Trip duration: 9/4/15 to 9/7/2015
Route: Dallas => Vancouver; Vancouver => Portland => Dallas
Flying Method: Award redemption (12,500 AA miles) plus cash payment
Yay to weekend getaway with the family. 🙂 The last time we did a family trip together was back in 2009, so this was definitely long overdue. My parents chose Vancouver since they’d never been to Canada before. Coincidentally, my brother happened to be back in the U.S. for work that week, and he was able to meet us in Vancouver over the weekend. Yay!
Being a hotel snob, the brother booked 2 nights for us at the Shangri-La hotel. The hotel is located in the middle of Vancouver downtown and we were able to get to major attractions nearby on foot. We started out the weekend by venturing out near the West End after all of us arrived in Vancouver, and had lunch at a dim sum restaurant on Robson street. Vancouver has a pretty high population of Chinese people, getting authentic Chinese food was definitely on our radar. In the afternoon, we walked along the harbour then headed north to the Stanley Park (here comes all the hate stares from the family since I insisted that we walk there). We only walked around 1/3 of the park since everyone was complaining. =P
In the evening, we took a train to Richmond to check out the infamous Richmond Night Market as recommended by a few friends. The Richmond Night Market is an annual event which runs from the summer months through October. It boasts to be the largest asian night market in North America. We took a train from the Vancouver City Center Station to Bridgeport Station in Richmond. The Vancouver train system is fairly easy to maneuver. The fare various depending on which zone you’re trying to get to and costs around $1~$2/pp each way. Once we got off from the train station at Bridgeport, it was only a short walk to the market. The line to enter the market was crazy long, we ended up finding a couple who was looking for people to buy zoom pass with. The zoom pass line was alot shorter than the general admission line. The pass included entrance for 7 people (we are a family of 5) and some coupons for select food booths. For those from Texas, the night market is kind of like your Oktoberfest, Taste Addison or mini version of the state fair, except the foods have an asian flair to it that you’d typically only find in China town. Most of the lines were so long and the food was pretty pricey (i.e. we waited over 45 mins to buy some potato twister which costs $7 a piece. It’s not even an asian dish). The night market is fun to check out if you’ve never been, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go again.
The next morning, me, the bro and sis went to Tim Hortons for some obligatory coffee and breakfast. It was the shizzle, I love Tim Hortons coffee. Afterward, all of us ventured out again to the water front, checked out the convention center and the surrounding areas, and made our way to Chinatown. The bro saw heavy traffic in one of the nearby restaurants, so we decided to try it and had some yummy noodles, stir-fries, and asian pastries. Later we found out that restaurant has been around for as long as I’ve lived. Talk about ancient. 😉
On our way back from lunch, we saw some tents and road blockage for some kind of festivals. Out of curiously, we took a detour to find out what was going on. It turned out that TaiwanFest was happening in Vancouver that weekend. We were pretty stoked and ended up spending some time there to check out the various booths (btw, there was no line at the potato twister stand…and it was cheaper. lol).
Here are some pictures of the harbour, Richmond Night Market, TaiwanFest, Stanley Park, and Chinatown.
During our last night in Vancouver, we checked out a Japanese tapas restaurant – Guu Original Thurlow. We got lucky and got seated right away without having to wait for a table. The restaurant was pretty tiny and it filled up quickly shortly after our arrival (around 6pm). It’s an izakaya (informal drinking establishment that serves food to accompany drinks). In Japan, izakaya is frequented by salaryman/white collar workers to unwind and have a few drinks/dishes after work. Since our family doesn’t really drink, we went straight to the food menu. Everything we tried was delicious, we went with the popular orders such as kimchi udon, salmon yukke, beef tataki, takoyaki & karage, tuna sashimi. Yummm.
The people in Vancouver that we talked to were very nice and friendly. It’s a pretty diverse city with many different ethnicities. Being near the port on the pacific coast, it’s a popular stop for cruise-lines. Further, it’s also a gateway to many asian cities via a direct flight. While we were at the shops, we casually chatted up with the cashiers and sales ladies and noted a few of them are from Taiwan. It turned out it’s quite common for students/young adults in Taiwan to spend a few months or a year in Vancouver on a work/study program. Since Vancouver is tourist centric, they tend to work in the service industry such as souvenir shop, clothing store, restaurant, etc. for a specific # of hours a week. Outside of work they can enroll in ESL program or take classes at the community college to help improve their English language skill. If I was younger and didn’t have to worry about working to meet the financial obligations, I’d definitely choose to live in another country in order to experience and embrace different cultures and diversity.
Overall, even though our visit to Vancouver was very short, it’s still time well spent as we got to do things together as a family. My parents rarely travel other than to Taiwan, it makes me so happy seeing they were enjoying themselves. I’m looking forward to taking them to other places and spending some QT with them. 🙂
For airfare, my parents booked their flight via AA miles. Being that it was over the labor day weekend, it cost alot more miles to book a reward flight (mom got lucky and got the normal rate of 25~30K roundtrip, dad ended up using close to 50K). For me, I used 12.5K for a direct flight to Vancouver, and just paid for a one way ticket on the way back to Dallas (with a stopover in Portland).
On a random note, when returning to the U.S. from Canada, you actually clear customs in Canada. However, if you have global entry, you need to have the actual ID with you or a global entry sticker on your passport. If not, off to the regular line you go.