Travelog XV: Vancouver, British Columbia
After driving nearly 1,000 miles from San Francisco to Vancouver, British Columbia, we finally made it across the U.S.-Canadian border! It finally hit me that we were in another country when I had to switch my car from miles per hour to kilometers per hour (really wish the U.S. was part of the metric system).
Following a smooth border crossing with no trouble at all (read our previous travelog for more information about crossing the border), we were en route to The DOUGLAS: An Autograph Collection Hotel to check-in and stay for the next 4 nights. This was mine and Cooper’s first time visiting Canada so I didn’t have any expectations at all aside from knowing that Vancouver was the main hub for some of the best Asian cuisines due to being an ethnically diverse city. Okay, maybe that expectation was a little high but I’m entering the country with an open mind.
Immediately as we entered Vancouver, I already noticed a few small differences while driving like the blinking green light (this meant that you have permission for a left turn before the opposing traffic is allowed to enter the intersection) and narrow traffic lanes. Everything was so green in Vancouver and I was already in awe. Once we crossed over Cambie Bridge, we made four left turns and finally arrived at The DOUGLAS: An Autograph Collection Hotel. Cooper was excited and thrilled to be greeted by the hotel staff upon entering the lobby. Only recently did The DOUGLAS became pet-friendly and we found out that Cooper is the first dog to ever checked-in with them! The DOUGLAS is part of the Parq Vancouver, which is a massive casino and hotel complex.
Once we were all set at check-in, we took a mind-bending mirrored elevator (supposedly the most Instagram worthy elevator in Vancouver with its trippy light installation) ride up to our hotel room. As we entered our home for the week, Cooper immediately started to explore the space. There was already dog bowls for food and water laid out, along with a dog bed for Cooper to nap on. The sweetest thing was the framed photos of Cooper that were propped up around the doggie-centric area of the room. The hotel had kindly prepared dog poop bags, treats, and toys for Cooper as well before us checking-in. He’s living his best life.
Yen and I were stunned by the natural lighting and space of our room. The decor was modern and sleek with an accented natural element like the wooden headboard, benches, and coffee table to contrast the contemporary and urban aesthetic of the room. Equally as spacious and bright was the bathroom. There was a rainforest shower with Aesop shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. In the living space, there was an Illy coffee machine, floating television, and a minibar. We were in love with our room.
Despite a long day of driving, we were not done with the day yet. Once we got situated at our hotel, we got ready and headed out for early dinner at Phnom Penh in Chinatown. The great thing about The DOUGLAS was how central it was to get anywhere in Vancouver; Chinatown was right next door and the drive took 5 minutes. We got lucky with parking and found a spot right across from Phnom Penh, which was perfect since I was going to have to leave Cooper in the car and felt comfortable knowing he was right outside. The weather was in the low 60s and it was later in the evening so I didn’t have to worry about leaving Cooper in a car when we were eating. If you’re an overly concerned dog-parent such as myself, you would understand the constant worry.
As we arrived at Phnom Penh restaurant, the line was out the door. We put our name down and was told that the wait was going to be 45 minutes. With that much time until we get to eat, we decided to walk around Chinatown and explore the neighborhood. I grabbed Cooper from the car and we started walking around. There was a park nearby and we went there for Cooper to sniff and run around in. Did you know that Always Be My Maybe with Ali Wong and Randall Park was shot majority in Vancouver? No wonder Vancouver Chinatown looked so familiar! We even passed by New Town Bakery and got some delicious egg tarts to try.
While walking around Vancouver Chinatown, I noticed how much cleaner and wider the streets were compared to San Francisco. As our 45 minutes was up, I put Cooper back in the car and we headed to Phnom Penh. We ordered immediately once we got seated.
Three things we ordered: marinated butter beef, deep-fried chicken wings, and fried rice with shaken beef. Yen and I were over the moon with how delicious the butter beef was. I don’t know what they used to marinate the beef with but it was addictive and phenomenal. As for the deep-fried chicken wings, it was crispy and also addictive. By far one of the best wings I’ve had. The fried rice with shaken beef made me feel right at home. I was full and overjoyed by the end.
With a belly full of deliciousness, we headed over to the Richmond Night Market (the largest in North America) before sundown and to eat some more. The night market is dog-friendly so you can take your pup(s) with you! When we arrived near the night market, we ended up parking in the lot across from a casino. Even though they have a sign that says “no night market parking”, we still parked and paid.
Bring a carrier for your dog if they can fit in one; either a backpack or a tote bag, the one I have for Cooper is the LoveThyBeast canvas tote in large.
To avoid the long general admission line (it can take up to an hour or longer), get the zoom pass for CAD 28 when you enter the night market ground for express entrance. The ticket is transferable up to 6 visits or for a total of 6 people. General admission costs CAD 4.75. There will be people selling them to you and they work for the night market so it’s legit.
The night market is cash-only so be sure to bring Canadian dollars with you.
We spent roughly 2 hours at the Richmond Night Market where we walked around and checked all the food and product vendors. It was well-organized (compared to the 626 Night Market) and didn’t feel as crowded despite there being a lot of people. Although there were a few areas where a ton of people was passing by one another and that was when the tote bag came in handy, Cooper was safely situated by my side in his carrier and was smelling everything around him. At the market, we got sugarcane juice, Canadian lobster chowder, and roll at Salty’s Lobster, fried chicken skin, watermelon juice, and stuffed crab claws. All in all, it was a great experience and if you’re in Vancouver, definitely check out the Richmond Night Market when they’re open for the season! A worthwhile trip.
Following the night market, we headed back to our hotel where I cleaned up Cooper’s paws and decided to call it a day well spent. Although Yen decided to hit up the casino right next door to The DOUGLAS and came back to the room at 4:00 AM. I was too exhausted for that and Cooper really couldn’t be bothered, he knocked out for the night with his hedgehog toy and I did as well.
After a good night sleep on a king-sized comfortable bed, it felt nice waking up not having to worry about driving to our next destination for many hours. I did my usual dog mom duty where I took Cooper down to the courtyard so he can go on to do his morning business. There was a duck and her little ducklings crossing to and from the pond in the courtyard, Cooper and I stood afar to watch them waddle away. Then Cooper was greeted by a few hotel staff as they walked out of the lobby. It was a lovely morning, to say the least.
With a packed day full of places to eat and see, all three of us got ready fairly quickly and left the hotel at around 11:00 AM. We were looking to hit up dim sum at San Sui Wah but right before that, we did a quick stop at Beta5 Chocolate. I know, dessert in the morning? Absurd. Although the coconut lime cream puff said otherwise. Beta5 is known for their award-winning chocolates, pastries, and desserts. They are dog-friendly and parking was fairly easy! So if you need a quick stop for some amazing desserts, Beta5 is fantastic.
Once we devoured the cream puff at Beta5 Chocolate, we drove over to San Sui Wah for the local’s favorite dim sum. Unfortunately, this is not a dog-friendly restaurant but what made me really happy was the indoor parking garage in the same building as the San Sui Wah. The weather was cool in the garage, as well out outside so that kept me at ease. Once Cooper was safe and comfortable in the car, we headed up to get dim sum.
Luckily for us, we got seated immediately right when we got in since there was only two of us. We sat down and ordered right away. Here’s what we got: chicken feet, BBQ pork puff pastry, tea egg congee, shrimp rice roll, and siu mai. It reminded me of Hong Kong Lounge in San Francisco with the way you order the food, via a paper menu. There were some people coming around in carts but the more classic dish needed to be order with the paper menu. My favorite dish was the siu mai and chicken feet. One of the most popular items on the menu was the BBQ pork puff pastry and I really enjoyed it, definitely see why it’s a favorite. The congee had really great flavors, I really love the pork chunks in it. As for the siu mai? It was some of the best I’ve had and that goes for the chicken feet, which were enormous in size. Also, the shrimp rice roll was pretty good as well, I wished the shrimp were larger. This place is one of the best dim sum in town.
You would be surprised by how fast Yen and I were done with eating, it was less than 45 minutes. We basically devoured everything between the two of us. Cooper was happy to see me when we went back to the car to get him. Following dim sum, we walked to a cute dog shop called Good Boy Collective. Right when we got there, Cooper pulled me in right away. He knew it was a store for him! The interior design was minimal and contemporary. I love how bright and refreshing it felt just walking in. There were a lot of curated items and I recognized a few of the brands they carried. Cooper was sniffing every nook and cranny of the shop. In the end, I got him a rubber pufferfish ball because the ball is life. He was pretty content with his purchase. The neighborhood that we were in had a lot of vintage and new boutique shops. There were plenty of people walking around with their dogs as well.
Next up on our itinerary, we moseyed back to my car and headed straight into downtown Vancouver. We parked on the street right across from Emery Barnes Park. The city is very lush and full of greeneries everywhere we went and the park was no exception. There is a designated fenced-in dog park at Emery Barnes Park and it has a great view of the surrounding Vancouver’s skyline. Near the park is a popular poutine place, Fritz European Fry House. When in Canada, poutine is a must! We ordered a small pulled pork poutine and that was enough for two. The gravy was a good balance with the pork, the fries were cooked just right (not too mushy and not too overdone). We continued to explore more of downtown and made our way to Alley Oop. This was a unique urban space right in downtown and made for an Instagram-worthy photo shoot. The city utilized in-between space of a laneway to invite people to come and play, there are basketball hoops. It wasn’t well-kept so the alley looks dilapidated when we visited but still made for some great photos.
As the day drew closer to around 5:00 PM, we headed back to the car and rushed over to our reservation at Miku. With all the walking around downtown and ample park time, Cooper was feeling tired so I knew he would be napping in the car while we dined at Miku. Luckily for us again, there were parking garages right next to the restaurant and the weather continued to be in the cool 60s. Miku has an outdoor patio but due to Canadian regulation when it comes to dogs and food establishment, dogs are banned on any food premises. According to the Food Premises Regulation of the B.C. Public Health Act, “an operator of food premises must not permit live animals to be on the premises.” For a city that’s known to be dog-friendly, it’s not exactly friendly to canine friends when it comes to dining outdoors. This made it difficult for me to take Cooper to some of the restaurants that I wanted to go to where there is an outdoor patio. Nonetheless, we managed to make this work.
At Miku, Yen and I each went with the Aburi Kaiseki for our dining experience where we got to explore traditional Japanese and Aburi cuisine. The entire meal consisted of lobster chawanmushi, Aburi sashimi selection, kaiseki zensai, lobster tail, and A5 wagyu, signature sushi selection (the salmon oshi was divine), and green tea opera cake.
As we finished our last piece of the dessert at Miku, the next and final destination for the day was Stanley Park. It is one of Vancouver’s most beloved parks within its urban landscape. Stanley Park is roughly 1000 acre of natural West Coast rainforest filled with water, mountains, sky, and trees that goes along the seawall. Once we were in the park, we parked our car and took a stroll along the seawall. We were hoping to catch a sunset but that later turned out to be slightly disappointing. It was still beautiful regardless.
Stanley Park is dog-friendly! Cooper was happy as can be within the park. This place was huge and quite gorgeous, we were able to walk half of the park. The view was spectacular along the seawall. We spent about 1 to 2 hours walking around. There was even an area where you can look at some neat totem poles and read the history behind then. Cooper had a fetch session on an open field and was one happy camper.
The day finally ended when the sun went down. We made it back to the hotel with tired legs and happy bellies. Cooper made sure to find his cozy place in our hotel room and proceeded to knock out. But there is a lot more to come in the next two days!
For our third day in Vancouver, we made sure to wake up extra early for the Capilano Suspension Bridge before it gets crowded. Cooper and I had our usual morning routine. Once we were all done getting ready, we bolted out the hotel door and made our way across the Lion’s Bridge. Finding a parking spot across from the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park was easy since it was still early in the morning and the lot has yet to fill up. The entrance fee cost CAD 54 for 1 adult and dogs are free to enter! It’s a pretty hefty price tag so be sure to make most of your time while you’re in the park to justify the admission. If you want a free experience on a suspension bridge then Lynn Canyon is just a 15-minute drive away.
Capilano Suspension Bridge is a simple suspension bridge that crosses the Capilano River. It is the world’s longest suspension bridge, 460 feet (140 meters) long. When you’re in Vancouver, this is the most famous and popular tourist attraction to visit. If you tend to get vertigo when it comes to height then be sure to prep yourself accordingly when you’re looking to cross the long suspension bridge. Aside from crossing the longest suspension bridge, the park offers treehouse exploration with short suspension bridges for everyone to enjoy. If you are more daring, the Cliffwalk will take you above the Capilano River with unobtrusive cantilevered and suspended walkways that are right off the granite cliff face. It’s a pretty neat view when you’re standing on the Cliffwalk.
Everything in the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park was unbelievable green, there were also maple leaves towering above and the air just felt so refreshing to be in. Cooper loved being in the park, he loved crossing the small suspension bridge and running back and forth in the treehouses. I made sure he did all his potty business prior so that I didn’t have to clean up in the middle of our exploration.
After spending 2 to 3 hours at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, we headed back into the city for lunch in the Richmond District. We stopped by Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant to put our name down first since it was an hour wait. While we waited for our turn for dim sum at Chef Tony, we went over to HK BBQ Master for take-out and heard that this was the best Chinese BBQ in Vancouver. Yen and I got the 3 items on rice which consisted of bbq pork, roasted duck, and soya chicken on a bed of rice with some broccoli. Right away, I took a huge bite and can confidently say that it was the best Chinese BBQ I’ve ever had. I had to stop myself from devouring the entire meal since we were going to be eating dim sum soon and I wanted to save my stomach for it.
There is a parking garage near Chef Tony so if you’re wondering where Cooper was while we go eat dim sum, he was in the car napping after we got HK BBQ Master. Going into Chef Tony, we were seated right away. We were near the end of their closing time and the restaurant was still packed! Chef Tony specializes in dim sum with his twist on classic dishes. We made sure to order the must-have dishes. Our orders were: truffle siu mai, squid ink, bitter melon pork rice roll, shrimp rice roll, salted egg yolk lava buns, truffle shrimp dumpling, and durian pastries. I do admire the creativity at Chef Tony and can see why there is such a huge hype, all the dishes were elevated from the typical dim sum. The truffle siu mai was amazing, I thought the siu mai at Sun Sui Wah was already the best I’ve had. Overall, I would go back again.
Following the dim sum overdose, we grabbed Cooper from the car and decided to walk around the neighborhood some more. There was a spot that we wanted to go for a realistic dog mousse cake. Sweet Honey Dessert has a hyper-realistic cake that’s shaped and molded to look like a puppy! We got one for takeout since that was the only thing on the menu we wanted to try. The cake comes frozen and it’s essentially a chocolate mousse cake. It was delicious as it was cute.
Once we devoured the cute puppy cake, we decided to head over to Hadden Park so Cooper can frolic around. Hadden Park is known as a popular dog beach in Vancouver. There is a large designated area where they’re allowed to be off-leash. The park has free parking as well and the off-leash dog section is right next to the Maritime Museum. Cooper engaged in a game of fetch on the grass but he was hesitant about going into the water. There were plenty of dogs on the beach and many of them were jumping into the water. At one point, Cooper found a puppy that he liked and they were chasing each other around the park. If you want another fantastic viewpoint of Vancouver’s landscape, Hadden Park is a relaxing area to do so.
For dinner, we headed over to Guu with Garlic for izakaya. Even though we called ahead and asked if dogs are allowed on their outdoor patio (they had said yes), when we arrived they told me that Cooper can’t sit next to me in the outdoor patio. Fortunately, there was a metal fence with a large enough space in between the bars that Cooper was able to sit "next to me” but not technically sitting on the food premise. It’s odd but it works and Cooper didn’t have to be in the car this time around. When everything was situated, we ordered their sockeye salmon carpaccio, yaki-udon, takoyaki, and grilled mackerel on a hot plate. Guu with Garlic’s specialty is applying garlic to classic Japanese dishes for an electrifying enhancement. Each of the dishes we ordered had garlic infused in them. I thoroughly enjoyed the grilled mackerel and the salmon carpaccio. When dinner was done, we went for a walk around the Granville shopping area and did some light damage to our wallet. As the day come to a close and with the sky being so clear, we headed over to Sunset Beach Park (a fitting name) to watch the sunset. This made up for the sunset when we were at Stanley Park.
For our last full day in Vancouver, we planned to hike the Sea to Summit Trail. But right before we leave the city, we picked up some Vietnamese sandwich at Banh Mi Saigon. The trail was going to take us 4-5 hours to complete since it’s a strenuous 7.5km (~4 miles) trail with a steep incline and we need something substantial to help fuel us. I made sure to pack enough water for me and Cooper (treats included), as well as our mini emergency kit.
The trail is located in Squamish county and it starts from the Sea to Sky Gondola parking lot. We started the hike at Shannon Falls Provincial Park since there was no parking limit, the gondola base limits to 3 hours. As we crossed Olesen creek, there was a large sign that provided warnings to hikers and travelers about the difficulty of the Sea to Summit Trail and how to be prepared. The Sea to Summit Trail merges with the Chief Peaks Trail at this point and immediately we started the steep ascent with wooden stairs. Having a good level of physical fitness will help you immensely, the stairs are no joke. When we passed all the stairs, there was a fork at the top where the left takes you to The Chief and the right continues on the Sea to Summit Trail. The trail is very well marked with large green diamonds trail markers in the trees. It starts at #1 and ends at #400 at the summit. We followed the markers the entire way.
We kept on climbing upstairs and going through steep terrains until we came across a clearing where we got to see the Sea to Sky Gondola itself. Here we took a short break and watched the gondolas zip up and down over our head. A few people were waving at us and we said hello back. The view at the clearing was quite beautiful as we got a large glimpse of The Spit in Squamish. Once we caught our breath, we continued following the trail path and eventually came across a rushing waterfall! This was another area where we took a pause to enjoy the refreshing water and refilled our water bottle. Then we carried back on up the trail and continue to follow the markers until we reach the junction for Shannon Basin Loop.
The junction gave us two option: left will take us on the Upper Sea to Summit Trail which will be more difficult and steep but much more scenic and shorter, right will take us on the Shannon Basin Trail that will take us longer to the summit lodge but it would be less challenging. We decided on going left. The sign was right about the difficulty and how technical it would be for us to continue on the Seat to Summit Trail. There was a steep climb that required a fixed rope. All of us managed to make our way up and over. With only a few kilometers left and one more marker to go, we managed to reach the summit lodge. Once we reached the summit, we did a celebratory cheer and went to find a rest spot to cool under. At the top, there as a long suspension bridge that offers fantastic views of Squamish.
Now for the best part of this entire hike, getting to take the Gondola down! It was CAD 15 for 1 adult and CAD 15 for 1 dog. Dogs are allowed to ride the gondola going down but not up. So if you want to take the Sea to Sky Gondola with your dog then you will need to hike up the Sea to Summit Trail. The ride down was spectacular and was such a worthwhile treat after climbing up to the summit. It took us 5 hours total to complete since we had a couple of breaks along the way.
At this point, we were all completely exhausted from the day hike and I was starving as well. It took us about an hour to get out of Squamish and back into Vancouver. We made our way into Yaletown to eat at Minami Restaurant. It’s a sister restaurant to Miku, serving up the same kind of menu. Instead of the Aburi Kaiseki, we ordered a plate of 6 salmon oshi sushi (pressed sushi flame seared with an aioli type special sauce). Then each of us ordered the Minami selection that offers a bit of everything with 10 pieces of sushi variety. Both Yen and I complete inhaled our food and felt completely satisfied at the end.
Then before we head back to the DOUGLAS hotel, we made a quick stop at Dynasty Seafood Restaurant to order a special dish for takeout. Yen and I knew we would still be hungry in a few hours even though we devoured everything at Minami. Since it was our last day in Vancouver, we ordered the typhoon shelter crab with fried sticky rice at Dynasty Seafood. Later that night, Yen and I ate half of the dish. It tasted as good as it looks.
As much as we didn’t want to leave Vancouver, we all reluctantly woke up early and packed up our things. I took Cooper down to the courtyard in the early morning so he can do his business there one final time and say good-bye to the hotel staff. Our check-out went smoothly and we bid farewell to the friendly hotel staff that made our stay all the more enjoyable with their warm hospitality. The next time we are in Vancouver, Cooper and I will most likely stay at The DOUGLAS again.
Right before we hit the long road home back to San Francisco, Yen and I got breakfast at Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen. Words on the street that this place has the best bún riêu in Vancouver. We had to check it out before we leave. Yen and I ordered 1 bún riêu (crab tomato noodle soup) and 1 bún chả cá (fried fish cake noodle soup) where we both shared. The bún riêu was amazing and the broth was so flavorful, there were large crab chunks and everything blended nicely. It tasted like what I had in Vietnam. The bún chả cá was great as well but not as rich and amazing as the bún riêu. Both were equally great in their rights, the fish cake was my favorite part and I wish I could have brought it home.
And lastly, we made sure to pick up some mochi buns for the road at Baker and Table. They’re known for their mochi bun and we got one of every flavor, they even have a shiba inu shaped mochi bun! With days well spent in Vancouver, we left the city in the hope of returning to explore more of the eateries and dog-friendly trails.
To read more about the rest of our roadtrip, go here.