korean deep fried sweet pancake stuffed with seeds, nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon. Delicious!
Contrary to what a lot of ignorant white people think, I think the Asian population puts just as much pride and presentation into their food as any other country. I think we hear so much about horror stories involving minced up dogs, contaminated milk and stir fried crickets from the western media we lose sight of how to appreciate their version of food appropriately and with delight. Having spent time in Japan when I was 16 Im a huge fan of Japanese bento lunches and desserts. They make their food look like art as well as taste good.
Overall Id say if you're non asian you should go for the food experience not for the merchandise stalls. Try to eat a little bit of everything and ask for samples and they will give you bits and pieces gladly if it means you'd be a potential customer. Look at their pokemon and gawky stuff if you will but take any seller who says their stuff is "One of a kind" with a grain of salt lol. And be prepared to listen to a lot of Gangnam Style..