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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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It’s like LL Cool J said back in the 80’s: “I’m going back to Cali, Cali, Cali Vancouver, Vancouver, Vancouver…”. Or like what Notorious B.I.G. said back in the 90’s: “I’m going going, back back, to Cali Cali Vancouver Vancouver…”. Yes, folks. I’ll be traveling yet again. It almost feels like I’m never settled down in one place lately. If I’m not traveling, then I’m always hosting visiting family members at home. There is never a dull moment in my life, & I’m so extremely appreciative/grateful/thankful of every aspect, every facet, everything.

Truth be told, Jian is heading to Vancouver for a week-long business trip, & he invited me to tag along. I accepted his invitation, of course, but also suggested that we invite my mom to tag along with us. Jian agreed with my suggestion wholeheartedly. As a matter of fact, Jian enjoys traveling with my mom every now & again. We once tagged along with my mom on a trip to Washington D.C. where she was invited to a family friend’s wedding, & the three of us had the time of our lives despite the wet weather. My mom & I are super excited to be visiting Vancouver once again. Jian, not as much…because of his work obligations. [Insert laugh track here.] My mom hasn’t visited the lovely country of Canada in several years. The last time she traveled there was to attend one of my dad’s high school reunions of all of his foreign-born-Japan-schooled classmates. The last time I visited the North, was almost 25 years ago. I was barely a teenager when I visited Vancouver with my parents & younger cousin for the first time.

I’m really, genuinely excited to be traveling to Vancouver once again, but one thing worries me: the shopping! I don’t want to go all the way to Vancouver & come back with another giant haul of stationery & office supply goods. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this out loud, but I’m getting a little weary of my ever-growing mountain of stationery goods. It’s kind of becoming overwhelming, & I barely have time to use everything. I’ve got quite a few items, in their original packaging, that have not even had the seal broken or even seen the light of day. The KonMari guru Marie Kondo would not be happy with me right now. I’m actually quite embarrassed myself, but I’ll live with it.

Jian has already been on a few business trips to Vancouver, & sometimes he says the food there is positively delicious. Other times he says the food sceen is mediocre (like how he described the food in London). I plan on proving Jian wrong, just like I did about the food we ate in London, which was incredible by the way. I’m planning on stuffing myself silly with good food, scrumptious cocktails, & piping hot drip coffee. (OK, I’m officially making myself hungry as I type this paragraph.)

Spending quality time with my mom is also a bonus. We are definitely going to have a blast together (mom’s Sciatica be damned!). But until our trip, Cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

taipei cover

This will be my second time traveling to Taipei, Taiwan. The first time, I was attending the wedding of my good friends from Seattle, Washington. This time around, I’m escorting my mom & her sister, who after immigrating to America some 35 plus years ago, have never returned to their hometown. This is going to be the first time since leaving the hot, sticky, wet island that my mom & her younger sister will be setting foot back on Taiwanese soil.

Now, to provide a little back story to my family, neither my mom nor her sister were actually born in Taiwan. My mom was born in Shanghai, & my aunt was born in Beijing. However, they both grew up since they were toddlers, along with their 3 younger brothers & single (twice divorced) mother in the city of Taipei. Once my mom graduated from university, she & my aunt both immigrated to America to find better jobs (& eventually start their own families). Since moving to America, neither of them have ever gone back to the place where they spent most of their youth. This will be their first experience after 35+ years or so (give or take a few years), & I’m sort of excited to be escorting them to the place they once lived & held many vivid memories.

These are just a few of the highlights I’m hoping to experience on my second trip to Taipei.

highlights of taiwan trip list

  1. Of course I’m planning on taking many photos, most of which will be for the ‘Gram (a.k.a. straight to Instagram). I’ll try to post my photos on this blog if I can remember, but the best way to stay up-to-date & follow me on my Taiwan adventures is to follow me on Instagram.
  2. Growing up, I had a lot of different Chinese food influences. Since my mom primarily identifies as Shanghainese, I learned to eat a lot of traditional Shanghainese food. However, since she actually grew up & lived in Taiwan for most of her life, my mom had a lot of Taiwanese influences in her cooking, so at home we also were introduced to many Taiwanese dishes as well. (Side note: most of my Asian friends are Cantonese, so through them I’ve learned a lot about traditional Cantonese cuisine & Hong Kong style Cantonese food.) When I go back to Taiwan, I can’t wait to eat all of the delicious foods I had growing up, eating all of my childhood comfort foods like plump sausages on a stick (香腸) with fresh garlic of course, stewed lion’s head meatballs (獅子頭), red roasted braised beef noodle soup (紅燒牛肉麵), & lots more!
  3. The first time Jian & I visited Taiwan, we had researched all kinds of cool restaurants, cafés & bars to try out. We found lots of cool, hipster bars with nightly live music, but we never got a chance to try them. We were too busy helping our friends set up props & decorations for their wedding. This time around, we are definitely planning to take time out of our schedule to try a few hipster bars in Taipei. Jian & I are both amateur cocktail connoiseurs, so we love trying new bars, lounges, & hole-in-the-wall drinking places wherever we travel to.
  4. Ok, this one isn’t exactly a highlight per sè, but it’s going to take up a major portion of our trip. I know my mom doesn’t really need a chaperone in Taiwan. I mean, for cuss sake, she can read, write & speak Mandarin fluently. She doesn’t need me to help her there, but she doesn’t like to travel alone, & it reassures here when I’m there to help her with the little details, like showing her how to use the subway system, or showing her where she can exchange her currency. Since this is my mom’s first time going back to Taiwan, she’s feeling a little insecure knowing that things have drastically changed since her days of living there. Also, with me being the type of person who relishes taking care of others, I myself, am relieved & happy that I get to accompany my mom (& my aunt) & take care of her in any way I can.
  5. On almost all of my trips abroad, I don’t give myself much time to properly enjoy & take advantage of the amazing hotel amenities. It was only on my trip to London where I fully took advantage of the hotel hospitality & amenities, & I enjoyed myself thoroughly. This time around, I plan on using more of the hotel facilities & really take the time to relax & let go of my anxieties. I want to losen up & not be so tightly wound up like a rubber band waiting to snap all of the time.
  6. Oh man, this is going to be a tough one. Every day leading up to our trip, Jian & I have been obsessively checking the weather forecast for Taiwan. As of right now, the weather forecast says that it’s super duper hot right now with a minimum of 60% chance of rain. Every. Single. Day. I have no idea whatsoever on how we’re going to avoid the heat, the sticky dampness, & the rain showers. I suggested to Jian that we spend lots of time inside shopping malls, but he quickly shot down that idea with a big fat NO. He then suggested that we take the subway or taxi everywhere we go, but I don’t know if that’s going to help much with the getting-soaked-in-the-hot-rain situation. I guess this would be the perfect time for us to check out all the amenities our hotel has to offer.

Well, I’m officially leaving for Taiwan tomorrow. I still have a few lose ends to tie up, & a few more items to throw in to (or, in my case, carefully & meticulously pack in) my suitcase. I’m signing off to get back to my suitcase organizing duties… Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

 

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Throwback to that one time I really needed a beer. 🍺 . . . . . . . . . . #TBT #ThrowbackThursday #ThirstyThursday #beer #IceColdBeer #DraughtBeer #ビール #Asahi #AsahiOnTap #SushiMaruyama #丸山 #すし #CantYouSee #TrackName #SongTitle #TheCancel #ChillhopEssentials2017 #Chillhop #LofiHipHop #LofiBeats #InShotApp #FoodieApp #LineCamera @thecancel_music @chillhopmusic @linecamera_official @foodieapp.official @asahibeer @asahibeer_jp @inshot.app @maruyamasushi
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This is my “ode to Billie Joe”. Trying the coffee brand @greenday built. ☕️ . . . . . . . . . . #coffee #CoffeeBeans #beans #FreshRoast #FreshRoasted #SingleOrigin #CerroDeOro #OrganicCoffee #HotCoffee #GreenDay #OaklandCoffee #Oakland #CA #CoffeeOfInstagram @oaklandcoffee
Throwback to that one time I had the best brunch in Yaletown. ☕️🥐 . . . . . . . . . . #TBT #HotBeverage #HotCoffee #espresso #latte #CafeLatte #BeefTurnover #brunch #MyFavorite #ThrowbackThursday #Raincity #BC #Vancouver #Canada #Vancity #YVR #SmallVictory #SmallVictoryBakery #Yaletown #Homer #FoodsOfInstagram #DrinksOfInstagram #CoffeeOfInstagram #travel #adventure #FoodieApp #LineCamera @sv_bakery @foodieapp.official @linecamera_official
I’ll be back...someday. 🛫🇨🇦 . . . . . . . . . . #VancouverInternationalAirport #strawberry #StreetArt #WhoDroppedThis? #art #Raincity #BC #Vancouver #Canada #Vancity #YVR #GoingHome #travel #vacation #adventure #LineCamera @linecamera_official

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