West and North

IMG_0815[1]Cramped in the big city with towering structures and clustered traffic, short buildings with wide, vast skies and empty parking lots offer a sense of accessible spatial freedom.

IMG_0814[1]A usual motel in Tonawanda, New York, can provide this unintended refuge after driving North, and then West, along New York State.

IMG_0816[1]Heading further North, and further West, into Niagara Falls, we journeyed to cross the national border to enter Ontario territory.

IMG_0820[1]As usual, they studied, but did not stamp our passports, to admit us into the land of wide, long highways.

IMG_0819[1]And tall, symmetrical structures of power.

IMG_0821[1]In Barrie, Ontario, we walked into the Spirit Catcher, quite imposing from up top.


To balance it out, we came across an unimposing feline, a novel member of its species that appeared to been bred half hairless, half hairy and fully wrinkled.

IMG_0831[1]Another trip landed us at Wasaga Beach, the world’s largest freshwater sandy stretch.

IMG_0832[1]Though it was not so bustling on a cool weekday.


But to find peace anywhere, there is always the natural environment. To be inquisitive in the woods, you can always ponder about the age of it, such as the abundance of short, thin trees show a sign of a young forest (without actually cutting a trunk to count the rings).









Unexpected Canadian Things

One of the best parts about traveling is coming across random things you would never expect. These particular things are usually really small. Sure mountain peaks, intense bridges, tall buildings, skylines, monuments, ruins, battlegrounds and ancient castles are very special, but hundreds of thousands of people have seen them.

I took pictures of some of the random things I would come across when I was in Vancouver, BC.

One strange thing I saw was this cheeseburger, which was actually a cake. I saw this at T&T grocery, which is a giant Asian supermarket full of delicious surprises. I have never seen lettuce situated on a cake, nor have I ever seen strawberries being used instead of tomatoes. I wonder which tastes better.

Another strange thing I saw was this sign at a restaurant. It looks like a fish is trying to jump out of its tank or bowl of soup or something by yelling at the lobster, but will ultimately be pushed down by chopsticks. Then there are random orange flame stickers put on strange parts of this poster, such as adjacent to the fish, and above or under Chinese characters. All the while, the lobster dances.

Probably the strangest things I saw were the signs hung around the hostel I was staying at. This grimy abode was owned by some short, crazy Italian man who communicated with the guests by tearing out note book paper and putting weird, mis-spelled, crossed-out and edited messages on the wall that he wrote in markers.

I could not ever tell if they were serious or not, but they were highly amusing.

Last Days in the Van

I exited Vancouver yesterday via Amtrak. I had to walk down to the train station, past Chinatown, at about 5:45 AM. The sky was pink and grey, slightly dusting light over the many crackheads and shaded streets and block buildings. I liked this side of Vancouver, it was quite interesting. Getting through customs is of course not my favorite activity at the crack of dawn, but the Cascade line train was magically much nicer than the ones I’ve taken before. I am now in Seattle, taking in new things but reflecting on my past few days.

I decided that Vancouver is a city of amazing parks and useful integration of the nature into the city. It’s crazy that there can be so many immense skyscrapers and gridded activity with humans passing all around by so many of the urbanized nature sites with clear waters and tall pine trees.

I went through Stanley Park a couple times. The first time in, I of course did the normal activity to check out the Totem Poles. I also came across a number of tourists speaking a multitude of different languages, leaning over a dock. I looked down, and they were all observing a pack of raccoons digging their little claws into the sand to find clams, and devouring them like bandits. I learned at this situation that the word for “raccoon” is the same in many different languages, but I’m not exactly sure which ones they were. Of course the views of the Lion’s Gate Bridge, and the people that were staring at it, were quite amazing in their own way.

There is water all over the city, and many different points to check out the mellow waves, bridges and boats. The urban beaches are also top-notch. It is one thing to read simplified reviews of these beaches on tour guide websites, and another to actually breathe the Canadian salt air and feel the sludgy mud on your feet.

I checked out Jericho Beach one of the days, and was amazed at how such a big city could still encompass such a beach.

The view to the front was of green mountains with rolling peaks surrounded by white clouds, the view to the right was the city scape of Vancouver’s skyscapers and Stanley Park, and the view to the left which eventually drifted further off into the Pacific Ocean.

The water was quite shallow, so the immediate part of the water-beach break was infested by sand boarders sliding along the wet earth. The water had lots of huge and tiny boats, carrying people or cargo or both. I managed to get a sunburn at an unusual time of the day, but I was more focused on the picturesque combination of these factors. They held my interest of enhanced human access to cities and to nature in such proximity.

Compare and Contrast Travel

I have been in Vancouver, British Columbia, for 4 days so far. I have been staying in this downtown hostel that is more of a dirty flophouse in my opinion, which has been quite funny.

I realize that when I travel, I always tend to compare everything to other places I’ve been. Within a day, I made the observation that Vancouver reminds me of a combo of Toronto and Portland. I also have walked through Chinatown a few times, and decided I like it more than the one in San Francisco, less than the one in New York City, and of course more than the one in Portland, as it’s kind of a joke.

I was sitting in a park the other day on the water, and a German tour guide came by, and from what I made out of my knowledge of German, he compared the Lion’s Gate Bridge as the Golden Gate Bridge of this city, and Stanley Park as the Central Park. I have also walked down Hastings Street, which is supposedly the sketchy street of the city full of drugged-out weirdos, and decided it was no worse than Mission Street in San Francisco, or the west side of the Burnside Bridge in Portland. Yaletown looked like the Pearl in Portland. Downtown clubbing scene resembled home too.

Of course some things about this city are unique. In Chinatown, I became fascinated by this shop that had a plethora of dried-out dead animals, even though I’m a vegetarian. Never have I seen a specimen of double dead geckos on a stick!

I noticed there seem to be a lot of international ESL students, most of whom look Japanese and Korean. I notice these things because I used to work as an ESL teacher.

I also saw a seagull trying to scarf down a starfish, which is also a first. Later that day, I saw a seagull picking its beak at a flattened-out pigeon that had been run over on the street. Yum.

Well, I have a few more days in this city to go exploring. I am enjoying my time so far, and hope to run into more new stuff, or perhaps see if it reminds me of familiar places…