Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Year's traditions vary from country to country, culture to culture

Feasting: a part of any good New Year celebration.
So we have now entered the Year of the Monkey, with the Chinese or Lunar New Year having taken place last weekend.

It's at a different time of the year from the standard North American New Year, which is set on January 1 of the Gregorian Calendar, and the traditions are also very different.

There are similarities, of course. Music, food - LOTS of food! - and dance seem to play large roles in most new year celebrations. However, while in Canada, New Year's Eve tends to involve partying and and New Year's Day a family dinner (often planned around football bowl games on TV!) Chinese New Year's celebration even in Vancouver is very much more a family event. Traditional Chinese foods and family gatherings are still a big part of the day in many Chinese families in Vancouver. Of course, there's also the big New Year's Day parade in the city's Chinatown district. I've attended that, and it's always very colourful and plenty of fun.

I'm usually at home that time of the year, so we usually mark the occasion by cooking an Asian meal of some sort, and watching a movie with some kind of Chinese/Asian theme, sometimes even a show that has the theme of whatever animal that year is (monkey, tiger, dragon, etc.)

However, I have also been fortunate enough to celebrate New Year in Thailand. There, it's called Songkran, and it takes place in the first half of April. Again, it involves feasting, music, dance, and general celebration.

One of the interesting "traditions" that has evolved there the last several years is the use of super-soaker squirt guns to soak revellers...or even those not partying.

It all started with the Buddhist practice of sprinkling a blessing of water on someone's head when they enter a home or other area that's engaged in Songkran celebration. Somewhere, one year, someone got the idea squirting people with super soaker water guns was quicker. Now during the days leading up to the celebration, you risk getting soaked by strangers wherever you venture. (If you're a traveller with expensive camera gear, you might want to leave it in your hotel room if you want to avoid getting it wet.) Harmless, but sometimes annoying.

video
When not eating at Songkran, I was busy watching traditional Thai dance.

While I was there, I spent some time wandering around Wat Pho, one of Bangkok's premier temples. In addition to it being famous for its reclining Buddha, this temple is also the go-to place to learn the techniques of Thai massage, and earn certification in the practice.

Within the temple grounds, there was a market with food stalls. I also spent some time in an outdoor area along the Bangkok waterfront, where there were more food stalls (well, I did say there was always plenty of food eaten at new year's celebrations), dance and other artistic and cultural displays.

That's right - more food! Thai fish balls at the temple.
That's the only time I've been out of Canada for a new year's celebration, so my experience is limited to three cultures: Canadian, Chinese (as practised in Canada), and Thai.

I have eaten some East Indian food at a Sikh temple while researching a magazine piece for food on Vaishaki or Baishaki Day, which is the East Indian New Year's Day which takes place in April. But the research was done in November for a spring publication, so that's the closest I've come to "celebrating" Vaishaki (which is also a harvest festival.)

There are many other Asian cultures in Vancouver aside from Chinese, Thai, and East Indian, including Vietnamese. The Vietnamese New Year or Tet Nguyen Dan (Tet for short) is very similar to the Chinese New Year, in that it is also a "lunar" new year.

While the food may be different, the aspect of celebrating by feasting with family is a strong thread in that country's culture - as is the case with Mongolian, Tibetan, Japanese, Korean new year's celebrations. All those cultures use the same basic lunar calendar.

Whatever culture you're in, however and whenever you like to celebrate a new year, I hope the Year of the Monkey is a good one for you.

Gung hay fat choy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Remembering my primate encounters as the Year of the Monkey looms



A mother orangutan with baby, at Semenggoh, Borneo.
The eerie sound of a howler monkey reverberated through the South American forest as our guide shook my tent gently to awaken me - unnecessary in this instance. Although it was only 6 a.m., I'd been awake for at least 30 minutes, soaking up the sounds - the monkeys, the birds, the insects - that reminded me I was on a paddling trip in the Amazon.

That was the first time I'd ever heard a howler monkey, and once you hear it, it's a sound you never forget.

It was not the first time I'd been around primates in the wild, mind you. That came probably 10 years before, in Africa.

This weekend, in many places around Asian cities and towns, and also many places closer to home in Vancouver, the sounds heard will not be those of monkeys calling out, but rather the sounds of "Gung hay fat choy!" (and all its various spellings).

The Chinese New Year is upon us, and with it, we enter into the Year of the Monkey. I myself was born in the Year of the Monkey, and so I'm hoping that means it will be an auspicious year for me.

To mark the event, I thought it would be interesting to look back at all the times I'd experienced and encountered wild monkeys in my travels. However, I won't just restrict it to monkeys - I'll also include other primates. I've been lucky enough to see three of the four great apes in the wild: gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons. I have not seen chimpanzees in the wild, however. (Note to self: go back to Africa some day, see some chimps as well as some African grey parrots.)

AFRICA

I first encountered wild monkeys in Tanzania. We were on a six-week trip through Africa and as we drove down onto the plains of East Africa from the Central African highlands of Burundi, we could see groups of animals moving through the bush Savannah, alongside the road. They were troops of baboons, a fairly common sight along the plains of Africa, as we were to learn in the ensuing weeks. (A huge pain in the behind, too, around areas where people congregate. They have no fear of man, can be aggressive, and pack a nasty bite. Vehicles always have to be closed and locked tight in parking lots where they frequent, lest you come back to an interior decimated by their hunting for food or other objects that might catch their eyes.)
Maheshe climbs down.

While baboons are fairly common, a week earlier in that trip, I'd encountered something much more rare, one of those experiences that usually only comes once in a lifetime - if you're lucky. On the other side of Burundi sat Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and it was in that country's Kahuzi Biega National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that I got up close and almost personal with a family of eastern lowland gorillas, an extremely endangered species.

After trekking through the jungle for four hours, we finally spotted the silverback (or he first spotted us, more likely) sitting on a log, checking us out. We passed muster, he wandered back to the rest of the gorillas. We watched a mother nursing a baby on the forest floor, were pelted by fruit flung by some bratty juveniles, then were treated to the sight of Maheshe climbing down from the tree in which they'd been feeding and saunter off into the jungle with his charges.

We were to encounter more monkeys in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, as well as baboons off and on throughout our African odyssey. Our route did not take us near any wild chimps, though.

BORNEO

Just as endangered as the gorillas of Africa are the orangutans of Asia. They exist in the wild on only two islands, Sumatra and Borneo. I've been fortunate in that I've seen them in two different rehabilitation sanctuaries in Malaysia - Semenggoh and Sepilok - where they live in the forest, but are undergoing gradual re-acclimatization to the wild. They do come to the reserves' feeding stations twice a day, where they can acquire papayas, bananas, cabbages, and other food, then melt back into the forest to pursue the solitary lives they tend to lead.

A young proboscis monkey shows signs of a big nose.
I was even luckier that on two different evenings while participating in wildlife viewing cruises along the Kinabatangan River, I saw two solitary orangutans climbing trees, preparing "night nests" to sleep in.

Many of the creatures at the sanctuaries arrive there after becoming victims of the pet trade. But a much greater threat is posed from habitat loss as a result of the massive deforestation going on so companies can reap the rewards from the palm oil industry.

Obviously, the orangutans are not the only species of animal threatened, although they are arguably the closest to extinction in the wild. But some other iconic primates are also threatened by industrial development.

One of those is the proboscis monkey, a primate that can actually say "size matters" when it comes to the mating game. The size of the males' noses, that is. The males with the biggest, most bulbous, most prominent schnoz tends to get the pick of the ladies. We saw plenty of those monkeys along the Kinabatangan, as well as in Bako National Park, located near the Malaysian city of Kuching.

A gibbon hangs out in the trees of the rain forest.
In addition to the proboscis and other monkeys that live along the Kinabatangan, we also found several gibbons. Like the howler monkeys of the New World, these apes have a very distinctive call that echoes throughout the jungle. However, they are apes, not monkeys - even though they appear to be monkeys, the way they move through the trees - and are more closely related to orangutans and gorillas than their long-tailed cousins.

Like orangutans, gibbons also face dangers from the pet trade and deforestation.

These species are some of our closest relatives in the animal world, many of them having DNA estimated to be 97 per cent similarity to humans.

I feel very privileged to have been able to see many of them in the wild. I would be very sad if that opportunity is lost to the next generation. So in this Year of the Monkey, maybe give some thought about helping out our primate cousins and helping out in any way you can - whether it's through volunteering your time, donating money, being aware of your shopping choices, or even just passing along information about this situation on social media channels.

Here are some websites to help you get started (many of them also have social media pages on Facebook and other platforms):






Note that I haven't vetted any of these sites; they're just to help you get started.

Although the thought of losing a species of ape or monkey to extinction is extremely sad, there is still hope. And where there is hope, there can be reason to celebrate efforts to halt the path to extinction. On that note, I'll close out with a silly song featuring monkeys and an orangutan and a place I have not been to yet, India. Enjoy! And since the words are included, feel free to sing along - or even dance!)

Oh, and Happy Year of the Monkey!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The evolution of (campfire) coffee

"Campfire and coffee, from a tin cup in my hand,
Sure warms the fingers when it's cold."
- from the song, "God Must Be a Cowboy at Heart," by Dan Seals, © 1983

We've come a long way from the days when "cowboy" coffee was a camper's only choice. While an occasional tin cup of that strong but gritty brew is fine, today's coffee-quaffing campers have almost as many choices on the trail as do city-dwelling caffeine hounds.
Cappuccinos up!

Cowboy coffee pots

While it might be considered "retro", you can still use this old method of throwing grounds in boiling water, then drinking (and often chewing!) the results. All you need are a black enamel pot, a campfire and ground coffee

There are different schools of thought about the best way to brew campfire or cowboy coffee. Add a handful of fresh grounds to a pot of cold water and boil it; or, boil it then add the grounds (my preferred method). Some campfire chefs throw in crushed eggshells - or even a whole egg! -  to help the grounds settle, but I've never subscribed to that.

Whichever method you choose, when the grounds sink, the coffee is ready.

Coffee, percolator style

When my regular camping partner tired (very quickly!) of my cowboy coffee on our early trips together, we switched to a percolator to keep the grounds out of the water.
The coffee is a-brewin'...

I remember this as the preferred method on all our family camping trips. Of course, my dad wasn't a cowboy and the cappuccino craze hadn't hit North America, then. The first percolators were made in 1825, so it is a tried-and-true method of coffee brewing.

The method is simple: fill the basket with coffee, the pot with water, boil it then percolate it until the coffee is as strong as you like it. You'll need to experiment to determine how long to percolate it to reach the desired strength.

Campers can "espresso" themselves

These hit the market in the early 1990s.  My partner still wasn't crazy about my camp coffee, so I bought this little device for her birthday one year. (She's never complained about my coffee since - or about any birthday present, either.)

Brewing with this set-up is similar to using a percolator: fill a basket with espresso-grind, fill the pot with water, then heat it until the coffee is forced up through the upper chamber and nozzle into your waiting cups. Once the brew is out, there is still enough steam coming from the nozzle to froth milk if you want to turn your espresso into cappuccino.
Who's up for camp espresso?

 This works best over a portable stove, or a Coleman stove, than a campfire. Place a cup (metal!) on the lid to catch the coffee before it starts coming out, because when it is ready, it comes out very fast!

Press-ing on to new coffee frontiers

So-called "French presses" or plunger pots became all the rage in homes about the same time campfire cappuccinos became available. Now they are available for camping, either as plunger pots or press/cup combinations, in which the press/plunger doubles as a lid.

The method is very simple: boil water, add it to grounds in the pot/mug, steep to the desired strength, then press the plunger down. Pour it into a mug, and voila! - a strong cup of java without grounds. Aficionados claim it is closer to a "true" coffee taste, although having chewed a few chocolate-covered coffee beans in my time, I can vouch it still doesn’t compare to the taste (or kick!) of a few of those caffeine-packed goodies.

Whatever method you choose, a drop or two of Bailey's always seems to make it go down even better.

To put you in the mood, I'll leave you with this music video by Jerry Vandiver, dedicated to those of us who really appreciate their coffee in camp.


It's tough to beat the scenery and ambiance of coffee enjoyed in the outdoors.

(A slightly different version of this was originally published in Coast Magazine, July 2001, B.C. edition)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hit the road! Thoughts on road trips, ideas for good ones

Road trip!
Time to hit the road. Even if you're not Jack.

Those two simple words can send all kinds of emotions running through your brain. Depending on your own experience with road trips, those thoughts and emotions can be anywhere from ecstatic to fearful - with everything in-between.

I'm sure most of us have had road trips that could be best described by an old Clint Eastwood movie - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

If you look it up in Google, you'll find all kinds of references - to best road trip movies, best 10 road trip lists, road trip music, great drives, and so on. You don't find a definition right away - and that's not surprising. The phrase "road trip" can mean different things to different people.

When you look up "road trip definition," this is what you'll find:
1. a journey made by car, bus, etc.
2.
 (North American) in sports, a series of games played away from home

The first I heard the phrase used was in a sporting context, as in, "the Toronto Maple Leafs are on a western road trip, around the NHL's expansion teams."

One of the first "road" trips I ever took was a combination of the two. Broadcasting varsity sports contests in the Maritimes on student radio at UNB always involved travelling to a distant location, so we had to take a "road trip" to get there. I have some amazing memories - most of them good, and even a few not so good - from those trips.

Sometimes, you hit the road to see sports.
Probably my first really long road trip involved a journey from Westlock, Alberta (an hour north of Edmonton) to Seattle, Washington - and back - in the space of three days. My buddy Peter Kilburn and I wanted to go see an NFL game, so we headed off first thing Saturday morning and drove all the way to Abbotsford, B.C. in his new Trans Am. Well, he drove; I was in charge of making sure we always had music. The next day, we drove to Seattle, watched the Seahawks play the Kansas City Chiefs, drove back to Hope, B.C. after the game, slept there, then hit the highway back to Edmonton the next day.

 Pretty whirlwind. But lots of fun.

That wasn't the longest road trip, I ever made, though. Many years later, I drove from Fort St. John, B.C. to Toronto in the space of a week (with a five-day layover to do a canoe trip in Algonquin Park), camping in national, provincial, and private parks along the way.

Ten days later, we made the return trip.

Most of the trips I've described above involve travel to get somewhere or do something. But there are many road trips that involve travel just for travel's sake, with no end destination in sight. That's why circle tours have become a popular facet of travel that tourism boards and operators promote to draw tourists and travellers to spend time in their areas.

Still, that has a bit of an element of "destination" to it. Sometimes, people just need to get away - and it doesn't matter where, they just need to "get gone" anywhere but where they are. Think, Thelma and Louise.

Now I could list my top favourite road trips (you've had a glance at a few of them), or list the top road trip tunes (I burned a whole CD of "road music" once, songs that ALL focus on the road - but everyone has different tastes), or any manner of "great drives" - but instead I'm going to give you an idea of what I think the most important five elements that go into any successful road trip. Of course, that excludes obvious elements like a car that works, money for gas, a valid drivers' licence, etc. which are no-brainers and would be included on a more comprehensive list.

1. Good company. This may seem like another no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people ignore this -and at their own peril. Spending days on end in a confined space like a car even with someone you love can sometimes get testy. So if you're neutral about the person, you might not survive the road trip. (Or your travelling companion might not, if you murder him/her).

Make sure to pack food - so you don't have to rely on roadkill.
 2. Great tunes. The importance of this cannot be overstated. A road trip without tunes can be boring - and dangerous. If you run out of things to talk about and don't have music, you might end up in scenario like described in No. 1. Or, if you get into a heated debate, music may save you from killing your partner, like No. 1, again. Best to try to have something everyone on the trip enjoys, too. Just don't include anything that's going to put the drive to sleep. The Travelling Wilburys or Blue Rodeo almost always trump anything "New Age."

3. A map (and a route plan). In this day of GPS and mobile map apps, it's still a good idea to have a real paper map. Your device my die; you may be out of any kind of reception in some areas. So take a road map. It also helps if you look up your route online and print it out to complement the map. It also helps to have a rough idea of where you're going to stay and what hotels are available. You may even want to pre-book hotel rooms, too. You could substitute guidebook for this, as many of them have maps included, and give you an idea of what there is to do, where to sleep, eat, etc. in the area you're visiting.

4. A charger for your device. See No. 4 above. Even if you have printed maps, a cellphone can come in handy for emergencies, etc. Plus you'll probably want to take photos and videos of the trip, and most people do that with their phones before.

5. Food and drink. Although you will be able to eat on the road, it helps to have plenty of pre-packed snacks and beverages so you're not ruled by the dictates of your stomach. Or lack of good dining options along the way. Water, juice, soft drinks and some fresh food as well as packaged food can at least take the edge off. So you don't get too hangry and ... you know, do a No. 1.

Okay, that's my take. Now get ready to hit the road.

And remember what Tom Cochrane said.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas often involves travel - and that's true of many seasonal movies, too

If you have to fly in December, you might as well fly a biplane.
Christmas travel and I are old friends.

From the time I went to university, until the time I graduated, every Christmas would involve travelling from UNB in Fredericton, New Brunswick, home to Toronto, then back again two weeks later.

That didn't change a whole lot when I graduated and moved out west to Alberta. Every other year, I'd fly home to Toronto to spend time with family. When I moved to Fort St. John, B.C. that continued, in fact, it increased. It seemed every third year I'd go to Fort Nelson to visit Ann's family, followed the next year by a Toronto trip, then one year at home.

I'm really glad I don't travel too much at Christmas, any more. The last time I went anywhere in December was 2004, when I spent a wonderful week in the Titusville area, paddling among alligators, riding in bi-planes, visiting the Kennedy Space Centre and birding.

I love spending Christmas at home with my human-parrot flock (Ann, Coco, Einstein, until this year, Nikki, and now newcomer Congo).

I really enjoy watching many of the Christmas movies that come out every year. It dawned on me just recently that many of them involve travel - including five of my favourites.

Here they are in a countdown...

5.  It's a Wonderful Life. At first glance you might say, "Where's the travel?" It's hinted at, more than actually done. Jimmy Stewart's "George Bailey" wants to travel, buys a big suitcase to go - but can never leave, because of family commitments coming up every time he's about to catch a train. His honeymoon  is spent in a rundown house festooned with travel posters. And then there's those classic quotes: "Do you know the three most exciting sounds in the world? ... Anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles," and, "I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum." So yeah, there is a strong element of travel in the story.


George Bailey would've used a suitcase like this. (morguefile.com)

4. Christmas in Connecticut. A romantic comedy featuring Barbara Stanwyck as a magazine food columnist who is not what she appears to be. It revolves around a trip from New York to Connecticut to convince the publisher she is a married woman on a farm - not a writer in Manhattan. Lots of gags and funny lines, great watch for couples and families.

3. Christmas with the Kranks. A daughter travelling to South America (then back), a Christmas cruise - it has travel written all over it. Hilarious physical comedy scenes with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis (especially the restaurant scene!), and Dan Akroyd as well as some very heart-warming moments make it a funny flick as well as good holiday fare. Good fun for all.

2. Home Alone/Home Alone 2. A trip to Paris. A trip to Florida. A trip to New York. Yeah, it's all based around holiday travel. But that's not why I watch them yearly. It's the incredible physical comedy by Macaulay Culkin, Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci, reminiscent of the Three Stooges shorts. Some great supporting actors pitch in, as well, like John Candy and Tim Curry. And when you watch it, don't forget to order the cheese pizza...

And the Number 1 Christmas movie that involves travel is...

1. A Christmas Carol (1951). There are at least 15 different movie versions of this Dickens story, and that's not counting cartoons or those flicks based loosely on this story. The Alister Sims version is the best in my opinion.
While the travel consists mainly of visiting locations in England, it ALSO involves time travel, back into the past as well as into the future.
And that would make it "king" in terms of travel in any Christmas movie.

Merry Christmas!



Who can forget some of the classic airport scenes in Home Alone and Home Alone 2?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Don't stop travelling - Paris, the rest of the world, needs travellers more than ever

Travel writers often desire to write about our own special memories of a place when that place is in the news like Paris has been the past week, particularly if it involves tragedy.

Unfortunately, the only memory I have of Paris involves running through Orly International Airport, trying to make a connecting flight to Madrid, Spain.

I was en route to Tenerife in the Canary Islands to attend an international parrot symposium at Loro Parque; I'd flown into Heathrow early that morning and my flight through the Netherlands had been cancelled, and re-routed through France.

Someone from Air France had me de-plane ahead of everyone else and led me on a run through a series of back doors and empty hallways to get me to the plane on time. I distinctly felt like I was stuck in a Home Alone movie, and I kept waiting for the theme music or  "Run, Rudolph, Run" to begin playing.
Nothing to do with Paris - plenty to do with
parrots in the Canary Islands.

I did make it. But I had no chance to even think about soaking up anything vaguely French in the airport. I haven't been back, since.

Now, some of my favourite movies of all time revolve around, or are set in, Paris. Movies like...
  • Casablanca ("We'll always have Paris!")
  • The Three Musketeers ("One for all, and all for one!")
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame ("Sanctuary! Sanctuary!")
  • Irma La Douce ("But that's another story...")
But, those films and a few others, along with my quick run through Orly are all I have to draw on in terms of memories of Paris.

Sadly, with the kind of event that took place on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, there is a great deal of backlash that is unfortunate and undeserved.

I'm talking about reactions like burning mosques in Peterborough, Ontario...attacking a Muslim mother in Toronto as she went to pick up her children at school...those are just a few examples of the wrong types of knee-jerk reactions - the key word there being "jerk." As in the people doing that.

I won't spend much more time on that, as this is largely a travel blog, and others have written ad infinitum about that in political columns, on op-ed pages of newspapers, and so on.

With the anger, there is also an aura of fear.

No one wants to travel to Paris - or many other places right now.

What I will suggest is the one thing we CANNOT do is to stop travelling. To Paris - or anywhere. That way the terrorists win. It shrinks the world, it puts up more walls, burns more bridges, when we should be tearing down walls and building bridges.
Travel can help do that. 

Travel helps us connect to others, to people around the world, it helps us to understand we are just like them, and they like us.

For as Mark Twain said...

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

People need to let go of the fear and let go of the perception that Muslims are different and that all Muslims are terrorists. And we need to travel. Hell, travel to a Muslim country (make sure it's a moderate one, mind you.)

Azlina, our Muslim guide in Malaysia:
a very warm and knowledgeable hostess.
I've travelled in a Muslim country - Malaysia - and I did not really feel any different than I did travelling anywhere else in the world.

There may be a few dress codes that seem a bit more conservative than in our own North American or European cities - but that's also true in the very Christian African country of Malawi (more so, in fact, as I can attest to, having been there myself).

I found Malaysia actually had a very tolerant attitude toward all religious faiths.

In one city street, in the course of a few blocks, there were Mosques, Christian churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples. I wonder if the same can be said of other places in the world?

We need to keep travelling, to meet others, to build bridges, not burn them...tear down walls, not build them up - and the process, build friendships the world over.

For as another great writer, Robert Louis Stevenson (who visited Paris while paddling around France) said...

"We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend."

So go, travel, find an honest friend.

Now to leave you with a song about Paris, from another writer, balladeer Jimmy Buffet...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Vancouver is haunted - and not just by Canucks' playoff failures

Terrifying trolley! (Photo by Vancouver Trolley Co.)
Was she a ghost? She looked like one, but I couldn't be sure...

That's a question you'll have to ask for yourself, if you go on the Vancouver Trolley Company's Haunted Trolley Ride.

In keeping with the spirit of the Halloween season, the company offers an annual "haunted ride" around Vancouver.

It's quite a trip.

When you first embark, you enter a bus full of skulls, spider webs, bats and other Halloween paraphernalia. Scary sounds echo over the sound system. And, of course, your guides look like they've stepped right off the screen from old reruns of the Addams Family or the Munsters.

Looking around, even some of your fellow passengers may look a bit scary...

Isn't that Ichabod Crane over there with the pumpkin head? And that looks like Dracula...albeit, a bit on the young side for a 300-year-old count. And is that really the Wolfman - or did that guy just run out of razor blades (about 2 months ago)?

It's all in good fun, of course.
Is that a faceless pumpkin? A bat-head? Or Ichabod Crane?
After everyone boards, the bus proceeds to make several stops around the city of Vancouver, places where there have been unsolved murders, inexplicable occurrences, and reported hauntings throughout the years.

Some of them look like they would make a good setting for movies like The Amityville Horror or Black Christmas. But other places, you'd never suspect...

For example, did you know there is (supposedly) a body buried under the intersection of 33rd Avenue and Fraser Street in Vancouver? That's what a local legend tells...

You'll learn more about that and other ghostly Vancouver sites during the tours.

Eventually, you do end up walking through a cemetery...in the dark...late at night...maybe under a full moon...

Be on the lookout for wandering wraiths. The one I think I saw, I caught out of the corner of my eye.

After traipsing through the graveyard, you'll have another Halloween treat: a stop at the Vancouver Police Museum. There you'll meet a rather unconventional M-E (certainly nothing like the ones on Castle or Hawaii Five-O) who will take you on a tour of the old city morgue.

After that, you might want to pop out for a cold one - or perhaps not.

The tours only run until Oct. 31 though, so you better hurry if you want to participate. That gives you two more days to get your ghost on, in Vancouver.

If you can't make it to a trolley tour, there are other spooky events you could attend...you could ride the Stanley Park Halloween Ghost Train, an eerily good time; or, stroll through the haunted halls of the Burnaby Haunted Village.

There are other "haunted houses" in the Greater Vancouver area, there's a list here.

Just be sure to keep the number for Ghost-Busters handy. Because if you get spooked, who else are you gonna call?


Ray Parker Jr. Ghostbusters by Celtiemama