Monday, August 13, 2007

Canada travel log part 4

Day 3, pm:
When we got back to Vancouver, it was around midnight. We had missed a fireworks show. Canada was participating in an international fireworks competition and although they put on 2 shows during our vacation, we were not in Vancouer for either show...bummer. I later found out that Canada won the competition, so I guess we missed some good fireworks. Anyway, perhaps this is what brought out the crowds. Our room was on Granville Street which is a major street in Vancouver, and the streets were crowded with people lined up to get into nightclubs and generally partying and having fun. Lots of drunk girls getting hit on, and the most obnoxious thing I saw was a kid on a skateboard who was sort of blocking traffic and one driver honked at him. I was surprised to see all the people, because the night before, Mike had gone downstairs from our room looking for some nightlife. He came back up later and said there was none to be had. Since this night was not even Friday or Saturday, I assumed that this was a normal weeknight crowd and maybe Mike's idea of nightlife was not this. He later told me that the streets had been empty the previous night. So, like I said, maybe the fireworks brought everyone out. (Incidentally, the hostel HI Vancouver Central shares several walls with a nightclub. It is very loud and we had to go to sleep with the TV on in our room in order to make some white noise. If it were not for that, I would whole-heartedly recommend HI Vancouver Central.)

Day 4:
We got up and went to eat breakfast at a restaurant called Two Parrots. They claimed to be famous, and Mike said he had heard of them...featured in a movie, I think he said. Way overrated, the food was only ok. We got a newspaper and were surprised by the headline, something about "Chaos on Granville Street." Chaos? Yes, they were talking about the scene we had seen the night before, the scene that reminded me of Saturday night on Sunset Blvd, except without the expensive skanky attire that is required on Sunset. The article discussed how this type of scene needs to be eliminated before the 2010 Olympics, and that the city is even in touch with Sydney to see how they handled it before their turn at hosting. We read the article over and over and commented on how adorable it was.

It was our last day in Vancouver and although we wanted to take a ferry over to Victoria (though I insisted that we NOT participate in the horrible pretentious tea (and DON'T CALL IT HIGH TEA!)), we learned that the ferry is 1.5 hours each way, and we didn't think we had enough time. So, we went to pick up our Greyhound tickets for the next day, and then visit Vancouver's famous Chinatown. Mike commented that he almost chose a hostel near the bus station for us to stay at, but then remembered that Greyhound stations, even where bus travel is acceptable, are usually in bad neighborhoods. This one was no exception. And Chinatown is right next door.

Let me dispel some myths about Vancouver.

Myth #1: Vancouver is the world's friendliest city.

I can not tell you how many times I read this in travel guides, but this is not true. Oh, this is not to say that Vancouver is unfriendly. That is not true at all, the people are far from unfriendly. But neither do they fall all over themselves to be friendly. (That would be Port Hardy, which I'll write about later.) Vancouver is just a normal, laid back city. It reminded me of Los Angeles, in that everyone leaves you alone unless you ask a question, at which point they will answer your question either happily or in a neutral tone.

Myth #2: Vancouver's Chinatown is fabulous.
Fabulous if you're a hard core drug addict. Yeah, it has fish heads and 99-cent crap and all that good stuff, and maybe it's the "best" one in Canada. But the Chinatown in L.A. is much better, cleaner, and actually has some decent products. For goodness sake I was looking for a Chinese checkers set and could not find one that wasn't made out of plastic. We did get some cookies and ginseng, but again, there is way more variety here in LA. And shopping for fish heads in a clean environment (LA) is a different experience than shopping for fish heads in a crack den. Here are some photos. I'm so happy we didn't book a room at the Hotel Empress.

I suspect even the Chinese residents are not welcome in this Indian Land.

A homeless man similar to the one at right told us a joke and then did not ask us for money, which I thought was interesting, and yes, I suppose I would have to even say "friendly" in spite of myself. The joke was even funny, and it goes like this:
Two snakes are slithering down the road. One says to the other, "Are we poisonous?" And the other one says, "What a strange question. Why do you ask?" The first snake says, "Because I just bit my tongue."
We left Chinatown and then we stopped at the hospital so Mike could visit the HR department. Ok, I know the demand for nurses is high worldwide. But I thought that Mike would just be pointed to a job board that would probably have a jillion openings for nurses, and someone would politely give him some boring information about getting certified in Canada. No. A recruiter came out and although she knew that Mike is still a student and a year away from graduating, she really was falling over herself talking about how Canada waives this restriction and that restriction for nurses looking to immigrate, and saying, "PLEASE MOVE TO VANCOUVER!!" and I saw this with my own eyes. Of course, they did not talk salary, and after we saw the price of books and later saw a $600 raincoat that was the plainest raincoat, nothing special, Mike suspected that there are multiple reasons for a nursing shortage in Canada. The recruiter asked Mike what his specialty would be, and he said Psych. She made a sad reference to Chinatown.
We ate lunch at a place called Tim Horton's, which is a fast food chain restaurant throughout Canada. It had good food. We had happened across it while looking for a bookstore. We had some travel days ahead of us and wanted some more books. When we looked around Tim Horton's, everyone was reading the free newspaper. I wondered out loud if no one reads books in Canada. We asked a man next to us, reading a newspaper, if he could point us to the nearest bookstore. He thought about it for a minute and then answered our question. He said it took him a minute to think of it because "I don't read." I might have thought he was joking, but since I had just wondered the same thing and had not seen anyone reading books during our whole trip, I took him seriously. We found the bookstore, and likely the reason for the lack of reading. Bring Cash, the books are freakishly expensive. Even though right now the exchange rate is nearly $1 for $1, take a look at the back of one of your paperback books and notice the difference between the US price and the Canadian price. Hardly one for one, eh? I bought 2 books and nearly fell on the floor when the total came to $50. I suppose Canadians could use the library, but then I heard some people discussing how the library was closed due to the strike.
We ate dinner at an Irish Pub next to our hotel. The waitress told us that Chinatown's statistics are staggering. The number of drug addicts, hepatitis cases, and HIV cases rivals countries in Africa. Again, the subject of the Olympics came up, and how the city is desperately trying to determine a solution before 2010.
To go to part 5 of the travel log, click here.

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