Categorynorth america

Coca Cola Museum (Go there with a Pepsi shirt)

We had taken a super early flight out from Guadalajara that morning and had a short layover in Atlanta. Because of the early flight, I was still wearing the Chivas jersey from the day before, which was cool because randomly in the airport I’d see other people wearing the same jersey and we’d acknowledge each other in our mutual support for the Guadalajara team.

During the layover, we went to the Coca Cola Museum. At the ticket counter, one of the staff members randomly approaches me and asks me, “do you want a free T-shirt?”. When anybody offers anybody free anything, the first response is always skeptism and confusion. “What do I have to do?”, I replied. She replies, “WELL, you’ve got a Pepsi logo on your shirt”. The entire time, I never realized the Chivas jersey I was wearing even had a Pepsi logo. Kudos to her for picking that out (or maybe it was the red white and blue colours of the jersey that happen to be the Pepsi colours). At this point, I see the irony, and I take the free T-shirt and put it over my Chivas jersey. Pro tip to everyone going to the Coca Cola Museum: wear something with a Pepsi logo for a free T-shirt.

Inside the museum, they show off a ton of cool advertising/merchandise that Coke has made over the years in different countries. The museum was pretty busy and so it was pretty crowded in a lot of places.

Imagine decorating your living room like this!

This was probably the best part: drinking Coke branded drinks from different continents around the world.

For people into touristy things, then this museum would be a pretty cool place to go!

Photo album here

Spontaneous Trip to Guadalajara and the Liga MX Finals

My Mexican friend, who is an almost fanatical fan of the Guadalajara Chivas football team in Mexico and who also grew up in Guadalajara, asked me, “there’s a good chance that the Chivas will make it into the finals this year. If they do, I’m going to go back to Guadalajara and go to the game. Wanna come?” I replied back, “OK let’s do it”. Three weeks go by and my friend says, “so the Chivas made it into the final!” We bought our plane tickets and flew out two days later. We didn’t even have tickets to the game yet. An American friend of ours even bought his tickets to fly to Guadalajara even before the guy who is actually from there.

Alright, now let’s get the tickets for the game

“Don’t worry about the tickets for the game”, my friend said. Next thing we know, the tickets were all sold out to season ticket holders. Our other friend found some tickets on viagogo, BUT, we didn’t know if they were fake. We needed a new plan. “It’s OK, we can buy tickets off scalpers on the black market”, my friend says. The black market sounded all well and good until the news reported armed robberies occurring where scalpers were robbed of their legitimate tickets which were now worth a couple hundred US dollars, a value that is a large chunk of a typical local’s monthly salary. We could now only rely on the viagogo tickets being legitimate. Then there is me, the clueless foreigner in his country and doesn’t speak any Spanish, who can only helplessly watch events unfold without knowing at all how to help.

In our already not-so-good situation, a representative from viagogo calls us and said that the tickets can only be picked up at 5pm close to downtown. The problem was that the stadium is on the edge of the city and the game starts at 6pm. There was no way to go to the pickup location for the tickets AND get to the game on time because traffic on game day would be terrible. My friend calls the viagogo representative and tells him the situation and guilts him into letting us pick up the tickets earlier by saying how we trusted the company with these tickets and whatnot and the rep agrees to let us pick up the tickets earlier. Whether or not the rep was sincere in that offer we didn’t know. We needed a plan B in case we really had to pick up the tickets at 5pm. This is where our plan got SUPER elaborate. We spent a good hour brainstorming a good plan and this is what we came up with:

The guy who bought the tickets (the American), would have to ride a motorcycle to the ticket pickup location, pick up the tickets, and go to the stadium, while the rest of us would get to the stadium early with a van so that when the bike arrived with the tickets, we could hide the bike inside the van. When his dad heard the plan, he began to scold him saying how crazy it was, and in his scolding, I heard a word come up over and over again. When I looked it up, I found out it was profanity. Awesome! My Mexican friend called all of his connections that he had to see how we’d get our hands on a van and a motorcycle. According to him, “he knows a lot of people, people owe him favours”. The problem with that plan was that the guy who had the van got into an accident (whether or not that was true, we’ll never know), which suddenly broke our whole plan.

Okay, so what if he rode a bicycle to pick up the tickets? He’d have to ride 12km from the pick up location to the stadium in terrible traffic. Not to mention the person riding the bike isn’t familiar with traffic in Mexico (traffic that does not respect bikers), and that most streets don’t have stop signs or lights. Throw in some lack of sleep – the guy would be flying in that morning in an overnight flight from LA. He was up to the challenge. My Mexican friend summarized the whole plan into a PowerPoint, calling it “the story to be told about this amazing adventure”. We wouldn’t be able to execute this plan until the day of the game. In the meantime, my Mexican friend showed me around.

Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, and for whatever reason, there is a substantial population of Canadian and American retirees here.

Tequila

Got to see some Agave fields (and eat some Agave too!) on a tour at the Jose Cuervo Distillery in a town called Tequila (where the name of the alcohol comes from). I made the tour guide speak English because I was the only guy on the tour who didn’t know Spanish.

Driving in Mexico?!

At one point, my friend’s brother asked me if I wanted to drive. I thought to myself, “okay, so there are no stop signs anywhere, I have no idea where to stop, and based on the driving I’ve seen, nobody really follows the rules on the road”. I drove anyway!

Knowing that I was a complete newb on the road in Mexico, my friend and his brother were both very watchful to make sure I was stopping at the right times. They had practically memorized all the places where cars should and shouldn’t stop. I had no clue whatsoever. I stopped and went when they told me to.

Later on, we saw police cars stopped on the side of the street in front of us. My friends just told me to play it cool and just drive normally. I also realized I didn’t have ID on me, so if I had gotten pulled over or something, I would have had to pay $100 USD just to get out. But luckily, nothing happened.

Picking up the tickets

Now it was time to execute the plan. My friend called the Viagogo rep in the morning and he says that we can pick up the tickets at noon. Okay, so no problem. We went and picked up the tickets while in the back of our minds we were still wondering if the tickets are fake. If the tickets were fake, then our whole plan would be meaningless.

We meet the rep and he gives us the tickets. We closely inspect them, and everything looks good. We were in a bit of a disbelief. Everything seemed too easy. But we wouldn’t know if the tickets were real for sure until we actually go to the ticket counter. At this point, we wouldn’t have to execute our crazy bike plan, and could only wait and see when we got to the stadium. With the couple of hours until the game, we spent some time walking around the city center of Guadalajara.

Touring the city center

Lots of people out and about on a hot day. We went in May, statistically the hottest time of year in Guadalajara.

The local boy/girl scouts were running a recycling campaign or something.

Game time

After lunch, my friend’s dad drove us to the game. As expected, the traffic was real bad. On the way there, as my friend’s dad drove, he says to us that he’s going to break a bunch of traffic rules and not learn from him. He then proceeds to cut a bunch of lanes, crossing the hatched areas on the road, and cuts in in front of people. He even made use of an handicapped sign on his car to get into the parking lot quicker even though he wasn’t handicapped at all (seniors just get those because they’re above a certain age). With his epic driving, we got to the stadium right on time.

Now, the moment of truth. The guard checking the tickets would be the one to tell us if the tickets were real or not. As we got closer, we got more and more nervous. The guard scanned our tickets and waved us through. What a relief. We didn’t need any of our contingency plans after all. Logically, everything went smoother than we could have possibly imagined. Now it was time to enjoy the game!

The entire crowd pretty much supported the home team, and there was a small section of Tigres fans, probably about 50-100 people only. Tons of people waved Chivas flags, and some even waved the French flag because it had the same colours as the Chivas jersey. We all bought jerseys for the game too!

As the game went on, the crowd cheered and chanted, “dale dale dale rebaño!”, which roughly means “let’s go herd [of goats]” (chivas means goats). At one point, when it looked like the Tigres were making a comeback, the crowd cheered even harder. With an amazing 2-1 finish (4-3 aggregate), the Chivas had beaten the Tigres to win their 12th championship!

Celebration

That night, large crowds gathered at the Minerva statue in the city to celebrate the team’s big win. My friend’s dad said he’s never seen the crowd this big in a long time. To celebrate, the dad made us all tequila cocktails (there was probably 3-4 shots worth of tequila in that) before we headed out and had a great time. As the only Asians in the city (my American friend is of Japanese descent), we stood out a lot and people occasionally said random phrases to us in different Asian languages. I guess that’s what happens when two Asians show up with Chivas jerseys!

Last, but not least, the food

My first meal when I arrived in Mexico: Menudo. My friend thought my stomach wouldn’t be able to handle it, because the meat in the soup was tripe. But, nope! Chinese people eat tripe all the time!

Not exactly a meal that I had, but there is a running joke that a guy can take a girl out with roses and a can of Jack Daniels. Once that joke caught on, the store intentionally started putting roses next to the Jack Daniels in the store.

Tacos with carnitas and guacamole? Sign me up!

Lonches. Basically a sandwich with meat inside served with a dipping sauce on the side (can also just be poured onto the plate to let the bread soak). The bread used is a kind local to Guadalajara (birote/bolillo).

Then there are tortas ahogadas. Very similar to lonches. It has a the same bread, but this one is way meatier and the sauce is a tiny bit of spice.

Ceviche! A dish with raw fish cured in lemon/lime with added spices. Can’t say no to seafood!

My friend’s mom also cooked food for us and I totally wish I had taken some pictures of that food. She cooked a pork stew and I wish I knew what was in the sauce! Both parents encouraged me to eat so much and they showed so much hospitality! They kept offering me more and more food until I was super stuffed. Good thing my friend’s brother taught me “estoy bien”! This was definitely one of the best trips I ever had – full of excitement and not just doing touristy things. Having a local show you around really helps!

Link to photo album: here

Road Trip to Seattle and Portland

Since I have a friend living down in Seattle, our group of friends tends to visit him quite a bit down there.  Every time we go down there, we do something different.  This time, we all traveled together down to Portland for the BC Day long weekend.  But first, we celebrated two birthdays and spent the Friday night in Seattle drinking and playing Goat Simulator. The next day, we drove down to Portland and went on a Segway tour around town. We started off with a quick 5-minute tutorial and some hands-on training and off we went! Who knew riding a Segway would be so fun!

Along the way, we passed by some iconic Portland scenery, such one of the many bridges in the city.

As an engineer, naturally I found this LEED Platinum certified building to be quite interesting. Despite having an entire roof filled with solar panels, it only provides 3% of the building’s electrical energy.

Our tour guide said that many people in Portland take part in what’s known as a “Zoobomb”, where one takes a bike (usually a children’s bike) and rides as fast as he/she can down a hill. This pile of children’s bicycles represents this popular activity.

And of course, the popular phrase…

Of course, when in Portland, I had to try some local brews. As always, I like the wheat beers best, and not the IPA’s, amber ales, or anything else.

Link to more photos: here

A tour through Temple Square in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka The Mormon Church or LDS Church). During the day, visitors are allowed to visit the Temple Square and get free guided tours by members of the church (except for inside the temple itself). My co-worker and I had a bit of time in Salt Lake City before flying back to Vancouver, so we decided to make a stop here.


Since members of the church are encouraged to do missionary work, some of them are assigned to Temple Square to work as tour guides. In the Visitors’ Center, there were many of them from different countries and the tour guides we got happened to be from Canada and USA.

The guides took us to the top of the North Visitors’ Center to show us an 11-foot tall statue of Jesus (picture from Wikipedia). While up there, the guides played a short audio clip about Jesus’s purpose and told us about their beliefs. Even though I’m not Christian, it was clear that they were quite devout and dedicated and such qualities are definitely admirable.

Next, the guides took us to the Salt Lake Tabernacle to see the pipe organ.


Then the guides asked us, “how many pipes do you think there are?” Me, not knowing anything about organs, merely counted the ones I saw on the surface and naively said, “maybe about 30”. It turns out I was off by several orders of magnitude. The answer: 11,623.

The building was built to house meetings for the church and was used for the LDS General Conference, but the church grew so large, that the occupant capacity of the building was exceeded. After that tour ended, we visited the newer and larger conference center.


We got a tour of the inside and it was massive with 21,000 seats. We were told that to play the church organ, the organist would have to have a PhD in that field.


The roof of the building had a beautiful view of the Temple Square and had a nice garden full of many varieties of plants.



Lastly, there is the temple itself. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public as it is sacred and there are strict entrance requirements. But at least it looks nice on the outside!


That concluded our tour of the Temple Square in Salt Lake City and then we made our way to the airport and flew back to Vancouver.

Link to more photos

Elko: The land of large food portions

For work, my company sent my coworker and me to a mining tradeshow in Elko, a small town in the northeast corner in the state of Nevada in the United States. This post isn’t about my experience at the tradeshow, but rather my experience in a small American town.

The most interesting thing I experienced here would have to be the ridiculous portions of food that is served – it really fulfills the American stereotype. For example, this is what we got at the restaurant at the Star Hotel:



Now a standard fork is probably about 7 inches in length, so using the fork as a scale in that picture, the steak is probably about 9 inches long and about 2.5 inches wide. I was expecting a steak of half the size. Not to mention it came with spaghetti, beans, fries, soup, salad, and bread on the side. I ate all of that over two meals.

Naturally, we also explored the town. The road we mostly travelled through was Idaho Street and we really saw how small the town was. When we were there, the temperature was about 30°C and not very humid, making it very unpleasant to walk outside.


According to Wikipedia, Elko had a population of 18,297 people in 2010 – that’s pretty small compared to what I’m used to. The primary industry in Elko is gold mining – hence the reason to hold a tradeshow. The tradeshow lasted two days and after that we drove to Salt Lake City to catch a plane back to Vancouver.

Link to more photos

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