Nudging slowly towards Asia [22nd September, Vancouver BC (17 days till Busan, Korea)]

As I was leaving the ship I took a couple of quick
pictures of the port (which is not allowed for
security reasons)
I awoke and found the ship docked in Vancouver. As I ate breakfast (again alone) I asked the porter how long it was expected we would stay here, and if I would have time to disembark. He assured me that I would, and so I burned an hour waiting for the crew to get me a pass to go on shore with.
The port of Vancouver is closed to lowly civilians, and only available by access roads which passed over cargo container populated the train tracks. As my luck would have it, despite it being an ordinary working Tuesday, no one seemed to be answering the intercom at the pedestrian gates the first of these overpasses had. The access road that runs parallel to the port and would lead me to next overpass where I could try my luck at escape houses some of the truly picturesque examples of all the things people hate to see in cities; namely factories and storehouses, some functioning and other seemingly shut-down (and it was the later where I saw strange bearded men coming and going…)
The next overpass had another pedestrian gate with another unresponsive intercom, but the road here gave me enough confidence that if I simply hoped the median and walked the rest I wouldn’t get run over by a car in the process. This led me into Vancouver, which unlike Seattle does not have port that gives right to downtown.  Instead, it lets you off in the middle of skid-row (though to be fair, I had been warned about this in advanced by a security guard who tried to explain the term skid-row­ to me as if Vancouver had invented the concept). In order to maintain Canada’s reputation of being the United States friendlier and much milder cousin, it should be mentioned that this particular bad neighborhood was fairly tame in comparison to some of the other cities equivalent areas. In the twenty minute walk or so through this area the only danger I ever felt I was in was the possibility of being nauseous from an over-abundance of pity. It was mostly block after block of half-way houses and one incredibly hipster café. I recall watching as a disheveled looking man tried to pick up the spoon from his fruit cup by trying to grasp it with two of his toes, seeming to have none of the energy, dexterity or will to get up from the half-height wall where he sat perched and picked up the way anyone else would. I wouldn’t introduce any of these people to my mother, but they all seemed harmless.
Then again, maybe it was just the right time of the day.
Skid-row turned into Chinatown, which turned into Gastown, which is sort of the beginning (as far as
Mmmmm, poutine.

I can tell) of downtown Vancouver. I walked till I hit sky rises, then asked myself what it was that I was really doing in the town. Using the internet came to mind. As did Poutine, a dish that had been nominated by every drunken Canadian living abroad as the best thing Canada has to offer the world, better perhaps than even their maple syrup. For the uninformed, Poutine is; French fries, beef gravy, and cheese curds. Yea, the last one threw me off too.

So I walked to someone who looked like a native (it took three attempts till the person asked actually turned out to be a native) and asked for recommendations on a nice place to have lunch. With the legendary Canadian courtesy and an unimagined enthusiasm for assisting, a stranger seated on a staircase smoking a cigarette gave me a play-by-play to a nice pub which had excellent food and an absolutely friendly staff. It was the most precise set of instruction to a place I had ever received; so much so that I think I could have arrived there blindfolded. I say down, was greeted very warmly, and ordered beers and Poutine like a good little tourist. While I sat I took some time to shoot out a few last minute emails.  When the poutine came I immediately regretted not having the requisite hangover such a dish was designed to cure; any plate of food that sacrifices aesthetic appeal to this extent surely must at least be very functional. But I ate it and enjoyed it (without too much shock – if you know what you are getting into then you will not be disappointed. I also imagine that there really is no bad poutine; consider the ingredients and ask yourself how anyone could fuck this up with the fuck up being the intention), though I felt strongly felt that I had just consumed the medicine of aliment I didn’t have.


Vancouver, as the ship was leaving.

Afterwards, being a nervous person, I decided to walk back through Gastown, through Skid row, through the port, and back onto the ship. I had plenty of time with which I could have wondered around Vancouver and done Canadian things, but I was starting to worry about my budget, and didn’t want to spend money already slotted to be spent in Asia. In retrospect, I should have purchased some provisions for the journey on the ship. I will keep that in mind for next time. Once on board, I showered, relaxed in my cabin, and later went down to the mess for dinner. I mostly did so hoping the other passengers would have joined me for dinner that night, but they didn’t. Oh well. Pace yourself, you’ve got a long journey on this ship.

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