Literally the city of nature and health enthusiasts, Vancouver is the destination that everyone should have on their travel bucket list. When I’m on vacation, all I really want to do is relax. That often entails sleeping in until 10 am and stuffing my stomach to the brim with good food. Instead, every single day I was in Vancouver, I woke up at six in the morning to a beautiful scenic view overlooking the entire city. From all the floor to ceiling windows, I could see the crisp blue waters of Charles Bay surrounding the three sides of the Vancouver city peninsula.
And as I stepped out onto the balcony, the fresh sea breeze just swept the hair away from my face. Closing my eyes, I took deep inhales through my nostrils and long exhales through my pursed lips. The wave of pure bliss and euphoria rushed through my mind, and I could feel my energies directed towards channeling my inner happiness and peace. My vision having been focused and my mind clear of distractions, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I could get used to this.”
Vancouverites are like the bustling city folks who can do a lot, but they know when to stop themselves to take a whiff of the roses on the side of the road. They respect Mother Nature, with many city ordains and permits protecting various areas where flora and fauna can flourish. The main example would be Stanley Park. As I sauntered along the miles long stone wall separating the beaches from the grassy park, I could help but admire the beauty of humans and nature coexisting. Large cargo ships sat steadfastly in the distance transporting and facilitating trade from elsewhere with Vancouver, but they didn’t cause huge ripples in the oceans nor turn the deep dark and beautiful hues of the blue waters into the new homes for oil spills. The way they just sat there peacefully observing its surroundings, is a stark comparison to the images portrayed in paintings such as The Slave Ship, by J.M.W. Turner.
Visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge, was very different from what I imagined. Although there were a lot of tourists at the park, as it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Vancouver, the atmosphere was highly different from what I had anticipated. Usually, when lots of tourists are together, it’s rowdy and loud, to the point where I can’t hear myself talking above the din. However, people were super civilized and receptive to all instructions, such as walk slowly across the bridge and don’t feed any of the animals, no matter how cute they are. The bridge itself was an architectural masterpiece. Stretching 140 meters across the chasm of roaring rapids, the Capilano Suspension Bridge could withstand a lot of pressure, including mature cedar trees weighing several tons. That’s incredible!
Another really cool attraction was Fly Over Canada. The location of this show is right by the ocean, which meant lots of cool pictures by the bay that housed many yachts and several seaplanes. It’s a show that highlights the best of Canada’s natural beauties during all the different season through a fun roller coaster like ride. However, the only downside was that the tickets were slightly overpriced and there were so many little kids, especially loud toddlers.
Like any other yoga enthusiast, hitting up all the Lululemon stores in the vicinity was an absolute must. This athletic apparel retailer originated in Vancouver, and somehow the stores were just bigger and better than the ones in the states. I literally went on a shopping spree, picking up sports bras and form-fitting leggings in a variety of colors and designs left and right. The fitting rooms had a mirror on opposite sides as you walked in, so I could simultaneously view how my outfit would look from the back and from the front. I love buying new athletic clothing because it encourages me to work out more often and sweat my frustrations and anxiety out. Other times, I relieve my stress through meditation and mindfulness practice.
While I was in Vancouver, I lived in food heaven—every bite was perfection. There’s literally any type of cuisine for anyone and the prices are more than fair. My personal favorites were The Bubble Tea Shop, Le Crocodile, and T&T Supermarket. If you ever go to Vancouver, these are the ABSOLUTELY must-go places. The Thai milk tea with sago and mochi filled egg puffs with mango cheesecake from The Bubble Tea Shop still has my mouth watering for it right now. Also, they have extremely long operational hours and deliver anywhere in Downtown Vancouver! So there is simply no excuse not to go. Although it was slightly crowded every single time I went, it is simply a testament to how popular of a dessert place it is, so don’t let it deter you from trying their creations. Le Crocodile has such good service and food at incredibly great prices, considering it is fine French dining. The restaurant is truly authentic, as everyone, from the maitre d’host to the waiters came from France. There are many small free samples along the way which by the time I finished dessert, I was stuffed beyond my capacity and my stomach was seriously bloated. Last but not least was a kind of hidden gem that I discovered in Vancouver—an Asian supermarket called T&T Supermarket. They have such an expansive deli area with the traditional dim sum, fancy sushi, and petite cakes at extremely low prices. Food that I would normally have to pay premium prices for because they’re hard to make therefore are only sold in restaurants was found in this supermarket. They also sold a lot of exotic fruits that my normal Asian supermarket doesn’t have, like durian and mangosteen. I literally wanted to call up the management of T&T supermarket and beg them to move to where I live, that’s how much I loved them.
A favorite dessert of mine, while I was in Vancouver, can also be found in the United States. However, the grandeur and variety of selection available in stores cannot be compared. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has the best caramel apples. Every day we were walking down Robson Street away from our hotel, whether it was to go take the subway to travel to farther places or simply go shopping, I would always pass by this shop. Every day it would lure me in with the sweet aroma of chocolate and visually aesthetic dripping caramel and chocolate fountains. Inside, I would select a single perfect caramel apple, and each visit I deviated from my previous choice, by trying a different caramel apple. My favorite by far was the half cheesecake half English toffee one. It was a sweet and sour, crunchy and chewy dessert that I would just snack on. Robson Street also had the biggest Sephora I have ever been to before, with an elevator that brought me up to the Vanity area where I received a free facial because I purchased over a hundred dollars worth of merchandise. They also had very useful ladies that helped me select some products to apply to my combination skin type. Lastly, another main attraction on Robson Street was the Vancouver Art Gallery. They had very cool Native American inspired artwork on the first floor, with lots of allusions to gods and goddesses of the natural world and seeking balance and harmony within it. I really like the different color schemes that complemented each other, and the small stories associated with each. They told a beautiful story and together pushed for a stronger message of the importance of keeping such a vibrant Native American culture alive. The second floor had some more modern artworks, with spilled bathtubs, graphic words, repetitive bold colors, dysfunctional sculptures, and televisions. The third floor had a temporary installation from Hong Kong artists. There was a wooden dummy that martial artists use to practice striking and blocking along with the interesting music. Also, there was a motion animated film that was pretty violent and involved a lot of fighting. Overall, it was incredible to look at because it spanned 20-30 feet from floor to ceiling and depicted a lot of different action of very intricately drawn on a small scale.
I also got my haircut in Vancouver at an authentically Japanese salon. The lady was very nice, and the price was fair considering it was a wash, massage, cut, dry, and style. My hair had grown very long since my cut in Korea last summer when I dyed it light brown. She trimmed my ends so that all the split ends were gone, and my hair was less layered than before. My favorite part was the massage though, both during my hair wash and right before she blow-dried my hair. She knew all the right pressure points and alternated between rolling, pulling, and pushing against the skin on my skull and down my neck. It was pure heaven.
Vancouver is a multicultural city. It was very apparent from the moment I stepped out of the plane and entered the airport where all the signs were written in English, French, and Chinese to the foreign faces I encountered all throughout my trip chattering about in different languages and dialects. Every food I tasted seemed really authentic to me, as I have been to France and China several times throughout my short adolescence, and the taste was pretty spot on. I was amazed because living in the United States, I thought we were known for being a stirring pot of cultures, nationalities, and religions, but I was clearly wrong. In America, every type of person is clustered with their own people, but in Vancouver, everyone was so integrated that it was stunning to my eyes. A French and Croatian couple were respectfully taking off their shoes and appreciating the quality of their meals by slurping every last bit of soup in an amazing ramen shop. A wrinkly old Chinese man who didn’t speak English got up from his seat on the metro and waved a cleaning lady whose calves clearly hurt after a long day of work to sit down. A French waiter patiently explained different menu items to my family during our meal, despite our short-term memory and indecisiveness. This blend of culture is honestly incredible, how they foster this hospitality to travelers and friendliness between locals is truly astonishing.
Meanwhile, in the United States, we have an old man who is bleeding and pleading for his life being dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight. Lastly, some of my personal tips for you: Granville Island and Science World are overhyped, so don’t waste your time going here. All in all, my week long trip to Vancouver was amazing, so I would highly recommend everyone to go as well.