Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Canada: Day 2 Granville Market

The second day in Canada was spent exploring the city of Vancouver. After picking up the missing GPS from the airport, we drove to Granville Island first.

Granville Island is very small and easily missed on the map. Getting there seemed like a mess of winds and turns, so we were thankful to have our GPS. The island's warehouses house art supply shops, galleries, small specialty stores (like an umbrella shop), and a public market. I loved Pike Place Market in Seattle, so I was especially excited to visit another public market. Comparing the two, Granville's market has a more open, accessible layout (due to being in a warehouse). However, Pike Place presents itself more nicely and more "commercial"-ly than Granville. The memories of Pike Place's vibrant flower stalls and charismatic fish market are more alive than my impression of Granville.

From the harbor there is a great view of the city.

The fam went to the Granville Island Brewing Company to get a taste of the local beers.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Canada: Day 1

Every summer, my family and I go on at least one vacation trip together. This year, we flew to Vancouver, Canada, drove eastward to Jasper and Banff National Parks, and flew back from Calgary, Canada. I intend to write about my trip, but in more easily digestible segments spread over several days.

Day 1: Arrival in Vancouver, Canada

We arrived at Vancouver's eerily empty airport in the evening around 6PM, to the sound of drippy water fountains and the sights of lush plant-life and Native American carvings, quite a sensory overload after having just stepped out of the airport gate. Finding luggage was no problem, but the rental car pick-up had one. A middle-aged, neatly coiffed lady spoke in her stuffy accent that her records showed no request for a GPS system, while the printed record in my mother's hand did. She gave us a telephone number and a stiff smile, but her mind was probably dreaming of the day she could give her boss the bird and leave her dead-end job.

My brother remarked that the suburbs of Vancouver reminded him of Baltimore.

Our hotel was located along Granville St. across from three adult video shops. That night, we decided to explore the neighborhood, so we started heading west. Walking down Davies St., I was amused by the gigantic posters of scantily clad men and store displays with male mannequins wearing furry banana slings. I didn't realize Davies St. was a prominent gay neighborhood until I noticed the ubiquitous rainbow flags waving aloft. While my brother and I knew this, my parents were completely oblivious.

We stopped by Kam's Place Singaporean Cuisine for dinner because my mother, having visited Singapore ages ago, wanted to revisit the cuisine. The menu bore similarities to those of Americanized Chinese and Thai offerings, and the food did too. The owner of the restaurant (I believe it was Kam himself) seemed personable, making small talk with all of his guests. Sensing my mother's disappointment, he explained that the restaurant's main clientèle, which he whispered sharply "Caucasians", weren't "ready" for the fishy, pungent flavors of authentic Asian cuisine. The conversation felt both honest and yet slightly inappropriate, especially with the two white patrons within earshot behind me. I half-expected them to react in some way, and even then I couldn't predict in what way. It was a very uncomfortable beginning to a conversation. However, no one else appeared phased by it, so either I'm hyper sensitive or we were all being polite.

Afterwards, my father asked about things to do in Vancouver and the owner pulled out a map for us and gave us advice on where to go and when. Everything he said was old news to me, since I had been researching for the past few days, but what did stand out was his warning not to go to Chinatown at night.

Walking back to the hotel, we passed by a small Korean grocery store. I can always expect my parents to patronize Korean businesses, even in foreign countries, and this trip was no exception. My mother talked with the locals and bought a calling card, and we made another trip to this store before leaving Vancouver.

And we also passed by a busy nightclub, Celebrities, which had a really long line. While night-clubbing would have been fun, clubbing with family would have been really awkward. Even clubbing with just my brother would have been awkward - he's probably thinking "How many shots is too many before I become a bad influence?", and I'm thinking "Would it be traumatic for him to see his sister get 'down and dirty'?" My brother was sorely disappointed to find out that he had missed Celebrities' "Stacked" Tuesday nights with (his favorite) electro music, but then was relieved to discover he would be missing Wednesday night's "Divas & Gents".

My first impression of Vancouver was that it's extremely diverse - there is a thriving Asian population in Vancouver, but it seems that the different nationalities are not too concentrically located. There seems to be a serious auto-theft problem - there are signs and people everywhere telling you not to leave anything in your cars. Also, I really enjoyed having daylight until 9-10 PM. That, I really miss.