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  • 19 Mar 2024 12:00 | Anonymous

    Our current VP, Robert Sung and his company A Wok Around Chinatown were recently featured in the Financial Times (UK).

    Please read and enjoy the article!

    A tour of



    A deep — and delicious

    — dive into the past and

    present of a storied


    Vancouver’s Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden © Gloria Wong

    This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s guide to Vancouver

    “My purpose is to educate and entertain from a culinary and cultural perspective,” Robert Sung announces when we meet him in the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver’s Chinatown. The garden was built in 1986 on the city’s 100th birthday to commemorate its Chinese inhabitants. More than 50 craftsmen came from Suzhou, China, to construct the Ming Dynasty garden, bringing with them nan, camphor and ginkgo wood, handmade tiles and stone pebbles. 

    Sung (who goes by Bob), 72, is a third-generation Chinese Canadian (his family emigrated to British Columbia in the late 1890s and early 20th century) and the universally acknowledged ambassador of the city’s Chinatown. For nearly two decades, he has ushered people up and down Pender Street, the heart of the neighbourhood, to taste, sip and learn about Chinese heritage and culture through his A Wok Around Chinatown tours. He is affable and witty, with a fizzing personality that is an integral part of the tour’s success. In 2022, TripAdvisor users anointed it one of the Top 25 food experiences in the world.

    As the scent of incense wafts around us, we venture into a courtyard with a lichen green pond at its centre, where every stone we see was laboriously brought from China, Sung tells us, and slotted into place by hand. 

     Robert ‘Bob’ Sung – a bespectacled Chinese Canadian wearing a flat cap – sitting on a bench in Vancouver’s Chinese gardenRobert ‘Bob’ Sung has led his A Wok Around Chinatown tours for almost 20 years

    A sculptural rock formation, a small tree and shrubs in front of a grey wall in Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese GardenSung’s tour begins in Vancouver’s Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

    In Chinese culture, “every person, place and thing has meaning”, Sung says, including each object we see and its exact positioning. Even the colour of the pond water is intentional: jade is associated with the soul and immortality. 

    The choice of the garden as the first stop on Sung’s tour is also purposeful — the venue for explaining the three traditional pillars of Chinese culture: Daoism, which means yin and yang, or balance; Confucianism: structure and family; and Buddhism — nature. The idea is to absorb these values and take them on the tour, Sung says, imbuing the experience with a richer texture. Of equal importance in this endeavour is learning about the people and the history of the area, a story stitched with prejudice, perseverance and community.

    Vancouver’s Chinatown in the late 19th century A photograph of Vancouver’s Chinatown in the late 19th century, with horses and carts in the street and a man crossing a roadVancouver’s Chinatown in the late 19th century © UBC Chung Collection

    The first ships of Chinese immigrants arrived in what is now Vancouver in 1858, on the heels of British Columbia’s gold rush. Later arrivals worked on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which today is 12,500 miles long and runs through seven provinces. Unable to lure enough local labour to lay tracks through the treacherous Rocky Mountains, the railroad company petitioned the government to allow it to recruit Chinese workers. More than 15,000 were hired — and it’s said that one Chinese worker died for every mile of track laid.

    On completion, contractors reneged on promises to pay for the workers’ passage back to China and, having sent almost all of their wages home, the men were stranded. Most moved to the south of British Columbia and set up Chinese hubs in Victoria, New Westminster and Vancouver.

    “They were not allowed to live in different communities,” Sung explains as we weave through the displays of the Chinatown Storytelling Centre on East Pender Street, our second stop. “They sequestered all the Chinese into one specific ghetto area. And that practice happened all over the world: the Chinese subjected to one specific area where they could live and have all their services.” 

    A black and white photograph of an Ambulance Corps made up of Chinese Canadian women marching through Vancouver during the second world warChinese Canadian women in Vancouver’s Ambulance Corps during the second world war © Chinese Canadian Military Museum

    Discriminatory laws such as the 1923 Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese immigration and split families for decades, meant that Chinese people were legal and social outsiders in Canada. It was not until 1947 that the Citizenship Act removed country of origin as a barrier to citizenship, and in 1947 Chinese citizens were granted the right to vote. The catalyst was the 600 Canadian Chinese who enrolled in the second world war effort.

    The racism and ostracism propelled the establishment of self-sufficient community hubs. Clusters of small businesses sprung up to support workers. Community organisations offered services denied by the state, such as housing, employment and business loans. Sung’s father’s brothers founded a corner grocery store that flourished into a major produce wholesaler.

     Roast duck in the window of Chinatown BBQRoast duck in the window of Chinatown BBQ on East Pender Street . . .

    The white and red facade of Chinatown BBQ. . . where the tour stops for a quick snack

    “That’s the plight of the immigrant: if they can’t find jobs, they start their own businesses,” Sung says, before breezily asking: “Now, folks, how is your appetite?” He nips into Chinatown BBQ, with its rows of glistening duck carcasses hanging in the window, and emerges holding a polystyrene box, laden with succulent slivers of barbecued pork. 

    Next, we stop at New Town Bakery, which has dozens of stacks of bamboo steamers on the counter — and a hungry throng of customers waiting to order. Sung steps behind the counter and lifts a bamboo steamer up, revealing its contents: perfectly formed, pale dumplings, huddled together like eggs in a nest. “I’m going to hold it quickly because I don’t want to get a facial,” he jokes. But it’s too late: his glasses steam up immediately, and cameras are whipped out. “You want me to photobomb these buns?”

     A circular wooden tray containing freshly made dumplings at New Town Bakery, held in the hands of Robert SungSung with freshly made bao at New Town Bakery

    After tucking into the delicious bao, we visit a traditional herbal medicine shop, every surface stacked with interesting ingredients: feathery clumps of fat choy, bags of ginkgo nuts and goji berries, twisted mounds of ginseng root and splayed geckos on sticks that, dunked in soup, will allegedly alleviate asthma and back pain. Sung stands out front, brandishing different herbs and specimens, directing us to look, smell, feel. Later, at The Chinese Tea Shop, importers of a vast assortment of fine Chinese teas, we are given cups of steaming organic oolong with orange.

     Sung holding a rolled-up herb in a traditional Chinese medicine storeSung’s tour takes in a traditional Chinese herbal medicine store . . .

     Shelves and counters stacked with ingredients in the traditional Chinese herbal shop that the tour stops at . . . where ‘every surface is stacked with interesting ingredients’ 

    The final stop is Floata Seafood Restaurant, an old-school establishment fabled for its dim sum, where locals flock on Sundays. The cavernous dining space looks like a faded banquet hall, with round tables draped in white tablecloths, a brown patterned carpet and Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling. It is not long before the tablecloth has nearly disappeared, so completely is it covered in dishes as an endless array of dumplings proceeds. Prawn. Mushroom. Chicken. Stir fried noodles. Crunchy chilli tofu. Crispy pork gyozas. Pak choi dipped in hoisin. Pork soup dumplings administered with vinegar and then poked with a chopstick to release the hot sauce within.

    It is a Smart Choice to have lunch as the grand finale — talk stalls and bellies groan as we are rendered wholly incapacitated by the meal. But more importantly, the knowledge that has been imparted to us all day finds its final mooring. 

    The dining room at Floata Seafood Restaurant . . . 

    . . . the final stop of the tour for dim sum galore

    Every aspect is symbolic, from the shape of the table and the number of diners to the substance and rundown of the menu. Sung tells us that Chinese banquet dinners are always served at a round table for ease of fellowship, with a minimum of eight guests — a lucky number that signifies wealth and prosperity.

    “And the menu consists of meat, fish and vegetables,” he says, “With a minimum of eight courses.” The menu traditionally starts with savoury dishes “for reality”, he says. Sweet and sour dishes signify balance, while fish symbolises prosperity, noodles longevity, and rice fertility. “And that’s followed by oranges for gold,” he said. “So the whole menu is reality, prosperity, longevity, fertility and gold.”

    As we fall deeper into our postprandial stupor, Sung repeats his mantra one last time to drive the point home: “Everything has meaning to it.”

    Jessica Rawnsley was a guest of Destination Canada and Shangri-La Group. The Wok Around Chinatown food tour costs C$110 ($81/£64) per person

    What for you are the highlights of Vancouver’s Chinatown? Tell us in the comments below. And follow FT Globetrotter on Instagram at @FTGlobetrotter

  • 13 Feb 2024 17:14 | Anonymous

    We're excited to announce the ongoing development of our Mentoring Program, designed to be an inclusive platform for all CTGA of BC members to participate either as a Mentor or a Mentee. This initiative is a work in progress, with continuous improvements and enhancements to better serve our community. Volunteers are warmly welcomed to join us in shaping a program that fosters professional growth and strengthens our network of tourism professionals.

    For more details, visit our Mentoring Page

  • 19 Jan 2024 09:49 | Anonymous

    Thanks to the members that were able to safely make it to the meeting after that nice little January snowstorm. We pivoted and performed the meeting on Zoom for most members and discussed some policy points, as well as our vote for the 2024 Dues.

    The vote passed and we have adopted a new Dues structure for 2024. Please check your profile when you login to your CTGA of BC account on our website for the balance that may be due.

    We also discussed some policies for the organization moving forward with some great feedback from members for us to keep in mind.

    All members were emailed a link to the meeting on our Youtube Channel for you to refer to. If you do not have it, please be sure to reach out 

  • 15 Dec 2023 13:00 | Anonymous

    We had a great turnout to our Christmas party this year, hosted by Rio Brazilian Steakhouse on Denman Street. Thank you goes out to Felipe and his staff for setting up and accommodating us! It was a blast and I think everyone was rolling down the stairs by the end of it. 

    We had nearly 60 members in attendance, our largest for a Christmas Party in years. Thank You!

    We had a few games and lots of prize draws, with everything from Wine, to Capilano Tickets to hotel stays donated and given to members. Huge thanks to Bob, Joanne, Charmaine, Vincent and Glenda from the board and committees for helping arrange it, and shout out to Jeff and Bruna for their assistance as well.

    We are already hoping to get ideas for our party next year, so please feel free to suggest venues, foods, games, prizes, guests you would like us to work for.

  • 12 Oct 2023 18:00 | Anonymous

    After a busy summer back, we had our first members meeting. Held at the YWCA, our guest was MacArthur Glen Outlet Mall detailing their time post COVID and how it can affect us in the Tourism World. Many Thanks to Cindy Wang for providing that information.

    Members also discussed how their summer went as well as some basic discussion of what to expect from the next few members meetings.

    Many thanks to the Board for their help in conducting the meeting, as two members, President Matthew and Treasurer Vincent were off exploring Europe on separate ventures.

    Presidents Address - Please click to view

  • 22 May 2023 12:00 | Anonymous

    Members gathered in April to explore the Rocky Mountaineer station and trains in Vancouver. We were onsite to ask questions and get ready for our trips with guests this summer.

    Special thanks to Rocky Mountaineer for hosting and allowing members to explore and ask questions about the train and the station.

  • 7 Sep 2022 18:00 | Anonymous

    What a wonderful welcome we had from FlyOver Canada as we experienced their new Windborne flight over the Rocky Mountains! Check it out! It's only happening during the month of September (but should be back)!

    Sales Manager Blair Hirtle invited members of the CTGA visit and experience Windborne, Call of the Canadian Rockies

    Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are looking for unique experiences, or a custom time for your guests to be able to appreciate the attraction

  • 20 May 2022 09:12 | Anonymous

    On May 19th, 15 members, with the help of Cantrail Coachlines took off from Canada Place (Cordova Street) to explore the Vancouver to Squamish route and gather a few stamps for the Passport Challenge from the Vancouver Attractions.

    A quick jaunt through Stanley Park to check the accessibility of the lanes for a motor coach and a failed attempt to visit the Trestle bridge did not deter the group from exploring! Spoiler alert, while the bridge is finished, the neighbourhood is not, and there will NOT be any parking for full size tour vehicles (sadly)

    The first stop was at Sea to Sky Gondola. Group Sales Coordinator Fabiola Riske led us through the process of booking, picking up and getting our guests up the gondola. Please note, it does not look like they will be utilizing the bracelet system this year for tour groups (they aren't expecting as many groups), so if you are bringing a group, there is not currently a system to skip the line and come down as in years past. Please plan accordingly for your timings.

    3 members initially signed up for a flight with Sea to Sky Air, however upon arrival the pull of the propellor enticed 3 more to join. The skies were clear and beautiful, and warmly welcomed after the wetter then normal year we have this last few months. Many thanks to David and his team of pilots for getting them aloft! While you can receive the stamps for this flight, you will also, after redemption of your passport a 15% Discount for all their products.

    A brief stop in downtown Squamish for lunch along Cleveland Avenue preceded our visit to the Britannia Mining Museum.

    Many thanks to Tamsyn Jenkins (Sales and Marketing Manager) and Derek Hang (Manager of Interpretive Delivery) for hosting us. Derek was an excellent host, informative, articulate and enthusiastic. He knew how to tailor the experience for industry professionals and maintain the balance. We even received a behind the scenes look at their newest exhibit, opening today. More Than A Mine examines the recreational lifestyle for residents of the townsite supporting the mine and is in the old welding and machine shop. Well worth a stop!

    A few more minutes on the road allowed a brief photo stop at Porteau Cove Provincial Park before heading back to the city with passports in hand and a little more complete!

    A full album of photos can be found HERE

  • 10 May 2022 20:23 | Anonymous

    Hello All

    May 10th saw nearly 30 members join Steveston resident and Member Shirley Hartwell on a fam of the town, the operations, business and even a couple of stamps. We had a great time catching up, seeing some of the industry partners in action and filling out the passports.

    The Cannery, The Shipyard as well as the businesses are offering stamps for those that need to fill out there booklets. By visiting a number of businesses, you can get the neighbourhood stamps, and, hopefully get to experience the local business.

    Steveston Whale Watching is offering discount rates for you as an industry member (not for your guests or significant others) as well as commission for those guests that you do bring. If you wish to have those details, please click the link HERE

    Thank you to all that came out, and those businesses that provided the information and time to get us up to date!

    There are some photos in the attached album HERE

    Of special note, if you are in Steveston, local business Juvelisto is a Ukrainian owned shop that is collecting donations for those in Ukraine affected and displaced by the ongoing war. If you are able, anything you can contribute would be appreciated.

  • 14 Apr 2022 09:57 | Anonymous


    The books are in our hands, and they are being prepared. In advance of you receiving them, please check out this map that lays out the FREE attractions you can participate in. There are more attractions listed that give stamps, with a small fee, and many neighbourhood and hotel listings as well.

    Please see the map HERE

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