All my Canadian friends claimed that it always rained in Vancouver. They said it was more aptly known as Raincouver. I didn’t believe them. After enduring the long, harsh winters of Manitoba, the last thing I wanted was cold rain. It was mostly sunny when I got here so, with slight arrogance, I imagined telling my friends, “You see? Where’s the rain?” My first impressions of Vancouver were slightly on the hopeful side.
But the city quickly showed to me its true form on the third day. When I got up in the morning, the mountains were covered in mist and the sky was overcast. Soft rain in the form of thin needles wet the ground as if there were no tomorrow, and it went on for several days. Now I understand why Raincouver is Vancouver’s more appropriate moniker.
As a long-term budget traveler, I seek opportunities to stay in one place at a given time not only to save money but also to travel deep. A friend of mine who’s been staying for three months here in Vancouver introduced me to his friends so they could host me here until my onward flight in March. They’re a Filipino-Canadian couple who love food, mountains, and Taylor Swift as much as I do. It’s amazingly heartfelt to meet strangers who’d welcome travelers like me with open arms as if we had known each other for a long time.
I woke up to a Vancouver enveloped in fog but, as the sun rose and warmed the air, the fog gradually cleared up and I was treated to views of the city’s numerous mountains and spectacular peaks. I love nature in general, but I would always choose mountains over oceans. For one I don’t swim (silly me), but mountains evoke a feeling of grandeur, strong willpower, and sublimity. My idea of home is that which affords views of mountains. Knowing that I’ll stay in this city for roughly two months fills me up with serenity and hopefulness.
Riding the public transport is one of the activities I look forward to in this cosmopolitan city. The people on the bus speak a multitude of languages – English, Spanish, Hindi, French, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, you name it! The trains are like a microcosm of the world. Every ethnicity can probably be found here. I often smile quietly as I eavesdrop on conversations. I feel home in its diversity, in the unintelligible languages I secretly listen to, and in the sense of freedom that screams in the brightly-lit streets of this sophisticated urban jungle.
Vancouver is famous for its high-rises with glass walls, and such has earned it the name “City of Glass”. When I emerged from the dull stairs of the skytrain, I couldn’t help but run and leap with joy. Its streets are walkable, spacious, and clean. They stimulate a sense of lightness and free-spiritedness. I was like a kid in a candy store. Everything got my attention that it became dizzying for a split second. European architecture and Sikh temples sit side by side. Mexican restaurants stand next to Japanese sushi bars. I deeply love this juxtaposition of cultural elements.
I haven’t been here long enough, but Vancouver has quickly become one of my five favorite cities (including Kyoto, Seoul, Mumbai, and Chiang Mai). It’s decidedly the most cosmopolitan city I’ve visited since I left home. I see French speakers everywhere. Vietnamese restaurants are ubiquitous. I hear Indian meditations in the busy streets. Could this be home? #ryeXcanada
Smoking cannabis (aka marijuana, weed, or pot) is legally sold across British Columbia. They sell cannabis chocolates, cannabis desserts, cannabis Nutella, and everything your mind’s eye has yet to witness. I can smell pot everywhere in downtown Vancouver, especially in sketchy streets like Hastings. One day I was walking around town on an unusually sunny day when I came across loads of people smoking crack and pot and all these nasty chemicals in front of rundown buildings. There were also a bunch of homeless people huddling together for warmth. Strangers shouted at one another. The air was becoming a bit distressing when I realized I was walking along Hastings.
It felt dangerous because my friends also warned me about Hastings but, to be honest, I thought it wasn’t that bad. Sure there were homeless people, drug addicts, and prostitutes, and being around these people may feel uncomfortable, but I read that nothing serious happens in this street. You don’t get raped or attacked. It’s the obvious face of poverty that makes it appear more dangerous than it really is. Nevertheless, I still headed off to Gastown before it got dark.
Vancouverites love sports so much! If you don’t play sports, they’ll think you’re not as cool as you should be. Haha. People play hockey, basketball, football, and skateboarding. Recently, I joined a dodgeball tournament for newbies, and I teamed up with fellow beginners from Canada, the Philippines, and Vietnam. My throws were not as strong, but I hit my opponents a couple of times, so I guess I wasn’t so bad.
My friend, Lucky, showed me around Surrey in the southeastern part of Greater Vancouver and we spent a great deal of time sampling different varieties of honey. I was mind-blown by the fact that honey tastes vastly different depending on the type of flowers it comes from. We brought home jars of blueberry blossom and Tasmanian leatherwood honeys – the latter being our favorite for its floral and citrus notes.
Then we headed off to Granville Island which is just intensely beautiful! Think tall bridges, yachts, skyscrapers on the coasts, and indoor public markets. Vancouverites know how to enjoy excellent food. The city’s multiethnic character makes its people open-minded and well-rounded. I’d normally take home several foods and knick-knacks when I visit public markets on short-term travels, but here I was fully content with taking home a packet of loose-leaf tea, eating the best burrito I’d had so far, unintentionally joining a tea tasting tour, and admiring the cheese and fruit sections of the market.
Vancouver seems like my kind of city. It’s multicultural, cosmopolitan, energetic, and spectacular. At the same time, it is calm like the mountains that surround it and is spacious enough for a wanderer like me. These are probably mere first impressions of the City of Glass. The rainy days won’t be over soon but, when the cherry blossoms awaken, I’m certain I won’t want to leave just yet.