Early Saturday morning, we were awoken by loud noises coming from the parking lot, a friendly remainder that 1) I am not at home 2) I’m staying at a hostel in a sketchy area.
In any case, our roommates had already departed for the day but we took our time to schedule our morning visits in Victoria. We had went to Beacon Hill Park, the Royal BC Museum, and the Inner Harbour the day before and we just wanted to relax.
In the end, we decided on a short walk around “the oldest and smallest Chinatown in B.C., the Market Square and Songhees Walkway across the Inner Harbour.
The Saturday morning air in Victoria was so fresh … maybe because I woke up earlier than my usual sleep-in-time. The Chinatown was really quiet and similar to Vancouver, there are some Chinese stores but a lot of hipster boutiques, restaurants and cafes as well.
This little corner of town used to be home many Chinese people and they lived in small cramped alleys. Many who lived here came from Southern China and they were looking for gold, but were also hoping to make money to support their family back home. At its peak, the Chinatown had grew to 6 blocks but now shrunk to just some 2.5 blocks.
The most interesting part are the alleys that still were kept from before, although the homes have since been replaced by either more modern or renovated buildings.
Some of the stores in here were converted to art galleries, medical offices, or coffee shops.
A little plaque calls this place “Dragon Alley”. It shows how the buildings and walls that were built around the area – narrow. Unfortunately, back in the day, Chinatown was associated with gambling joints and opium factories …
The most famous street is the Fan Tan Alley, which was once a gambling area but now houses some friendly cafes and boutiques. It is the narrowest street in Canada.
Somewhere between going through all these alley ways, I bought a coffee and a delicious pastry.
The Chinatown is also next to the cultural center of Victoria, with the McPherson Playhouse, Centennial Square and City Hall around the premise.
Nearby is also the Market Square. Honestly, we were looking for the Public Market but ended up here. It can have up to 35 shops but most are unoccupied.
The market square was built in the 1880s, right during Victoria’s most prosperous time, where coal, lumber, and salmon were in great demand and all goes through their port. The Square is home to hotels, saloons and shops and was visited by the likes of sailors, miners, Indians, Chinese merchants etc .. for business and for pleasure.
These days, there is a college, a few restaurants and a huge public space for quiet meditation. We were able to have finish out meal and have nice conversation at the square.
There is a public washroom on the third floor if anyone is interested.
Two blocks south of Market Square is Bastion Square . It is the welcoming entrance for the ships coming into the original site of old Fort Victoria. During warmer weather, there are vendors selling arts and crafts as well as musicians and magicians exhibiting their crafts.
Day of Visit : March 26, 2016
Transit: From Vancouver -Bus 620 is the express bus and it comes about once every hour (bus schedule). At the Swartz Bay terminal, take Bus 70 or 72 to downtown Victoria. The bus comes about once every 30 minutes and the entire ride is almost 1 hour long.