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James's Travel log

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This is an ongoing, rambling project that should be finished the day after I die. Until then, feel free to read about some of my zany adventures, both in Canada and in other places.

Log entries 1 - 10 of 117 Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Aug 01, 2009 02:00 PM A scorching day in Vancouver

We got up and had breakfast in the B&B, then went out for the day. We stopped at Costco, which was conveniently nearby, to pick up some fruit to take to Jen’s friends that evening.

Then we headed in Vancouver. We went right down Granville into the English Bay area and looked at our options. We could go to the Art Museum, the Space Centre, the Maritime Musuem, and the Vancouver Museum.

We chose the Vancouver Museum. It had only two exhibits, which I found disappointing (even Edmonton’s Royal Alberta Museum has four). The first was on Vancouver and its history, which was quite interesting. The second was called Velo-City and was about cycling in Vancouver and Canada. It had dozens of bikes, from children’s to racing bikes, to ones used for Trans-Canada journeys. But the best part of the exhibit was the independent movies that they had about all sorts of bike trips. My favourite was about a Canadian and his girlfriend who cycled from Terra Del Fuego in Argentina all the way to the Arctic Ocean.

We wandered around English Bay, taking in the sights of people rollerblading on the seawalk, enjoying the beach, and simply having fun in the summer sun.

After that, we drove to Burnaby to meet a friend of Jen’s. They lived on Burnaby Mountain, so we drove to the top and chatted with them, had dinner, and showed them some of our wedding photos. Then we drove to Burnaby Mountain Park and gazed out over Vancouver at night. All lit up, it was spectacular.

Jul 31, 2009 02:00 PM Welcome to Richmond

Welcome to Richmond We got up and continued our drive to Vancouver. We stopped in Kamloops for a quick lunch and then hopped on the Coquihala highway, a wonderful four lane divided highway all the way. We got to Vancouver about 6pm and checked into our B&B in Richmond. We heard about a good Chinese restaurant and went looking for it. It took a while to find, but when we did, it was quite good, offering northern Chinese cuisine.

After that, we went looking for a fan, because Vancouver was in the midst of a heat wave, which was expected to last several more days. We didn’t have any luck, and were forced to sleep in an awfully hot room.

Jul 30, 2009 02:00 PM On our way to Vancouver!

On our way to Vancouver! Jenn & I drove to BC today. We had to drive on the Trans-Canada Highway because we had to stop in Calgary. The highway s fine until Lake Louise, but after that, it goes from a nice four lane divided highway to a two lane undivided highway. It’s more scenic, but also more winding and much slower to drive.

The trip was uneventful and the only real highlight was dinner in Revelstoke. We ate the Woolsey Café on the recommendations of my sister. When we arrived at 9pm, the restaurant was half full, which I took as a good sign. Despite Revelstoke’s small size (5000 or so), the restaurant had a full fledged chef and offered a stunning menu, with duck confit, beef tenderloin, and so on. The prices were a bit steep ($25 per entrée), but the food was excellent and well worth the price.

Oct 19, 2008 02:00 PM Time to go home

Time to go home We headed back to Canada today. Jenn, her mother and I got a ride to the airport from a family friend, which was nice given all the luggage we had.

Her mom was so nice, waiting for us until we were out of sight. Even then, Jenn had to call her cell phone from the gate before she would go home. She’s so sweet. It wasn’t until after we called that we realized we’d forgot to give her our leftover RMB.

Things to think about our trip to China. It was great. The sights (wow), sounds (crazy), smells (yuck), and tastes (delicious) are all things I won't forget.

I will miss some things and won't miss others.

Stuff to miss;

Ro jia mou
Peking Duck
Terra Cotta Soldiers
Street markets

Stuff I won't miss

Funky smells
Cigarette smoke everywhere
Squat toilets
Air pollution
Tour groups

All in all, it was a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to go back. Maybe next time we can explore southern China.

Oct 18, 2008 02:00 PM Trapped in Hutong

Trapped in Hutong Today was the day before we headed back home to Canada, so we ran some errands, did a little packing and then headed out for some fun.

Our first stop was to get haircuts. Some people might think this isn’t fun, but the shop we went to cut and washed my hair, gave me a shoulder massage, all while I watched a James bond movie! My wife got the works and we were there for a couple of hours.

After that, it was off to SE Beijing to go to dinner with some of Jenn’s friends from elementary school. The trip there was an adventure in and of itself. We were supposed to be there about 6pm, but in Beijing in October, it is already dark by then, so when we got off the train, it was dark outside and the area was really dodgy. We hoped to find a cab, but the area was devoid of them. We began walking in the direction Jenn’s friends had given us, but we soon found ourselves in the midst of hutong, which without lights of any sort was pitch dark. It was surreal, that in the middle of a massive city was a 10 block area without lights.

We stumbled around for half an hour and almost turned around to go home when a cab drove by. We hopped in the ride to the restaurant was less than 2 minutes. Then it was inside where we ate, drank and chatted for hours. The dinner was pretty good, but there was a lot of spicy food I couldn’t eat.

We headed back home, planning to stop at Olympic Park on the way, in the hope of finally seeing the Water cube all lit up. Once again, I was denied. We had seen it from the freeway when we came back from Xi’an, but it wasn’t much of a view, and I never got a good picture of it.

C’est la vie. I guess it’ll be one more thing to see next time.

Oct 17, 2008 02:00 PM Having fun in Beijing

Having fun in Beijing Today we headed out into Beijing to do something Jenn had been dying to do; shop!

We headed to central Beijing to a shopping district and Jenn and Chien went shopping. I did some browsing, but by myself. This was because there are two sets of prices in China, one for Chinese and one for foreigners. Had I gone to a shop and tried to buy something, it would have been 2-3 times what Jenn might pay.

So we parted and I browsed, keeping track of what was where and how much the proprietor wanted. Then when Jenn and I met up, I sent her back to get the stuff I wanted at a far better price (once it was 1/5 of what I had been able to bargain).

After shopping, we headed to the store where we had our wedding photos done and picked up our photos. Then we headed to Olympic Park, where we met Hwa, one of Jenn’s MBA classmates (who moved back to China after graduating), and we went out for dinner.

Hwa chose the Golden Jaguar Restaurant, which I have to admit was a great choice. We had been eating Chinese food almost exclusively so far on our trip, and Golden Jaguar was a nice change of pace. It was a buffet restaurant, serving a variety of cuisines: Japanese, northern Chinese, southern Chinese (Cantonese), Western (Italian and BBQ). They also had an all-you-can drink bar with beer and wine. Toss in a dessert bar that would be equal to any in Canada and I was in heaven. I ate pizza, pasta, Cantonese, BBQ, you name it. For dessert, I ate several scoops of Haagen-Daaz ice cream. The price tag was huge, 700 RMB for three of us, or about $100 Canadian. Still, it was worth every penny IMHO.

Stuffed to the gills, we walked across the street to Olympic Park, in the hopes that the Water cube would be lit up. Once again I was denied!

Oct 16, 2008 02:00 PM Day 20 Propaganda party part deux

Day 20 Propaganda party part deux I had an option today, see a famous park and the pandas in the zoo, or go to the Great Wall. Seeing as I’d been to the Great Wall in 2001, I felt it was better to see something I hadn’t already seen.

So we set off for Yuanming park, which was the original Summer Palace. It had been destroyed by the British and French forces in 1860. It had been reconstructed and was destroyed once again in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. Successive governments left it as it is as a lesson about dealing with foreigners. Indeed, much of the literature concerning the site is scornful of Western intervention. In 1987, the PRC government decided to slowly begin restoring it.

We saw a lot of ruined buildings, but several parts had been rebuilt, including a pavilion surrounded by a maze, a number of bridges. There is a large diorama detailing what was once there and if China ever fully restores it all, it will be a sight to see.

After that, we hopped on a bus to the Beijing Zoo. It took a while to get there, and it cost 10 RMB to get in, with another 10 RMB to get into the Panda exhibit. We got to the panda exhibit just as the zookeepers began feeding them. Because of the Sichuan Earthquake earlier in the year, the government had transferred several to the Beijing Zoo from Sichuan province.

The pandas lived up to their reputation, rolling around, playing with each other and feeding on bamboo stalks. We took a ton of photos and then checked out the Tiger pavilion, where we saw Siberian, African and Indian tigers.

Then it was back home for dinner with some of Jenn’s family.

Oct 15, 2008 02:00 PM Day 19 Propaganda party

Day 19 Propaganda party Today we headed out to the Beijing Military Museum. We had wanted to go on Tuesday, but a family problem prevented it. So we got up early and made our way downtown. The museum is only two subway stops from Tainanmen Square. Outside the entrance, there are real tanks, missiles and other military hardware.

The museum was a delight. In my travels, I’d visited military museums in Seoul, Paris, London and in Canada. This one wasn’t the best (so far, Seoul is the winner), but it was close. It had halls dedicated to every war fought in Chinese history, from the War to Resist Japanese Occupation, to the War of Liberation to ancient conflicts. The halls were filled with a wide variety of weapons and other equipment, from chariots to battering rams to tanks to fighter planes. Imagine my surprise when I saw that some of them had been captured from Canadian troops during the Korean conflict! Most of it is hidden behind glass but they have two courtyards outside filled with a variety of planes and tanks. For 5 RMB, you can explore a Chinese tank or a fighter plane. I did both, and the tank was far more interesting, as you could crawl down to where the driver sits, sit behind the gun, stand in the cupola, etc. The plane was interesting, but not as much fun.

I had thought I would be finished in an hour or so, but we stayed most of the afternoon there, exploring displays and learning about history. Of course it was filled with patriotic (or propaganda to some) statues and displays, but to me, they were as enjoyable as everything else.

There was a McDonald’s across the street, so we shared a quick snack and headed back to Olympic Park, hoping to get a photo of the Water Cube. Once again, it was not on, so we left. We walked to the road and hopped in cab to go to one of Jenn’s favourite restaurants, called the Nine Headed Bird Chain Restaurant. Despite the odd sounding name, the food was fantastic and cheap!

Oct 14, 2008 02:00 PM Day 18 Chinese Wedding

Day 18 Chinese Wedding Today was interesting, as Jenn and I headed out to IKEA to buy some stuff for her parents. We got there and did some browsing, but the bathroom fixtures they had weren’t very good and quite over priced. We did however, pick up some picture frames for some pictures we had planned to give her friends.

When we got back, one Jenn’s parent’s friends dropped by, an officer in the Chinese air force. He was really friendly and though he didn’t speak English, he could understand it if I talked slowly. He didn’t stay for very long, but brought gifts for everyone and then had to leave to catch a flight to Xi’an. Shortly after that, Jenn’s cousins dropped by and we chatted and gave them some gifts, then they too headed off for a flight.

Then Jenn and I hopped on a bus and went looking for a wedding photographer. While Jenn walked into a variety of shops, I got to explore a hutong nearby. She found one at an affordable price, who could also finish them before we left for Canada (only a week left), so we paid 400 RMB and then spent two hours doing make up and changing into a variety of traditional outfits.

After we were finished, we had dinner nearby, and then hopped on a bus, and then the subway. We headed to Olympic Park, so we could see the Bird’s Nest, Water Cube and the rest of the Beijing 2008 sights. The subway was brand new and sparkling clean!

It was dark by the time we got to Olympic Park, so we never got to see the buildings during the day, but the view at night was just as spectacular. The Bird’s Nest was light up from inside by red lights and looked incredible. The lamps marking the pathways looked like miniature Birds Nest stadiums. The tower at the north end was light up in an amazing array of colours, changing every few minutes, following the colour spectrum, then finally going to a multi-coloured array, much like a rainbow.

Sadly, the Water Cube, the one thing I really wanted to see, wasn’t lit up. C’est la vie I suppose.

Oct 13, 2008 02:00 PM Day 17 Peking Duck

Day 17 Peking Duck Today we planned to go shopping and do some more exploring, but a minor problem popped up, and Jenn had to help her Mom sort out some financial issues. I headed to an internet café and worked on my homework while she took care of it. It sounded like it would only take an hour or so, but it was more complicated than she expected and it took the whole afternoon. Jenn [icked me up from the internet cafe, apologizing. I told her not to worry about it and we went back to her condo. We picked up her mom and headed downtown, because Jenn’s mom had generously offered to take us out to dinner. And it wasn’t just any dinner, but Peking Duck at the restaurant that started it all!

We took a series of buses to Xianmen Street and walked to Quanjude, a Peking Duck restaurant that had been in business for over140 years! Chairman Mao had even said that it was a national treasure and did not nationalize it as he did so many other industries in China after the civil war in 1949.

Jenn’s dad had gone there right after work, so instead of waiting like most people, we got to walk right in (most people wait more than an hour for this duck). We got in and Jenn’s parents ordered. We got a duck, and a couple appetizers and I was shocked at the price (almost 800 RMB – more than $125 CDN) and offered to pay. However, Jenn’s mom insisted it was her treat.

Let me tell you, that duck was fantastic. It was even better than the duck we had the night we arrived in China. The skin was crispy and the duck juicy. They brought over our appetizers and drinks, and when the duck was ready, a chef stood beside our table and carved it for us.

After dinner, Jenn and I walked around Tiananmen Sqaure and Xianmen Street, taking some night photos and enjoying the nice evening. Then we hopped on a bus and headed back to the condo.

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