Tuesday, October 11, 2011

VanBC Day 1: Don't Mess with the Yaohan

It seemed like a good idea for Ladybug and I to get away for our first trip alone since our honeymoon 10 years ago. Destination: Vancouver, BC, Canada. I was able to get a good hotel discount and the plane tickets were fairly reasonable. We were so busy prior to leaving for Vancouver BC that packing and leaving came up on us by surprise. We must be old pros because we didn't forget anything of consequence.

The first serious rain of autumn had just started in Portland when we took off to the airport. With my new ankle brace, I have to actually sit on the floor to take off my shoes in airport security (all the chairs are on the other side of the scanners). The brace is designed for the shoe and the rounded heel is not a good fit for walking, so I face the decision of exacerbating a permanent injury (removing it) or risk injuring something else by walking anyway. All of this because some dork tried something, failed, and the DHS Permanent Overreaction Squad makes the rest of us suffer (read Bruce Schneier to find out why it doesn't work). I decided to hobble through in my socks.

It was a nice, short flight into Vancouver and it was dryer there, though still damp. Canadian customs asked us a few questions and we were off and running. We had to wait about 45 minutes for our shuttle to the hotel (which was about 3 miles away), so maybe not running.

Our room wasn't ready yet, so we checked the bags in at the desk and wandered off in search of lunch. What we didn't know was that we were walking into a major culture shock. I am not talking about back bacon, Molsons, and hockey jerseys. I am talking about walking into China. After leaving the hotel, we were definitely in the minority with our round eyes and pasty skin, as in 5%. Vancouver has a Chinatown so Richmond must be Chinaburb. This was not a polyglot Asian area either; it was pretty much Chinese as far as I could tell. We walked through a food market and were bumped and jostled by people who were walking through us rather than around us. It was weird and interesting for about 2 minutes, then it was annoying. A person can wait a long time when trying to be courteous and move aside for others. Yep. Culture shock.

After failing to find an eatery that fit our mood, we moved farther afield. Yaohan market is like a shopping mall in any other part of Canada except that only about 1/2 the signs had English translations. We visited the food court and found a couple of places that had some pretty good looking food...I guess what you would call "American" Chinese food. We didn't go to Canada looking for a food adventure.

Well, we got one anyway. We both ordered combo plates. Ladybug's had a chicken entree with pineapple, beef with broccoli, and fried rice. I opted for a breaded chicken entree (similar to General Tso's or Orange Chicken), a vegetable mix, and the chow mein noodles. Ladybug's didn't turn out too bad. The meat wasn't super high quality (kind of fatty), but not bad.

I bit into my first nugget of chicken and it was half bone, half cartilage under the breading. Well, that could have gone better but I tossed it aside because these things happen, right? The vegetables were okay, but slimy and mostly tasteless. Sadly, they were the highlight of my meal (other than stealing a bit of Ladybug's meal). The noodles were cooked in oil that tasted old enough for the biodiesel reclamation barrel. No problem, I thought, I will just have more of the chicken. Except there wasn't any. There were about 10 breaded nuggets and they were all bone and cartilage. Every one. I choked down enough noodles to keep me going until dinner, threw away half my "meal", and moved on.

We kept walking through the mall, but the experience left me in a sour mood. There was a food market with a large display of dried shrimp. To me, it stunk like it had been there too long. There were various phone stores, purse shops, etc. with nothing we were interested in, so we gave up and headed back to the hotel. It took another hour for our room to be ready so we just hung out in the lobby and waited, talked about what to do for the week, and muttered about how crazy lunch was.

After we got into the room and settled in, we had dinner at the hotel (which was a Radisson) and had our first good meal in BC. We made some travel notes and decided to plan only one day ahead for this trip. All in all, it was a quiet night and off to more fun stuff on Monday.


Pandabonium said...

Sounds like you got "real" nuggets! Yuck.

I hope the rest of the trip made up for the rude introduction to Vancouver.

JennyBird said...

Wow. That is terrible. They MUST know. Geez. This is why when people broadly romanticize a place (Europe, Canada, The Bahamas...) as being "so much better than here" I feel I must revisit that there are people and places of all kinds in every place. Hope the rest of the trip was a lot better.

The Moody Minstrel said...

That wasn't cartilage. That was "proper" chicken. Don't you westerners know anything?

Next time you come to Japan I'll introduce you to yakitori. There's a wonderful chicken-eating experience! Actually, most of it is really good, but the varieties include skin and cartilage. (I've seen Americans have some real fun with that!)

Don Snabulus said...

PandaB - It did!

JennyB - Twas.

Moody - We have yakitori here, but Americanized. If doubt it has anything so hard and unchewable that you would be forced to swallow it whole and risk lodging it in the esophagus. If I am wrong, then I don't plan to adapt.