Report by Laura S.
Every student who studies in the region of British Columbia has to visit Vancouver, especially when you are a student studying on Vancouver Island. After visiting this city several times, I can now confirm that Vancouver is one of the most beautiful and most livable cities I have ever been to. The so-called ‘Pearl at the Pacific’ with its approximately 2.5 million inhabitants excites everyone with its waterfront, modern architecture combined with historic buildings, a great nightlife with many bars and clubs, native heritage, beautiful parks that are surrounded by water and mountains, but most of all the diversity of nearly everything: people, lifestyle, nationalities, languages, neighbourhoods or subcultures – wherever you walk through this city, it will be astonishing through a multi-cultural mix.
After organizing my student life in Nanaimo with all of my assignments, tests or other educational duties in the first weeks, I finally got a chance to visit Vancouver for two days for the first time in my life. There are two ways to get to Vancouver: via the ferry, which will take approximately two hours or via water planes that will reach the coast in about 20 minutes. However, while the costs of the ferry transportation amount less than twenty dollars, the water plane option with a sum of a lower three-digit range is by far the most expensive one. But this experience is definitely worth spending.
In order to get the most out of the day, I decided to take the ferry to Vancouver early in the morning. The ferry terminal is located near Downtown, not that far from the university. However, I would suggest to take a taxi. Taking the buses will waste time unnecessarily because you have to change buses several times. After my passage, I finally reached the mainland around noon. In order to get from the ferry terminal to the city, you have to use the bus, line 250 or 257, the so-called Vancouver Express. However, the ‘Express’ will take about 40 minutes (!) to reach the city. Unfortunately, the BC semester bus ticket that you will probably use on Vancouver Island does not work on the mainland. I got out of the bus near Granville Street, one of Vancouver’s main streets and headed towards my accommodation: the ‘Samesun Backpacker Hostel’. I would recommend this hostel. It is affordable, the rooms and furniture are clean, it is central, the breakfast is satisfying, and there are a lot of international young people that you can meet. The only thing that is required if you wish to safely store your stuff is a lock for the big lockers in the rooms.
After checking in, moving in my room, and storing my items, I finally started my trip through Vancouver. My first impression of this city was positive. The city is very clean and I got the impression that it is not as busy and stressful than other cities of that size. I saw a lot in these two days, because Vancouver has a lot to offer for everyone. Among the ‘must-sees’ is definitely Stanley Park in the northern part of the city that you will pass when you will take the bus from the ferry terminal. It’s a huge city park on the waterfront where you can spot totems, water sports enthusiasts, and enjoy a wonderful view of the Lionsgate Bridge as well as of Vancouver’s skyline. Main attraction are the totem poles – huge colourful totems made by native Canadians. If you are not walking, you can also take a ride in a horse-drawn. In the heart of Stanley Park, there is the Aquarium, home to over 50,000 fascinating creatures from the Arctic to the Amazon where you can even experience a hands-on animal encounter. For instance, I was able to pet some rays. It’s definitely worth it. Especially when the weather outside is not as good as you want it to be, the aquarium is the attraction that is going to make your entire day.
To get an idea of the city, I would recommend to visit the lookout that is located near Gastown in the east. From there, you will have a unique view of the whole city. After having wonderful sushi in the older part of the city – Gastown – I went to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden before I passed Canada Place, a huge shopping mall right on the waterfront and made my way back along the harbour front. But: please stay away from the so-called Hastings neighbourhood. This district in the east of Gastown is the poorest and most dangerous part of the city and therefore not recommended. A lot of domestic people will tell you that and will warn you.
After spending hours and hours exploring the city, the day drew to an end. Slowly, Vancouver’s nightlife awoke and it was time for bars and pubs to prepare for their weekend rush hour. Vancouver is a multi-cultural city. It is full of international (mostly Asian) restaurants, bars, and neighbourhoods. I personally experienced quite a good time in clubs on Main Street (the hipster hangout) as well as Granville Street. The last one is known as being the Las Vegas strip of Vancouver: neon lights, music, happy people as well as a lot of energy awaits you there. In a city such as Vancouver, it is obvious that the prices for beverages, especially for stronger alcohol, are enormously high. For those people who want to let off some steam, these two streets will definitely do their purpose. After returning to the hostel in the early night (clubs close at 2:00am) and falling into bed after an exhausting day, I set the clock for the next morning: there was still a lot to discover.
If you can enjoy the luxury of having a car, you want to see the little national park near the ferry terminal. The area is named Whytecliff Park, a stony and steep region that offers an amazing lookout over the ocean, mountains, forests and little boats passing by. Luckily, I had great weather this day so that I added a trip to one of Vancouver’s suspension bridges at Lynn Canyon to my plan. If you stay in a backpacker hostel like I did, the host will offer guided tours to attractions like the famous Capilano suspension bridge.
Everyone who likes being in big cities will find pleasure in Vancouver. Especially for people who like to experience urban hustle and bustle will get satisfied with shopping malls, boutiques, museums, cinemas, etc. Although I was in a huge city, I never got the impression of being overwhelmed by people, cars or noises. I would say that Vancouver, with its astonishing backdrop that sets the glass-towered metropolis apart, differs from other cities. Everything seems to be so much more organized, easy-going and less stress. For me, Vancouver is definitely a city worth living in. It is so clean, open, attractive, and has so many things to see. I can say with certainty that I will return in the near future to this wonderful city!