Final days at Burns Lake—Sun, Kayaking, Lakes, School, Friends, Goodbyes.

June 24th—June 28th 2019

Lakes District in mid northern British Columbia has won a piece of my heart!

         Photos taken from Gerow Island near Burns Lake–June 2019

The Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position with School District 91 started as a 6 month contract and ended as a 7 1/2 month contract during the 2018-2019 school year.  I experienced a “true Canadian winter” in northern B.C. unlike the milder winters we experience on temperate Vancouver Island.

The amount of sunshine in snow country, and variety of year round sports opportunities, were bonuses I had not anticipated. I was also so grateful for the friendliness of the people thriving up here, diversity of cultures, and vast range of arts available.

        Out exploring on ATV’s with new friends–Burns Lake, B.C. 

It is no wonder there are so many young adults starting careers in the Burns Lake area. This blog post reflects my final few days as a member of the school staff and community of beautiful Burns Lake, British Columbia.

During the final days at Burns Lake my husband and I booked a lovely Airbnb “Lakeside Hideaway” on Gerow Island 2 minutes from Burns Lake. Each morning we awoke to birds singing, geese honking, sun reflecting off the lake, and tranquility of this peaceful, beautiful area.

Kayaking around Gerow Island

The courtesy kayaks called our names and we enjoyed a paddle or two most days. Sunsets were a kaleidoscope of red and yellow hues dancing above the hilltops each evening.

Lakefront Hideaway Airbnb Burns Lake

Inside, the suite was modern and well equipped. Even in late June we enjoyed the mesmerizing flames from the fireplace on the cooler nights. We will definitely return to this lovely accommodation on a future trip to northern Burns Lake.

Lakeside Hideaway Airbnb late June 2019

Meanwhile at school, the bustle of year end events was in full swing. Sports Day was very relaxed and it was wonderful to see so many parents in attendance. Triple Jump is normally my specialty, but at Decker Elementary I was assigned Standing Long Jump! I hadn’t seen this event in decades, but was pleasantly surprised at the distance some children achieved.

Sports Day at Decker

The new Aboriginal school blanket was unveiled at a school assembly by the Top All Around Grade 7 students from 2018 and 2019.

Several Learning Commons Leaders students created a QR code and riddle type scavenger hunt designed to introduce younger students to new areas of the library collection.

In the Library/Learning Commons we were busy with year end book collection, weeding of old books, Library collection inventory using Destiny, and QR Code scavenger hunts for the younger students.

Helping in the Learning Commons

Over one-half of the students in grades 5-7 were members of my Learning Commons Leaders’ club at Decker Elementary. These amazing students were quick to assist me deleting old/outdated/damaged books which we then displayed for all students and staff to take home Free!

Learning Commons Leaders sundae treats!

As a special treat for these incredible, dedicated, energetic students we had an ice-cream sundae treat day.The sweet treats were a sticky hit!

Happy students enjoying ice cream

On the final day of school with students in attendance we had the usual Award’s Day celebration. Although some students had departed on an early vacation, these photos give a glimpse into the number of grade 5-7 students involved as Learning Commons Leaders with me.

Learning Commons Leaders at Awards Day

It was exciting to see the growth in attendance of boys as initially all leaders were girls.

The P.A.C. (Parents Advisory Committee) showed their appreciation to the staff by preparing a delicious hot lunch on the final day of the school year. The wonderful menu included pulled pork buns, stuffed baked potatoes, corn on the cob, salads, corn bread, and desserts. We emerged satiated and extremely grateful.

Final Day of School PAC Appreciation Luncheon

After school I was invited to the year end staff party of my other school–William Konkin Elementary School. As you may observe…This school has a larger population and there is a substantially larger staff. The party was hosted by the husband/wife team Richard and Judy at their home in downtown Burns Lake.

WKE Staff Year End Party 2019

Under familiar blue skies, surrounded by lush green trees, we had a lovely time chatting and laughing together. From surprise mystery gifts and free summer time novels to read, to giant games and ‘be creative’ paint stations. Prior to the potluck dinner, two of our young female teachers made their grand entrance by driving up to the party area in their muddy side by side ATV.

WKE Year End Party!

This staff knows how to connect, laugh, and have fun. I made so many friends and will miss these caring, dedicated individuals very much as I return to Vancouver Island.

The final day of the school year was an administrative day at school.  While teachers packed up their classrooms and filed all paperwork; in the Learning Commons my husband worked tirelessly beside me as I endeavored to complete the first ever automated inventory of the Decker Lake Elementary library collection.

Scanning over 18,000 barcodes while teaching and completing year end procedures is no easy feat! I was working late into the evenings and during weekends determined to get the library collection inventory accomplished prior to my departure from sd91. At 3:19 p.m. on the final day of the school year we finally achieved 100% completion!

The staff had all departed for summer holidays except Dylan, the principal, who informed me he planned to set the school alarm at 4:00 p.m. My husband and I hurriedly threw my personal teaching belongings into several bins and we exited the front door from Decker Lake Elementary school at 3:59 pm.

Goodbye School District 91 and Burns Lake. Feeling immensely proud to have completed the dreaded library inventory, it was officially time to switch to summer vacation and commence retirement for the second time!

Highlights from the final days in Burns Lake

Prior to departing to Prince George, we stopped in to view two local stores I had not seen yet off Highway 16–Woods ‘N Water and the adjourning sewing store Yarn and Sew On. Both stores were filled with fascinating merchandise as shown on the accompanying video which highlights the last few days in Burns Lake.

Burns lake stores

Saying goodbye to the family I stayed with and lovely Brat the cat was emotional and difficult. Loretta, Joe, and Brat have become dear friends whom I will sincerely miss.

Loretta, Joe, Brat and I

Thanks for the memories Burns Lake and School District 91.

Typical Downtown Burns Lake—Highway 16

Tomorrow the next chapter of my adventure commences.

Diversity in Northern B.C.–Aboriginal Day, Backyard Fun in P.G. and Exploring Tranquil Burns Lake.

June 20th to 24th 2019

Late June is a paradox for teachers as energies are pulled between completing a multitude of school year end activities and an increasing desire for summer exploration and relaxation. This blog post reflects this contradiction. In addition, June 21st is celebrated in Canada as National Aboriginal Day (also known as National Indigenous Peoples Day). Burns Lake area celebrates June 21st with pride, inclusion, and style!  Another experience represented during this post is a neighborhood backyard party in Prince George complete with a obstacle course driven on lawnmowers while blindfolded!

June is such a hectic time at schools as teachers work hard to complete themes and course work, assess individuals, and write report cards. In conjunction with these year end expectations, extra curricular events such as, track and field, Grade 7 graduation dinners, Kindergarten ceremonies, Art nights, Sports/Fun days, Awards ceremonies, and School Wide Field Trips are also being planned and executed.

Celebrating the transition of Grade 6 or 7 students from Elementary School to Secondary school varies at each school and geographical location in Canada. At Decker Elementary they host a pot luck dinner for students, staff, and parents followed by a volleyball game where students verse adults. It was a relaxing and fun evening. Instead of dressing up in fancy clothes many of the girls decided to make a statement and arrived in onsies!

June 21st, National Aboriginal Day, is recognized as a national statutory holiday in the North West Territories and Yukon Territory. The date was established due to the First Peoples’ spiritual connection to summer solstice. Very few Aboriginal students attended school on June 21st as most of the Lakes District families were involved in the parade and cultural activities located throughout the community.

I was grateful to assist supervising students while our school attended the parade. The Aboriginal Day Parade was lengthy and ran through downtown Burns Lake stopping all traffic from using Highway 16.  Multiple surrounding bands were proudly represented. Regale was worn and some singing and dancing occurred. Participants varied in age from toddlers to elders.

Aboriginal students graduating in Grade 12 were honored and lifestyles promoting healthy sports and activities were featured. The parade was inclusive involving local pony and cycling clubs, Fall Fair promotion and square dancers, First Responders Emergency Vehicles, B.C. Transit Bus, a 3 trailer long B.C. Logging truck, and led by a marching Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) in full red serge.

Gifts were presented to the onlookers from candy to tree samplings, red roses, packed food, and toys. The parade participants and floats were diverse, yet there was such a unified feeling of happiness, pride, and community spirit.

June 22nd brought another 2 1/2 hour drive east to the big city (nearly 80,000) of Prince George. P.G. is a popular shopping area for people from the Lakes District as it is the largest city up in the mid northern area of British Columbia.

During the drive I felt ecstatic because my husband flew up to join me for the final week of my teaching contract in Burns Lake then will assist driving the 1,000 km back home to Vancouver Island.

My brother enjoys planning backyard parties with a twist and this weekend proved no exception! My brother, Mark, had a full house in Prince George as my husband Mark and I, my mother, two of his adult children, and his grandson were all out visiting.  Add fabulous neighbors and long time friends, and this backyard party would be complete!

The two Marks invented a creative obstacle course for adults utilizing a lawnmower pulling a little cart, pylons, a basketball, basketball hoop, noodle, and a blindfold.

The children had access to a trampoline, super soaker water guns, water balloons, and an electric mini bike.

Six year old Jack idolizes NHL Hockey Player Brett Connolly and was wearing one of his number 10 Connolly jerseys at the B.B.Q. Jack’s bedroom was filled with Connolly memorabilia as he has followed Brett faithfully for most of his 6 years. I showed Jack photos of Brett in my Kindergarten and Grade 2 class. Jack and his mom have since met Brett’s parents and Jack’s room is now adorned with more precious Connolly keepsakes.

B.B.Q lunch, good conversation, sunshine, and laughter made this Backyard Fun day in Prince George complete. Thanks bro!

After a few photos of my mom, brother and I and the sweetest little girls next door, Mark and I were back on Highway 16 heading west to Lake District area.

A special treat awaited our return as I had booked 3 nights at beautiful Lakefront Hideaway Airbnb on Gerow Island, 2 minutes from Burns Lake.

Descending the stairs to our suite, warmed by the sun, admiring the rays as they glistened on the water; we felt enveloped by beauty and tranquility.

This was the perfect location to embrace the beauty of Lakes District and celebrate the final week and completion of my 7 1/2 month contract as Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist in sd91.

The next blog post will cover our final days in beautiful Lakes District.

 

 

Motorized Vehicles Northern British Columbia Style!

Mid June 2019

When in Northern B.C. why not take the opportunity to try new adventures and experience northern B.C. lifestyle? I had the opportunity to go off roading in ATV’s with a colleague and her family around Burns Lake.

The following day after driving 2 1/2 hours to Prince George, I would join family to celebrate Father’s Day–my brother’s style.  All experiences this weekend involved wheels, motors, fun, and varying levels of noise!

Exiting school soon after bus duty is very rare for me, but there were adventures in store this Friday afternoon. Not knowing the proper wardrobe for riding on ATV’s I donned jeans, a long sleeved top, and runners. Luckily, I had been given a mosquito net for my head and thought to throw it in.

After arriving at my friend’s place, Sara located extra old bush shirts and a fancy looking helmet for me to borrow. As a newbie to this sport, I had no idea I would return with mud covered jeans and runners that would require multiple washings prior to identifying their original colors. It’s all part of the fun and charm of trying new experiences.

Sara, her mother, and her daughter were all joining us as we explored the back roads and bush searching for the elusive yellow Arnica Montana flowers. Arnica flowers from June to September and have multiple medicinal properties. Sara and I departed on one ATV, her mom and daughter explored on another ATV, and later in the evening Sara’s father arrived on a side by side vehicle.

Roads varied from dirt, wooden planks, grassy areas, mud, deeper mud puddles, to straight through the bush! While in motion the scenery was varied, lush, and very pretty. Each time we stopped to explore and search for Arnica the mosquitos gathered and fought for first blood! I had never worn a mosquito net covering my head before, but it did help!

Lynn has a background in botany and shared her knowledge about local flora. We did not see any animals this trip, but did locate footprints and scat during our walks. Near the end of our adventure Sara drove under a fallen tree and had a bit of a challenge getting back on the path. It is handy exploring in a group!

I am so grateful for outdoorsy, adventurous friends. Thanks for introducing me to more areas of Beautiful Burns Lake Sara!

Saturday morning I drove the 228 km 2 1/2 hours southeast to Prince George on hectic Highway 16. It is always amazing how many fully loaded logging trucks, semi trailers, massive mining equipment, over-sized sections of homes, over-sized equipment, and tractors you encounter on this well used, narrow highway. Thankfully, during June you are unlikely to encounter snow or ice and road conditions felt relatively safe this trip.

My brother was unable to travel to Burns Lake during my teaching contract there, so I have become quite familiar with the commute to his home in Prince George. This weekend was Father’s Day so my mother, and niece and nephew, were flying up to visit.

Our family is spread across Canada; my son lives in Thailand; and most of our relatives reside in Australia. So it is fortuitous to make the effort to attend family reunions.  My brother loves entertaining–and his motorized toys are plentiful and quick to appear.

My brother, Mark, is in his element when he is driving his grandson and neighborhood children around the yard on his lawn mover/trailer. The rest of us had the opportunity to enjoy the lovely P.G. sunshine and chat. Mark is blessed with a warm and caring neighborhood and lovely neighbors that truly are like family. Tomorrow on Father’s Day Mark has chosen to attend the huge Prince George Show and Shine event.

After a lovely brunch we all headed off to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park for the 45th Annual Crusin’ Classics Show ‘n’ Shine. The estimate was that 15,000 people were in attendance.

Mom’s legs can not support her walking far, so my nephew Brody offered to push his nana throughout the grassy hills in a wheelchair. My niece, Kiersten pushed the stroller as Elijah ogled the trains and multitude of vehicles.

Mark chatted with car owners and was clearly in his “happy” place while we all walked around the grounds. There were cars, trucks, hearses, motorcycles, VW campers and beetles of nearly every hue and vintage imaginable.

Mom was ecstatic when she discovered a Model T Ford and told us stories about riding in the Rumble Seat with her brother when she was a child in Tasmania.

The weekend was filled with vehicles, engines, wheels, and exhaust. Unfortunately, I had to partake in more of the same for another 2 1/2 hours as I said good-bye to some of my family (missing dad RIP, my husband Mark, and son Alexander) and drove solo back to Burns Lake.

The final 2 weeks of the school year in Burns Lake would be packed with activities– including the hugely popular Aboriginal Day.  The next blog post will cover the remainder of my time and experiences in Beautiful Burns Lake.

 

 

Burns Lake–Beauty, Blue skies, Books, Educational Bonding, and Brat (the cat).

June 2019

Returning 1,000 km north to Burns Lake to complete the final 5 weeks of the school year was an opportunity to continue working with a fabulous staff and engaging students; and experience the delights of this beautiful area during early summer. This blog post summarizes the first 3 weeks of my adventure up here.

Burns Lake is located 226 km (2 1/2 hours) drive west from Prince George on highway 16 (otherwise known as the Highway of Tears). There are billboards erected to remind drivers of some of the people (mostly aboriginal women) who have mysteriously disappeared along this highway. It’s an oppressive and sad history tied to this area which directly affects families and students we are teaching.

However, there are so many dedicated and energizing people and organizations making the heartbeat of the community pulse with activity and optimism.

A walk down to Spirit Square to observe people walking their dogs, children swimming in the lake, people chatting with a coffee, or teens playing in the skateboard park always brightens my day. The square was busy last summer due to the horrendous forest fires burning out of control in the Southside. These same grounds were converted into an evacuation area during that difficult period.  

The population of the village of Burns Lake is listed as just under 2,000 but this does not include numbers from any of the surrounding reservations. Burns Lake is a central hub, known as the heart of the Lakes District, with highway 16 passing directly through the downtown core en route to Prince Rupert and is a junction for highway 35 to Francois Lake and the Southside.

Arts, culture, outdoor recreation, and alternate life styles thrive here. One weekend while walking downtown to my favorite organic coffee shop There was a painting workshop occurring outside right beside the highway! These photos are of lovely Lorne Street and the downtown main highway. 

On the edge of the village is Omineca cross country ski club and 10 minutes away at Boar Mountain you can experience world class Mountain Biking. Forestry claims to be the main industry; however, ranching and tourism directed to outdoor recreation, are equally important to village economics.

My home bases during these 5 weeks are at Decker Elementary school and with Loretta, Joe and Brat on Lorne Street. Brat was a rescue kitten and is now a totally lovable and affectionate cat.

My colleagues and friends from William Konkin Elementary did not forget me while I was absent traveling around Asia. Days after my return to Burns Lake, we had a ladies adventure 80 km northwest (about 50 mins) to Houston to check out a funky women’s dress shop Chia’s Dream Closet and Happy Jack’s local bar for dinner. Social bonding is so much fun and important!

At Decker Elementary the staff led by Monica (the quilter), Brenda (First nation’s home support) and several other staff created a quilt with FN symbols on it. The wolf was the icon selected to represent Decker. Some of the students who attend Decker are from Cheslatta Carrier background, some from Lake Babine, but the majority of our FN students are Wet’suwet’en.

This small school has a population of 125 students from Kindergarten to Grade 7. Prior to my departure in early March I had a Learning Commons Leaders’ club for students in grades 5-7. Over 30 students (girls and boys) attended regularly. I had a lovely card waiting on my Library desk when I returned. Teaching is such a rewarding occupation.

During the winter, students are expected to remain outside during breaks unless the temperature drops below -20 degrees Celsius. When the sun shines…shorts are quick to appear! I found the mosquitoes nasty and I wore bug repellent when I was on duty outside. But biting insects did not seem to phase these students! Many were covered in bites from camping excursions, but they did not complain or cover up.

Beauty in nature and artistic expression are embraced at Decker Elementary. Many colorful flowers adorned the school gardens and seasonal art displays outside classrooms were highly innovative and changed regularly to the delight of parents and definitely appreciated by me. Each student had an art portfolio and near the end of the school year students displayed their favorite artistic endeavors during an Art Open House at the school. 

It was very impressive to see the effort and pride students put into their displays.

Arts B.C. concerts in schools are varied and usually enjoyable for students, but this group, Tiny Islands, was particularly entertaining and engaging. It is rare to capture the attention of all students from Kindergarten to Grade 7, but Tiny Islands jazz group was interactive, funny, talented, energetic and musically educational.

A local high school musical rendition of Aladdin was well attended and a fun field trip for the students.

Part of my Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position was to analyze, weed, and update the library collection appropriate to the needs of the staff and students and locate resources to tie to the new B.C. curriculum.

In addition, a TL works collaboratively with teachers developing units of study which promote inquiry learning and reinforce engaging S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) problem solving skills.

This collage depicts a variety of learning and activity in the Learning Commons during June. These lessons included: S.T.E.A.M. investigation related to simple machines; Learning Commons Leaders assisting to review non-fiction subject areas and shelf books; Grade 1/2 Literacy Centers word practice; Grade 5/6 Book Speed Dating Activity; Introduction to High Interest/Low Vocabulary Novels; and Buddy Reading.

Miscellaneous wonderful programs are happening at Decker in June including the Breakfast program led by Ms. Zettergreen where students assist making toast for others while Ms. Zettergreen creates smoothies.

The school wide Jump Rope for Heart event raises money to support Heart and Stroke research and is lots of fun. The loud music, watermelon, and obstacle course created by the grade 6/7 class were hugely popular. Well done organizers!

One day in June the blue skies appeared to be shedding snow! There were masses of white cloud like substances blowing everywhere outside. When these items fell to the ground they piled up similar to hail. This was a new experience for me. I learned these were seeds from Cottonwood trees–a type of Poplar.

So many options are available for weekend adventures around the Lakes District. A walk is always pleasant. After grabbing a drink at one of the 3 awesome coffee shops on the main road, you can walk down by the lake at Spirit Square. The arena, curling rink, climbing wall, dance rooms, weight room, racquetball court, skateboard park, and tennis courts are all also located there.

If you are lucky, you might be invited out for dinner with some of the friendly folk from Burns Lake. The kimono from Vietnam looks great on you! Thanks Sara!

Or you can tour one of the local greenhouses and learn about the most deer resistant plants available for this geographical area. After admiring the photo of the Atlantic Giant Pumpkins, you might feel inspired to start growing some for the next Lakes District Fall Fair.

My next blog post will be dedicated to weekend activities which utilize motors in this northern B.C. area!

 

 

Transitioning from Asian Travels to Working/Exploring Northern B.C.

Late May 2019

Relaxing on beautiful Vancouver Island for just over a week, then I will return over 1,000 km north to central northern British Columbia to complete a 5 week teaching contract in sd91 at Burns Lake.

When departing Burns Lake in March there was snow everywhere, but recent photos display friends kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking around lush wetlands and biomes supporting an expansive diversity of bird sanctuaries.

This blog post is intended to be a transition from 6 weeks traveling around Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia to 5 weeks exploring northern B.C.’s Burn’s Lake area while completing the school year as Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist at Decker Lake. Meanwhile, contractors are finally arriving to repair our home and yard from the December 20th 2018 storm–the worst storm to hit Nanaimo area in over 50 years!

So unfortunately, our plans have adjusted and my husband will be remaining in Nanaimo leading the various contractors while I head north to continue to evolve another school library into a Learning Commons.

Returning from a lengthy spring trip, a pressing job was to update the vehicle tires from snow to all season tires.

Then we were off 110 km northwest to Courtenay where we enjoyed a lovely lunch at “Common Ground” which has recently changed its name to “The Yellow Deli”.

This place is really unique as everything is created by the commune group–from the wooden benches and tables, to the macrame decorations, to the vegetables and many ingredients used to prepare the healthy food menu they offer.  There are so many fabulous unique places to try when dining in funky, artsy Courtenay.

Home to Nanaimo. Late May is a perfect time to enjoy gardening, working in the yard, soaking up the intense colors and beauty of the rhododendrons, observing the sailboats and ships passing by, and of course having backyard B.B.Q.’s.

Prior to my departure up north, the roofers came to replace the roof on our cabana. That was fascinating to observe as they melted the glues on the back of the roofing material using a blow torch! One roof completed!

Back to renovations in our kitchen. There are so many decision to make: quartz or granite; colors and patterns need to compliment the new cabinets and flooring; which company to employ? Thank goodness for the internet as I spent many hours researching products before visiting stores.

It is truly amazing where the granite mines are located globally! I fell in love with White Ice Granite which is quarried in Brazil in limited quantities.

Finally, time to unpack all our beautiful souvenirs from Asia and see what we ended up purchasing! The colors are so intense and bold. Most of our Christmas shopping was done early this year.

Time passed all too quickly and we were once again in the VW Jetta boarding the B.C. Ferry from Nanaimo (Departure Bay) to Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay). Driving through Vancouver area, the Port Mann bridge with its “pick up sticks” looking metal rods always intrigues.

The long 800 km journey from Vancouver to Prince George exposed multiple types of weather from clouds and rain, to thick fog, to sunny blue skies. To break up the journey we stopped at dusk to overnight near 100 Mile House. The mosquitoes and small flying insects were so intense the manager of the motel warned us to run from the car to the room and close all windows. She was not joking!

The following day we completed the drive to Prince George where Mark flew back to Nanaimo while, feeling melancholy, I drove solo the additional 2 1/2 hours west past Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake to Burns Lake. The initial plan was to camp and explore the area together, not to be separated by 1,000 km for these final 5 weeks of the school year.

The scenery from Prince George to Burns Lake was so renewed and inviting; such a vast contrast from the snow conditions of March. Arriving back in Burns Lake, I quickly made a late entrance at a baby shower for a teaching colleague then returned to the familiar cozy home base on Lorne St.

Brat (the cat) immediately recognized and got reacquainted with me. She hopped into my suitcase as I started unpacking and had to be coaxed to depart from that cozy spot. Loretta, Joe and I had much catching up to accomplish! 

Tomorrow unfolds my 5 weeks of teaching and adventure back up in Burns Lake, B.C.

 

 

 

Astounding Atmospheres from Bangkok to Taipei, Vancouver, and finally Nanaimo!

May 2019

Having endured traveling through Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia during the hottest months of the year (April and May) we were excited to return to cooler temperatures and substantially less humidity during late spring back in Canada. However, there are definite advantages with travelling throughout these countries during the ‘off season’ particularly if you prefer more space and less crowds!

En route to Bangkok 6 weeks ago we stopped and changed planes at Hong Kong.

Due to the political unrest there presently we were thankful our return passage was through Taipei.

Our travel route was from Bangkok, Thailand to Taipei, Taiwan. Taipei to Vancouver, Canada. Then Vancouver to Nanaimo across on Vancouver Island. For curious prospective travelers, we booked direct flights and the entire travel time worked out as follows: 3 hours wait at Suvarnabhumi International (Bangkok) + 4 hours flight to Taipei + 3 hours wait at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport + 10 1/2 hours flight to Vancouver + 2 1/2 hours wait and transfer to Harbour Air Float planes + 1/2 hour to Vancouver Island + 1/2 hour taxi to our home = 24 hours in transit.

Since we gained a day crossing the International Date Line photos taken on my Iphone record confusing times, and our entire trip across half the globe apparently did not exist!

This blog post is dedicated to illustrating some unique characteristics of different airports during our homeward travels; fascinating sights, lights, and colors above the cloud layer in our atmosphere; and aerial representations of cities in different areas of our beautiful world.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport (Bangkok). We have truly fallen in love with this friendly, lush, fascinating country and look forward to returning to renew friendships, explore new areas, taste more cuisine, and try new experiences. )

Taipei, Taiwan was just under 4 hours flight time from Bangkok. These photos show the airport area.

The janitors had their own cleaning storage area off the washrooms which was so tidy and cute I couldn’t resist taking a photo.

Inside the airport the 2019 Chinese year of the Earth Pig was highlighted as was a dedication to Mother’s Day.

The Chinese year starts on Feb. 5th, 2019 (Chinese New Year) and lasts until Jan. 24th 2020. Apparently most true Earth Pigs alive today are born between February 8, 1959, and January 27, 1960 so they have completed a 12 year cycle and a 60 year cycle.

Ironically, I just discovered I am one of those rare Earth Pigs! So upon further research I discovered a vast range of characteristics describing an Earth Pig from “Good-tempered, kind-hearted, positive, loyal” to “extremely kind and thoughtful nature and is sensible and realistic” to “likes sleeping and eating and becomes fat!”.  Hopefully I won’t become too fat! 🙂 I could not resist this photo opportunity in Taipei with my Earth Pig.

Departing Taipei on Air Canada, thanks to Aeroplan points, we upgraded to Premium Economy for the 10 1/2 hour flight to Vancouver.

Some of the differences we experienced from Economy were: priority check in and seating, two seats on each side instead of squishy three, more leg room and width, more attentive service, hot cloths as soon as we departed, better meals and drinks, less people using the toilets. It was so much nicer than regular Economy!

Aerial views of Taipei, Taiwan May 2019.

Stunning sunrise and light shows entertained us above the cloud level as we flew over the Pacific Ocean.

There is something so peaceful and tranquil as you move in seamless uninterrupted space above the clouds.

Excitement throbbed as the clouds uncovered snow capped mountains and we recognized the familiar geography of home. Following the mountains, the longest river in B.C. the mighty Fraser exposed its powerful force. Coastal Western Canada truly is magnificent!

 

As we neared Vancouver and the Richmond Delta the city appeared so tidy, so organized, so green! Vancouver is known as a bustling west coast seaport in British Columbia. It is among Canada’s densest, most ethnically diverse cities and has become a popular filming location. Metro Vancouver’s 2019 population is estimated at about 2.5 million.

Metro Vancouver is the 3rd most populated city in Canada after Toronto and Montreal. After travelling through Hanoi (over 8 Million) and Bangkok (over 10 million), Vancouver seems pretty tiny in comparison.

But, although we are back in Canada, our journey does not end here.

Upon collecting our cases, we were off to locate the shuttle to take us to Richmond’s Harbour Air float plane base.

Although we could not sit together; the 20 minute flight was lovely, and ear plugs are usually supplied!

Close up views of logging operations, freighters, mountain tops, lighthouses, and tiny communities are possible. Once I even viewed 2 Humpback whales during one of these flights!

Back to beautiful Vancouver Island! We touched down on the ocean in the downtown area. Nanaimo, the Harbour City, has a population over 114,000. Nanaimo is the most populated municipality on Vancouver Island, outside of Saanich and Victoria. The small city has multiple claims to fame including the annual International Bathtub Races (since 1967).  I have attached a link to provide more information about Nanaimo.

https://www.tourismnanaimo.com/

We arrived home to be greeted by a burst of luscious lilac! 

It’s always wonderful to sleep in your own bed and unpack… My next adventure is only 10 days away…

Bangkok–Markets, Movie stars, Massages, Malls, and Mother’s Day!

May 2019

On Day 17 of our Intrepid “Best of Vietnam and Cambodia” tour we departed from Siem Reap, Cambodia; a mere 10 hours later, arriving at Bangkok, Thailand. Our group of 12 (plus our guide Sareth) traveled in 2 separate vans and experienced 2 border crossings together prior to arriving at the Nouvo City Hotel in downtown Bangkok.

There were limited photo opportunities during this day of travelling and border crossings, so this blog post includes highlights from 3 days exploring Bangkok prior to returning home to Canada.

At 6:30 a.m. we departed from the Dinata Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap heading toward our first border crossing. Our group exited Cambodia at Poipet and entered Thailand at Aranyaprathet.

We were extremely grateful to have Sareth guiding us through the lines and expectations for border crossings. There were issues to overcome…lines that suddenly closed…stamps or documents that ‘somehow’ disappeared. Sareth translated and chatted with customs officials and extra personnel until everyone was eventually cleared. Photography was not permitted in the two border crossing locations.

Due to massive population’ traffic, we were late arriving in Bangkok. Thailand’s capital, has an estimated population of over 10.6 million people. The city is known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. My husband and I were happy to be returning to the familiarity of this more peaceful country.

After dropping off our belongings at the Nouvo City Hotel we headed out for ‘real’ Thai food at a nearby location where our group filled the seating capacity of the establishment nestled on the edge of the soi (street). The Thai meal was authentic and a wonderful final dinner experience for our group.

Some of our group planned to spend a few extra days in Bangkok, while others were departing in the morning. My personal and very special reason for returning to Bangkok again prior to flying home, was that my son resides here and has worked As a senior engineer at Western Digital in the Bangkok area for over 5 years!

Our first full day back in Bangkok happened to correlate with Canadian Mother’s Day! (In Thailand Mother’s Day occurs on August 12th in 2019). During the last 2 trips to Thailand, we focused on exploring and learning about Thai culture, Buddhism, local cuisine, and different areas of the country.

During these final few days we would be experiencing Bangkok from a tourist perspective. Our agenda for Mother’s Day in Bangkok was shopping at JJ’s (Chatuchak) Market, taxi to Esplanade Mall, Massages, lunch at Sizzlers, an afternoon Movie (Pokemon Detective) with Thai subtitles, Swenson ice cream treats, and late return via taxi to the Nouvo City Hotel.

As it was Sunday my son, Alexander, was able to join us and make my Mother’s Day complete!

Meeting Alexander at Chatuchak (JJ’s) market ended up being a huge challenge as communication with taxi drivers, hectic roads, misunderstandings, and masses of exits and people resulted in extensive texting before we finally met up. This is the largest market in Thailand with more than 15,000 stalls and 11,505 vendors, divided into 27 sections.

Although still extremely hot and crowded, the temperatures and humidity were not as intense as our previous visit in early April–which happens to be the hottest month of the year in Bangkok. As we wandered through one of the main walkways we were suddenly immersed in cameras and filming paraphernalia.

Tourists and local merchants were scanning curiously to determine the person/people at the center of this attention. They were filming a lady in a white dress with long brown braids who was walking through JJ’s fanning herself with a red heart shaped fan and carrying a large straw hat. Who was this mystery woman?

Obtaining our souvenirs, we were off to sort out our next mode of transportation. Taxi or MRT? Luckily, Alexander speaks and understands Thai so we got a better price for the taxi.

Esplanade mall was our next destination as it was in close proximity to my son’s apartment, had reasonable prices, and he frequented the movie theaters there. We usually experience Thai massages from local shops along the sois or beach locations. However, we decided to pay a bit more than usual (350–400 Baht equals $15–$17 CAN) and try a “mall” location massage. The essential oils scents and little treats afterwards were a lovely touch. I prefer the head/neck/shoulder massage while the 2 men tend to prefer the foot massages. Traditional Thai massage can be pretty brutal for novices who are not expecting to have forceful body manipulation. At these prices, why not partake as often as possible!

Lunch at Sizzlers was Alexander’s choice. It’s a chain of restaurants specializing in salad bars, burgers and steaks. After 5 years residing in Thailand, he craves non traditional Thai food at times. He consumes these Canadian type foods with such ecstasy and enjoyment.

Next, a movie experience Thai style. Having substantially different movie preferences, our compromise was to watch “Pokemon Detective”. After purchasing tickets from a kiosk (like in Canada), Mark purchased his popcorn and we entered the movie theater.

Luckily, we were able to select movies in English (with Thai subtitles). The seats were super comfortable. Prior to the movie commencing, a song was played. Immediately people stopped talking and everybody stood up. The song and video depicting the King’s life was a dedication to the current King of Thailand and respect was an expectation. When the video dedication ended, everyone sat down and the movie started.

What follows a Pokemon movie experience better than a visit to Swenson’s ice-cream parlor? These cold treats are pretty expensive for a Thai wage, but the dessert specialty location was packed. Alexander had recommendations about his favorite menu items. The desserts were delectable.

A tropical down pour hit as we departed from the mall and again as we made our way back to the hotel. Income for taxi drivers must increase dramatically during the long rainy season here because as soon as the downpour commenced taxi drivers raised their prices and most only accepted lengthy fairs.

Our hotel Nouvo City Hotel was located in a historic area of Bangkok adjacent to the famous Banglamphu canal. Today we planned to explore this area starting by investigating around our hotel. The views from the rooftop swimming pool area illustrate the vastness and intensity of residences in the Bangkok metropolis.

We enjoyed the pool located on our 3rd floor level. However it was really annoying when a couple decided to take racy photos in the pool using a drone. Try to relax under the fountains while a drone zooms inches from your head! In my opinion there should be a privacy bylaw against drones in pool areas!

Air pollution levels vary and can be moderate to dangerous in Bangkok, but on this day the skyscrapers of the downtown area were visible. Our hotel room had a lovely view of the canal (Klong) complete with a window that didn’t open due to unpredictable air quality and variances in water pollution/smell levels. It was exciting to view long tailed boats transporting passengers or freight along the waterway.

I discovered an interesting article explaining the history behind the Banglampu canal from welcomeguide2thailand.com  The canal dates back to 1782, when Bangkok was designated as the capital, and is over 3.4 kilometers long created by over 10,000 laborers. Bang Lamphu canal is 1.1 km long and is a section of the canal line that offers transportation access around the city. Bangkok waterways are symbols of a city that was known as the “Venice of the East” for much of the 19th Century.  

On previous trips to Bangkok we took guided tours on the canals and also experienced the klong water transport system with the locals. This is an experience you don’t want to miss unless you have physical limitations–be prepared to jump in and out of the longboats quickly.

Sometimes the longboats did not even come to a complete stop at the docks, so be ready to move quickly; know your exit stop prior to boarding; have correct currency ready; and watch out for the fee collectors who hang off the sides and maneuver around the vessels as they speed down the canals. P.S. Most of the fee collectors did not speak English.

Off to north Bangkok destination Union Street Mall to meet up with Alexander and his lovely girlfriend Benz for dinner at popular MK restaurant. This mall has 8 floors housing over 1,240 booths and shops and adjacent to MRT Phahon Yothin station.

Our next adventure was to explore the largest Chinatown in the world at Yaowarat Road, Bangkok. The 1.5 km road was originally built in 1891.

Street food, markets, and famous temples are the main draws for this populous and popular area of Bangkok. According to the Chinese zodiac, it is the year of the pig and souvenirs were readily available. The clothing shops displayed brightly coloured ornate traditional clothing for very reasonable prices.

Market places displayed a multitude of choices of nearly any type of food or herb imaginable. Seafood options were plentiful and extensive. It is a fascinating area to explore. Unfortunately, it was Mark’s turn to suffer travel aggravation and our visit here ended up being cut short.

Heading back to the hotel we passed the majestic complex of the Grand Palace for the Kings of Thailand. Bangkok’s famous palace complex was built in 1782 and features buildings including Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which contains a beautiful Emerald Buddha dating back to the 14th century. The yellow cloth banners symbolize the King. Purple banners symbolize the presence of the princess.

After 1925 the Royal family no longer resided here. The Grand Palace is now mainly used as a tourist attraction except for occasional ceremonial events. The fee to enter the Grand Palace is 500 Baht $21.50 CAN/person.

Back to our soi 2 Samsen Road, Banglamphu where interesting buildings influenced by French, as well as tailors flashing Armani titles and suits made to fit in 24 hours, intrigue.

Consuming more charcoal pills to settle irritated intestines, we headed out closer to home base. One last massage prior to departing from Bangkok tomorrow…

Checking Trip Advisor (our “go to” app for recommendations) we located a nearby massage shop receiving great ratings. Upon arrival the outside looked less than appealing, but we thought we would be open minded. We entered the massage location, but nobody was in the reception area? Suddenly 2 people quickly descended the stairs to greet us. As they led us upstairs to our locations a young couple quickly exited the disheveled bed I was directed towards. My husband and I quickly created an excuse and departed the establishment. This was our first experience with terribly inaccurate ratings.

However, further down the same block we discovered Samsen massage which was a clean, well run massage location making our final 300 Baht massage experience in Bangkok a satisfying success.

This video represents our adventures: exploring our Hotel, meals with Alexander, Chinatown, Grand Palace, our Soi, and final rainy moments.

It was time for final good-byes to wonderful friends Andy and Jen from Australia, and one last meal with my son, Alexander.

It is never easy for a mother to say good-bye to her child no matter his/her age when half a world separates them! So…until we meet again my son. Love you forever and always.

This has been a phenomenal 6 weeks in Asia. Thank you Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia for sharing your people, culture, history, geography, and unique perspectives with us. I feel richer and more informed from this experience.

Tomorrow we depart to return to Canada. What’s next for this curious adventurous soul and her equally globally curious husband?