Mont Ouareau with mom and dad

Saturday, 6 September 2014

I usually don’t like hiking in Qu├ębec because I find the mountains to be pretty flat and I’m not a huge fan of zigzag trails that go up and down, although it gives you a chance to catch your breath. I like direct trails that go up only; it gives me a greater challenge and the views are just so much better as well.

Last weekend, I went hiking with my mom and dad. My mom always complains about how Mont-Royal isn’t enough for her so I wanted to bring her somewhere that is a little more difficult but not too difficult. On the other hand, my dad isn’t exactly the active type. I warned him that he shouldn’t come if he can’t even do Mont-Royal. He insisted to come and that he’ll wait for us somewhere on the trail if he can’t make it.

I decided to take them to Mont Ouareau, which is an hour and a half away from Montreal. It is a small mountain situated at 680m above sea level with only 240m ascent. I think they can handle this one. My dad had difficulties going up and talked about how he didn’t understand why people say it’s harder to go down than up. “You will understand soon,” I said.

That picture was taken at the beginning of the trail.



My mom was still energetic and all smiles, but it was another story for my dad...



We made it to the top of Mont Ouareau!



I lent them my Nike backpack that I had since high school, don’t they look cute with it?



We made it to the top without knowing it because it was not well indicated. So we continued to hike towards Lake Lemieux which is 5,6km further. I started to think that this seemed longer than expected, so I asked the first person we came across…and she said it’s behind us. We probably walked an hour past that “summit”.

On the way down, my dad was really struggling because his knees were hurting. Me and my mom just went down to wait for him in the car. It took him half an hour after we reached the car to come down, but I think he did really well, considering his age. Hiking is obviously not his thing; most Asians don’t hike, and it’s not in our culture to appreciate nature. Asians like to eat in restaurants, go karaoke, shopping, high tea, etc. I know that’s a stereotype, but I think it accurately describes 90% of my Asians friends.

It didn’t matter to my parents where the destination was, they just wanted to enjoy the process of hiking with their daughter. My dad said he brought me to Mont-Tremblant when I was young, and now it’s my turn to take them out when they are old. 

Algonquin

Monday, 1 September 2014


Last weekend, I went hiking with friends. I’ve never hiked with so many people who all have little to no hiking experience before. Many of my friends tell me they want to join me next time I go hiking when they see my hiking photos, so you know what? I brought all of them with me on Adirondack’s second highest peak: Algonquin. Why not the highest of them all, Marcy? Well, because Marcy takes over 10 hours to hike and 2 hours and a half to drive to, so it wasn’t very doable. Algonquin, on the other hand, takes 7 hours.

The Adirondacks used to be intimating to me. It seemed like such an invincible place. After I climbed that Volcano though, I just felt like I could conquer any mountains. I knew that was a difficult hike, but I wanted my friends to see the best and worst of hiking. It is rough and steep, but the view is something you will not forget. Your best stories will not be the little hikes on Saint-Hilaire…it will be how you slid down those slippery rocks on your butt, how scary it was to be on the unsheltered top, how awesome it was to have lunch on the summit, admire the other summits, and maybe have a sweet little nap there!

I didn’t anticipate this hike to end this late, I started my day at 6:30 am because I had to pick up friends. We arrived there at 10:30 am, because some people were late, we had a long wait at the border, some people wanted toilet stops, others wanted breakfast stops, etc. We started hiking at about 10:45 am, and I’m not sure when we reached the top, but two of my friends did not make it. One had vertigo, and one was worried about the descent.

The second half of the trail was steep and covered with rocks and slippery slabs,



The girls! We took a little break at the little waterfall.






The group, minus Johnny.






When we started going down, all the boys were lagging behind but the girls did very well. We chilled in the car for an hour, listening to music, while waiting for the boys to come down.



When everybody finally made it down the mountain, it was probably about 6:30 pm. Then we went to grab a quick bite at the first gas station and some went for ice cream. It was cheap and yummy.

On the way back though, my car was searched at the border. I was grilled with a million of stupid questions at the Canadian border.

It started like this, “3 people?” the border guard asks.

Yes,” I answered.

How many people are with you?” he goes again.

What a stupid question I thought, can't he do the math? but I still answered politely “two”.

Huh?

At this point, I was pretty irritated. First, he asks a stupid question, and second, he makes me repeat? I said “one” and pointed towards the friend in the front seat, and “two” pointing toward the one in the back sit. I know it’s not a good thing to do...but I really have difficulties dealing with dumb people.

How do you know each other?” he continues.

We’re friends,” I said.

Where did you guys go?

Algonquin Mountain.

Where?” he asks again.

Algonquin…the mountain, Algonquin,” I know I had a little bit of an attitude, but can you blame me?

To do what?

To hike.

What’s on the mountain?

Like, are you serious?! What’s on the mountain?! “Nothing. We went hiking.

Whose car is this?

Mine.

Who?

It’s mine. My car!” Grrrr.

What’s your job?

Accountant.” He then asked all my friends about their job as well, I had to repeat some of the answers because he never seemed to hear properly. He asked what we bought, I said nothing. One of my friends said he bought a pack of cigarette and the other one said he bought a bottle of juice. I’m not sure if they had to declare this, but maybe this made us even more suspicious? I have no idea.

I know I was bitchy, but who wouldn’t be? In the end, he asked us to drive to the searching area. We waited for 15 minutes before someone came for us. Two ladies searched my car for 5 minutes, and found nothing of course. He wasted our time and his co-workers' time. He had his little revenge. That’s great for him. Where does he think he will go in his life with this little victory? Seriously. The nature of his job only attracts idiots in the first place. No one with any reasonable intelligence and skills would want sit there all day to ask silly little questions to people or stare at an x-ray screen.

Anyways, it was midnight by the time I got home.

Nonetheless, it was a memorable day. I’m glad my friends came and that everyone tried their best. Well, you kind of don’t have other choices when you’re stuck in the middle of the mountain, haha :)

Nepal and India

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

So, I just decided that I will spend Christmas in Nepal and New year in India. I always wanted to go to India because it seems like such a magical and chaotic place, and Nepal because it is mysterious.

I'm kind of excited now.

Panama City

Saturday, 23 August 2014

I decided to take a night shuttle bus to Panama City. I asked the first guy I saw for directions...and I think I shouldn't have. He was a fat dirty black alcoholic man claiming to be from the Bronx in New York. "I know where it is, follow me!" he said. I was like...okay. "You're so pretty I want to do things to you all night...", he mumbled as we were walking. I was so disgusted and shocked that he said such inappropriate things. "Is it still far?" I asked. I was kind of scared and I was looking for a way to escape. "Shut up and keep walking" he said.  What the fuck, right?! I told myself that if it's not the next building, I will make up an excuse to get away from him. Luckily, it was the next building. "Okay, thanks!" I quickly said as I was walking away quickly. "Give me a kiss, baby?" he shouted. "I don't think so," as I walk even quicker.

That was a scary experience, but at least I found the office of the company that does the transfer. At the office, there was a bunch of Australians who were going to Panama City as well. Everybody took the water taxi and then a cab to the bus terminal. One of the Australians sat next to me. He offered me a smirnoff but I refused. We talked a little but he really annoyed me. He kept pushing me and sleeping on my side. I'm pretty sure he was doing it on purpose (he wasn't actually sleeping) because he was trying to make advances on me or something. I couldn't sleep because of him. I wanted to confirm that he was actually doing it on purpose, so I sat up straight, grabbed my pringles and started eating them. That way, if he wasn't actually sleeping, he would know that I was awake and will not "push" me. He kept moving around in his sit, pretending to be sleeping, except that he wasn't touching me this time. That means that he is fully aware of what he was doing. What a slut, right?

Then, I closed my eyes again and tried to sleep. He started to "push" me again, so I very rudely kicked him, accidentally of course because I'm sleeping, y'know! He touched me again, but I hit him harder...in my sleep. He eventually stopped after he realized that I 'm not going to let him step over me, so he slept on his side of the sit like a little bitch. I managed to sleep a little bit after this incident. It was like a refrigerator in the bus; I had cold sweat because it was so cold. It was a terrible bus ride.

We arrived at the bus terminal in Panama City at 4:30 AM. I was so sleepy. I saw everyone standing next to the bus after they got off. I didn't understand why. They must be waiting for another bus to go somewhere else, I thought. I didn't even know where in Panama City I was, I wasn't even sure I arrived in Panama City, there were no signs anywhere.

I went outside and asked a cab driver how much is it to go to my hostel. He said it was 10$, which means that I was indeed in Panama City. I got on the cab and as he started driving, I realized that I didn't have my backpack! Damn, I'm so stupid! I understood why people were waiting next to the bus; they were waiting for their luggage! I ran back, and luckily, they were still distributing the luggage.

I arrived at the hostel. A young guy opened the gate, and obviously it was too early to check in so I slept in the reception area. At least, the couch is comfy. I felt so uncomfortable; I was stinky and sticky from hot and cold sweat. I slept for 2-3 hours and woke up for breakfast and have a walk around the neighbourhood. I finally got to check in and shower! Okay, that was a long story just for the transfer to Panama City, haha.

So, here's a little bit about Panama City; it looks like a quite modern city with its quirks. People say it looks like Miami, except it's more Spanish. I think people say this to attract tourists. Miami is on a beach, Panama City is not. Some people say it looks like Singapore, but Singapore is clean and Panama City is not. Tall building just looks like tall buildings everywhere. But there is definitely less staring here, and I like to see Latinos in business suit. I guess I could pass for a local since there are many Chinese living in Panama.



Panama is a place that is developping way quicker that what it is ready for. This building is the perfect example. It seems so modern and out of his world. BUT! This building is empty because it is not safe.



The canal really made an impression on me. I went to the museum and watched boats going through the different locks. The water fills up the tank , rising the boat above sea level in less than 8 minutes. I'm quite impressed by all the man work it took to build this and by the fact that it is still functioning the same way it always did, with the same locks and the same motors. Human being are capable of great things and the Panama Canal is a very good example.



This is a museum built by an artist for his wife. It is supposed to be finished in 2009, ha. For Panamanian, tomorrow doesn't mean tomorrow, it just means...not today.


I also visited the causeway, a natural reserve and saw a sloth. The rest of pictures are taken in the old town. It is a nice place; some buildings are very old and abandoned while some buildings are renovated. Every building has a little something to it.











Later, I went back to the hostel and took a nap. When I woke up, my roomate, a Spanish guy in this thirties, started telling me that he has a date with a local girl, but he did not want to go alone and wanted me to come with him because he didn't want the local girl to get the wrong idea. He is also an auditor, I mean, what are the chances, haha, two auditors hanging out together. I went with him to the fish market to meet her, but she didn't show up. So we went to the old town to have supper. I'm glad we went there because it is very beautiful at night with all the lights, and it's also considered the safest part of town.

I spent an awesome time here in Panama City :)

Bocas Del Toro

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bocas Del Toro! So, I took the shuttle bus from Boquete to Bocas Del Toro. The driver was really nice, stopped along the way to show us the nice spots. I arrived on the island in the afternoon. Bocas Del Toro is very similar to Roatan, both are popular spots for diving and surfing... but there seem to be a lot more students here in Bocas Del Toro and it's dirtier too. Roatan has better bars, restaurants and beaches. I guess the only reason I came here is because a friend recommended it.

Sometimes, I think it's harder to find that feeling of amazement when I travel. Of course everything has a flavor if its own, but sometimes deep inside, I know I've seen something better somewhere else. That's the reason why I don't take as many pictures as I used to. I'm just...not easily impressed, haha. I try my best though...


I rented a bike for 7$ to visit around the island and found a beach. There was nobody there, except two local guys who were cleaning the beach. I asked one of them in "sign language" to take a picture of me with my cell phone. He probably never saw an iphone and didn't take off his gloves. I tried to tell him that he needed to take off the gloves in order to press the button on the screen. He didn't understand me. I was like...oh well, he'll understand after trying, haha. After all the struggle, he took some decent pictures of me and handed me back my phone.




Then, I was just trying to take some pictures of the bike on the beach...and he took his old school phone out and took pictures of me. He had this smile on his face. It was so funny. He probably never spoke to an Asian tourist before. It's kind of weird to know that this guy has my picture, but I'm glad it makes him smile.

Did I mention that the bikes did not have breaks? I didn't realize until I had to stop, and I was wearing flip flops and the sit was so high that I couldn't just put my foot on the ground. I suddenly remembered a random conversation I overheard a year ago in Val-David; an old guy was talking about how the bikes back in the days didn't have breaks, so you have to put your foot on the wheel to make it stop. That's what I did, haha, it was very uncomfortable with my flip flops so I didn't ride for too long.

I only spent a day here; it was short and sweet!

Boquete

Monday, 18 August 2014

I cheated. I took the plane from San Jose to David in Panama. I really didn't feel like spending 10 hours in the bus. The flight was only an hour long and the bus from David to Boquete is about another hour long. Sometimes, I'd just rather pay more for comfort and convenience.

The most popular destinations in Panama are Boquete, which is a little mountain village located in the Panama highlands, Bocas Del Toros which is on the Caribbean side, and of course Panama city, the capital. I decided to go to all three and make the most out of my last week of vacation.

The cab driver, Alexandre, was so nice. He couldn't find my hostel, and I accidentally deleted the directions. After driving around for a while, I asked him to just drop me off near the market so I can go look around and figure it out.

As I started walking towards the residential area, a lady with bright red lips, holding a dog, asked me what I was looking for. I told her the name of my hostel, but she said it closed down. I thought that was so weird. She asked me to follow her, I kind of didn't have a choice, so I followed her. She asked around for me. Then a cab driver stopped us. "Que pasa?" the lady asked. I turned around and it was Alexandre! He was with a local guy who apparently knew where the hostel was, so I went with them. Isn't he so nice? 99% of people would just move on with their day after getting their payment, but he asked around, made phone calls and came back for me! I was so touched! Nice people are awesome, haha.

We finally found the hostel. The hostel was indeed closed and opened in a new location. There was nobody in the hostel, but it was very clean and the beds were so comfortable. I was happy!

I went in town, had a coffee, made some travel arrangements. I wanted to do rafting, but there were not enough people doing it. That's the inconvenience of travelling alone sometimes.

Here are some pictures taken around Boquete...

Look at what mother nature did. That's called the "Los Ladrillos"; it's a basalt volcanic formation. People like to do rock climbing here.



Here's a castle that a man made for the woman he loved. He never finished it and apparently even died in there. People say it's haunted...



Just a cute stream



I met a German guy and had a beer with him. He annoyed me, but it was still good entertainment, haha.

San Jose

Sunday, 17 August 2014

I arrived in San Jose after almost a full day spent on a bus. I was a little bit sad to leave Monteverde. It's only a short vacation, but I experienced all kinds of emotions; it's almost as if you get to live another life for a little while. If there's anything you wish you did differently, now it's the time.

I realized that I only have less than a week left, so I decided that I will only stay one day in San Jose. I debated between going to Irazu Volcano or just visiting the city. The volcano would have been fun, except that I've had my dose of volcanos and my legs haven't completely recovered yet.

Here are some pictures of the city. My favorite part of the city are all the street arts!







For one of the rare times in my travel life, I felt relatively unsafe. I wanted to go to that really cool restaurant which is very close to the place I stayed at, but it was closed. So, I walked towards downtown to find another restaurant, and in order to get there, I had to walk across a park. Parks are considered dangerous places, especially at night. I walked very fast, but I quickly realized that there was a guy following me. I wanted to confirm that he was actually following me, so I walked towards the direction where he came from...and he still kept following me...unless he really didn't know where he was going. I was scared, so I walked into the first restaurant I saw. I ate there, and took a taxi back, even if it was a 10-minute walk.
 
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