Vancouver Adventure 2017 Part 2

Stawamus Chief

When I was planning my itinerary, one of the top things I wanted to do was to explore the beautiful nature on the outskirts of Vancouver. There were many many hiking trials in and around Vancouver while I was doing my research. In the end, one of the hiking trails that I chose to do, would take me to the summit of Stawamus Chief. Stawamus Chief is basically a 700m granite rock that jutted from the ground in the town of Squamish. There are several hiking trails that took me to the summit of Stawamus Chief. There are three summits that are accessible to visitors. However, I only visited the first two summits.

Up the gruelling trail. It was much steeper than I expected!

The hike was challenging. I severely underestimated the sheer degree of vertical climb I had to take in such a short distance. Immediately upon starting the hike up the trail, I was met with hundreds of stone steps, some so steep, that I had to be on all fours just to climb up on some of them. I went there early in the morning after renting a car in the city. About an hour later I reached the trail. I remembered the weather being cool and crisp. But within 30 minutes of hiking, I was sweating profusely and my legs were already aching badly. It took me more than 2 hours to reach the second summit.

Taking a break at the first summit.

At one point, I almost got lost, as the trail disappeared among the tangle of trees and dead-fall. I had to wait a round a little until a another fellow hiking came to point me in the right direction. Apparently I had missed a marker that pointed me to series of metal chains fixed along the base of a sheer cliff. The markers were sometimes had to spot, as it those are merely small colored pieces of metal nailed on the trees to indicate the path ahead. Miss them and you could potentially get lost.

I made a friend at the top!

The chains were there to aid hikers to pull themselves up along the cliff with a narrow footpath. And when I say narrow, it is extremely narrow, only wide enough for a single person to either go up, or go down, but never at the same time. Thus, there were moments of human traffic jams, as several hikers were trying to either go up or down the summit and had to wait their turn before they can grab the chains to hoist them up or down and walk along the narrow path. As I cleared the chains and made my way up, I reached the second summit of Stawamus Chief.

The view on top of Stawamus Chief is to die for!

Despite the difficulties and the challenges, I made it up to the second summit and I was greeted with an incredible view of the surrounding lands below. The view was worth the trip up and I was grateful to embark on this hiking trail. I will never forget the view. I sat right at the edge of the granite rock at the summit, dangling my foot over the ledge. It was dangerous, because there is literally nothing below to save you from falling, but it was exhilarating to be able to do that. The weather was great day, beautiful sunshine, clear blue skies and the occasional squirrel, approaching me begging for food, as I sat there munching on the energy bar to replenish all those calories lost climbing up the steep trail at the beginning of the hike.

All in all, it took me 4 hours to go up and then down to the base of Stawamus Chief.

The next day, I was met with a hell of a muscle ache from both my legs. I knew then and there that I got bit more than I could chew when I embarked on that hike.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

From then on, my legs were aching throughout the trip. I was completely unprepared for the Stawamus Chief hike. I was deterred in seeing other beautiful sights of Vancouver and beyond. One of them that was at the top of the list was the Capilano Suspension Bridge. A simple bridge, about 140 meters long suspended 70 meters above the river. The bridge was kinda wobbly, but the view was beautiful. I was one of the first few to arrive at the attraction and for a short moment I had the whole place to myself. I boarded the first bus of the day in the morning and arrived in time to enjoy the bridge without too many people on it as well as the beautiful greenery and nature around the area. It remembered the place as being serene, quiet with fresh frosty air of the morning still hung in the air. The attraction also had a tree top walk as well as a cliff edge trail was was thrilling to walk on. A trail that hung on the edge of a sheer cliff with nothing but the river below you, it was a walk to remember.

Amazing bridge above the river and into the forests beyond!
One of the many tree top walks.
The cliff-edge walk. Quite exhilarating!

Sea to Sky Gondola

The Sea to Sky Gondola was another attraction that I truly enjoyed. Located about 45 minutes outside of Vancouver, I took a 10-minute ride on a cable car or gondola to the top of the summit lodge. From there, I was greeted with spectacular views, even more spectacular than from the summit of Stawamus Chief, overlooking the blue waters of Howe Sound. The summit also offered awesome views of various mountain peaks nearby. My favourite part of this summit is that there were a lot of benches places along strategic vantage points throughout the trails all around the summit, allowing you to take in the breathtaking view. I love this place specifically because it was not very crowded when I was there. I was even able to admire Stawamus Chief and its three peaks in all its glory. I could barely make out the hikers at the top of the peaks, especially the second one, which was there hiking previously till make leg muscles ache badly.

One of my favourites spots. It has an amazing view of the mountains as well as the lands below.
Sea to sky highway down below, the direct link to Vancouver beyond.
I spotted a bunch of kids and their teacher, showing the mountains beyond and the name of the mountain. I can no longer remember the name of that mountain.

Stanley Park

I cycled around Stanley park twice on rented bicycle. Twice because I was gobsmacked by how beautiful and big the park was. It borders the Vancouver downtown proper and mostly surrounded by water. It was easy getting to the park as it is just located north and west of Vancouver downtown. There were numerous rental bike shops nearby and I just went to the first one that I saw. I rented the bike for about 3 hours, which was more than sufficient time to circumnavigate the park at least once, stopping numerous times along the way, admiring the beautiful waters, passing underneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge as well as seeing other locals and tourists alike walking, running or cycling like me around the park. I was lucky because I went to Vancouver in late spring and the outside temperatures were perfect for outdoor activities like cycling. After cycling, I remembered returning the bike and then setting off on foot to explore the various forest trails that the park had to offer. It was peaceful walking on one of those trails, seeing the pristine forests well preserved even after marking the spot as a city park.

Resting underneath the Lion’s Gate bridge at Stanley Park.

Granville Island

I remember taking one of the shuttle ferry boats to Granville Island. The island is basically a small peninsula and shopping district. Yaletown had a stop for one of the shuttle ferry boats and I boarded one before stopping at Granville Island. It was an interested ride. Like taking the subway with its various stops, but instead, you take a ferry boat that takes you to places along the shores of False Creek, one of them happens to be Granville Island. I cannot remember the price of the ferry ride, but I remembered it was pretty decent, and most of all super convenient, especially when there is a ferry stop close to where I was staying in Yaletown.

The old industrial area in Granville Island.
Lots of food, farmer’s market, and more.
Just by the waters, the ferry I took to reach Granville.

Granville Island was an interesting place. It used to be an industrial manufacturing area. But now, the place has been transformed to be a premier destination for tourists looking for food and entertainment. The place is packed full of cafes, restaurants, breweries, and shops selling all kinds of Knick knacks, like a carnival market made permanent. The history of the place is not lost. You can still see evidence of the island as being a former industrial area. Warehouses with zinc roofs, cement factories and silos still stand and dotted all over the island. The Granville Island Public Market is to me, the most interesting part of the island. It is where local farmers and other food vendors sell their fresh produce such as vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese and many many other products. It was a feast for my senses. The food vendors especially, I was so spoiled for choice, I had difficulty choosing what I wanted to eat. And the coffee. So many coffee shops and cafes to try and experience. In the end, I could only truly experience just a tiny fraction of what the island had to offer me. But I was glad that I spent the entire day without any regrets.

Downtown

Downtown Vancouver has lots of other interesting locations that I visited, like the Coal Harbour, Port of Vancouver (which had a gigantic cruise ship docked while I was there), the famous Gastown with little cafes, rustic looking restaurants and pubs, as well as West End, Davie Village, Robson Square and others. I like the fact that the downtown core is small enough that you can practically explore the city just by walking. Sure there is a lot of walking to do, but with such amazing weather and loads of cafes that you can just stop by to rest and have a great cup of coffee, walking is the way to go in exploring Vancouver.

The public library.
The Olympic Cauldron.
Vancouver Harbour Flight Center.
The science center.
Gastown.

Vancouver Adventure 2017 Part 1

Nearly 2 years ago, I embarked on the furthest solo trip ever. To Vancouver and Seattle. A 12,800km journey from home. I can no longer remember what motivated me to go on a solo trip so far away from home. And looking back at my blog, I don’t recall blogging about it, much less posting pictures about my experiences solo trippin’ in Vancouver.

So now I need to make up for my lack of posts regarding my experience solo trippin’ in Vancouver and Seattle.

Food Poisoning!

Two years have passed and I have probably forgotten all the little things that happened while I was there. But one major thing happened prior to my trip that I will never forget. I remembered having food poisoning just a few days before my departure to Vancouver, Canada. It got so bad, that I almost cancelled my trip at the very last minute. Even at the gate, I was on the road to recovery and I was afraid that I might not be able to make it through my 12-hour long flight (via Guangzhou) with dignity (if you know what I mean). But for some odd reason, I persevered and told myself, screw this, I paid so much for this trip and I have been looking forward to this trip for so long. I was not about to let a mere food poisoning derail my plans for an epic holiday alone. I boarded the flight, drowned myself in probiotic pills, in the hopes of jump starting my intestinal microflora while in the air and hope to make a quick recovery upon landing.

Miraculously, I recovered. I was totally fine when I arrived in Vancouver. My body was hydrated, and my stomach felt really calm to the point where I could take in solids again. I ate the food on the plane and nothing bad happened to me. When I landed in Vancouver, it was as if nothing happened in the first place.

Yaletown

At Vancouver International Airport, after I wen through customs, I went looking for the train to the city. It was an easy trip from the airport to downtown, which I really appreciate. After that I remembered transferring to a subway train to Yaletown, where I would be living for the next few days in an Airbnb accommodation. I made a great choice. Yaletown is fantastic. Full of modern skyscrapers of concrete, glass and steel. I booked a room shared with the owner of the condominium in Yaletown and I remembered it was in the upper floors of the building. My window had sweeping views of the Vancouver and the neighbouring skyscrapers nearby. It was truly a sight to behold, day or night. I remembered a couple of times, where I just stayed in my room and just stared out of the window, enjoying the majestic view of the beautiful city.

My first selfie upon arrival in Vancouver. I made my way to Yaletown, reached my accommodation. After settling down and putting my luggage, I headed out and started exploring the place. My first impression of Vancouver: Beautiful.

I remembered having my first meal in Vancouver, and it was sushi that I bought at a nearby grocery store. I was hungry and I wasn’t particularly choosy in deciding anything special to eat. The sushi was probably the first real solid food, aside from the airplane food, that I had after the entire food poisoning episode. The sushi was pretty good. The meal wasn’t heavy and it was just the right amount, especially for someone who is just recovering from food poisoning hours ago. I was so thankful that I was able to hold down solid food and that my stomach didn’t give me any embarrassing problems along the way en route to Vancouver, Canada.

The view from my airbnb. Look at the mountains in the background.

It was a sunny afternoon upon arrival. A great day to walk about the city. I didn’t sleep much while in the plane. I was feeling jet-lagged but energized that the same time, knowing that I have arrived at my destination and I am completely ready to start exploring the city.

Yaletown. Beautiful weather upon arrival.

I remembered exploring Yaletown, trying to get my bearings right, reading the subway maps and where it could take me, and just enjoying the views of the harbour nearby. It truly is a beautiful part of the city. No doubt, the condominium and private apartments would have cost a ton to buy, much less rent.

I can see the stadium from where I stayed. The BC stadium I believe.
It was late spring when I travelled to Vancouver. Cherry blossoms were still in bloom.
The Vancouver Skyline.

My Canadian trip with my friends might be cancelled.

Last year, my friends and I, the same group that went on a road trip around Iceland, were planning to go to Canada for our next great road trip holiday.

However, I think I have to shelf that plan. It has come to my attention that my parents would like to go Iceland for their next big holiday. First, I am greatly tempted to follow them along for the ride and would very much like to show the beautiful country as I have seen it when I last went with my friends. Second, after a very difficult year of 2018 and the health issues my Dad had during that year, I have somehow reflected and reprioritised to spend more time with my family, not just on a daily basis as how we have already been doing, since nothing has changed on that front, but on more special occasions like going on holidays and stuff.

I am already going to New York with them, after a difficult decision to share with them good airline ticket deals that I originally intended to get and travel solo there. In the end I decided to bring them along for the trip and made that our first big trip of the year since news of his condition last year. It was also my first big holiday trip since completing my Masters study, in which I did not have time to travel while I was working and studying at the same time.

I have already planned a Morocco trip with my friends and colleagues. In all honesty, I never expected this idea to take shape in any serious way to the point where everyone was OK with proceeding to the stage where we started planning, and booking our reservations including air tickets to Morocco. The idea has gone so far that it is now basically a done deal. Pretty much everything has been planned and arranged for, six months in advance. There is no going back. Not that I want to go back or had any regrets regarding this trip. My only reservation is that I have never travelled with them before and I absolutely have no idea how this trip will turn out. I mean, sure we are good friends and working colleagues who see each other everyday but the stresses of travel can really show your true self to the rest of them in ways you would never expect. But I am optimistic and super looking forward to my trip.

And now, with my dwindling leave days, I have just enough for another big trip. It was originally reserved for my friends who wants to go to Canada, but now my parents were throwing the idea at me of going to Iceland. With my priorities rearranged, I am quite torn as to say no to who. I can only choose one but not both.

Should I: Go to Canada on a road trip with my friends, or: go to Iceland (A country which I love so much and missed so much) with my parents?

Travel plans upon graduation

I will complete my master’s programme in November 2018. I have plans to go to Bali at the end of this year, just in time after completing my studies. That itself is a cause for celebration. But what about next year?

Canada (British Columbia)

Huge trip with my trusty group of friends that went to Iceland with me a couple of years back. It’s gonna cost quite a lot for this trip alone. The timeframe for this trip is after May, when the weather is somewhat warmer and frost is about to melt, making way for beautiful hiking trails. Just hope that we don’t encounter any starving brown bears that just came out from a long winter hibernation. I am expecting 2 to 3 weeks for this trip. A roadtrip, much like the Iceland trip we went to. Expected budget is S$2000 to S$3000 flights included.

Egypt/ Morocco

Somewhere exotic. Either Egypt or Morocco with my colleagues. Total 4 of us. a road trip to Morocco. A somewhat guided tour around in and around Egypt. 10 to 14 days. I am betting on the front end of 10 days, sufficient for a one-country sightseeing trip. The expected budget will be $1500 to $2000 flights included.

New York City

Possibly Solo. I have set my sights to New York. See the musicals, plays, art galleries, museums and just plain ol’ city sightseeing. Central Park, World Trade Tower, Statue of Liberty, Queens, Lower Manhattan, subways, pizzas. I could go with a friend. But solo trip would be interesting. Perhaps, meet up with Vivien, or Saki up in Boston, a day or overnight trip there just to see see look look? I would expect to be there for 7 to 12 days depending on my itinerary. The expected budget will be S$1500, no more than $2000. Flights included.

Next year could be the year of travels. I need to start saving up.