Over Christ­mas I made a trip to Hong Kong with my mom and sis­ter, because my grand­ma is unwell. We tried to spend as much time as pos­si­ble with her, know­ing also that hav­ing vis­i­tors was also tir­ing for both my grand­par­ents. So my sis­ter and I did quite a bit of wandering. 

The grimy streets, the humid air, the plume of exhaust every time a bus pass­es by on the nar­row street. The palm trees, the emer­ald moun­tains, the trop­i­cal plants bloom­ing in Decem­ber. Peo­ple who would speed walk right into you if you don’t make way quick­ly enough. The sea that always smells faint­ly like the sewer. 

I love every tree, every brick, every grimy side­walk, every pedes­tri­an bridge in this city. 

But I won­der if I would say the same if we nev­er left. If I had to grow up and learn to be an adult in it. If I actu­al­ly have to live with its var­i­ous com­pli­cat­ed polit­i­cal and social issues now. I don’t know. I don’t even know if I will always be able to vis­it as freely as I do now, with the ways the said com­pli­cat­ed polit­i­cal and social issues are pro­gress­ing. We’ll wait, and see, and hope. And in the mean­while I’ll show you some pic­tures of this beloved city.

Porg, our trav­el com­pan­ion, pos­es in front of the win­dow at our guest house.
View from a pedes­tri­an bridge on King’s Road with the old style tram.
Oil Street arts cen­tre near our guest house. Folks relax­ing on the lawn at lunch time.
Street mar­ket and shoppers.
Wan­dered into Hong Kong Uni­ver­si­ty, a colo­nial insti­tu­tion built in 1912.
Of course, stitch­ing on the MTR. No one stitch­es on the MTR though…
Vis­it­ing Hong Kong Park. It has meerkats and lemurs. Much green­ery. Also unsea­son­ably warm this time of year.
Porg wants a pho­to. It’s not every day he gets to ride the MTR.
Anoth­er pedes­tri­an bridge, anoth­er view.
A refur­bished cot­ton fac­to­ry that turned into an arts cen­tre and retail space, with a thriv­ing rooftop garden.
One of the many ghost signs. It’s clear that there are lots of thoughts and efforts put into pre­serv­ing and show­cas­ing the orig­i­nal struc­ture. Even the bench­es are made from the orig­i­nal wood­en doors.
Vis­it­ed the neigh­bour­hood where my par­ents grew up and met with my mom and aunt. Also where I went to kinder­garten. I have a few spe­cif­ic mem­o­ries of this place.
My par­ents’ fam­i­lies lived in small flats like these.
Toasts at tea time.
We egg tart lovers. Held on to Porg’s wing just in time to stop him from falling right in. 
Spent part of our last evening at the har­bour, with many groups of enthu­si­as­tic buskers, and the back­drop of the icon­ic Hong Kong skyline.

One of my favourite poems by Ursu­la Le Guin comes to mind, wher­ev­er home is for you…

May your soul be at home where there are no hous­es.
Walk care­ful­ly, well loved one,
walk mind­ful­ly, well loved one,
walk fear­less­ly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us, 
be always com­ing home. 

From Always Com­ing Home, 1985

loftslag: adventures in Iceland!


Loft­slag means “cli­mate” in Ice­landic. But accord­ing to this web page on an art exhib­it (which I stum­bled upon while look­ing up the word), the lit­er­al trans­la­tion of loft­slag is “air song” :) which is a love­ly way to think about weather.

If weath­er were a song, then it was def­i­nite­ly on the rather expres­sive side while we were in Ice­land ear­li­er this month. Was it worth the ner­vous dri­ving through nar­row moun­tain pas­sages and one-lane bridges and white-out con­di­tions in snowstorms?

It would be a def­i­nite yes :) 

It’s a place with so much diver­si­ty, not only of weath­er but also land­scapes and geo­log­i­cal fea­tures. One moment there’re ice­bergs and the next moment there are bub­bling hot springs emerg­ing from the earth. Seem­ing­ly bar­ren lava rocks with lush green moss thriv­ing on them. It’s quite surreal.

Appar­ent­ly, how­ev­er, there’s not usu­al­ly blizzard/hail/50+ km/hr wind com­bo in May. So if you’re think­ing about going in spring, don’t be dis­cour­aged! Some folks we com­mis­er­at­ed with at a hos­tel (after every­one’s dri­ven through a white-out snow­storm) said they went in Feb­ru­ary last year and the roads were beau­ti­ful. But cer­tain­ly, if you go in July, there would be no chance of snow. But then it would be more cost­ly, which was why we went in ear­ly May.

But any­way, here are some pic­tures I took on film with Diana, and some faux film pho­tos with the mobile app Huji (which imi­tates 90s dis­pos­able cam­era, and appar­ent­ly all the rage, because the 90s is cool again…? Any­way, I’m quite impressed with the faux light leaks and dust effects!), and some reg­u­lar phone pho­tos too when the light­ing was­n’t good for nei­ther the real or faux film cam­eras. I fig­ure if peo­ple are inter­est­ed in going to Ice­land, they would be see­ing pho­tos of all the must-see loca­tions on tourism sites any­way, so I don’t need to show you my ver­sions of all the same sights. But I can share some of my favourite pic­tures and moments :)

We start­ed in Reyk­javik, the cap­i­tal city, as most trav­ellers do. It was a snowy, windy day, as you can see by the the water in this pic­ture, but with some sun­ny peri­ods every half hour or so, as shown in the fol­low­ing pic­ture. The city has the cutest, most colour­ful hous­es lin­ing every street.

Com­plete­ly jet-lagged, dis­ori­ent­ed and starv­ing, we ate at a cafe that boasts tra­di­tion­al Ice­landic food. It turned out to be a great choice, with our herring/egg and mashed fish on toasts, rye bread ice cream (it was­n’t doughy at all), and skyr with pan­cakes. There was also a “Brave Heart” menu option with most of the things pic­tured as well as “fer­ment­ed shark”. I was tempt­ed to get it but that was quite a lot of food which I did­n’t think I could fin­ish. I lat­er read in a muse­um brochure that fer­ment­ed shark smelled like ammo­nia. So I’m hap­py with our menu choice. The mashed fish and rye ice cream were par­tic­u­lar­ly delicious. 

This would be one of the three times that we ate out in total out of the 9 days we were there. Things are quite a bit more expen­sive than back home, and us thrifty trav­ellers relied a lot on gro­cery stores, gas sta­tions and snacks we packed from home. Not the most nutri­tious, but I fig­ure it’s 9 days out of my life, I can eat as much kale as I can bear when I get home.

Then we drove north towards Ice­land’s sec­ond largest city, Akureyri. But before that we stopped to see the Grabrok Crater, which was where the very first pic­ture of the post was tak­en. The weath­er was dete­ri­o­rat­ing as the day pro­gressed :S 

After some challenging/terrifying dri­ving we final­ly made it to Akureyri. Fel­low (Cana­di­an!) trav­ellers at the hos­tel high­ly rec­om­mend­ed vis­it­ing the Christ­mas House, so we went! And it was fantastic!

So Ice­landic folk­lore about Christ­mas does­n’t involve San­ta. Instead, there are the troll moth­er Grýla (there is a father as well but I for­get his name) and her 13 troll chil­dren called the yule lads, all with their own great names. They come into town before Christ­mas and leave small gifts in chil­dren’s shoes if the chil­dren have behaved well through­out the year, but if they had­n’t they’d get an old pota­to instead of a gift, and the giant feline pet of Grýla, the yule cat, might also eat the chil­dren :S 

Empathiz­ing (but not endors­ing the actions of) the hun­gry yule cat, we went to the Net­to (gro­cery store) in town. And look! It has yarn!!! Not one but mul­ti­ple isles of yarn!!!

It is utter­ly delight­ful and at the same time a bit bizarre to see yarn (like seri­ous, made in Ice­land, 100% nat­ur­al fibre) being sold along­side sauces, tins and bread. And with­out fail every Net­to we shopped at along the way car­ried yarn (this pic­ture was tak­en a bit lat­er in anoth­er town). I wish yarn-craft­ing is as much inter­wo­ven into the fab­ric of our Cana­di­an soci­ety as it is in Ice­land. (puns intended)

We then made it to Mý­vatn, a pop­u­lar place with much to see due to it being in an area with active vol­canic activ­i­ties. Like these bub­bling pools of blue (real­ly, robin’s egg blue) mud!

Just as fas­ci­nat­ing is Dim­mubor­gir or “dark cas­tle”, a lava field with large rock for­ma­tions and caves. The pic­ture real­ly does­n’t do the place jus­tice as to how vast the lava field is and how large the rock for­ma­tions are. We took the “small cir­cle / fam­i­ly” trail because we did­n’t want to get lost. When I look at this pic­ture I always think of Mike the brave hob­bit (or elf? he’s kind of too tall for a hob­bit) walk­ing into Mor­dor. And leg­end has it that it is where the yule lads live! :D

Much of what we drove through in north Ice­land was fields upon fields cov­ered in this red veg­e­ta­tion in con­trast with the green moss, which is quite inter­est­ing for some­one who is used to see­ing grass all the time.

Now dri­ving south along the east fjords, we came upon a few old­er vil­lages, includ­ing the very pic­turesque Seyðisfjörður. We were hop­ing to vis­it the muse­um, which has a print­ing press, and some out­door art instal­la­tions, but the muse­um was closed and we could­n’t find the instal­la­tion :S The view was beau­ti­ful nonetheless!

We con­tin­ued south to Fáskrúðsfjörður, which once served as the base for French fish­er­men, so Mike was final­ly able to read some of the words in the local muse­um :D (the muse­um actu­al­ly was­n’t open for the sea­son yet, but we went in to ask about where we could find a wash­room near­by, and the kind peo­ple at the muse­um let us walk through the exhib­it to reach the washrooms).

Many of the hous­es are from the 1800s and have beau­ti­ful­ly carved name plates.

The gem of the east fjords for me was Petra’s Stone Col­lec­tion! This is just one small frac­tion of the col­lec­tion, it just goes on and on all around the gar­dens. And they’re all rocks that Petra col­lect­ed over her life time in the moun­tains of east Ice­land. She also col­lect­ed oth­er things, like ball point pens, key chains, sea shells… one could lose an entire after­noon in the small house museum.

Here Porg is at Jökulsárlón, which is a glacial lagoon in south Ice­land. I’ve nev­er seen an ice­berg before and it’s absolute­ly fas­ci­nat­ing how blue the ice is. This is the only pic­ture we took of Porg actu­al­ly, even though we took him on the trip think­ing he would look right at home… but it’s been too windy to take a reg­u­lar pho­to, let alone him sit­ting him on a rock or some­thing to take one… but I think this one’s a good one :D

While dri­ving across south Ice­land we drove through Eldhraun, a lava field cov­ered in moss. 

It looks so lush and squishy (not so in my pho­to, which was kind of far away from the side of the road, but you’d find tons of pics on the web), I total­ly under­stand the urge to roll in it, but please don’t! It takes decades for moss to grow and once tram­pled upon it may not even grow back. So hug with our eyes only. 

Equal­ly hug-able (if one could hug hous­es) are these turf hous­es, which make me think of hob­bit hous­es, at the Skog­ar muse­um, where we learned that Ice­landers are an immense­ly resource­ful peo­ple, build­ing dwellings and homes not only with very lim­it­ed resources (the earth and rocks under their feet and the drift­wood that washed up by chance), but also to with­stand very harsh weath­er. There was an entire house that was built from driftwood!

On our sec­ond last day we vis­it­ed part of what is called the “gold­en cir­cle”, which I think is the busiest tourist area in Ice­land judg­ing by the traf­fic. We saw the Geysir in the active hot spring area, and Ker­ið crater, where Bjork had a con­cert! It has dif­fer­ent colours of earth and veg­e­ta­tion at dif­fer­ent sides, with a way to talk to the bot­tom, and the lake a the bot­tom is very blue. 

We took a bit of a detour to Hveragerði, a town in an active vol­canic area with many hot springs, orig­i­nal­ly to vis­it the geot­her­mal park, but it was closed due to pub­lic hol­i­day, so we had lunch in the geot­her­mal restau­rant instead, and had the best mush­room soup and breads at the soup buf­fet (it seems many restau­rants that serve soup and bread serve them in buf­fet style, which is awesome!).

We stayed in a small cab­in with a res­i­dent cat :)

And we even found risot­to in a cup! Not bad for camp­ing food huh :) 

On the last day we had an evening flight, so we stopped by Fjölskyldu- og Húsdýragarðurinn (ani­mal park) in Reyk­javik before head­ing to the airport. 

We have seen many Ice­landic hors­es (and sheep, goats and even rein­deer) through the car win­dow while dri­ving by but nev­er this close. So here they are :D Accord­ing to the park brochure the sheep and the hors­es are sent on hol­i­day to pas­tures dur­ing the summer :)

And that was our trip! Nev­er long enough. But at the same time by the end of it I do feel I’ve had enough of the ner­vous dri­ving. Kind of miss the pub­lic tran­sit here in the city if you can believe it. We def­i­nite­ly would like to vis­it this beau­ti­ful land again one day, not soon, maybe when we retire, and prob­a­bly on a bus tour :)

Thank you always for read­ing my sto­ries! Wish­ing you great adven­tures and new inspi­ra­tions in your own far­away or local trav­els too!



winter solace

Have been hear­ing about the Win­ter Sta­tions project for a cou­ple of years now, but haven’t had a chance to go. I had a week day off last week, and it was rel­a­tive­ly warm, so I head­ed down to the beach to vis­it this year’s installations.

Win­ter Sta­tions are instal­la­tions that go over life guard posts on the beach. This year it’s nice and close to the bus route on Kew Beach

I spot­ted the Pussy Hut from far away.

I love this pic­ture of bright magen­ta knit against a cold, fog­gy lake.

A gem on a des­o­lat­ed win­ter beach.

Inside the struc­ture one could see a piece of the sky, and the sound of the waves crash­ing to shore is actu­al­ly amplified.

This makes me think of a for­est of strange trees. Designed by OCAD stu­dents! :D

A lace tow­er in the fog.

A clos­er look brings rows upon rows of pin­wheels. It was­n’t very windy that day, but I imag­ine that if it were and if all the pin­wheels were spin­ning it would have looked epic.

This piece was called “Obsta­cle”. The struc­ture seems impass­able until one actu­al­ly tries to walk through it — the pieces spin to make way. There’s always a way out. Prob­a­bly my favourite inter­ac­tive piece.

Win­ter Sta­tions is up until April! Check it out when the weath­er is clear :)

Hap­py March, everyone!


what’s so bad about the badlands?

It’s so hard to leave!! :’(

The bad­lands has become one of my favourite places on earth (grant­ed that I haven’t been to many places on earth, but still). Drumheller, par­tic­u­lar­ly, has the friend­liest peo­ple (and crea­tures, as you’ll see) and the most beau­ti­ful landscapes.

But let’s back­track a bit, because I don’t want to leave out Cal­gary! We were only going to pick up a rental car, but thought since we’re half way across the coun­try, we should at least walk around a bit. We saw a few of the many pieces of won­der­ful pub­lic art instal­la­tions in the city, and real­ly appre­ci­at­ed the free stretch of CTrain that brought us from one end of down­town to the oth­er. Imag­ine if we have this in Toron­to! It would be one less bar­ri­er for peo­ple to get to help­ful resources and appointments.

When we approached Drumheller on the high­way (it was maybe a few kilo­me­ters away), it looked like this, which pret­ty much looked the same the whole way we drove through the Prairies from Calgary. 

We left Cal­gary a bit lat­er than planned, so it was just about din­ner time, and I was look­ing for­ward to set­tling in with some fries and burg­er. Or maybe pas­ta. Or even just soup.

“It says it has 8000 peo­ple,” I said to Mike.

“Yes,” said Mike, eyes on the road.

“It says it has an A&W,” I looked at him, start­ing to pan­ic. “Where ARE all the peo­ple?” and the food? Are we lost?! 

“The sign says Drumheller,” said Mike.

 And then there it was.

Dri­ving into the val­ley, for some­one who has nev­er been to the val­ley, was quite a mind-blow­ing expe­ri­ence. It was­n’t just dri­ving into the val­ley, it was like drop­ping into a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent planet.

The land­scape was at once alien and mes­mer­iz­ing, formed by mil­lions of years of rich his­to­ry. There’s so much to explore!

1) The Hoodoos!

A vari­a­tion of the word “voodoo”, so named because of their ghost­ly appear­ance and they were thought to pos­sess super­nat­ur­al pow­ers. We first vis­it­ed the Hoodoo Trail on a rainy day, so we most­ly stayed on con­struct­ed paths and plat­forms, because the ben­tonite clay, which cov­ers much of the bad­lands, was very slip­pery to walk on when wet. (more on that later!)

Hoodoos are for­ma­tions of sand­stone with a cap­stone on top that pro­tects the pil­lar under­neath from ero­sion. They’re quite phe­nom­e­nal. Some­one described them as mush­rooms that appear over thou­sands of years in the bad­lands, which makes them all the more spe­cial to me :)

We could­n’t help but returned for a sec­ond vis­it at sun­rise, just before we left Drumheller.

Because it was­n’t rain­ing, we were able to get clos­er to these majes­tic, sculp­tur­al forms.


2) The East Coulee School Muse­um!

The val­ley was a trop­i­cal area mil­lions of years ago rich with plant life and dinosaurs, which means that it then also has a high con­cen­tra­tion of coal, from the fos­sils. Many towns in the region were built dur­ing the coal rush, East Coulee was one of these towns. Accord­ing to the very friend­ly muse­um staff, at its height the town has a pop­u­la­tion of over 3000, but after demands for coal dimin­ished in the 70s, pop­u­la­tion decreased to 160 cur­rent­ly, and the school, where the min­ers’ chil­dren attend­ed, became a muse­um and provin­cial his­toric site.


The muse­um is a trea­sure trove of arti­facts and sto­ries. Many of the orig­i­nal struc­tures and fur­nish­ing were kept (like child-size wash­room stalls and drink­ing foun­tains, sep­a­rate entrances for boys and girls, play­ground equip­ment and these com­pact desks!), and there are many pic­tures I could show you, but I’d leave it for you to explore your­self if you vis­it! :D Do chat with the muse­um staff about a tour of the base­ment and encoun­ters of the super­nat­ur­al kind if you’re a brave soul :S But if you’re like me, you’d prob­a­bly pre­fer sto­ries of the his­tor­i­cal kind, found at one end of the hall­way in a col­lec­tion of pho­tographs and quotes from min­ers about life and work in the val­ley, and in the diaries on each stu­den­t’s desk (about what they had for lunch on a day in 1938). And don’t for­get to vis­it the tea room for a pot of tea and treats!

3) Atlas Coal Mine

Not far from the school muse­um is the Atlas Coal Mine, the last to close in 1979, and now also a muse­um! The tip­ple is the last struc­ture of its kind in Cana­da. I found it both awe-inspir­ing and a bit men­ac­ing, and real­ly felt that my life is quite com­fort­able com­pared to the way it was.

We spent quite a bit of time explor­ing the grounds because we had a lot of time before our sched­uled train tour and because there was a lot to see and take inter­est­ing pic­tures of. Aban­doned trains and cars and weath­ered build­ings against the back­drop of the bad­lands were an aspir­ing pho­tog­ra­pher’s dream. And we were lucky enough to run into Rain­drop, or Lady Wild­fire, Atlas’ super affec­tion­ate res­i­dent cat!

We were watch­ing a video in one of the exhib­it rooms, oth­er vis­i­tors start­ed walk­ing by and smil­ing at us, think­ing that we brought our cat on the trip, and now set­tling in, in front of the TV, with the cat in our laps. “How cute,” one woman said. “It’s not our cat,” I said. “Oh! Can I pet it?” the woman exclaimed. Then Rain­drop ran away :(

We did see Rain­drop a few more times when we were on the train tour, I think she was roam­ing the grounds :) The friend­ly muse­um staff shared some inter­est­ing sto­ries of life in the coal mine, and we even got to meet a man who worked at the Atlas mine since he was 14, and he told a few sto­ries as well! We were very lucky indeed :D

4) The Last Chance Saloon

It is the only busi­ness left in the coal town, Wayne. A fun place to stop for lunch after tour­ing the muse­ums. Lots to see while wait­ing for food!

5) Roy­al Tyrrell Museum

I’ve been look­ing for­ward to vis­it­ing this muse­um of pale­on­tol­ogy since for­ev­er! I’ve nev­er seen spec­i­mens so amazing. 

There has actu­al­ly been a lot of press about this nodosaur. It is so well pre­served, you can see the tex­ture of its skin. To see it with my own eyes rather than a pic­ture on the screen is a remark­able experience.

We took a hik­ing tour led by a muse­um staff in the Mid­land Provin­cial Park, which is right next to the museum.

Here I took some close up pic­tures of the plants in the bad­lands. The flower of this plant is just a cou­ple of mil­lime­ters across.

And this is a super macro pic­ture of ben­tonite clay! Which is formed from vol­canic ash, and would puff up and become more slip­pery than soap when wet, mak­ing the bad­lands dif­fi­cult to trav­el through on rainy days.

6) Hik­ing in the canyons!

I con­sult­ed with this web­site before going to the Horse­shoe Canyon for a sun­rise hike (for good pic­tures) and was expect­ing easy paths, but was sad to see that the wood­en paths and stair­cas­es have all been torn down, with­out any sig­nage explain­ing what was going on. So we ven­tured down (a steep hill! com­ing back up was quite a work­out) and care­ful­ly walked around in a small area, it was worth the climb!

We then drove back on South Dinosaur Trail and stopped at Orkney Look­out to view the Red Deer Riv­er, which was high­ly rec­om­mend­ed by the friend­ly school muse­um staff. It was mag­nif­i­cent indeed!

We then crossed back to the North Dinosaur Trail by tak­ing the Ble­ri­ot Fer­ry, which was kind of like a sec­tion of a road that shifts from one shore of the Red Deer Riv­er to anoth­er. It was free, and the fer­ry staff was also very friend­ly. He told us a sto­ry about a Jeep that attempt­ed to jump onto the fer­ry after it had depart­ed from shore, like in the movies. It fell into the riv­er. No one was hurt though, I think. “Nev­er a dull moment out here,” he said :D

We then stopped at Horsethief Canyon, so named because 1) accord­ing to the Tyrrell Muse­um staff, peo­ple who stole hors­es would hide in this canyon and then acci­den­tal­ly fell into sink holes (to warn us about the dan­ger of hid­den sink holes when walk­ing in the bad­lands) or 2) accord­ing to the plaque at the canyon, hors­es would wan­der into the canyon, dis­ap­pear for a while, and come out car­ry­ing dif­fer­ent brand­ing. Either way, it was breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful from the look­out point.

We found a way to hike down, and even found some inuk­shuks! Mike made his own to add to the group :)

And we kept run­ning into this ground squir­rel, who tapped Mike’s hand with his paws! Mike insist­ed that he was hugged by the squir­rel. And I thought, I real­ly liked hik­ing in the bad­lands, there’re no bears, or coy­otes, just friend­ly ground squir­rels :) (I think maybe there are rat­tle snakes, but we did­n’t see any :S) 

7) Dinos, dinos, dinos

From the World’s Biggest Dinosaur to the dozens of fun dinosaur sculp­tures in town :D

This is my favourite shot of the World’s Biggest Dinosaur, across from the Red Deer Riv­er, all men­ac­ing, like it’s in its own nat­ur­al habi­tat :D

And this is my favourite of all the pic­tures we took with the friend­ly dinosaur sculp­tures, Mike spent quite a bit of time get­ting the light­ing perfect :)

We were very sad to leave, as you may guess :’( Dif­fi­cult as it was, we drove out of the val­ley for the last time, hop­ing that we will return one day.

And on our way back to Cal­gary for the flight home, we took a very short side trip to the Vil­lage of Beisek­er, to vis­it the world’s largest skunk! Its name is Squirt. It was on a camp­ground, and at its foot a Sat­ur­day morn­ing game of horse­shoes was going on, and a very friend­ly woman took this pic­ture of us :D

Thus con­cludes our wild west adven­tures! Thank you for vir­tu­al­ly jour­ney­ing with us, I hope you enjoy the pic­tures, and if you haven’t vis­it­ed these won­der­ful places, espe­cial­ly the Cana­di­an Bad­lands, I hope you will one day! :D


what i loved about the rockies

After say­ing good­bye to Van­cou­ver, we con­tin­ued on to the Rock­ies on a bus tour through Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise. We fig­ured it was an easy way for us to see as much of the Rock­ies as we could with the lit­tle time we had, plus we’ve always enjoyed learn­ing more about dif­fer­ent sites through the com­men­taries. In fact all the lit­tle fac­toids in this post most­ly come from what we learned from the knowl­edge­able tour guide! The com­pa­ny we went with was great, I would rec­om­mend it to anyone :)

What I loved about the Rock­ies… in one blog post? Let’s try.

1) The moun­tains, of course!

Even though we spent many hours on the bus, I did­n’t sleep as much as I usu­al­ly do, because every turn is a breath­tak­ing site of the moun­tains, just did­n’t want to miss any­thing. There were many pho­tos I took from the bus win­dow, here are a few of my favourites:

And this is Pyra­mid Moun­tain in Jasper, so named for its shape. And it has a red­dish colour because of the heav­ier con­cen­tra­tion of iron in its rocks. We vis­it­ed ear­ly in the morn­ing so there was also some fog hov­er­ing over the lake, quite mag­i­cal looking.

Here we climbed up a large pile of rocks to view Moraine Lake.

And from Sul­phur Moun­tain in Banff comes the hot spring! It did not smell like sul­phur, I was actu­al­ly a bit sur­prised. But then if a hot spring smells like sul­phur why would peo­ple want to sit in it…? Any­way. It was a his­tor­i­cal bath house, and the inte­ri­or real­ly looks like a san­i­tar­i­um from the movies (like this one)! Peo­ple did look to hot springs for cures of ill­ness­es. Not sure if it cured any­thing but, whether it was the min­er­als in the water or sim­ply sit­ting in warm water look­ing at the moun­tain, I did feel like I have more of a spring in my step afterwards :)

2) Mag­i­cal turquoise water

Appar­ent­ly tourists have asked what chem­i­cals are put in the waters in these regions to make the water this attrac­tive colour. Mag­i­cal rock pow­ders, of course! :D We learned that the turquoise came from water from the glac­i­er. When the glacial ice grind against the bedrocks, very fine “rock flour” results. This rock flour reflects only the blues and the greens in light, so we see turquoise.

This is Pey­to Lake, the most turquoise of them all (to my eyes, on that par­tic­u­lar day). 

And here’s Moraine Lake. It was once on the Cana­di­an $20 bill, so this view was referred to by our tour guide as the $20 view.

Greet­ed by the robot of Lake Louise :D

We were tak­ing a stroll at sun­set at bow riv­er in Banff. The water real­ly is turquoise! It’s almost surreal.

3) The canyons

Canyons are immense­ly inter­est­ing because of the dif­fer­ent rock for­ma­tions and exposed rock lay­ers due to ero­sion. I wish I know more about geol­o­gy so I could appre­ci­ate them more, but they’re beau­ti­ful to look at nonetheless.

This is Maligne Canyon, so named because a French explor­er found it dif­fi­cult to cross. I can see why.

And this is John­ston Canyon. It’s a bit of a longer hike to walk down into it, but the jour­ney itself is beau­ti­ful, the water crys­tal clear with a tinge of blue, and the rocks, and all the dif­fer­ent plants grow­ing on the rocks…

This is at Athabas­ca Falls. Very pow­er­ful surges of water.

4) Glac­i­ers!

One of the things that I looked for­ward to doing the most was explor­ing the ice field! It was like step­ping onto a frozen lake, in a mountain! 

An ice field is cre­at­ed by an over­flow­ing glac­i­er. Even the ice is a bit blue here. There was a defined area where it would be safe to walk with­out falling through thin­ner areas of ice. To the left of Mike in the pic­ture was a stream. We were encour­aged to take a drink from it. It was not as cold as I thought, and pret­ty sweet. 

Our tour guide let us know that we were now in the tun­dra region. So we’ve trav­eled from tem­per­ate rain for­est in Van­cou­ver to tun­dra in just a few days. So very cool.

Many more places to explore, def­i­nite­ly will return to the Rock­ies again.

Next stop — the Bad­lands! Until then, hope every­one is hav­ing a not-bad week! 


what i loved about vancouver

This month Mike and I took a trip out west, and it was pret­ty epic in our his­to­ry of trav­els! Our route went from Van­cou­ver, through the Rock­ies to Cal­gary, then a few days’ stay in Drumheller, Alberta.

What I loved about our first stop, Vancouver!

1) Peo­ple walk slower

That was first thing we noticed get­ting into the city from the air­port. While Mike and I saw the bus approach­ing at the stop across the street and ran to catch it (with our lug­gage and every­thing in true Toron­ton­ian pan­ic style), every­one else were just walk­ing casu­al­ly, then formed a neat line to board *blush* 

2) Logs on the beach!

We stayed in Eng­lish Bay, which I high­ly rec­om­mend if any­one is vis­it­ing Van­cou­ver. It’s so easy to get to down­town attrac­tions, Stan­ley Park and Grouse Moun­tain by bus, and the beau­ti­ful beach is just steps away, per­fect place to watch the sun­set every evening with an ice cream cone — and yes, many great food places just on the one street where our hotel was, includ­ing sushi, Kore­an food and ramen! It even has palm trees! There are quite a few hotels in the area but we stayed at this more afford­able one, which was owned by very friend­ly peo­ple and the room was spacious!

And the beach have logs that peo­ple can sit on and relax! I thought that was the most bril­liant thing. Every­one was so relaxed. It must be the ocean breeze. Peo­ple play­ing instru­ments, chat­ting in dif­fer­ent lan­guages, so lovely. 

At one end of the beach there is a giant inuk­shuk, and all around it along the sea wall we were hap­py to find that there were inuk­shuks of all dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes :D

3) The mag­nif­i­cent rain for­est 

We took a free shut­tle to the Capi­lano Sus­pen­sion Bridge Park. The main attrac­tion was the bridge, which I main­ly focused on cross­ing with­out faint­ing :S

I man­aged to snap one pho­to while on the bridge, it was stunning.

But I much more enjoyed walk­ing around in the rain for­est, mar­veling at the very, very tall trees, and the small­er sus­pen­sion bridges around the treetops. 

The air was hazy because of smoke from the wild fires. And the sun­light fil­tered through the haze paint­ed every­thing orange.

There was so much to look at on the for­est floor — dif­fer­ent kinds of moss, rocks, a stream flow­ing through, a nurse log with so much diver­si­ty and life grow­ing from it… I could explore forever.

4) The Van­cou­ver Aquar­i­um!

Has the most beau­ti­ful exhibits of jel­ly­fish! I could spend all day (well I kind of did) watch­ing them flow. 

And the gallery is dec­o­rat­ed with origa­mi jel­ly­fish! It’s an inter­ac­tive dis­play where one could con­trol the colours of light illu­mi­nat­ing the jel­ly­fish. Maybe I’ll dec­o­rate our apart­ment with lit up origa­mi jel­ly­fish too…

And sea otters! They’re the cutest crea­tures, so fluffy, float­ing on their backs. We learned that they were orphaned, and res­cued by the aquar­i­um staff, they some­times hold paws when swim­ming togeth­er so they don’t lose each oth­er (so sweet!), they tuck food in their armpit pock­ets to snack on lat­er (smart!), and they hold favourite stones in the same pock­ets to open clams! (“or for when they wor­ry,” says Mike)

5) LYS!

On Granville Island! There’s the love­ly Fibre Art Stu­dio, with a group of 5 artists who sell yarn that are hand spun and dyed by them­selves. It also sells weav­ing sup­plies. I could­n’t fit much yarn in the lug­gage (I wish I could bring back some hand-dyed yarn though!!), and just need­ed small amount of var­i­ous colours to make amigu­ru­mi dinosaurs (more on that lat­er! :D). The yarn for weav­ing was just perfect.

6) Chi­nese Garden

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Clas­si­cal Chi­nese Gar­den. A re-cre­ation of a 15th cen­tu­ry Chi­nese gar­den, in the mid­dle of Chi­na­town! A very serene place. It has a bam­boo for­est and dif­fer­ent nooks and cran­nies with dif­fer­ent views of the lily pond. Also has a res­i­dent tur­tle and koi fish!

7) Mas­sive pub­lic library!

Must love a city with a library like a Roman Col­i­se­um! It’s def­i­nite­ly mas­sive, with kind of a street and shops inside, not to men­tion floors and floors of books!

8) Stan­ley Park

And of course, last but not least! A dear friend rec­om­mend­ed the hop-on-hop-off tour bus while in Van­cou­ver, which was real­ly help­ful and we prob­a­bly saw 50% more than what we planned to. With­out a car, there was only so much ground we could cov­er by walk­ing, and Stan­ley Park is huge! We went through Stan­ley Park twice! There were many love­ly views but you’re prob­a­bly tired of my pho­tos by now, so I’ll leave you with my favourite — because it cap­tures a seag­ull. (they’re chick­en-size out west!)

Oooh, and a bonus one — Dig­i­tal Orca by Dou­glas Cou­p­land at the harbour :)

Already miss you very much, Van­cou­ver! We will meet again <3

Stay tuned for “what I loved about the Rock­ies” and “what’s so bad about the Bad­lands?” :D


central park florals by diana

Film from NYC devel­oped :D

The best ones were from Cen­tral Park. I also have had to find a dif­fer­ent pho­to devel­op­ing place this time because the trusty ser­vice at Shop­pers Drug Mart has closed down :’( This new place charges 5 times the price of Shop­pers, but the images did turn out much more vibrant. I guess I’ll have to use film more spar­ing­ly from now on, it’s real­ly becom­ing more and more expensive. 

Any­way, here are the Cen­tral Park flo­rals :D

I also loved the weath­ered wood rail­ings all over the park. 

Not sure why I haven’t learned this over the past few years I’ve been using the Diana Mini, but final­ly real­ized that it is best for cap­tur­ing more inti­mate moments rather than land­scapes in the distance.

Land­scapes just turn out super fuzzy most of the time and so lack focus. I do like this one with the boats though.

And this one with the light leaks around lady Lib­er­ty. And some street scenes.


Wish­ing you a great week­end with new adven­tures, big or small :)

the travelling pineapple purse

I start­ed the pineap­ple purse on the trip to New York. Here’s me par­tic­i­pat­ing in Inter­na­tion­al Knit in Pub­lic Day in Brook­lyn! (We had checked out of the place we were stay­ing at and had a free morn­ing before our flight in late after­noon, hence lug­ging around all our bags)

Made the straps when we got home. I think I made them too long, it was a bit hard to gauge… it works ok for now, but if they con­tin­ue to stretch as I use it I will have to replace them.

Here it is in action, at the Dev­il’s Punch Bowl in Hamil­ton, Ontario!

Much fruiti­ness at the Punch Bowl :D Here’s anoth­er look at this beau­ti­ful dis­play of rock strata.

I wish we had the time to fig­ure out the trail to the base of the cliff. The view up on the face of the escarp­ment must have been mag­nif­i­cent. But we were head­ing out to vis­it fam­i­ly and there was a thun­der­storm was com­ing, so we did­n’t want to get stuck on a trail in the woods in the rain.

Accord­ing to the Water­falls of Hamil­ton brochure that I picked up in the near­by Punch Bowl Mar­ket (more on that in a minute!), Dev­il’s Punch­bowl Falls was cre­at­ed at the end of the last ice age 450 mil­lion years ago, carved by huge amount of melt­wa­ter rivers that plunged over the escarp­ment. The Punch­bowl is the only area where one can view such a large ver­ti­cal dis­play of Ordovi­cian and Sil­uri­an strat­i­fied rocks. My phone cam­era did­n’t cap­ture it super well but you can see a bril­liant teal band of rocks in the mid­dle of the cliff. We will have to go back one day and see it better.

And the Punch Bowl Mar­ket is a treat in itself! We had a lunch of very fresh, very deli­cious pies (chick­en, straw­ber­ry rhubarb, beef) under lush hang­ing plants in the patio out­side :) They also sell a lot of home­made pre­serves and sauces, and the decor is delight­ful­ly retro :D

If you ever find your­self in the area, be sure to vis­it, along with the many many beau­ti­ful water­falls in Hamil­ton area. I’ve only vis­it­ed one oth­er water­falls in the area, so maybe a sum­mer road trip is in order :) 

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!


new york, new york

You might have noticed that I was MIA on the blog for a bit… some­times I’m MIA for no good rea­son, but this time, I was actu­al­ly in NYC! :D 20% of the trip was for work, but we sure did cram in as much sight­see­ing as pos­si­ble in the remain­ing 80% of our time there, since we’ve nev­er been!

Most­ly just mes­mer­ized and mild­ly intim­i­dat­ed by the street scenes. Also, fire escapes are such beau­ti­ful struc­tures! Espe­cial­ly the shad­ows they cast on the build­ing dur­ing cer­tain times of day. 

At the cor­ner of Lit­tle Italy and Chi­na­town :O

Made a bee­line to Purl Soho as soon as we had free time *heart eyes x 1000* It is such a nice shop! I got too over­whelmed by all the yarn choic­es and could­n’t decide on what to get. But I did get the gor­geous anniver­sary edi­tion of Pom Pom Quar­ter­ly, which I’ve been eye­ing for­ev­er but had­n’t been able to bring myself to get it because of the hefty ship­ping fees! Can’t wait to start work­ing on some of the pat­terns :D

My sec­ond favourite part of NYC is def­i­nite­ly Cen­tral Park. A close sec­ond. Or even equal­ly favourite. Such a mag­i­cal place. And we only cov­ered maybe a 10th of it!

Isn’t this like the scene in Spir­it­ed Away? :D Almost expect­ing to come out to a world full of strange things on the oth­er side…

Instead we found Alice and her toad­stools :D

This brings peo­ple together :)

Saw that the Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry has a jel­ly dome, made a bee­line there as well! It was well worth the wait­ing in line. Wish I took a pic­ture of the out­side of the dome, it looked like an inflat­ed grey cozy igloo. And inside they played beau­ti­ful footage of all kinds of jel­ly­fish on the dome! It was like they were swim­ming all round you, with relax­ing music, quite mag­i­cal! I think it’s a great alter­na­tive to exhibit­ing live jel­ly­fish in a tank, and makes a bril­liant art instal­la­tion, and I think the won­der on all the vis­i­tors’ faces is just as mov­ing as the jel­ly­fish footage itself. 

And of course we vis­it­ed The Met! It is breath­tak­ing­ly grand.

I’m most mes­mer­ized by the light­ing of this room, orig­i­nal­ly from Venice, I believe.

We had one last morn­ing to spend in New York before head­ing home, and we made it to Brook­lyn! :D

It was so nice to be able to step into the Hud­son River.

Sou­venirs from our trip include 3 per­fect­ly round­ed stones from the riv­er (along with Cocokrispies squares — because we don’t have Cocokrispies in Cana­da any­more), now sit­ting with my glass bird :)

I also took some pic­tures with Diana, hop­ing that they will turn out! Will have to show them to you when I get the film devel­oped — stay tuned!

There were so many places we want­ed to vis­it­ed but just did­n’t have the time! Must return one day. Have you been to NYC, or do you live there? What’s your favourite place?

Have a good rest of the week, everyone!




full heart


Last week­end was a very full one! We went to a farewell par­ty for icon­ic Hon­est Ed’s, orga­nized by Toron­to for Every­one

If you’ve ever vis­it­ed Toron­to, you might have been to Hon­est Ed’s. That was where I like to take out-of-town friends to impress them any­way. It is an enor­mous department/bargain store that lit­er­al­ly invites you to get lost in it. Lit­er­al­ly because there is a sign on the build­ing that says:


Lost part­ly because there was SO much stuff! And so much real­ly dif­fer­ent stuff, all kind of orga­nized in a maze-like for­ma­tion. If you were there for the first time and look­ing for some­thing spe­cif­ic, you’d prob­a­bly get kind of frus­trat­ed, but then quick­ly dis­tract­ed by the cheesy slo­gans hand let­tered in cheer­ful colours everywhere. 

But if you were like me, who lived right across the street from Ed’s for a while and then con­tin­ued to shop or meet peo­ple in the neigh­bour­hood, you’d know exact­ly where to get the 99 cents loaf of bread and tinned fish for lunch, or ban­dan­nas for a sewing exper­i­ment (and this!), or those 2 dol­lar waf­fle shirts for days that turned cold sud­den­ly, or large quan­ti­ty of t‑shirts for sum­mer camp, or socks, or just to get anoth­er pic­ture of that giant plush moose head on top of a grand­fa­ther clock with its eyes pop­ping out, or to kill time, or escape from real­i­ty for a cou­ple of hours in the evening. 

Hon­est Ed’s was named after it’s own­er Ed Mirvish and opened in 1948. As not­ed on Toron­to for Every­one:

“Beyond his bar­gain prices and pun­ny ways, Ed was known for his abil­i­ty to bring peo­ple togeth­er and build com­mu­ni­ty in wacky ways: roller der­bies, 72-hour dance marathons, free turkey give­aways, to name a few. Per­haps most impor­tant of all, Hon­est Ed’s was a mod­el for inclu­siv­i­ty. Every­one, no mat­ter how you looked, what you did, or how much you made — was wel­come at Ed’s. Whether you made a pur­chase or sim­ply enjoyed walk­ing around and brows­ing every­thing from kitchen­wares, cloth­ing, toys, fab­rics, to knick-knacks (SO MANY knick-knacks!), Ed’s had a way of instill­ing won­der and mak­ing you feel at home.”

And from the Jane’s Walk that we par­tic­i­pat­ed in (more on that lat­er), we also learned that he offered very afford­able rental spaces — and they remained afford­able despite the rapid increas­es in rental costs every­where else in the city — to artists and arti­sans in the sur­round­ing Mirvish Village.

There was no place like this place. 

And so a group of good peo­ple brought more good peo­ple togeth­er and orga­nized one last very vibrant mar­ket­place in hon­our of Hon­est Ed’s. 

The jux­ta­po­si­tion of vin­tage glass­ware and under­pants very much cap­tured the spir­it of what this place was.

The artist who hand let­tered all the signs for the store over the past years was there paint­ing cus­tom signs for visitors. 

In 2014 when the news first came out that Hon­est Ed’s will be clos­ing, there was a sale for all the hand let­tered signs used in the stores. So my friend and I went there and lined up for over 5 hours and each got our­selves a few signs. One sits in front of my desk at home, it says “hol­i­day coat­ed marsh­mal­low bis­cuits * 99 cents”. Very spe­cial because it’s got stars on it and they don’t make pen­nies anymore! 

In a dif­fer­ent part of the build­ing there was a com­mu­ni­ty hub, where one could sprawl out and read all the Sun­day flyers…

… and very smi­ley police­men do yoga with the kids.

Mike and I were most look­ing for­ward to the retro ice cream social. (and you can see there is a set­up for music or spo­ken word per­for­mance in the back)

And intu­itive paint­ing! :D

Peo­ple were invit­ed to paint on mer­chan­dise tables. The theme of our table was Hon­est Ed’s.

This was our work! The black dash­es were meant to be foot steps but it’s all get­ting a bit lost there… that was the point I guess :) And Mike paint­ed the streetcar. 

This was under our work by some­one else very talented.

Then we par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Jane’s Walk in Mirvish Vil­lage, where a num­ber of pre­vi­ous ten­ants spoke about the changes they expe­ri­enced after the city block was bought out. At the end peo­ple who went on the walk also shared their sto­ries of Hon­est Ed’s and Ed Mirvish. There were def­i­nite­ly expres­sions of sad­ness about see­ing such impor­tant part of the city go, but there was no anger, or bit­ter­ness, just the acknowl­edge­ment that every­thing good will inevitably come to an end, and there is hope that what is com­ing will car­ry on the lega­cy of embrac­ing diver­si­ty and inclu­sive­ness, and the space will con­tin­ue to bring peo­ple together.

In fact, you can see the vision for the new Mirvish Vil­lage here.

After say­ing good­bye to Hon­est Ed’s, the next day we went to the Warm­ing Toron­to knit­ting day. Here’s the hat I fin­ished :D

It’s a two-colour fish­er­man’s rib hat that was knit­ted flat and seamed togeth­er. I learned the 2‑colour rib pat­tern from this Craft­ster post. The decreas­es are not very neat at all, I’ll learn how to do prop­er decreas­es with this kind of pat­tern next time.

It was a very relax­ing after­noon of knit­ting and hang­ing out with peo­ple who knit :D If you live in the city, the project is still col­lect­ing hats and scarves till March 26! The orga­niz­er can arrange for pick­ups along the sub­way lines. Check out the Face­book event page for details.

Have a love­ly week, every­one! :D