The last nine days of 2017 for me was spent in Vancouver, a vibrant seaport located on the Western coast of Canada. I’ve actually visited Vancouver before, but the last visit was quite a short one and because we spent most of our time hiking in Whistler, I didn’t actually get to see much of Vancouver. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Vancouver though, so I wanted to make another trip to the city whilst my sister, Nadia, is still living in Vanouver (she’s a student at the University of British Columbia). It’s always nice to have a local show you around, and I couldn’t have been happier to spend the holiday season with family.
We were also joined by my friend from college, Tiffany, as well as her younger brother, Dion. I had never met Dion before and Tiffany and never met Nadia before, but we got on so well and had a great time tossing around jokes in Indonesian and singing along to Christmas songs. It was also a great escape from the freezing weather in Boston. You wouldn’t think it, but Vancouver was surprisingly much warmer than Boston!
Here are some highlights from our visit to Vancouver:
Asians (and Asian food) in Vancouver
When one is Canada, one expects to find white people. However, what people don’t usually know is that being a developed country with relatively lax immigration laws, Canada is also one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. I was genuinely surprised by how many Asians I saw in Vancouver that I almost thought I was in Asia. Chinese people, South Asians and Filipinos make up 27.7%, 6% and 6% of the Vancouver population respectively in 2011 . That’s already 40% of the population, not including the Japanese, Koreans, Southeast Asians and West Asians! There are so many Asians in Vancouver that a Canadian journalist called it the “most Asian city outside of Asia”. For comparison, I live in Boston, which only consists of 9% Asians, but 24% blacks and 22% Hispanic. During my 9 day stay in Vancouver I only saw one black person, and I’m fairly sure that dude was a tourist too.
Of course, lots of Asians mean lots of delicious Asian food (sushi and boba tea, anyone?). Our hotel was on Robson St, which is in the main shopping district of Vancouver, and oh my goodness, there were so many sushi restaurants on our street. We had sushi three times whilst we were there. The sushi was really cheap too compared to what I’ve seen in Boston. Honestly, I would probably eat sushi once a week if I lived in Vancouver!
Skiing in Vancouver
Vancouver is in the province of British Columbia, which is of course known for its world-class skiing, as well as other winter sports. In fact, Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. The great thing about skiing in Vancouver though, is that there are three mountains (Grouse, Seymour and Cypress) that are situated right by the Vancouver downtown area, which means that unlike a lot of other places, you don’t need to have access to a car to go skiing. This was great for us, because we were staying in downtown Vancouver and relied on public transportation to get around (FYI: Uber, along with other ride-sharing services, do not operate in Vancouver).
My friends and I went skiing for two days at Grouse Mountain, and it was beautiful! The first day we went was perfect. It was a beautiful day and Grouse overlooks Vancouver, so you can see a really pretty view of the city. On the second day, however, it was snowing all day. My gloves were drenched by the end of the day and I was freezing, but it was worth it. One thing I will note, though, is that as a beginner skier, there weren’t many options in terms of green slopes, which was rather unfortunate because we ended up going on mostly the same slopes for the two days we were there.
I would recommend trying out The Cut, one of the green slopes there. It’s about 800m long, and it’s so easily visible that on a sunny day in downtown Vancouver, if you look up north to Grouse, the straight patch of snow that you see on the left (west) side is actually The Cut! You also get a really pretty view of Vancouver as you’re skiing down the slope.
A tip if you’re thinking of skiing at Grouse Mountain: purchase your ticket and book your rentals online to avoid waiting in line. The first day we went, we waited for nearly an hour to buy our entrance tickets. It took us about two hours between the time we got there and the time we finally got our skis ready.
Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
If you’re in Vancouver during the month of December or January, then a visit to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a must. As the name suggests, the park features a suspension bridge across the Capilano River. According to Wikipedia, the bridge is 140m long and 70m above the river. Fun fact: it can hold up to 97 elephants at a time.
Aside from the suspension bridge, they also have the “Treetops Adventures” attraction, which is a series of footbridges suspended between trees in the canyon. What makes the park so special during this time of the year though, is the Canyon Lights festival. You can see hundreds of thousands of lights around the park, making it look absolutely magical. I visited the park with my family as well this summer, and I can say that visiting in December was a million times cooler.
Most livable city
Vancouver has been consistently ranked one of the most livable cities in the world (it was ranked #1 once!), according to the Economic Intelligence Unit. It’s a really clean and safe city–I wouldn’t want to walk alone at night in San Francisco but I wouldn’t think twice about walking on my own at two in the morning in Vancouver. It’s also a city that’s very much in touch with nature; there are so many places to go hiking (and skiing in the winter) and Vancouver even has it’s very own urban park called Stanley Park. You can think of it like Central Park, except bigger and it borders the sea.
All in all, Vancouver is a beautiful city. It’s a quiet but serene city, and for that reason I don’t see myself living there in my 20’s (I’d prefer a bigger city with more excitement like Boston, New York or London), but it would be a lovely place to grow up in or raise children. There are so many opportunities to disconnect from life and reconnect with nature, and last but not least it has one of the highest standards of living in the world. It was really fun to end the year in Vancouver, and I look forward to coming back in the future.
Happy 2018 and may the odds be ever in your favour.