Not exaggerating in the slightest – the most common questions locals asked me when traveling through Vietnam and Indonesia was, “From Vancouver? Or Toronto?” While I am not from Toronto, or even close to it, the provincial capital was usually the closest landmark in Ontario I could choose that many people would recognize. Most local people assumed we were from Vancouver anyways – it seems that a lot of Canadian travelers are coming from the west coast these days. Coincidence? Probably not.
I wanted to talk about Vancouver because I am in the midst of spending 10 days on Canada’s temperate west coast! A lifelong resident of Ontario, the west coast has always held a certain draw for me. There is something about British Columbia that is captivating – I think this is true for many of us from Ontario. Same same, but different.
Vancouver? Or Toronto?
To people who aren’t familiar with Canadian geography, these are the main regions of Canada, along with Montreal. And understandably so – Canada is huge. In South East Asia most places can be reached by a couple of hours in a plane making the distances between Canadian cities and provinces vast. Toronto to Vancouver on a regular flight (YYZ to YVR) takes about 5 hours and can cost anywhere from $475 to $800+ for the flight.
So why did many local people in Vietnam and Indonesia assume we were from Vancouver?
Possibly for these two reasons
1) Many of the Canadians we met traveling were from Vancouver. Or maybe they were from the Vancouver area, and identified the closest landmark. Much the same way I identified with being from Toronto, despite living a couple of hours away.
2) The Vancouver area has a large Asian community due to large population of Asian immigrants, increasing in numbers according to Canadian census data from 2014. One man we met in Hanoi asked if we were from “Hong Couver”, haha. The community of Richmond, in particular, is a more noticeably Asian community (cuisine, signage, population), in addition to a popular Chinatown and night markets near Stanley Park in Vancouver.
Canada… it’s cold there, right?
Yes, it can be cold here. So cold. And windy. The Finlanders know. And so do a lot of other people, but some don’t, and I found myself talking about the weather in Canada all of the time. Maybe I was just home sick, or feeling guilty over missing the worst part of winter for the first time in my life (the snow!). It can be fun explaining to people who never experience temperatures below the low 20s (Celsius) how our weather can drop to -30 C in the dead of winter.
But while winter weather can get extreme in the central Ontario region, the west coast of the country often experiences the moderating effect of being near the ocean and experiences milder winters. That’s not to say British Columbia doesn’t get extreme winter weather – they do. But the Vancouver and lower mainland area is known for having milder winter temperatures, with heavier precipitation. This past winter was particularly mild on the west coast.
And the summers are beautiful, no matter what part of the country you’re from.
Snowshoeing? Ice fishing?
These activities are more common in areas with lots of snow! When winter is at least five months out of the year, Canadians need to get creative to keep entertained during the dark, cold months from November to April. In Ontario, activities like snowshoeing and ice fishing are extremely popular. In British Columbia, the Rocky Mountains are a main feature and there is less lower mainland snow – making the region known world wide for its top notch snowboarding and skiing.
We have been lucky enough to visit B.C. during the spring – which means hiking, exploring and making the most of patio season. Yesterday, we visited beautiful Stanley Park, on the edge of downtown Vancouver. The 1,001 acre park is bordered by Vancouver Harbor and English Bay, features approximately 200 km of walking trails, and is an amazing thing to find in the middle of one of Canada’s largest cities. Stay tuned for more details on our visit to Stanley Park and the sea wall.
What is the food like?
Fortunately, Canada supports a multicultural society which means multicultural food! Vietnamese, Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, French, Italian… the list goes on – if you want it, there is probably a restaurant that serves it.
That being said, I have always found Vancouver to have a wider selection of the types of food that I like to eat – see back to my point about having a large population of Asian individuals. Being a coastal city, Vancouver also offers phenomenal sushi that Canadians from landlocked provinces just don’t have access to. We checked out Nikko Sushi, in Langley, and were not disappointed.
What I am trying to say is that food in Canada is whatever you want it be. We may take it for granted, but Canadians are very lucky in this respect. I did a little research before arriving in the Vancouver area, and stumbled across Wondrous Adventure, a beautiful travel blog put together by Christine, with many of the blog posts relating to hiking, food, and other activities in the Vancouver area. If you are planning on spending time in the region, Christine’s blog is a great place to start.
So far our time in Vancouver has been fantastic – although there could be a little more sun (for my liking anyways)!
Coming up: Highlights from our visit to Stanley Park, Granville Island, and my visit with fellow travel bloggers and soon-to-be expats Rob and Diane (Rodi) from Experimental Expats. You can follow their adventure of moving to Malaysia by checking out their blog here.