Places to go in Vancouver in a Day

Its been four years since the last time I went to Vancouver with my family and that was summer of 2013. This time, I went back together with my boyfriend! 😀 Since his birthday was close to the long weekend, I suggested that we should have a “Birthday Getaway”, and yes, Vancouver it is! Since were only spending two full days in Vancouver, I had an idea of going to Abbotsford Tulip Festival and pretty much squish in any places that we can visit in Vancouver. We bought a ticket to the Tulip Festival for April 14, which is in the first week that they opened. Unfortunately, most the flowers haven’t bloomed because of the lousy, rainy, cold weather. There were only 30 out of 3 million flowers bloomed that week! 30/30M!!! Crazy! Good thing we were able to return our tickets, and I basically re-planned our first day in BC.

Here are the breakdown of the places we went last Easter long weekend:

Day One Killed Me!

Day one was rainy for the most part, it was not just rainy, it was freezing as hell! I was wearing a very thin rain jacket and a thin sweater all day, that did not help me keep warm at all. We rented a car at Hertz; I suggest you rent a car at Enterprise, it is so much cheaper! I was so stupid I thought I booked a car, and later found out I did not book a car at all! So yes, book a car in advance, don’t hesitate, book it!

Stop 1: Failed attempt to hike Quarry Rock – we couldn’t find the jump-off of the trail, and not sure where to park, because there were houses and “No Parking” signs everywhere; so we decided to head to next destination. However, we saw some cherry blossoms near the docking station on our way and we had to stop to take photos. 🙂 I think that made up for the failed hike.

Stop 2: Lynn Canyon – Free version of Capilano Suspension Bridge. We arrived early and it gave us plenty of time to walk around and take photos. The place did not really wow me, maybe because it rained and I was freezing! But overall, it was a good place to visit.

Stop 3: Lighthouse Park – This is not a bad place too. You have to take a short hike to get to the Lighthouse. What wowed us the most was the houses near the Park, most of the houses are really beautiful! We stopped on one of the houses and took photos because of – Cherry Blossoms. Cherry Blossoms in Vancouver are so pretty, most of them are light pink! Unlike here in Calgary, where its dark pink.

Stop 4: Prospect Point – When we headed back to Downtown Vancouver, we passed the Lion Gate Bridge, and I saw the Prospect Point sign. I told my boyfriend turn to that place because we had to take photos! 😀

Stop 5: Stanley Park – From Prospect Point we wanted to go straight to Stanley park but we missed it, got lost, and got stuck in the traffic! Driving in a busy street of Vancouver mainly in downtown was no fun! We finally got there and yes, another session of taking photos! 🙂

We returned our car and it cost us $100 for the whole day 9-4.30 pm including gas. We went back to the Hostel we stayed in, rest for a good hour, went out to eat, and headed to our last stop.

Stop 6: Waterfront/ Canada Place- From Granville St. we walked straight to Robson St. and I decided that we to turn right instead of left, thats when we got lost. It basically killed my legs. My legs were hurting from all the walks we did for that day, but that was the final blow for my legs! When we got there, guess what? — We took photos again! 🙂

On our way back, we ate dinner again at a Japanese Restaurant at Robson St. their foods are actually cheaper compared to Calgary! One regret that I had was not trying the best restaurants they have in Vancouver. I’ll come back next time for that main purpose. 🙂

After 6 Stops and 12 hours of walking – I just collapsed in my bed and slept like a dead person.

 

Tips when booking an Island Hopping tour in El Nido 2017

Five months before our trip to El Nido, I went online, did my research, binge watch El Nido videos on youtube, and read blogs. I was obsessed and literally day dreamed what it would be like to be in El Nido.

I made an inquiry and booked our Island Hopping Tour from Northern Hope Tours. Even though I asked a lot of questions and made tons of changes on the itinerary, they were very responsive and helpful.

I wanted this post to be short, so lets start!

Tip 1: Boats don’t leave before 9am

For our day one island hopping, I booked a private tour and emailed them if we can head out for our tour as early as possible. They said, sure we can do 8am, we will pick you up at 7:30 am. We were ready at 6.30am (I know were too excited), we waited in vain, and that 8am turned 10am! I was so disappointed, and I lost my patience that morning. Turns out the coast had to be cleared; they usually start 8am and every boat needs a permit before leaving. And another setback was, since I asked them to go on  so many islands that day, they had a problem getting a permit for the boat because that boat was only assigned to a specific tour in El Nido. Before we left, the person who managed our tour came to us and apologize for the all the mishap that morning. I was mad, but later that day it was all good.

Not sure if something changed, but I watched some youtube videos where they did a private island hopping. I might be wrong, but I read that they started at before 9am. I don’t know how they did that, so if anyone knows, let me know! 🙂

Tip 2: Pick one tour at a time

I got too aggressive with my plan for the private tour, and wanted to see everything at one day! I picked 3 destination from Tour A, 4 destination from Tour C, and 1 destination from Tour D.

Tour A – Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Simizu Island

Tour C – Matinloc Shrine, Star Beach, Secret Beach, Hidden Beach

Tour D – Cadlao Lagoon

And we ended up only going to: Cadlao Lagoon, Matinloc Shrine, Star Beach, Small Lagoon, and Big Lagoon.We were supposed to go to Secret Beach but it was to wavy that day, and we had to go through a hole before getting into that Beach.

Overall I like the place that we visited. The Matinloc Shrine has an entrance of P100/person. You can rent a kayak in Small Lagoon for P500-P700, and you can paddle and bump your way in to the lagoon.

Going to each destination will take you 20-40mins max. So if you’re planning to go every island or lagoon, make sure that you include the time your spending on the boat. And all boats are required to be on the dock before 5pm, you literally have 6hours to Island Hop.

Tip 3: Pick the Top 5 island you wanted to visit if you wanted a Customized Tour. 

If I ever come back, would definitely go to Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, and Matinloc Shrine again, and the go to the rest I haven’t been to.

Extra Tip:

Tip 4: Bring your waterproof camera!

Waterproof Camera is a must! and Don’t forget to bring extra batteries!

Tip 5: Waterproof your items! 

When we were there, it was raining and sea was not at its best. The waves we’re quite big and it can get inside the boat. Make sure to put all your items in a waterproof bag. They sell waterproof bag in the El Nido town, not sure how much it cost as it varies on the size.

Tip 6: Rain or shine, Have Fun!! 🙂

Get in your Barbadian Vibe! ~Barbados 2016~

Barbados was the initial port for our 7 Day South Caribbean Cruise with Carnival Fascination. We decided to stay a couple of days before boarding, and another three days after the cruise. On those two separate dates we stayed in two different location.

Months before our vacation, I spend a lot of  time researching on transportation, places to stay, and things to do. And here’s the breakdown and experience of our stay in Barbados.

Transportation:

Flight to Barbados:

The flight to Barbados is actually pricey. We bought a sale ticket for $730-ish CAD from Westjet, and the normal price would go around $850-900CAD. We left in Calgary on the night of June 18,2016 and arrived in Barbados afternoon of June 19, 2016. Although the flight was 5 hours long, for me it was a breeze. There were lots of free seats on the plane, which gives us a lot of room, and also free movies! From the view of my seat, we are welcomed with the crystal blue water and white sands of Barbados, which will make you think of diving in right away into the sea!

Van Transportation in Barbados:

Part of my research was to find how much would it cost us for a van from airport to apartment > apartment to port > port to apartment > apartment to airport. That is total of 4 van transportation and I don’t want us to get ripped off, so I wrote down the prices for Van.

I referred to this site for Taxi prices: Barbados.org Taxi Rates

A van will cost you 1.5 x Taxi rate.

When we left the airport, I asked this guy who was in charge of the Taxi/Van if how much would it cost us to go from Airport to Enterprise, and he said the exact price that I calculated! I was happy how accurate the price was! Going to the apartment was tricky, the driver had to call the Apartment to ask for directions. When we got there and paid, the driver was asking for more, he was asking us double the rate!! Not to mention, he was plain rude and grumpy. I did not like him at all…  Not cool. We gave him the price that he was asking because we don’t want any trouble, and he looks like a person you don’t want to mess with.

To make my story short, the rate that I calculated could be accurate, but as a tourist, expect to get ripped off (sometimes).

Here’s the Calculated Rate VS. Actual Rate (We had to divide by 6)

Airport to Enterprise = 12usd x 1.5van = 18usd

Enterprise to Port = 16usd x 1.5 van = 24usd

Port – Lower Carlton = 20usd x 1.5van = 30usd

Lower Carlton – Airport = 32usd x 1.5van = 48usd

Actual rate:

Airport to Enterprise = 36usd

Enterprise to Port = 70usd

Port – Lower Carlton = 60usd

Lower Carlton – Airport = 48usd

Total actual rate: $214USD

The trip from Lower Carlton to Airport was the only accurate rate that we had! I feel like the second trip was overpriced. We emailed SunTours Barbados to book us the night before we left, but we didnt get any response from them the following day so we called them, and they quoted 70usd! We didnt want to be left behind, so we took it. They actually had a good service; the van was well maintained, looked almost new, and the driver looks decent, nice, and welcoming. So I guess the good service made up for the price that we payed.

Public Transportation in Barbados:

All public transportation will cost you 2BRD / 1USD one way. During our stay, we took the mini van and bus as our main transportation. I was overwhelmed on how fast they drive in Barbados, not to mention their roads are very narrow, or maybe I’m just used to the big, spacious roads here in Calgary. Most of the mini vans would play loud music that will make your ears fall off! It was a good experience though, there was actually one song that stuck in our heads. Check it out!! Peter Ram – Good Morning!

Flight to Toronto – Toronto to Calgary:

Unlike our flight to Barbados, the flight to Canada was packed. We had an 8 hours layover in Toronto; we had a long walk, and even rode a train just to find a decent place to “sleep”. It was such an experience for all of us, and I have no regrets staying in the airport overnight. I felt like a legit traveler at that time actually.

Place to Stay

I had a hard time finding a place to stay in Barbados. Most of the place I looked at are expensive, and some are asking for shady amount for damage protection which is said to be refundable (I doubt it). Even without the damage protection, it was still expensive (I know, I’m cheap).

As it was my first time looking for a place to stay, and had no idea there are other vacation rental websites other than TripAdvisor and Airbnb. I stumbled in VacationRental, and found a perfect and affordable place to stay! We were thinking of staying there after cruise, but it was already booked. I had no choice but to find another house. Then again, I found another perfect and affordable rental house! Check it out. . .

First Stay: Valersk Vacation Apartment (Oistins/Enterprise)

The place we stayed was a 2 bedroom apartment with Kitchen, Family room, and a bathroom. All the bedrooms and Kitchen/Family room is equipped with air-conditioner.

  • 1st bedroom has 1 double and 1 single bed
  • 2nd bedroom has 1 double bed
  • An extra sofa bed is located in the Family room (Since the sofa bed was broken, a single bed was set up inside the 2nd bedroom).

We were greeted by Valencia, the manager of the apartment. She was very welcoming and accommodating! She even drove us to Oistins and accompanied us in the grocery store the day when we arrived in the Apartment.

There were no buses/vans going in that area so we had to walk to Oistins. Prepare your sunscreen and hat because it will take you a good 30-40 minutes walk to Miami Beach/ Oistins one-way. Overall, we had a great stay in Valersk!

Total cost for 2 nights: $220USD for the whole apartment

Second Stay: Pink House (St.James, Lower Carlton)

The cute pink house we stayed in has a 3 bedroom – 1 bathroom – 1 family room – kitchen – veranda/ dining room. This house doesn’t have any air-conditioner. But it had a fan in each bedroom and in the family room. Yes, it can get scorching hot and sticky, but we somehow got used to it (A little bit).

The owner of the house went to UK, so we were attended by the caretaker of the house, Winson. He was also accommodating; drove us to the grocery store, and gave us cooking oil and rice when we ran out. The pink house was actually far from the grocery (20mins drive) or any store, unlike Valersk. If you’re planning to stay here longer, might as well rent a car.   The good side, it is a 10min or less walk to the beach. 🙂

Total Cost for 3 nights : $300USD for the whole house

Tip: When finding a place, always email the owner of the property to get an accurate rate, ask if they have any additional charges (service charge, damage protection, etc), ask the form of payment, and before arriving, validate with them the total cost for the rent.

Things to do

Roam around in Bridgetown

  • We took a passenger van from Oistins to Bridgetown, and the ride took 30 mins. The view was such a wonderful sight! You can see the white sand beaches, old style Barbadian houses, abandoned houses, and local buildings. When we got to Bridgetown, we talked around the town, had lunch at Chefette (fast-food chain in Barbados). They serve baked sweet roll (Pandesal), I didn’t know it was their thing too!

Plunge into the sea!

  • Since most of the place we rented are located near the beach, it is a must to plunge!! Don’t worry, all of the beaches are public. On our last day, we decided to take a last dip and went to the nearest beach. Since not all beaches are clean, we walked to the shore and ended up in front of a small hotel. We stayed there for a good hour or so, and when we decided to come back, I wanted to just pass through the hotels lobby. I cant remember what exactly happened but the receptionist let us passed by. ❤ (Thank you Mr.Receptionist!)

Eat a Dolphin!

  • No, its not a real dolphin; its Mahi-mahi. Another must do in Barbados is to eat at Oistins Fish Fry!! All food stalls open up at night and ready to serve delicious, fulfilling dinner! We ate at Chillin and Grillin and they have the best fish cakes!

Ride a Jolly Roger

  •  Since we didn’t book any snorkeling activities in our cruise, we decided to do an excursion in Barbados. I booked a Lunch tour at Black Pearl Party Cruises , you have to call them if you’re booking for faster inquires and transaction. My friends were quite hesitant at first, because earlier on our trip when we boarded on the cruise ship, the Jolly Roger happened to pass by the ship and my friends saw mostly a group of old people waving at them. They initially thought that you know, were the only youngins in that ship. But no, we had a pretty diverse age group in the ship ranging from 10-40+ years old, and we had fun! We had a couple of stops to snorkel, we saw some turtles (It was amazing! But I didn’t get to touch it even though its inches away from me), saw a shipwreck, and my friends did rope swinging and plank walk/dive. For food, they had a good amount of serving. And oh, unlimited Rum!

Visit Animal Flower Cave

  • How to get there:  I honestly thought were going to have a hard time going here, because of the fact that we dont have a car, taking a taxi is quite expensive, and I thought there were no mini van going in that area. But I was wrong. 🙂 We left the pink house at 9am and waited for the bus going to Speightstown. When we arrived there, we actually dont know where to go, this guy saw us walking around, looking lost, so he asked us where we’re going. I told him we’re going to Animal Flower Cave, and he pointed out a van that drives in the cave area. When we got to the location, the girl collecting the fare told us she can give her number and we can call them so they can drive us back to Speightstown. How awesome was that? Going back, we called them and she said they are on their way, so we waited for around 15 min. We had a different route and they picked passengers along the way. It was good to see the northern part of Barbados.
  • Our experience: We paid an entrance fee of $10usd, and a guide accompanied us into the cave, showed us the animal flower and watched over us while we swam into the pool. Because we were early, we had the pool to ourselves and we spent all the time that we had until the guide called us back. The cave has a pool that you can swim, float, and jump in (It was deep and dark underwater). We had a blast in that cave! That was the best way to end our trip in Barbados!

How much money do you need to spend?

Van Transportation: $214/6 person = apprx $36usd per person

Rental:                         $520/6 person = apprx $87usd per person

Excursion:                  $100usd/ person

Misc:                            $130usd (Includes grocery, public transportation, eat out, and entrance fee in Animal flower cave.)

My overall cost for 5 days stay in Barbados is approx. $360usd. It was under $400usd! Not bad at all! 🙂

Will I ever come back?

Maybe. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to visit Barbados and I feel like we made the most out of our stay there. We had a great time, the people were nice, the food was good, beaches were amazingly blue and beautiful! It was great till it lasted.