by Maya-Roisin Slater | Scout’s new Neighbourhooding series is part of our expanding HOODS project. It explores Vancouver’s myriad neighbourhoods through the eyes of the people who call them home. Jill Southern has lived in Chinatown for 5 years. She’s an art director by trade and the founder of Pender Keefer Georgia, a series of Chinatown guidebooks. We recently caught up with her on East Georgia Street, just a stone’s throw from her apartment…
What or who do you think is a defining fixture of your neighbourhood?
Chinatown streets, any given day from 9 to 6: produce bins are wheeled out to the sidewalk, trucks unload new pig carcasses and containers of fish, parking is near impossible, and the sidewalks are an obstacle course of tourists and old lady carts.
Where’s your favourite place to get breakfast?
Matchstick weekdays, Pazzo Chow Saturdays, Kam Gok Yuen on special occasions.
Tell us about your favourite hideaway…
New Mitzie’s Restaurant on Pender — a classic Chinese-Western diner with endless coffee refills, booth seating, and entertaining people-watching.
What’s the best mom and pop place in the area?
That’s the great thing about Chinatown, it’s full of mom and pop shops. Some of my favourites: Fresh Egg Mart, Golden Wheat Bakery, Chinatown Supermarket.
What sets your neighbourhood apart from other areas in Vancouver?
Chinatown looks and feels like no other neighbourhood in Vancouver. Its distinct culture and history are visible in its buildings, residents and community, while its changing identity makes it fun and fresh. This neighbourhood never bores me. I love how I can feel like a tourist in my own town.
If you could describe your neighbourhood in a haiku, how would it go?
If you were walking through your neighbourhood while courting a lady/gentleman where would you take them to set a romantic scene?
There are a couple of rooftop parkades where, if you know your way around, you can sneak a stellar view of the city.
What’s the scariest thing about your neighbourhood?
The constant fear of getting shat on by pigeons.
What’s your favourite piece of architecture in the neighbourhood?
It’s a tie: 1. Sun Yat Sen gardens (pay the admission fee to see the best of it). 2. Rennie’s stunning re-do of the Wing Sang building.
How do you think your neighbourhood will change and develop in the next 5 years?
It will unfortunately become less unique. New businesses and condos will continue to flow into the neighbourhood while hip, modern spots replace unfashionable, old spots. There is a lot of new growth in Chinatown, which doesn’t strike me as entirely bad or good. Chinatown has a very resilient way of dealing with change.
Maya-Roisin Slater speaks English, and is doing her best to turn that into a career. Beyond Scout, her words and photos can be found in publications such as BeatRoute, Discorder, and Lotusland Mag. She also enjoys writing nauseating poetry, pretending that gluten-free-vegan slop is actually food, and bullying her customers at German sausage empire Bestie.