Mother Nature Is a Wicked Old Witch

I enjoyed my stay as a recluse in a remote Canadian wilderness profusely but anyone who thinks three months in the wild were a romantic dream come true is as detached from reality as those who say that Cambodians are hospitable, Thais smile all the time, Filipino have tasty food and Brazil is not any more dangerous than London or New York. Whatever was the agenda behind all this crap is irrelevant – we live in the 21st century so it’s time we pulled out heads from our behinds and put an end to this fabrication.

Photo: Mother Nature Can Be One Wicked Old Witch
Photo: Mother Nature Can Be One Wicked Old Witch

Mother Nature, albeit beautiful and awe-inspiring is also harsh and unforgiving. We have evolved to romanticise life in the wilderness and perceive it for something it is not. Fiction presented by books and movies portrays wilderness and people who dwell in it as peaceful and merciful but reality is quite a ways different. Real mother nature is a wicked old witch.

If you want to have a warm and cuddly wilderness experience, go to see a movie or risk getting killed. I got to spend a significant amount of time in Mother Nature’s embrace and grew to respect and admire her. It showed me how small and insignificant I am and how she’ll carry on being the same wicked old witch regardless of whether I live through my encounter with her or die.

This important understanding that Mother Nature is a wicked old witch is one of the primary reasons why so many hikers die in the wilderness. Their fear of reality prohibits them from seeing the whole truth. They see beautiful surroundings and mighty elements, but refuse to acknowledge the very thing that makes Mother Nature tick – the inherent cruelty.

I have, since the inception of this blog, offered nothing but whole truth. I don’t have a huge fan club because my reality is not partial and majority of people are not able or willing to accept unskewed facts. And I know most people are not ready to hear that Mother Nature is anything but majestic so I don’t anticipate much positive response here either.

Do not get me wrong, though. I was out there, I speak from experience yet I will be the first to defend Mother Nature’s beauty and show her respect. I love her more than I love people and enjoyed few short months living side by side with her more than years living side by side with people. There are no words to describe how much I love nature and how much she means to me, but that is not an excuse to leave out the part where Mother Nature is a wicked old witch.

While I was in the wilderness, alone and vulnerable, Mother Nature threw some mighty difficult shots at me and when I responded by bouncing back, she threw another one and then another and another. I came to understand that I exist within nature, not the other way around. Mother Nature has long been here before a sequence of events I had no influence over resulted in my creation and will long be after I and all of my achievements perished.

I am naught but a powerless, unworthy drop in the ocean of life and whether I like it or not, I’m finite. All I was given were a few short years of existence yet I was also granted the freedom to roam the nature a free man. Free to think, free to understand, free to make my own judgement. Free to do things no other creature I encountered had the privilege of doing.

It was this ability to think that set me apart from other inhabitants of the wilderness and provided me with a tool that made survival in an environment dominated by cruel Mother Nature easier – imagination. For no matter how harsh the shots that Mother Nature threw at me had been, I was always able to look forward to what my dreamed of future would hold for me. To be comforted by a thought is to gain solace where there is gloom.

Mother nature is cruel, but she’s also fair. She does not seek out her victims. She throws shots completely oblivious to whether they bring you prosperity or suffering. Her actions are unconscious and uncaring and will come down by the same force whether you worship or curse her. I respect Mother Nature’s power and admire her beauty, but I understand she’s as much my best friend as she is my worst enemy.

Let this be the lesson to you. To enter Mother Nature’s realm is to expose oneself to both the good and the bad she has to offer. Be prepared, or perish. There is heavenly beauty to be seen and endless knowledge to be gained out there, but Mother Nature is as much of a wicked old witch as she is a beautiful bride, a shrewd healer, or a guiding spirit. She’s not out to get you – she’s not out to get anyone. She’s just there, following her own course to which we respond. Sooner or later, you will be recycled. Are you prepared?

Cold Summer Nights in Canadian Wilderness

One of the earliest things I learned when I left to live as a recluse in the Canadian wilderness was that nights out there are extremely cold even in Summer. I did my hermit experience over the warmest months of the year – June, July and August, but while it was nice and warm during the day, night time temperatures dropped below zero. And since I didn’t anticipate freezing temperatures, I neither had clothes, nor other equipment (sleeping bag, tent or stove) to keep me warm at night.

Photo: Just Before Sun Rise, When Temperature Was at Its Lowest, the Lake Started to Turn Into Vapor
Photo: Just Before Sun Rise, When Temperature Was at Its Lowest, the Lake Started to Turn Into Vapor

The lake I chose for my stay away from civilization was very remote, but – to a point – accessible by car. The nearest paved road to the lake was more than 100km away but invasive logging industry left a passage through the forest which I was able to use to get myself closer. Needless to say, this forestry equipment road was full of obstacles and rough terrain that’s normally only negotiable by heavy machinery with continuous tracks, but being a skilled driver and having been blessed with dry weather, I was able to safely traverse this incredibly challenging stretch of the road all the way to the lake.

The entire journey took me about 5 hours to complete, but I was only about 300 km north of Edmonton as the raven fly. I don’t know whether it was these extra 300 km north or the fact that there is no civilization anywhere near the lake, but as someone who spent countless Summer nights outside while living in Edmonton, I can tell you for sure that while it does get cold at night even in Summer, it doesn’t get below freezing. Not in Summer. But as I learned after my first night out in the wilderness (and each night thereafter), despite daytime temperatures reaching pleasant 29 °C, they were followed by night time drops to -3 °C.

5 hour long drive north of Edmonton and you’ll experience brief Winter every night even during Summer months. I personally think this had more to do with complete remoteness of the wilderness than its placement along the longitude. I have not done any scientific research on it, but high concentration of warm bloodied mammals who radiate body heat into the environment surely contributes to keeping the temperature in urban centers warmer than in the wilderness. And it’s not only body heat – you have heat generating car engines, thousands of computers, stoves used for cooking, machines used in factories, people bathing in hot water – so many things to keep the environment warmer… And on top of it all, you have pollution that keeps the heat trapped.

During my first month in the wilderness, it rained almost every afternoon. July was a little better and come August, there was hardly any rain. Sky was cloudless most of the days with sun baking down on me from wee morning hours until late night. Yet even in August, when daytime temperatures were in their 30’s, as soon as the sun was gone, the gauge started dropping rapidly and got to freezing just before the dawn.

Luckily, I had everything I needed to keep the fire going and there was plenty of dry firewood around, plus night only lasts a few hours a day this time of year so even though ill equipped, I kept myself warm-ish by utilizing natural resources. Regardless, it was a lesson I learned the hard way – remote Canadian wilderness can be very cold even in Summer months. Especially at night.

In order to survive, I had to swap night with the day. I got most of my sleep during the day when it was warm and I didn’t have to spend time feeding the fire and when the sun went down, I kept myself entertained by staring at the stars. It’s mind boggling how many of them there are and how clearly they can be seen when you’re away from city lights and pollution.

First night was hands down the worst but I got right down to building a primitive shelter that would tightly wrap around the bed of dry leaves the following day. I kept improving on my natural tent every day, but night time temperature drops were just so severe, I quickly realized that the only way to stay warm at night would be by building a shelter big enough to have a fire inside. If such shelter was well isolated, the fire would keep the interior warm even during freezing nights. One would still need to feed the fire, but pay back in feeling warm over night would be well worth it.

Why I Chose Canada for Life As a Recluse

To experience life as a recluse, I returned back to my home country of Canada. There were several reasons for it:

Canada Is Safe

I’ve been half way across the world and have seen firsthand how little personal safety means in some parts of the planets. It is a popular thing to say that third world countries are not any more dangerous than most metropolitan areas in North America or Western Europe but this is just the most dangerously misleading statement ever.

I remember vividly when I first returned back to Canada after spending a year in South East Asia. I needed a new passport because I’d traveled so much my old one was out of blank pages, but I also used the trip back to meet with my accountant to file income tax returns and have thorough medical check-up done which after a year in countries with unsafe water and no hygiene standards in food preparation, as well as high prevalence of dangerous diseases, including Malaria, Dengue Fever and AIDS, was long overdue.

Photo: Canadian Wilderness, Beautiful and Raw
Photo: Canadian Wilderness, Beautiful and Raw

While in South East Asia, I had to adapt to omnipresent dangers, inherent xenophobia, corrupt police and criminals ready to kill at the drop of a hat. I learned to live cautiously and remain vigilant at all times to avoid becoming a victim. Just as everybody else, I put up with recurrent verbal abuse without as much as turning my head and stayed put in a hotel room every day after dark. Not that taking the abuse and keeping low profile made much difference, for in many South East Asian countries you don’t have to look for crime – crime will find you.

Needless to say, after spending a year in crime ridden countries, I returned back to Canada with a mindframe which dictated me to always remain aware of my surroundings, put up with continuous abuse and never leave home after dark. But… then I realized that I had never been abused, nevermind victimized in this country, that going grocery shopping at 11pm is normal here and done by many, and that after you’re done midnight shopping, you can safely carry your groceries home through empty back alleys and won’t experience as much as someone making inappropriate sound.

Even in my home city of Edmonton, Alberta – generally considered to be one of the most crime prone cities in Canada – you’ll have young girls strolling home alone late at night after having a few drinks in a bar and it won’t even cross their mind that it could be dangerous in any way. The worst thing that could happen to them is that they would stumble upon someone they’d like to have sex with and end up getting Chlamydia which they then merrily pass on (yep, talking from experience).

Whoever spreads the misinformation that a visit to third world countries is not any more dangerous than life in most first world cities is a delusional liar. I lived in, or visited New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Paris, Berlin, and many other western cities and have never experience anything remotely dangerous to every day existence in SE Asia. While living in London, UK at the end of the 20th century, I stayed in Brixton where I socialized every night by going to clubs and returning from them in the middle of the night every night. I also attended many concerts at the Brixton Academy pacing my way through the borough back and forth on foot.

Brixton, for those who don’t know, is what – to be politically correct – is referred to as a vibrant multi-cultural neighborhood. In other words, it’s considered to be a crime ridden area, a ghetto, however crime ridden in the UK is not the same as crime ridden in Thailand or the Philippines. The nearest I got to crime after 6 months of living in Brixton was being offered ecstasy in a club called Panic. Wicked music in that bar – all really heavy house with guest DJs the world over. Wonder if this club still exists. Since I do not do drugs, I just said I didn’t want anything and that was it.

I’m not trying to say that there is no crime in western cities. Crimes do most certainly occur – sometimes serious crimes – however, one must put things into a perspective before making an assumption. A chance of an encounter with a criminal on a mission in New York exists, but is negligent compared to chances of encountering millions upon millions of people going on about their lives, never engaging in criminal behavior. Most back alleys in New York do not have criminals lurking around at night. I wish I could say the same thing about back alleys in Indonesia or Cambodia.

As someone who’s well aware of dangers, I could not possibly consider any third world country for an extended stay in the wilderness. Being generally safe, my homeland of Canada was a solid bet. I would have liked to do it in other safe countries, such as Iceland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Norway, Japan or Ireland, but because of the 21st century world limitations, these options were either impractical or downright impossible.

Lots of Undisturbed Wilderness in Canada

As far as landmass is concerned, Canada is the second largest country in the world (after Russia) but our population is relatively low – only 34 million people, most of whom live within 200km from the border with the USA on the south of the country (which happens to be the longest land border between two countries in the world). With population density at mere 3.4 people per square kilometer, Canada is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.

To put it into a perspective, the population of the United Kingdom is almost twice that of Canada, but their land area is 41 times smaller than that of Canada, which using unrounded figures adds up to 75 times as many people per square kilometer in the UK than in Canada. And since vast majority of Canadians live near the border with the USA, much of the country remains very sparsely populated.

Photo: Population Distribution on the Map of Canada, Image Source: Statistics Canada
Photo: Population Distribution on the Map of Canada, Image Source: Statistics Canada

According to the 2001 census by Statistics Canada, 79.4% of Canadians live in urban centres. That means 27 Million Canadians live in the cities which account for less than 3% of total Canada’s landmass, leaving mere 7 Million to occupy the rest of the world’s second largest country.

According to the same census, only 0.3% of Canada’s total population lives in the polar territories (the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut), yet they account for 41% of Canada’s total landmass. In mathematical terms, there is on average one person per 50 square kilometers in these territories. With this type of population density, finding undisturbed wilderness should not be a problem.

To offer a better perspective on 1 person per 50 square kilometers population density, consider this: population of United Kingdom is just over 62 Million. If their population density was the same as that of northern Canada, there would be all together 4,872 people in the UK. If Lebanon had the same population density, the country would only have 200 people (population of Lebanon is currently 4.2 Million).

Canada is simply an ideal place for people seeking remote, undisturbed wilderness. What’s better yet – not only is there nature and solitude aplenty, the vast stretches of Canada’s north are still sure to have places where no human foot stepped before. How is that for an adventure?

Canadian Wilderness is Safe

I have considered wilderness recluse in other countries, but since I wanted this to be a positive experience without compromising my personal safety, much of the world was not an option. None of the countries in the tropical regions, for instance, were an option because their jungles are simply as dangerous as their cities (with dangerous wildlife being the least of your concern).

However even if safety could be ensured, unlike Canada, most tropical countries are heavily overpopulated (while people in the first world countries work hard to multiply their wealth, people in the third world countries just multiply) so finding true solitude is difficult with chances of someone walking across you increasingly high.

Canada is also nowhere near as corrupt as many third world countries so should my recluse get noticed, it wouldn’t result in extortion or worse.

Personal safety is a no issue in countries like Iceland, Switzerland or New Zealand as they are both safe (people don’t casually murder those they randomly stumble across) and not overpopulated, but life in a 21st century world makes extended stays in countries you are not a citizen of challenging (more on this in the next section).

I Don’t Need Visa for Canada

A stay in countries other than your own typically involves several restrictions. The length of your stay is usually limited to a couple of months at the most and so are activities in which you are allowed to engage. Self sustaining life in the wild is a perfect excuse for a corrupt police officer to abuse his power and extort money from you so sticking with facilities for tourists is recommended.

Being a citizen of Canada allows me to stay in my own country indefinitely and roam the Crown Land (that’s what we call public land in Canada) freely at my own leisure. I don’t need to apply for visa to stay in Canada for as long as I need nor to explain to anyone what I want to do while I’m here.

I would love to experience life as a recluse in Iceland, as countries don’t get any safer and friendlier than that, plus Iceland is incredibly beautiful, has some of the world’s cleanest and healthiest water and coastline abundant with fish never too far away, but as a non Icelanders I’d have a lot of explaining to do to get through the loopholes and roadblocks that would green-light me for my recluse and I wanted this to be my private, secret mission I could complete without anyone looking over my shoulder. I had to ditch this idea.

Photo: Iceland Is an Incredibly Beautiful and Safe Country
Photo: Iceland Is an Incredibly Beautiful and Safe Country

Life in the 21st century world is full of restrictions and bureaucracy. We don’t live in the hunter/gatherer society with people free to move anywhere they want and able to choose how they make their living. It makes all attempts to live the hunter gatherer style exceedingly challenging and difficult. I had to make work-arounds with these restrictions in mind which made my options few.

Survivalism in Canadian Wilderness Is Only for the Tough

I did take my shot at wilderness survivalism in tropical jungles and enjoyed it profusely. I was restricted by the above mentioned reasons, but chose a relatively safe area in Malaysian Borneo and made a deal with natives who call it their home so my presence was known and accepted, minimizing any potential of attacks.

I stayed with a community that makes their living collecting bird’s nests in a complex of caves in eastern Sarawak. To make long story short, while jungle survival had its challenges, I found the fact that coconut grows in jungles year round and takes less than a month to grow to full harvest a cheat that made survival there too easy.

Photo: Having a Well Deserved Drink With Tribal Iban People with Whom I Stayed in Niah Rainforest in Malaysian Borneo
Photo: Having a Well Deserved Drink With Tribal Iban People with Whom I Stayed in Niah Rainforest in Malaysian Borneo

Coconut water is so full of nutrients, locating a coconut tree secures your survival at any time of the year. If you drink one coconut a day, you’ll provide your body with hydration and nutrients it needs making it possible to survive on nothing but the coconut alone.

With nourishment for your body taken care of, you’ll have a lot of energy left for everything else. Compared to that, survival in Canada is far more challenging and that makes it more interesting. Canada goes through all four seasons, including harsh winters during which survival becomes a real challenge and a test of manness. And I’m not a girl.

British Columbia Canada Aerial View from Jet Plane Photo Gallery

Flying Korean Air – The Most Awesome Plane Experience Ever

As I was boarding the Korean Air plane, I asked the flight attendant whether they anticipated many kids to be on board this flight. I was well fed and stocked on bottled water so there was no unpleasant experiences waiting for me to happen in this regard. It was a very long flight I had ahead of me so I wanted to make sure it will be as headache free as possible and with hunger and thirst being off the issues list, the only thing that could still turn this long haul flight into a nightmare would be screaming kids. Kids on a plane are an absolute horror of unspeakable magnitude and their presence, or absence pretty much determine whether the flight will be enjoyable or agonizing. According to the stewardess I had approached, there were very few, if any kids she was aware of that were about to board this craft.

That was great news. I also loved the plane. When I saw it from the terminal parked at our gate, I got excited. I have never flown one of those Boeing planes with upper deck (I think it was Boeing 747-400) before. I knew the top deck was where first class passengers stayed so it was off limits to me, however it was still exciting to board and fly one of those monsters. Really cool. So far nothing but complete awesomeness regarding Korean Air, but at that time I still did not know I was in for the best flying experience ever.

Double Decker Boeing 747-400 by Korean Air
This is the Boeing 747-400 Korean Air Plane I Flew from Vancouver, Canada to Seoul, South Korea With

This large Boeing aircraft has seats on both sides of the plane, the same way regular planes do, but it also has a four row seating in the middle. That makes the plane look spacious and more luxurious. I got a seat numbered 41K. It was the seat by the window and when I got to it, the other two seats from the same section were vacant. Given that Korean Air was using this giant aircraft to fly us to Seoul, I assumed it was because there were many people who wanted to fly there so in order to accommodate them all, a large craft was provided. In other words – I thought this flight was gonna be packed full.

Soon after being seated, I had to start collecting my jaw from the floor. Korean girls are incredibly beautiful and those tight, short-skirt Korean Air outfits they wear complement their beauty really well. I asked the one of them whether the flight was sold out and she said it wasn’t which once again enriched the positive feelings I’ve been experiencing since boarding this plane. I was one of the last ones boarding and so far the only one at my row of three seats. Could it be that I’d have the whole damn thing all for myself? Chances were certainly there, but what I liked even better was the fact that right behind me, right behind the raw 41, there was this large open area with emergency exit. Only one guy was sitting in that three seater with loads and loads of leg room. I asked the flight attendant if it was possible for me to sit there, provided these other two seats don’t get taken prior to take off. She said I would only have to wait until we do take off and then I could move.

Sweet – except that I didn’t wait. I moved as soon as she left me. I asked that guy who occupied the one seat if he was OK with me taking one of those and he actually said that if there was gonna be nobody in the row in which I had my assigned seat, he would actually move out of this spot and take that whole row 41 for himself, claiming it was better suited for sleeping. He said he was boarding a flight to Hong Kong after arriving in Seoul and goes straight to work from there so getting some sleep would be beneficial for him.

I sent him to take my original seat without hesitation, suggesting that there are hardly any more people left to board the plane so he would likely have the whole thing for himself. It worked out perfect, cause yet before we took off, I had an entire raw by the emergency exit for myself with more leg room than I could bargain for. The guy who was originally meant to sit here got what he wanted – whole row of seats to sleep on for himself = everyone wins.

Emergency Row Offers a Great Deal of Legroom
Scoring an Emergency Row Seat Granted me with Lots and Lots of Legroom

As we were getting ready to depart, the things just kept getting better and better. Facing me opposite that large leg room area is one seat where flight attendants sit for the take off. The hottest of all flight attendants sat there facing me, so we were just giving each other smirks. She was so cute. But the real awesomeness of Korean Air started after we were in the air. I can safely assume that flying Korean Air = the most awesome plane experience ever. The awesomeness of Korean Air simply never stopped.

The entertainment system is loaded with latest Hollywood movies and all of them free of charge. Quality headphones were provided to every passenger after take off free of charge. It was none of that cheap crap I got from Westjet after shelling out $3. Korean Air headphones are much better and are complimentary. The selection of movies as I have said was noteworthy. Normally you get one decent move and a couple of stupidly crappy ones. The good one was one of those you would have already seen and the stupid ones were so lame, you didn’t even feel like watching. Korean Air is different.

Their selection of movies included Wolverine, Terminator Salvation, Angels and Demons, The Hangover, Star Trek XI, Monsters vs Aliens, etc. Absolutely amazing selection of in flight entertainment and all of it free. You don’t pay to watch any of the movie aboard Korean Air. It is included complimentary to make your flight with them more enjoyable. And awe just continued.

Korean Air Flight - Spacious Plane with Interactive Screens
Korean Air Flight - Spacious Plane with Interactive Screens

Bottle of water was provided on every seat, but even so, before you could start feeling like you could use more water, the flight attendants would already start delivering drinks. They never stopped. They were always on their feet providing their customers with something. And then the food was served – that’s where Korean Air really got me.

I was asked whether I wanted Korean traditional meal or beef. Of course I went for the Korean dish. No question there. But what I did not expect was that in flight meals on Korean Air flights are served in actual porcelain dishes, not in some plastic stuff. Also, you get new, plastic wrapped silverware. Actual high end silverware instead of cheapo plastic crap other airliners give you to eat with.

Traditional Korean Dish I Got on Korean Air Plane
Traditional Korean Dish Served with Real Silverware and Porcelain Dishes I Got on Korean Air Plane

The traditional Korean dish I chose consisted of steamed rice and a bowl of Bibimbap – some mixture of sea weed, vegetable, minced meat and sprouts. Awesome Asian soup was part of it too as well as pickles and fruit. Kingly meal, I tell ya. When a girl who served me the dish asked me what wine I wanted, I automatically assumed it would cost money. I mean – no airline in the world, no matter what china they serve their food in and what cutlery they provide their customers with to eat with will serve you wine for free. You always pay for alcoholic beverages so I respectfully declined.

A minute later, another flight attendant comes with bottle of red wine in one hand and a bottle of white in another and asks me if I’m ready for a refill of wine. I asked how much it was for wine and she said it was all free. I took a glass full of red and must mention one more thing – the glass they provided was an actual glass, not plastic. What an awesome experience flying Korean Air.

Korean Green Tea and a Glass of Red Wine
When Asked Whether I Wanted Lipton Tea or Korean Green Tea, Of Course I Went for Korean. Glass of Red Wine Was Also Complimentary and Served in an Actual Glass, not Plastic

Everything on this flight was included, and it wasn’t an overpriced flight. I have actually bought it because it was the cheapest and I always do my homework when it comes to buying travel stuff.

I got my bonus in flight entertainment when one of the flight attendants accidentally dropped a can of coke not far from me. The can burst on impact and sprayed the legs of other flight attendants with its sticky self. These girls are absolutely gorgeous so watching them rub coke off their perfect legs with paper towels was a real treat. It was the highlight of my trip (hey, at least I’m honest with you).

An extra surprise took place when I went to use the washroom and found it equipped with disposable toothbrushes and toothpaste. These were plastic wrapped, single use units. Inside were one toothbrush and a very small tube of toothpaste. I brushed my teeth with it which was amazing given the length of flight (aka time during which you would otherwise not give your teeth any care).

I have flown many a time in my life but flying Korean Air beat any and all previous flight experiences. This was above and beyond awesome. I will always look for Korean Air flights when booking plane tickets in the future before I book with someone else. The treatment, the value for money and the presence of most gorgeous girls can not be beat by any other carrier. Korean Air rules. This was the best flying experience of my life to date. Someone’s gonna have to provide hell of an experience to beat that.

Korean Air Boarding Passes Came in a Shiny Package
Korean Air Boarding Passes Came in a Shiny Package

Irene from the Philippines

As I have mentioned, I love the atmosphere at the airports. When you’re at the airport, the change is imminent. I got off the Air Canada plane and followed the International Flights signs at the Vancouver International. I had a few hours to kill, so there was no need to rush, however I still needed to get boarding passes for my Korean Air flights so I wanted to get that off my hands as soon as possible in case it was necessary to go at the opposite side of the airport.

Vast Hallways of Vancouver International Airport
Vast Hallways of Vancouver International Airport

It took me good 20 minutes to get from one end of the airport to the other where international flights depart from. Information panel suggested that my flight takes off form gate 58, which I found, but there was nobody there yet. I simply got there too early. I had no other option but to wait until someone shows up as they would either issue my boarding pass, or tell me where to go to get it.

I have decided to kill the time getting on my laptop and checking emails. I have noticed signs all over Vancouver airport stating that YVR has free WiFi internet. They were advertising it big time everywhere so I found nearest power outlet, plugged my laptop in there and logged on. However after 20 minutes of desperate attempts to get connected to their unsecured network I had no luck at all. It was really frustrating.

Large Flat Screen TV Advertising Free WiFi at YVR
Large Flat Screen TV Advertising Free WiFi at YVR

I have eventually given up, packed up my laptop and started walking towards where I came from to track someone who looks like they might know what’s going on and ask them why they advertise free WiFi when it’s impossible to connect as system rejects all connection attempts.

And as I’m walking back, I see that cute girl sitting there on her pink Sony Vaio laptop, chattering to someone on a webcam. Since she was obviously on line, I stopped by her and asked if she had any troubles connecting. She said she had no troubles whatsoever so I sat opposite of her, plugged myself into the wall and made an attempt from this location. However, same lack of luck as before. I made no sense.

But I kept trying as that girl kept chatting and eventually I got to some window that was telling me that the host wants me to confirm something on their website and was asked if I wished to visit that website. I agreed and was taken to Vancouver International Airport site where I was asked to click on Agree button to agree with some of their TOS (quite likely confirming that I won’t be using this internet connection to download viruses or porn or what not).

The moment I got on, that girl asked me if I had any luck connecting. I said it just started to work for me and got down to doing my on line business. Being used to cold people from Edmonton, I ignored the girl believing she will be the same as regular Edmontonian, but was surprised after she repeatedly kept talking to me. She was cute and barefoot, so it was awesome. It was just something I am not used to, coming from the city where when you talk to a stranger, you get weird looks. Here I was a stranger to her and she talks to me.

Eventually, I put my work on hold and engaged in conversation with her. She told me her name was Irene and that she was from the Philippines. She lived in Calgary for 5 months but her contract didn’t get renewed or something like that so she had to return back home to the Philippines. I told her about my photography and it immediately increased her interest in my even more and asked me if I was on yahoo messenger, cause she wanted to add me. Seriously, I could already feel big time the difference it makes leaving Edmonton. There was no point for me to linger in the city that turns you into a chunk of stone.

Paid Internet Station at the YVR
Passengers Without a Laptop Computer Can Access Internet at YVR Via One of Numerous Paid Internet Stations

Sadly, I don’t use Yahoo messenger. I once installed it, many years ago and it came with so much bloat ware and spyware and pop ups that it went off my computer before I first used it. Perhaps Yahoo got their act together in the meantime, but this initial experience was good enough for me to keep away. I have always used friendly and safe MSN messenger and have never had issues with it.

I explained that to Irene, but told her that I do have a yahoo email address and gave it to her. She made note of that and also took my Hotmail address in order to add me to her MSN messenger when she gets it installed so we can chat in the future. That’s how awesome people are outside of the corporate lifestyle world. I have just left Edmonton and I was back at living the life, instead of spending it.

Irene then came to sit next to me with her laptop and showed me some of the pictures her brother, who’s a photo enthusiast took. We talked about photography as she was actually well familiar with many aspects of it. I asked her to send me an email to the yahoo address I gave her so I could respond with links to my sites. I did not want to just give her the URL to my personal site which has a lot of nude photography, so I sent a link in an email with appropriate warning.

Right after that, I took a glance at the clock on my laptop and realized it was already 1.40pm and my flight departure was scheduled for 2.20pm. I didn’t have a breakfast so I wanted to go get something before boarding and I also wanted to pick up a bottle of mineral water so I don’t die thirsty on a plane. It was going to be a long, long flight so I had better taken care of myself or else I’d be looking at 10+ hours of pain.

I liked hanging out with Irene form the Philippines, but I really had to go. I still needed the boarding pass. So I said my Good Byes, Irene insisted that I visit Philippines on my travels and let her know so we can hang out in her country and then I took off. I quickly picked up a sandwich from Subway, went to just grab it and go to the place where they sell bottled water so I can dart off back towards my gate, when I noticed on the board that it was only 12.40 – my computer clock was still on Canadian Mountain Time so being in Vancouver put me back one hour.

Pretty Fishtank at Vancouver International Airport
This Oversized Fish Tank Greets Tourists at International Departures Section of Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

This gave me an extra hour so I ate my sub in peace, picked up a bottle of water which is BTW extremely expensive within secure area of the airport (grrrr, cause you can’t take any liquids with you as security precautions don’t allow that, so you are forced to buy overpriced water or stay thirsty on the plane) and went back to gate 58 to get a boarding pass.

Korean Air Boarding Passes
Boarding Passes for my Entire Journey from Vancouver, Canada to Siem Reap, Cambodia via Seoul, South Korea

It was a pleasure to be served by absolutely gorgeous Korean girls. Beautiful, slender and tall, these girls are jaw dropping. I got my boarding pass and was told boarding would begin at 1.50, which gave me a bit over 5 minutes to spend on a computer again.

I knew I wouldn’t want to be the first one to board a plane, so I sat back, plugged myself in and started the laptop for the thirst time in Vancouver. Low and behold, after 15 minutes of trying, no luck getting connected. I was messing around hoping to click on a button that would open a message which prompts me to visit the website but it never happened. I don’t remember how I got there the first time. I tried everything but to no avail. Frustrated, I have eventually turned the computer off and boarded the plane. And it was a nice plane. Korean Air rules in more ways than just by having the most stunning flight attendants in the world.

Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport Photo Gallery

Flight from Edmonton to Vancouver

My first flight was by Air Canada from Edmonton to Vancouver. The rest of the flight was provided by Korean Air with stop in Seoul, South Korea. I wanted to check my luggage right away so I am rid off this burden and can hang out with Lisa and Britney (Lisa’s 17 year old friend). I got in Air Canada line (it doesn’t look like Korean Air has a booth in Edmonton, they probably don’t have this city in their destination schedule) and as I was checking in, I was told by the lady that my flight from Edmonton to Vancouver is delayed, but she can try to put me on an earlier flight. It made no sense to me whatsoever, but I wasn’t arguing. I was there already anyway, so I might as well try to get on an earlier flight. It would mean that I’d have to spend more time in Vancouver, but that sounded much better to me than spending more time in Edmonton.

It was 9.20am when I got a boarding pass for Air Canada flight that departs at 9.50am. I have no idea why that check in lady would tell me that my flight is delayed when it wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11.20am, but whatever.

I was very short on time so I just gave quick hugs to Lisa, gave Britney a wave, promised Lisa to stay in touch over email (I can do it, but she needs to send me her email first – she’s got mine, I’m still waiting for her to email me) and popped myself in line to undergo security check. Unfortunately for me, the line there was endless.

It took forever for me to get my turn and once I went through, the security decided that they need to closely examine my camera bag. I obliged (of course, the only other option is to turn around and leave) but have reminded the young man that my plane leaves in less than 10 minutes. Luckily for me, he understood.

Perhaps I was lucky in a fact that he was a photography enthusiast. He admired my full Canon gear and asked me about what I take pictures of, had brief look at everything and let me go fairly quickly even though I had my tiny bottle of oil of oregano with me. Fluids and gels of any kind are a big no no on aircrafts nowadays.

As he was going through my bag and doing chemical analysis of vapours to make sure I don’t have any hidden explosives there, my name was announced on the speaker system calling me to deliver my ass to the gate or miss the flight. I have reminded the man that I have got to go and luckily he let me.

He sort of cut his job short and took chances for not examining my bag thoroughly, but I’m no terrorist and they really were calling for me. To add insult to the injury, my name was being called repeatedly as I was running through the airport, prompting several people to shout at me – you must be Mark they’re calling. Embarrassing.

I have boarded the plane last minute, we took off without delay and got from Edmonton to Vancouver in about 1 hour and 14 minutes. The flight was relatively painless, except from excessively obnoxious and loud pair of girls sitting across the aisle one row back. They were literally yelling like they’re at the party. I felt tired because of no sleep last night and their shriek made it impossible to take a nap. Luckily it was a brief flight. And I got a complimentary plastic cup of tomato juice (my favourite in flight drink).

Soon enough I was in Vancouver and there was no turning back for me anymore, even if I wanted to. I would never want to. I longed for this moment for so long, going back was not an option. There are so many places to see, so many things to do, so many girls to f….. Sorry, couldn’t help :o)