How I Visited The West Edmonton Mall Without Shopping

 Even after going to university in a building that’s basically inside the Eaton Centre Mall in Toronto and going on exchange to a country with basically more malls than people, I’m not much of a mall-shopper. So when I decided to spend the day at the West Edmonton Mall, it wasn’t so that I could check out the latest Gucci and Chanel arrivals, to say the least.

The West Edmonton Mall is the biggest mall in North America and with that, the first thing I did (as a displaced northerner who recently thought a department store in Yellowknife – a city with only 19,000 people – was huge) was ogle at the sheer size of the building for about half an hour.

The mall has its own pirate ship for crying out loud!

The mall has its own pirate ship for crying out loud!

Once I started getting my wits back about, it was off to the arcade for some giant connect 4, skee-ball and cyclone (that game where you have to stop the flashing light on jackpot). I was pretty rusty at cyclone (only getting 7 tickets instead of my previous hitting-multiple-jackpots streaks), but my skee-ball skills had significantly improved, so I was pretty satisfied.

Then, it was off to Hudson’s Canadian Tap House to meet up with an old buddy over hot wings with extra hot sauce. The waitress wouldn’t let me order the extra hot hot wings, so it was my only option. Although 4 months in Southeast Asia significantly increased my spice tolerance, my order was mostly for the fact that I’m not a huge hot wing fan and wanted to drown out the taste :P

Next up, a quick trip zip lining over the world’s largest indoor waterpark. I’d never actually been zip lining before, so the chance to go for only 15$ seemed too good to pass up! There was no one else in line and everyone who worked there was incredibly friendly. Not to mention how awesome zipping overtop of a massive wave pool was – definitely another check off my unofficial list of “must dos”!

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Finally, it was off to Bourbon Street (basically a walkway in the mall lined with bars and restaurants) for some drinks and live music at Sherlock Holmes Pub.

In summary:

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Out and About Edmonton (Fringe Festival and Royal Alberta Museum)

While my summer in the Northwest Territories was absolutely amazing, I have to admit, I was a bit overly excited about the idea of searching up things to do in Edmonton. After digging past all the West Edmonton Mall-based tourism, I was able to discover I’d be in town right in time for the Fringe Festival, which is basically a big series of theatre and comedy shows across the city. But first, I was meeting up with my long-lost travelling buddy, the lovely lady behind shaunanagins.com and much needed catch up session over nachos was in order.

These have been happening since middle school (though not with cider - hooray for getting old)

These have been happening since middle school (though not with cider – hooray for getting old)

After some food, we were signed up to see three shows: The Edmonton Comedy Festival Presents / Sex, Religion and Other Hang-ups / Apocalypse Saskatchewan. The acts from ECF were hilarious and if anyone is going to be in Edmonton from October 16-19, I would definitely recommend checking out the actual festival. Our next show was scheduled to begin 30mins after ECF and was about a 10min walk away. However, being new to the city and still stuck on “northern” time (similar to “island” time), we ended up making it there 4mins after the start time. I didn’t expect this to be a big deal, we had paid in advance and had seats reserved already. However, the volunteers manning the entrance must have been drill sergeants and arrogantly denied us entry, sneering and belittling us for being so insane as to possibly hope we could still get into the event.

The next day, we set off for Apocalypse Saskatchewan (arriving 30mins early, just to be safe) in hopes that the festival would redeem itself. The show had been described as “Corner Gas meets zombie apocalypse” (translation: the best in Canadian TV meets the best in supernatural post-apocalyptic beings). The show itself ended up a bit awkward and stale, with 3 slightly crazy men imagining a zombie invasion through a paranoid delusion. The show had some good moments, but still didn’t compare to our first showing.

The premise ended up featuring 3 retired men who had gone a little too far over the hill and though paranoid delusion, imagined a zombie apocalypse – not exactly what I had expected. The show also re-used its jokes several times and the end result was slightly stale. On the plus side, as each act got to choose their own venue, Apocalypse Saskatchewan chose Filthy McNasty’s pub and I enjoyed a delicious burger and 2.75$ beers – mindboggling for someone used to over-inflated northern prices!

After our festival outings, the next stop was the Royal Alberta Museum. They were featuring an exhibit on the development of Chop Suey in the Canadian Prairies, which I was dying to check out! Even with all my self-induced build-up, the museum didn’t disappoint and ogled over their “bean sprout” area with wide eyes

Delicious, delicious knowledge!

Delicious, delicious knowledge!

Since I’d already seen a Chinese food exhibit in Singapore, it was interesting to compare the development between the two places. Chinese immigrants flocked to Singapore in large numbers to perform manual labour for better wages. Those who opened restaurants often served these workers and food was prepared in much of the same way that it would have been back in China.

In Alberta however, Chinese immigrants were required to pay a significant head tax to enter the country. As a result, less people were able to immigrate and those that did often came in search of work that didn’t require as much manual labour. Although cooking would be considered “women’s work” in China, many male workers chose to open restaurants. Since Chinese populations weren’t significant enough to support these businesses, many serviced a Canadian clientele and found that many of their recipes needed to be altered (and sweetened) in order to appeal to western taste buds.

Although Chop Suey was the main attraction, the museum also had another special exhibit on chairs. The exhibit came from the USA and referred to America as “our country” quite often, but the chairs themselves were super-funky.

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Finally, after having worked in a northern life museum for the past summer, I couldn’t pass up the First Nations exhibit. Looking back, it was probably more than I could handle. I erupted into long and intricate explanations of basically every artefact we passed and squealed excitedly and messaged my museum boss when I saw the Royal Alberta Museum had a photo of the rabbit skin parka in Fort Smith and even mentioned the town and its Conibear traps.

Rabbit coats weren't actually very popular because their hides are so small, they need to be woven together - also the boy is clearly demonstrating that no one actually likes wearing them!

Rabbit coats weren’t actually very popular because their hides are so small, they need to be woven together – also the boy is clearly demonstrating that no one actually likes wearing them!

Fort Smith is famous!

Fort Smith is famous!

 

SUP, Kettle Point!?

(Just to be clear, the title isn’t my attempt at using hip slang; it’s a hilarious pun because I go Stand Up Paddleboarding at Kettle Point)

Oh, I'm so punny!

Oh, I’m so punny!

So now that I’ve gotten past my bison vs buffalo rant and have cleared up the title, without further ado kids, this is my story about my trip to Kettle Point:

Basically, Kettle Point is home to the group “camping” site in Wood Buffalo National Park. Notice the quotation marks around “camping”, because the site is fully equipped with a yurt-like cabin, washroom and playground AND has private access to the lake. By camping standards, it’s luxury living. Its awesomeness factor is also significantly increased by the fact that it’s only about a 40minute drive out of Fort Smith, most of which takes you through prime bison-spotting territory. I literally squealed with delight the first time I saw one so much, my buddy had to pull over the car so I could scamper out and start an impromptu photo-shoot while blatantly ignoring everyone’s warnings not to get too close.

EEEEE!! Pretty bison!!

EEEEE!! Pretty bison!!

I basically went through the exact same squealing and jumping out of a car-scenario the first time I saw a black bear in Banff National Park, so I figured if I made it through that fine, I could definitely handle taking pictures of bison.

Eventually, I realized that everyone else had already seen a bison, weren’t nearly as ecstatic as I was and were more preoccupied with actually getting to the site, so I decided to hop back in the car so we could continue on our way.

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Avoiding scenic and thankfully not road-blocking fallen trees

After eagerly scanning the forest-lined road, searching for more bison (I saw quite a few more, to my delight and the pain of everyone else’s earlobes as the squealing continued), we suddenly turned a corner and BAM! Out of (what seemed to be) nowhere popped a colossal lake and an even more monumental sky.

Too.Much.Sky.Can't.Handle.

Too.Much.Sky.Can’t.Handle.

I spent a few moments being sky-struck (a condition I’ve been experiencing quite often where the afflicted party is so overtaken by the vastness of the wild blue yonder, they become momentarily paralyzed, mouth left slightly agape).

I eventually recovered and spent the remainder of the evening around the campfire being amazed instead at the fact that there were about 4,000,000 mosquitos buzzing around my face the entire evening, but that my bug dope (northern-speak for mozzie spray) was keeping from getting bitten even once before falling into a luxury, not freezing in a tent-sleep.

The next morning, I was up in time to frolic around one of the trails leading up to the site before the main attraction.

Basically felt like I was Red Riding Hood walking along this trail (even though my shirt was only kind of red and not-hooded)

Basically felt like I was Red Riding Hood walking along this trail (even though my shirt was only kind of red and not-hooded)

Did you really expect me to go camping and NOT take photos of flowers?

Did you really expect me to go camping and NOT take photos of flowers?

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EVEN THE STUMPS WERE PRETTY!

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I love this type of moss way too much!

If you were able to take the hint from the title, the main attraction is stand up paddleboarding. Now, SUP has gotten some bashing for basically being like surfing with a crutch in no waves. BUT, the fact that it was the only athletic activity I have ever been able to do well the first time I ever attempted it made it pretty awesome. Yeah, I was out on the lake for over an hour and never once fell off the board! Aw yeah, I’m a champ! If the water is calm, the board is pretty forgiving to slight wobbles, and I really got into the zen of the moment paddling across the calm, vast lake while towering over the water. At one point, I even came across a herd of bison grazing along the shoreline and was able to paddle right up to them without them so much as flinching. We locked eyes for an elongated moment before the bull returned to its grassy feast and I returned to paddling.

I eventually got off the board and shared it with everyone else :P

I eventually got off the board and shared it with everyone else :P

After cruising the waters for an undetermined amount of time, I checked my watch to realize it had broken several hours ago. Feeling in s sunny side of life kind of mood, I took this as a sign that time has no meaning at Kettle Point, it’s a place to get away from it all (unless you include friends, campfires, bison, mosquitos, SUPs or cabins in “it all”).

Ruff ruff ^_^

Ruff ruff ^_^