Bringing home a Vancouver cricket

Vancouver's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden.

Vancouver's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden.

I decided to spend my last day in Vancouver wandering aimlessly around Chinatown, beginning at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden were I sat on a damp bench beside a milky jade-colored pond where languid turtles—a Chinese symbol of long life—caught a bit of sun on pitted soapstone rocks. There’s something truly wonderful about the serenity of this garden and its metaphorical nature: the purity of the water lily, courage of the chrysanthemum, gracefulness of the weeping willows drooping over the water. And the many, many blue iris, symbols of fertility, lining the banks of the pond.

From here I just wandered down the street, dropping in at a tea shop where I bought a box of jasmine tea before ending up in a general goods shop where I picked up several bars of fragrant soap, made in China. I bought them as much—or perhaps more—for their beautiful Chinese wrapping paper as anything else.

Rambutan hanging in a Chinatown market.

Rambutan hanging in a Chinatown market.

The fun of Chinatown—any Chinatown—is just being overwhelmed by the exotic smells, the peculiar sounds. Like the old women bickering with the produce man over the freshness of the hairy crimson rambutans hanging from the roof of his stall, or the surprising taste of the sweet and crunchy raw sea asparagus offered to me by a tiny little old lady whose smile lit up the store.

Further down Pender Street I took refuge from a sudden downpour in an apothecary store and wandered up and down the aisle fingering the dried sharkfin and sniffing kencur, an aromatic ginger that smelled, to me, of camphor.

At a fish monger’s on Keefer I watched with fascination as a young boy in a bloody apron lined a row of ling cod, propped up on a bed of ice, that still reflexively flapped their gills as if they were prize fighters just trying to catch their breath. And at the N&S Trading Co., a wonderfully tacky tourist shop with an impressive collection of cheap tin wind-up toys from China, I bought a blue cardboard box that, when you took off the lid, revealed a solar-powered chirping cricket.

Back on the street, the cricket refused to quiet down—even with the lid on. I tucked the box into the pocket of my leather jacket and hailed a cab. The cricket chirped happily all the way back to the hotel as my Asian driver repeatedly glanced at me in his rear view mirror. Can you imagine what people are going to think about my little cricket when I get on the plane tomorrow?

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  1. Allie Baker’s avatar

    David, I hope your cricket, solar powered or otherwise, brings you good luck!


  2. david’s avatar

    Thanks, Allie! Actually, I think I’m going to give it to a friend of mine who needs the good luck more than I do. I should have bought about a dozen of them and given them out as presents–they’re kind of neat (though I have a feeling the cricket won’t last long).

  3. Sonia Rodriguez’s avatar

    lol….Make sure you are not on Southwest they kick you off the plane har har. They sound like adorable lil gifts. May look for one in the chinese market we go to. They are the only place that carries this wonderful smelling wintergreen pain relieving aromatic oil(Kwan Loong Oil). Smells like wintergreen gum not bengay lol. Ok now that everyone knows that.

    The garden looks so beautiful, I love botanical gardens. I have always wanted to go to Kyoto. But too many ppl…I love the asian culture and lore.

    Where to next?


  4. David’s avatar

    Time for some sunshine–I’m headed for the desert.

  5. Muskie’s avatar

    Glad you had a good visit. I work everyday in Chinatown. But even before I did I always encouraged tourists to visit it, as it really is an interesting place to visit and except for on a few days of the year is not as crowded as say Robson street, so it is more enjoyable for a stroll.

    It is also very photogenic, I’m pretty sure that picture wasn’t from February 26th though. ;-)

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