Bright Night

7 July 2019 – Bright, because at 7 p.m. at this latitude, sunset is still a good two hours away. Also bright because, even at this still-early hour, vendor stalls woo us in full-tilt neon.

Taiyaki, I learn in the course of the evening, is a Japanese fish-shaped cake — or waffle, in the local version, stuffed with either red bean paste or chocolate and topped with ice cream.

I learn this because friends have swooped me along with them to the Richmond Night Market.

Founded in 2000 by entrepreneur Raymond Cheung, it now runs weekend evenings mid-May to mid-October, attracts more than 1 million visitors over the season, and ranks as the largest night market in North America.

Crowded alleys reflect the long, long line-ups we saw at the entrance gates. Made us glad to be Old Wrinklies — there is a special Seniors’ Entrance, and we whipped right through.

Oh, the food options we discover as we reconnoitre the stalls!

Five kinds of yummy-yogurt (including purple rice flavour and “surprise” flavour); Rainbulbs (vividly coloured sodas); liquid nitrogen ice cream (with a warning about frostbite); Dragon’s Beard (thready strands of maltose sugar wrapped around chopped peanuts, coconut shreds & sesame seeds); fried squid; traditional Brazilian, Afghan and other global street foods; German pork hocks; assorted kebabs; and cultural mash-ups befitting an immigrant nation, such as kimchi french fries, tabetai tacos, okonomi bites (a Japanese take on poutine), and sawadika fried ice cream.

I goggle at a woman clutching her “ro-tato,” a single fried potato, cunningly sliced so it can be swirled  in one unbroken length up a skewer …

and at the woman in her jaunty maple-leaf cap, claiming her bubble tea.

Apart from food (Brazilian & Afghani for main course, Italian-style gelato for dessert and Dragon’s Beard for take-home treat), we buy almost nothing. No to all the jewellery; no to the electronics; no to the ingenious hand warmers; yes to just one pair of socks.

We wander toward the kiddie-amusement area, and giggle like toddlers at everything we see.

Iridescent balloons …

bubble machines …

and even cheerful yellow-ducky seating platforms.

But oh, the winner, the amusement that has us poking each other with envy, is the water-bubble game. It’s a whole big tank of water, with child-sized, clear, waterproof plastic bubbles rolling on the surface.

Each bubble with a zipper. Large enough to admit a child. Who, zipped into place, then runs, flops, kicks & jumps about in perfect — and perfectly dry — abandon.

One last traditional amusement, good for adults & kiddies alike: the old “throw something at something and win a stuffed something.”

Stall after stall of them, each with its line-up of prize “somethings” to be won.

Our little group slows to a halt in front of a display of balloons, each tucked into its own little slot, waiting to be exploded by a well-aimed beanbag.

My Soon-To-Be Hero watches for a bit, analyzes technique, buys his handful of beanbags … and rifles them, one after another, straight at those gleaming balloon bellies.

Success!

He claims his prize.

And promptly becomes My Hero, because he gives it to me, to present to the brand-new latest member of my B.C. family clan. (Some 17 days old, as I write this.)

But ssssh. It’s still my secret.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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