What gives a location charm? Perhaps it’s the picturesque character of decades old structures surrounded by a metropolis of glass buildings, where the only constant is development. Maybe it’s the strangers you meet who offer you an escape, act of kindness or a simple smile that could tell you a thousand stories.
I describe my happy place with the same three words I describe the city I’ve grown up in: diverse, vibrant and abundant. Or with one word; Chinatown.
We all have them. Places in the city that bring us joy, big and small. In an era of chaos, Calgary Journal editors are taking time this year to reflect on the public spots that bring us happiness and peace.
You can read the whole series here.
There are Chinatowns all over the world: San Francisco, Paris, and Melbourne to name a few. Each one is distinctively different because Chinatown is a mosaic of different cultures coming together in the heart of a city inviting familiar faces but also new ones.
Chinatown offers something for everyone. A taste of Korean culture when you visit Sso Yummy and devour spicy tteokbokki (rice cakes) while waiting for a real life K-drama moment. Or testing your limits with all-you-can-eat Japanese food at Fusion, only to realize you aren’t limitless when your group of friends individually start walking to the washroom to throw out the food you can’t finish in a napkin to avoid a ten dollar surcharge.
Maybe you’re more into playing video games or a traditional board game that brings nostalgia of your childhood at BONGA game cafe.
And of course, bubble tea. Whether you like it cold or hot, with jelly or pearl – people have their favourites. Sometimes it’s best to explore and taste fruits you’ve never heard of, like the stinky durian. Even if you don’t like it at first, it eventually grows on you. Or just stick to brown sugar milk tea from Chatime.
My happy place is not about the location but about the people you bring along with you. Chinatown is magical with the right people. It doesn’t matter if it’s your family craving Chinese food at U & Me Restaurant or strolling and window shopping at the local stores in Red Dragon City Mall with friends after a long day — it’s the euphoria you feel with the people you’re enjoying the place with.
“Wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure,” Paulo Coelho said in the book The Alchemist – still one of my favorite quotes from my favourite novel. Those words ring true when you take a second and find moments of laughter, friendship and gratitude.
Whenever I’m in Chinatown, it always feels like a celebration because it feels like home.