About Burquitlam, British Columbia
It doesn't boast the hipness factor of Main Street, the Lululemon style of Kits, or the endearing be-different-at-all-costs eclecticism of the Drive. But Burquitlam's got something else: strip malls. Lots and lots of strip malls, leading in a flat-roofed procession up to the GVRD's other place of higher learning. No, it's not pretty. Unless you prefer your architecture devoid of any soul, North Road—from the intersection of Canada Way up to Burnaby Mountain and the SFU campus—won't compel you to get out of your car and explore. (Which is precisely the point: no one walks here. Everybody drives.)
Living in Burquitlam, British ColumbiaBut contrary to first impressions, there is plenty of culture to be had along the traffic-jammed street, much of it concentrated around the intersection of North Road and Lougheed Highway, where a burgeoning Korea?town has arisen over the last five years. Korean food has yet to break through the way sushi and spring rolls have, but given the offerings on show in Burquitlam, it won't be long. And if the strip-mall aesthetic starts to wear, the Arthur Erickson–designed SFU campus is only minutes away. (Whether its boxy concrete structures are an improvement on strip malls is a matter of taste, but they don't hand retrospectives at the VAG to just anybody.)
Things To Do in Burquitlam, British Columbia
106–4501 North Road, Burnaby
You'll have to fight some feisty Korean grandmothers to get at the bins, but if you're finding the apples at your local Capers a little on the pricey side, check out the Hannam Supermarket, on the west side of North Road just north of Lougheed. Occupying the ground floor of a large mall and filled with strange and exotic foodstuffs (such as shredded dried octopus), the market also boasts some of the sweetest deals on fruits and veggies. In late August, it was hawking Gala apples at 10 for $2.99 and ears of corn were $1.97 for six. Plus, the bistro inside the market has some of the best spicy noodle soup around. Just be sure to understand what you're ordering: neng myun noodles, made from buckwheat, are served cold, in a tangy chilled broth.
Han Ah Reum
100–329 North Road, Coquitlam
Right across from Hannam Supermarket on the Coquitlam side of North Road looms an outlet of the Korean-American supermarket chain Han Ah Reum. Locals say there is virtually no difference between the two markets, but Han Ah Reum does appear to have a slightly more upscale feel, with plenty of sample stations offering dumplings and other assorted tasty treats. Anything you can find here you can get across the street for about the same price; which one to frequent depends largely on which direction you're coming from. If you're headed north, you can turn in to Hannam. If you're headed the other way, duck in to Han Ah Reum. Either way, you'll find buns filled with bean paste, pickled cabbage, and plenty of dried seafood.
The House of Tofu Soup
1–4563 North Road, Burnaby
Contrary to what its name might imply, the House of Tofu Soup, located on the west side of North Road south of Canada Way, offers more than just vegetarian fare. Its signature bowl of—you guessed it—tofu soup ($8.99) can be filled to the brim with seafood, beef, pork, kimchi, dumplings, and mushrooms in addition to the bean curd. It comes with side dishes of mashed sweet potato, seaweed, kimchi, pickled radishes, rice, and a raw egg to crack into the bubbling soup when it arrives. How you decide to consume it all—everything tossed into the soup bowl or eaten separately—is, I was assured, up to the diner. The giggles and odd glances I received from the regulars, however, made me question that advice. It all comes with as much roasted barley tea—a Korean specialty—as you want. (And don't be confused: this is not related to the So Gong Dong House of Tofu Soup at East Broadway near Fraser.)
540A Clarke Road, Coquitlam
No decade-themed party is complete without a trip to your local Value Village. Touted by those in the know as the best one in the Lower Mainland, the V?V in the Burquitlam Plaza, at the intersection of Clarke Road and North Road, is stocked with everything you'd expect at the secondhand chain—and more. On Halloween, the store even brings in staff solely for the task of helping you find a costume. Value Village takes the holiday so seriously it starts putting up themed displays in August.
To the west of SFU lies Burnaby Mountain Park, with gob-smacking vistas across Indian Arm and downtown Vancouver. Nearer to the eyes, there's also a rose garden (a hot spot for wedding photographers), a high-end restaurant called, fittingly, Horizons, and the open green fields where the world-famous SFU bagpipe band practises on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. But the best bit of all is the Kamui Mintara, or Playground of the Gods—a collection of more than a dozen slender, carved poles created by sculptor Nuburi Toko and his son, Shusei, members of the Ainu, Japan's indigenous people. The Kamui Mintara, which are referred to as Japanese totem poles but bear little resemblance to those created by Canada's First Nations, depict animal spirits such as a whale, a bear, and an owl on top of thin poles, bunched together in groups. Erected in 1990 in homage to the relationship between Burnaby and its sister city, Kushiro, Japan, they look like something from the mind of Alberto Giacometti: weird, wonderful, and totally compelling.
Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area
The Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area surrounding SFU is a mountain biker's Shangri-la. Trails of varying difficulties lie around the university, most of them to the east. They're ranked like ski runs: green (beginner), blue (intermediate), and black (advanced). Green means wide gravel trails and gentle grades; blue signals some dirt trails and steeper inclines up to 20 percent; and black points to narrow, steep trails with plenty of natural obstacles, sharp curves, and poor traction in some areas. Though most are technically open to both pedestrians and cyclists, you couldn't pay me to wander down a black- diamond knowing that a troupe of adrenaline-pumped riders is likely closing in on my tail. For a trail map, see www.city.burnaby.bc.ca/.
Simon Fraser University Gallery
8888 University Drive, Burnaby
The SFU Gallery has been off the Vancouver art scene's radar for a couple of decades. But last January, the university hired a new director and curator, Bill Jeffries, who's trying to shake things up. Opening this month and running until October 14 is Other Others, an exhibition of eight large-scale works by Victoria sculptor Roland Brener, who died in March. The works in this show were created in the last decade of Brener's life and explore taxonomy and technology. The resulting sculptures seem like twisted life forms: one, titled STARR, depicts a naked baby with one head and two bodies, balancing precariously on a bar; another, Leo Rising, resembles a giant whale backbone suspended above blankets of different colours.
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