Vietnam – Day 10 – Ha Long Bay

Today I woke up at 6:00am. Breakfast was a rather mediocre buffet, and a few hot dishes. I had an omelet. The tour bus for Ha Long Bay picked me up at 8:30am. I choose a semi luxury 2 day option operated by A Class Cruises for about $160 USD ($210 CDN). About half way through the 4 hour drive we stopped for a bathroom break at a very overpriced tourist stop. They put a chain around your neck with a number and record how much you spend and then the workers get a kickback. I found that really annoying. The bus finally arrived in Ha Long Bay at around noon. Throughout the bus ride I was talking with a really nice couple named Danny and Sara, who are both photographers that live part time in Australia and part time in Canada. They’re absolutely adorable together.

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We immediately boarded our boat; Stellar and were greeted with a welcome drink before heading upstairs to the dining room to be briefed on the next two days, discuss safety items, and to get room keys. After obtaining my room key I went to my room to drop off my bags and clean up a bit. The room was small and smelled a bit musty, but the bed was comfortable. The bathroom even had a nice rainfall shower.

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First activity for the day was Kayaking through Luon Tunnel and spending an hour chilling out in the Kayak. This was very peaceful and relaxing. I even saw some monkeys!

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Then the tour guide took us over to an island where we all went to an outlook that you could gaze into Ha Long Bay, and then we went swimming in the ocean and hung out on the beach for an hour or so.

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It was now dinner time so we were taken back to our boat and had dinner. I called it family dinner because it was Sara and Danny, myself, and a French couple that hit it off together and hung out for the rest of the trip.

After dinner many people went upstairs to the sundeck to watch the sunset, myself included. After sunset people Sara and Danny decided to go squid fishing, but didn’t have much luck. I had a drink and talked with them while watching them for a bit before heading to bed, as I was exhausted from waking up early the entire trip.

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Check back tomorrow when I continue on my Ha Long Bay boat tour and explore a massive cave that can hold over 1000 people inside of it at the same time!

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Plains of Six Glaciers Hike

Yesterday my dad and I completed the Plains of Six Glaciers Hike, which is considered to be one of the top twenty hikes to do in Alberta. My dad picked me up at my house at 6:00am and after a 2 hour drive we had arrived at Lake Louise. We thought by getting there early that we would find parking… we were wrong. We circled the parking lot a few times, and lucked out and grabbed the last available spot.

The Government of Canada starting running a massive promotion of the Canadian Parks back at the 150th Anniversary of Canada back in 2017, and ever since then tourism has kicked off. They figured by running buses to Lake Louise and Moraine lake that it would help ease congestion, but it actually made the problem worse because people park at the Lake Louise lot, instead of the overflow lot to catch the bus to Morraine Lake, leaving not many parking spaces available for people actually wanting to visit Lake Louise.

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The 14km and 587 metres of elevation gain trail starts at Lake Louise, then hugs the east side of the lake, before starting a gradual 500-or-so metre elevation gain through the trees towards the Plains of Six Glaciers Tea House. When we were nearing the Tea House we heard a rumble, and you could see a small avalanche that was occurring; luckily I had my camera in hand and ready to shoot and was able to snap a great shot of the avalanche in action. At the Tea House we stopped for some beverages and food. Dad had a delicious sandwich, some lemonade, and some tea, while I had some coffee, as well as some chips and salsa.

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The Tea House was originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1927 as an enjoyable spot to hike to have a cup of tea and overlook the amazing scenery. In 1959 Joy Kimball purchased the Tea House and it has been run by her family ever since. The Tea House still has no electricity, and all food is prepared on a propane stove. Non perishable food items are helicoptered in once at the beginning of the season, and workers bring in the rest up with them in backpacks or by horse every 5 days, when there is a shift change.

I continued the last 1.5km and 100 metres of elevation gain of the hike to the end, while dad started to head back towards the car. The view at the end of the hike was out of this world amazing!

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It was time for me to head back towards the car too. I ended up catching up with my dad towards the beginning of the hike along the east side of Lake Louise. Total time for the hike was roughly 3.75 hours, which is actually slightly faster than the sticker time for the hike.

On the way home from the hike we stopped in Canmore for some well earned coffee and cola.

What hike is in store next? We’re not quite sure as we both have a busy July, but I do have the following hikes on my personal list that I’d like to complete this year: Galatea Lake & Lilian Lakes, Valley of 10 Peaks: Wenkchemna Pass, Geraldine Lakes, Crypt Lake.

The next blog post will be a continuation of my Vietnam. In the next post I’ll be travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay to check back tomorrow!

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Ptarmigan Cirque Hike

Today I just finished a lovely hike with my friend Sara called Ptarmigan Cirque in my beautiful home province of Alberta. Ptarmigan Cirque is a 4.3 kilometer loop in Kananaskis Park that starts just along Highway 40, before traversing up 355 metres of elevation gain through the thick forest before opening up to a beautiful meadow / rocky area between some mountains. This hike is about 8000 feet above sea level, so make sure to pace yourself or you’ll find yourself out of breath.

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Check back tomorrow when I continue on my Vietnam adventure in the beautiful city of Hoi An.

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Jasper National Park

Two weekends ago my girlfriend and I took a little weekend trip to Jasper, Alberta. Jasper is situated in Jasper National Park, which is located in the Canadian Rockies. Jasper was established in 1813 as Jasper House and was a fur trading outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company on the York Factory Express trade route. Jasper National Park was established in 1907. The town of Jasper saw the arrival of the railway in 1911 with the railway siding being added by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (now CN Rail).

On the drive up we stopped numerous times to take photos along Highway 93 North (Icefield Parkway). We also stopped at Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Columbia Icefields.

Our stay in Jasper was fulfilled by Sawridge Inn, which has a day spa, pool, hot tub, and sauna. They went above and beyond to accommodate us and we really appreciated the hospitality.

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Creationz by Catherine – A Collaboration

This post is a bit different than my normal travel posts, but I’m excited to share something that wowed me and something that I’m truly passionate about. I recently had the wonderful opportunity to work with Catherine on photographing her work for her 2018 Christmas catalog. To me this wasn’t just any ordinary photoshoot, but something that really wowed me. Catherine has a true passion in arts and design and it really shows in her work.

Catherine is passionate about creating and designing. She sources her inspiration from the places that she travels to and nostalgic objects. She loves bright colours and everything about the fifties (think mid-century modern), and this is definitely reflected in her designs. After studying fine arts and theatrical design in Ottawa (her home town) she was determined to pursue an artistic career. Catherine worked a variety of jobs over the years but her heart was in art. She put her skills to the test and created her own line of items, which lead into her own company called Creationz by Catherine. With this new found passion the success quickly followed. When she’s not busy working on her next creation, she’s travelling the world and sourcing new inspiration.

Creationz by Catherine is a brand of illustrated handmade products. Catherine makes Christmas ornaments, embroidered hoops, wallets, iPad and laptop cases, stockings, and tea towels. She even does custom orders by request. Each piece is designed, printed and sewn with high quality materials and meticulous attention to detail. All items are designed and crafted in her studio right here in Calgary, Alberta.

The 2018 Christmas catalog was a collaboration between Catherine, her sister Esther, and myself. I had so much fun working on this project, and will continue to work with Catherine on her future projects. I was even featured in the catalogue (semi-voluntold). You can check out the catalogue here.

If you’re looking for a wonderful gift idea for family, friends, or a treat for yourself I highly suggest you check out her work; it’s absolutely top notch. You can purchase from her on Etsy here.

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2018-08-19 – Still Travelling to Kenya

Today my journey to Nairobi, Kenya continues. I deliberately slept in until 11:30am so that I could start to get acclimatized to Nairobi’s time zone. I took the Hilton airport shuttle to Toronto Pearson International Airport, had a burrito from Freshii, which was actually pretty good, and then checked in for my flight as I was unable to do so online. After checking in for my flight I went through security and sat down at this place called Beer Hive and ordered a Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA. I took some pictures of planes while I was waiting for my Jet Airways India flight to Amsterdam.

I try to be as positive as possible about my travel experiences but Jet Airways India is a pretty lousy airline. The Boeing 777 was 10 abreast instead of the typical 9, the interior was very worn and dated including the seat cushions, and the onboard service was deplorable. They’ve in the news lately because they’re concerned they will not have enough money to continue operating past the end of August as their main financial backer; Etihad has decided not to continue funding the failing airline. Perhaps if they spent more money on providing a quality experience then perhaps people would fly them.

Anyways onto the positives; upon arrival in Amsterdam, which is an absolutely wonderful airport, I went and checked in to a cute pod hotel called YOTEL. I had four hours of sleep before boarding the next and final leg of my flights to Nairobi, Kenya. The pod had an extremely comfortable mattress and a nice thick duvet on top. It felt nice with the air conditioning blasted but having a thick duvet on. When I woke up I was able to shower in my own mini personal shower in the pod.

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The flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi was on a KLM Boeing 747-400M, which is actually the last Boeing I needed to fly on to complete my list of Boeing jetliners except for the Boeing 720. This marks a milestone for my last Boeing Jet, and my last continent except Antarctica. The KLM flight was about 1 hour late departing due to a failed emergency battery, but the pilot was exceptionally communicative the entire time. The onboard experience was perfect; the staff were super friendly and attentive, the food was amazing, and the seat was very comfortable. I got chatting with the crew on the flight and was invited to explore the upper deck, galley;s, and crew rest area. The flight was very smooth as well; probably even smoother than flying on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It was a true joy flying on the Queen of the Skies!

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The plane parked on the tarmac upon our late arrival so we had to take a bus to the terminal. Once inside the terminal it was a quick walk to immigration/customs where I only had to wait about 15 minutes to get my passport stamped. It saves a ton of time if you have you e-visa beforehand. I just needed to get my fingerprints and photograph taken. After clearing immigration/customs I was met by my GoWay Travel representative named Justar. She’s a delightful young lady who moved to Nairobi two years ago after graduating with her bachelor of arts. She will be my tour guide in 2-days time.

Tomorrow is a day of relaxation and exploring the Central Business District of Nairobi. Make sure to check back tomorrow for my next blog post!

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2018-08-17 – Travelling to Kenya

Today is the start of my long journey to Nairobi, Kenya. I worked from home in the morning before heading over to my parents house to have lunch with my mom. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, Filo’s, where my mom and I shared a delicious shrimp and mushroom pizza. I then did some more work until it was time to head to the airport.

My dad drove me to the airport at around 2:30pm, but it took nearly an hour due to traffic. I relaxed in the Air Canada lounge and had dinner and a beer before boarding my flight to Toronto. The flight was on a one month old Air Canada Boeing 737-MAX8. I took a few photos before boarding the flight, but as you can see the air quality is rather poor so it made for some rather hazy looking images. The interior on the MAX is substantially better than their Airbus A319/A320 aircraft, with one exception… the washroom. The new interior is very bright and open feeling, despite being 6” narrower than the Airbus A319/320 aircraft it is slated to replace. The seats are leather and extremely comfortable and adjustable. The entertainment system is excellent and has a large high resolution screen. The bathroom is pretty crampt, leaving little room for maneuverability and the sink is very small and sprays water all over you. I was also talking with the flight attendants and they said the galley is rather difficult to work in compared to the Airbus A319/A320 aircraft, which is too bad.

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I landed in Toronto and walked over to the Hilton Garden Inn hotel, which was only about 1km away. It was faster to walk than it was to take the shuttle. I’ll probably take the shuttle in the morning though.

I asked the hotel if I could have an extended stay as my flight tomorrow doesn’t leave until 6:30pm, and they agreed. The room is spacious and has a very comfortable King Bed which I will put to good use shortly. Check back tomorrow as I continue on my journey to Nairobi, where I will start on a 8 day Kenyan Safari before continuing onto Turkey, Greece, and Spain!

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