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Originally published Friday, August 14, 2009 at 12:29 AM

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Cheap socks? Grilled squid tentacles? Where else but Richmond's Summer Night Market?

The Summer Night Market is the star of Richmond, B.C.'s booming Asian-influenced commercial scene, with food, merchandise and music.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Tour the Richmond Night Market

If You Go

Richmond

Vancouver's southern suburb, population of 185,000, sits on islands between arms of the Fraser River about 25 minutes north of the U.S — Canada border along Highway 99. Most Richmond hotel rooms are in the large, chain hotels near Vancouver International Airport; the city also has an assortment of B&Bs (see www.tourismrichmond.com).

Summer Night Market

Open weekend and holiday evenings through Oct. 4, usually 7-midnight on Friday and Saturday and 7-11 p.m. on Sunday. For the long Canada Day weekend, the market will be open 7-midnight July 1-4 and 7-11 p.m. July 5. Located at 12631 Vulcan Way (behind the Home Depot on Sweden Way). More information and "Web specials" on www.summernightmarket.com.

International Buddhist Temple

The elaborate temple, plaza and gardens are open 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. The temple, an active place of worship, has intricately carved statues, large gilded Buddhas and a gift shop. The grounds feature sculptures, fountains and a bonsai garden. Located on the south side of Richmond at 9160 Steveston Highway. Free admission. See www.buddhisttemple.ca or call 604-274-2822.

Steveston

Richmond's southwest corner hosts a bustling waterfront community of shops, restaurants, parks, museums and an active fishing fleet. See www.steveston.bc.ca

Asian influence

Reflecting the fact that most residents are immigrants, the city has hundreds of Asian-style restaurants of various cuisine types and price ranges. Find reviews for 130 Richmond Chinese restaurants at www.dinehere.ca. Asian import stores abound, particularly in the Golden Village area, home to malls such as Aberdeen Centre along Hazelbridge Way, with three levels of shops surrounding a fountain.

More to do

Richmond also has miles of bikeable trails, beaches, golf courses, a hotel-casino resort, whale-watching tours and more. See www.tourismrichmond.com.

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RICHMOND, B.C. — Where can you get super-cheap socks, a quick massage, a lucky bamboo plant and knock-off designer sunglasses, all while munching grilled meat on a stick and watching a kung fu demonstration?

Richmond's Summer Night Market, running every weekend until early October, is a scene not to be missed.

Each weekend and holiday evening, thousands converge on this nine-acre site in an industrial area, where 175 booths and their energetic merchants evoke images of night markets in Hong Kong, Taipei and other Asian cities.

Richmond is a fitting host for an event with international flavor: According to Canada's 2006 census, no city in the country has a higher portion of immigrants than Richmond, where 57.4 percent of the 185,000 residents were born outside Canada.

Across the Fraser River, Vancouver also has a Chinatown Night Market, now in its 14th year, on weekend evenings through Sept. 6. (See www.vcma.shawbiz.ca.)

Richmond's night market, operating since 2000, has a heavily Asian flavor in its patrons, food and merchandise. The cheapest socks I saw — six pairs for $10 Canadian (about $9.20 U.S.) — were from Korea; the $6 movie DVDs were from Vietnam; the toasters, mixers and other small kitchen appliances — four for $20 — were from China.

I'd heard before I went that some of this merchandise is as good as the stuff in department stores, while other items might fall apart the second time you use them. It's a buyer-beware scene.

A stage at one end hosts the evening's entertainment, which could be cultural dances, martial arts, or a singing contest with audience participation.

You can spend as little as $1 for a colored pen or as much as $1,500 for a handsome mah-jongg table that automatically shuffles and deals the game tiles. (Its brochure touts: "Tablecloth uses sea-blue rubber material. Good hand feel. It is not easy denuding and color changing.")

Sunglasses, at $10 or less, were selling briskly. Their displays carried designer names in large letters, while smaller print added qualifiers such as "inspired by" or "compare to."

At a table of samurai swords, throwing knives and other weaponry, I lifted up a lethal-looking knife selling for $15 (just under $14 U.S.) and asked if it was from China. "Of course," the booth's operator said. "Otherwise you would pay double times double." (I saw the same knife later on the Web for $17 to $30 U.S., plus shipping & handling.)

Some merchants will haggle over prices; some won't, and there's often a discount if you buy in quantity. And every night as closing approaches, prices are slashed at the food booths.

The 50-booth food aisle is the market's busiest area, where grilled squid tentacles appeared to be the crowd favorite.

We hit a half-dozen food concessions over our 2 ½-hour stay, but chose somewhat less adventuresome plates: barbecued lamb, salad rolls, shrimp dumplings, cold noodles and fried ice cream, which is scoops of ice cream battered, fried and served with cranberry sauce. Each item was between $2.50 and $5, and we left stuffed, no room for the mini-doughnuts.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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