Friday, May 30, 2008

Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort

Let us depart from Vancouver for a while since I'm really itching to share this with you.

This would be one of the most unforgettable places I went to when I was in British Columbia. Last April, my cousins Anna and Sharoll treated me to a day trip to Whistler, British Columbia. I am so excited about this trip because it will be the first time that I'll be seeing actual snow and also mom is telling me that this is such a nice place although she went there about nine to ten years ago during summer time. The closer that I can get to snow back here at home is the frost accumulating in our freezer.

Whistler, BC is approximately two hours away from Vancouver City. It is also one of the venues for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. To get there you can take your car and drive through the very scenic Sea to Sky Highway, or you may opt to go to the Pacific Central Station and catch a Greyhound Canada bus to Whistler. Our choice was to take the Greyhound Canada bus to Whistler.

Once you get off the bus, the first thing that will greet you is this very nice and beautiful village called the Whistler Village. Whistler Village is a place where you can eat and shop; there are also some hotels around where you can stay. Words cannot express how beautiful the place is but here are some of the pictures (with me and my cousins).

Believe it or not, snow is actually falling down from the sky at that time when we got off the bus and as a first timer I am so happy with it.

After taking some pictures, we decided to go to Mc Donald's to grab something to eat for breakfast before exploring the rest of this beautiful place. The special thing about that specific Mc Donald's Branch is that all the crew are Filipinos, and yes you can hear them talk in our language. It is so nice to know that there is some place that you can feel at home even you are far away from home.

Before you go, line-up to that ticket counter near the gondolas and purchase your lift tickets. You may want to check out the Whistler Visitor Centre. We were told by someone when we are inquiring about things that we can do around whistler that lift tickets at the visitor centre are discounted. We got our sightseeing lift tickets from there and it's really discounted.

After that we went to the Excalibur Gondola which will bring us to Blackcomb Mountain.

That's me in the Excalibur Gondola, all geared up for snow. Upon reaching the end of the gondola, me as the first timer for snow explored around and experienced snow.

After taking lots of pictures, we went down to base II for some more pictures with snow. [Please forgive me; it's really my first time to see snow].

One of the exciting activities for the non-skier like us in Whistler-Blackcomb is called tubing. Tubing is a winter activity where you'll sit on an inflatable tube and ride the snow. Because we want to have some fun we decided to do it.

And we went up and down the hill for an hour until we're all exhausted. At first since it is our first time we decided to do the tubing all together, but after that I did it by myself and it was not a scary experience after all. I had lots of fun in here. Given the chance, I will do this again soon.

After that we went back to Whistler Village, grabbed some lunch and this time went up to the other mountain, Whistler. We took the Whistler Gondola to reach the peak; believe it or not it will take you around 20-30 minutes one way.

Along the way we could see some nice sights of trees covered in snow and it is so beautiful.

When we reached the peak, we are surprised that there is an actual lodge where people can eat, rest and warm themselves up and the place is so nice that the three of us were thinking why didn't we go up to whistler mountain first (well if we did, we missed the Tubing at Blackcomb). We were also told that they are building a peak-to-peak gondola between the peak of Whistler and the peak of Blackcomb and it will be ready at around December 2008 just in time for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. In case you're just wondering the peak-to-peak gondola if you're going to measure it from sea-level will be as high as the Empire State Building in New York. I really hope that I could get back there so that I can experience it.

One lesson I learned in Whistler Mountain is that never to remove one layer of clothing from your body at any time. I did remove one layer since there is too much warmth, but I didn't expect that it will be too cold up there. We did not spend that much time at Whistler Mountain since our bus going back to Vancouver City is leaving at around 4:30 PM so we hurriedly went down and walked fast to the bus, but we came there just in time. Since I am very tired from my day trip in Whistler, I slept in the bus and just arrived in Vancouver.

If you want to see more pictures from Whistler please go to my multiply account:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don’t know how the city’s transportation works? Go and plan online!

I think one dilemma that a traveler has when he or she arrives in a city is how to get around, which buses go where, which station do I get off. Sure taxis would always be available, but you know it would be nice if you can just spend more on souvenirs or admission tickets to popular attractions.

One of the things I learned on this trip is that you can actually plan your commuting online with the Trip Planners of the different transportation authorities. Illustrated below is the trip planner for the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink BC) and you can find this on

So whenever you find yourself on an unfamiliar city, just remember to go to the internet and look for the website of the transportation authority in the area you're in and see if you can plan the trip from there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Exploring Downtown Vancouver, BC (Part 1)

If I arrive in a foreign city for the first time like Vancouver, BC, the one thing that I wanted to see immediately is the city centre where all the skyscrapers and buildings are located. The following day after I arrived in Vancouver, my cousins treated me to a tour of downtown.

Downtown Vancouver is not that far from where I stayed. In fact, it is just one ride from Joyce-Collingwood Station to Waterfront via the SkyTrain. The first place that they brought me in is Canada Place.

According to the Wikipedia Article, it is Canada's pavilion for Expo '86. Now it houses the Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, Vancouver World Trade Centre, the World's First Permanent IMAX 3D Theatre, and the main Cruise Ship terminal for the region. For the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Canada Place will serve as the international media centre.

What I love about Canada Place is that there are breathtaking and picturesque views. From there you see the Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver, Stanley Park and the Snow Capped Mountains of British Columbia. Here are some of the pictures we took:

After hanging out at Canada Place, we went to Historic Gastown, another popular tourist attraction. It is just a walking distance from Canada Place.

One of the attractions in that part of Vancouver aside from the architecture is the Steam Clock located on the corner of Cambie and Walter Street. I am told those streams comes out of the clock every hour and if you plan to go, make sure that you will be on time or else you will miss the best part.

After that we went on and discovered the rest of downtown along the way we saw cherry blossom trees which are so nice because spring has just started there. I guess this building would be familiar to you:

If you watch Smallville on TV, I was told the building is where they shoot some of the scenes. However, I cannot relate since I myself does not watch Smallville. Moving on we walked until we reached Davie Street and we grabbed some lunch at a Greek restaurant. After that we proceed to English Bay.

I was surprised that they have beaches within the city itself, first I just thought that it would be something like the bay walk and the one esplanade we have here in the Philippines, but it is an actual beach where people can swim during summer. They have logs along the shore where one can sit and reflect on whatever happened after a day's work or hang out with friends.

What you see above is called an Inukshuk. According to the Wikipedia article the one in English bay which is pictured above means friendship and welcoming of the world. The Inukshuk also stands as a cultural symbol of the Inuit as well of Canada.

After staying, we went on grabbed some ice cream (yes, on a hot seven degrees Celsius day) and headed back home to celebrate Ate Sharoll's birthday. And there it was, my first day in Vancouver.

Student? You may want to bring your School ID abroad

What for? Discounts in points of interest! However, you may not be eligible for discounted fares in public transportation.

When I was in Vancouver, my cousins brought me to the different attractions within the city such as the Vancouver Lookout at the Harbor Centre, Telus World of Science, Capilano Suspension Bridge and many more. Most (if not all) of the attractions in Vancouver offer a student price for admission tickets and definitely you can use your own foreign student ID. Well there is no harm in trying.

I failed once though, that was in the Telus World of Science (Science World). They do accept foreign school IDs; however my ID lacked validation (we still have those boxes at the back of the ID where the registrar can sign) and thus they cannot give me a discounted admission ticket.

Watch out for more tips here at the Newbie Traveller!

Monday, May 26, 2008

First City Abroad: Vancouver, British Columbia

Downtown Vancouver, Photo by Jasper Jugan

I left Manila last March 30th via a Philippine Airlines flight going to Vancouver, BC. Since my family got a pass to be able to go inside the airport they accompanied me from check-in until I got safely inside the boarding area.

"This is it!" this is what I said to myself while waiting for the boarding call with me being finally excited about this trip and of course being able to go out of the country for the first time and the best part is I'll be independent. Flight got delayed for at least thirty minutes because of the two passengers who suddenly decided that they will not be taking the flight and at around 5:15, the plane took off.

Moving forward, the plane arrived at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR). When I got off the plane, I have to pinch and even slap myself to convince me that what I'm experiencing is not a dream. Because it is a Sunday, it is a busy day for the airport because people who choose to fly from the United States are coming in along with those people coming from other cities abroad. I had to wait for almost an hour to be cleared through immigration and customs and another thirty to forty-five minutes to get my baggage and do further customs clearance. After that I got to the arrivals area and saw my relatives and we got out of the airport. At first I resisted wearing a jacket because I want to experience firsthand the cold weather but it is too cold, so I just wore the one that is brought to the airport by my uncle and cousins.

The first thing we did is of course to take pictures, the one I posted in here is a picture with Uncle Johnny, Robin, Lana and Isaac.

The first thing that I loved about Vancouver is that it is so clean. The air is clean, the roads are clean everything is clean. I also think that those who planned the city (which I will call the forefathers of the City) have planned it well. Anywhere you look you will see something that is picturesque like the snow capped mountains in spring. Mountains are always the backdrop of the city.

Moving on, we arrived at this nice and cozy Collingwood neighborhood where my relatives live. We ate, and then I made my first video call to the Philippines to let them know that I arrived in one piece. After that I decided to get some rest as I haven't got enough sleep in the plane.

I woke up and later that night, ate dinner and we went for a drive-by to downtown Vancouver. It is so nice and the city has several landmarks such as the Telus World of Science (Science World), Vancouver Lookout at Harbor Centre and so on which I will be blogging in the next couple of days.

Newbie’s Lesson: Have US$6 ready when entering the United States by land

If you are travelling by air to the United States chances are the airlines which will complete your inbound United States leg will be the one to provide you the I-94 form and you will have to fill it up before you get out of the plane. However, when you are entering the United States by land and based on my experience the Peace Arch Border in Surrey, BC and Blaine, WA it is an entirely different story.

When you arrive, a US Customs and Border Protection Officer will make an initial screening and will ask questions about the purpose and length of your stay in the United States. If you are a passport holder of a country that needs to go through US VISIT, you will be referred to a secondary screening where you will go through the usual questions and US VISIT procedures (Fingerprint Scan, Digital Photo). Here you need not to fill out a form; you will just have to answer the questions by the CBP Officer. If you are deemed admissible to the United States the CBP Officer will ask you for US$ 6 for each person who requires an I-94. It turns out that actually the US$6 is a fee for the I-94 Arrival / Departure Record form.

So if you are planning to cross the border to the United States by land please make sure to make the trip less of a hassle to you that you have US$ 6 ready on your wallet as CBP officers may ask for an exact change (just like what happened to us).

Lots of Stories to tell, and explaining to do

Last week, I just came home from my trip in the United States and Canada. I've been there for forty-five days straight and I can't believe that in just a span of a month and fifteen days I, together with my friends and relatives we did accomplish a lot of things. I have been from the Snowy Mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb, to the Death Valley in California. I basically have experienced everything in just a short span of time. Anyways I'll be blogging my experiences one by one in the coming days and months.

For the purposes of this blog, I will be sticking to lots of stories to tell since you know that explaining to do has a different audience set. ;-) You'll be seeing stories like my experience in this place and that place as well as what my thoughts are regarding something that I encountered on a specific trip. Another thing that I want to share is information about anything that I encounter on my trips that I think is important for you to know especially if like me you're a newbie too.

I hope you'll journey with me through this blog, please feel free to comment anytime on any post that I'll be having here.