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Salem, Oregon: On The Road To See The Total Eclipse Of The Sun
by Staff Writer

Special Report to Wisertraveller.org

August 21 2017

15 hours Before the Eclipse

Although I often heard  people  eager to see the total eclipse of the sun, I tried to turn a deaf ear. I hoped that my travel partner would forget about going to Salem, Oregon, especially after the BBQ that offered endless drinks and salmon. However, not even a late afternoon hangover could change his mind.

“I have  been waiting to see this for over 3 months,” he wined.  Still, the media kept posting endless news stories about a zero vacancy in Salem, Oregon, the region from Vancouver, BC, where we could see 100 percent totality of the sun. I checked the Internet and saw a single hotel near Salem posting a room for $800 a night. Ouch. I thought about the prospect of sleeping in the car on an empty Walmart parking lot. It sounded too uncomfortable and made me think that I wouldn’t have enough sleep to make it back to work the next day. We had an idea: if there was room at the Emerald Queen Casino hotel, midway between Vancouver and Salem, Oregon, we could go. I rang up the hotel and a cheerful young woman said there was  a room and a steal at $125 a night. Sounded better than $800 a night.

Throwing in handfuls of chocolates and bottles of water in a travel bag, and armed with a newly purchased car charger for my iPhone and a fully-charged Canon camera, we set out to make the first leg of the journey to see the eclipse–said to be the trip of a life time.

The reasons why I was hesitant was that my interest in stars and the galaxy was minimal, to say the least. As a young child, I took part in seeing a partial solar eclipse but my memory was filled with teachers nagging kids not to look up at the sun unprotected, or you could go blind. Still, the thought of doing a small film about the eclipse, struck my fancy, as I was always up to doing something different. So, at about 630 pm, the night before the eclipse, we took off on a last-minute road trip that I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I held a weird idea that everything would be pitch black and tourists would be at the mercy of robbers.

But I put all that behind me as we neared the U.S. border. Incredibly, the U.S. border was a breeze to get through and there were few cars on the I-5. A few hours later, we found ourselves in the entrance of the laid-back Emerald Queen Casino hotel, and stumbled about trying to find the front hotel desk. We asked a security guard who offered to show us the way, but another security guard jumped in and said, since he was going our way, he would show us the front desk. I thought he would escort us down a long hallway but the security guard enthusiastically turned around and took exactly 3 steps and said, “If you walk straight down, turn left, you’ll see the front desk.” You had to be there to see the comedy in the situation.

At the front desk, I met a perky, young desk clerk  who greeted me with my name. “I talked to you earlier,” she said.  She offered up a few discounts that were available –military discount, BCAA and other memberships that I didn’t  have. I opted to stick to the regular price, since it seemed better than paying $800 near Salem.  In a few minutes, we got our key but missed the buffet which just closed at 10 pm. Luckily, the other restaurant was still open and the food was a feast for the eyes. My prime rib at $20 was soft and thick and served with a generous portion of mashed potatoes and string beans. I paired it with a tall glass of red cabernet wine, which was unbelievable sweet and tasty.

To get to Salem, Oregon, we had planned to get up early. The alarm sounded at 5 a.m and we headed to the casino to take out some free coffee. Nothing was open so early in the morning, so we had to contend ourselves with drinking some coffee. As we walked towards the door, a young security guard turned around, and with cups in our hands, he promptly told us we couldn’t take it outside the casino. “Casino policy,” he explained, looking stern and full of business. I took a few sips and threw out the rest and Richard did the same. But I wondered how we were going to drive 3 hours without being sustained by coffee or food?

As we neared Salem, a few hours later, my travel partner was getting understandably anxious for coffee and a bite to eat. But did we have time?

The media was predicting tons of traffic to Salem, so we figured that getting up at 5 am would be smart and we would have just enough time to go to Portland for the famous Voodoo donuts and some  breakfast. My travel partner feared that if we headed to Salem now, there would be more tourists than restaurants and we would be starving and thirsty. This was a major debate, and I am glad that I won the debate. We would head to Salem, first and try to find food and drinks in this small city—if there was anything left.

As we neared Salem, it seemed that out of no where, the traffic suddenly began to appear on my left and right. Cars and campers  with license plates from California, Washington State and a few BC. licence plates crawled along beside me. A few motorcycles zipped by. And as the clock ticked past 8, it appeared that if we were going to make seeing the eclipse a reality, we needed the traffic on our side, not against us! Signs along the highway warned drivers of congestion and that no stopping was allowed during the the eclipse.

Above the highway, a skinny man stood on the overpass, and  carried a sign telling drivers to seek Jesus and other religious words. We were glad when finally we saw a sign that said we had finally arrived and  entered Salem via a winding road. Driving a little bit, my travel partner, Richard, made a quick turn to Fred Meyer’s parking lot, where a woman with a sign was trying to sell  $5 solar eclipse glasses. I asked if it was safe and she said she had the paper work to prove it. But alas, I didn’t have any U.S. dollars and she walked away, apologizing for me.

So, without further ado, I suggested that we head to the city centre, which held promise of activities, galore.  We passed buildings, an Applebee restaurant, but at first, it didn’t seem that interesting for solar gazers. Soon, we arrived at a street that seemed to fill up with more cars, and it seemed to have a lot more tourists. We eased into a parking space and as I emerged, I asked a local if there were any restaurants to eat and drink. He said if we walked a little ways, we could find such a place, but since he was from Redwood, California, he was just as new to the city as myself. Apparently, he had staked out the parking spot as early as 3:30 am! He managed to snare a 3 hour parking spot, while we landed one for 30 minutes. Oh, well, we were here.

After saying farewell to a fellow tourist, my eyes laided on a sign outside a store front offering to sell eclipse glasses. What? I was thankful, since I had tried a few weeks back to buy a set of 5 Solar Glasses for $15 at the local drug store. As I walked into the cozy souvenirs shop, a lady emerged and yes, she could sell me solar eclipse glasses at the bargain price of $1.95. I quickly purchased 2 and she also –surprise, surprise –, sold coffee! Music to our ears and eyes.

Outside the shop, we quickly learned that tons of tourists were heading to the local park just across the street. We followed families, skateboarders, cyclists, young people and couples heading to the park and as we did so, a local artist filmed  us as we did something as mundane as cross the street.

More surprises! It seemed that the city of Salem was ready for us. There were tons of port-a-potties, lovely grass to lie down on, and lots of space to relax and wait for the eclipse. I was amazed that there were no lineups to use the port-a-potty and we were equally thankful that this was the place to be. People were already beginning to peer up at the sky and a few hard-core solar enthusiastics were ready with their tripods and fancy cameras. A young man told me that he arrived in Salem a few days earlier from California and explained how he had bought solar paper off the Internet to wrap his camera to take the eclipse. He also advised me not to use my camera to photograph the eclipse as it could burn ruin my camera for good. Good advice.

I cautiously put on the solar eclipse glasses for the first time in so many years and looked for the sun. I saw what seemed like a light bulb out of the corner of my eye and it seemed that it had a bite taken out of it. What was that? Richard told me that it was like the Pacman game and explained what I saw  was the sun and I almost freaked out.  While he lay on the grass and closed his eyes, I made my way to photograph and talk to the tourists. A large group of people with solar eclipse glasses simultaneously looked up at the sun and I snapped away.

After walking around a bit, we noticed a beautiful pedestrian bridge not too far away and made our way towards the area, which signs said, was a wildlife habitat. People began to congregate around the bridge and in the park. I looked up again through the glasses, and noticed a little bit more slices of the sun was disappearing. There was an area on the bridge where we could use a few homemade tricks to see the eclipse without glasses. I recalled a CBC news story with Bob McDonald, the science guy, stating that one could see the eclipse by artfully placing one’s fingers into the light. Another way was using the pin hole trick. Richard had a sheet of paper and asked for a pin, which I didn’t have. But I did wear a stud  earring. I pulled out my earring and it had just enough sharpness to serve as a pin. Amazingly, the sheet of paper with the pin hole revealed the sun in its various stages of being sliced by the moon. I was thrilled! We decided to split up and I would take the middle of the bridge filming the people watching the eclipse. I talked to a tourist who said he came to Salem and had no trouble finding a place to sleep: he just pitched a tent in the park for free.

Below the bridge, a riverboat cruise, filled with eclipse-loving  passengers, were stopped along the edge of the river. A loud speaker meant for the ears of the paying passengers, gave out a commentary about the celestial event that was taking place.

The Total Eclipse

Meanwhile, as the sun was gradually being taken by the moon, the crowd below me on the grass, whooped and I also hollered. Suddenly as though someone had turned off a switch, the day gradually turned to night. I noticed insects suddenly scurry quickly up the beam of the pedestrian bridge. The kids next to me on the bridge laughed and joked as the day became night –all too briefly. I had imagined a pitch-black scene but much to my delight, it was still fairly light but still remarkable. The tourist next to me said he felt a chill in the air.

A Sceptic Weeps:

As the total eclipse happened, I looked up at the sun and it appeared different, more radiant and more beautiful than I have every seen before. I felt joyful, ecstatic and at peace. At one moment, I was so overcome with emotion, I felt tears come along my cheeks. It was like no other experience in the world. Later I wondered to myself why I cried. Was it because I was sad that the sun was no longer the sun and its brightness was taken away, every so briefly? As I looked at the pictures of the eclipse again, I felt another wave of emotion hit me in the heart.

The total eclipse of the sun was one of the most startling and remarkable experiences of my life. And I was a sceptic no more and incredibly grateful for the privilege and miracle of seeing the total eclipse of the sun.

Another reason to travel to Salem, Oregon is the beauty of its parks and its pleasant, and friendly locals. As I walked into a large bank to find an ATM machine, all the tellers suddenly faced me and said, “Hello,” from a distance. Wow!

Photos below: top left: river boat cruise offers passengers a commentary about the eclipse. Right: top:People gaze up at the  solar eclipse with special glasses.

Middle left: after the total eclipse, the sidewalk acted like a pinhole and showed crescent shapes of the sun.

Middle right: tourist from California sets up his camera with solar lenses.

Bottom: Using a piece of paper and making a pin hole, we saw the sun making its way to being totally eclipsed by the moon.

Bottom: Right: the writer is flanked by tourists who loved the experience.

Stay tuned for a short video about the Great Solar Eclipse Experience.










August 24th


Vancouver Folk Music Festival Celebrates It’s 40th anniversary With Lots Of Great Performers
by Staff Writer

Clear skies, sunny weather and large crowds showed up for the annual  Vancouver Folk Music Festival, which celebrated it’s 40th anniversary this year. Thousands of people attended the 4-day festival (July 13,14,15, 16) which featured singers and bands from more than 65 countries from around the world. The crowd was a mix of people of all ages, and some people brought their young children and families. People also came from all over the world, and license plates showed visitors coming as far away as Tennesse, Washington State, Arizona, Idaho and Nebraska. While some people brought their own food, others munched on Chinese food, Whales Tales (fried dough served with toppings, including fruit, honey or whipped cream), corn on the cob, European dishes, falafel sandwiches, to name a few. Around the various stages, people danced, sang along, couples danced close, and a mother danced with her young child. This year, the festival was blessed with perfect weather. There was a slight drizzle of rain on Sunday morning, which took the dust out of the air and cleared the sky for a red-sky sunset. In fact, all the evenings boasted colourful sunsets.

Thursday Night Concert And Celebration

The fun kicked off Thursday, when the gates opened for free ticket holders wanting to see a special concert that celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday and the festival’s birthday. However, getting in was a slower, orderly process. In the late afternoon sun, the line stretched as far as the eye could see. When the crowd eventually got in, the grassy area around the main stage  quickly filled up with old and new folk fans. A group of young men and women sat cross-legged in a circle, politely talking and taking in the music.  A lot of the other attendees were clearly pros at this, and people sat on plastic tarps, blankets and knee-high chairs.

The Thursday night concert was a celebration of Canadian music and various performers, from C.R. Avery, Katie Moore, The Sojourners, and Cris Derksen, sang a medley of cover songs composed by legends like Bruce Cockburn, The Tragically Hip, Joni Mitchell, Kd Lang and Ben Mink.

Below: Thursday night, people lined up to get in.  Left: C.R. Avery performs, “Song for a Winter’s Night.”




Friday Festival

Over at the drop off bike zone, a grey-haired festival volunteer strummed a few folk songs on a guitar as a few new arrivals dropped off their bikes. Everywhere the mood was upbeat, and the crowds were high on music.
Festival fans came dressed for the heat; and while shorts, summer dresses and T-shirts were the norm, a few brave fans camped it up with makeup and colourful costumes. While the music of the Australian band, Ganga Giri blared on, one young man danced wildly, and a few feet away, one tall, grey-haired man danced with a book on his head.

Saturday festival

The atmosphere was festive and the mood was upbeat. In fact, while the group from Spain known as Korrontzi IMG_7218performed  on  Stage 6, one woman started a chain reaction of festival attendees who linked arms and did spontaneous circle dancing.


She's got the move --a performer from the group, Alpha Yaya Diallo & Bafing

She’s got the move –a performer from the group, Alpha Yaya Diallo &

Below photos: Ganga Giri, The Funk Hunters, and Billy Braggs And Joe Henry





Later on past 6 pm, over on stage 3, fans clapped their approval of Alpha Yaya Diallo and Bafing.




There was still plenty of fan approval by the time the Bare Naked Ladies took to the main stage late Saturday night.





Sunday Festival

Another hot day greeted festival attendees. The energy was infectious and even festival volunteers dressed up to sell raffle tickets. Over at the Tom Lee music booth, a man patiently paid for a ukulele for his young daughter. Nearby, a few people sat around pounding a few drums, tutored by a Tom Lee employee.

In the early afternoon, on Stage 6, a procession of performers from Africa and Mexico brought fans clapping and stomping to the beat. Who needs to travel when the world comes to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival!

More African beats came courtesy of Wesl and  Chook Bwa Liberte.





July 17th


The Secret Is Out: The Vancouver Folk Music 2017 Festival Offers Music For All Tastes
by Staff Writer

Need a great reason to go to this year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival? Well, there are too many to go this year, but consider that this favorite annual festival offers music for all tastes and all ages. It’s not just folk, gals and guys! There are country, folk, blues, blue grass, roots, reggae, world fusion, African, electronica, Asian fusion -music-and so much more.

Not too mention, you will be listening to songbirds in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The setting is Jericho Beach Park. There’s also lots of room to stretch out with a book between sets and you are in the best place because you are surrounded by scenic mountains, water and green scenery. It’s also slated to be a hot, hot, hot, so be prepared to come with sunscreen, chairs, blankets and your friends or family. If you go, you can take your pick from a variety of food trucks offering tasty cuisine from all around the world.

It’s a big deal for the festival, now in it’s 40th year. The festival is offering an extra day of music to celebrate the milestone. There’s a free concert on Thursday night to celebrate it’s 40th year and Canada’s 150 birthday. The event called, “Canada Far and Wide: Grand Esprits”, will have musicians from all backgrounds singing a medley of Canadian tunes and cover songs written by famous Canadians, such as Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and The Tragically Hip. So for first-timers, you can get a taste of why locals and tourists love the folk festival.
This night is also unique because it’s a collaborative touring musical project among the The Winnipeg, Vancouver, Calgary, Canmore, and Regina Folk Festivals.

According to a release: “The songs chosen celebrate diverse genres, cultures, regions, traditions and generations. Plus, we included key compositions by Canadian trailblazers like Joni Mitchell, Hank Snow, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Leonard Cohen. But, we really wanted to mess with genres and perspectives with these songs, and bring them into new forms while celebrating their narratives and history” explains Artistic Director Kerry Clarke from the Calgary Folk Music Festival on behalf of the festivals involved. Sounds exciting!

You can reserve your free ticket for the Thursday night concert here at: http://thefestival.bc.ca/thursday-night-concert-july-13/.

You’ll also want to stay the rest of the weekend. There are over 65 musicians from all over the world, taking to various stages from over 20 countries, 12 states and 9 provinces and territories.

Besides the Thursday night concert, the festival runs Friday afternoon and evening, July 14, and on Saturday and Sunday, July 15 & & 16 from 10am to 11pm each day.

Get your tickets in advance and check out the schedule at: http://thefestival.bc.ca

Below: A few performers for the 2017 Vancouver Folk Music Festival: Bare Naked Ladies, Alpha Yaya Diallo, C.R. Avery, Rhiannon Giddens, and Archie Roach.






Last Saturday’s Khatsahlano Street Party on West 4th ave attracted thousands of sun-seeking music fans, families and people just out to take in the free music and carnival atmosphere. The 6th annual event offered attendees a selection of stages to listen to different bands, eat from various food trucks, buy from various vendors, or pick up freebies from different merchants.

Below: Local punk rock band, DOA, was one of the many bands that performed Saturday on West 4th ave, where the entire block was cordoned off for the popular event.






July 9th


Check Out Farmers’ Markets, Spring Flowers, Amazing Sunsets: Top Things To See And Do This Spring in Vancouver
by Staff Writer

If you want to see Spring flowers bloom, take some time to visit some parks in Vancouver. Some of the more leisurely parks to visit include Queen Elizabeth Park, Stanley Park and VanDusen Botanical Gardens. All these parks also have onsite restaurants that offer fantastic views to dine out with friends or take Dads out for Father’s Day.

Parks that are ideal for biking include Trout Lake and Stanley Park. On a recent visit to Trout Lake, I couldn’t find a place to park due to a weekend event celebrating Victoria Day. Trout Lake offers a wide variety of activities for people of all ages, including an off-leash dog walk area, biking, picnicking, play fields and life guards. It’s best to plan ahead if you are heading there on the weekend, because it gets busy there particularly on Saturdays, due to a popular farmer’s market, offering local fruits, vegetables and entertainment.

Stanley Park is Vancouver’s jewel and is a local favourite as well as a must-see for visitors. It’s a great place to people watch, particularly on sunny days. You can also bike ride, roller blade, take photos, sun bathe, walk, jog or just read a book.

One of my all-time favourite pastimes is to visit the beaches at Spanish Banks particularly in the evening and wait for the sunsets. In my opinion, Vancouver has the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Parking is free along Spanish Banks where you can walk along the beach during low tide, eat sea food, play volleyball, bike or sit and watch the view.

All around, Spring flowers are blooming in Vancouver, which are a photographer’s dream.


In early May, we stopped along the beach to take a few photos, see below:













As the weather heats up, it’s best to put on sun screen to protect your skin from harmful rays.

And sadly, as it gets hotter, some people get careless and leave their pets in hot cars. If you see any dogs in distress in a hot car, please report it to the local authority as soon as possible. Recently, on a sweltering May day, I noticed 2 small dogs in a car with the windows rolled up. The owner was in the mall and it was not clear when he would be back. I quickly told the security guard who said she would look after the situation. Dear readers: I created a petition to hopefully stop people from leaving their pets in hot cars. The brilliant idea is to have pet sitting areas in malls, where people can drop off their pets for a few hours or so.

Sign up here and you could help save a dog’s life.





May 31st


Vancouver Strangers Dine Out Together To Celebrates The Year Of The Rooster
by Staff Writer

What better way to bring in the Lunar New Year than dine out with friends, family members or even complete strangers. Heard about Meetup.com? It’s a global way where people can meet new people in a variety of social settings, such as hiking, playing scrabble, dancing, and dining.

I added my name to a few social groups and got many invites to join strangers dining out on New Year’s festivities. The menu is definitely not for vegans, so beware. But those who are meat eaters can feast on many delectables, such as Peking Duck, crispy Shanghai chicken, Rock Cod with mixed vegetables, black-pepper crab or prawn.

So if you are new in town, and one of your resolutions is to meet new friends and enjoy  the sights and sounds of Vancouver, check out meet up.com/Vancouver.

If you are shy, not to worry. There’s even a shy people’s group.

Okay. Are you ready for this? This is Wisertraveller.org‘s first annual predictions for the Year Of The Rabbit. Are you listening, Vancouver?

  • -The city of Vancouver will put a ban to plastic bags and  plastic cups. Finally. After all, the city hopes to be the greenest city and ending this wasteful item will help solve the problem of plastic ending up in the landfill and in our oceans.


  • Grizzly trophy hunting will stop in British Columbia. Yes, believe it or not, people with big bucks spend thousands of dollars to book a trip for the sole purpose of shooting a grizzly. Every year, between 300-400 grizzlies are killed by hunters who feel that shooting a grizzly gives them superiority over nature. To help stop the hunting, consider this site: https://www.change.org.


  • Spring will come early and so will be the return of Pamela Anderson, grey jogging pants, milk tea drinks.  Really?


  • The Vancouver Canucks will make it to the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. There will also be a ticker-tape parade.


  • Über will enter the Vancouver market in a test capacity and be available during peak months, and weekends.


  • More refugees and people from all over the world will choose Vancouver to live –thanks to the new United States President-elect Donald Trump.


  • Vancouver will open it’s first high-tech restaurant. Order food on a tablet and food will be served by regular servers.


  • Vancouver will hold a Peace concert featuring the likes of Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, The Who and many others.


  • Vancouver will open its first cat-friendly park. Why not, folks? We have dog-friendly parks.


  • 4 major Vancouver employers will pay its employees to take public transit to work.

So there you have it! Gung Hay Fat Choy! If you see these events come to fruition this year, remember that you read this here first!





January 30th

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