Our Sins of the City tours are back in full swing for and we wanted to give you a sneak peek inside one of our most popular ones: Vice, Dice and Opium Pipes. Led by city expert Catherine Driver, we caught up with her to learn more about this tour and why people should take it.
Q: What is the name of the tour you lead, and what’s behind the name?
CD: The name of the tour is Vice, Dice and Opium Pipes. The name stems from the fact that the area we explore used to be a hotbed of vice where discrimination was rampant and gangster-run gambling dens, opium dens and other illegal pursuits were aplenty. Many people don’t know, but Vancouver once was a very wild place, and uncovering this history and seeing it in the present is captivating.
Q: What are some of the most fascinating aspects of this tour?
CD: We really explain what brought people to Vancouver and how our Chinatown was established—and it’s really interesting. It’s also a dark part of our country’s history and the story of Chinese immigrants in Vancouver is one that’s important to tell.
Q: Which areas of Vancouver do you explore on this tour? What is one of the best landmarks and why?
CD: We explore Chinatown on this tour. I absolutely love all of the buildings along East Pender Street that we see. They are so beautiful. Chinatown is a neighbourhood where you have to look up, that’s where all the good stuff is.
Q: Most tours highlight captivating characters or famed Vancouverites from eras gone by—who is your favourite and why?
CD: I like the story about David Lew on this tour. His murder is one of our city’s unsolved homicides. An unsolved murder is always fascinating and mysterious! I always get the shivers when I tell this story.
Q: What are some interesting facts you’ve learned by leading this tour?
CD: Some of the most interesting facts dive into why our Chinatown is located where it is, how our government and police department were rife with corruption and the reasons behind the corruption, and how the VPD came to be established. Other fun facts? You’ll just have to come on the tour and find out!
Q: What do tour participants usually say about the tour after walking through it?
CD: Our guests love exploring the neighbourhood on foot and discovering things they’ve never noticed before. We have a lot of local people on our tours and us locals just don’t take the time to walk around and savour our surroundings, nor do we know much about them. I think guests also really enjoy all of the sordid tales and the criminal activity that went on in Chinatown’s nooks and crannies.
Q: Why should people take this tour?
Even with all the changes and issues around gentrification, Chinatown is still a really bustling and historical part of Vancouver to explore. It’s a great tour to learn about our city’s beginnings and put the modern-day changes into context. It’s also really fun to walk by all the traditional Chinese shops and gaze at all the eclectic and wonderful things for sale.