adelagia: (pixar | dug lolling)
[personal profile] adelagia
Vancouver/Richmond road trip! That's right, we did it again. Though the Canadian dollar is recovering, the exchange rate still works out quite nicely in our favor. [ profile] sarea_okelani and I went up first, and then we were joined by [ profile] slitherhither a couple of days later. Whooo!

DAY 1: YOLOing is overrated

We left around 8:45 in the AM to make it in time for lunch in Richmond with a 6-hour road trip playlist Sarea had put together the night before (mostly K-pop) that would last us both there and back.

Sarea: Since each song will probably play only once we'll really have to appreciate it when each one plays.
Adelagia: So this trip will be made in total silence!

I had to make Sarea stop at a McDonald's along the way so I could sneakily use their restroom and not buy anything; I don't know why this trip was such a problem, but I've made that 3-hour ride without having to stop plenty of times before. Ugh. Stupid aging, falling-apart body.

Our first stop in Richmond was AAA Restaurant, a traditional Hong Kong-style cafe. Our waitress was super nice and friendly, which is such an anomaly in these types of places. Sarea got, on her recommendation, preserved vegetable/pork noodles and HK milk tea, and I got pork/shrimp dumpling noodles and milk tea. Delicious.

Yaohan next to check out their drinks selection (tiny, uninspiring) and pick up snacks for Korean class, and then to the bank for cash.

Check-in at the Westin was a little fraught; we'd reserved for 3 people and they gave us a king bed. I mean... it's not impossible to fit three people in one king bed, but seriously? And then they offered us a rollaway bed, if we wanted to pay $30 for it. Pfft. We also chose to forgo housekeeping services and get Sarea some hotel points instead.

With time to waste before dinner, we looked up Mr. J's Escape, which had one room that took 2 people. They were able to take us without a prior reservation and we did the Lost Tomb room. This particular establishment catered towards a Chinese-speaking clientele, which is cool, but worked against us. Even though they had English translations for all the puzzles, it wasn't completely clear sometimes what was required of us. Also, we had to call shenanigans on a puzzle with a button placed so high on the wall neither of us could reach it and the game guide had to come in and do it for us. Sheesh. There was also a puzzle towards the end that required you to memorize a randomized sequence of colored light buttons, but it was a 15-button sequence that was way too hard for two people to remember and the game guide had to come in and help us with that, too. Even with him there it took more than a few tries to get it done.

After that, dinner! We originally had planned something else for dinner prior to the trip, but Sarea's boss had highly recommended Tojo's, a Japanese place with apparently amazing omakase. So we decided to do that instead and both got the 5-course omakase for $80 each (ouch). It was to be our YOLO dinner for the month, and it totally was not even worth it. D: I mean, it wasn't bad, but wasn't really worth what we paid either. First course was tuna, followed by smoked salmon and scallops (this one was good), barracuda, cod cheek, and then sushi, which included a "quinoa roll" that they were trying to push as a "Pacific Northwest creation". It was mushy. Dessert was a black sesame panna cotta. With tax and tip, we ended up paying about $100CAD each. Ridiculous.

Albacore tuna pokeSmoked salmon and scallops
Grilled barracudaCod cheek
Sushi plateBlack sesame panna cotta

Dinner was fairly early so we still had a bunch of time to spare before heading back. We found an HMart where Sarea picked up more snacks for Korean class. It was attached to a mall (Aberdeen Center) so we walked around there for a while and found an Artbox store, which sold a lot of cutesy things like stuffed toys but, more importantly, had a couple of racks of K-pop stuff. We saw posters of a BTS dude that our classmate A really likes so we decided to get a couple of them for her. And then we also found cute BTOB posters, so Sarea had to get them for herself too. No SHINee posters for me, sadly.

Back at the hotel, we started watching a K-drama called Circle, which had been on both our lists for some time. Then, to bed!

DAY 2: We can't leave until this song is over

AAA for breakfast! Milk tea again (srsly, HK milk tea is amazing) and pineapple buns, with and without slabs of butter inside, and a ham/egg sandwich for Sarea. She regretted the sandwich because it made her too full, though it was plenty tasty. The thing about Asian white bread is that it's so much tastier and softer than American white bread; I used to eat it plain when I was a kid (it was even a slogan for one of the brands of bread I grew up with, "Oh Gardenia, so good you can even eat it on its own," which was very true).

Pineapple bunHam and egg sandwich

We walked back to the hotel with nothing much to do except watch more Circle until lunch time.

We had planned to do Cocoru (Korean fried chicken) for lunch and then Haroo (traditional homestyle Korean) for dinner, as Haroo didn't open until 5, only to walk all the way to Cocoru and discover they didn't open for lunch either! In fact, we passed a ton of restaurants that only opened for dinner. How do they even stay in business??

But since AAA didn't open until 9AM (and we were the first ones there waiting for their doors to open), we weren't all that hungry for lunch, and wandered around the area. We found Snowy Village, which had been on our list for post-dinner dessert, as the Internet had told us that, too, only opened at 5PM. But, the hours posted on the door were different, and we happened to come on a day when they opened at 1PM! So we just had to wait around for about 20 minutes before being admitted.

Snowy Village does bingsoo, Korean shaved ice. Sarea got the mango one and I got green tea; they were delicious, but not a patch on the Taiwanese shaved ice we'd had in LA the summer before. Also eating ice made me really cold; Sarea said my lips were turning purple.

Mango bingsooGreen Tea Bingsoo

On our walk back, we popped into Aberdeen Square, a shopping mall that was kinda depressing. Half the stores were empty, and the ones that were still in operation barely had any custom, mostly because they were all selling things no one actually wants anymore. They would have been lucrative enough in the '90s, probably -- in fact, the mall reminded me of malls in Singapore of old -- but who uses travel agencies anymore? Or wants low quality clothing for not that cheap?

After that we swung by Time Escape to book an escape room for the following day. We were slightly confused about their selection; we both remembered, from the last time we'd been there in June, that they had about 8 rooms to choose from, but when we went in this time, there were only 3, and 2 of them we had already done the previous trip.

More Circle-watching until dinner time, at Cocoru. We got half a fried chicken, deep fried tteokbokki, corn cheese, and refillable pickled radish. Pretty tasty, though the batter on the chicken seemed a little... different? It had a taste/texture that wasn't what we were used to for Korean fried chicken. The place got pretty busy with people waiting so we finished up quickly, but then as we were almost ready to go, a SHINee song came on so I made us stay until it was over.

Dessert at Sweet Memory, a Taiwanese place that had only just opened about a month ago. The decor was cool and old-timey, except for this creepy display of dolls(?) in period costume that probably come alive at night. Sarea got a Ferrero Rocher milk tea (not as good as it sounds) and I got tofu pudding (nice and smooth).

DAY 3: We hate BTS more than ever

Before walking to breakfast, we stopped by the hotel front desk to request housekeeping services for the day, so Slither would have a clean room to come in to. They assured us it would be done, and off to breakfast we traipsed.

We breakfasted at Lido Restaurant, another HK-style place (in fact, their menus/posters were practically identical to AAA), with fish porridge and milk tea for me and zha liang and milk tea for Sarea. The porridge was good, but the zha liang a little too bready. Sarea got an egg tart to finish, which she liked.

Fish Congee and Zha Liang

Back to the hotel to wait for Slither; we hung around in the room with the intention of sitting in the lobby when housekeeping came around. While waiting we tried memorizing lyrics for Buzz's My Love, which is one of the noraebang songs we hope to sing when/if we get to Seoul (assuming it still exists by then, ugh [insert truculent political rant]).

Slither got in around 12:30PM, which was later than we'd all expected, so we had to ditch our original lunch plans at Kirin and just eat at the Yaohan food court in order to make it in time for our reservation at Time Escape. We had some uninspiring fare at what seemed to be a HK-style stall (I had beef noodles, Slither had ham and egg noodles, and Sarea had baked pork chop spaghetti, which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t worth repeating). Before we went there though, we stopped by the front desk again to make extra sure they knew we wanted housekeeping (when we left the room, the housekeeper seemed to be at the other end of the hall, which was a red flag for Sarea), then off we went to fail to escape a room.

Our escape room was their hardest one, Lethal Virus. Predictably, we didn't make it through. We didn't even make it to the final room! Gah. The game guide said it was extra hard with a small group, because a lot of the puzzles were time consuming and would have gone faster with more people working on it at the same time. We still liked it, though; their puzzles are pretty logical (once you're able to work them out). Sarea and I were both mad at ourselves for having to call for a clue on something we really should have been able to figure out ourselves (pressing on a poster to electronically open a box – knowing already that this particular establishment was more tech-inclined and having so many other previous experiences where we'd had to press things on walls).

We also discovered that we weren't crazy having remembered a ton more rooms from last time; it turned out that the owner decided to downsize this location because having 8 rooms was too much maintenance. They said the rooms they got rid of were actually now in the Seattle location, so theoretically we can do them in the comfort of our own city, though their website says we need 4 people to play. (They also say that for the Richmond location, though it's obviously never been a problem with just 2 or 3.)

Back to Yaohan to get bubble tea (passionfruit for Sarea, mango green tea for Slither, salty cream green tea for me) and then to the bank to get cash for Slither.

After our surprise stop at Artbox a couple days prior, Sarea and I now wondered if we could get K-pop stuff elsewhere in the area, and the Internet informed us that there was an excellent K-pop store in Burnaby, about a half hour drive away. Since we had also wanted to go to a noraebang there, off to Burnaby we went!

The K-pop store (KR Multimedia) was located in Crystal Mall, the most confusingly built mall ever, in concentric circles. Once we finally found the store after getting turned around and lost for ten minutes, it was a major disappointment. It was tiny and contained almost nothing but BTS stuff. (Okay, fine, they also had EXO.) Sarea asked at the desk for BTOB stuff and managed to get a poster that wasn't on display but just stored in the back. I was feeling too resentful to ask for SHINee stuff.

Off to Galchae Karaoke for Slither's very first karaoke experience! It was the only karaoke place we could find in the area with more than 2 stars on Yelp, and it was also the only Korean karaoke we could find. The system was kind of difficult to work since we had to switch between an English port and a Korean one, so it was hard to queue songs that way. Also their selection was a little odd – songs that were in the book we couldn't find by searching through the remote control, and songs were only listed by title rather than artist. However, they did have BTOB's Ambiguous, which we have been hoping would turn up at our regular noraebang in Federal Way for a while.

Nevertheless we had a grand old time, and the lady at the front desk gifted us an extra 35 minutes. Slither is now addicted to karaoke, so now we have one more person to come with us to noraebang in Federal Way! Whooo!

Late dinner at Shoestring Café, which had such a good deal – a 3-course meal for $39, made particularly good given that their entrees ran $30-36 on their own. Slither got scallops, NY steak, and flan; Sarea got scallops, ribeye, and chocolate soufflé; I had scallops, pork rack, and flan. All supremely delicious, but top honors go to the scallops, which I wish I could have had as my entrée for the rest of my life. Business wasn't great, though, especially for a Saturday night, so hopefully it gets better for them. Possibly once they get their liquor license, more people will be interested. If we ever come back to Richmond, Shoestring would be a definite must.

Grilled scallops with shrimp butterRibeye steak
Pork rackNew York steak
Chocolate souffle and ice creamOrange flan

We got back to the hotel around 10:30PM to find that housekeeping had never stopped by at all. So frustrating, especially given that we'd talked to the front desk twice to make sure it would be done. Also, our towels were now on the floor, in anticipation of getting new ones. So Sarea had to (grumpily) call the front desk and ask for new towels. Sheesh.

We watched the first episode of Answer Me 1997 (for Slither, since Sarea and I have both already seen the whole series), and then went to sleep. Slither brought a couple of sleeping bags and we ladder gamed to see who would use them. (Technically, only Sarea and Slither ladder gamed it; I straight up called the bed. This is why I only have two friends.)

DAY 4: I don't need waffles; I need to retire early

A lazy Sunday morning. We checked out around 10AM, with Sarea having A Word with the front desk about the housekeeping issue from the day before; they gave her more points to make up for it. Not that that was very mollifying; you’d expect the Westin to have a better system of taking care of their guests’ requests.

Off to Damien's Belgian Waffles, which we'd had a couple of times before, several years ago. Still delicious! I got a matcha waffle and earl grey tea; Slither got the breakfast combo – 2 waffles (plain and cinnamon) plus whipped cream, maple syrup, fruit, and coffee; Sarea got a plain waffle with berries, whipped cream, and ice-cream.

Liege waffle with ice cream, berries and whipped cream

Sarea: Ice-cream for breakfast! I love being an adult!

Sarea also got a box of waffles to take home; I decided against it because I recently had a talk with my financial advisor about possibly retiring early, and if I want to do that I have to not buy waffles. Slither also went with this line of reasoning and we left, waffleless.

We went back to Aberdeen Center to see if we'd missed anything at Artbox the first time around. There was also a Tonymoly store there, which was exciting, but severely overpriced. I was interested in a CC cream, which they were selling for CAD$40 and that I could get at Jolse for US$16. Insanity!

At Artbox, we didn't see any more BTOB stuff; in fact, a poster that Sarea had passed over the first time wasn't there anymore. I did manage to find a little SHINee post-it set that I will never use because each page is too precious to waste on anything or anyone (and it was a good deal at CAD$4.50, as, looking on eBay later, similar sets sell for US$8+). Sarea assuaged her disappointment by beelining for eBay and snapping up a BTOB signed 4-album + photocard bundle.

Lunch at Lido – milk tea all around, Malaysian shrimp fried rice for Slither (though it was unclear what made it "Malaysian"), pork/shrimp dumpling noodles for me, and a Western-style sirloin steak meal with spaghetti, garlic bread and “Russian borscht” aka vegetable soup for Sarea. (After she ate the steak she discovered that there was a second steak under it.) Then it was back to the hotel carpark to pick up Slither's car.

Chinese "Russian borscht" aka vegetable soupSirloin steak with mushroom sauce and spaghetti

And with that, we made our way back to the US of A. Since Sarea and I both have Global Entry cards, we were able to use the NEXUS lane, which made it go so much faster. Slither later told us she spent an hour and a half at the border crossing, yikes.

At some point during the trip, Sarea’s iPod needed to be charged, and when that happens, it loses track of where you are in the playlist. So songs were repeated after all, and in fact, it seemed the iPod for the most part ONLY played songs it had played before. The new game was trying to remember if we’d heard a particular song on the way up.

Halfway through I had to pee again. Originally we'd intended to stop at the Lynnwood HMart, but we hit a bunch of inexplicable traffic so kept a look out for McDonald's or similar along the way, and ended up stopping at the very same McDonald's whose facilities I'd used on the way to Canada. Ha.

Sarea and I still went to the Lynnwood HMart where she picked up some aloe drinks and Sac Sac grape juice. We also saw a bookstore selling some K-pop stuff, but it was even more disappointing than the ones in Richmond. Sigh.

Then to the Alderwood Mall for bubble tea at Braganza and to sit around for a while shooting the breeze until we felt hungry enough for dinner, which was at Sam Oh Jung, where we got the ganjang-gejang combo meal (mmmm), after which our vacation was finally, officially over. So sad.

Ganjang gejang (간장 게장) + banchan (반찬)Soybean paste stew (된장 찌개) + banchan (반찬)
Ganjang gejang (간장 게장)
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