We drove our rental Toyota Prius (once again, thanks Hertz!) all the way back from Banff to Vancouver, stopping for a night at Kamloops in between. It was there that we met a young Singaporean, Kai Xiang, who was studying for his degree in, wait for it… adventure tourism. Even in a small town like, Kamloops, Canada, you can find a Singaporean there. We had a nice dinner and he even brought the wife and I a bottle of barley he made himself. Such a nice fellow.
We stayed at a friend's home in Maple Ridge, about an hour from Vancouver, and drove to the city. I had planned other sightseeing trips but realized we had to give the wife some time to shop at the outlets. So this was a short but fun visit to the city of Vancouver.
Our first stop was Gastown, named after a "Gassy" Jack, owner of the area's first saloon. The historic area has many quaint shops (we loved the antique shops most) and also some touristy-looking tower you have to pay to go up to see the city from up high.
There is also some steamy clock at Gastown. See one time and no need to see again.
Our next stop was one of our favourite stops in Vancouver, the lovely Stanley Park. 8km of park to walk, bike or drive. We only had time to drive through its scenic route and stop for some photos of the views.
People take their cycling very seriously here. A lady rider (not the lady in the photo) shouted "Get off the bike path!" at a Korean family who were absentmindedly standing on the bike path, admiring the lighthouse.
There were ducks, boats and the occasional seaplane flying across the sky. We were blessed with good weather (the sun seems to follow us wherever we go). Our friends told us it had been raining for days until we arrived. "Quick, the weather very good," they said, "Go and see Vancouver today!"
We drove to Granville Island next. It sounds like some faraway place but it is really just a small islet with a famous public market.
We had a late lunch of fish and chips here. It was a little expensive but I suppose touristy places usually are.
We tried to drive to Lynn Canyon Park to see it but the skies got dark really fast (autumn/winter lah). At 4.30pm, we drove into the area only to see signs saying that the gates will close at 5pm. So we had to hightail out of there before the park ranger locked us in. It looks like a great place to hike and camp. Many mountain bikers were riding in on their bicycles as we left. So nice to have nature near by a bustling city like Vancouver.
As we drove home to Maple Ridge via East Hastings Street, we saw one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Vancouver. It is known to be populated by junkies, pandhandlers, and prostitutes, and not a good place to hang out after dark. Later, when we got home, our friends told us about the infamous serial killer and former pig farmer, Robert Pickton, linked to that place. I guess all cities have their dark side too.
While staying at Maple Ridge, British Columbia, we crossed the border to the US a few times to go shopping. It was relatively painless. Except for having to explain to US and Canadian border immigration officers that, yes, I flew in via JFK and my wife via Seattle, yes, we will fly out of Seattle, but we are currently staying in Canada, and yes, we are driving over the Seattle to shop then coming back to Canada, in our Arizona-plate rental car. Hahaha!
Seattle is the JB of Canadians living in British Columbia, it seems. Because the Canadian dollar is stronger than the US dollar currently, and the cost of living is higher in Canada (except for maybe, maple syrup), British Columbians frequently drive over to the US, mainly to Washington cities like Bellingham (especially the Bellingham Costco), and Burlington to do their grocery shopping, and Seattle to do outlet shopping.
Like us, Canadians flock to the US to buy petrol, because it is cheaper than in Canada, except they don't have a 3/4 tank rule.
In fact, US residents in these Washington towns got very annoyed because wealthy Canadians were flocking to their US towns to buy up all the milk, because it is cheaper there.
Speaking of shopping, my wife is now a fan of Costco, Ross and Marshall's. I think she was a little sad she didn't have more time to bargain-hunt in these giant stores.