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Several weekends ago I went to Las Vegas to attend my first Amazing Comic Con. I was there to support my good friend who was showcasing his self-made comic book at the convention & representing the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance. This wasn’t my first comic book/animation convention, but it was definitely the smallest that I’ve been to in a long time. It was a very fun & intense weekend filled with friends, food, & severely hot wind.

I was so proud of my friend (who happens to be the brother of one of my closest girlfriends, & the cousin of Jian’s best friend). He’s a high school art teacher by day, but a full-fledged comic book illustrater/writer by night. My friend is highly talented in any artistic field he’s thrown into, & he takes his art seriously. I truly applaud my friend for pursing his passions all on his own, of course with the support of his family & friends. So, naturally, I had to support my friend’s budding art career & bought an autographed copy of his comic book The Keepers. Hopefully one day his autograph will be worth tons of collector’s money. (Tee-hee!)

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Why did Amazing Comic Con have to fall on one of the hottest weekends of the summer, in the middle of the desert? Seriously, the temperatures in Las Vegas were over 100 degrees farenheit every day. The weather reports on TV weren’t joking when they reported that it was like being in an oven. On top of that, if you dare to walk outside (which is not recommended, at all), there’s a fairly strong wind blowing, but it’s such a hot wind that it feels as though you’re constantly being blown in the face by a hair dryer on high. The weather that weekend was no joke, & I’ll tell you that I’ve never consumed so much liquid nourishment in my entire life. I don’t normally drink a lot of water, which I know is not very beneficial to my overall health, but on that particular weekend, I drank so much water I could practically fill an inflatable kiddie pool with the amount of water I drank.

Jian & I thought we were so smart buying cheap airline tickets with early morning departures. Well the tickets were practically free, since my mom let us use her credit card mileage points, & all we had to pay were the baggage & service fees. Oh boy, did we make a minor mistake by doing this. Yes, we were lucky to get super cheap airline tickets for one extended weekend, but arriving in Las Vegas so early in the morning with nothing to do & leaving at the crack of dawn the day after partying the night away was not very good planning on our part. We both thought we could handle early morning flight times, but it really took a toll on our bodies. I don’t think I’ll be doing another rushed trip to Las Vegas again anytime soon.

Going to Las Vegas to support our friend at a convention was the highlight of our entire trip. We had originally planned on getting tickets to a show while there, but we weren’t interested in any of the shows or musical acts performing that weekend. (By the way, it was super annoying seeing Gwen Stefani‘s billboard everywhere we went. After her band No Doubt‘s album Tragic Kingdom, I completely lost interest in her as an artist. She’s not as good solo as she was with her band.) Then, I thought we’d spend all of our time gorging ourselves silly on extravagant/flashy “Vegas” food, but surprisingly, we were somewhat sensible with our eating habits, & only splurged on one day.

Las Vegas is not quite my favorite place to vacation. I try to avoid that town as much as possible, which is often difficult because my mom’s side of my family LOVE going to Las Vegas whenever they get a chance. I’m not a gambler; I’m not a club goer. I’m not even a 20 ounce specialty steak flown in from some exotic-place-you’ve-never-heard-of eater either. However, I had fun on this trip. I enjoyed the company of my close circle of friends. We ate good (reasonable) food. We stayed at a smoke-free, gambling-free hotel in the heart of the Strip. Jian & I even squeezed in a few hours each day for some Fifa World Cup viewing. (Sorry, I’d much rather watch sports than bet on a game.) Other than the extremely exhausting day of flying back home, it was a fun way to spend a quick weekend out of town. Cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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I think I may have slightly gained the upper hand in wrangling my self control. Every time I go on a trip, or anywhere for that matter, I have an impulse to want to buy things, gifts for friends or myself. I was much worse in my early 20s. I had no concept of saving & budgeting, & I was feeling very generous, always buying useless, meaningless things.

Now I am trying much harder to control my shopping impulses by reminding myself that I am trying to de-clutter my life & really clean up all the junk I’ve accumulated over the years. Oh, & I am also trying to stick to a budget & all that good practice stuff. I am slowly getting better at controling myself, or more accurately my wallet. On this past trip to Vancouver, I was very much relieved when I didn’t get much chance to do any souvenir shopping. It also helped that I didn’t approach this vacation with any desire to shop whatsoever.

I am happy to report that most of my moola was spent on taxi fare, food, coffee, & ice cream. Who can resist coffee or ice cream? Well, actually, there were one or two times when I gave in to my shopping impulses & bought a few trinkets. However, I try to justify those purchases by saying they’re only small items, & one of the items I bought was handmade by a local Vancouver artist, while another item was a comemorative item from a once-in-a-lifetime art exhibition.

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I got this super weird cute tooth necklace when I visited a fun shop on Granville Island. The shop assistant explained that it was handmade by a local artist from Vancouver. I thought this necklace was really cool, & I like quirky, odd, unique jewelry like this. This is a souvenir I will defintely cherish, & it will always remind me of Vancouver. I’ve already worn this necklace several times, & the best part is that I’ve worn it in the shower (accidentally), & the metal chain does not rust.

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Ok, I hauled a bunch of enamel pins. That’s not really big time news to anybody. I’ve said in the past that I am going to try to limit my collecting of various little things, but I feel like enamel pins can be justified because they’re making a comeback in the fashion world. Slapping enamel pins all over your oversized slouchy denim jacket is in style now. I feel like I’m already ahead of the curve, since I’ve been collecting pins since before they made a comeback as a hipster trend.

A few key pins to make note of are the maple leaf pin, the YVR umbrella pin, & the Takashi Murakami pin. I don’t think I’ll become a ‘Canadiophile’ anytime soon, but I wanted some glaringly cheesy souvenirs to show I had actually visited Vancouver, BC, & I thought buying myself a refrigerator magnet was too boring. (Plus, I don’t stick things to my refrigerator, so there’s no use for a magnet.)

I really wanted to get a unique souvenir to commemorate my visit to the Takashi Murakami art exhibition, but most of his gift shop merchandise was your standard, you-can-get-it-anywhere pop art flower stuff like: pens, postcards, notepads, plushes, & other useless bric-a-brac. The museum gift shop was selling a cool coffee table book & framed art prints, but I was not about to lug those heavy items home in my dinky little suitcase (& run the risk of paying the overweight luggage penalty). So, I got this little pin instead. I find it so much more meaningful that I got something that I took careful consideration in selecting.

In the end, I think I did pretty well, only got a handful of items. I said in my last blog post that I’m going back to Vancouver again with Jian in a couple of months, & next time I’m going to try to focus more on eating, drinking, & adventuring. Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

I’m officially back from Vancity, & I just want to say that we all had a blast! I felt like an awkward tourist that stood out like a sore thumb whenever I walked out of my hotel lobby wearing my thick jacket & scarf each day. I mean, seriously, I don’t know how the locals are able to walk in the brisk/chilly weather wearing what I would consider to be nothing (but actually thin layers), some wearing only t-shirts & thin hoodies, & I saw some girls actually wearing skimpy dresses. I’ve experienced crisp, cold weather like this before, but I still could not imagine wearing such thin layers. I probably looked like the Michelin tire mascot the whole time I was in Vancouver. My mom surprisingly had no major issues with her sciatica (no flare ups), & all the walking we did around the city did wonders for her physical therapy regimen. Well, now that I’ve gotten that little intro blurb out of the way, let me get on with it.


THE WEATHER

It was freaking beautiful the whole time we stayed in Vancouver. We thought it was going to rain the entire time we were supposed to be there, so we brought our rain coats & compact umbrellas, but we practically had no need for them. It seems Mother Nature had cried out all her tears the week before we arrived, so it was sunny with mild wind nearly every day. There was only one day where it barely drizzled, but nothing that required us to pull out our umbrellas. It wasn’t nearly as cold as we thought it would be. A couple of Jian’s co-workers explained to him that the weather was supposed to be much colder than it had been during that time, & that kind of scared us a little bit, but in the end the weather wasn’t much different from the cold wintery days of San Francisco.

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THE ACCOMMODATIONS

We stayed in the Yaletown neighborhood, right behind the BC Place Stadium, at the DOUGLAS (an Autograph Collection) hotel. The hotel was very close to Jian’s office in the Olympic Village area. He could walk to his office in approximately 15 minutes or so. First of all, I loved the neighborhood of our hotel. It was so convienient to get anywhere around Vancouver proper. I loved our hotel even more. The staff were super friendly, & the service was excellent. I was the most charmed by the architecture & decor of the hotel itself. It was a mix of modern city living, contemporary luxury, & mid-century modern. I took some photos of our room for your reference. I feel like for three people, the room might feel a little too cozy for some, but if there were only two people, then the room size would be adequate.

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THE FOOD

I’m not very much of a fan of fusion style food, but I ate quite a bit of it while I was in Vancouver. One of the first fusion style restaurants we ate at was called PIDGIN, & I think Jian just single-handedly turned me into a bona fide foie gras fan after trying their infamous foie gras rice bowl (a.k.a. donburi, 丼). After listening to the many times Jian had raved & gushed over this restaurant (especially raving about the rice bowl), I decided to try this restaurant, just to make him happy. Jian was not wrong. In fact, he was so very right. We shared the foie gras rice bowl & a dish of sweetbreads. I can clearly see why Jian loves this restaurant so much & has to eat there at least once on every trip to Vancouver. This restaurant has a great Japanese-Korean-French fusion style, but they also make killer cocktails. Sorry, we don’t have any photos of this famous rice bowl…we always end up digging right in as soon as the food arrives, without even thinking of a photo-op.

Another fusion style restaurant we tried was called BAO BEI CHINESE BRASSERIE (宝貝, a.k.a. treasured object). This restaurant is pretty popular, since it’s owner(s) are trying to revive the nearby Chinatown area by opening this restaurant there.  The place serves Chinese-French/ish fusion food, but we were not too impressed with the dishes we ordered based on our first impressions. Also, although the restaurant interiors looked hip & swanky, the space itself was rather tight (as in small). I think that if we have a second chance, I would like to visit this restaurant again, & see if the second go will change my impression of this Chinese-French/ish cuisine.

One of the most memorable eateries I tried in Vancouver was, of all places, a bakery called SMALL VICTORY BAKERY. Oh, man! I ate at this bakery at least three times during my stay in Vancity. Yes, that’s how much I enjoyed the pastries (& the coffee!) at this fine establishment. Plus, it was super close to my hotel, still in Yaletown, so it was easy for me to pop over there for a nice hot cup of drip coffee & a freshly baked treat. The decor & the font of the bakery’s logo remind me a little of our MR. HOLMES BAKEHOUSE here in San Francisco.

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We also ate at various other delicious eating establishments like: THE FLYING PIG, MINAMITUC CRAFT KITCHEN & TETSU SUSHI BAR. At The Flying Pig, I’ve never seen my mom devour a whole plate of tri-tip steak sandwich and shoestring fries. It was very delicious (& incredibly filling), & the restaurant’s menu items reminded me of the typical California-style cuisine I’m used to back home. Jian was very eager to introduce us to Minami, a very traditional Japanese restaurant, where we could try their version of box sushi (a.k.a. Oshizushi, 押し寿司). I don’t really eat boxed sushi, mostly because I don’t like warm sushi topped with warm, cooked fish. The textures & sometimes flavor don’t appeal to me, but the boxed sushi at Minami is definitely worth a try. I tried their version, & genuinely liked it.

When we ate at TUC, I didn’t know that I’d be scarfing down a 12 ounce slab of porterhouse steak. It was massive! OK, so I didn’t actually eat the entire 12 ounces of meat; I shared a little with my mom & Jian, so I pretty much ate close to 10-11 ounces of juicy, flavorful steak. Yum!

Remember when I sad I was converted into a foie gras fan? Well, Jian took my mom & I on our last supper in Vancouver to Tetsu Sushi Bar. This sushi spot serves up sushi using super traditional techniques, & it was some of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten this side of the Pacific Ocean (meaning outside of Japan). We were treated to a delicious slice of heaven when Jian ordered the foie gras nigiri sushi (握り寿司) for each of us. My mom didn’t eat her piece, so Jian & I each shared one half of her piece, which is a big-time faux pas in sushi eating culture. (Part of the so-called unspoken rules of eating sushi, especially at the counter in front of the sushi master himself, is you do not split your slice of sushi in half, nor do you pick off the slice of fish from the ball of rice. Those actions are like a metaphorical slap of the face to the sushi master, as though you’re quietly saying his skills suck.) So, we tried to be as discreet as possible in sharing my mom’s piece of foie gras sushi…because Jian thought it was unfair that my mom gave me her entire piece for myself. Therefore I decided to share it with him.

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Is dessert considered to be an actual meal? I would think so because the cups of liquid nitrogen frozen ice cream from MISTER were pretty substantial. I also visited this ice cream shop about as many times as I visited Small Victory Bakery. Well, when my mom requests to eat ice cream, who am I to turn her down? Plus, their creme brûlée ice cream was to-die-for! I mean, the shop went the extra mile & added a layer of sugar crust just like a regular creme brûlée dessert. If ice cream wasn’t such a guilty treat, then I’d eat this flavor of ice cream everyday.

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Ok, & here is where I’m going to insert a montage of all the delicious libations we partook in.


THE ATTRACTIONS

Aside from all of the walking we did, my mom & I visited many of Vancity’s finest museums & gardens. We first explored around the VANDUSEN BOTANICAL GARDENS, where I got to experience my first hedge maze. Even though my mom was suffering through her bout of sciatica, she pulled through like a badass trooper, & was able to walk around the entire botanical garden without a single hitch or twitch. It was a nice relaxing day getting some fresh air & observing all of the various foliage & flowers. It made my mom & I really wish my dad could be with us to share in this enriching experience. My dad always loved gardens & parks, & the two of us enjoyed reminiscing aboout the good ol’ days with my dear ol’ dad.

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I was extremely thrilled when I found out that there was still a chance for me to catch the art exhibition from one of my all-time favorite pop art artists Takashi Murakami at the VANCOUVER ART GALLERY. I had heard about his unique exhibition called THE OCTOPUS EATS ITS OWN LEG through a video blogger on YouTube. This girl, whose monthly vlog I watched, explained how she got personally invited to the exhibition while she was in Vancouver doing a photo shoot for her startup fashion brand. She had incorrectly informed her viewers that the exhibition would be over at the beginning of March, which bummed me out, but then I was lucky to find out that Murakami‘s exhibition would be running until May 6! I quickly bought tickets to this exhibition (which also allowed us to visit the rest of the art gallery)…I could not miss this opportunity. I’ve seen a few of Murakami‘s artwork here & there around various museums, galleries, & high end shops, but I’ve never actually been to one of his full exhibitions before. It was a real treat to not only be able to view his art, but also learn about the excruciatingly painstaking process of creating one of his art pieces, & learn about his inspirations & art idols. At first, I wasn’t sure my mom would want to accompany me to view pop art flowers, cartoonish skulls, & grotesque morphed figures, but she was curious to say the least about this exhibition & thoroughly enjoyed herself. She was especially taken with the pop art teddy bear figure Murakami had created for Kanye West & his album Graduation. My mom had fallen in love with the diamond-encrusted gold necklace on the bear figure. I was especially grateful to be able to take a closer glimpse into the art life of one of my creative idols & inspirations.

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Aside from viewing one of the most creatively inspiring exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, my mom & I also visited a few historical & cultural museums along the way. We went to the MUSEUM OF VANCOUVER & the MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY. At the Museum of Vancouver, we learned so much about how Vancouver was formed, & we were especially interested in learning about the rich & long-standing Chinese & Japanese history of Vancouver, like how Chinatown was formed & how the Japanese were treated in the internment camps during the war. This part of Vancouver’s history particularly struck a chord with me because there’s a lot of both Chinese & Japanese culture &/or ethnicity threading through my family tree. We didn’t get to spend very much time at the Museum of Anthropology because my mom’s sciatica was bothering her a little bit, but we were able to take a look into all of the amazing artifacts from all of the First Nations of Canada. The museum was so well organized & orderly. It was too bad we coulnd’t browse around more. On top of that, we were eager to meet up with Jian, since he noted he would be able to leave his office extra early on that day.

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ALL THE REST

I was flabbergasted & shocked to learn from Jian & various other sources (like our varied taxi drivers) that: 1. there are no freeways, highways, or interstates going to or through Vancouver, & 2. there are no UBER drivers in Vancouver (yet…I think). I just could not fathom the fact that everywhere you go by car in Vancouver, you must take commercial & residential street routes. I am so used to driving on a major freeway or interstate in my city to get around more efficiently (even though our road traffic is getting increasingly worse each year). Then, I just got the hang of using the super convenient UBER instead of calling a taxi, but to find out that UBER is not allowed to set up shop in Vancity, that just boggled my mind. However, I heard from a taxi driver that sometime within the next year or so, UBER will be allowed to operate in Vancouver, which is a good sign.

One other note, I love how friendly, polite, & amiable the citizens of Vancouver really are. I mean, it’s no exaggeration when Canadians boast about how polite & humble they are. There was one night when we were trying to get a cab from the taxi stand in the public garage of our hotel, & the line for taxi service was pretty long since a lot of people from the BC Place Stadium next door had just finished watching a Canada Sevens rugby game & were all trying to get a taxi as well. One guy had gotten into a heated argument with his girlfriend earlier on in the day, & was already amped up from that fight after the girlfriend had stormed off in the taxi they were supposed to share, leaving the guy to awkwardly hold her purse. The guy eventually took his frustrations of missing his cab out on the valet at the taxi stand as well as some guys waiting the taxi line who were trying to stick up for the ever-well-mannered valet. After this angry dude let out his teeny-tiny tirade, he quickly & profusely apologized to everyone in view of his little rant. He kept saying that he didn’t mean to project his issues on to everyone else. He made a grand apology & then quickly got into the first available cab. Nobody said a word about his tirade other than to comment on who witnessed the argument between the frustrated guy & his pissed off girlfriend. This incident surprised me. In San Francisco, if a situation like this ever unfolded, the guy ranting about his missed taxi would’ve been in the middle of a fist fight real quick.

There is one last thing I want to say about the fair city of Vancouver. THANKS FOR PLAYING ALL OF MY FAVORITE MUSIC EVERYWHERE I WENT! I mean, every time I ate at a restaurant or cafe, or whenever I stepped into a shop, there would be commercial-free music playing throughout the entire place…& not just any music. All the music being played were all the golden hits from the 1990s, early 2000s, & the chart topping music hits of today…most of it being Alternative & Rock music. I practically was singing everywhere I went. It was epic.

[INSERT MY AWESOME SPOTIFY PLAYLIST HERE]


Overall, my Vancity trip was great. We got to catch up with old friends visiting us from Seattle, Washington. We stuffed ourselves silly on food & drinks…soaked up all the culture & good weather.

I wish I had more time in Vancouver to explore more neighborhoods & areas, but since my mom was sort of limited by her sciatica, & I was there playing care-giver to mom, we pretty much stayed within our Yaletown/Gastown bubble. I would have liked to explore more of the city on my own & walk to more places or do more outdoorsy activities. Jian is scheduled to take another business trip to Vancouver in a few months, & he has already invited me to travel with him. If I am able to roma around by myself, I would love to explore more of Vancouver! Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

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