Thursday, August 30, 2018

Vancouver Sightseeing, Shopping, and Richmond Night Market

Vancouver is the gateway to Asia for Canada for many airline flights and there is a huge Asian population here.  We were visiting some family and also wanting to see the various sights around the city.  Our arrival in the city was almost a day earlier than expected as we did an unexpected detour from Prince Rupert to here as our ferry to Vancouver Island had broken down.  This meant I found a hotel in Coquitlam at a Best Western for a night.  The Best Western turned out to be right next to an H-Mart and in little Korea there.  Kind of interesting.  We went to Metrotown Mall in Burnaby that night and had some excellent ramen at Jinya Ramen Bar there.  Metrotown had some kind of Panda event going on so there were panda dolls everywhere.  This mall has a T&T Asian Market, the biggest UNIQLO in Vancouver, a MUJI, and a Uncle Tetsu cheesecake shop.
Skytrain line next to Metrotown.
Tasty brussel sprout tempura.
Good takoyaki.

My Jinya tonkotsu ramen.
Scenes from around Metrotown.
UNIQLO display.
We also checked out Aberdeen Centre in Richmond with the small H-Mart, Daiso, a Utsuwa-no-Yakata for pottery, and the great food court.  The Daiso here is huge and is always fun, but we didn't buy a ton of stuff here.  Before we went here we stopped at Izumiya Japanese Market Place to load up on instant ramen and snacks.  Izumiya is pretty nice with a big selection of everything a Japanese family would need to cook or snack on.  Their rice balls are good too!  There is a Beard Papa and a Saboten for tonkatsu in the food court at Aberdeen Centre.
Scenes from Aberdeen Centre.
I had a tonkatsu-don for lunch.
They got a Taiko drumming game.
Later on we also did a bit of walking on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver.  The street is always full of people and shops including the MUJI flagship store for the city.
Scenes from Robson Street.
We managed to hit up Guu Original Thurlow for a dinner of many small dishes.  Our party got lucky and we just walked in to get a table right away.  They have a very tasty menu with many meat dishes.
Guu menu.
We tried about eight different small plates including yuzu mussels, grilled tuna belly, grilled pork belly, marinated eggplant, takoyaki, and a deep fried pumpkin ball with an egg inside.  Beer and yummy food.  Jinya and Guu both had a great busy atmosphere inside.

Really nice figure of D.Va from Overwatch seen in a comic store.
Our hotel was the Best Western on Davie Street.  Its an older hotel, but the room was good with air conditioning that worked good for us.
Nice view of the city at night.
We went to Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium was a great place to visit.  Their Jellyfish tanks were awesome and the jellies were so pretty.  The aquarium has sea otters, a shark tank with rays, seals, a couple of walruses, dolphins, and some great amphibian and tropical sections.  The Pacific NW biomes they had were pretty interesting too, but the octopus was hiding.
More jellyfish.
We did a drive around Stanley Park.  You can buy an all day parking pass that pays off if you visit the aquarium and tour around the park.  It is a great park with plenty of big old trees and natural areas.
Totem poles.
Lady in Wet-suit statue.  She is life-sized, but always looks so small.
Lions Gate Bridge.
Had a good bowl of shoyu ramen at Ramen Koika on Davie.
One evening we hit up the night market in Richmond as we had never been to it.  Took the Skytrain out there.  We had some more bad luck here as it just poured rain that night.  The only time it had rained in the last two months!  They sold out of umbrellas.  We had brought umbrellas but were still pretty damp.  Some booths had to shut down as they were flooding or too much rain was getting in.  There were still tons of people there.  The food we tried was pretty good, but we could have passed if we had known it would be this wet.  The market reminded me of Calgary Stampede market and Taste of Edmonton mixed together.  More food than shops though.
Scenes from the rainy market.  I tried the battered fish sticks on a skewer which were pretty good.

Chef James lamb skewers!  Very tasty.
A visit to Vancouver isn't complete without a visit to Granville Island and its bustling farmers market.  We took a water ferry there as it was near our hotel.  The market had so many good food stalls.  If you visit, have breakfast or lunch down here for sure.
Harbour view
Scenes from the market.
Produce boxes.
Finally we went to visit Gastown.  Gastown is okay, but not my number one place to visit in Vancouver.  We hadn't been here in years, but we did visit a Japanese restaurant here with really good prices.  I don't know how they do it.
Steam clock at Gastown.

Tempura bento at Momo Sushi.  Great place to grab a bite.
The bento was huge and it also came with this sashimi and roll.
Downtown Vancouver.
That was pretty much the highlights of Vancouver for us with some family visiting thrown in.  Later!

Prince Rupert, Cancelled Ferry, and BC Wildfires (August 2018)
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Monday, August 27, 2018

Master Kong Golden Stock Beef Noodles

This is a cup of noodles from China.  It was a souvenir brought back for me as everyone knows I like instant noodles.  It is intriguing as it is a beef noodle with a goldeny broth.  Master Kong is a pretty big noodle company in China and this is one of their premium bowls, so it is probably pretty good.
Lid of the bowl.  It has a nice design, uses the colour yellow to accentuate the goldeny both.
Three quarters view of the cup with the chef on the side.
Lots of text explaining how tasty and healthy this is.
Ingredients, manufacturer's, and nutritional information.
When I opened the bowl I sure saw a lot of stuff inside.  One of the things I like about the Chinese noodles is that they include a little collapsible fork.
Plenty of stuff.
There was a paste packet, a soup powder packet, a packet of vinegar, and a dehydrated ingredients packet.
It is a type of thin wide noodle here.
I added all the packets in except for the vinegar.
There was cabbage, goji berries, egg, beef chunks, some green onion, and sesame seeds in the dried ingredients packet.
The rehydrated soup and noodles.
Whenever beef flavour is involved, Chinese soups tend to have white pepper combined with the chosen soup base.  It tends to be spicy, but this wasn't too spicy at all.  I didn't add the vinegar as I'm not a big hot and sour fan, but a bit of vinegar could have added a nice pick up to soup.  The goldeny soup itself was a flavourful and rich, but I'm not sure I detected a lot of beefy notes.  The goji berries are always something a little different and the noodles were nice and firm.  A pretty good instant noodle overall with plenty of tastiness.
Closeup of the noodles and some ingredients.

More cup noodle / ramen reviews and Japanese pop culture.

Prince Rupert, Cancelled Ferry, and BC Wildfires (August 2018)

It is a 16 hour drive in the car without stopping to get to Prince Rupert, British Columbia from Edmonton, Alberta.  I've never driven that way before, but I wanted take the car ferry from there down to Vancouver Island.  This ferry travels along the Inside Passage, a beautiful trip with islands and pristine forests right down to the sea.  The ferry trip itself takes like 18 hours.  It starts at like 7 AM and arrives at 11 PM that same day.  We broke the drive up into two 8 hour driving days, stopping in Prince George for a night.  On the drive out we did see plenty of wildlife.  There were bighorn sheep, deer, elk, saw black bears twice, and the scenery was pretty.  Northern BC has more farmland than I realized, and it would be a great place to ride out the zombie apocalypse due to the isolation.
Mount Robson.
Black bear peaking head up to see the road.  It is in the middle of the shot.
That was the plan, but the ferry broke down with engine problems.  We were told there would be a delay and then they cancelled the ferry around 10 PM, the night before it was scheduled to leave the next morning.  There was room on the next ferry in two days for foot passengers, but not vehicles.  So, basically my trip itinerary to Victoria and Vancouver was completely messed up.  These ferries book up months in advance.  So guess what?  The ferries were all booked up.  This meant I would have to drive back out.
My advice to anyone wanting to try this trip is to take it from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, rather than the way I went.  This way, if the ferry breaks down (there are no spare ships), it is only a 5 hour drive south to Victoria.  To get to Vancouver from Prince Rupert, it is a 17 hour non-stop drive in a big loop.  By the way, Prince Rupert is pretty close to Alaska to give you an idea of the vast distances involved.  I might try this trip again another year, but I might also take a cruise ship instead - might be way more reliable than the aging ferries on this route.
Bay on the way to Prince Rupert
Whale statue, Prince Rupert
Coal ship.  Prince Rupert is a busy container and coal port.
Restaurant, Prince Rupert
Prince Rupert, Cow Bay
Cruise ship docked in Prince Rupert
Statue, Mariner Park
Cow Bay Harbour
Prince Rupert is a nice little city.  We stayed at the Prestige Prince Rupert Hotel which had some very nice staff.  The hotel in Port Hardy was also very nice to allow us to cancel our stay at the last minute due to the ferry cancellation.  We stayed an extra day in Prince Rupert to tour the North Pacific Cannery, see the Museum of Northen British Columbia, and enjoy the tasty seafood here.  The fish and chips at Dolly's Fish Market and the original sushi at Fukusaku were excellent.  While we were having sushi, some fishermen arrived with some freshly caught fish for the chef who was happy to show us his new acquisitions.
Dolly's halibut and chips.
Fresh halibut was so moist and tasty.  Great fish and chips!

Fukusaku churashi
Avocado rolls with real crab and forest mushroom roll with torched mushrooms.  Both yummy.
We also visited the North Pacific Cannery historic site.  I've been to an old fish cannery before, but this one was kind of cool due to the isolated location on a river, and the history behind the place.  The multi-racial nature of the work staff was very interesting.  They employed Chinese, Japanese, and aboriginal workers for processing the fish, crewing fishing boats, maintenance of boats and nets, etc.
North Pacific Cannery
North Pacific Cannery - low tide.  The plant was right on the river as it provided both cooling and waste disposal when processing the fish.
Plenty of racism, but also more cooperation between the groups than you would expect.  Chinese food is still popular with the aboriginals and there was intermarriage between the groups. Management staff was of course European.

There is also a really nice little trail in Prince Rupert that runs along an old abandoned rail line.  You can still see tracks and the old track bed too. I highly recommend an evening walk on this trail as it is quite picturesque and it starts at the fishing harbour.  It follows the shoreline with views of the water.
Rushbrook Trail
Scenic views out.
Fishing harbour
One of several bridges.
Another fishing harbour.
On the way back out to Vancouver, the wildfires in BC started to take off.  This is the second worst fire season in BC since last year which was also bad.  The smoke from it is drifting all over western Canada.  While we were in Vancouver, the air was pretty good, but we drove by many forest fires this trip.
Driving into Prince George.  The big cloud of smoke we entered.
Red sun in Prince George.  The air was bad, but it got worse later.
We missed the day where the morning sky was pitch black in Prince George from all the smoke, but I'm just happy we made it through all of the fires without mishap to get to Vancouver.  Road reports are great and we were never in any real danger, but boy was it ever smokey.

Vancouver Sightseeing, Shopping, and Richmond Night Market
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