English Bay: a beach in the city

The first hotel in which I was was the Best Western Sands. As it name indicates, it is very close to English Bay, a “beach in the city” within Vancouver.

A last minute choice based on its proximity to the beach, this Best Western was more akin to a motel. In the end, a wrong choice for every possible reason. Indeed, I soon discovered that hygiene was an approximation in that hotel, as the toilet bowl sitting cover was covered in drops of urine that had never been cleaned. To make it worst, the reception never sent someone to clean, nor did they provide the disinfecting wipes I had asked for. It was a rather bad experience to start my stay in Vancouver, but I did not let that deter me. I went out immediately with my gear, to capture the snowstorm that was buffeting the city.

On day 2, after seeing Vancouver under the snow, I changed my hotel (more on that story at the end). I dropped at the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa a wonderful old England style hotel in the center of Vancouver. I may write more about the stay at that hotel, but this post is not the place for it.

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An epic snowstorm

Reading the news afterwards, I realized better how the storm hit the city.  The snow had disrupted significantly the city, with up to 20 cm in places. This provided a magnificent backdrop for photos, so, the evening of my arrival, I went out to shoot.

 

The engagement
The “engagement”, an artwork by the artist Oppenheim.

In some places, the view of the snowy English Bay was wonderfully enchanting, not unlike Finland. Bear in mind that these pictures were shot on tripod in the midst of a snowstorm.

Vancouver beach in snow
A building on Vancouver’s English bay beach

The best part was probably seeing kids and adults trying to sled down the icy slopes of English bay. Others built a quite complete snowman.

Snowman in English bay
A very nice snowman in English Bay

All in all, the very special setting of English bay made it a lovely place to shoot the snowstorm and the locals enjoying it.

Vancouver English bay beach
Vancouver English bay beach

English Bay under the snow by day

Of course, seeing the marvelous setting of English bay under the snow by day, just gave me the desire to come back. So, the next afternoon, I went back and got the chance of seeing a wonderful winter sky which gave a special tone to the place.

English bay in winter
The marvelous winter sky on English bay under the snow.

People were out in numbers to enjoy the snow on English Bay, given that the place is so scenic. Couples, among others took a seat watching the sea and the snowy landscape.

Couple on English bay watching scenery
A couple on English Bay, watching the scenery

Further away, it could be seen that many locals came to try either sledding on the snow, or even trying some cross-country skiing!

Cross-country skiing in english bay
An elderly couple trying cross-country skiing in English Bay

The most Asian of Canadian cities

Vancouver could be dubbed “the most Asian of Canadian cities”. Indeed, during my stay, I had the occasion of seeing quite a large part of the population being Asian. To be even more precise, I came across some retirees speaking Cantonese somewhere near main street. But Chinese and HongKongese are not the only ones here. I also heard a lot of Japanese, either families living in Vancouver, or tourists. Koreans were also well represented. This ethnic composition makes Vancouver quite a rich community.

It is thus no mystery that I came across a group of Asian students on English bay, celebrating (a graduation or a birthday). They were kind enough to pose for me when they saw me pointing my lens towards them.

Asian students in english bay
Asian students in english bay

Another sign of Asian influence was spotting these stone piles in English bay. For some reason, they always appear wherever Chinese visit (I saw them also in French beach, on Vancouver island).

Stone piles in English bay
Stone piles: a very Asian sign

The typical Canada geese were around, flying in their typical “V” formation and providing a lovely view for the beach.

Geese flying in English bay
Geese flying in V formation

When flying above the structures of English bay, this became a typical scene of Canada. Somehow, it proves that with some patience and open eyes, even birds flying around can become a good subject for photography (my previous example being on Haeundae beach, in Korea).

Geese over English bay
A flight of geese passing over English Bay

How to get there?

If you have a car, it is quite easy to get there, otherwise, you can take a metro straight from the airport to the station Waterfront or Burrard and then switch for the Trolleybus n° 6 which will take you quite nearby.

Another barefoot hike on the Dragon’s Back

On this extended week-end of Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, it was exciting to go for a hike. The easiest option available was, obviously, to go for another barefoot hike on the Dragon’s Back.

A crowded hike

On week-ends, habitually, the hike is pretty crowded, but on Chinese New Year, it became worse. Indeed, between mainland Chinese, expats and a throng of Filipina maids, the hike became quite busy.

However, as we started earlier, it was a bit less crowded at the start in the forest. You can see the terrain is pretty flat, with just some roots to watch for and the odd pebble.

Dragon's back beginning
Walking through the first part of the hike, which is a forested flat hike.

Once again, the Dragon’s back is one of the easiest and most accessible hikes of Hong Kong. I did it several times, and at least once before, barefoot at night. So, the whole first part of the hike went excessively well, if I except the habitual “barefoot!” exclamations of other hikers, or Chinese sniggering in my back. A few people gave me the thumbs up, some commenting that it was pretty “hardcore”. Filipina maids, generally look aghast…

 

On the Dragon’s Back

Once on the Dragon’s back, it was just the habitual ups and downs on the ridge… I decided not to fly the drone because of the high wind speed in altitude. In addition, the slight haze visible did make it less interesting to take pics (I had better pictures with better lighting and atmospheric conditions from previous visits). My wife took her turn photographing this time, and I played model.

Dragon's back
Past the first leg of the Dragon’s back.

Walking further on the trail, there was always that mixture of marvel, stupefaction or admiration in the other hikers. Seldom indifference, if at all. For a society tolerating plenty of devious behaviors, seeing someone barefoot seems pretty shocking…

My wife, this being said, wore her hiking boots. She gave me, also the occasion of shooting some pics of her along the trail.

Mitchy on Dragon's Back
Mitchy wearing hiking boots on the Dragon’s Back trail

Riding the Head

Reaching the end of the trail, this time, we pushed further to what might be deemed the “head” of the Dragon’s back: a cliff dominating the village of Shek O.

While situated beyond a warning panel, the views on this cliff are quite gorgeous and deserve a visit. However, the crowd present on the Dragon’s Back kept taking risks.

I noticed especially the Filipina maids, who have a propensity to take risks for the perfect selfie. Here, one of them kept posing on one leg right at the edge of the cliff (and it was quite windy!). The moment after this pic was shot, a wind gust blew away her cap…

Dragon's back maids
A Fililpina maid poses in equilibrium on one leg

The interesting of this last part of the hike from a barefoot hiking point of view, is that the granite of the cliff is a perfect terrain for walking barefoot. Where I used to find the terrain particularly slippery with hiking boots (the sand is rather treacherous!) or even trail running shoes, here, the rock was just perfectly adhesive with my bare feet. So, while this picture (courtesy of my wife!) may appear risky, it is well below any real risk-taking as there is a further ledge on the other side of the cliff, and there was no risk of slipping. The big issue is when people try taking selfies and don’t appreciate the distances behind them.

Barefoot on dragon's back
A barefoot portrait on the cliff above Shek O. Photo @mitchayfern

Shek O beach

The final goal, after coming down from the Dragon’s back, was to go to Shek O village. We did arrive there, had lunch, and then headed to the beach. With the strong winds the waves were quite powerful, and nobody was swimming. It was a perfect occasion to use the drone and shoot some spectacular scenes over the water.

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The interesting part was that some Filipina or Indonesian was having her prenuptial pictorials on the beach. I pirated some pics.

Prenup pictorial
Prenup pictorial on Shek O beach

Sometimes, some pics can be just as telling or as funny as you can imagine. Composition-wise, it was also interesting.

Prenup pictorial
Criss-crossing looks on the pictorial

Later, I also took a video of Shek O beach with my Mavic Pro:

How to get there?

I previously explained this point in a previous post. Please consult it for information. Once you complete the Dragon’s back trail, you can catch the bus n° 9, heading to Shek O. Be warned though, on crowded periods, the village and the beach can be quite busy… and the bus waiting queue can reach epic sizes.