Having left arctic for almost a half year, the recent strikes of arctic air over pretty much of whole Canada remind me of my past five years life in arctic. In coming days, i would like to make a few … Continue reading
In Past week, I had an unforgettable trip to Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, the Inuit name of Belcher Islands on which the small Inuit community locates. There are totally 25 communities in Canada’s youngest territory-Nunavut, of which 23 are all on arctic coasts, except Baker Lake that sits inland in Qivalliq region, and Sanikiluaq lies on northern coast of Belcher Islands surrounded by vast Hudson Bay.
In addition to its unique location in middle of ocean, this community is also the southernmost community in Nunavut, and the distance from Sanikiluaq to Grise Fiord by Google map, the northernmost community of Nunavut Territory I visited last year (also the northern most civic centre of Northern American), is over 2300 km. As it is out of the Arctic Circle, there is night-time in summer as most of other places in Canada do, and this stunned me when I had my first dark night-time since middle of May. As most of Belcher Islands consist of exposed sedimentary as well as volcanic rocks, whole commute looks like sitting on a big quarry site, where gavels and cobbles are everywhere except patches of tundra at outside skirt covered by flourish tundra flowers.
Anyone step on this bare-land first time would wonder how people survive on such infertile islands even without trees, the answer is wildlife. Common eider ducks use the islands as habitat year round, marine mammals and fish, such as beluga whale, bowhead whales, walrus, seals and arctic chars are abundant.
Flourish flowers cluster on arctic tundra
Symbolic landmark in Arctic Inukshuk varying in shape but visible in each communities, this one is very unique as it is consists of a flat rock at the bottom
这个饭馆的特殊之处在于，它不仅有美味的北部原住民的地道的鱼类佳肴，还在于这儿见证来自全球旅游者到黄刀看北极光留下的涂鸦之作，和贴在屋顶上的种作为“到此一游”见证的各国货币。其中最让我吃惊的是津巴布韦的面值 10,000,000(一千万) 纸币，其市值相当于一加元, 由此可见，在这个饱受西方制裁的南部非洲国家，通货膨胀率是何等可怕。我最近的一次光顾是在二月中旬, 同事吃完晚饭出门，运气不错就看到了一抺碧绿的北极光，形如展翅翱翔的雄鹰。
Las Vegas entitles itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World that is true as it is a man made metro city in wild southwest desert with spectacular night and diversified architecture styles. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you can appreciate some most naturally beautiful scenes in US in day time while without missing Las Vegas strip lit by all of neon.
The most famous tourism attraction close to Las Vegas is the Grant Canyon. If time is not an issue, none of the West Rim and the South Rim, two hot spots in Grand Canyon should not be missed, even though in some people’s views, the West Rim isn’t real the Grand Canyon, rather a cash cow for tour companies and the local Native Americans, while the South Rim is where breathtaking scenery got well familiar with by the world through magic photography on National Geography. Nevertheless, hundred thousands of tourists are still attracted by the West Rim each year since the Skywalk is built in 2007. My South Rim visit was a 16 hours road trip, but the real time my feet on the edges of the Grand Canon was is merely 3 hours, rest of time was spent on motor coach reviewing wild west desert. Ideally, I would have driven by myself and overnight in Grand Canyon, which would allow me for a across canyon hiking. But every thing comes with its price, the efficiency for having it within single day compromised joy and appraisal of the magic geophysical beauty on where can compete.
Mather Point, South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park
There are also some natural attractions much closer to the city. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Valley of Fire state park are two most accessible sightseeing destinations where natural scenery is truly breathtaking. After talking to Hotel staff, I was recommended to visit the latter one, given that I have reviewed a “Grand” canyon. As a result, I spent a whole day in Valley of Fire, Nevada’s oldest state park, located only 90 km northeast of Las Vegas. It is far less well known, but it is called one of a few photographers paradise in Nevada. The whole park is full of rich, vibrant colors of eroded sandstone and sand dunes that dotted desert. Entering it, I felt I was step on an alien planet when in sight of those sandstone with a variety of colors and shapes. Not surprisingly many movies shot their outside senses partially or totally in the park. The most famous one may be Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Star Trek Generations.
拉斯维加斯，上世纪中期以赌博(Gambling)掘起，因而得名赌城。但财色往往如影相随，由于赌博业的繁荣，也带动了成人娱乐业（Adults Entertainment )的大发展, 两者相得益彰，也正如此，赌城又多了一个外号-罪恶之城(Sin City)。从上60年代后政府打破了黑手党对博彩业的垄断，世界上顶级假日酒店陆续进住，赌城又向度假酒店（Resort）购物(Shopping)，美食（Fine dining ）以及大众娱乐方向全面发展，现在拉斯维加斯已自称是“世界娱乐之都”，这绝不是吹牛，据说全球顶级的25家假日酒店集团，就有19家在拉斯维加斯扎堆。此外，到拉斯维回斯才知道，它还有一个名字叫“婚礼之都”，因为每年有超过10万对新人在这儿喜结连理，这个说法从每个大酒店都有一个小的结婚小教堂(chapel)得到了佐证。这样，从儿童喜欢的街头杂耍到顶级的文艺演出，从喧嚣的艳舞到严肃庄重的婚礼，整个城市犹如一个万花筒，使人目不暇接。但总体上，拉斯维加斯仍是一个纵情享乐、追逐刺激地方，富豪们可以在超星级酒店一掷千金，没钱的也可以在遍地开花的老虎机上花一二百元靡战一宵，做做一夜暴富的美梦。
观光：这也是我们此行的主要目的。拉斯维加斯市内大型赌场及观光区集中在两个地方，一个是拉斯维加斯大道（Las Vegas Blvd），一条长约4英里的带状区，故名Strip，这儿是拉斯维加斯主要观光区。这一带酒店与赌场鳞次节比，建筑风格多彩多姿但又有机地联成一片。在Strip上，每一个酒店都有一种特定的文化和建筑风格，从最古老的的埃及文明，古罗马，古希腊，中世纪文艺复兴时期，到最新的钢玻结构，应有尽有。每当夜幕降临，拉斯维加斯便成了灯火世界，五光十色的霓虹灯将拉斯维加斯大道装点得如梦幻世界。另一个就是拉斯维加斯市中心（Downtown）, 虽然拉斯维加斯赌场始于此（上世三十年代以后）。跟朝气蓬勃的Strip相比，市中心还是有些英雄迟暮，英华消逝之感，但若把时光倒推半个世纪，仍可想像当初的辉煌。为了留住渐渐疏远的游客，拉斯维加斯市中心于1995年近推出了一个叫Fremont Street Experience 的项目，后又在2005年又进行了大规模升级。每当夜幕降临，在长达100米的电子穹型街顶上，每隔一小时都会上演一个6分钟长，由声，光，电打造的艺术盛宴。街道上各种艺术表演则从白天开始，贯穿始终，直至午夜。
Bellagio 酒店前面的音乐喷泉（从Eiffel Tower上俯视），拉斯维加斯观光必看项目之一
酒店内部也是以奇制胜，这是Bellagio大厅内的 Bellagio Reservations
赌博：维加斯的繁荣始于赌博，自然赌博便成为它最主要的特色。现在的维加斯，大的酒店，更贴切一些应该叫Mall，都在经营赌场。每一个“mall”里，除了赌场，还有购物中心，餐厅及以及演出中心，汇集于同一个天空下。我说的天空是人工天空，一年四季，任凭外面花开花落，冬去春来，里都是蓝天白云。赌场里老虎机，扑克牌，骰子到轮盘赌应有尽有，而且装潢极尽奢华。但奢华并非需要不菲的赌资，小赌也可怡情。来加拿大虽然也有8年多了，但对赌博的兴趣始终没有培养起来, 可能与最初在Winnipeg 及Edmonton几次尝试中遭遇滑铁卢有关。在拉斯维加斯未满18岁的未成年人不能靠近赌机的。这次在维加斯一周的逗留中，只陪着老婆大人（Home Minister）在孩子入睡后到楼下赌场里玩了几次，她初战即尝到赢钱甜头，竟然惹得赌性大发，以至每次都恋恋不舍地离开。为了巩固和培养像她这样的新手的的赌兴，维加斯机场也备有有老虎机，这样在机场办好登机手续离开前，还可以把口袋中剩余的钱拿出来做最后一掷。
Paris Vegas 里的赌场及室内通向埃菲尔铁塔的大理石桥梁。这个Paris Vegas Hotel不仅有原高一半的埃菲尔铁塔复制品，还有一半大小的凯旋门，使我等没有去过巴黎的人也能一睹法兰西建筑的精髓。
演出：拉斯维加斯不只赌博，文化娱乐也非常丰富，而且雅俗兼备。 大型的饭店均有夜总会、晚餐秀等的表演，有些赌场中间也可能就有舞台，不时会有Showgirls 上台表演一番。好多在酒店都有剧场，上演大型百老汇的音乐剧及喜剧，中间穿插杂技魔术表演。拉斯维加斯不光有好来坞和百老汇式的流行演出，也吸引了一批艺术界的精英经常光顾演出。我们逗留期间，美国魔术师David Copperfield 和 加拿大国宝级的歌星Celine Dion 就在维加斯淘金，在里约大酒店(Rio)我们也看到华人熟悉周华健春节演出的海报。最经典的维加斯歌舞（俗名大腿舞）主要在两个地方演出：只限于成人叫Jubilee, 在 Bally’s; 还有一个叫 VEGAS! The Show ，老少皆宜。前者由于没有事先预定，两次到打折售票处 都没买到。但我们有幸买到了VEGAS! The Show，而且还是打半折。VEGAS! The Show是Planet Hollywood的招牌 节目，去时GPS把我们领到Caesars Palace附近, 以为演出就在那个球型的Planet Hollywood 广告牌附近， 折腾一番没找到，最后问别人才明白那个招牌是Hollywood 餐厅所在地，而演出是在Paris Vegas南边的Planet HollyWood Hotel里，前后折腾了近一个小时。 事先在旅游攻略上没看到的是拉斯维加斯有不少打折售票处（Tix 4 Tonight Box Offices）， 这儿可以买到当天的打折票，从演出到餐厅， 什么票都有，而且折扣都不小。
除了售票演出，还有一种是免费的演出，我们看过的有下面几种，有些太精彩了还看了两遍：Bellagio: Music Fountains; Treasure Island: Sirens Of Ti; Mirage: Volcano; Rio: Floating Carnival; MGM: The lion habitat; Las Vegas Downtown: Fremont Street Experience。 我的朋友Amy推荐的单子还包括下面几项，可惜当时手机不能显示中文而错过了：Caesars Palace：Show; Silverton casino: Deep Sea Aquarium; Circus-Circus: free circus show。
饮食。对于正餐，一来钱包不鼓，再者，在墨西哥吃一顿饭花几个小时的经历至今记忆犹新,所以这次出去以自助餐（Buffet）为主，一般每人每餐在20-30之间。如果在购物中心的Food court 里则要便宜得多，价格跟多伦多差不多。现在随着中国游客的增多，好多酒店里都有中国餐厅。在Forum Shopping Mall里，餐饮区与文艺复兴时期的意大利雕塑艺术完美地结合起来了，置身其中，浓浓的欧洲世中纪纪艺术氛围使你难以想像这一切是在内华大达沙漠中。
交通： 拉斯维加斯，大的酒店都有Shuttle Bus 到strip上的主要景点去。如果是在Strip游玩，最好不要开车，因为游人如织，堵车是家常便饭。酒店后面的停车场倒是也给非酒店的旅客提供免费停车，但因为是圣诞期间上，不开到五楼以上，基本上是找不到空位的，即使停了车还得走一阵子才能到前面的大道上。所以如果有孩子与老人最好住在Strip上。 拉斯维加斯的公交系统很发达，公共汽车叫RTC,共有两种公交车，一种是叫Duce, 这是一种站站都停的双层观光公交。 还有一种是快速公交（Express Bus）, 只停大站，司机开得也很疯，感觉更快。两种车型计价系统都一样，5元2小时，全天通票 7元，8岁以下儿童免费。 我们刚开始不知道，买票时也给小姑娘买了Day Pass, 第二次还要犯同样的错误时，被一个当地老同志纠正过来了。再次感到了美国人的友善，愤青们可以恨美国政府及政客，但别恨普通老百姓，他们跟你我一样善良。轨道交通类似于迪斯尼乐园里的高架轻轨，叫Mono rail, 取决于线路，有的收费，有的免费,有的在室外，有的在室内，但都与周围环境融为一体，在实现其运输功能的同时，自身也成为其景观的一部分。
Newfoundland is the place where the New World begins, as it was the first place on North American where Vikings and colonists landed. Actually I got to know Newfoundland in text-book when I was even in middle school back in China. Thinking of landed in Canada a few years ago at Pacific cost in Vancouver, and have been in a small hamlet facing the Arctic Ocean for quite a while, it has been some time for me hoping to have a look at what the Atlantic Ocean looks like. In past October, my dream was fulfilled after 10 hour flights on a duty travel from Canada’s Arctic to its Atlantic Ocean coast. And I was totally surprised by its picturesque coastal cliffs, colour architecture and rich folklore and history. It was out of tourism seasons for whales watching and birds statuary tours, as such boat tour was not available for visitors, which means I had not chance to see the biggest birds colonies in North American, not mention the exotic puffins. But I did saw ringed seal and a rock grouse on the way to Ferryland, the oldest settlement village in early 17th contrary. Just before heading for St. John’s, my friends in Cambridge Bay told me not to miss the chance to be certified as a real “newfy” through a “Screech” ceremony. Never forgot this and that turned out a swift tour on George Street, like the Adelaide Street in Toronto fully of bars and music. I was warmed in a cold wetly October night by both “Screech” and warm-hearted newfies, a memory never be forgotten.
Cabot Tower on Signal Hill, the site of the first trans-Atlantic wireless message.
Fishing post in old town of St.John’s
Unique but typical street scene in St. John’s
Some photos took in this summer.
In past two months, I had opportunity to visit east arctic again to hold public meetings in 11 remote cities and communities. Some facts about travel in arctic are very interesting:
Time zones. Canada has 6 different time zones from Atlantic coast to Pacific coast, but in Nunavut, there are three time zones, so you have to adjust your watch frequently to make sure the you are at right time. One community in Nunavut, Coral Barbour, make this even worse, it is located in Eastern Standard Time zone, but its time turns into as the Central Standard time as it does not adopt the Daylight Save system in summer season. because of the time zones, you flew two hours, but the arrive time was the same with departure time.
Transport. There is no road in Nunavut connecting neighbor communities and cities. Except hunting, air is the only way for business travelers, even it is as close as 60 miles. Take the trip from Igloolik to Hall Beach as an example, we still had to travel by air, and that was only 15 minutes flight. You can see your destination when air plan climbed to normal flight elevation from departure airport, and you are ready to land.
Logistic. Logistic is always the biggest challenge for traveling in arctic. Some places don’t have enough hotel rooms for a large team ( our team consisting of 7-11 people). so it was very common for us to share rooms with coworkers or strangers in some cases. Rooms were shared, but don’t expect cost would be reduced by half, one night hotel cost (actually spend on one bed) is more than what you pay for a week long holiday in Las Vegas from Toronto. In addition to accommodation, food was another challenge, some small hotels did not have restaurants, we had to prepare our food from previous location.
Travel in arctic is tough, but picturesque landscape and breath taking aerial scene will make every effort you made worthwhile. Here are some photos I took during the trips.
Strange patters and open water lead on pack sea ice in Lancaster Sound, Lancaster Sound is the east portion of famous Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Actual, some of the arctic ocean never frozen up even under minus 60 degree due to strong ocean currents, the opening is called lead, which is critical to marine wildlife living in arctic year round.
Rough fast ice in front of mountainous Grise Fiord, it is the Canada’s most northerly community with a latitude 76 degree, and distance to the north pole only 1040km. How northerly it is? it is 1160 km north of the Arctic Circle, with in which, any piece of land or water is called arctic.
When the most of middle east part of North American Continent is stumbling in the rampage of the most severe snow storm in this winter, the lower land of coast BC still enjoys wild but wet winter, last week I had a chance to visit Vancouver on my third time, and surely sobbed in warm spring like weather for a while after experienced chilling winter below minus 60 degree in arctic. Having known the influence of topography on the top of latitude to weather condition, but until you experience such a jump from minus 60 to plus 10, you would never really understand how big the influence is. Because of Rocky Mountains, the coast BC and Prairie of Canada just like two distinctive worlds in most deadly winter. But nothing is perfect, the mild weather does not make Vancouver an idea place for those want to escape from snowy winter for drier and sunnier destinations, as the great Vancouver, and nearby Victoria gets the most of annual precipitation in winter months, of which December and January are the wettest months in whole year. here are some shots from this trip to remember my short warmer break.
Comparing to gray sky in most of rainy day time, i more like glorious night scene, this is the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Torch, was fenced during the Olympic games, which made visitors who would like to make pictures very upset.
The past New Year holiday was a quiet one for me during which i just stayed in Toronto with my family except a few visits to nearby towns, which gave me plenty of time to enjoy spectacular holiday season ignored before. Toronto is such a dynamic city full of events and festivals year round, in Christmas and New Year holiday, the whole city is beautified by all kinds of brilliant creations of light and thrilled by endless events.here is some places or events attracting visitors and local residents in holiday season.
No where in Canada is better place than US for shopping, but window shopping is an exception, Fairview Mall in Christmas.
Arctic is a magic place on the earth, the most well known phenomena is the 24 hours sunlight in summer and 24 hours darkness in winter, the later is called polar night. Actually, there are more interesting but less known facts, such as, the sun rises in south and set in the south twice a year, and so does in the north once a year. When people enjoy 24 hours sunlight, they have to suffer some of the most severe weather events on the planet, one of them is the blizzard.
A blizzard is a extreme weather condition characterized by strong winds and very poor visibility, it usually occurs in early winter and spring. On Wikipedia, it is said a blizzard also featured by heavy snow falls and extremely low temperature, but that is not true. In a blizzard the temperature is not as low as it is in a clear days, and snow falls are not that heavy comparing to ordinary winter days, however due to the strong wind, it usually fees very cold contributed by wind chill not by temperature itself. Because of the strong winds, ground snow as well as falling snow is stirred in the air and flies in all directions that reduce visibility severely to few meters only. As such, the whole world seems emerged together, and that comes another word” whiteout”, which claimed many lives when people got lost even a few hundred meter away from their homes. Due to the severe weather condition during a blizzard, business and government offices usually close.
The latest blizzard in Cambridge Bay started in the Moring of last Friday (Nov.19) and will cease in the midnight of today. By my roommate Mike’s knowledge, it is the longest and the worst blizzard since he moved into arctic 10 years ago. As one of the results, power system failed a few times last night, and we run out tap water today, and can’t use wash room.
The follow photos took from the same spot from my window will tell a true arctic in a blizzard.
说起北极光，想到的自然是其瑰丽的色彩和变幻无常形态, 但最近的追寻之旅充分显示了其秘莫测的一面。虽然在加拿大北方都有可能看到，但就频度与强度而言， Yellowknife 处于最佳观测带上，因而每年都能吸引不少极光迷前来圆梦。其中最多便是日本人及韩国人，甚至不少日本人特意来Yellowknife打工，以便能亲眼目睹。