Cherry blossom festival in Vancouver

On the first day of Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival, Jennifer Barclay reports on a recent visit to the Canadian city’s Koreatown

Vancouver downtown

Driving around Vancouver makes you hungry. There’s a Vietnamese restaurant next to an Indian next to a Greek next to a Korean. That’s especially on the big roads like Kingsway that lead away from downtown towards suburban areas like Burnaby and Surrey. I’d been driving out there a lot to visit some Fijian Canadians whose wedding I was in town for. But I’d read on the Internet that there was a Koreatown in downtown Vancouver, down in the West End, so one sunny morning when I had nothing to do, I strolled down to check it out.

Well, I suspect that some of the Korean stores, noodle houses and karaoke bars down there have moved on, because I couldn’t find more than a handful. Every underused block of downtown Vancouver is quickly being turned into a glass high-rise in a building frenzy that’s supposedly pre-Olympics speculation – though Vancouver’s been booming for two decades as wealthy Asians make their way across the Pacific. Perhaps Koreatown was developing faster in other parts of the city – I’d spotted a language school elsewhere.Robson Public Market, Vancouver

Nevertheless, since I was there I stopped in a Korean Internet café near a centre for visiting students, then I went into the sunny upstairs food court of Robson Public Market at the corner of Robson and Cardero (above) and sat down at the welcoming Robson Teriyaki/Da-Rak-Bang eatery. It alone was worth the trip. They served up a feast of tofu kimchi tchigae with side dishes of spicy beansprouts and marinated courgette, all for a bargain $7 (about £4).

Heading downstairs after lunch I found shops full of fresh fish straight from the ocean, a couple of Korean businesses and loads of free Korean newspapers and magazines, Joongang and Korea Sun and Canada Express. I passed a few Korean/Japanese bars and restaurants, and within minutes found myself at a gleaming marina fringed with cherry blossoms:Vancouver marina

The Vancouver cherry blossom festival runs from late March to late April. Even in early March the blossoms were out. From there it was just a short walk to the edge of Stanley Park, where the huge old trees make you wonder if you can really still be in the city, and to Second Beach, where I sat on the sand and listened to the waves rolling in, watching cargo ships heading off into the deep blue Pacific, while in the near distance there were mountains covered in forest and snow.

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