A Chinese ghost story…

The intent was to go to the museum and see the inside of the parliament buildings, but instead I wandered around downtown Victoria again.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Chinatown in Toronto, but it isn’t as colourful as this one in Victoria.

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In Chinatown is a fascinating little alley, Fan Tan Alley.  It was originally a gambling district with restaurants, shops, and opium dens. It’s considered a tourist attraction now, with loads of little shops including a record shop (always trouble for me), barber shop, art gallery and cafe. (The opium dens are gone)

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It also happens to be the narrowest street in Canada, only 90 cm (35 inches) wide at its narrowest spot.

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I walked by this little alley a couple times on my first day here, but had to take a wander through. It was a bit of a nail biting walk, because I had been told the ghost of a murderer haunted it.

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The story goes something like this…

In 1889 a 17 year old Asian man named Chan Ohan fell in love with a woman, Yao Kum, when he saw her sitting at her window. Yao worked and lived as a prostitute. Chan worked for the American hotel, making beds and cleaning rooms.  After seeing her sitting there day after day and talking to her, he shared his passion and love for her.

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One day, he proposed marriage to her. Yao told Chan she couldn’t leave, because her owner would find her and kill her if she did. Chan tried to give her a vial of poison and told her to put it on the meals of her master and his wife, so she and Chan could be together. Yao realized Chan was serious, but he was penniless and she was trapped in her life of ill repute.  She also knew the penalty for murder, and told him to go away and never come back.

Chan felt publicly humiliated. He crept around the buildings with a friend and spied on her. One night he and his friend prowled near the window where Yao always sat, the friend grabbed Yao by the hair, and Chan cut off her head with a butcher knife. Chan ran away through all the little alleyways and escaped through the back of the hotel. He passed by the hotel owner, Tommy Burnes, as he fled.

Chan missed two days of work. Tommy saw a poster for a $150 reward “Wanted for murder in Chinatown.” It described Chan perfectly. Tommy went to the police who found Chan hiding in a coal bin, his clothes covered in blood, in the hotel’s basement. Chan was arrested and jailed, and then hanged himself with his shirt in his prison cell two days later.

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After his suicide Chan was not afforded the same Chinese rites that ward off demons and ease the spirits of the dead. In encounters, people typically hear footsteps approaching, and then see Chan’s ghost passing through the alley with bloody clothes and a butcher knife. He pushes people blocking his way without seeming aware of them, and then fades away.

 

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To the west coast I go…

I’ve been to a lot of cities across Canada, but never this far west. I find myself in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia.

Victoria is one of the oldest settlements on the Pacific Northwest, by the Brits in 1843. Wikipedia says it has the second oldest Chinatown, next to San Fran. The Salish Nation was here thousands of years before that.

It could also very well be the rainiest place I’ve ever been.

Through the raindrops I have managed to see some beautiful spots and take some photos. Guess the bonus to all the rain is how green everything is. The flowers are even in bloom! (and trust me, after -35 Celsius a couple weeks ago at home and the latest Snowmageddon, this is wonderful)

The BC Parliament building. Home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Final cost to build… $923,000. That little gold dude on top is Captain George Vancouver (Vancouver Island, Vancouver BC, Vancouver WA, and Mount Vancouver are all named after him). Apparently someone once tried to steal his statue by helicopter.

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In front of the parliament building is a statue of Queen Victoria. Yes, the city was named after her.

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Everyone has told me that I should have tea at the Empress Hotel. It was built between 1904-1908 and has hosted many notables, including Shirley Temple, Prince Edward in 1919, and King George and Queen Elizabeth in 1939.

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Honestly, I’ve never seen so many totem poles! I could take pictures of all of them, because they all tell a story. This has been my favorite so far. It’s the Kwakiutl Bear Pole, carved by Henry Hunt of the Kwawkewlth Indian Band in 1966, to commemorate the centenary union of the colonies on Vancouver Island and the mainland.

Perhaps the most spectacular place I’ve been (so far) is Beacon Hill Park. The park was named for the two beacons on Mount Beacon. The western most beacon had a triangle (blue) and the other a square (green). If the sailor could see the square through the triangle he was on Brotchie Ledge, which meant trouble. The almost 200 acres was originally set aside as a protected area by Sir James Douglas, governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1858. In 1882, the land was officially made a municipal park and given its name.

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A leisurely walk through the park, and then along a hidden pathway you can find sets of wooden stairs to take you down to the rocks and ocean view of Horseshoe Bay. The rocks were glaciated about 10,000 years ago.

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On a clear day you can see the mountains of Washington state.

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After the stairs you have to navigate all the driftwood that has washed up. It’s slippery, and treacherous, but oh so worth it for this view….

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It was a big day of walking (about 20 km), so time for a little break. More pictures to come!