As expected, I spent most of the last month in Bangkok where, as always, I had no complaints! That city is great.
I then went with Jane for 2 nights to Hong Kong. That town is always so neat to visit… there probably isn’t a more fun, interesting place to visit for a few days. It is certainly unique. There is no where in the world like Hong Kong, with its mix of British and Chinese and bold capitalism…
I was in a taxi in Hong Kong and the driver had FOUR cell phones, all rigged up on his dash, and two bluetooth headsets, along with a number of electronic gizmos for taking notes and giving him info… (here is the pic I took of him) the phones were ringing non-stop, it was crazy… he was driving through high-speed HK traffic trying to manage his quad-phones which were ringing off the hook like he was a bookie just before kickoff on Superbowl Sunday.
I commented to him on it and he laughed, “Haha, yes, Hong Kong lifestyle!” and then went back to working the phones!
As an aside, if you want one of the best Argentine steakhouses, outside of Argentina, go to La Pampa in Soho in HK.
Then, after HK, I flew with the new discount longhaul carrier out of HK, Oasis, to Vancouver. Oasis was fine… nothing too special, but just as good or better than Air Canada or United on the same route, for much cheaper.
I am going to temper my disdain for Canada in this blog entry as most of you have heard it all before, but I have one comment on Vancouver again… but this time, the criticism isn’t from me, it’s from everyone else.
I decided to read through a number of Vancouver hotel reviews on tripadvisor.com as I normally do for any city I visit… I laughed out loud so many times at many of the comments.
As a person who has visited 50+ countries and a multitude of cities, I don’t think I have read worse overall reviews of any city, than I did of Vancouver! I just find that funny because most people I know who live in Vancouver think it is just the best city in the world.
As is the case with almost any city in the world, though, if you know the city well and know where all the good/safe spots are, and avoid the other areas, it is fine. And so, many people who live in Vancouver, have learned to avoid certain areas and forget about them… but for visitors, few cities in the world can be as scary and intimidating as Vancouver, much to the surprise of your average Vancouverite.
I laughed as one person on tripadvisor commented on one of the main areas of downtown Vancouver as being, “a ghetto… I saw one prostitute in an alley shaving her legs from a puddle of water”… and on one review of a hotel on Pender near Richards, on the cusp of the REALLY bad areas, one person commented, “Do NOT turn left when leaving the hotel… it is a warzone. Turn right ONLY and keep going!”. LOL
I have to concur with most of the reviewers. Especially now that I have spent so much time away from Vancouver, and seen so many different places. Vancouver streets, for the most part, seem very poor and dangerous. There are definitely more beggars in Vancouver than I have seen in any other city, anywhere. And there are more shady/crazy characters than in almost any other city, as well.
I don’t know exactly what it is that makes this place such a haven for beggars, crazy people and thieves. I think part of it is that most cities in Canada are way too cold to live a homeless lifestyle, so many people take their welfare checks and fly or bus it to Vancouver. But, that explanation doesn’t fully work, because most other Canadian cities have nearly as many undesirables as in Vancouver.
Likely the biggest culprit for the sheer amount of these kind of people is the Canadian welfare state. Some people (socialists and communists) think that giving unproductive people money helps them… it is a nice thought, which is why many nice people fall into the trap of believing it, but just as with communism, it just doesn’t work. As with many things in life, the exact opposite is usually the outcome.. it actually serves to enslave the person into the welfare state and gives them no motivation to learn how to take care of themselves. After decades of blindly following this system, Canada is now home to one of the largest collections of users and abusers.
I am in Vancouver at the moment. It is freezing cold and snowing… and dark… which, combined with all the beggars and shady characters in the downtown core, is very depressing. But I intend to get out to the slopes in the coming days and do some snowboarding, for the first time in years, which should be nice.
I won’t be sticking around for too long, other than for the snowboarding, for reasons as described above… my next stop is likely to be Los Angeles, to play in some World Poker Tour tourneys at the LA Poker Classic and then that will likely be all I can take of Camerica again for a while and will escape to the only civilized and livable country in North America, Mexico. After Mexico I will likely be doing a full tour of many Central American and Caribbean spots, so check back over the coming days/weeks/months for some more interesting travel updates.