Chinese Garden Best This Side of Beijing

At the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown, barely a block from the night market and Foo’s Ho Ho Chinese restaurant lies the most ultimate, complete, beautiful and authentic Chinese garden I’ve ever seen… well at least on this continent.

Kindly to observe the beauty, serenity and the top of my head.
Kindly to observe the beauty, serenity and the top of my head.

No discredit meant, of course. This garden really is as fantastic as it is peaceful. The only thing that was disturbing or chaotic in the whole place was us and we didn’t much succeed at upsetting the placid balance of this place. I think we were distracted by the sum of its coolness.

Half the park is free as the air we share with the trees adorned by it. The ponds and gazebos are sculpted with a shape and craft true to the Imperial Chinese theme, and I should know, I’ve seen it all myself. The free part is only half the park, half the story and half the cool.

Of all the attractions we hit in Vancouver, the garden was the least expensive and most peaceful, both by a mile. Once you’ve seen the free part you may wonder, “why see the other half?” and there is indeed a reason. Nay, not a reason but a full pack of them.

 

  • Guided tours tell you the origin and meanings of all the stuff you see.
  • The garden’s sophistication steps up to a level of sophistication absolutely true to the traditional Chinese theme.
  • It’s got way more history, fact and museum-quality exhibit.
  • There’s turtles in the pond.

 

Mind you, I don’t recall seeing turtles when we toured the orient; the rest of the stuff is all you could hope to find. Following our series about Shanghai and surrounding areas we heard complaints that our reviews were too distant to connect with you readers, but this place is practically in your backyard and as accurate to the real thing you’d ever want, only without the 16-hour flight.

I really don’t think I can express the value offered by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Garden. And, as much as the Chinatown night market in Vancouver is a representative taste of modern China, the garden is an appetizer of it’s rich heritage.

If I could muster a complaint, it would be that it doesn’t span half the city like the Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou, but then, it’s not supposed to. Besides, this garden was built on a principal of the new world. It’s a place to reflect and rest, not for laborers to endlessly toil for the eventuall partial appreciation of a single and singly ungrateful bureaucrat.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Garden is open year round and has seasonal hours. For information, hours and directions go to Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Classical Chinese Garden.


ABOVE -This is me and the the brother (of Patrickesque disposition) each pointing at the triple-toad, lilly-pad out-hangery… aint’ that cool, it’s three turtles basking in the sun.


ABOVE -I told you this was a garden unlike any other, didn’t I? This is a shot of me and Patrick taking in a moment of serenity whilst pointing up at a gazebo of reflection. If that don’t spell out a Chinese garden of reflection I can’t much speak as to what actually does.

 

Won-Ton Destruction at Foo’s Ho Ho

I know this may be hard to believe but there are restaurants out there that, sweet & sour as they may be, actually expect you to eat with chopsticks. That’s a tough chicken nugget to swallow, I know, but what’s even more unbelievable is that one of these restaurants is actually called Foo’s Ho Ho Restaurant, and I’ll assure you, we were the “foos.”

You think the noodles are bad, try using these silly sticks for your soup!
You think the noodles are bad, try using these silly sticks for your soup!

To me it started because we were hungry, but little did I realize it had actually started a day before. We were perusing the Chinese Consular neighborhood in downtown Vancouver when one or more of the parents had to use the facilities. You see, parents don’t wear diapers so potty-time is quite literally potty-time. Dad knew we’d have to eat there so he grabbed a menu, but they turned the Miss Mama away anyhow, thinking it was a strategy.

A strategy to not mess one’s own pants? What a strange proposition!

won-ton2LEFT – As impossible as the endeavor is and as hungry as I am, I have to admit to you good folk that the joy of flinging pork about the restaurant brings me a joy I rarely get strictly from eating… though I am a bit hungry.

Daddy-O’s a benevolent man, so the next day we returned. Not for use of their plumbing so much as their kitchen. We had it all baby, noodles, chicken, sweet and/or sour stuffs, cookies of fortunes hard to swallow, you name it. Heck, by the time we were done they even allowed us to use their bathroom.

Then came the meal, soup, goofy stuff I didn’t recognize and all. And beside it were my chopsticks which, despite their being proper eatware, I absolutely insisted on using. It wasn’t hot & sour nor egg flower my soup and my destruction were both won-ton… Wonton? Either way.

Then came the bill. We’d determined in advance that they take real money, you know, the green American kind, but it wasn’t until after we’d eaten we found out that the exchange rate was such that a loan shark would have done better by us. On top of all that they still wanted a tip. Here’s a tip for you, don’t rip off the tourists, pal, you’ll never get to heaven if you do.

So we packed up our chow mein and headed back to the van, our destruction — whether won-ton or otherwise — completely vindicated. Lesson learned, be careful of restauranteurs in a tourist-heavy area unless you speak Cantonese and most importantly, put down the chopsticks.

ABOVE - Stabbing? Does this help? I can stab harder if that would work. Wait, no I tried that and my soup ended up decorating the table. What do I do again?
ABOVE – Stabbing? Does this help? I can stab harder if that would work. Wait, no I tried that and my soup ended up decorating the table. What do I do again?
ABOVE - See? I told you it was really a real place. Isn't that just a brilliant name for it?
ABOVE – See? I told you it was really a real place. Isn’t that just a brilliant name for it?

 

Vacay Teaches Vocab Without Meaning

I’m always up for whatever and I always love learning new thingy-doos. Specifically* I love converting my expansive passive vocabulary into an active vocabulary. If you didn’t know, it’s possible to say things out ioud yourself that you’ve previously only heard.
This is brother Brendan standing cleverly as if to obscure me, but I pay no mind, I observe the horses and share love with the brothers.

This is brother Brendan standing cleverly as if to obscure me, but I pay no mind, I observe the horses and share love with the brothers.

But this unexpected vacation has allowed me to learn something new and glorious; I learned a new wordy-phrase. Thanks to hanging out on the outy-skirts of Vancouver at the massive park complete with the routine departures of float planes, I’ve learned how to say “bye-bye.”

Really it was a day of walking around. Me and the brothers all had our leashes on and Daddy-O had his roller blades on so our efforts were ideal for muling dad around to the delight of international tourists who witnessed it. But then, all of a sudden, a float plane took off. The parents and brothers all wished it bye-bye and — I don’t know what came over me — to the surprise of everyone (myself included) I wished it bye-bye too.

But then, whatever, it was as out of sight as it was out of mind, even though it really was “out of sight.”

No matter, I’d already learned it and I couldn’t unlearn it. I’ve forgotten almost as much as I’ve ever learned, but I’ve never unlearned anything. The plane (and moment) was gone so I went back about my Franken-style walking and exploration. The knowledge was secure, however locked somewhere cozy within my noggin.

The proof is in the pudding. I didn’t see any proof nor pudding, but the parents apparently did.

We were trying to head back over the the Howard Johnson’s when I heard another float plane set to jet back out when some sort of Pavlovin bell rung and my chops slobbered up and I turned tail and ran back towards the beachy-doo.

Daddy-O was still on skates so I knocked him dead to right and right to tukkis. I heard the departure and, thanks to my newfound abililty, I felt compelled to run back and wish it “bye-bye.”

And now I’m a smarter baby-man. Flights depart on the half hour and float planes equal bye-bye.

That’s it.

*I can never remember, is it “specifically” or “pacifically”?

ABOVE -This is a panaoramic sea-front shot from where I could see me the many float planes to-ing and fro-ing, as if to beg my "bye-bye" proclamations perpetually. Ah float planes, those noisy, airborne accoutrements that have taught me nigh-abouts nothing.
ABOVE -This is a panaoramic sea-front shot from where I could see me the many float planes to-ing and fro-ing, as if to beg my “bye-bye” proclamations perpetually. Ah float planes, those noisy, airborne accoutrements that have taught me nigh-abouts nothing.

Vacation Equally Exhilarating, Exhausting

We’ve been hitting the greater Vancouver, Canada metro now for the better part of a million-billion years and it’s all kinds of footloose, fancy, carefree fun, but out of nowhere me and the brother men are flat out bushwhacked.
story746
We’ve hit museums, attractions, tourist traps, and frankly everything there is to do in Vancouver short of that rotating observation place, which the public relations rep there assured us was no place for children. Between all this and the greasy spoon diners we’ve so gleefully patronized, I’m just not sure I can endure much more without a defenseless, albeit “power” nap.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “haven’t you guys written about naps a bunch of times already?” Well, yes, we have, if you want to be both literal and technical, not to mention a busy-bodied naysaying Nelly, but one thing we’ve never done is written about the virtues of taking a nap whilst being driven around in Canada. I mean, seriously, that’s got to be worth something, right?

So as if to be a kind and benevolent editor — not so much to my editorial staff, whom I still giddily work into the ground, but to you poor, suffering readers — I’ll cut this short. It’s not because I don’t like the sound of my own voice nor that Daddy-O doesn’t relish his rhythmic drumming upon the keyboard, but because I’ve just awoken, reviewed these pictures and I’m still as groggy as a Frankenstein monster.

So with this abridgedly short entrance I permit you to go back about your day. Not because I think it best but because I’m still trying to figure out where I am, whom I’m with, and what exciting adventure is next on our lengthy itinerary to undertake.

 

 

Mini-Train Museum Boasts Mega Fun

I am only surprised by something maybe two or three times a day, but upon our wandering of Granville Island in Vancouver, Canada, I was really surprised. Not just really surprised, but really, really so, and pleasantly at that. They’ve got miniatures!

Here`s just a first, mererest sample-dee shot of what the museum of mini choo-choo`s has in store for you-you`s.
Here`s just a first, mererest sample-dee shot of what the museum of mini choo-choo`s has in store for you-you`s.

Upon admission we saw tons of model boats, some intricate, some fancy but all wrapped in glass, which was still pretty cool. I know boats well enough, and these were exceptional miniatures. Far bigger than toys and more complicated too, which was there one redeeming quality.

But the kindly curator who’d admitted us said there was more upstairs, which is only rarely of interest to us. Stairs? Our stair-unfriendly gaggle and half-ton stroller rarely get to any up of stairs, but the elevator made it real, which led us to more exciting exhibits.

Upstairs they had cooler boats and even a bunch of submarines in the appropriately named “submarine room.” Really cool stuff, way better than downstairs. Still, the coolest part by far still awaited us, we just didn’t yet know it.

Once in the floor-teleport closet (complete with buttons and dingy noises) we were free to emerge on the second and most glorious floor. There the models are more intricate and interesting and worthy of wandery.

Floor two had this room, that one, and the other, and that was all fine and blah-de-blah whatever, but what we didn’t see coming was the billion acres to scale of mountainous trainscape. It was unlike anything me nor brothers nor the daddy-man had ever see. The miniatrue train museum can be whatever it wants at this point. The gem in it’s crown is so glorious and lusterous all ills are entirely forgotton.

Then came the real deal. The unimaginably awesome megachasm of mountainous train trackery akin to an entire Rhode Island of interest, only hilly and actually truly interesting. Forget Rhode Island, this here’s a stellar state of perpetually moving trains. They’d bragged it up, but only modestly though we simply could not have known.

We’ve seen county fairs across counties and a reasonable jillion of miniature attractions, but we’ve never, never, never seen an exhibit like this one. it’s 40′ long and loaded with thousands of hand-fabricated trees along man-laid tracks and expertly crafted trussles and railways. it’s amazing!

My testament serves it no justie and neither do my pictures. It has to be seen to be appreciated or even believed. There’s eagles hidden in trees, bears by ponds, fisherman, logging towns, old and second growth trees, mossy crags, you name it. If it exists in the natural world as a train runs through it, they’ve got it represented in miniature form.

The Miniature Boat & Train Museum is located in the heart of Granville Island at 1502 Duranleau, Granville Island, Victoria, Canada with regular tourist hours. Check out their website for more information, call (604)683-1939, or just go see them — I’ve even got a coupon for you, PRINT COUPON HERE — we did and we loved it, in case I wasn’t already clear on the matter.

ABOVE -Wow man, check out the attention to detail. You know it's got to be good in-and-out of the hood if a whole entire article passes without even the first shot of me or the brothers in it, ya know?
ABOVE -Wow man, check out the attention to detail. You know it’s got to be good in-and-out of the hood if a whole entire article passes without even the first shot of me or the brothers in it, ya know?

 

Howard Johnson Keeps Kids (in) Safe(s)

No trip is complete without a stay in a strange bed, and our trip to Vancouver may now be considered complete because we got us a highrise room where we can bathe, rest, refresh and consider ourselves safe. Maybe too safe; you might argue but maybe that’s just good ol’ Howie for you.

This is the baby DB in a safe, being kept and protected by its fire-retardedness.
This is the baby DB in a safe, being kept and protected by its fire-retardedness.

The room cost us a small fortune, which is good because the place across town wanted a large fortune. Our room was neat and tidy while the staff was as kind as could be expected, but if you’re going to travel you’ve got to stay. So, let’s weigh out the pros of these pros as well as the cons of these cons.

PROS:

 

  • Bed sufficiently wide to host not one, not tow, but three (yes, count them, three) boys. It’s great because it converts our slumberous nocturnal wandery into a “slap your brother” program, and that’s worth it’s weight in cyberspace.
  • Room was clean, comfortable, sanitary and safe. If you don’t think it’s so safe, consider the heavy door, electronically secured lock, excessive fire precaution and the floor safe into which we can stuff a noisy brother. It’s for his own protection, you see, as I’ve been known to give him the what-for when he’s at his loudest.
  • Had a fine, fun, festive mirrored elevator with buttons aplenty for my pushing delight.
  • There’s no mini bar for us cost-oblivious kids to raid at a cost of a billion dollars (1.21 billion Canadian).
  • Security so tight that nobody harrassed us for our celebrity status (no one ever has, but still).

 

howards-safe2LEFT – A second, nearly identical shot to that of the one above. As to why it is that we decided to include it, well, we’re still looking into that.

CONS:

 

  • Complimentary continental breakfast fully unfulfilling, even if you only weigh 30-odd pounds. Thusly named because it’s the lightest form of breakfast on the entire continent.
  • Room deposit paid in US funds at a terrible exchange rate ($200), returned in Canadian dollars with the horrific discount despite lack of damage, long distance, or other premium room charges. ($178 returned). We lost $22 bucks just to secure the room. This isn’t a complaint, I understand it’s a fairly standard practice, but travelers beware.
  • Room is fun and festive, complete with a complimentary, unimaginably commercial-free cartoon channel (our parents kept demanding we sleep).
  • Probably other stuff too.

 

Uh-oh, I just realized we don’t have the combination to the safe and the baby is in there! I have to go now, problem-solving problem, you understand.*

*This was an excuse to end the story without an actual conclusion. Pure laziness, not an actual emergency. Truthfully, he wasn’t even allowed to play in there longer than it took us to take the pictures.

Above - Here you can see our side-wide bed configuration. It's perfect for cramming a quarter-dozen kids on a bed as well as squishing the mama in to the corner.
Above – Here you can see our side-wide bed configuration. It’s perfect for cramming a quarter-dozen kids on a bed as well as squishing the mama in to the corner.

 

Familial Shyness Rivaled by Stranger Openness

As a seasoned senior journalist of intermittently shy and outgoing natures, I’ve long wondered what it is that oscillates me from one to the other. Upon my most recent shopping market adventure it became more clear to me, and for the better, though it all still confuses me terrifically.

Pleased to meet you, have you seen my tattoo?
Pleased to meet you, have you seen my tattoo?

I still call dad “Mama,” refuse hellos and goodbyes even to intimate regulars like MissLissa and Aunt George, and hide behind Daddy-O’s leg trunks when I see regular cast and crew like the ever-friendly Grama-Lady. I chalk it up to being shy, but there’s a gaping hole in my claim: Strangers.

Strangers are an interesting, diverse breed allegedly numbering in the many of billions and they hang out wherever I go in the world at (very) large. I’m not sure the appeal, but as a group I like them a lot. Oh, and I’ve met at least my fair share of them.

I know not to take their candy (yeah, right!) and I’ve never gone away with any (likely in large part of their failure to offer me said candy). Still, I hold them in high steam* and warm up to them in comparable steamy speed, not unlike a locomotive of assorted size, which may or may not “can/could.”

The familiars begrudge the hiding and silence just as much as the strangers embrace the affectionate “How are you doing?”

I flash them my tattoos and babble, what’s wrong with that?

It’s a show and tell type game to me, this introduction to strangers business. People get tattoos as a personal statement, decoration, or as a conversation piece. For me it’s as much about flash as it is an awkward moment melting ice breaker. You know, like, “Pleased to meet you, please look at my bare and milky tummy as I slap it.”

That’s not weird or anything, right?**

I meet new people and I just feel inclined to introduce myself by showing off my totally braggable tummy tattoo de jour. Maybe I’ve got Grover, an overly elaborate Spidey or a flame encrusted heart, doesn’t matter, it’s a form of hello easier than vocalization and a picture that paints a thousand words of insight into my character and persona.

Think about it, what says “Gimme cookies!” like a Cookie Monster on the belly?

To my friends and family and others within my discounted long distance calling area, I apologize for my icy disposition. To my newfound stranger-friends my message has more face value. To you, I instead suggest, “Pleased to meet you. I’m Brendan Alexander, journalist of world fame and travel; wouldya take a look at this!”

*”High steam”? That can’t be right, can it?
**Rhetorical question, no need to email the obvious answer. I suspect I know I may be wrong on this one already.

ABOVE - You seem like a decent enough fellow here at the park, might I show you my tattoo?
ABOVE – You seem like a decent enough fellow here at the park, might I show you my tattoo?