My C3 Canada 150

I find I need to explain my title. C3 refers to the three ocean coasts that touch Canada, the 150 refers to 150 years since the signing of the Constitution in 1867. I hope to stay from the politics of the event while still talking to anyone I meet who is travelling this summer. I had hoped to make it to the Atlantic Ocean during my June/July trip – so far not on my itinerary. Instead I opted to head north. The following is just a taste of the month I spent preparing this trip.

Of Course I Can Get There 

It took some effort, frustration and doggedness to finally sort out my mid-June trip in Canada. One flights, six train trips, and three hostel stays booked – one will be a repeat – but I am set! It does pay to collect reward points whenever possible. What should have totalled over 1200 CAD for all the transportation came to 73.82 CAD – and that is how I manage to travel. I even managed to have Airmiles and Via points left over to build up for other Canadian trips. 

Victoria to Toronto to Kingston: air and train ✈️🚞

Kingston to Toronto to Winnipeg: two trains πŸšžπŸš‚

Winnipeg to Churchill to Winnipeg: two trainsπŸš‚πŸšž

Winnipeg to Vancouver: AirπŸ›©

Vancouver to Victoria: ferry (hurray, the ferry!)πŸ›³

Technicality: I did pay for a flight to New York, that stops in Toronto. The airline made some changes so I decided to take them up on their offer to make a major change rather than request a full refund. That one way trip was about $228, paid way back in January! However, when breaking down my month long trip I did not factor that trip into total fare. So, approximates for two flights, six trains $1450+, paid $300. Still an excellent saving.
Where to and what I will do. I will leave Victoria to fly out of Vancouver, fantastic because it means I can take the ferry. I have said this before, leaving the island by boat makes my trips seem like an early start to my adventure. It is unlikely I will take the brand spanking New V2V Empress as it goes to downtown Vancouver. Another time. I am thinking budget all the way. I love that I will have a non-stop, overnight flight. I am hoping I will be relatively refreshed and ready to hit the tracks to Kingston. Another travel must for me when I fly east, land in Toronto, take the train to Kingston. I will take it back mid-July also, then board another train for Winnipeg.
A week of emails and UWinnipeg Hostel has finally been booked.

Definitely no V2V Empress, I did not even get my free trip – it was supposed to be offered at a later date, never happened. Rather disappointed.

Update, it is never a good idea to plan two trips. It seems I am flying out of Victoria, no ferry trip. I also had to re-confirm UWinnipeg Hostel is booked for two different stays. If I am having this much trouble booking at a university in Canada I wonder if it is even feasible to consider universities in some cities in China.

Why Planning Ahead Is Not Micromanaging! πŸ—“πŸ—’πŸ’»πŸ“ž

I like to plan everything as far ahead of time as possible when it comes getting to where I need to depart from – airports, train stations, ferries, buses – they all need to be got to. So glad I do this as even so close to home things change. I was working on getting to the airport by local transit ($5.00) only to discover the route and buses used have had significant changes. Rather than two buses I will now have to take three, the last is at the McTavish Park ‘n Ride that is basically in the middle of nowhere – fortunately, so long as I work everything out properly, I should be able to catch the last community bus and still get to the airport 1 1/2 hours before departure. So there is absolutely no room for error! I can see making the decision to leave earlier just in case. There is no standing room on the community bus. It carries fewer passengers, no idea what is suggested if there are too many passengers all vying for the last trip.

Getting From Here to There/Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

After about a week or so of spending several hours daily I finally hashed out my itinerary for roughly the first 25 days of my trip to China and Vietnam. I struggled with how to fit in what I want to see and do within the time constraints of avoiding the National Day holiday. My initial itinerary was adding up as too difficult to really enjoy anything; it had me rushing off for the far reaches of Gansu and Northern Shanxi provinces, in Northwest China, before flying to Saigon. Just not practical, even if taking in only one of the provinces. The cost of airfare to Saigon alone was prohibitive.

I decided to break my trip into four sections. I will do a much smaller loop for the first ten days, Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, Huangshan, Shanghai. Although I have been to Suzhou and Nanjing there are still places I want to visit. In Suzhou my main goal will be the New Suzhou Museum, known for its simplicity of design. I saw a documentary about the architect, I.M. Pei, and how much this particular project meant to him.

In Nanjing I hope to visit the city wall there, maybe rent a bike and ride on it, we only drove past it when there years ago. One can do so much solo; whereas with children, or even other adults, so much has to be considered. There are so many layers of history in that city to be studied and one visit found me wanting to know more.
Huangshan, Anhui will be a stepping stone to the Huangshan (Yellow Mountains) National Park, where I will spend one night somewhere in the the park – not sure if at the base or partially up a mountain – this is what makes travelling an adventure. In addition, a stop of two days to visit the ancient villages of Xidi and Hongcun. I am fully aware these might be more along the line of rebuilt villages to bring in the tourists, domestic and foreign, so I can only hope there may be some authenticity.

                      Guess who is afraid of heights.

To ensure I make it to the airport in Shanghai to leave on Sep 28th for Saigon I was meticulous when choosing trains for each stretch of this leg of my trip. The only piece of information I have been waiting for is will I make it to the train station from Hongcun to Huangshan. Lots of time still. What I had not considered was that cancelling my first tentative itinerary, to Gansu, would mean my new itinerary would also be wiped out! I am hoping all my effort can be easily rectified and I will once again have my requested trains put in the queue again. I immediately fired off an email to have this done. A similar situation occurred last year – I do wish people would read things! Yet another one of the pesky issues when booking everything on one’s own. Check, cross check and check again. So, waiting with my fingers ready to send my payment for seats and berths.
Thank goodness I do not have to plan my time Vietnam beyond the first three nights in Saigon. I will ask my daughter what I can do there other than have a phone stolen. (That is her story – not mine) 

You’re doing what? (Snap Decision)

Perhaps the most important trait to possess when considering a trip is a bit of craziness. Without it snap decisions can become bogged down by overthinking, mass lists and subject to doubt. My recommendation is to decide to purchase that cheap airfare first then work on the lists, overthinking and doubt. So much easier to eradicate the negative when in possession of a non-refundable ticket!
Which brings me to my most recent travel decision. Although I may sound like s stuck record there is reasoning behind my madness. I am returning to China. What is important to note is that it is impossible to see the country in only a few weeks. However, there are few people who can take a year off to discover just one country. Even when living in China and taking two 4-5 week long trips with my children we barely scratched the surface. A rough average indicates approximately 20-25 weeks of strictly adventure and discovery over the years I lived there and visited after I left. Of course, travelling with children is very different from going it solo. Excluding the days of departure from and to home I will have 54 days.
I came to the decision when Air China had a weekend long fare sale – Vancouver, Canada to Shanghai, China return – for a mind boggling 499.50 CAD! To put that into context, It is rare to find a ticket to Ontario for such a low price. Extremely rare. The deciding factor was no extra checked in baggage fee. I am ecstatic. Even if I hope to have only carry on. No easy feat as I will need clothing, read that as a coat and sweater, for the northern sections I plan to visit plus light clothing for far south.
As I consider my options I must consider, yes again, the National Day holiday, a Golden Week, Sep 30 – Oct 8. I already know how difficult it is to get train tickets and accommodation during that time. Therefore, I am looking at possible heading to Vietnam to do a motorcycle tour (following in the dust of my daughter) from Saigon to Hanoi, or going north to do the Beijing Loop on one of the Trans-Siberian Railway routes. Before, in between and after those trips will be visits to grottoes, villages, temples and at least one former, favourite city of mine and my children. Also where we were the chosen family of my now 15 year old cat.

Looking Back: Nov 26/11 Shanghai

This entry was from when I probably overstayed my welcome with a friend in Shanghai while waiting to fly to Taiyuan, Shanxi where I had a new teaching position. I thought it timely to include as I prepare for my upcoming trip back – again solely as a visitor. I have edited the post in an attempt to keep it more of a travel entry. Still no photos, this was so long ago that I do not have anything on my iPad. 

You Can’t go Home Again (or: Tides of Change)
I decided to walk from my friend’s at one end of Huaihai Lu to Ruijin Lu to seek out the new old town she had told me about. Along the way I could take photos, watch people, enjoy the lovely weather. Some of the changes I have really taken notice of are pregnant bellies and newborns. It is no longer just Chinese women who are showing off their pregnancies and proudly carrying their newborn. Now foreign women are doing the same. I saw two heavily pregnant women, two others with very young babies, plus another perhaps 6-7 months along with a child also. That was in the space of 4 hours!

I was also amazed at how many foreigners are riding fairly heavy duty motorcycles, as well as motor scooters. Three bikes with sidecars – three people on each. One group, yes a group, consisted of two touring bikes, the woman on one with flowing blonde hair streaming behind her; and the driver also seemed to have long hair – male though.

The biggest change though – for me, was to visit a small street I would frequent with my daughters for cong yong bing, sweet potato chips, (that is sweet potatoes, not sugared chips) and little trinkets. Back then we found some hidden gems of stores and even places for the girls to take kung fu lessons. I had not put the name of the place I should visit to the place we used to visit. Our little street, with its few hidden alleys has been discovered. 

All the quirky shops are gone – one whole side of the street was turned into a vast shopping centre, which means all the little shops on that side have vanished, along with where people lived above their shops. Now there is Tai Kang Lu: the old town. Fine, it was quite a discovery and excellent investment to open this area up for those living there to make money. It certainly draws the tourists. But the charm is gone unless you can get away from the crowds and look up – at the old brickwork, the old wood latticework, old doors and little balconies. Otherwise it is just another Yu Yuan, except nicer with more expensive stuff; or Xintiandi, but less expensive. So, I don’t know if this is progress or not. When I realized that the entrance to this maze of little alleys that twist in and around and out again was our special place I had to cover my mouth to hold back my shock. It would not have done to have this middle aged foreign lady crying at the entrance of a tourist attraction – the most likely thought would have been that I was robbed.

Which I was in a way – another memory stripped away. Perhaps why remaining in Shanghai, as much as I loved it before, is not a good idea. You can go home, but it will never be the same.

Next day I braved Yu Yuan – just as crazy as ever. Crowds dreadful, forgot this was a Saturday. I did not stay long after doing a quick check for silver bells. Headed for the foreign haven of Xintiandi. Still expensive, still clean, still full of lots and lots of restaurants that should meet anyone’s tastes. Simply Thai is still there, looking as calming and relaxing as ever. I wonder if it is the atmosphere or just how we expect all things Thai to be. 
I did not stay long there either. Thank goodness for all those new subway lines – took the number 10 each time. After two days of exploring and lots of walking I am utterly exhausted.

My best adventure was going shopping for some ingredients to make tomato sauce. I cheated a bit, bought tomato paste, canned black olives and feta cheese at the store friend goes to. But I did buy small tomatoes, bananas and oranges at one of the local markets nearby and two types of cong you bing. So, I feel as though I accomplished something. I even returned the adapter I do not need and got my money back!

Home cooking – not always easy in China.