Looking to get a taste of China without flying all the way there? Check out these things to do in Richmond, BC!
I’ve always said that my luxe fantasy would be a private, live-in Chinese chef who hand-shredded chicken, plumped shrimp dumplings, steamed black fungi, and served dim sum on Sunday mornings. So far, I haven’t gotten the live-in part, but I found Chinese food nirvana in Richmond BC, Canada. I also found a bunch of things to do and see in Richmond that made me feel like I was in China, without the long flight and jetlag.
“Seriously, Canada?” you’re probably thinking. Yes, or shi, as Chinese people say. The Vancouver International Airport is located on the island city of Richmond. But everyone around me was speaking Chinese, signs were in Chinese, the culture was Chinese, but this was Canada. “What’s going on here?” I wondered.
I’d soon discover just how rich in Chinese culture, Richmond was.
Best Things to Do in Richmond, B.C.
Try tai chi at the Richmond Centre
When I think of China, tai chi leaps to mind. I remember walking through parks in China and watching groups of people gliding gracefully from one tai chi move to the next in the early morning hours. And guess what? The same thing is going on in Richmond, but it’s indoors.
I followed an insider tip and went to the Richmond Centre at 8 a.m., before it opened to the public. I wandered around and throughout the mall, I found tai chi and Chinese dance and exercise classes for students of all ages. As I stood and watched, a teacher invited me to join one of the free tai chi classes. Of course, I was clueless, but the students were patient and helped me with the basic moves. I loved it and went back again two days later for more tai chi. Highly recommended, as it’s a chance for you to exercise and meet Chinese locals.
Experience Chinese spirituality
Visitors of all cultures, backgrounds, religions, and beliefs are welcome at Buddhist centers. A Chinese couple explained to me that Buddhism is not a religion; it is a philosophy and a way of life. And I met a young woman from Taiwan who said: “In Chinese culture, we believe that everything has life—stones, vegetables, plants.”
When I asked her what I might expect at a temple, she thought for a moment and replied, “The divinities like the smell of incense. You can buy some yourself, and make an offering if you wish. You can pray for something like safe travels.”
Visit the International Buddhist Temple
The temple gardens are magical, and you’ll love the shrine of golden Buddhas and the Thousand Buddha Hall.
Heal at the Energy Bagua Wellness Center
I found out about an unusual new form of moving meditation called Energy Bagua which is designed to help students find relief from physical and emotional suffering and restore inner balance. You may work up a sweat by the deceptively simple act of circling around an indoor potted tree to experience healing and peace.
It was so unusual that I spoke to numerous participants and they reported a significant reduction in symptoms and feelings of wellbeing. I tried it myself and found it simple, soothing, and a gentle form of exercise.
Where to Eat in Richmond
Before the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, a wave of people arrived from Hong Kong. Among them were high-end restaurant owners and top chefs, which means one of the best things to do in Richmond, BC is to eat.
Today, on this small Canadian island with 216,000 inhabitants, there are an unbelievable 400 Chinese restaurants serving authentic Szechuan, Cantonese, Xingjiang, and Shanghainese food.
Some places are palatial and others are holes-in-the-wall. At first, I thought I was lucky because I stumbled on the right restaurants. But by the end of my visit, I realized that there’s no such thing as a bad Asian eatery in Richmond. You can dine well on any budget, and exciting new Asian restaurants are opening all the time. Here are some specific picks for where you can please your palate.
Go for breakfast and try the local fave – pineapple buns
Banh Mi Tres Bon
At lunchtime, order a steaming bowl of chicken phô
HK BBQ Master
You’ll find barbecue perfection in this underground parking lot
Choose from hot pot, sushi, Korean, Chengdu, and robata (Japanese) restaurants
Parker Place Mall
Try the matcha redbean milkshakes and iced mango durian drinks in this food court
Too Two Chinese Sauerkraut Fish
For a new taste sensation, order pricey spicy fish and dozens of side dishes.
iTofu Dessert Specialty Shop
You’ll want to nominate their original tofucotta for a dessert hall of fame
Where to Stay in Richmond
Luxury: Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport
A modern, well-situated hotel that’s an easy drive to all the restaurants, attractions, and shops in Richmond. Fitness center, indoor heated pool. The Apron is their signature restaurant. Easy train access to downtown Vancouver. Check here for rates and availability
Luxury: Fairmont Vancouver Airport
The only soundproofed, luxury hotel and spa located within Vancouver International Airport (YVR). The Gold club floor features a full-service health club, and sumptuous breakfast, late afternoon canapés, evening desserts, and free Internet. Check here for rates and availability
Budget: Four Points by Sheraton Vancouver Airport
10 minutes from the airport, with free shuttle service. Near Alexandra Road, and with more than 50 restaurants within walking distance. At night, the Kimberly Lounge serves “Best Brews.” Check here for rates and availability
Budget: Accent Inns Vancouver Airport
Free shuttle service to the airport. Friendly, modern, and they love to give insider tips on where to shop, eat, experience the town, and meet locals in Richmond. Check here for rates and availability
When I left Richmond, I thought about how lucky I was to have such a rich Chinese experience that is so authentic, accessible, and close to home. Plus, it’s so Canada polite and friendly. I’ll bet you a shrimp dumpling you’d feel the same way.
What do you think the best things to do in Richmond, BC are? Let us know in the comments section.
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Cover Photo by Bawolff via Wikipedia, Other Photos by Paul Ross