Friday, 23 July 2010

Vancouver day 2

I wake up fairly early the next morning. I can see the sun is trying to come out through the sky lights. The forecast was rain. I really hope the forecast is wrong as my plan today is to visit the Sun Yat Sen authentic Chinese Gardens. I am tired, yet not tired. I can tell my body is confused.

Jane suggested the night before that the quickest way to get into town would be to take the No.20 bus, though warns it goes through the worst part of town, East Hastings. I had already read about East Hastings as being the street to avoid. I decide to go on an adventure and catch the number 20 bus.

The bus driver takes out his earphones when I ask for an all day ticket (misunderstood bit of info Jane had given me) He says “This bus don’t do no all day tickets” so I put in my $2.50 for the standard ticket.
They have a weird system here where your ticket only lasts for an hour and a half. Who realistically only goes somewhere for an hour and a half?

I am met with a sea of bodies at the front of the bus. I shuffle up and grab on to a pole.

At the next stop the bus driver gets up and starts yelling to the front of the bus: “Alright this lady needs a seat (a blind lady getting on the bus) Someone get up and give this lady a seat.” No one moves. He claps his hands. Shouts louder. “Come on now, get up and give this lady a seat.” He goes over and grabs an old lady by the arm and drags her along a row of seats to make room for the lady and her guide dog. He sits back down and starts ranting. “What is wrong with you people on this bus?” He addresses the mass of bodies standing at the front. “Look at you all standing there. There are seats at the back – the back of the bus is empty.”

I look beyond some people and see there are indeed seats further back. I go and sit at a block facing side on. No one else at the front of the bus moves. Ok these people are weird.

A second later a man moves down from the back of the bus and sits beside me.
“Elllo, where you from?” His face is in my face. I immediately want to move.
“Where in Scotland?”
“Near Glasgow.”
He frowns. “I not know thise place.”
“Its only one of the biggest cities in Scotland.” I mutter.
“I is from Iraq,” he grins. “Northern Iraq.”
Images of bombs and kidnapped women does nothing to calm the unease of his slimy smile.
“You live here?”
I say no, explain I am visiting.
“You visit for only couple of days?” He frowns, not understanding what I repeat.
“I no understand.” He shakes his head.
Take a hike then. I want to say.
“I live here 8 years. I own restaurant.”
Go away, go away...
“Me and you go for a meal sometime?” He grins.
“I don’t think my boyfriend would like that.” I say.
“No?” He looks at me hopefully.
“No.” I give him a get lost look and look away, keeping my head firmly pointed in the opposite direction.

He eventually gets the hint and moves back up the bus. I begin to panic and worry he will get off at my stop and try to follow me and I know when I get off I’m not going to have a clue where I’m going and don’t want to look lost... In my panic I get off the bus a bit earlier than I’m supposed to. And I’m sure I get off right at East Hastings, the street I’m supposed to AVOID.

There are a lot of homeless and druggy people huddled together looking strange and hollow. Ok, just like home, I tell myself. DON’T LOOK LOST. I look ahead for red lampposts, knowing this will signal my arrival in China Town, where I want to be.

It doesn’t take long to find them but I have the feeling I am still heading in the wrong direction for the Chinese gardens. I know I can’t pull out a map or I will be a moving target for a mugging. I subtly search faces in the street until I rest upon a normal looking old man. Good choice as he says he is walking that way and takes me right to the entrance of the gardens.

I enter tranquillity and breathe a little sigh of relief...

The outside looks like China, an old bike and red lantern at the door. Stepping inside the gardens is like stepping into another world. I catch the end of a guided tour which is headed by a middle aged Chinese man. He explains that the paving around the gardens represents Yin and Yang (Feminine and Masculine energy) The Yang stones are larger. Most of the gardens also have a water feature related to the Yin energy and connected to balance. The Bonsai trees look much more impressive than the ones down Cardwell Bay garden centre. The Chinese symbols on the walls of the Chinese ‘huts’ look mysterious and meaningful. At the end of the tour we get to sample authentic green tea. It’s a lot more woody and bitter than any I have sampled back home.

I go in to the Gift shop and have a look through cards with Chinese symbols on them. A friendly Chinese shop assistant comes up to me. He asks if I understand the symbols. I say no so am grateful for the written translations pencilled on them. He smiles and says he is from Korea and he doesn’t understand them either. He explains that the Good Fortune symbol is luckier when hung upside down as the Chinese believe this allows good fortune to ‘tumble or flow down.’ I buy this card for a friend.

I reluctantly leave the tranquillity of the gardens and head to Gas Town. A homeless guy approaches me and asks if I have a ‘Toonie.’ “A what?” I frown at him. “2 dollars.” He says. I shake my head and move on. I later relay this to Jane and she explains a 1 dollar is called a ‘Loonie’ because it has a Loonie bird on it and the 2 dollar Toonie must have evolved from that. A little bit of Vancouver inside knowledge!

I find the famous Steam Clock spurting and take a couple of photos. I also take a picture of the famous ‘Gassy Jack’ sculpture. I start to head in the direction of the harbour and then jet lag hits me like a tonne of bricks. I suddenly feel very dehydrated so decide I’d better go in somewhere for lunch, even although I’m not really hungry. I head in to the Steamworks (I’m sure Robert Pattinson ate here, how sad that I know this!). I order a burger and fries but am more interested in my bottle of water. I think I drink about 3 pints and manage half a burger. I feel like taking a nap under the table. My waitress comes over, concerned about my burger. “Is it ok?” she asks. I explain I’m jetlagged and not very hungry and she smiles and tells me not to worry that she always feels worse on the way out and on my way home it won’t be the same.

I head back out in search of the number 20 bus home – my quickest option I decide. I exchange brief dialogue with the bus driver and am relieved to see the bus is a lot quieter this time. I get the side seats to myself.

Then an old guy sitting further down catches my eye.
“Where you from?” He shouts across to me. I tell him. He asks how long I’m staying, if I have relatives here. He tells me he originated from Oz and has some Irish/Scottish descent and something about him being a sailor in Germany.
Then he turns to me and says. “You wanna go for a beer?” He pauses. “I know I’m old enough to be your grandfather...but, you wanna go for a beer?”

I kind of laugh and politely decline. You have got to be kidding!

He whitters on about selling t-shirts – he opens a bag he is holding and I see Native Indian type wolf t-shirts. He talks about sending them to relatives in Australia. “They don’t have Native Indians in Australia. I can do you a deal on them.”
He turns to me. “So you wanna go for a beer? I’ll take you for a beer.”

What part of No did he not understand? I decline again.

“What about a meal? You wanna go for a meal?”

He then rolls up his sleeve to show me his sailor tattoos. “This one means killer.”


Someone gets on and sits down beside him, obscuring his view to me. I
hop off at my stop and decide I’ll try to avoid the number 20 bus next time.

I try to have a nap when I get in. Turn on the weather channel and see the forecast is rain. It was wrong today. Maybe it will be wrong again.

I head to Jane’s for dinner and relay my day’s adventures.


  1. Vikki, this is great, sharply observed, colourful and interesting, plus you've really captured that mixture of excitement and trepidation of travelling alone. Great material for a novel?

    Looking forward to reading all your posts here.

  2. Thanks for your kind comment Maggie! It was fun to write.
    I think I need to get my other novels properly edited first before going on to anything new. The editing is never as much fun!

    Hope your writing is going well.