Calgary’s Dragon City Mall full of colour and life within the heart of Chinatown

Get off the Centre Street LRT station and head north for a few minutes. You will pass by high skyscrapers until you finally hit Calgary’s Chinatown.

The concrete and glass give way to long short buildings with oriental style roofing, and sky. The hum of downtown now mixes with new sounds coming from the park and river—just further north.

Once you’re in Chinatown it’s not hard to find Dragon City Mall. The bright yellow sign, accented by a green dragon and the giant bird advertising one of the restaurants standout in the area.

The entire mall seems to be something from the past. It doesn’t have the same feeling of being big like many modern malls, or the sterile atmosphere with music being pumped through speakers, but it doesn’t have the grime that can sometimes be found in strip malls.

Dragon City Mall knows what it is. It is a place filled with stores being run by families. It is a place made and visited by a certain type of people. It is a place that is obstinately what it is, and nothing less.

The doors behind you have all but silenced the outside world, now replaced by the murmur of shoppers going about their business. A crying child can be heard off in the distance. An elderly couple speaks so fast that the conversation starts to merge.Second floor interior of Dragon City Mall right after lunch of Feb. 1, 2015

Photo by Miguel Morales

Heading into the building before anything else is the smell of Chinese herbs. It will hit you, a mix of dried plants but mostly ginseng.

After the smell of herbs finally subsides, the many different foods being cooked waft towards you, each smell getting stronger as you pass by the stall. The smell of fried tempura giving way to Vietnamese meat dishes, giving way to the smell of freshly baked breads. Then finally the smell of soy sauce and ginger comes down from the second floor from the two Chinese restaurants in the mall.

As you make your rounds between all the shops, each little stall is filled with colours. Reds, golds and greens can be seen from the dresses being displayed in Nice Fashions as well Sky Collection right in front of it. Honey World is full of pastels, inviting those who are young or young at heart into the store full of toys and posters. Every sign above the shops as colourful as the last one, inviting your glances to the merchandise within.City Mall from the Centre St. LRT station taken on Feb. 1, 2015

Photo by Miguel Morales

In the middle of the first floor right beside a candy shop and a snack joint is a small bakery filled with pastries and breads that are usually only found in Asian supermarkets or specialty restaurants. Breads baked golden brown dusted with powder sugar, others topped with a hotdog and mayonnaise, and tarts filled with custard and even colourful pounded rice covered in coconut shavings. Grab some of these treats and head upstairs to the benches at either end of the mall.

Sitting in that area you see the whole mall and can take in all the sights and sounds the place offers. You see shopkeepers going for lunch, placing orders, and chatting about weather and family before heading back to mind their own little corner. A group of high school kids order colourful shakes before wandering around the complex looking at the new posters of cartoons in shop windows, drinking and giggling about classes and friends. The elderly Chinese couple still chatting away in their own little corner of the mall.

mmorales@cjournal.ca