What? Wait a minute! Did I read that right? I thought Vancouver was in Canada, not in Asia. Why is the title of this article "Vancouver: Asia's Newest City"?
Relax, everyone. Yes, Vancouver is still in Canada, North America's largest country, not in Asia. Over the past twenty years, however, Asians from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, and other countries across the ocean have flocked into this largest city on Canada's Pacific coast. By some accounts, as many as 30% of households in Vancouver speak Mandarin or Cantonese, making the Chinese there the largest minority by far. Just what is the attraction of this English-speaking city, however?
A visit to Vancouver quickly reveals her charms. Situated on the ocean and possessing a fine, deep-water port, British Columbia's largest city faces Vancouver Island to the west and mountains to the east and north. Most of the city is relatively new, having been rebuilt after a great fire in 1886. The completion of the Panama Canal in 1915 during World War I helped spur growth all along the West Coast of North America, as products from the western states of the United States and the western provinces of Canada could be profitably shipped to Europe. By the 1930s Vancouver had become Canada's third-largest city, a position it maintains today. Lumber from the extensive forested areas within the province, minerals, seafood, and assorted industries, including tourism, give the million-plus residents of metropolitan Vancouver a high standard of living.
The city itself is comfortable and attractive. A large central park called Stanley Park includes a zoo, gardens, arboretum, and aquarium! The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University are located in the greater Vancouver area, as are many small and quaint farming and fishing villages within a few hours' drive. Scenic, unpolluted, and prosperous: who could ask for anything more?
Certainly not the Chinese. Although limited immigration from the Far East began as early as the 19th century, it was not until the 1970s that immigration to both Canada and the United States began to increase significantly. By the 1980s, the steady stream had become a flood. Today, Vancouver's Chinatown is said to be North America's second largest. Given the large numbers of Chinese living in the much larger cities of New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, that represents astronomical growth.
Vancouver's Chinatown is located within walking distance of the downtown area, as are most Chinatowns in North America. Here one can find both traditional Chinese herbal stores and fresh food markets as well as small retail and service businesses. From mid-May to September, Friday to Sunday evenings from 6:30 to 11:30, both Chinese and "foreign" visitors to this area might mistake themselves as being in Shanghai or Hong Kong. For daytime visitors, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens is a must, offering beautifully landscaped floral gardens. The nearby Chinese Cultural Center conducts walking tours of the historic district and even a slide show revealing the historic development of the area.
Of course, Vancouver has much more to offer its residents and out-of-town and overseas visitors. Though--or perhaps because--it lacks the manic energy of East Coast cities of North America or those of modern Asia, Vancouver continues to attract new residents with its serene, safe, and, well, sane lifestyle.