Walking

East Van walks with Vancouver Heritage Foundation

Regular readers of my blog may know that I am a big fan of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. However, I have been notably absent from their walking tours for the past couple of years. Timing and poor planning on my part have contributed to me not showing up.

credit: Stevie Wilson

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小樽 Otaru Day Trip

We had finished our first week of Japanese language classes at JaLS and we were upon our first full weekend in Hokkaido. We originally tried to get bus tickets to Hakodate for the Saturday, but all the times we wanted to take were sold out. So we decided to visit Otaru this Saturday instead.

Rapid Airport at Otaru Station

Otaru is a about a 40-60 minute train ride on the JR train. If you grab the Local train, then it stops at every single station. However, if timing works for you, then you can grab one of the express trains and bypass all the smaller stations. Regardless of the speed of the train, the ticket still costs ¥640 for a one-way ticket. The ride from Sapporo to Teine is all above ground and offers a view of the city from high above the streets. However, soon after Teine station, we are travelling right along the coastline of Ishikari Bay until we reach Otaru.

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Sai Kung – a local Hong Kong getaway

In my trip to Hong Kong in January, I wanted to make sure I hit up a few places that I had never been to. The urban cores of Hong Kong offer up an electric and fast-paced experience, but sometimes I just want something a little slower and less commercial. Sai Kung was one of these places that offered something less common place for Hong Kong.

choi hung to sai kung minibus route

To get to Sai Kung from the rest of Hong Kong, you have to get yourself to Choi Hung MTR station. It’s on the green Kwun Tong Line in Kowloon. From there, you have to find the #1A or #92 minibus. The minibus ride itself is its own adventure. These buses are like minivans outfitted with 16 seats. Once all 16 seats are filled with paying bums, the bus doesn’t take any more passengers. Remember not to take the seat with the wheel-well. You’ll have to sit scrunched up for the whole 40 minute ride if you do. Oh, and hold on tight when the minibus turns.

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March 29th was a rainy afternoon which I had free. I took the bus to the end of Robson by Denman. I walked back the rest of the way and recorded some these of clips to share. It was just cloudy originally, but then the rain started to come down by the end of this video. I ended up ducking into a Starbucks and waited for the rain to let up after. Today’s West End Robson Street has always been home to neighbourhood shops. However, it is increasingly becoming a magnet for relatively affordable ethnic food. With all the English language colleges downtown, there is an increasing international student population in the Downtown core. Most of these Internationals are Koreans and Japanese. Thus, you will notice a huge representation of Korean and Japanese restaurants dotted along this stretch of Robson. No complaints here. I love all the food that this student population has induced here along Robson. Favourites in this part of town include Jang Mo Jib, Shantouka Hokkaido Ramen, Hapa Izakaya, Sura Korean, and Beijing Restaurant (it’s actually a Korean restaurant bearing a Chinese name). There’s also Kintaro Ramen, Zakkushi, and Kingyo which are all on Denman, but are very close to Robson Street. Rebuild the parking lot and put up foodie paradise!

Hong Kong’s Dried Food Shops

Apart from all the street markets, there are different types of food shops in Hong Kong. There are plenty of different stores showcasing all sorts of strange edibles.

Dried food shop on Argyle Street in Mong Kok.

If you’ve ever visited your local Chinatown, then you may have come across stores like these. This is a dried food shop. Sometimes it’s a Chinese herb, medicine and dried food store in some places. There are walls filled with glass containers of all sorts of ingredients. It’s almost as if these items were appropriate for a witch’s brew. The more exotic things I’ve seen over the years include seahorse and snake.

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Climbing Up to Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels

Hong Kong Island is one very hilly place. Most visitors and tourists would only venture up the hillside to visit The Peak. Even then, most people would likely take The Peak Tram (which in itself is a tourist attraction). If you have an extended period of time, then it may be worthwhile to explore off the beaten path into non-touristy Hong Kong.

On this January Sunday, I was meeting up with an old high school classmate. I don’t think I had seen him since my university days in Vancouver. So it was a great chance to meet up with him and his wife. We had set a time to meet at the Starbucks at Park Road and Bonham Road. Okay. I’ve heard these street names, but I had no idea where it was. Thank goodness for Nokia Maps and their downloadable city maps.

On my map, I found the intersection and ran a straight line down from there to the tram line along Des Voeux Road. It happened to follow along a street called Eastern Street. This street would be the subject of my pre-meeting exploration.

Riding the tram along Des Voeux Road

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Hong Kong – Central Ferry Piers

What do you do when you’ve just witnessed your cousin bring the bride home for a traditional tea ceremony and you have a few hours to kill before the wedding banquet? I don’t know about you, but my sister and I went for a long walk down to the Hong Kong waterfront, namely the Central Ferry Piers.

(L) Macau Ferry Terminal, (C Back) FCC Tower, (R) Central Ferry Piers

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Walking the Small Streets of Central

I was in Hong Kong over the holidays for a wedding. Thankfully, my sister and I managed to find some time to do somewhat touristy things. With all the large meals we were subjected to, it was actually very nice and refreshing to actually get out and walk for long distances about town. This is what we did in the small streets of Central in Hong Kong. Our uncle played neighbourhood guide for us for this walk.
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Reflections on Car Brain?

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Illustration by Josh Cochran (NYT)

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article from The New York Times by Paul Salopek. Salopek is embarking on a round the world journey by foot.  He started in the Ethiopia where the first homo sapiens are said to have roamed.  In Ethiopia, he found that many people still travelled everywhere by foot.  He could ask for directions and people would know how to direct him.

However, as he travelled through the more affluent Middle East, people were not so able to give him good foot-based directions.  Their minds and mental map have already been shaped by car travel.

In Saudi Arabia, I had trouble simply communicating with motorists who have lost the ability to imagine unconstrained movement to any point on the horizon. Asking directions is often pointless. Like drivers everywhere, their frame of reference is rectilinear and limited to narrow ribbons of space, axle-wide, that rocket blindly across the land.

From experience, I have found the same “Car Brain” happens in North America.  On one occasion when my wife’s family was visiting from Hong Kong, they wanted to walk back to their hotel in Richmond.  They were at Richmond Centre and needed to walk back up to Bridgeport Road.  Whenever one asks for “how long it will take to get there” people here automatically answer with the car in mind.  Well for my wife’s family, they were told that it was 10 minutes back to the hotel. In good traffic and in a car, the answer would be yes, but by foot, it took closer to an hour with a senior as part of the group.  No one here would ever think that somebody would want to walk anywhere.

How parts of Richmond treats pedestrians – no sidewalk

I had another experience where I was at Stanley Park cycling with a group of friends.  An emergency situation with my wife had happened down by Burrard and Pacific.  I had to get there quickly. My friend insisted that he drive me there because that would be quick. Yes, a car can travel faster than a bicycle, but in downtown Vancouver with traffic and parking, I knew for sure that I would bike to the scene faster than joining my friend in his car.

Car Brain is well and alive in North America.  I suspect I have Car Brain too.  Another friend would regularly walk from King Edward and Main to Kingsway and Fraser. I thought that was way too far to walk, but he did it pretty regularly.  Another couple that I know, even walked from King Edward and Main all the way to a restaurant along The Drive.  It took them about an hour on a beautiful sunny day.  I probably would not have done the same trek.  And sometimes, I don’t even walk to the supermarket for groceries even though it’s only about 5 blocks away.  I’ll admittedly drive there.  Yep. It’s all Car Brain.