The southern reaches of Vancouver, British Columbia's Main Street might seem unassuming at first glance. But look a little closer at the three-block stretch between 48th and 51st Avenues.
The center for Vancouver's large Indian community, called the Punjabi Market (even though it's a neighborhood), packs in all sorts of fabric and jewelry stores, sweets and snack shops, and more surprises. You won't find a more rewarding way to explore the flavors and colors of the East anywhere in the West.
Frontier Cloth House. WHAT: The most alluring―and probably the priciest―of the area's many sari and fabric shops, with stacks and racks of colors so vivid they practically glow. Look for shy young brides-to-be draping richly beaded creations over their jeans. WHEN: 10:30-8 Wed-Mon. WHERE: 6695 Main St.; 604/325-4424.
Good Morning Panwalla & BBQ Place. WHAT: A traditional Indian pick-me-up and breath freshener, pan is a triangular packet of betel leaves and aromatics. For neophytes, owner Badru Murji recommends sweet pan with rose-petal paste, betel nut, fennel seeds, and coconut. WHEN: 12-11 daily (also serves lunch and dinner daily; $ U.S.). WHERE: 6452 Main St.; 604/321-4955.
Hi-Class Jewellers. WHAT: The sales staff are happy to instruct customers on how to wear the gleaming gold earrings and necklaces. WHEN: 11-7 Wed-Mon. WHERE: 6570 Main St.; 604/ 327-3132.
Sultan Cut. WHAT: Savvy Vancouverites come to the neighborhood for eyebrow threading (just $4 U.S.): lightning-fast plucking and shaping with quickly twisted thread. WHEN: 9:30-7:30 Wed-Mon, 2-7:30 Tue. WHERE: 208 E. 49th Ave.; 604/301-0434.
Himalaya Restaurant. WHAT: Get a buffet lunch (the samosas might be the best in town), or pick up snacks and colorful sweets to go at the counter. WHEN: Lunch and dinner daily. HOW MUCH: $ U.S. WHERE: 6587 Main St.; 604/324-6514.
Punjab Food Centre. WHAT: Stock up for a distinctive cocktail party, or just save a bundle on spices at this general grocery overflowing with everything from bulk spices and snack mixes to brass and hammered-copper vessels. WHEN: 9-8 daily. WHERE: 6635 Main St.; 604/322-5502.