Sunday, July 2, 2017

Oliver Twist Pub - All Menu Items $4.95!

If you are looking for a vintage bar and pub with relatively cheap food in Burnaby, this is the place to be. Everything on the menu is $4.95 and they aren't kidding. That business model is very similar to those in the Warehouse in Vancouver, however the dining environment is very different. Oliver Twist Pub is a sports pub and the facilities itself is decently big. The building itself is very vintage, sort of built in an Irish/ German manner. We came here on Canada day as my friends and I were in the area for Canada Day festivities.

When we arrived, it was cool to see the insides of the pub. It is very spacious with a first floor and second floor area. The first floor has very high ceilings and the second floor is built so that you can see all of the first floor. There are four giant screens that play sports above the bar area. The only thing worth mentioning is that when we arrived, the scent of alcohol was strong. I can tell that they try their best to maintain the facilities, but it is a bit on the vintage side.
We decided to grab a corner on the second floor, and the waitress came to get our drinks and orders.
    I remember it was a bit warm on the second floor, so she tried to open the windows, but they were jammed because it seemed like they haven't been opened in a while. After her failed attempt at opening the windows, she brought us the menu. It was interesting because the menu was a piece of paper that they photocopied and they only had one copy of... so our entire table had to share (which I didn't really mind).
    Taking a quick look at the menu, there are quite a bit of things to order, which is great. There is a wide selection of wings, and some other things like wraps and burgers. I wanted something that was a bit more filling so I decided to grab a wrap while my friends decided to grab the wings.The wraps and burgers also came with fries, which is great.
   Since there were only two servers, it did take a while for the food to be delivered.  When the food came, I was starving. The taste of the wrap itself is pretty average, although the fries were good. It was freshly made. The only thing I do have to comment on is the fact that the portions weren't really that big... but what can you expect for $4.95? That said, it is higher quality than fast food, but the portions itself were not big.
   Overall, I would come here again for the food because of its price.

http://www.olivertwistpub.ca/menu/

Friday, June 30, 2017

Canada Day Festivities - Big Bands / Free Food and What to do on Canada Day!

Looking to plan out what to do in Metro Vancouver during Canada Day? Looking for deals and free stuff? Canada Day is great for sales and there are tons of places for festivities, so I thought it would be cool to list it all out so you can plan your day :).  Here's a list of events I've been to and I find is relatively good (though, keep in mind it's not comprehensive).  Feel free to click on the link for more details.

BURNABY - The City of Burnaby has many celebrations for Canada Day,
Burnaby is a great place to visit in 2017 for Canada Day this year as it is celebrating the 125 anniversary of the finding of Burnaby.

  1. Canada Day at Swanguard Stadium - They have concerts featuring some pretty decent bands every year. What I love most about this place is the fireworks that they have here at the end of the night. The fireworks aren't too busy, and is small but it's satisfying. The best part is you don't have to deal with the massive crowds  after. 
  2. Burnaby Village Museum - This place is really cool to see the heritage of Burnaby. They have a vintage carousel that you can ride and the entire venue is the museum. They also have a bit cake cutting ceremony that is fantastic for the family. 
  3. Edmonds Plaza and Park - this is more of a small event but it is family oriented. 


VANCOUVER - There are many good places to go for Canada Day in Vancouver,
  1. Canada Place - This is a classic place to be and where most of the bigger festivities are at. There are usually big performances, a block party and tons of free swag and food. They have exhibitions from the Military where civilians can go and take pictures and find out more about the military.  HOWEVER... expect this place to be crowded. That said, if you go during the day, the exhibitions are pretty cool for the family. 
  2. Canada Day Fireworks - This is probably the biggest fireworks in Metro Vancouver. There are many places to watch the Fireworks, but expect the place to be super busy. Be sure to plan your return home well as transit will be clogged. A good idea is either to car pool and park outside of Downtown and walk in, or perhaps hit up a bar or something right after the fireworks to wait out the crowd returning home. 
  3. Granville Island - Seafood and paddling! It is a cool place to check out! 
The big Canada Day parade is on July 2nd this year, it is still cool to check out none-the-less, click here for more details of the parade: Parade

COQUITLAM - There is a family oriented event created by the city that is very similar to Burnaby's where there are games, freebies, food and also a firework at the end of the night. It's a great place to watch fireworks if you want to avoid the big crowds downtown.
For more information, please visit: City of Coquitlam

SURREY - There is also a family oriented event here made by the city. This event has more brand name sponsors like Coast Capital Savings so I'd imagine they would have a decent amount of swag given out. Doing a quick search through the performer list, they have big bands like Hedley performing!!  Visit the event site here

NORTH VANCOUVER - 

  1. Grouse Mountain - This year they are trying to break the world record for making the world's largest Maple Leaf - out of people. They said they need about 1000 people to make it happen, and everyone is asked to wear red. More info here: Grouse Mountain Site 
  2. City of North Vancouver - Another family oriented event at a park North Vancouver Canada Day

WEST VANCOUVER - Click here for more info
RICHMOND - This is a cool place to be because they have festivities all over the city. The most prominent one being the festival in Steveston. I have never been but I have heard that the event is huge and good. Click here for more info
WHITE ROCK - Click here for more info

UBC - Run Canada Day (for the Diabetes Canada) and an after BBQ party at Wesbrook village is here. Click here for more info


Here are other sites for Canada Day information:
List from CBC
List from Metro
List from Georgia Straight

Thursday, June 29, 2017

I finally understood the meaning of "blackened" and interesting washroom design concept (Tap and Barrel Jack Poole Plaza Review)

If you are looking for a patio to sit on and eat, Tap and Barrel is a pretty decent place to be. It's a warm sunny day, and my friend and I were looking for a place to eat near Canada Place when we noticed the entire section at the Jack Poole Plaza that was fenced off. It is a bit strange to walk right into a restaurant when the entire restaurant is outside. Usually I am used to walking into a restaurant and then going to their patio through the restaurant, but in this case it's all outside!
   After the server took us to our seats, she handed us the menu and we started looking. There isn't really anything too special about their menu. Their price is relatively fair, but a bit on the upper side of things (an entree or burger is about $16). We took a while to look and both of us were craving a burger, so my friend decided to grab a beer and the both of us grabbed the "Blackened Cajun Chicken Burger".
    To be honest, I had no idea what "blackened" means... I thought it was a type of flavouring or something. When the burger came, I was decently surprised... I finally learned what blackened means... and it means that the burger is literally cooked until burnt. I've never been a fan of burnt food because the inner health nut tells me burnt food causes cancer... My guilty confession is that I would take the pieces of burnt food off before I eat it... But in this case, the entire patty of the chicken was all burnt.
     Not wanting to look weird, I ate the thing anyway while half praying that it's not actually burnt but just the colouring of the sauce on the chicken patty. Overall, the burger was pretty good.
     What was really cool about this place was that their washrooms are very spacious. I like the design concept of them because instead of dividing up a washroom by gender (where there is a male and female washroom), the had an open concept that would tell you what each stall was for. The urnals all had their own stalls with sinks and water in them. I thought that was pretty cool that I haven't seen else where. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Losing 1/4 of by body weight while being a foodie

This is a bit old, but still relevant. Check out this video filmed by the Canada Running Series for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-marathon (happening in 3 days) where I will be leading the 1:45 pace group again.

The updated story will be uploaded on my official personal blog at www.mikehsiao.com (when the website is up and running)
------------------------This story was from the summer of 2013 but I will update more----------------------

In December of 2012, I was overweight, and I didn't take care of my body. I was also struggling with Fatty Liver Disease. One night when I got home after school at 2 AM,I turned very sick, and couldn't move. I was sent to the Emergency Department when I found out that I was suffering from an infection. At that moment, I decided that I needed to make a change.
  Along with the infection, I was struggling with Fatty Liver Disease since I was very young. It was discovered one day when I was starting high school by accident when my mom was doing a check up via ultrasound when the doctor suggested for me to check up too. At the time, I was borderline obese and the doctors wanted to make sure I was healthy. Since then, a heavy burden of weight kept me down. I had some insecurity issues and not to mention, year after year, the depressing thought of having the Fatty Liver Disease inside of me.
Starting with running a 10km (Sun Run) non-stop as a goal. I practiced for that tirelessly and starting with running 2km non-stop, it quickly became 10km.
Finishing the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon
  I thought I should challenge myself some more, and I signed myself up for the 2013 Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. For that, I trained tirelessly, and even though I was unable to run a full 21km non-stop, I was able to finish it with some walking. After the half-marathon finished, I learned about the BC Children's Hospital and Grouse Mountain's campaign to help fund-raise for the hospital, I decided to challenge myself to do 50 Grouse Grinds and fund-raise and raise awareness for the Hospital at the same time.
Completing 50 Grouse Grinds
Starting with having trouble to do one Grouse Grind non-stop, I was able, over the span of two months and tire-less training to complete all 50, with the last 12 Grinds completed within 6 days back to back (so 2 grinds/day). After the Grouse Grinds finished, I lost about 25lbs of weight, and I wanted to become faster and a better runner.
   I decided to challenge myself by running the half-marathon faster, and I trained for the 2013 New Balance Fall Classic. I would go out training in the rain, snow and during class to train. After 3 months of hard training, I was able to beat my own time for the half-marathon and complete the Fall Classic 25 minutes faster than my first Half-Marathon.
Fall Classic Half Marathon
  After the Half-Marathon is finished, I wanted to do a fundraiser for Burnaby Hospital Foundation (for the way they inspired me when I was sick to make a change and also so that they can help out more people). I decided to take on the grand daddy of all races, which was the full marathon.
   It was very difficult because being at 42.2km, the full marathon was not an easy beast and I had a lot of doubt (like, what if I can't finish? what if I can't train for it?). I decided to not think about what I can't do and decided to focus on what I can do, and I told myself as long as I try my best, I am happy.
Finishing within the top 5% of all Sun Run Finishers in 2014.
  Starting with running 10km everyday to running 21 to 30km on weekends, I gradually increased my mileage. I would sometimes run from Metrotown to UBC, or do a loop around Burnaby's town centers (such as Metrotown-Brentwood-Lougheed-New West and back to Metrotown). Eventually, the miles racked up, and I accumulated about 800km of running in 2014. It was very difficult to balance life and school with the marathoning. I often find myself running at weird hours and in weather that was pretty extreme.



 I am proud to say that with a finish time for 3hrs and 42 minutes, under pouring rain, I was able to finish my first full marathon. After my full marathon, I took about two weeks off before I challenged myself to go even faster on the half-marathon.
  Recently, I completed the 2014 Vancouver Scotiabank Half-Marathon in June with a finish time of 1hr and 32 minutes, which was about 11 minutes faster than my last half-marathon. Also, for the first time ever, my test result for the Fatty Liver Disease was negative.
Finishing the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon in 2014.
Finishing at the Vancouver Full Marathon
  Currently, I am trying to finish a couple more grinds to 100 total lifetime Grouse Grinds to help raise awareness for the Canadian Liver Foundation so that they can help out Canadians that are struggling with Liver Disease. Please visit www.liver.ca for more info on how you can help them!
   I would like to say thank you to everyone who have supported me so far. You do not know how difficult it is to go out in crazy weather or when you suffer injuries (such as tendinitis, stress fractures not to mention a continuous supply of blisters). Your words of encouragement is what keeps me going and ultimately you are my inspiration. This journey is much more than a simple blog post can do it justice, however, it does summarize it.
Currently, as of July 8th, I am 31 grinds away from 100. I will be updating my progress on my blog with the heading "Journey to a Marathon". Stay tuned :D

Monday, June 12, 2017

BIRTHDAY FREEBIES (Doesn't need to be your birthday)

Did you know that you get free stuff with your birthday? I recently celebrated my birthday and being the thrifty person that I am... I am always on the lookout for birthday deals. It is a good idea to sign up for these even though it's not your birthday because they will email you the free things on your birthday. It usually requires either signing up for a newsletter, but there are places where you can go by just showing your ID. Scared of receiving a bunch of promo email? Don't worry, you can bypass this by either creating a separate email for you birthday (and checking it on your birthday month). So get your ID ready, and gooo! (List is updated June 2017). This list is not comprehensive, but just the ones I checked out. See the list on my new page "BIRTHDAY FREEBIES" by clicking above, or clicking this URL:  http://vantraveller.blogspot.ca/p/birthday-freebies.html

Thursday, June 8, 2017

One of the best buffets in Vancouver (River Rock Casino Resort Buffet)

If you are looking for a buffet in Vancouver, and looking for a relatively decent price (about $20 - $25 a person), then this is the place for you. I think out of all the buffets that I've been to in Vancouver, this is definitely one of the best. Whether it's selection, quality, dining environment, this place has it all.
    Beginning with the dining environment, the eating area of the buffet overlooks the Fraser river, and you can see airplanes landing while dining. It really makes for a good place to go to eat with the family (however, if you want to be romantic.. I personally wouldn't go to a buffet as stuffing as much food as possible in your mouth doesn't seem to be particularly glamorous). That said, if you and your date are both into eating, this is a great place to be.
    When it comes to selection of food, the very first thing you will see is the desert bar. They have a very large one (I am mentioning this first because it's closest to the entrance. They have a very good selection from cake to pudding to very special things like tiramisu and cupcakes. The selection of desserts was also decent in quality (it didn't feel like some buffets where it was obvious that the cakes were bought from the clearance section of a supermarket bakery). They also had special creations too in the dessert section which was great.
    After the dessert section, the sushi section was across the dessert table. The selection of sushi was pretty decent and average. They had rolls that you would expect to see at a typical sushi restaurant, These rolls were the average yam tempera rolls, cucumber rolls and California rolls to name a few.
    Across the walkway from the sushi and dessert section is the salad bar and the hotpot bar. The salad bar had things you would expect at a salad bar (leafy greens, some cole slaw, potato salad and more). They also had kimchi and bowls of fruits. The hotpot bar has a good selection of (I think cooked) seafood (like mussels and shrimp) that you can ask the chef there to add to your seafood to a soup base.
     If you kept moving past the hotpot and seafood bar, you would run into the bread and drinks section. I must say, I love the fact that their bread is presented in an artisan format (they covered it in cloth). that just raises the value of the bread than by just putting it there on the counter. Beside the bread is the soup section. They had 3 types of soups when I was there. One was the vegetable cream one while the others were a regular vegetable and spicy miso (it sounds weird, but it was really good). The qualities of the soup was also very good. In addition, they had two drink machines that made soft drinks and juices which was pretty cool to have too. If you wanted coffee, you can order it from the waiters/waitresses.
     Toward the end of the food section was where the entrees are at. Since it was Korean night, they had seafood pancakes (it wasn't as good as a Korean specialty place that sells Seafood pancakes but it was not too bad), stir fry, noodles and meat. They also had on the other side of the pillar things that you would expect at a regular buffet (like fries and chicken nuggets. I didn't have too much of these as I was already getting full from eating the buffet.
    Overall, the food here is good, the selection is good and the price was pretty decent. I would definitely come back again.




River Rock Buffet - River Rock Casino Resort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel Review (Whistler)

If you are looking for a stylish hotel that has ample space at a decent price, this is the place to go. I was in town for The North Face Whistler Half Marathon and I was looking for a hotel that was not too expensive. Being the procrastinator that I am... I decided to book a few days before the event and many places were either booked or ridiculously expensive. I managed to snatch a room here from Hotels.com on Tuesday for around $180 for 2 beds (versus the $200+ per room rate).
    My family and I went and we decided to drive. When we arrived outside, the parking was a bit hard to find because the entrance was tucked away at the side with a small sign. Before entering the parking lot, it tells you to go inside to pay and check in first (this is because the parking garage is activated with your room key...). After seeing this sign, we had to find a temporary parking for our car as I ran in to check in.
    The check in process was great. The guy at the counter was super charming... I couldn't help but feel a bit of my face turning red. There was margarita and chips at the lobby (it was free too), and I managed to grab some during the check in process. The process itself was fast and when informed the man at the check in about our car, he advised us to either park at Lot 4 (which was free) or we can pay $20 to park underground. Initially, I thought of just parking at Lot 4, but my dad felt it was too insecure so we decided to park underground instead. It was good we did that because later on at night, when I was walking and doing a course orientation, I noticed that someone was trying to break into a car.
   After we checked in, we brought our bags to our room. I must say, it was super spacious. There was a mini-kitchen, 2 balconies and a living room area. The interesting thing was that they used an iPad as an alarm and the kitchen itself was full of cutlery. It had a condo/ at home feel to it and it was great. The washroom was equipped with soap, lotion, conditioners that was very good. It was made for sensitive skin which was great for me. I also loved the smell. I later googled the brand and it was called Malin and Goetz, which is a luxury brand.
    When we finished dinner, my friend and I decided to check out the hot tub and swimming pool. Before we walked outside to the patio area where the pool was, I saw that in the small shop beside the check in counter, there was a coffee machine and it was complimentary! The coffee beans were freshly grounded too.
   I would totally come and stay at this hotel again, not only is it comfortable, but the price is decent! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Renting a Car VS Car Sharing : Pros, Cons and findings

Sometimes you just need a vehicle that can get you places but you don’t really want to necessarily spend money to buy one. Renting would be the next option, but the amount of options out there is also pretty huge. After doing research, I deduced the endless options out there to 2 categories. The first category is renting a vehicle from a car rental place while the second one is opting for Car Sharing.
   Carsharing is a great way to get the job done as you can easily access a vehicle whenever you please and just pay for the amount you use. There are some downsides too such as the limitations of where you can get your vehicle, limitations on what you can do to your vehicles and the cost going up if you drive past the allotted mileages. The same goes for car rental places where it’s cheaper to rent for a few days at a time.
  I wanted to find a car that I can use just for a day, so I decided to compare the differences between a car rental place and having a car share account and this was what I found:


Pros
Cons
Car Rental Place
  • Cheaper to for an entire day or more (long term).
  • More options to the types of vehicles
  • No long term commitment
  • Some places don’t require a driving record… so there is less administrative work.
  • More options through provided services (such as booster seats and more that you can’t get with a car share account).
  • There are COUPON codes lying around... you can easily google one and find one.
  • Mileage not included so you would need to gas up yourself. (some car rental places may even have a surcharge for mileage past a certain amount).
  • Insurance not included.
Car Sharing
  • More flexibility as cars can be rented for a small period of time (like a few hours or minutes)
  • Included Gas (200km) and insurance
  • Fluid pickup and drop off locations (some car shares let you pick up and drop off at different locations)
  • Jargon: Membership fees, annual fees, administrative fees.
  • Insurance policies tend to be ambiguous (they say the deductible need
  • Tedious sign up process (must get a driving record from ICBC and etc…)

I found that you can get a car from a car rental place, you can get a relatively decent car for $40 a day, versus getting a car from a car share location (which can go from $60 and above). You also have more access to varieties and more flexibility as what you can do your car. You also don’t need to have a membership and get membership approval like what you would need to do for a car sharing co-op. Hence, if you are going on a road trip that lasts over a day, I would recommend going to rent a car.
    With regards to damage and liability,  you definitely want insurance to cover yourself against damage/loss, and generally car rental places do provide insurance where they handle all of the claims and such. However, I found that rental places do tend offer insurance at a premium compared to buying the insurance from a separate insurance company. As an example, AVIS offers insurance for $29 a day while Allianz offers their insurance (up to $40,000) for only $11 a day (price as of May 30th, 2017).It is worthwhile to note that there may be a deductible (the price you would need to pay in the case that an accident happens for the insurance to work).  Also, some credit cards do also provide insurance (this is where you need to go into read the ant-like fine print from your credit card benefits) and this may be used towards a deductible.
   For short distances and shorter travel, car sharing would be the best option as it’s cheaper. If you are thinking about driving a lot but only on special occasions or to commute, getting a car sharing membership is worthwhile. The initial setup may be higher, but it’s definitely better for the long run due to the convenience of choosing a car at a moment’s notice vs having to book and go all the way to a rental place each and every time.

*Disclaimer: These are just my findings, and can be inaccurate. These are my own findings and I am not responsible for anything that is caused by anything written on this blog.



Super cute small town one-size fits all cafe (Euspiria Cafe Madeira Park Review)

I really love small communities and locally run businesses. We were driving by Madiera Park and were hungry when the Euspiria Cafe caught our attention so we decided to take a closer look.
   When we arrived, there were a few people sitting on the outside. What stuck my memory the most was this old man who sat there and stared into space as his beagle sits there looking relatively not entertained. When we arrived, his beagle began to wave his tail and wanted to find out who we were. I guess they don't get that many visitors here that often because that dog seemed to not have seen new people in a very long time.
   Once we got into the cafe, the cuteness alarm inside of me rang. Not only do they sell art like ceramics and first nation things, they also had tons of posters and business cards on the side. The actual cafe was nice and cozy and you can see the stove in the back of the cash counter. It wasn't the commercial stoves you expect to see at cafes, but it really was just residential stoves that you would have at home. This cafe sold things from soups to bakery items to sandwiches. 
    The prices of the sandwiches and food items in general is not cheap (compared to city prices), however being in a small town, I'd imagine it does take more to have things delivered here. It is about $8-9 for a sandwich and about $5-6 for soup. They also sell ice cream. They also had scones (which looked really good) so I decided to get a ham and cheese scone.
    The scone was $3.00 which wasn't too bad. The taste was pretty good too. It definitely had the taste of home to their baking which was also a plus.
   I would definitely visit again because it is super cute :) 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Famous with a splash of vintage, decent food, prices and stunning views ( Molly's Reach Gibsons Review)

From the outside, this place seems very vintage. The background story was that the restaurant was part of "The Beachcombers" and it was famous because of it.. (Honestly though, I never watched The Beachcombers before so I wasn't too sure why it was famous). However, I did see a trailer for a Zac Efron movie that took place here and that was pretty cool.
   For the actual location of the restaurant itself, the background is very scenic with the views of the marina down below and the mountains to the back. It does have a Mediterranean feel to it where the buildings are all on a slope while facing the marina to the outside. The back drop and feelings of the building make it a great place for a family lunch and or dinner. The restaurant has its menu on the outside as well as a patio.
    For prices of the items at the restaurant, they all seem to be fair. Their fish and chips were said to be famous, and at $13 for 2 pieces of COD or $16 for 2 pieces of Salmon, and it comes with fries and coleslaw, it is pretty decent. Since we were visiting as a group, we all decided to give this place a try after one we were convinced that it must be good because it's famous.
   We were greeted by the hostess and then took inside. The scenery outside the window was just stunning. Overlooking the marina and with the window slightly propped open as the breeze blew inside was just pure bliss. It was one of the places that you can sit there for hours and read a book or something calm and relaxing. The speed of the restaurant itself is not as fast as it is in the city, but it seems like the overall feeling in Gibsons and small towns feel slower than in the city.
   Everyone ordered fish and chips and it took a few moments to arrive. It came in metal buckets (or trays.. however you would to call them). The food itself was served on a piece of paper (this is oil absorbing paper so it's different than newspaper even though it is printed to look like newspaper). The fish itself was pretty fresh tasting, and the portions of them were relatively big and satisfying. The fries at the bottom were also pretty good but a tad bit on the greasy side as it is served with the fish on top (so the oil drips to the bottom and collects together). I wouldn't say that the fish and chips here is extra-ordinary (or maybe I just lack a palate that can taste what extra-ordinary tastes like) but it is pretty decent.     Overall, I would definitely come back to this place to eat again because of it's scenery and decently good price and good food.
Molly's Reach Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato