Wrong Side of the Tracks

Saturday, August 30, 2014
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
I left Rhonda and Michael's place at 6 am this morning to catch my 7:20 am train to Vancouver. They dropped me off (so nice!) and then I was on my own. Everything went really smooth, and the train ride was quite pretty. Getting out of the station took a little longer, as we had to go through customs, but even that was pretty painless. I decided to suck it up and just take a cab to my homestay through airbnb, as I wasn't in the mood to try and find the right street to grab the public bus. Eleven dollars later (worth it), I arrived at my homestay where I met the host (very nice) and was given some info about the area. 

My room wasn't quite ready, so I walked down the street to find a 7-Eleven or something similar to buy a pack of 10 bus/train cards . The public bus that goes downtown is right down the street, so I figured I would be taking it quite a bit. After grabbing the passes, I stopped at a sushi place and got a big plate of it for $6.75. Yeah, they weren't kidding when they said sushi is cheap and plentiful here. I got settled in my "small" room and decided to shower before heading out.  

I grabbed the 22 MacDonald bus toward Downtown, but wanted to get off around Chinatown to visit a winery. I get dropped off and as I'm making my way toward this winery, I start to realize I'm not in the nicest area of town. I always have this tendency of winding up on the wrong side of the tracks when visiting a new city. I can smell urine and see some people who look a little rough around the edges. I even passed a grassy area with tents known as "Tent City." But I didn't feel unsafe. I finally found the Vancouver Urban Winery and tried a flight of reds. My server did confirm we were in "East Hastings," which indeed, is a "bad" area . But I ended up talking to these two guys from the area who told me even Vancouver's worst area is nothing compared to Milwaukee's worst area. One of these guys had gone to school at Madison many years ago. I could tell they were also impressed I had done my homework on Vancouver.  

After my wine, I made my way back to Chinatown. I was hesitant to take out my camera because I didn't want to look like a tourist until I realized I am pasty and blond and clearly didn't look like I was a Chinatown native and would look like a tourist even without a camera. I decided to grab some Chinese food from Kent's Kitchen, this great dive I had read about. There were definitely some characters in that place, too, and as I carried my food down the street, I realized I was never going to eat the huge portion. As I started making my way toward Gastown (cute neighborhood, flowery, lots of restaurants), there were still a lot of people in the streets, and it made me a little sad. I walked by an older gentleman who looked like he had seen better days . He was carrying a bible and had on ripped jeans. I turned around, pulled my Chinese take out from my bag and gave it to him. He looked at me kindly and said "God bless you," and I walked away. I know people probably disagree with that, and Chinese food is not the healthiest, but I didn't care. Maybe he hadn't had a hot meal in awhile, and I wasn't that hungry anyway. I figured someone should eat it who really needed it.  

After checking out some things in Gastown, I bought a ticket for the Vancouver Look Out Tower, which I thought would be lame, but turned out being pretty cool with awesome views at the top. After taking some pics, I headed toward Robson St (shopping street) and bought a falafel pita from a street vendor and ate it while listening to some street music. By this time it was getting dark, and I was getting sleepy, so I looked at my Route 22 bus route map and was glad to see I wasn't far from a stop. I rode the bus back to 17th Ave. and decided to call it a day. One thing that is kind of cool is that when Vancouverites exit the bus, they say "thank you." Like, all of them. And the bus driver will say "you're welcome." I made sure I said it, too. I think it's a nice thing.   

Vancouver is lovely. Very scenic with a ton to do. And actually, visiting the crappy area first made everything else look like paradise. We'll see what tomorrow brings!

- Jamie



I love Vancouver and liked reading this entry. I found it surprising that not everyone thanks the public transit driver when exiting. Perhaps that's something I've picked up unknowingly while living in AK and working on the West Coast. Enjoy your trip & thanks for seeing the blog entry!