After a 16 day trip to Canada’s West Coast, principally Vancouver, Kelowna, Banff, Jasper, Kamloops, and the Whistler Mountain, we’ve been touched in so many fabulous ways. There are many wonderful things about this sprawling – its the second largest nation after Russia in terms of area – and northerly country (average annual temperature is 1.5 deg Celcius across the country) but I’d simply focus on 11. Note that I’m speaking as a traveller of course, so my views could be skewed towards the tourist’s gaze. Let’s hope that things will continue to stay this way for Canada, a land of extraordinary experiences.
Blessed with the world’s largest stretch of World Heritage along the Icefields Parkway, the Canadian Rockies has spectacularly craggy and snow-capped peaks everywhere you turn. From the Sulphur Mountain, the Sundance Ranges, to Mount Robson, there are towering mountains everywhere you turn. Naturally, these are adorned in gorgeous shades of grey, brown, white and green.
Ice Ice Baby
With about eight months of snow a year, spring and summer kind of coalesces in the sub-alpine latitude (50 deg N) of the Canadian Rockies. Those who hate the cold and icy climates better stay away as there are lots of snow everywhere you go. While this means that you should pack on layers of warm clothing, it also means that kids can have a lovely time sliding on and throwing that white stuff.
Fast Flowing Rivers and Majestic Waterfalls
From tiny gurgling brooks to huge glacier-fed rivers, fresh water takes on a different meaning here with gorgeous rivers everywhere you turn. The more adventurous would dash the rapids in a whitewater raft, while the more serene would simply soak in their life and peace giving properties.
With big rivers cutting through mountains and valleys, one is bound to encounter the thunderous applause of cascading waterfalls in the Rockies. Here, tonnes of crystal clear water crashing down upon the rocks of time takes one’s breath away while adding to more perfect Kodak moments.
Post Card Perfect Lakes
Who want a postcard from LA when there are lots of lovely lakes in Canada, the land with the most bodies of freshwater anywhere in the world! Almost every serene, still, and picturesque lake here makes one “ooh” and “aah”, wishing and dreaming of having a log cabin home beside their awesome views.
Scenic and Breathtaking Drives
While its no joke covering thousands of kilometres by road over two weeks, I love the driving experience here. Beautiful and gorgeous vistas greet one almost everywhere I turn. What’s especially memorable was the Sea to Sky highway (Highway 99 and 1) which transformed the landscape magically before one’s eyes from pristine oceans, serene farms, to towering mountains and canyons.
Walking with Wildlife
Blessed with teeming – and highly protected – wildlife (most of the time anyway), lovers of furry, feathered or fuzzy beasts would have a feast here. From grizzlies to black bears, mountain goats, big horn sheeps, towering mooses, van-sized bisons, elks, and deers, to squirrels and marmots, there are lots of creature comforts here. Of course, those who are lucky may get to spot a coyote or two, like we did.
Vibrant, Beautiful and Quaint Cities and Towns
Some of the world’s leading cities in terms of quality of life like Toronto and Vancouver are in Canada. While I’m not quite hot about the traffic situation in Vancouver during peak periods, it appears that everybody is either a) cycling, b) jogging, c) blading, d) skiing, or e) all of the above at its lovely green oases like Stanley Park. Interestingly the average life expectancy of Canadians at 81.4 years is almost the same as that of Singapore’s 81.3 years. Naturally, the more tourist oriented towns like Banff and Whistler were wonderful too.
Food, Glorious (and Multi-Ethnic) Food!
One of the things which impressed us the most about Canada is its ability to offer a wide range of cuisines. With its diverse population, one can find lots of options – Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, American, Greek – to suit one’s taste buds. While prices are certainly steeper than Singapore, you do get good value for the price you pay.
Cold Country with Warm People
As my friend Jennifer Connelly has said, Canada may be a cold country but its people are warm. From our interactions with strangers, innkeepers, restaurateurs, retailers and others, I can’t agree more. People are always so willing to help here and they’re generally quite polite too in their driving habits – except perhaps during peak hours.
Chatty fellow residents at the Macqueen’s Manor, hosted by the warm and hospital Pat and Sam MacQueen.
Hours of Fun (without the Heat)
For those who love the great outdoors like my family and I, the Canadian ranges and lakes offer lots of places to play. Activities that we’ve tried include lots of hiking, cycling, crossing of suspension bridges, riding on mountain-high gondolas and more. With a 7 year old kid in tow, feeding and visiting animals at the zoos and farms also comes in.