Sunday, September 24, 2006

i heart vancouver

coming to you live from the heart of vancouver, where i am holed up in a 24-hour internet cafe in downtown vancouver with a bunch of gamers playing WoW and whatever that war game is (someone help me out here). it's owned by a pair of korean dudes, one who has gravity-defying hair and another who is rocking some seriously awesome plastic glasses.

so here i am. it was a bit of a headache to get out of austin (the best word that comes to mind is "clusterfuck" -- sorry mom), because i didn't get home from miami until after midnight (someone pls explain to me how an airport as small as austin can be so INCREDIBLY slow about baggage claim. if you're not that big of an airport, shouldn't it be that much faster to retrieve your bags once you've landed? makes absolutely no sense to me), at which point i had to unpack, eat, and then re-pack for the next trip. after about three hours of fitful sleep, i woke up at 6 am and took a taxi to the austin airport only to be confronted with the LONGEST LINE i have ever seen in my six months of frequent visits to austin bergstrom international airport. it seriously took almost an hour to get my boarding pass... damn american airlines and international travel that won't let you check in at the kiosks (shouldn't canada pretty much count as domestic travel anyway?! boo). no need to rush, though, b/c once we made it to dallas we ended up sitting around for over two hours waiting for some crazy-ass storms to pass so we could actually take off (thankfully the waiting took place in the terminal, not on the tarmac). the flight to vancouver was relatively uneventful aside from my four trips to the bathroom to pee (that is just not right) and the eye soreness i experienced after multiple rounds of brickbreaker (blackberry game -- have a suspicious feeling that it is almost as addicting as crack, although this is not a suspicion i plan on confirming at any point in the near future).

once i got into vancouver, it took me almost two hours to get through customs (who'da thunk the canucks take border security so damn seriously), and when combined with the delay out of dallas, i ended up having much less time in vancouver than i'd hoped. the good news it that the afternoon did not fail to disappoint. this is an inCREDible city, people. earlier, as our plane had descended from our 35,000 ft cruising altitude, i had been treated to breath-taking views of vancouver's sparkling skylines, snow-capped mountains, and twinkling blue water, and i was eager to check out the view on-land. once out of the crazy customs line and after a quick trip to the currency exchange for some canadian dollars, i took a taxi to my fancy best western hotel (hey, i'm staying on my own dime tonight), marvelling throughout the ride at the crisp clean air and interesting-looking buildings.

vancouver reminds me of san francisco in a lot of ways, yet it manages to make a really unique impression at the same time. it seems to be an incredibly diverse population -- i hear a ton of languages being spoken, although east and south asian people seem to be the majority. people seem pretty content doing their own thing (i've seen some interesting fashions), and it offers a lot of things that i miss seeing in austin (inter-racial couples for one, minimal frat boys & sorostitutes for another). it's supposedly an incredibly active city (much like austin), and the art scene is amazing (i bought some awesome stuff today -- two incredibly intricate/delicate chinese paper cuttings and an awesome aboriginal-esque print). the weather is crisp and clean, and although the downtown is filled with towering skylines, you never have to venture to find some sparkling blue water and towering mountain tops. i've also never seen more good-looking asian men than i've seen in my entire life... maybe that washington post article should have focused their efforts on vancouver instead?

anyway, i didn't end up "doing" much what with my decreased time in the city, but enjoyed the day nonetheless. after a quick shower in the somewhat-ghetto (oh well) best western and a delicious falafel sandwich from a shop near the hotel, i wandered around trying to get my bearings and ended up on robson street for a while (major shopping area -- felt very much like georgetown). a few lush purchases later, i wandered down to the waterfront to stare at the huge-ass cruise ships (i'll be boarding one of those tmw) and eventually made my way down to gastown, the historic part of vancouver, where i purchased the awesome aboriginal art and watched the gastown steam-powered clock do its thing (verdict: underwhelming). i then made my way over to chinatown, b/c i had heard that the chinese food in vancouver rivalled that of san francisco... and since austin isn't exactly all that impressive when it comes to delicious ethnic food that isn't tex-mex and the weather had gotten even crisper with the setting of the sun, a bowl of hong kong noodle soup with shrimp dumplings sounded like just what the doctor ordered.

but alas, pretty much all of chinatown was shut down and boarded up and i soon figured out that chinatown isn't exactly the best part of town to be in after dark... not that i'm paranoid, but i've been in enough cities, both american and non, to pick up on the signals. when every single shop is closed and boarded up by 8 pm, every alley is packed with homeless people picking through garbage dumps and every corner has questionable-looking characters conducting questionable-sounding whispered conversations, it's time to get the hell out of dodge and consult your big map in the safety of a well-lit taxi. i ended up going to yaletown, which is a formerly industrial part of town that has been re-done to be more of a yuppie-ish neighborhood with tons of restaurants and loft apts as well as cute-looking shops and lots of bars/clubs (sort of old town alexandria-ish but more diverse). i ended up at a thai restaurant (another food i've missed while living in austin), where i had some delicious green chicken curry and a refreshing glass of white wine... but... someone explain this to me... i had to eat it with a fork b/c they didn't have any chopsticks.


anyway, this post is getting ridiculously long to the point where i feel like none of you will read down this far so i will end here. tmw i hope to see more of the city's famous parks and get out of the immediate downtown area... and then it's onto the ship and into meetings i go (hi-ho, hi-ho). i will leave you with one last thought. vancouver a) has breath-taking scenery, b) is close to world-class skiing (whistler et. al.), c) has awesome shopping and an incredible art scene, d) is supposedly a very active city with tons of biking/jogging trails, e) is incredibly diverse and has the delicious restaurants to prove it, f) has a reputation for being very tolerant and liberal, and g) supposedly has a good music scene as well...


HMM, i tell you.


At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Will said...

I've been to Vancouver twice: once they didn't let us off the plane, and once they did, but we were in a special holding area and could only gaze at the non-vending machine food at the concourse. This was to-and-from Asia (shout-out to Cathay Pacific!), so that's why the funny rules.

The wargame was likely Battlefield 2.

The lack of chopsticks in the Thai restaurant should be regarded as a good thing; that is, a sign of authenticity. They don't use chopsticks in Thailand.


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