Monday, February 02, 2009

Dragons and Drums: Celebrating the Year of the Ox in China Town

Lately one of Jake's things is dragons-especially Chinese dragons. What better place to see dragons then to travel into the depths of Vancouver by ferry, bus, and then skytrain to THE place where the dragons dance?

Both of us had never been to China Town before and were game for adventure. The cold and the pouring rain didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm-to usher in the dragons, firecrackers were set off in the streets, drums beat, and people cheered. Dragons of every color imaginable danced to the beat; sometimes two or three chased each other through the street, to the delight of the crowd. After the parade, the dragons went to different merchants along the parade route, who each hung a head of lettuce in their doorways with a red envelope attached. The dragon danced, "ate" the lettuce, and then bowed to thank the merchant for their gift of lucky money!

These dancers with their fans fluttering in the cold air looked so beautiful that I couldn't resist taking picture after picture. They twirled and waved, even though I'm sure they must have been freezing cold! Local politicians and TV personalities showered us with lucky red envelopes containing candy. Yum! Jake was given so many he began giving them to the people behind us.

"Look for a steamy place with barbecued ducks hanging in the window," was the advice a co-worker gave me when I asked her about where to eat. As soon as Jake saw this place with it's wares on display, he insisted we stop. Inside it was packed, but before we knew it we were dining on piping hot green tea, juicy BBQ duck, rice, and Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce. Delicious! Jake had no problem eating his food while I sat and unsuccessfully tried to wrangle my lunch into my mouth, at times giving up and using my fingers instead. I think I need chopstick lessons.

After the parade and some lunch Jake and I browsed through the various stores and markets overflowing with merchandise-much of which we didn't even recognize. What is that thing in his hand, you ask? It's a dried gecko on a stick. You know, those cute lizards that are running all over the place in Australia and Hawaii? The sign nearby explained that they are not for eating, but instead used with other herbs to make a sort of tea that is good for asthma. Jake wasn't that easily convinced even though I offered to buy some and make it for him. Instead he opted for a teapot, a soup spoon, incense, and a book while I picked up a tiny silk change purse, a bamboo steamer, and some tea towels. We were amazed at how inexpensive everything was; except the tea. Authentic, good quality green tea can set you back as much as $150 a pound. Wow! We settled for a sample to go along with some amazing pineapple buns from a local bakery.

Believe it or not, the day wasn't over yet-there was more!

Next up...

We visit a Chinese Garden, discover the meaning of "mass media", and light up the night at a lantern festival.

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