Vancouver: Beautiful and welcoming

Who: Canadian Anita Ngai, 38, Asia Pacific general manager of travel booking website Viator. She is single.

Favourite destination: Vancouver, Canada

Why: Vancouver has beautiful mountains, beaches, forests and waters, but if I had to describe it to someone who has never visited before, I would highlight the intangibles.

Vancouver is a true cultural mosaic, where anyone can have his distinct identity - no matter his ethnicity, culture and beliefs - but also fit seamlessly with everyone in the city. The friendliness and sense of welcome are what makes Vancouver special and worth visiting.

Favourite hotel

The Loden Hotel ( with rates starting at S$342, is a very comfortable boutique property in the Coal Harbour neighbourhood, within walking distance of the downtown area and Stanley Park.

Some rooms have stunning views of the waters. Its lounge is popular with locals and tourists, who go for cocktails. The hotel also offers a free bike touring service around Stanley Park.

Favourite restaurant

Those who wonder what Canadian cuisine is will find the answer at Craft Kitchen ( The menu is mixed, with highlights such as the Canadian bacon and egg, trois viandes (venison, moose and pork belly) and West Coast seafood potage. Try the beef brisket and pork crackling sandwich for lunch. Expect to spend C$30 (S$31) to C$45 a person for dinner and basic drinks.

Rajio Japanese Public House ( is a Japanese izakaya and a great spot to meet friends. Must-tries are its famous Smashing Hit Punch cocktail served in a mini watermelon or pineapple.

The uni sushi and fresh crabmeat ishizushi are well priced for the quality, and the fried skewers are its specialities. Expect to spend C$30 to C$40 a person for dinner.

Best place for breakfast

Cafe Medina ( There may be long queues for brunch, but its Liege waffles, lavender lattes and Mediterranean-inspired items are worth the wait or waking up early for. A highlight is the Cassoulet (bacon, sausage, saucisson, red wine, tomatoes and two sunny side-up eggs) for C$17.

For a lighter choice, go to The Taste and See Shop (, where you can browse art over a coffee.

Must try

The Japadog (, Japanese-style hot dogs that have been replicated around the world. Get a Terimayo hot dog, a beef hot dog topped with fried onions, teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise and seaweed.

The Kurobuta Terimayo version; the Yakisoba dog topped with yakisoba noodles and slivers of pickled ginger; the Yakiniku dog with flavoured rice and BBQ-style beef on top of an Arabiki pork sausage are also to die for.

They can be found at the Japadog store or four food carts around the city and cost C$5 to C$8.

Favourite local experience

The University of British Columbia campus, which faces the Strait of Georgia and the idyllic Vancouver Island, is one of the most beautiful and culturally interesting campuses in Canada.

The university's Museum of Anthropology houses a great collection of ethnographic objects, especially related to First Nations people, the Canadian name for aboriginal Canadians. Then head to the Rose Garden for a breathtaking view of the waters. You can also go to the Nitobe Memorial Garden to see a real Japanese tea house and a proper tea ceremony.

Check the school website to find a concert to attend at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. Make sure to walk through the Walter Koerner Library, the campus store and the clothing- optional Wreck Beach.

Favourite neighbourhood

Granville Island peninsula and shopping district. I like starting early in Granville Island, which is best to visit when the Farmers Market is open, currently every Thursday. There is great coffee, fresh food and baked goods, as well as art and craft.

Then I usually walk off the island towards Kitsilano Beach, which takes me along the nicest parts of the English Bay. The view here is of the world-famous Stanley Park and Lions Gate Bridge, as well as Grouse Mountain and West Vancouver.

I remember meandering through the small streets to see the many cute houses in the area.

Favourite bookshop

One cannot go wrong with the classic Macleod's Books ( There are amazing finds within the narrow aisles of used books and the staff can help you find anything among the chaos without a computer.

Best views

The Teahouse ( at Ferguson Point in Stanley Park has classy decor and impressive views of the bay. You can drive up to the restaurant, but you can also park farther out and walk in. It is a fairly easy and scenic 30-minute walk from the West End entrance.

Best hidden find

Lift Bar and Grill (, right on the water, is the perfect spot to chill out at with amazing views of the harbour. It has a patio overlooking Stanley Park and Second Narrows Bridge and is especially stunning in the evening with the city lights in the distance.

Dockside restaurant ( on Granville Island has a patio looking out onto False Creek and the docked yachts.

Worthwhile side trips

Whistler, the location for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, is an absolute must-visit. Those who do not feel like driving themselves for 120km from Vancouver can book a tour from the city to explore the mountain, village and rushing waterfalls. Skiing or snowboarding at Whistler Blackcomb in winter is world-class. Summer can be spent relaxing at Lost Lake Park or playing golf on a driving range.

Event to bookmark

The Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival ( happens every June to September at an outdoor tent-theatre complex at Vanier Park. This world-class event has been running for 27 years and offers four repertory productions this year.

Travellers' advice

Wear comfortable shoes because there are so many beautiful walks to go on. Bring a jacket with a hood rather than an umbrella for rainy days and your sunglasses for sunny ones.

Wear a smile too. The locals are known to be genuinely friendly, so do not be surprised if a stranger says hi to you on a bus or the street.

There is a large Asian population - more than 30 per cent of the city's population is ethnic Chinese. The quality of Chinese food may be better than in Hong Kong or Taiwan as some of the best chefs and their families migrated to Vancouver from those places in the 1990s.

This article was first published on July 17, 2016.
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