If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver, I highly suggest ditching the guidebook and all the tourist traps that the Internet has to offer, and just speaking to a local. If you choose to consult a travel agent, you’re bound to end up on day trips to the Capilano suspension bridge, Whistler, Granville Island, Stanley Park et cetera… Don’t get me wrong. These places are great, but they’re also locked and loaded with tourists, souvenir shops and pricey entrance fees.
While I’m not a born-and-bred “local” (are there even locals in Vancouver?? Everyone seems to be an immigrant!), I’ve explored the city quite extensively, and come up with a list of activities that represent what Vancouver means to me. The best part of it for the cheapskate that I am… They’re mostly FREE!
1. Granville Street
Located downtown, this street offers shopping, food and great people watching opportunities during the day. When night falls, the street comes alive with night spots that promise plenty of brawls, hook-ups, and late night drunken text messages to lovers in the present and from the past. During summer, this street is closed off on weekends for events such as Buskers day and Brazilian fest. Yes, plenty of food sampling for all Singaporean foodies.
2. The Chief
One of the most famous hikes in Vancouver, this giant boulder of rock is located in Squamish about 1.5 hours out of Vancouver (heading towards Whistler). The first 45 minutes is a brutally steep uphill climb, followed by another 40 minutes (or so, depending on your fitness) of uphill ascension. About 20-30 minutes from reaching the first peak, one has to hang on to chains and climb ladders up a steep rocky surface. All that sweat is worth it though, when you reach the peak and see the view. I suggest packing a sandwich and sitting there as long as you can because coming down… Your knees won’t be too happy.
3. Bubble Tea
Yes, I know Singapore has bubble tea, and that fad seems so yesterday. But I say give the bubble tea here a try, before you scoff at my suggestion. There’s something really shiok about the BT here that I just can’t explain. The pearls are chewier… The tea is creamier… And if there’s 1 place I’d recommend, it’ll have to be BubbleWorld. I always just get the milk tea, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, try the slushies or any of the fancier selections they have. You won’t regret it.
As a coffee-addict, I wouldn’t be doing justice to Vancouver if I don’t mention its selection of artisan coffee shops. Not only is coffee-art a norm, the availability of good coffee is in abundance. Since February, I’ve moved 40 minutes away from the city center into the suburbs, and there is nothing I miss more than the coffee. Now, I have to contend with watered down liquid that tries to pass off as coffee, unless I am in the city. In which case, I go to Cafe Artigiano, JJ Beans, The Revolver or just about every other coffee shop that is not a franchise, and get my fix of caffeine.
Well, I hope this little snippet of Vancouver will serve some of you well. If any of you are intending to come my way, feel free to ask for more tips on where to go, what to do, what to eat… I’d be more than happy to share what I know with you. Just make sure you got your back covered with a comprehensive travel insurance. This way if any of my recommendations do not go down well with you, I won’t feel so bad!