Monday, September 11, 2017

Folk on the Rocks music festival in Yellowknife

We got pulled over by the police on our way to the gig. In our driver's defence, the speed limit on the highway had suddenly been changed to from 60 km/h to 20 overnight, in anticipation of the festival goers that would be swarming the roads on foot that night. To the police officer's credit, he let us off with a warning and he didn't make a big deal of the fact that I was obviously scrambling to put on my seat belt.

We had been invited to perform at one of the biggest music festivals in the Canadian North: Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It was a fantastic opportunity and experience and I was stoked for another chance to go back up north to one of my favourite cities in Canada.

With a population of less than 20,000, Yellowknife is a small town, even by Canadian standards. But it's one of the largest cities in the Canadian North, larger than any community in Nunavut including Iqaluit, so it tends to be a thriving hub for arts and culture in the north. Every time I go back there, I'm pleasantly surprised by just how much this city has going on for it - including a delicious culinary scene featuring a variety of ethnic flavours and fine dining, and lots and lots of fish; a tight-knit queer scene; and so much awesome music.

Although I've performed in Yellowknife several times before, including at NWT Pride, this was my first time experiencing Folk on the Rocks. I thought I had an idea of what to expect, but it was way cooler than I could have dreamed of.

First of all, the festival is held in the woods on the shores by a lake, specifically Long Lake. I had known that before, but I had not clued in that this meant that it was a beach festival. I love walking through soft sand, and there was no shortage of that. And with the long hours of daylight that comes with summer in the north, it was such a magical feeling to be dancing to indie band Operators in my bare feet in the sand while the sun set - and it was almost midnight!


beach party aftermath
Despite the fact that it's a small town music festival, it featured multiple stages and lots of programming, so yes, festival goers do have to choose between the various acts that are all performing at the same time - tough decisions for music lovers!

Shad on the main stage
The Trade-Offs on the Lakeside Stage
It was clear that the festival had put a lot of thought into organizing the event. Because Yellowknife has soooo many artists and other creative folks, everything was splashed with mural paintings, even the outhouses and the trash cans.


The festival has also gone to great lengths with respect to social responsibility. I was impressed by all the efforts to preserve the festival space so that it could continue to be used in future years. There was recycling and composting available everywhere. We discovered this when we (gasp) threw out our paper plates in the trash can, and a volunteer hurried up to us to remind us that the plates   In response to an incident last year, the festival also designed a safe space policy which included the Safety Squad, volunteers dressed in purple who make sure everyone is partying safely.

Also, the hospitality was pretty great. The green room, for example, had a view like nothing else.

The artists' hospitality section also featured a fried fish dinner catered by the one and only Bullock's Bistro, one of the most famous restaurants in Yellowknife, known for their delicious fish sauce - don't try asking what the secret ingredient is though....

On Sunday, we wandered around town, trying to find a place to grab a bite and a little drink. I'd forgotten that everything is closed on Sundays in Yellowknife. Everything. Even the few restaurants that are usually open on Sundays were closed, because the owners were off at Folk on the Rocks. And that was the truth: Folk on the Rocks is the place to be in Yellowknife.

meeting up with old friends at the festival
 Because our flights were sponsored by the northern airline Canadian North, we ended up flying through Iqaluit, which ended up being its own adventure - but that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A day off in Vancouver

in Vancouver for work

(Original entry date from February 2017)
I lived here eight years ago but apparently that is long enough to forget where everything is. Including where I used to live and where I used to work. I thought I remembered the layout of downtown Vancouver, but my memories only came in snippets, and I found myself getting lost more often than I thought I would - standing on a street corner, utterly disoriented as to what direction was where. Sometimes I could glimpse the water....but the ocean surrounds downtown on three sides. Sometimes I would see the mountains. Where were those? For some reason, I can usually find my way around if I can see the sky. But the tall skyscrapers and condos loomed above me and I could not remember where I had come from.

But what I did remember was where my favourite food places were.

I hit up the food court at the H-Mart downtown Vancouver where I used eat all the time because I was a cheap student missing my mom's Korean food. I ordered the last chajangmyun that was available, basically Korean spaghetti if you substitute Italian tomato sauce for black bean sauce. The small child who wanted to order it after me was NOT happy.

but I was so happy with my chajangmyun
unhappy child with no chajangmyun

I also met up with some girl friends at Chewy's for some tasty tasty British Columbia oysters. Unfortunately, there's been a problem with BC oysters being tainted this year, so we ended up being served oysters from Prince Edward Island. They were still delicious but it was kind of funny.

Vancouver also seems to be all about arugula grilled cheese sandwiches, which I feel like is pretty symbolic about the kind of thing that Vancouver does to food.

On the one morning that it didn't rain, I went for a jog around Stanley Park, which was full of tourists, couples jogging with mathcing backpacks (soooo romantic :D !) and Korean families carrying large selfie sticks, all enjoying the sea air and ocean view and all serving as interesting obstacles on my running route.


Vancouver is also always a great opportunity to visit my mother's side of the family. My grandparents loaded me up with so much dried squid to bring to bring back home, I'm sure I looked like such an Asian stereotype, multiple plastic bags of dried squid on the SkyTrain.

my grandmother, always feeding

my cousin has gotten really tall

Most of my trip was spent working (as I was there on business), but during one of my breaks, I took a walk to the harbourfront, just for a chance to lay my eyes on the ocean and the mountains. Despite my family roots here, I never grew up here but I always miss the mountains and the oceans. No matter how long I've been away from this city, I never forget how much I love it.

selfies with my super cute cousin

Sunday, September 3, 2017

the Greenwich Dunes Trail on Prince Edward Island

We've been going to Prince Edward Island for years now, as we try to make it an annual trip to visit family there. However, this year was the first time that we tried out the Greenwich Dunes Trail, and it has turned into one of the coolest sights I've experienced - not just on Prince Edward Island, but, like ever. And I like to think that's saying something for my travel blog.

When we first were trying to figure out whether we wanted to try out the Greenwich Dunes Trail, we watched a few Youtube videos where other hikers exclaimed how they had never seen anything like this in their life. I thought at first they were exaggerating or maybe they hadn't traveled very much before. But they were right - it was really cool!

Even if you're not a science eco-system fan and don't know what parabolic sand dunes mean, this place will totally blow your mind. Picture this: You've got the Atlantic Ocean. You've got beaches surrounded by sand dunes. So far, cool but nothing too unusual - there's a lot of ocean shoreline on Prince Edward Island.

But, just on the other side of those sand dunes, you've got freshwater wetlands. What, really? I mean there are lots of wetlands in Canada, including in Ontario, but it's rather unusual to see it pretty much in the same place as an ocean beach. And on top of it all, the tall cat tails and grass growing out of the marshes have spread to grow over the sand dunes, which is for me the most original site. I've seen my fair share of sand dunes, after all - a large chunk of this travel blog is dedicated to my time living in Namibia, which has one of the most popularly photographed Subsaharan sand dunes in the world. But I've never seen sand dunes covered in grass, forming around both the ocean and wetlands. It's such a unique landscape, right here in Canada.

The most fun way to get to Greenwich sand dunes is by taking the Greenwich Dunes Trail, a relatively easy trail that's about 4.4 kilometres as a loop. It's also mostly accessible by wheelchair and stroller up until the very last part where you trek over the sand dunes, but thanks to the convenient board walk they've laid down right through the marshes, you still can go pretty far and get pretty close to the grass-covered dunes without getting your shoes filled with sand climbing through the dunes at the end.

There are plenty of other lovely sights along the trail, including the windswept trees in the small forest that the trail cuts through.



My friends sometimes ask me what they should check out when they visit Prince Edward Island for a vacation. It's already so hard to figure out how to filter the many lovely things that the Island has to offer, from the delicious culinary scene in Charlottetown to the various local art studios in the most random tiny town, but the Greenwich Dunes Trail has now made the top of my list.  Ocean, sand dunes, marshes, all in one place - definitely check it out!