Roadtrip No. 2: Yosemite to San Francisco.

So back to where I left off; we arrived in Yosemite just before dusk, it was a pretty challenging drive, my first mountain driving that I did at a very slow pace. The place we stayed at was just outside the National Park itself, a lodge called Tenaya. We booked a cottage which was set in the forest just a bit away from the main buildings.

It was very peaceful, with a fireplace and really comfortable bed. I wish it was a little colder, for some reason we seem to be cursed with atypical weather, so much so that most of Yosemite is completely snow free, and they’ve opened the summer sports, like horse riding as there is no ski fields open.

We only stayed overnight in Yosemite, and the next morning decided to take the scenic route up through the park to Half Dome, which is a massive granite outcropping that takes over a day to hike up. We drove through some spectacular scenery, unfortunately I was not dealing well with the twists and turns and was pretty nauseous. The elevation increases from 2000 to 6000 feet and the air gets thinner and smells different.

The drive up and then across to the Mariposa on the 140 highway, which is the exit to the park, took about an hour; there was snow on the valley floor, but as its always in shade and the weather is chilly it could have been up to 2 weeks old. We also saw one deer on the side of the road. We have noticed that every time there is a sign that mentions deer or elk crossings then they are nowhere to be seen, but as soon as there is a blind corner they are just chilling out.

So after the drive down the mountain we drove through some more of the industrial side of California, there was a lot more greenery and it was mainly cattle and the occasional town. On the approach to San Francisco we had to drive over a very big suspension bridge that has a toll, $6 per car!

The drive was a lot shorter, only 380km and didn’t take the whole day, so we ended up checking into our hotel in Japantown and walked around the area, full of authentic sushi restaurants and stores selling anime. I did also notice that San Franciscans are some truly ballsy drivers, their roads are insanely steep, in some cases you cant see the street over each hill and they still drive like they are racing, swapping lanes without indicating and running lights.

For our first night in SF we met up with friends from Perth that are travelling at the same time and went out to a dive bar/restaurant for dinner called Tommy’s Joynt, beers start at $2.50 and the food is like a dining hall setup. We then went out to a rum bar called Smugglers Cove, which we had to wait in line for – drinks were good but it was way too busy so we left and went down to another place called Cafe Amsterdam. The cafe is really a bar, that is in the Tenderloin district of SF, a slightly dodgy suburb that the travel guides recommend staying out of but we had no troubles.

So thats pretty much the 2nd day of roadtripping. Alcatraz in the next one!

Roadtrip No. 1 – Vegas, Nevada to Yosemite, California.

So this is my first road trip blog – it might be a bit different as there isn’t much to write about when you drive 720km in one day.

We left Vegas relatively early with Chris in the drivers seat. Vegas traffic isn’t that bad, and they have the best drivers we encountered in the whole trip, they are courteous and fast – everyone indicated, which as we learnt later is not the norm.

There is the Mojave National Preserve which is home to a lot of scrubland, some flat plains and a fair few wind turbines. The sky was really blue too – a lot like home but with less red dirt.

Once we crossed over into California it didn’t take long for the sky to haze up, with some sort of smog/dust combo that made everything dull and beige. Once we were parallel with Los Angeles it was probably the thickest. The city we stopped in for lunch was a place called Bakersfield, about the spot where we started going north instead of west.

Bakersfield and all the surrounding cities/towns are very heavily industry based. We saw oil/gas wells just lining the streets, between housing areas and huge tracts of farm land. There were a lot of ranches and large orchards right up against the highway along with freight trains that had 20-30 carriages.

There is also a lot of abandoned areas, where everything is really rundown and it feels a bit third world. A lot of contrasts. Lunch itself was damn delicious – I found a brewery on Yelp called Lengthwise and it has a signature dish called ‘stinky fries’; gorgonzola melted over garlic fries….so delicious yet so bad. I also had ribs with the thickest BBQ sauce ever.

After lunch we swapped drivers and went north; the landscape changes pretty quickly and it became more mountainous and there were trees for the first time. There is the Sierra National Forest on one side of the highway and the other is farming, mainly cattle and a few sheep.

The good thing about this leg of the trip was the speed limit, most parts of the highways are 75mph (120kph) and we managed to get to Oakhurst, the last town before Yosemite National Park before dark. The sun sets around 5pm in Vegas but because we’d gone a fair distance north it was setting closer to 4.30pm…

The last 40 or so miles were incredibly nerve wracking. The road turns into a mountain pass, with a 55mph speed limit. I was lucky to do 35mph the whole way up! They love putting camber on the roads here, plus you add in a climb of 2000 feet and there are parts that you are just driving blind in… I was very glad it wasn’t snowing!

I will end here as its 1am now and I’ve got to get up at 7am for a flight….. will edit tomorrow!

Vegas Baby!!

So I have been slack again, Ive been too busy/sleepy/drunk to write blogs and I know some people have been waiting to hear our adventures. So Vegas time!

Flying from Seattle to Vegas we encountered the real TSA, the people themselves are not horrible but the process is stupid. I cannot see any benefit of having thousands of people every hour take off shoes, belts, jackets, coats and any other accessories just to go through a scanner that looks for metal objects. The technology of terrorism is much more advanced that the screening processes that the USA uses, even 3D printers can make functioning weapons out of plastic. So due to all the fuss the process of getting on a plane takes 2 hours for a flight that lasted less than 1.5 hours. (Also when we flew from Canada to the USA they didn’t even scan us or our luggage – inconsistent)

So Vegas – first impressions were that its much sunnier than Seattle. The weather while we were there was a consistent 15-20C and sunny – always sunny. Apart from the weather Vegas is a hard place to describe. Its very flashy and sparkly on the strip – with neon lights outlining everything. On the other hand once you are off the strip it is a lot like a dusty desert town, there are a lot of homeless people for a city in the middle of nowhere, and you can see a clear demarkation between economic areas. The price of food and drinks also has a great divide; you can eat very cheaply, but not well at places that do $7.99 buffets but if you want to eat well then you are looking in the hundreds for a high class restaurant meal. The food at the nicer restaurants we went to was amazing quality, but you definitely pay for it – expensive for the USA.

Our hotel, the Monte Carlo was pretty cheap to stay at and you could tell. Out of all the rooms we stayed in up to that point it was the worst by far, there were little things that annoyed me, like the shower leaked all over the room and had one setting – sharp needle spray that made showering painful. The kicker though was we were above the loading dock, and across from the cleaners station at the end of a hallway. For 2 mornings Chris was woken up at 6.30am by a variety of noises from trucks backing up, a screechy woman who talked on the phone for 3 hours and the sound of an industrial fan which was being used as there was a leak in the pipes. On the second afternoon I managed to gather my courage and go to the complaints desk to ask for a new room. Surprisingly they knew about the water leak and moved us to another room without much fuss…. I don’t know why they would put people in rooms they knew would be affected!

The room aside, there was some fun to be had – we had Kelly and John’s wedding pre dinner at an Italian restaurant called FiAmma – amazing food and free champagne. Their wedding the next day was cute and sweet, much too classy for Vegas!! We got a limo through Vegas and did stop offs at photo ops. Then we went to dinner, did some gambling and got white girl wasted – there was a really drunk woman in the bar at our last stop who bought 2 bottles of Veuve Cliquot to toast the bar – she was there for a gun show and we got lectured on the positives of gun ownership by one of the guys there?!

The next day we did our post wedding adventure – Chris and I went out to Dream Racing and he drove a Ferrari F430 GTDR, which is the equivalent to a Le Mans car and insanely fast! It was great watching him and I think one day I might try it. After cars we went back to the hotel and had a few drinks at ‘our bar’ – it was the one in the High Rollers room – they had a lot of Bourbons and the guy there was interested in learning about Australia, we taught him about ‘cashed up bogans’ and he was shocked at our prices for rent and drinks.

Once Kelly and John met up with us we went out to this place called Battlefield Vegas, its a gun range that has all original weapons from the 1900′s onwards. We got a humvee out to the place and picked our gun packages. I did the Stalingrad one which had a Mosin bolt action that was used in battle, it also is 54 inches from butt to scope – only 10 inches shorter than me! I ended up getting a sliced thumb from using the bolt action and the kickback on it was enourmous! Chris did a WW2 package with more auto guns and the enormous BAR. John had mainly autos and semi-autos and some of them were incredibly loud even through ear muffs.
Kelly wasn’t convinced on the idea, and jumped a lot, pretty much every time a gun went off. She ended up doing the kids package which uses .22 rounds in a heap of guns, so no kickback or loud noises.

After shooting we decided to try In-And-Out Burger, which was an effort to get to – as in Vegas you can’t really walk anywhere. There is a highway bisecting the strip from the other side and everything that looks close is really ages away through Casino’s. So we had to take a taxi for a 5 minute drive. The burgers were good, but nothing much different that Hungry Jacks- just cheaper!

The last day in Vegas we picked up our car, the one for the drive to Portland. I booked a full size and the lot was open, so you go in and pick the car you want from your area. I really wanted a Dodge Charger and there weren’t any in the line, so I asked a few guys until one told me to grab the grey one that was in the Emerald Club area for Executives. It was a pretty new car with 7000 miles on the clock, V6 too. Only problem is that it weighs over 2.5tonne, so not as much pick-up as I would have liked.
To test out the car we drove it to the Grand Canyon, which is a lot further than I thought – we only went to the West Canyon and it took the whole day to drive there and back – across the Hoover Dam and into Arizona, which I learnt is an hour ahead of Vegas time. We managed to buy a GPS which was a good idea considering all the driving we did!

So that pretty much ends Vegas, I would say that its a place you should experience, as long as you don’t mind spending money and maybe go into Downtown Vegas, which we missed, I hear its a lot less of a tourist trap.

Next blog will be the drive from Vegas to Yosemite, an over night stop and then onto San Francisco.

Seattle Shenanigans…

So I have been tardy in my posting of blogs since we left Mt Washington, and a lot has been happening. First off Seattle!

So we left Mt Washington and did a straight drive down the island, stopped once when the car decided to impersonate a jackhammer and the steering wheel started shaking – I thought it was a blown tyre but they were fine, its possible it was a bearing or suspension.
The drive down the mountain was pretty hectic, driving about 20km an hour on snowy roads that hadn’t been plowed.

We also drove in pretty much constant rain, until we got into Victoria city proper, where it was fine but cold. We also had a final dinner at a Himalayan restaurant next to our hotel, with everyone who went up the mountain and the restaurants in Canada are so different to home; firstly they are so much cheaper, dinner’s usually run under $65 for 2 in a nice restaurant and they automatically split the bill, and in our case 2 different restaurants split the bill 14 ways… there is no restaurant in Perth that would even contemplate that!!

So back to our trip to Seattle – we took a unique form of transport from Victoria, a seaplane. It is less than a 45 minute flight that takes off from the harbour and lands in Lake Union, in Seattle downtown. The flight itself is a bit different – as it’s a tiny plane you can feel the wind buffeting and once it picks up it feels like the plane is going to stall mid-air. I switched between being petrified and excited. The best part about flying a non-commercial airline is the incredibly quick customs when you arrive in the USA, there is only 8 other people to deal with, so the TSA are much nicer.

Seattle itself is a nice place, not as clean as Vancouver – but that could be the areas we were in. Its also very wet and windy. Friday afternoon we went to the EMP museum, which is nothing to do with electro-magnetic pulses, but is the Experience Music Project museum, its got exhibitions on Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, a hall of guitars and the part I loved the most – the science fiction and fantasy memorabilia display. There is an orginal Aliens model and Star Trek tribbles plus so much more – I fangirl-ed all over the place.

On Saturday the weather was insane, with torrential rain for the morning when we went to Pike Place Markets. The food there was amazing, we had a satsuma (mandarin) plus maple bacon doughnuts fresh out of the fryer. We also went to the Fish Market and Piroshki Piroshki which have both been on Anthony Bourdain.

For lunch we went out to the Tap House Bar, which has 160 beers on tap and watched the Seahawks play in the NFL playoffs while drinking $5 craft beers -it was a fun experience, Seattlites are notoriously loud barackers.

Our last experience in Seattle was dinner, which we had on the recommendation of the greengrocer at Pike Place Markets, at the Five Point Cafe – a diner/dive bar that has been open 24 hours a day for 85 years. The place has a great slogan “Alcoholics serving Alcoholics since 1929″ and they have a jukebox that plays very random music selections – I paid 50c to make it play Lynard Skynard and NWA back to back. Food was damn good too!

So thats all about Seattle – and the next stop on the holiday is Las Vegas – which is where I am right now…. I will do another post on that soon.

No signs of civilisation & the pop run

I’m not sure what day of the week it is; and considering the absence of sun I am not sure what time of the day it is either. This morning I got up to the smell of bacon cooking – always a good thing. Breakfast rule was all coffee had to be drunk with Baileys and not milk, which set the tone for the most of the day.

I had an explore after breakfast, there was a bit of snow overnight so the cars were covered in snow and there was some picturesque scenery. The whiteness is really overwhelming – you can’t tell the difference between the ground and sky. I tried my hand a tobogganing down the side of the house on one of those plastic sheets – it started off well but I ended up clipping the side of the neighbours hot water system with my boot which sent me into a spin. The run ended suddenly when I smacked into a small tree with my hip and rolled. Probably not the smartest thing to do – but fun!

There was an expedition to the general store to find out that the whole place – the alpine lodge, the ski slopes and even the tubing park is closed. There was one dude on a snowmobile wearing Mt Washington uniform that was the same guy that plowed the roads this morning. He told us the only thing that was open is the pub, which we don’t need as we brought about 6 litres of spirits up here plus pretty much every craft beer from BC.

So with a desperate need for mixers or ‘pop’ as the Canadians call it, Chris and I did a run down the mountain to the closest town, Courtney, which is exactly like what you imagine a small town in Canada is like. I went to Safeway for the first time, it has a Starbucks, a pharmacy and a restaurant inside it. I also had the experience of getting ‘gas’ for the first time, so weird. They pre-pay for it and there is 87 octane through to 91 which they class as premium. Its slightly cheaper than home, about $1.15 a litre. Canada is odd in that it uses half the metric system and half imperial – cant seem to decide on one type.

I drove down and back up the mountain through the clouds, where there is very little visibility, its not something I’d want to do in the dark!.

We had a massive dinner of baked potatoes, Caesar salad and steaks the size of infants cooked on the BBQ by Blair and Red. After dinner we decided to blow up some fireworks in the ice outside, which is perfectly legal for some reason. I had a Roman candle which I carried around whilst trying not to fall over.

Right now I am watching the majority of the group play circle of death and get increasingly ‘white girl wasted’. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a snow storm tonight so they can open up some skiing!

EDITED: Travelling in the trees…

So its been a day since my last post, and I am nodding off right now, so tired! Yesterday we travelled from Vancouver to Victoria on the ferry – it is a massive ferry, with 6-7 levels, and it takes about and hour and a half to get from the Tswassen’s terminal to Swartz Bay which is in the lower east of the island. The ferry goes through some gorgeous islands, but its really cold and windy too. Something I noticed was the size of the seagulls – they are massive here, way bigger than the rats with wings at home.

My cousin Dave, who has been living here picked us up and we did a pit stop on the way at Wendy’s and I had a double bacon burger which was delicious and as artery clogging as you’d expect.

The hotel is the Hotel Rialto very nice, especially considering it was cheap – less than $130 a night. We got invited out for dinner to Shannon (Dave’s girlfriend) parents house, along with my cousin, John and his fiancé, Kelly who travelled from Perth and met up with us in Victoria. There is also another cousin, Andy here with his friend Storm.

It was a great dinner and we drank a bit – the alcohol here is also really cheap! We got a taxi back to the hotel about 10pm and we both crashed out.

The car pickup for the drive up to Mount Washington was scheduled for 7am and I will type some more about the drive tomorrow as I am knackered.

……I’m back…..its Tuesday now and I have had a good nights sleep!

So back to the Monday drive up the mountain… Chris and I picked up the car from Budget at 7.30 and they were a bit of a pain in the ass, I booked a Ford Escape SUV and for some reason they had another car for me, which I also didn’t get as one of the clerks said I couldn’t have it because Chris is under 25, so instead of that car I got a Subaru Crosstrek which in an underpowered piece of shit. Its running a 2litre engine that cried all the way up the mountain.

So we went up to Carol & Blair’s place (Shannon’s parents) and drove as a convoy up to the mountain, all 4 cars and 14 people. Apart from the crappy car the ride up was pretty scenic, it’s about halfway across Vancouver Island and through some really scenic areas, there is a valley of old growth trees that we stopped at with a Douglas fir that is 1300 years old.

We also stopped for fireworks at a gas station along the way – as they are legal here, though I probably shouldn’t be allowed near them :)

We also ended up stopping for lunch at this random pub, who were not expecting 14 people to walk in the door with only 1 barmaid she had to call in another chef to make our lunch, everything was half price and I had some amazing BBQ ribs for $6.50 along with poutine! Everyone ate a tonne of food and beers ended up being $3.50!

The last bit of the drive was up the mountain side in the dark, and visibility was pretty terrible, as the sun sets at 4.30pm. The cabin we are staying in has 3 levels, 4 bathrooms, 2 kitchens and 2 fireplaces. It also has a hot-tub and 2 saunas! Chris and I have a back bunk room and its pretty warm and comfy. There is a bar and a pool table as well. So last night we had a multi-level party – switching floors and having some drinks and a few fireworks were set off too.

The resort isn’t open as there hasn’t been enough snow, so we wont be skiing unless Ullr (the Norse God of snow) gives us a miracle.

After dinner I will do a synopsis of today, it’ll be a short one :)

Day 3: First Nations, the stairs of doom and Capilano Gorge.

Im currently on the ferry across to Vancouver Island and typing this with limited wifi – so edits may occur later!

Well the last thing I thought I would do yesterday is hike down and then back up 483 stairs to a nude beach! I will explain that adventure a little later…

Today was an interesting day – our last full day in Vancouver. Poor Chris has gotten sick, a cold picked up from the plane – damn recycled air!

We got up a bit later than normal and drove down to the University of BC campus where the Anthropology Museum is – its a pretty nice place with a lot of information on the First Nations tribes that were here before the settlement of Europeans. It focuses on the Haida and Wakwakawia (that is not spelt right) who inhabited a large proportion of the BC area.

They both built crest (totem) poles and big houses but had a very different style from each other, the Haida were really into colour and their poles had a lot of additions, while the Wakwakawia were more into bas relief styles. We did a guided tour with a docent who gave us a more in depth look at the lifestyles and customs of the peoples as well as explaining the downfall of them after the settlement by white people, over 95% of native people died and a lot of customs were outlawed in the ‘Indian Act’ like potlatches which was a ceremony where families would gather together and eat, exchange gifts and carry on oral traditions as well as perform dances. Supposedly the British didn’t like these potlatches as it stopped the Indians integrating into society and was too “tribal” – so they banned them by law until 1953!! They also took children from their parents and put them into boarding schools, so that sounds a bit familiar to the Australian Aborigines back home.

The museum also has an outside display of a Haida big house that was recreated by the research department, these natives didn’t live in teepees or wigwams, much too cold! The pond at the museum was frozen over, and its not even that cold yet!

Now back to the nude beach story….. there is some trails and hiking areas behind the museum, that are right on the coast, and the first one we came across was called Wreck Beach. From the cliff we were on it looked quite far down and we hadn’t seen a beach here yet so we took the plunge and walked down, and down and down some more to what was actually a ‘clothing optional’ beach. In summer people come down here to get their kit off, sun bake, smoke weed and eat mushies – which are sold by vendors taking advantage of the heavy uni student population.

Being winter though, it was devoid of nude people and there was only a few people walking their dogs, and some kids playing in the rocks. Its a volcanic beach so its got grey sand and pebbles lining the beach. There were also heaps of washed up trees, driftwood and seagulls the size of dogs!

Now all those stairs we walked down had to be climbed back up, something I didnt really think about until I realised just how unfit I am. It was a good 15 minutes of my wheezing, sweating and dragging myself up. For some reason my knees protested hauling my fat ass up a total of 483 stairs (thanks Google!) What made me feel better though was when I got home and googled the beach the first results are about how other people felt like they were going to die climbing them.

So once we got back to the car I gratefully sat down and re-assessed my desire to ever see another stair, while Chris decided we should eat at Wendy’s for lunch. Unfortunately his phones’ GPS hates us and gave wrong directions. So we skipped straight to driving to Capilano Gorge.

Capilano Gorge is over the bridge into North Vancouver and its much colder than downtown, its got a suspension bridge that is 70 metres over the river and a treetop walk as well as a cantilevered bridge off the edge of a cliff. It was the last night for the ‘Christmas Lights’ which they strung up all over the trees, as well as the worlds largest living Xmas tree – at 152 feet tall. The gorge is a temperate rainforest – very primeval and has trees up to 1300 years old. The bridge itself is not for those afraid of heights, or swaying as it rocked back and forth a lot!

It was incredibly pretty – and I saw my first live bald eagle cruising through the gorge. The cliff walk is a cantilevered bridge that has been attached to the side of the cliff with steel ropes, and has a see through metal walkway that you can walk out onto.

After the Capilano bridge we went home and then out pretty much straight away – firstly to the BC Liquor to see what they stocked, oddly they have a lot of Australian wine, and its equal if not cheaper than at home!

For dinner we were planning on going to a place that Mike, the owner of the apartment, recommended called Lupo, but they were closed for renovations so we went down to a placed called Keg Steakhouse – its a chain that cant decided whether it wants to be a sports bar or a restaurant but they do a good steak and my ‘mini’ brownie was massive.

Now we’re on our way to Victoria to see Dave and meet up with Kelly & John, then its off to Mount Washington…

Belugas, BBQ & Bourbon

Day 2 is over and Day 3 is starting soon – it was a rare sunny day in Vancouver, temperature was around 7 degrees and we did some more touristy things.

I braved getting behind the wheel again and drove up to Stanley Park, which is north of Downtown and is about the same size as Kings Park but completely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.

Inside the park is the Vancouver Aquarium which we explored this morning. There is a 4D theatre that shows a short movie about Mammoths, with the characters from Ice Age – fun for kids and I enjoyed myself, even when they splashed you with water!

Its a pretty big Aquarium, with a large research facility and quite a few species, including 2 beluga whales, which is the first time Ive seen them in real life, very big and very white.

There are some Pacific white sided dolphins that were rescued from Japan, and one of them is a gimp as she had her dorsal fin hurt when she was trapped. There is also an otter that was rescued from being shot by a hunter and he’s half blind, he seemed to enjoy napping upside down in his pond.

I got some good photos on my camera that I will try to convert over. The aquarium also has a tropical zone, which had tropical birds such as macaws, marmosets and a sloth – quite unusual for an aquarium, but fun to see. There were no butterflies which is good, because I hate those furry flying little buggers.

After the Aquarium we explored Stanley Park. There is sea wall that runs all the way around the park, about 22km and we did about 4km of it – lots of dogs and runners, even some people on rollerblades. Its very picturesque, you can see the mountains off in the north of Vancouver and pretty much a 180 degree view of the harbour.

Around 2pm we decided to go for a drive, and did a lap of the park, its still mostly forest like it was in the 1800s so there are some massive trees and a lot of really deeply wooded areas – damn pretty!

For lunch we drove over into Gastown to go to a place called the Alibi Room, but it didn’t open until 5pm so we wandered up the streets until we saw a place called Peckinpah – it had a picture of a steer and the words “Carolina Style BBQ” on the window – so that was pretty much decided for us, who can turn down something like that! The smell as we walked inside was the most amazing savoury smoky cloud ever.

We decided on a platter that had beef brisket, pulled pork, hush puppies, coleslaw and cornbread muffins – all for $20! It was goddamn amazing – words pretty much cannot describe how good it was. They make their own BBQ sauce as well as the thinner Carlolina style chili vinegar sauce that makes the meat even more delicious – if that is even possible! We also had Sazerac Rye Manhattan cocktails and they were incredible, I think they used orange bitters, I could drink them every day if I was allowed.

Chris also got a big bottle beer of a local Victoria, BC beer that we will probably go visit once we get over to the island.

After lunch we drove back home through the city – the sun sets so early here – around 4.30pm so now I’ve done some night driving as well as driving in the rain, so only snow to go now.

Tomorrow we are going to the Museum of Anthropology and the Capilano Gorge suspension bridge and cliff walk.

I hate old 777′s

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Back to back posts – I’m on fire and I’ve finally got wifi to use so I’m taking advantage of it!

We woke up in China and for a second or two you don’t even realise you’re not in Perth. This idea was quickly dispelled when we went down for the breakfast and were handed a tray with a piece of cake, 2 biscuits, a bowl of cherry tomatoes and a tetra pack of milk – so very very odd. We skipped that and went down for the bus.

The arrival at the airport was uneventful, a lot of walking across the enormous space, we were brushed for explosives, our bags were scanned for explosives, we were patted down and for the first time in 7 years I had to take my shoes off to get passed. It was very thorough and simple. Then we had 3 hours to kill until our plane took off.

I did laps of the departure lounge, looked at the myriad of Cognac’s available as well as Mowtai (a rough raw spirit that tastes like soy sauce and snake venom) There was also a cabinet of supposed ‘Mastadon ivory’ carvings, they even had a spiel about how rhino and elephant ivory being illegal means they have to use extinct animals?!! I would have bought something but I’d prefer not to wear dead ice-aged animals on me. I had a pizza for breakfast and it was another odd combination of sweet pastry and savoury toppings.

So onto the reason for this blog title….the plane. With an 12 hour flight you’d expect the plane would have been equal to the 737 that flew us over to China, well that would be wrong. The plane we got was a 777 from the 1990′s – configured in a 3x4x3 seating that was impossibly narrow, I’d say even narrower than the current low cost carriers like Air Asia. I was squished into the middle of a 3 row between Chris and a dude who slept a lot. My hip started aching as soon as I sat down and my back quickly followed. I then started getting cramps from the travel sickness pills – so I was not impressed. The inflight entertainment was one of the worst I’ve seen, there was 5 channels that repeated the same movies/shows on a non-ending loop. Once again thankful for my Kindle an iPad as I was trying to stay awake for the first 4 hours of the flight to switch timezones…that didnt work.

I ended up sleeping the first hour after takeoff and then 2-3 hours at the end of the flight. There was plenty of food though – it wasn’t bad  just mediocre and the dinner rolls tasted like cake. I was incredibly happy to get off that plane when we hit Vancouver.

We arrived about 10am EST (16 hours behind Perth) and got a very short immigration process – was queried about our purpose and then waived through customs without any fuss.

After a short courtesy bus ride we got to the car hire place, and we were given a Chrysler 200, which was cute. Then the dude realised he could upsell us and asked if we wanted a new 3 Series BMW for $35 a day extra…I wasn’t going to say no – its a black 2014 model that has 700km on the odometer and I was petrified driving it in the rain on the wrong side of the road. I drove like a nanna all the way to downtown.

We had to wait until 3pm to check into the apartment, which I rented through AirBNB so we wandered in the rain through the area, Chris managed to get a SIM card and I spied a Japadog store, so that was lunch sorted. Japadog is a fusion of hotdogs and Japanese food – amazingly delicious and cheap too!

The apartment is really nice, central Yaletown and has a full kitchen, TV system, free wifi and heaps of leftover things including a 1/4 handle of Bacardi, fruit juice and pancake mix… weird but we’ve already hit up the Bacardi.

Dinner was a gamble, we picked a place that was in close walking distance, considering the temperature is hovering around 5C. So we went to a place called The Flying Pig and ate a pile of delicious savoury foods; pulled pork poutine, beef mac and cheese, 4 cheese gnocchi and bone marrow garlic bread. Every dish was amazing and cheap too! I ordered a drink that ended up being a Ceasar, which is a drink made of Clamato juice (clams and tomato together!) with Tabasco, vodka and bacon. I couldnt manage it and the sweet waiter took it off our bill which was awesome of him. With 2 beers, wines and food the whole bill was $54, plus tips….

So one day into the holiday I already want to live here! Tomorrow we are off to Stanley Park and the Aquarium.

I’m back!!

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Weill its been a year or so since I last posted, and I am still alive. Ive been saving for travelling and now I’m back and typing this from Vancouver in Canada after flying out from Perth on New Years Day!

Due to tight funds we decided to fly with Air China via Guangzhou which was a very weird experience, the plane between Perth and Guangzhou was pretty good, a lot like Qantas economy with our seats right at the back of the plane with just a 2x3x2 configuration. There was a pretty good inflght entertainment for Maz but mine was broken, lucky I had my iPad and Kindle to keep me entertained.

I would say flying out at 8.30am on New Years Day is probably not a great idea, especially if you only went to bed around 2am!

We arrived in China and it was pretty weird right from the start. As we had a layover of 22 hours China Southern airlines comps you a hotel stay in one of their many hotels; all of which are very new, souless monstrosities covered in flashing flourescent lights, but I will get to that later.

People in Guangzhou on a whole do not speak English at all, which is understandable, but made finding our transfer to the hotel impossible. We were ushered through the wrong door by a staff member and suddenly found ourselves on the wrong side of the airport at the Domestic terminal with no way to get back to the right counter to get a hotel voucher. So before the panic set in and after asking 3 different inquiry counters we found a security guard type that was standing around with another group of westerners looking equally perplexed as us. He was really helpful and eventually we were joined by a big group of people who had suffered the same confusion and we were driven as a group over to the hotel.

As normal in Asian countries the driving is a cross between hopeful and suicidal, with the bus driver going though two speed traps and taking red lights as ‘optional’. The hotel we were taken to was called the Hao Yin Gloria Plaza and it was similar to a Crown hotel, all black and white with marble everywhere, a lot of money has been spent, with rainfall showers and big rooms, which was all free. There is not much around there, we went for an explore just after dark and its on a junction of 2 main roads, so lots of pollution, cars honking and construction all around.

There was a market just around the corner that was pretty interesting, Guangzhou is not a tourist destination, and walking through the market was an eye-opener, like one in a rural village, and we were stared at a lot, I think most of the people there were confused as to why there were white people in their market. I skipped the non-refrigerated hunks of meat and went to the bakery down the back corner, bought a custard bun, that had some sort of dark green sweet paste filling, I think it was either Pandan or Kaya, but it was delicious nonetheless.

After that I crashed out at about 10pm and then it was onto the next leg of the trip….. keep reading.

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