I had a chance to visit Vancouver, BC, Canada from October 23rd to October 25th, and all I can say is that I had a lot of fun. As usual, I had a bit of perception of what Canada is supposed to be like from a viewpoint of a person who lives in the US for almost 10 years, so undoubtedly, reality is not exactly what I thought it would be.
The purpose for my trip is to go for a Nexus card interview. The Nexus program is a joint program between the Canadian government and the US government to establish expedited immigration for prescreened travelers. It's $50 cheaper than Global Entry (the same kind of program, but it's a US only program), but the caveat is that the initial interview must be done either in a US state next to Canada, or in Canada. Guess what? I chose to do an interview in Canada because the next open schedule is in October rather than some distant month in 2016 (I checked the Seattle interview center), and I also got to travel to Canada!
I picked the Vancouver interview center since it's the closest from me (I'm in San Francisco), and from what I heard, Vancouver is a very nice city.
Let's not talk about Nexus interview anymore, but let's talk about my other experience in Vancouver! This trip, I was staying at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, which is located in downtown Vancouver (Burrard and Georgia street). The location is amazing because it's so close to the shopping street (Robson St.) and it's in a walkable distance to Vancouver's waterfront which is absolutely beautiful.
My first day there was basically just sleeping since my flight was so early in the morning that I had to wake up at 2 AM to catch the flight, but I got a chance to walk around the hotel a little bit and got the overview of what's around the hotel.
My second day is the best day for me since it's the only day I'll be in Vancouver for the whole day, so I started my day by walking from my hotel to waterfront. I really enjoy the weather and the scenery. It really reminds me of a nicer and more laid back San Francisco.
In the afternoon, I booked a city highlight tour with the hotel and it was GREAT! My tour starts at 2 PM and I was pretty lucky that the group that I was in was very small. I met a girl from Mexico City, and 2 doctors from New York.
We started by going to Queen Elizabeth park which has a conservatory that has a ton of birds and flowers. I also got a chance to take a picture of Vancouver skyline which is absolutely beautiful. I also learned that Vancouver has its own building style called "Vancouverism." Vancouverism is a way that high rise buildings in Vancouver are constructed and it's usually a shiny/mirrored exterior. The reason for the popularity of Vancouverism is because Vancouver doesn't get a lot of sun light in a year, so they want to reflect the light that they have from the building down to the street as much as possible. I think it's a great idea and it makes the skyline of Vancouver very unique.
We then move on to Granville Island where there are a ton of local shops and restaurants. Apparently, there is law in Vancouver stating that only shops and restaurants that are owned by people of Vancouver can be opened on the island. The Mexican girl and I walked around together and sampled some really good Chinese food :)
Talking about Chinese food, Vancouver has a ton of Asian immigrants, and a lot of them are Chinese (just like here in San Francisco). However, from what I learned from the locals, Canadian immigrants aren't as integrated and assimilated into the Western culture as much as they are in the US. From what I know first hand, a lot of 2nd or 3rd generation Chinese Americans can't even speak Chinese anymore (most of the time, they can understand it, but not really string words into a sentence), but in Canada, they'll make sure that they can still speak their "mother tongue."
Another thing that was quite a shock to me is that a lot of names, like street names, district names, and city names, are mostly English! Coming from California, we're very familiar with city names that are in Spanish, but in Vancouver, you'll hear street name such as Georgia, or a Skytrain Station called Templeton and Aberdeen which to me sounds really British.
Let's continue my Vancouver city tour. Our next stop is Stanley Park. Stanley Park is the 3rd largest city park in the world. Of course, the biggest one is Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and the 2nd is Central Park in New York. Stanley Park was super beautiful. We also went to see the Lion Gate Bridge which was built by the same architect who built the Golden Gate Bridge.
After Stanley Park, we just drove through places like Chinatown, Gastown, English Bay, and Canada Place. At the end of the tour, I got dropped off back at the hotel.
My third and last day was kind of boring because I had to leave the hotel around 11:30 to get to the Skytrain to catch my flight back home around 2:30 PM. I didn't do much on my third day but just get out and walk around and take in the last scenery of the city.