Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Race #83 - Great post-race buffet at the Galley Patio and Restaurant (Hypothermic Half Marathon)

This was the first time I ever ran in the Hypothermic Half-Marathon. First of all, I would like to thank all my friends at the Running Room for your support in my pursuit for 100 races. The Hypothermic Half is a Half-Marathon/Full Marathon series across Canada organized by the Running Room. These races are community events where participant numbers are around 100 - 500. This event comes with a decent amount of swag. Each participant got a Running Room backpack (which retails at $59.99), a bib, a medal and a post race buffet. 
   The event features a double figure 8 loop starting at Jericho Sailing Center. It is pretty hard to find a location to host a race that is perfectly 21.1km, so that made sense to me from an operations perspective. The weather was thankfully very good and the skies were partly cloudly. On that note, the course was very beautiful, which definitely made it more fun to run considering that it was a repetitive loop.
   When the event finished, my favourite part was the post race breakfast buffet. It is not very common to see at an outdoors athletic event that uses ceramic and have a sit down place for food. The Jericho Sailing Center has a really nice restaurant that overlooks English Bay. The food selection and post race buffet was spectacular. From freshly baked croissants to sausages, eggs, waffles, hash browns, bacon and fruits, this is definitely one of the best post race buffets around. I am definitely fan girling around the fact that we get ceramic served food. I didn't eat too much though since I am not usually that hungry after a race, but I did have some food :p




Sunday, January 28, 2018

Race #82 - MEC Vancouver Race One

The biggest thing about MEC events is the price. If you buy the season's pass, you can get all of their races for $12, or else each race is only $15. That is unbeatable in terms of the price on the market. I think MEC does not actually make money on this, but for them it's more of a marketing thing to bring people into their stores. That said, you get what you pay for when it comes to these MEC Events. A big reason why many events and races cost more is because there are huge overhead costs to running an event (insurance, permits, food, venue prices, staff, timing, swag and etc...). It's analogous to how there are budget airlines vs traditional airlines. There is a varying degree of how much is spent per event too from the organizing perspective. In terms of what is provided for the runners, the MEC events are more on an economical scale. But for many though, that is all they need. These races also don't support charity and they tend to rely heavily on their staff versus investing time and effort into volunteers. But hey, sometimes you don't need all that if you just want to race and nothing else.
Nuun Hydration
Bathroom Lineup
   The start and finish line areas of this race is pretty barebones. It has all the bells and whistles that a start/ finish line should have, such as an arch, some portapotties, coffee and bananas. KIND Snacks and Nuun Hydration was also there. They also had However, the choice of start/ finish was interesting as it was on a muddy field. The usual run for the washrooms before the event happened (I have plumbing issues too - anxiety...what do you expect? haha). As I mentioned before, because this race relies on staff, they have a strict schedule they stick to. They will shut down package pickup and registrations on time and they usually won't make exceptions. They send the staff to the various points on course.
     The course was a loop around the seawall, starting and finishing at Devonian Park. The loop is a classic for many events that want a 10km distance (this is a certified distance by BC Athletics for other events such as the VFAC's Summerfast 10k and other races). It is gorgeous on a beautiful day to run around the sea wall, but on a day that's pouring rain and windy, it can be rather cold. That said, I enjoyed myself. Nothing better to wake you up than a cold shower right? I also enjoy the event because I got to catch up with many people from the running community whom I adore very much <3
   Overall, I would definitely run the races again because the selling point is the really cheap race entry.





Saturday, January 27, 2018

Quality Buffet for Under $10 and BEER INCLUDED?! (GrandVilla Casino Buffet)

An unlocked beer fridge
There is no other place in Vancouver that has buffet that you can go to for around $12 (for lunch or $19ish for dinner) and get food that is of this quality.  Sure, there are many buffets like Uncle Willy's which is relatively the same in terms of pricing but the quality is like comparing night and day. There are two buffet locations (at least the ones that I've been to, which are the ones in Starlight Casino and Grand Villa Casino) and they both are run by the same company so the pricing and food selection is almost identical. In addition, you don't need to gamble to eat here (like for me, I don't gamble). For this review, I'll focus on my most recent visit to the Grand Villa Casino for lunch.
There's a free shuttle that can take you from Metrotown to Gilmore station right to the casino. They have 2 for 1 deals sometimes (which means you can be dining here for $7 per person), and I would go with my mother or friends. We took the shuttle from Metrotown to the Casino and on the shuttle it was all full of retired people. The minute we got off the shuttle, there was a bit of a feeding time at the zoo feeling with everyone trying to rush off the bus at the same time to go to the buffet.
Assortment of soups
   Once you pass security on the second floor with your ID, the buffet is conveniently located on the second floor. Since we were here only for the buffet, we went straight to the line. There we had to register our names. The host took down our names and then gave us a pager (I am not sure what to call those, but it reminded me of the ones doctors wear at the hospital). The wait was about 20 minutes, so we headed up stairs to see if there is a place to hangout until our pager beeps.
The pager thing
Your greens and carbs
   Upstairs, there are machines that are beside the entrance where you can swipe your Encore Rewards Card (If you don't have one, I recommend getting one because you get a discount at the Buffet) to ballots (I don't even know what this is for) and sometimes it spits out a 2 for 1 coupon at the buffet.
   After 20 minutes, our pager beeped and we headed back to the Buffet. Using that 2 for 1 coupon, we got in for around $7 per person. It didn't take long before we were seated and able to go and grab food. It's worthwhile to note that I probably bring down the average age of the whole dining area by a ton (in other words, everyone here is pretty old...). When it comes to entrees, they have a set of two types of soup (usually one meat and one vegetable). After the soup, there is a salad bar section where there is an assortment of cold salads (such as potato salad, macaroni salad and cold noodles). They also have things like lettuce and condiments that accompany it. After the salads, is the entrees which usually includes rice, vegetables and some sort of stir fry and fish. When we were there, there was macaroni and cheese and tortilla chips. The tortilla chips tasted a bit moist because it was inside a chafing dish and just absorbing water. There was also fish (but I tend to avoid fish because I wasn't sure if it was farmed - farmed fish poses a health risk).
Salad

Tortilla and zombified dinner breads
   On the other side of the dining is the drinks and desserts section. For the first time, I saw a cooler with BEER! I am not even kidding, it was unlocked and it seemed like you can just grab one. I am not sure if it's actually included in the buffet (but you can check if you go). It was next to the coca cola machine, unlocked...  I am personally not a fan of alcohol so I didn't drink it at all and didn't bother asking, but it was cool to see what you can get for less than 10 bucks. The desserts section is also pretty good. They have a wide assortment of cakes and also things like cream puffs. My favourite dessert however, is the ice cream. I love to put my ice cream inside of my ice cream.
Got to feed that sweet tooth
Keep feeding that sweet tooth, just don't get cavities
 Overall, I love this place. Even though I don't eat everything because a part of me is health conscious and my butt screams each time I eat too too much, I love the fact that you can choose whatever you want to eat here. The cons are that you can't really bring family here because it's 19+ and that I am not a big fan of gambling. However, for what you get out of the price you pay for, it is definitely worth your trip!



Friday, January 26, 2018

"Is that a dinosaur?" - Beaty Biodiversity Museum UBC Overview and Tips

My feet compared to a dinosaur's
The Beaty Biodiversity Museum has got to be one of the coolest places to visit for both UBC students and the general public. From the outside, you can see this big blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling (or to some they think it's a dinosaur). I used to walk by here during the times I was doing my degree and I came in here a few times to check it out (it was free for students). However, it was hard to appreciate the things in here in its full entirety as a student as my priorities were dedicated to exams and graduating.
The big blue whale 
   I decided to come back here today as I saw a 2 for 1 deal on Groupon (UBC Alumni gets a 2 for 1 deal already). There was a "save 20%" deal on Groupon and I used Ebates so the total came to less than $12 for 2 people (which was roughly 75% off the regular price). I came here with my +1 as he loves animals (and I do too, but I'm a nerd and loves everything) and we were in the area for a meeting.
    The museum itself isn't super fancy, but it has all the bells and whistles a museum should have. There is a mini-gift shop, a small cafe (which I believe is closed) and an admissions desk at the top level. Upon showing my groupon, the volunteer at the admissions desk checked it off of my app.
No flash photography, foods or drinks are allowed in the museum. After entering the lower level through a ramp, you enter the main hall area where there are some displays and the entrance to the theatre. Inside the theatre, they feature a documentary on how the big blue whale skeleton was found. The movie wasn't playing when we were here.
    After walking past the main hall, you will see rows upon rows of black shelves (I am not sure what you would call them... maybe cabinet? We'll call them shelves - lack of a better term). There were over 30 rows of shelves. It looked sort of like a library at a glance. However, once we walked into the first row, it was impressive to see the displays. The very first row is a display of animals that went through taxidermy encased in glass cabinets. There were so many of them. For each animal class, there were numerous species in display. From goats to jaguars to different kinds of birds, insects and their eggs. This row was mainly an overview row I think. However, I genuinely enjoyed the captions that the animals had.

  We decided to start from the back and work our way forward. The very back section of the museum contained fossils of plants. If you keep walking into the sections, there are displays in the ground (such as a dinosaur feet). While we were comparing our feet to the dinosaur's, a volunteer was pushing a cart with a bunch of bird feet. It wasn't encased in anything, so we decided to take a closer look. The volunteer also had pictures (like full body ones) of each bird and she was showing us how birds that prey have clawed feet while birds that swim would have webbed feet. Looking at the wide variety of specimens of different bird legs was interesting as it painted a story on how animals adapted to their environments.
    During our conversation with the volunteer, I asked her if many students visited here. To my surprise, she said no. She was mentioning how ignorant some students were and how some students actually asked her if the big blue whale skeleton over the main hall was a dinosaur. I had a chuckle when I heard that (the skeleton didn't even have legs, how can it be a dinosaur?!). She also referred us to the hands on area hidden at the back and how we can feel some of the taxidermy animals.
    The hands on area was like a classroom. Before you are able do anything hands on, the volunteers would ask you to wash your hands (understandably, as you are touching fragile specimens). In the back of this hands on section were cabinets. When we were here, a volunteer had one open and inside were jars of animals placed in formaldehyde. My eyes grew wide open as I started to question what they were. Before we knew it, we were in a deep conversation with the volunteer and he opened every cabinet to show us everything they had. There were very interesting things from road kill (like skunks) to turtles, fossils and more. They even had taxidermy of many types of birds (they didn't do the eye part too well on this part, but it was cool to see none-the-less.
The hands on section of the museum
    Overall, there is more to the experience than I can write with this post. There are so many different animals and things you can learn about the living world here. From the animal kingdom to the fungus, there are specimens from all 5 kingdoms of the living world. Moreover, this place is actually used by researchers, so it is interesting to know that by going to the museum, you are contributing to research efforts as well as recognizing the work that many people put in, in the field of life sciences. Whether it's kids young and old, I definitely recommend coming here. The amount of things you learn is well worth it.

Tips:

One of the sections inside the rows upon rows of displays.
  • If you want to save money, take public transit (remember, it's $1.75 per every half hour of parking at UBC, and no there's no combo pricing for anywhere under 6 hours)
  • Students, faculty and staff go in for free, alumni can get in with a 2-for-1 deal.
  • If you are not associated with UBC, you can get a Groupon for a 2-for-1 (they are not always available, however when the Groupon is available and you combine it with a Groupon sale) and then a further 6% off with Ebates.
  • Website: http://beatymuseum.ubc.ca/

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"Iraashaiiiiiiiiiiii" Jinya Ramen Metrotown Review

Table upon being seated
The moment you walk into Jinya, the first thing you will notice is the decor. Out of all ramen places that I've been to, this place is a bit on the fancier end for decor. You can tell that they have taken some time into designing their shop. They take more of a contemporary style of design compared to other ramen places I've been to.
Vegetable ramen
     This place is very busy by the looks of it. What is cool is that you can leave your phone with them and they can text you when there are seats for you. Alternatively, you can wait there (there is not much of a waiting area though...). The waiting area in front of the host feels more like a crowded elevator as there really isn't much space for anyone to wait. In the summer time, I can see that people can wait outside or on the patio. However, during the winter time, that would be unpractical. If you want to avoid long waits, I suggest coming here before lunch hour or after lunch and before dinner or after dinner times.The seating itself is usually shared (so you are either on the big table with many other people or at the bar). If you are looking for a place to bring your whole family, just be aware you maybe placed with other people due to the nature of the store. 
Wide Angle of the restaurant 
I was here with my mom for lunch, and I decided to order the Chicken Ramen with the kaedama (which was the noodle refill for $1.50) while she ordered the Vegetable Ramen. There were other things on the menu besides ramen such as sides (tempura) and drinks. They also had a very interesting looking kids meal ($12 and it includes tempura and other things in a small boat together with a small bowl of ramen. The pricing of all bowls of ramen were around $12 - $15 - which is slightly higher than average but it was good.  
The Menu
    After we ordered, It didn't take too long for the ramen to come, and the portions were pretty fair. The vegetable ramen looked very interesting... Besides having a vegetable soup base and the ramen noodles, they seem to dump a salad ontop of the ramen. So when the bowl of vegetable ramen came, it looked more like a salad than ramen. The chicken ramen was pretty interesting too. When I got my ramen, I asked for the kaedama to come at the same time. Then I put the kaedama into the bowl and then added three spoons of spicy sauce. The noodles sucked up all of the broth, so I had a bowl of semi- spaghetti like noodles. When I started eating, the three spoons of spicy sauce was wayyy too much. By the time I finished, I was already sweating all over with a runny nose... That aside, it was pretty good. The thing I like about their ramen is the broth isn't too greasy and the noodles (whole grain) and the broth feels real (there are some places that just use powder and you can really taste that.  
The funniest part about this restaurant is that everyone shouts to the top of their lungs Japanese phrases (like they do in Japan). Things like "Irasharimase" which means welcome, and things like how many customers there are coming in and etc... It does feel nice to have such a warm welcoming. However, not being too judgmental or anything (I learned Japanese for a few years while my mom did her bachelor's degree in Japan), the pronunciation of the phrases the waiters and waitresses were shouting were pretty off. I'll give them credit for trying, but I can see someone who speaks fluent Japanese would find the dining experience pretty funny. Overall, I like this place and would definitely come back again. 



Sunday, January 21, 2018

Race #81 - Steveston Ice Breaker 8km and Steveston Bakery

For those have been following me along my journey (thank you so much <3) knows that I am trying to complete 100 races before I am 25 in attempt to raise awareness for mental and liver health. For the next 20 races, I will make an effort to post about the race/event experience (for now, it will be on vantraveller.com, but I will probably migrate that to my own website down the road).

Lots of finish line food

Race #81 - Steveston Ice Breaker 8km and Steveston Bakery 


Holy Wind! I think nothing explains the concept of how jet streams work better than today. The course was an out and back from the docks near Steveston eastward along the water and then back. The reason why it reminds me of jet streams is that when an airplane is flying on a jet stream, it's so much faster than when it's flying against it. It's the reason why planes fly faster one way (the way that's in the direction of the jet stream) versus the other way (against it).
Croissant from the Steveston Bakery
   The day started with one of my best friends and I driving to Steveston, the wind was blowing like haywire. When we arrived, the community center wasn't opened yet, so we waited outside for a bit until they were open. Once it was opened, we quickly grabbed our race packages. The race packages itself was nothing too noteworthy, all it included was the race bib, pins and some coupons for New Balance. After we got our packages, we went on a hunt for food (there were no pre-event food besides water, so we had to wait until after the race yet we were starving).
   During our hunt, the Steveston Bakery was open... and what a CUTEEE bakery that was. Since it was early in the morning, the seating area were full of seniors and they were just the most adorable people. They were super curious about our race bibs and the race and we began chatting. The owner was super personable and nice too. If there is something that tugs at my soft spot, it's the small family owned bakery feeling. I can tell that everything was made in house and that they took a lot of time (probably up at 4AM making it). I ended up getting a small cheese croissant and boy that was good. The cheddar cheese inside that croissant and the fact that it wasn't overly greasy really gave it a good touch.
The insides of the Steveston Bakery, it was so cute <3
  Soon after we finished at the Bakery, we headed back to the Steveston Community Center where we changed and then left our non-running clothes in her car. The event also provided bag check, but we thought it was easier for us to leave it in her car.
   The actual start line was a few blocks from the Steveston Community Center (which was were the pre-event package pickup and post-event celebration). It was definitely a bit far in-terms of the relative distance from the start line/ finish line and the event celebration site. However, I can understand given the nature of where the start line/ finish line is (such as the availability of space and weather) that it would be hard to house all the festivities and food there.
   The event didn't have a start line arch this year (I'd imagine they would have it otherwise, but the wind today was CRAZY. 40km/hr+ at least. . he event was also self seeded with a mass start, but most people had no problem finding their place in the starting chute.
The start / finish line of the Steveston 8km
   The course itself was pretty in the sense that if the weather was good, the water on the south side was gorgeous with the sun rising. However, with the wind, it was hard to keep my eyes open. On the first 4 kilometers, it was VERY DIFFICULT because of the wind. The course was running eastward and the wind was moving westward. There was a lot of resistance running into the wind. The moment that I passed the 4 kilometer mark, it was amazing to feel the wind push me forward from the back.
Post event door prizes
    The course's elevation change was not that much besides small inclines here and there. Overall, you can call this race a flat race. I had a fun time running the race (I have an over active imagination, so I definitely felt like I was an airplane). It took me about 34 minutes to run the 8km (which wasn't the fastest... but the thing I learned about racing is to just try your best on given conditions on the day of the event). Mind you, this event draws out track athletes, so be prepared to see a faster crowder than your average community race. The finish line was fun though, I stayed for a bit for people I knew to finish, and to give them high 5's.
Post event food
The walk from the finish line to Stevenston Community Center was slightly cold. I was cooled down already (because of sweat), so the few hundred meters we had to walk to the Community Center was cold (and the wind didn't help). That said, the food at the Community Center was amazing. They were able to get people like Subway, Boston Pizza, KIND Snacks to sponsor. In addition, they also had fruits and muffins (made by the lady who owned Steveston Bakery!), coffee, water and krispy kreme. The food part was spectacular and very well done. The other part that was cool was the number of door prizes there were. I was surprised how many prizes they had (I won a MEC race series ticket). Overall, this was a cute community race. It brought together volunteers from the community and the Kajaks and I love that about this race.

Tips:

  • Weather can be unpredictable because of the date of the event, so be prepared. 
  • Make sure to plan transport, if you cannot drive here, I would imagine it would be harder to come here via public transit, especially on a Sunday morning.
  • Register early. The earlier you register, the cheaper it is. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Time to get your inner geek out! A Halloween Night at Wayne Manor (Brock House Restuarant) Event Recap

The reception area
This was one of the most unique events I have ever been to (it was from October, I was a bit late in posting this) A good friend of mine had an extra ticket to "A Halloween Night at Wayne Manor" at Brock House Restaurant and she invited me to go. What an experience it was! A fully immersive theatrical event where there were actors acting out parts from the Batman movie coupled with good food from the restaurant and all guests dressed up (except me...) really made this a spectacular event. Put on by the Geekenders, it was nice to see so many actors who were so passionate about what they do. Just a warning, if you are coming to an event like this, be sure to dress up. My friend and I didn't dress up because we just assumed it was a casual dinner with no dress code, but we were wrong... haha.
   When we arrived, the parking in the surrounding areas were full so we parked a few blocks away. The Brock House restaurant is a vintage house built in the 1900's. It's more of a mansion than a house (especially in modern day Vancouver where houses are getting smaller and smaller) and it definitely has some historical significance to it. It was definitely majestic to see the house from the outside as the building felt like it was from another era (one where Vancouver was probably more affordable).
The appetizers 
   From the entrance of the Brock House, a small line up of people attending the event can be seen. Everyone was dressed in suits and gowns so at that instant, I felt abit weird. Once the line started moving and we were on the porch and inside the restaurant, we were greeted by people from Geekenders. They were all dressed up and really contributed to the vintage and classy feel that the Batman movie portrayed.
   After we finished with the coat check, and got our champagne tickets, our attention immediately shifted to one of the characters trying to show the upstairs venue to a bunch of guests. To be honest, I am a nerd, but I'm not much of a Batman nerd so I don't really know many of the characters (that explains my choice of clothing). It was only a few moments into the event, I was already impressed.
   The main dining hall had some characters playing and singing on the piano and food. The first hour was the appetizers which included cheese, crackers and vegetables. There were also olives and a cheese platter. All around were characters acting out scenes. There were also photographers (one was a character from Batman) walking around with vintage cameras to take pictures. After about an hour, this was when the entrees and appetizers came out.
The self serve entree bar
    The appetizers were exquisite. From spring rolls to smoked salmon on cream cheese and cucumbers to mini quiches to skewers with bacon and asparagus, the selection was quite well done. The taste of them and the quantity were very well done. I personally loved the smoked salmon (I think I had at least 10 pieces because I don't eat smoke salmon often). 
    In addition to the appetizers the main dish was a self serve bar where you can choose things like shrimp, fish, meat, pasta, vegetables and more and there are live chefs there cooking for you. I had some shrimp mixed with pasta and some white sauce. It was sooo good. There weren't many places to sit, but they had chairs lined up on the side of the dining hall. 
The "Press Release" from the Mayor of Gotham City
    The highlight of the night happened after the dinner was served. The actor who played the mayor suddenly appeared on the elevated steps of the dining hall and everyone gathered around him. There were actors in the crowd who were portraying journalists and asking him questions about the mayor's decisions on building a psych ward. All of a sudden, the lights went out and the joker appeared. The joker and his gang took over the stage. Soon after, the lights went out again and the next thing we knew, Batman showed up to tied up the mischiefs. The scene was saved and then Bruce Wayne (the actor portraying Bruce Wayne) showed up. This was really well done in my opinion.
   After this scene, everyone dispersed to grab drinks. I think this was when the ball was supposed to happen. However, most people decided to just grab a drink a chat rather than dance. My friend and I decided to go upstairs and see what people were up to. To our surprise, we found the dessert section.
The dessert selection
   The desserts were amazing. There was a volunteer from the Geekenders there at the dessert table and we briefly chatted. He had a very slim face and a sort of natural evil look (like a resting bitch face, but a resting evil look instead).  It turned out he played the evil character in many movies and had small roles in movies such as Deadpool. He also has his own IMDB profile and his own acting classes. Together with mingling with actors were the desserts. The dessert selection was quite amazing too. They had cream puffs, chocolate mousses, a variety of cakes and fruits. My favourite was the chocolate mousse. I've never had mousse like this in a cup before so it was quite special.  The other desserts were good too. The selections were quite good in my opinion.
  Before we left, we discovered in one of the side rooms, there were coffee. I think that coffee room was sort of like the "introvert's corner" of the event. There were a wide variety of coffee and tea and people we were there by themselves and away from the acts happening outside.
  Overall, what an event! It was quite well done. Besides the part where people didn't really dance, overall the event was so well done. The food and drinks selection was amazing. Together with the immersive action from the Batman movie, the vintage location a Brock House Restaurant and the scheduling of the events, it was quite a well run event. If I was a bit more Batman geeky I would have understood it more, but from a non Batman geeky perspective. That said, using a bit of with a bit of imagination and a hint of nerd, I HIGHLY recommend checking out this event and other Geekender events in the future. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Average Family Owned Pho Place (Pho d'lite Solo District / Brentwood)

Pho D'lite in Brentwood is a pretty cozy place for Pho. It was around 8:30 at night when my +1 and I decided to come as we were travelling by the Solo District. When we walked in, we were greeted by a waiter (or I think he's a waiter) and then seated. You can tell that this is a family owned restaurant because all of the roles between the server, cook and cashier seem to be blurred. What I found was a bit awkward was there were a group of ladies (I think they were probably the owners of this place) were sitting in the back table where they seem to be gossiping about something.
   After looking at the menu, the prices seemed relatively fair (it's around $12-$15 on average for a bowl of noodles or curry). Browsing through the menu, I decided to get the chicken curry noodles. It did not take too long for the dish to come out. The noodles were put on a separate plate from the curry itself. I found the noodles to look a bit zombie-fied (it was so white that I couldn't help but wonder if the flour that was used to make this was bleached).
   I started by just dumping all of the noodles into the curry. As the noodles entered the bowl of curry, the bowl started to fill up. The curry itself felt a bit watery, however I recon that in Thailand and Vietnam, their curry is based using coconut milk so it's a bit more watery. The spices in there were just spicy enough for my liking and the noodles gave the curry a good compliment. That said, I find the food itself is average, I wouldn't say that there is anything extra special other than the portions being slightly on the bigger size. Overall, I would come here again, but I probably won't go out of my way to come back. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Food for thought - "We have everything from A to Z" (Netflix VS Amazon)

I have to admit, when I found out that Amazon started to get into cloud computing, I held my breath. Amazon's business model isn't really to sell books, it's real business motive (in my opinion) is to sell EVERYTHING. That is why the logo of Amazon (if you take a look at the arrow points from A to Z of the words Amazon and not any other letters). It's a symbolism representing "we have everything from A to Z". By them entering cloud computing, they were further solidifying their goal of selling EVERYTHING. This has been true so far and now you can virtually get everything and anything off Amazon (maybe except live animals and sketchy things).
This is from Amazon themselves, do you see what I mean? The "We sell everything from A to Z". Note: I don't own this logo and used under Creative Commons

Right now through AWS (Amazon Web Services) many websites are now hosted by Amazon through servers across the globe. For those unfamiliar with the concept, just imagine AWS like a virtual computer that acts as a way for people to store information (in particular websites, databases and etc...). I recalled a time in 2017 that AWS had a service outage and then all of a sudden, many websites also suddenly stopped working. I remember I was registering for a race using www.raceroster.com when this happened and Race Roster sent an email saying that they were hosted on AWS and that is why their website stopped working. 
Amazon Prime Video on Android

A great example of why I think Amazon has a lot of growth potential and that others should be worried is the comparison between Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Netflix is pretty much a cloud based subscription based online video streaming service. Amazon Prime Video is the same, and both use the similar technology - where the video is hosted on their servers and customers sign up through a subscription to watch videos. When comparing the two side by side, there are major similarities and major differences. Beginning with the similarities, both services allow you to use multiple devices and download movies to your own devices. They both offer exclusive films (don't quote me on this but I find that if one film exists on Netflix, it won't exist on Amazon Prime Video).

Netflix interface on Android
However, difference wise, Amazon Prime Video offers their service at no additional cost if you are a Amazon Prime member. Personally, that is super sexy sounding to me as a consumer because for a year of Amazon Prime, it is much cheaper than Netflix and you also get more perks (like free photo/video storage via Amazon Prime Drive) and Amazon Music. So if we are strictly talking about price and what you get out of the price, Amazon Prime wins. Think about this: if you as a consumer is getting all of the benefits of Netflix at no additional cost, why wouldn't you want to switch over to Amazon Prime Video and save money?

That said, Netflix, although more expensive does have WAYYY more content that Amazon Prime Video. I find that Netflix originals such as Stranger Things, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Orange is the New Black are soooo good. Amazon also has originals but I find that they aren't as good as what Netflix has - for now. I can see that Amazon is gaining a bigger market share in online streaming but it might be a while until Amazon can establish the "supply chain" and distribution networks to be able to compete with Netflix (who have established their channels of how they get their info) .

In summary, at the current stage, comparing Amazon Prime and Netflix is like comparing apples and oranges because of the difference in content that they have. However, at the rate of growth of Amazon, I won't be surprised that down the road, Amazon Prime Video will soon be-able to have more content to rival Netflix. The more significant thing is that this is just an example of how Amazon is beginning to "take over the world". This is just a brief overview and example, but there are also many other examples - I will explore them in another blog post.



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Myst Asian Fusion (Review) - Is the hype worth it?

This is probably one of the busiest Taiwanese food places I've ever seen. Driving by, it always seems so busy and packed. My friends and I decided to give them a try one afternoon when it didn't look as busy. I was surprised how difficult it was to find parking. The parking lot is very small and hard to navigate. So we had to hop out of the car as one of my friends parked the car.
   When we arrived, it was not too busy so we were seated immediately. Once seated, we were brought hot tea and the menu. The menu itself had a surprising amount of things on it and the prices were fair. A wide variety of Asian and Taiwanese cuisine can be found on the menu. Things from appetizers like onion cakes all the way to noodles and rice were all here.
   However, when it comes to service, they tend to be a bit slow. I am not sure if it's because they are busy or understaffed, but it took a while before we were noticed. By the time the waitress came to take our orders, everyone already had their phones out and briefly forgot what we wanted to order. After a quick peek at the menu, we each decided to order their minced pork combo.
    Soon after we ordered, the food was ready. I was very surprised at how fast the food came. It came in a matter of seconds which made me wonder if they have all the food cooked up already and they just heat it up. In terms of portion, it was good. There was a lot of meat to the minced meat set (what do you expect, the name of the combo implies it's going to be alot of meat). The main bowl had 2 full braised eggs, some sausage and also minced meat on it. The two side dishes were very interesting though, the fried gluten was very sweet and the vegetables didn't taste fresh (I think it was microwaved). Otherwise, I liked the combo and thought it was pretty decent for the price.
 When we were finished with our meal, we were back to the waiting game. My friend tried to wave down the waitress a few times until she finally saw us and gave us our bill. To say the least, it could be that they are understaffed or that their staff is overworked so service is slower (or maybe they are tired). Overall, the food is fair and price is fair so the hype and long line ups outside for a fair place is surprisingly long. I do like how many options they have and the pricing, however I am not sure if I like to wait in line for that long. 


Saturday, January 13, 2018

SEARS Closing - reflections and how it shaped Metrotown today

Sun Setting on Sears
As I was walking out of the mall and on my way home, the rainy skies cleared up and glowed with a hint of purple as the sun began to set. Looking up, I saw a huge "STORE CLOSING" sign hanging beside the infamous SEARS logo and the symbolism of the sun setting on SEARS. Although it may not seem significant to the average person, to me, the closing of SEARS (or the sun setting on SEARS) have some deep meanings.
2nd last day of Sears.
   For starters, my blog is all about food, travelling and experiences (hence Vantraveller). However, in many places I travel to, retail and local stores are often associated with the local culture. This SEARS in particular is significant because it was here even before Metrotown was built.  SEARS helped shape what is now Metrotown. SEARS has been around even before I was even born. Metrotown used to be an area that people would travel through if they were commuting from Downtown to New Westminster or the surburbs. This was initially what drove the market here so SEARS and other places like Kelly-Douglas were built. This was in the 50's and at the time, this area known as Metrotown today was only populated by no more than a few thousand people. This was also the golden era of department stores and SEARS was one of the first to be in this area. It wasn't until the 80's that the current shopping mall of Metrotown was built and the actual department store got incorporated into the mall. However, it can be argued that SEARS was what helped shape modern day Metrotown only to be driven out by both a failing business and a demand for real estate. The irony being that this SEARS was one of the places that drove the demand here to begin with. More information can be found here: history of Metrotown.
Everything for 90% off
   Because of how long SEARS have been here, it has also helped shape this community. Personally, It was a place that my family visited to buy our couch (that we still use today) 17 years ago. It was a place that I would go and check out on boxing day or when they had clearances because sometimes the deals here were actually good. There used to be a diner in this location (now the Concord Pacific Show room). There also used to be a barber, optometrist and tailor here. Over the years, all of these businesses closed and moved as the core department store business stayed.
   After reflecting, I decided to enter SEARS for one last peek before they closed for good. Upon walking in, everything was already taken apart. It seemed like everything that was not attached to the building was for sale. From fixtures to office equipment (like binders, really old office supplies and more) to mannequins and more were all on sale. There were people everywhere trying to salvage what they can for a cheap bargain (it sort of reminds me of how Ray salvaged parts on Jakku... except the SEARS edition).  Personally, I would not buy any of the things because most of it is not useful to me.  However, walking around the place, you can last ditch efforts made by SEARS to restart sales. 
Sears branded pens
  This is the interesting part. SEARS, before going out of business seemed to have tried to go the Winner's direction. You can see from some of the products being liquidated that they were all SEARS banded things. From Kenmore vacuum cleaners (they store branded it "SEARS" ) to stationary (also store branded "SEARS") to face masks (YES... face masks that was SEARS branded), you can tell that they were trying to reduce the costs by using their own brands and selling lower end products in attempt to bring customers back to the store. Personally, I thought this would have been a good move if they did this much earlier on in the game when people like Amazon were just started. Doing it so late in the game (it's practically a rebranding) seemed to be unwise as something such as re-branding usually take a while for the consumers to click in and finally buy it.
Mannequins anyone?
    Further more, there are other elements at play such as poor management (they switched 7 CEO's in a short time period before they closed down), rise of competition such as Amazon (or e-commerce in general- they had an online store too, but I don't think marketing was executed on it too well) and a dwindling base of loyal shoppers (I find the SEARS customer base tend to be older in demographic) and also the high cost of having brick and mortar stores. There are probably more problems but overall, you can say that it was a multi-faced problem that caused the overall store to close down. That said, during its golden days, SEARS pioneered many things such as the print catalog (this did wonders and may companies such as IKEA still uses this and does it well).
So what now? Since the SEARS lot is not actually part of Metrotown, there are talks about building more condos here and changing Metrotown into a Yaletown style location (More info here). However the biggest take-away from it all (or take-aways) is witnessing the change of the skyline of a city; where this SEARS location helped shape the local community to be booted out by it. Furthermore, it is also the witnessing of how the retail climate is changing and how difficult it is to run a brick and mortar store and perhaps the need to change with time or get booted out. What do you think? Is change good? 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Looking for some printing? VISTAPRINT Review

Taking a break from your regular programming of food and adventures, I thought I would do a review on Vistaprint (I don't usually do product reviews but until I figure out where to put this... maybe my own blog on how I manage my NPO?) Vistaprint is sort of like the Walmart of printing in my opinion. They have SO MANY products that are offered. I manage a nonprofit and because of our constrained budgets, we always try to find more economical printing options. In general, I like Vistaprint for their relatively cheap price, ease of use and customer service. However, quality for some products can be questionable.

Business Cards are among the best products from Vistaprint in my opinion, for $9.99 (and also some shipping, but it varies) you get a decent amount of business cards (500 to be exact). They advertise the regular price higher but you can usually find a promocode and you can get the product for cheaper. The quality of them is good and quite professional. I would say when it comes to business cards, Vistaprint is usually my go-to place. 

Banners
This is a bit interesting out of all of the products they have to offer. Their banners are pretty high in quality and they come in both indoor and outdoor use options. I have to say that  I ordered a few banners from them and all of them have a barcode printed at the front. When I first received the banners, I was a bit thrown off as to why the barcode is printed at the FRONT. I sent them an email and they tried to correct it by sending me another one. However, there is still a barcode there. It was then when I reached out to them that they said it's the way their systems are automated so they ended up giving me a refund. That said, after my ordeal with them, they changed their preview platform and now they give a preview of banners with the barcode on. I would say if you don't mind the barcode then the quality of the banners are relatively good.

I know some people in the printing business and they tell me they actually get their printing done by Vistaprint (mind you, Vistaprint sells it to them at a business to business price). Vistaprint will sell to consumers the price vendors will charge so that they don't compete with business (I'm assuming) so that's an interesting point.

Tips:

  • There are usually promocodes drifting online, never pay regular price for something because there is always a sale.
  • Check out ebates to get a rebate on your order by clicking here . Ebates is a good tool to use if you do alot of online shopping and want a rebate.
  • Be aware that they have preview tools but what shows up (in-terms of colouring) might be different. I try to exaggerate the difference between colours and if they are too close in similarity, they don't usually show up too well.