Friday, July 27, 2007

Vacation, part 2: Vancouver, BC

When I think of Vancouver I am reminded of cruise ships, as this is where my husband and I embarked upon our very first cruise to Alaska years ago, a wonderful first experience we highly recommend.

The Vancouver area has a population of over 2 million people and is the third largest in Canada. The city itself is the largest in the British Columbia province and covers 114 square kilometers (44 sq miles). It is surrounded on three sides by water and nestles against the Coast Range. One of the most well known parks is Stanley Park, but our destination the first day was something very special.

As stated in the July 21 posting, we left Blaine, WA and traveled across the U.S./Canadian border where I-5 became highway 99. About thirty minutes later we approached the beautiful city of towering buildings which seemed to rise from the water.

We easily located the place we were staying, parked the car, made our way to breakfast and then to a bank to exchange some currency. 93 cents Canadian to $1.00 US, a $2 dollar service fee for the exchange, and we walked to the bus stop. The fare was $2.25 per person for use within one and a half hours. That did not appear to deter anyone, as the bus was full.

We got off the bus at Chinatown and within the block turned right into a courtyard and this was the beauty before us, a park adjacent to the garden, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical garden, the first of its kind to be constructed outside of China.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen is known as the father of modern China and in 1912 was the first President of the Republic of China. This place was named in his honor.

Within this business district and inside these high white walls exists another world, a maze of walls, twists and turns, garden "rooms", offering peace and tranquility and a philosophy of the Chinese people.

We were offered a tour with a guide, a volunteer. Julian was an 89 year old Chinese gentleman who charmed us with his stories.

In the background, the mystical sounds of the flautist gave us a sense of the sounds of nature and contemplation. Julian told us that the garden was based upon the 1300-1500 Ming Dynasty and that we must first understand philosophies prior to visiting the garden.

He spoke of respect for elders, Chinese ingenuity and secrets not shared with others; of the Japanese borrowing from the Chinese culture, such as reclassifying penjing as bonsai or speaking of Japanese Koi when in fact, Koi was a gift from Persia to Confucius' son 2500 years ago; of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism; the basic elements of plants, rocks, water, and architecture; of achieving balance and harmony with opposites, the yin and yang of Taoism.

And this did stop me in my tracks. So beautiful, so simple, yet so elegant, I am yet captivated.

We have visited many gardens over the years, but I must say this was one of the
most fascinating and pleasurable ones I have encountered.

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