Road trip Canada: Vancouver Day 2, 23 January 2016

Vancouver 0600 – Why am I up so early??? I didn’t want to disturb the sleeping mister, so I headed over to the Sheraton Club Lounge, and proceeded to grade 40+ papers on Nazi Germany. Complimentary latte was nice.

0930 – I made reservations at Kirin the day before for a 10 am sitting. We head out. The mister knows he’ll be dead if we miss the reservation.

0950 – Line builds before Kirin opens. Reservations are a good idea.

1000 – Kirin Richmond is decent, but not as good as the one at Kirin Vancouver. Mister’s first experience at the Cantonese restaurant. He’s the only non-Chinese at the restaurant. And the only person who ordered a Sprite. 😀

1100 – We survey the hotel grounds. Pretty impressive for an airport hotel!

1245 – Time to circle round Yaletown in Vancouver. Finding a parking meter that takes credit cards wasn’t easy (they have some on Hornby Street!)

Vancouver

1300 – Long walk across the bridge to Granville Public Market. Why aren’t there stairs that lead directly to it? I bet I can make a fortune with a repelling business. Or bungee jumping to the market.

Vancouver

1330 – Mister now agrees with me that my decision to park at Yaletown was inspired. There was quite a line of cars trying to drive into Granville Public Market. We also found out that we can take a ferry back to Yaletown (3.50 CAD one way, 5 CAD return. Prices might be higher if you go to further parts of downtown Vancouver) The Aquabus leaves every 15 min or so.

Vancouver

1400 – Magicians, buskers, crazy mishmash of goods, kiddie exits at the Kid’s Market, and lots of glorious fresh produce. Mister finally got a crepe – he was happy. I was slightly annoyed that if you paid in USD, they will charge you as if it was at parity with the CAD, i.e. if something is 7 CAD, and you gave them a 20 USD, you will get back 13 CAD. We did need change for our ferry ride, though.

Vancouver

1445 – We got on the Aquabus. We then headed to a cafe on Granville Street for me to get some work done.

Vancouver

1545 – Time to drive to Langley for the game. I messed up – I paid for our lacrosse tickets with my credit card, and we were supposed to take up the tickets at Will Call. I sock-drawered that credit card after meeting minimum spend, and so, it was not in my wallet. (the dangers of this game – there’s a limit to wallet space for credit cards) We’re going early to rectify the situation.

1650 – Guy at Will Call never asked for my credit card. Whew!

1700 – I nap in the car because it’s just 1 hr before the doors at Langley Events Center open, which doesn’t give us enough time to go anywhere. Also, it’s bobblehead night, and mister really wants one.

1900 – First lacrosse game. Where is the ball????? That’s some mad skills right there. Lacrosse is like street soccer with sticks, and some of the violence of ice hockey thrown in. Pity – nobody got into a fight. The Vancouver Stealth got massacred by Colorado Mammoth.

Vancouver Stealth at Langley Events Center

2045 – Sushi restaurants are all closed. We get some Wendy’s, head to our hotel, and that was it for the night.

Wallet Damage?

Food + drinks: 35 USD

Transport: ~5 USD

Game tickets: 25 USD

Accommodation: 64 USD (but I get 11550 IHG points) I could have actually made another redemption to make this night free, but 64 USD for 11550 IHG points is a good value to me.

Total: 129 USD

 

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Peru – Machu Picchu, 05 June 2011

Today was the big trip to Machu Picchu, the biggest highlight of our Peru trip (of course, there are other awesome things to see). We took the Vistadome from Poroy (about 40 mins from Machu Picchu by car) to Aguas Calientes, which is about half hour from Machu Picchu. One thing that the train really had? Windows. Lots of them. Apart from the usual windows by the sides to allow you views of the passing scenery, they also had windows to the top. Another thing I didn’t expect – breakfast! It was a fancy-looking breakfast, served in what looked like a bento box. That was a nice surprise. The one-way ticket to Machu Picchu costs about 75 USD.

Despite all the warnings about the long lines, and our craziness to try and prep everything in advance, it was surprisingly not as busy as it was made out to be. So if you are going sometime in June, and doing the train way (I heard the hiking part is still booked up), you might not need to go too crazy with the prep, and just take your chances a little. Btw, all that Lonely Planet talk about checks on bags for water and food – never happened. While you might not want to be packing a picnic, some snacks and a small bottle of water probably would slip through the games undetected.

I’m not sure if expectations is a good or bad thing. If you were just walking around the mountains, you’d never guess there’s a whole city in those mountains amidst the clouds. But I guess since we knew what we were looking for, that takes some of the fun out of that. Anyway, it is pretty hidden. As we were walking, we pretty much never had a clue when the next turn will bring us to Machu Picchu. But when it did appear, well, it looks like the postcard pictures!

I think my main impression of Machu Picchu was how small it was. When we first booked the trains, we were afraid that doing this as a day trip might not be that great an idea, and that we might not have enough time for everything. Turns out the train timings were there for a reason, anyway. It was pretty small, and as long as you are not trying to explore every nook and cranny, a day trip was enough. While Petra was massive, and definitely required multi-day trips, the same can’t be said for Machu Picchu.

I don’t have any real guide to write about the Machu Picchu. It is pretty much a city whereby there are ceremonial quarters, living quarters, which are segregated, and some terraces for planting stuff. It is hard to tell which is which without a guide. But, one thing to do – do climb higher up on the terraces, so you can get a bird’s eye view, and a good shot of the city.

After about 4 hours, we were beat, and we made our way back to Aguas Calientes for lunch. I had a cream trout – apparently, I can’t tell the difference between salmon and trout. It was pretty expensive, at about 16 USD. But we were paying for the view at the restaurant (can’t remember the name).

Despite all the writing about there being nothing in Aguas Calientes, I am not about to jump on the bandwagon. It is what it is – a stop for those on the way to Machu Picchu. While things are overpriced, it’s not a seedy or horrible town, and you could do a lot worse when you are hungry and tired. They have plenty of restaurants and cafes that serve up decent food, and when you are want to send that postcard you just wrote, they have a post office for you, too.

Finally, time for us to go back. Instead of the Vistadome, we took the Expedition, which was slightly cheaper at around ~50 USD. It really wasn’t much of a downgrade, and they served us snacks and a drink. Some pleasant things did happen. In our cabin, the lights apparently shorted, and so, it went out a couple of times. While everyone else was scrambling for light, confused by the sudden darkness upon us, I looked up at those large windows, and enjoyed the stars, which I hardly ever get. It was worth it.

Dinner was a cheap roast chicken place, and we had some delightful roast chicken for about 3 USD.

Vistadome to Machu Picchu

Fancy breakfast on Vistadome

Machu Picchu

Area around Machu Picchu

Our cheap chicken dinner

Yikes, and a New Trip – Peru! (1-13 June 2011)

So, once again, I have forgotten to update all my older trips, have gone on a few more since then, and am embarking on another adventure. Tsk tsk me!

Anyways, what’s up? Peru!

It is going to involve an Amazon river cruise, an overnight bus ride, domestic airplanes, and two epic rail journeys.

01 June: Getting ourselves to Peru!

02 June: Lima, Peru

03 June: Lima – Cuzco

04 June: Cuzco

05 June: Cuzco – Machu Picchu – Cuzco (scenic train journey)

06 June: Cuzco – Lima (surfing!!!)

07 June: Lima – Iquitos

08 June: Iquitos

09 June: Iquitos – Lima

10 June: Lima – Huancayo (epic rail journey on the second highest railway in the world)

11 June: Huancayo – Lima

12 June: Lime (surfing? paragliding?)

13 June: back to Seattle

USA – Death Valley National Park, 21 March 2011

For a trip to Vegas, we certainly did not spend a lot of time Vegas. We actually chose Vegas due to its proximity to numerous National Parks, and after Grand Canyon, next in line on our itinerary was Death Valley National Park.

I think I picked this one. I think the only reason why I picked it was because I thought it has such a cool name! Well, unless of course, I become a reason why it is called what it is called. The Death Valley National Park spans the states of California and Nevada. California mainly, really. At its lowest point, it is actually below sea level. For some reason or other, that makes it quite a dangerous place. After some googling, I figured out a route that will bring us through a ghost town or two, and given my fascination with what nature does to places after humans abandon settlements, obviously, it was a must see.

Anyways, after the ‘training’ of the Grand Canyon trip, driving to Death Valley was a breeze by comparison. The landscape on the way was actually very breathtaking. The road was surrounded by mountains in the distance, and an expanse of desert. And of course, the mirage.

Our first stop in Death Valley National Park was Rhyolite Ghost Town. Not quite sure why it was abandoned, but the sight of semi-decrepit structures against blue skies and desert made for great pictures. It did seem to be quite a developed town. There was even a Rhyolite Casino.

Next, we kinda just followed the driving trail, and stopped by some structure that we thought was fascinating (my research is awesome … not). Turns out it was pretty fascinating. The Death Valley used to be mined for some material nicknamed white gold by Chinese. To cut costs of purifying them, they were done on site, so there were pretty big settlements of Chinese. Looking out from the look out point, you can still see some remnants of buildings. It was quite a desolate landscape.

There were, however, some pretty out-of-place spots in this landscape. For instance, there was a golf course, and some really garish-looking resorts. I am not quite sure why, but the tale of immigrant labor and abandonment of settlements seems to be detracted by these new features that capitalize on tourism.

Endless Road in Nevada

Rhyolite Ghost Casino, Death Valley National Park

Former residence of migrant workers in Death Valley National Park

USA – Las Vegas/Boulder City, Nevada to Grand Canyon/Flagstaff, Arizona, 19 March 2011

Long driving day, and we had a late start, as I needed to finish my assignment, oops! 😛

The main attraction of today’s trip was actually the Grand Canyon, but it involved quite a long trip, as I persuaded the other two to do a detour to the Hoover Dam, and we were spending the night at Flagstaff.

The drive to Hoover Dam was actually took quite a while. There was traffic going there, and getting parking there was tough (well, free parking anyway). But I think this piece of engineering marvel was not to be missed. If I don’t remember wrongly, this is a legacy of the Great Depression, whereby there were many mega construction projects to try and pump money into the US economy. It is also the raison d’etre of Las Vegas. Without irrigation, many of the places in desert Nevada would not have come into being. For popular culture reference, I think I was enraptured by it being featured in Transformers. It was definitely worth the detour.

After our brief stop at Hoover Dam, we pretty much drove straight for Grand Canyon. With my lead foot, we managed to arrive about 1.5 hours before closing. Thankfully, we were able to ditch the car, and take the shuttle buses that run around the Grand Canyon. The main thing I remember us doing (I kinda napped for most of the shuttle bus ride due to exhaustion) was us getting off at a look out point, and seeing the Canyon, which was made of many multi-coloured layered rocks. I guess it is some sort of geological feature. I thought it’d be interesting to see it from the bottom, but that was basically my only encounter with it – a grand total of 1.5 hrs (on my priorities in life, later).

Following the brief tour of the Grand Canyon, I drove for another 1.5 hours for the place we were going to room for the night – Flagstaff. I chose the spot, because it was nearish to the Grand Canyon and also near Peoria, my next destination. Also, I was attracted to its old-school charm, and its location on historic route 66. Sorry there were no pictures, as we arrived pretty late. But it had some old-school charm. Perhaps I’ll return some other day.

Hoover Dam – Powering the Area

My only photo of the Grand Canyon

USA – Leavenworth WA, 01 January 2011

Our first trip was out to Leavenworth, which was a town about 1-2 hr drive from Stevens Pass, and about 2-3 hr drive from Seattle. Formerly, it used to be one of those town that was turning into a ghost town, but somebody decided to turn the whole town into a Bavaria theme to attract tourists. They started various festivals like October fest, and guess what? It worked. Now, tourists pour into the town, and stay for a night or two, and buy into the whole pseudo-Bavaria-ness of it all, and eat up their sausages and wash them down with beer.

Anyhoo, we were there for a more fun purpose apart from marketing genius. Apart from architecture, they also had some season specific activities: in this case, it was winter sports. We came here specifically for their snow-tubing. I think it costs like $15 for four hours, and while it looked mild, it was actually pretty quick, and gave some adrenaline rush. The winter sports park in Leavenworth also has some ski hills, though they are mostly of the bunny variant, which would be perfect for beginners.

Somehow, the day whizzed by (that’s what happens with short winter days) and we just retired to the cabin for dinner, movies and games.

Snowtubing at Leavenworth Winter Sports Park

Leavenworth in the early evening lighted up for Christmas/New Year

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011 Trip in Washington State: Stevens Pass, Leavenworth, WA, 31 December 2010 – 03 January 2011

Thanks to the kind invite of R, I was able to go skiing for the first time, and also visited the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, that was somewhat to the east of Washington State:

31 December 2010: Seattle, WA to Stevens Pass, WA

01 January 2011: Leavenworth, WA

02 January 2011: Stevens Pass, WA

03 January 2011: Stevens Pass, WA – Seattle, WA