Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Vandigicam Goes to Chinatown

The catch-up continues! I managed to get as close as one week behind, then I fell... behind. Now I'm more like a week and a half out-of-date. Here goes...

Thursday, June 2

Vandigicam is really growing! My first outing with this group that formed in Flickr was the trip to Jericho Beach last month, and a week after the Flickr farewell party we ventured out en masse again, this time in Chinatown. I thought there were a lot of people at Jericho (15 or so?), but there were even more people gathered outside Starbucks in Tinseltown to go shooting, maybe 18 in total, give or take a few. We agreed to meet back at the same spot at 8:30, and figure out where to eat from there.

Chinatown shuts down fairly early on a weekday, we discovered. Most of the shops closed around 6 o'clock, and there wasn't much activity by the time we started roaming. As a big group we stuck out like a sore thumb, wandering the streets and resembling a tour group with cameras in tow.

More on Vancouver's Chinatown district:


I was walking with Hendrik and Ciao, and saw this sign for something called Murmur. Being the curious type, I phoned the number to see what the murmuring was about, but I only reached silence after dialling the code at the bottom of the sign. I thought maybe it was a tourist info service like the audio tours you can take at museums, but I'll try it again later, and see if it's that or a commercial enterprise.

The three of us were shooting graffiti in an alley when two guys asked Hendrik where Science World was, and if it was alright if they could take OUR photos. A visitor from Austria taking English courses (his friend was from Belgium), he explained that he was interested in photography, but was short on people pictures.

"You picked a good night to be here," I said, "there's a horde of photographers wandering around that you can follow!"

He said he put his stuff on deviantart.com, so I launched into this spiel about Flickr, and how this group formed there. Evidently this was exciting news, because he had me write it down! Am I a Flickr spokesperson, or what?

While Hendrik experimented with his new Canon Digital Rebel XT and I futzed about with my little Canon A80, I tried my best to recall some of the history I learned of Chinatown from previous outings with Hostelling International volunteers on fam(iliarisation) trips. Practically the only tidbit I could remember was that Vancouver was the LAST Chinatown in North America (the world?) to erect a gate (2003?). The other tidbit I have yet to verify -- my memory fails me on this one -- was that some of the old buildings are built as half-storeys to avoid paying full property tax. If you take a look at buildings like these, you'll see what I mean. I did a quick Google search on it for an article to link to, but looks like I'll have to keep digging.

Something we did see was apartments with half-numbers like this one. 224 and 1/2? We looked around for 224, but couldn't find it. The numbers went from 222 to 226.

While we were meandering around, shooting rats (I spotted a big one, but it was too quick for me), graffiti, memorials, and whatnot, we were shooting each other. Chinatown is probably the most colourful place around town to shoot, the photo ops are limitless, really.
By the time 8:30 rolled around, people were hungry, but we ended up going on a bit of a wild goose chase, trying to find a restaurant that was open. Earlier, a bunch of us passed by Hon's and noted that it closed at 9, but that applied to nearly every place we tried to get into. We tried the Brickyard on Main, too, but they didn't serve food. We voted to walk back to Tinseltown, and on the way we found the Floata Seafood Restaurant on Keefer St., which was open until 10. Hallelujah!

Hallelujah, indeed! After waiting a few minutes for the restaurant to prepare our tables, we picked up another person for dinner (he works with a couple of the Vandigicammers), and were ushered past the enormous ballroom where a Chinese Christian organisation was having a function. People were dressed up like it was an awards show.

To our surprise, we were given our very own room, which was a larger room with moveable walls. Kris took it upon himself to act as our negotiator, boldly telling the manager we weren't going to order off the menu. Instead, he said we'd pay $10 each plus tax and tip, and they would just bring out food for us that equalled that amount. The manager agreed, and platters of food and pots of tea arrived shortly after. Leave it to Kris!

We had two tables, and the other table shot video of themselves using the lazy susan. Dandy! I want to try it sometime! Check out the results here, courtesy of icathing: