GTA Tripping: Pacific Mall
Tamagotchi. Dim Sum. Rain. Bukkake. Cowabunga. Hello Kitty. Ninja. Illegal DVD. These are all lend-words that we've recently taken into the English language from Asian languages (maybe). It is my contention that these sparkling morsels alone serve as proof that Asia is awesome, and that they are operating on a higher plane than us over there. Or, at least a more futuristic, delicious and/or cute plane, anyway.
Pacific Mall is North America's "largest indoor Asian mall," and so I went there excited, hoping for a yummy, blinking, futuristic time. Unfortunately, what my GTA Tripping partner and I found this week was more Chinese Water Torture than Pikachu; a horror story of tight mall security and bad noodles.
I guess I should admit off the bat that the main reason my cohort and I had such a bad time is that we arrived hungry. We had heard that the food available at Pacific Mall would be excellent, "better than in Hong Kong," said one of my Japanese associates recently. Maybe we just chose the wrong places, but my friend's pho looked like a puddle of milky sadness and my food court dim sum was the very definition of "food court dim sum," a no-brainer avoid-o-rama (like "discount sushi") that I foolishly thought would rock. Instead, I paid $13 in a food court to sit there like an idiot, choking back tears and whispering to myself, "doi." It was the same profound humiliation I imagine is felt by men who fall in love with strippers, or the women who fell in love with John F. Kennedy.
I really cannot overstate the pain that accompanies riding public transit into the triple-digit minutes, disembarking and then failing fantastically and repeatedly to satiate a crippling hunger. This trip could have been Natalie Portman and Megan Fox giving us a tour of the Starship Enterprise and we still would have complained.
There were some sunny spots, sure, but let's just continue the train of misery here for a moment. At Pacific Mall we saw maybe twenty security guards, each one heavily decked-out in futuristic and violent security gear, but each with a snazzy haircut and a shy demeanor. I talked to no less than four of them, but I didn't want to. Each one came with the gentle gospel that photography was prohibited in the mall, a gospel that I interpreted differently. But I acquiesced, of course: it is their mall and their policy to make (that and they had dangerous stuff on those bat utility belts). But who has a no-photo policy in a mall? And what's with all the security, anyway?
The answer, I learned only and dangerously after the fact, is that Pacific Mall has played host to a number of famous criminal scandals.
In the past few years there have been several high-profile raids of the mall complexes here, the main target being counterfeit/bootleg merchandise, of which most of that stuff was DVDs. In February of this year alone the RCMP seized 49,000 DVDs along with all the gear (and people) used to make them. Two weeks later a hit man killed his mark in a cell phone shop. A short time later the local police and the RCMP teamed up to form a Voltron unit permanently patrolling the malls in the area. I guess my photo-ban makes sense after all - the pictures might end up as Exhibit B.
So we tried to find some of these famous illegal DVDs. I was very seriously in the market for a shaky Camcorder recording of the new Woody Allen movie, but alas, most of the DVDs looked Chinese and legit. As for the murder, we successfully managed to side-step that.
Other than DVDs and murder, the mall had a just a few more items to be had, but had those things in the thousands and thousands. Cell phones, cell phone charms, Gundams and bubble tea were pretty much the main products for sale in the sprawling complex.
Bubble tea I'll have none of, ever. It's true that a cup of bubble tea looks pretty tasty, all colourful like a potable lava lamp, but I wonder if those enjoying them know that the little tapioca "bubbles" (and gelatin of all kinds, including J-E-L-L-O) are made from ground up bits of cow cartilage. Don't they know!? Someone has to tell them that bubble tea is ground-up cow cartilage! Correction: the bubbles in bubble tea are usually made from tapioca, derived from a root called Cassava.
The Gundams, on the other hand, were glorious and totally amazing. If you don't know, Gundams are these sweet techno-violent Japanese robots (well, characters/toys) that are a little like Transformers, but are patently more badass. In Japan, there have been postage stamps issued featuring the things, and this month, as part of the the 30th anniversary of the Gundam metaseries, Bandai produced a 1:1 full-size Gundam statue. The toy versions are highly collectible. Placed on a dresser or a desk, they make men happy and girlfriends sad. If you feel like horrifying your special lady with your juvenile need for awesome stuff, Pacific Mall has these things in spades.
We also found a reasonably comprehensive arcade with Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, and the newest side-view-button-mash-kill-each-other thing. There was also a private karaoke box (or suicide booth, as my friend called it). I wanted to snap a photo, but as soon as I took out my camera I was taken out by a security guard who would have been menacing if he hadn't been so dang cute.