Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beware of free gift or gift card links on facebook

Recently, I've been seeing more and more links on facebook for getting free gifts or free gift cards.
If you click the link, it will take you to a page where it will say the offer expires today and there are remaining gifts to be given out.  In order for you to get the gift, you have to do 2 things:
  • Step 1: You must click the facebook share button.
  • Step 2: Type xxxx (some specific sentence) into the comments below
I, myself, also was scam by this once before.  As I see more and more of similar things appearing in facebook, I became suspicious.  I didn't find anything on web related to the specific URL, so I did a little research myself.

Here is an example.
After clicking the link, it takes you to a page like this:

If you look at the URL, facebook is forwarding the page to "coffeeblends.me".

The WhoIs lookup shows that it's registered using WhoisGuard, which is a service that protects domain owner's information.  WhoisGuard places their information in whois and provides an option to redirect email and regular mail to the customer's real address. 
Also, the domain is created on the same day as the free gift card expiry date.

You can compare this to the Whois of the real Starbucks site.  You can see that it's registered to Starbucks Coffee Company with real contact info.

This tells me that "coffeeblends.me" is 99% a scam.

Here is another example.
This facebook link takes you to "ipad4canada.com".

The domain info for "ipad4canada.com":

This site is also create on the same day as the free gift card expiry date.
Even though the registrant could be real, why would someone in UK be giving out gift cards to Canada?
It's suspicious.

Other suspicious examples that I remembered:
  • Free Tim Horton Gift Cards that forward you to "timhortongiftcards.com".

What to do?
If you are not sure whether the site is legit or not, do a free "WhoIs" search.
DNSQuery.org is one of the sites that offers free WhoIs search:

You can google to find other sites that offer free WhoIs search.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vancouver & Banff Trip Overview

Vancouver and Banff Trip (2011-09-26 to 2011-10-08)

Wen and I went on a trip to Vancouver & Banff.  We first flew to Vancouver and rented a car.  The car we got was a Volkswagen Golf.

View Vancouver & Banff Trip in a larger map

Day 1 - Flying to Vancouver

We arrived at Vancouver in later afternoon.  After checking into the hotel, we went to a Japanese AYCE (all you can eat) restaurant, Richmond Sushi, for dinner.  We ate hamachi sashimi, toro sushi, geoduck sashimi, sockeye salmon sashimi, tuna tataki, sockeye salmon tataki, grill black cod, etc... Their tuna was different from the Toronto ones. Their tuna was yellowish, like skin colour. The ones in Toronto were either white or red.

Day 2 - Vancouver to Kamloops

After checking out from hotel, we headed off to Nitobe Memorial Garden inside UBC. It's a beautiful japanese garden. 

After that, we started driving to Kamloops. Vanouver streets in general go up and down... More challenging than Toronto. The highways had only 2 to 3 lanes. Ridicules!

On our way to Kamloops, we stopped at Tim Horton for washroom break near Hope. Since I have nothing to do in the car, I've started the journey in search of hope. What does it mean? Well, I am using my camera to take photos of any Hope signs until we reach Hope. Of course, we eventually reached Hope. Get it? Hahaha. ;)

We arrived at Kamloops around 4pm. After resting a bit, we went first to the Kamloops downtown. It's just a section of Victoria St. It was just like an old part of town... Nothing special... I was hoping that it would be similar to Main St. Then, we went to Riverside Park. Kamloops did have a lot of cars for a small town. Scenery at Riverside Park is beautiful. It was at the joint of 3 rivers: North Thompson River, South Thompson River, and Thompson River. After that, we went to the viewpoint beside Howard Johnson Panorama Inn. This was where the unfortunate accident happened. I was trying to use my camera on tripod to take a photo of us. I guess the place was too windy and the tripod was not strong enough. The tripod felt and the camera felt with it with lens faced down. That was the death of my camera. :'(

From the viewpoint, I could see the whole town of Kamloops. Then, we went to the Thompson Rivers University (TRU). According to the Inn staff, TRU had interesting buildings, but we didn't see any interesting building.

For dinner, we went back to the main downtown area and ate at an Italian restaurant: D'agostino Restaurant (258 Victora St.)  Wen had spaghetti and meatballs. I had spaghetti and claims. We also had bruschetta for appetizer. The bruschetta was more like bruschetta pizza.... Instead of using french bread, it used thin pizza dough... Overall, the food is ok good.  

Day 1 and 2 Photos

Day 3 - Kamloops to Banff

The good thing of traveling ourselves was that we didn't have to wake up early.  ;)

The drive to Banff was a breeze. My daily drive to Bampton had well prepared me for the long drive. I didn't have to use my brain to drive. I only had to use my brain to keep me from driving too fast and to refrain from cursing the slow car/truck driving in front of me in a one lane highway. Physically, I was a bit tired for sitting in the car so long, but it would be the same even if I wasn't the one driving. The drive to Banff was approx. 6 hrs according to GPS, but I think I only took 5.5 hours. 

At 1384 m (4540 ft) above sea level, Banff is recognized as Canada's highest town. After checking into our hotel (Rudlestone Lodge), we walked to town. Our hotel was actually one of the farest one from the main downtown area. The walk was about 3 km. The distance wasn't bad, but I was a bit cold. The temperature was pretty cold at night at Banff.   We had dinner at the Keg Steak House... very good steak.

Day 3 Photos

Day 4 - Around Banff

We had breakfast at Evelyn's Coffee Bar.  In Banff downtown, there were 3 Evelyn's Coffee stores!!

After breakfast, we visited Surprise Corner, Bow Falls, Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots. The hike at Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots took approx. 3.5 hours.  The hike would be shorter if you are just hiking and not taking photos.
(Ink Pots - brilliant blue and jade green springs, whose constant temperature remain near 4 degree celcius.  The pools' bottoms are composed of quicksand.)

Day 4 Photos

Day 5 - Lake Louise, Moraine Lake

We drove to Lake Louise Gondola and had breakfast buffet there.  Then, we took the ski lift up the mountain. It was a nice day, so no one want to sit in a Gondola. 

After that, we went to Lake Louise. It was beautiful. The only complain that I have is a bit too man made. The side near the famous hotel was not natural enough. We walked on the Lake Louise trail along side of the lake.  We also went inside the hotel and looked at some shops.

Then, we went to Moraine Lake. It was the lake shown on the old Canadian $20 bill. In the summer time, the parking could line up to 2 km long. I guess I was a bit glad that I am not here during summer. The lake was nice, bur Lake Louise was more beautiful.

At Moraine Lake parking lot, we saw a car with right front wheel turned 90 degree. Well, we heard a big noise like car stopping sound. Then, we saw a car, who was trying to turn right up a road, sat at the bottom of the road with the right front wheel perpendicular to the car.  When I looked back, it was kind of funny. But ar that time, I felt sorry for the owner. Wen told me that's an old car.  

After that, we went to Bankhead. Lower Bankhead was an abandoned coal mine and Upper Bankhead was the site of previous coal mining community.  We went to Upper Bankhead and walked on the trail. The trail was tough. It went upward 35 degree. We saw an abandoned house and some mine shafts. After walking up for 55 minutes, we decided to head back. The end of trail was supposed to have a nice viewpoint called C-Level Cirque, but I guess this trail was too difficult for us. On our way up, we saw an old couple coming down. They had reached the top. I was a bit ashamed when I decided to head back without reaching the top since the old couple could do it and we couldn't do it.

On our way back to Banff, we did stop by Lower Bankhead to see what's there. From a distance, we saw some coal mining cart. We were too tired to go down and explore.

Day 5 Photos 

Day 6 - Around Banff

Since it was a rainy day, we decided to go for a ride. We went from Buffalo St. to Tunnel Mountain Dr.... Stopped by a couple of viewpoints... Stopped at the Hoodoos... Went to Banff Ave and then Minnewanka Loop... Went pass the Upper Bankhead and Lower Bankhead that we were at yesterday... Stopped at the Lake Minnewanka... Saw a bunch of people scuba diving...  (Lake Minnewanka  means "Lake of the Water Spirit".)

Then we stopped at Two Jack Lake.  It was beautiful! I loved this lake.  The water was very clear.  It made me wanted to swim in it.   The lake surface was like a mirror showing the moutains, trees, clouds, and sky.

After that, we went to Johnson Lake. This one was just like any other lake. It's beautiful but nothing special. Then, we finished the Minnewanka Loop and went back to Banff Ave. I was hoping to see some animals during this drive, but all I saw was birds and squirrels. 

Then, we went to Upper Hot Springs. On the way, I was 2 deers. Hurray! :D 
Hot Springs was a 39 degree hot swimming pool.
Upper Hot Springs is the highest hit springs in Canada - elevation 1585 m (5200 ft).

Day 6 Photos

Day 7 - Jasper

After breakfast, we drove to Jasper. During the drive, I saw a small caribou quickly crossing the street. It passed by every fast. When we were close to Jasper, we saw an elk. Of course, I got out of car to take photos. I originally thought it was a deer. I found out it's elk by looking at postcards.

We arrived at Jasper at noon, first stopped by the visitor info office and then walked around downtown area. It looked old. Banff downtown is much nicer.

We drove to Maligne Lake, which is the most famous place and the largest lake in Jasper Provincial Park. On the way, we stopped at Medicine Lake. For Medicine Lake, the Maligne River flows in but there is no surface outlet. Instead, the water flows underground for many kilometers, emerging in such places as Maligne Canyon and Lac Beauvert.

Maligne Lake was a beautiful lake. It was less commercial than Lake Louise. This lake was more natural. I loved it.

While driving away from The lake, we saw a big rock and some small rocks on the road that weren't there before. Those rocks had been fallen off the mountain. I hope no car was passing by when the rocks felt.

Afterwards, we went to Maligne Canyon. We walked part of the trail. Then, we went back to town. We visited some souvenir shops before heading back to Banff.   On the way back, we stopped by the Columbia Icefield and took some photos.

Day 7 Photos

Day 8 -Banff to Kamloops

After checking out of hotel, we went to Banff Gondola.  Gondola climbed 698m (2292 ft) to an elevation of 2281m (7486 ft) on the Sulfur mountain. I had a soup for breakfast in a restaurant inside the Upper Terminal. The restaurant had windows all around to see nice views. The views up on top on Sulfur Mountain were magnificiant. We walked up to the Cosmic Ray Station which was at the highest point of the mountain.

We started our trip back to Kamloops around noon.

Day 9 -Kamloops to Vancouver

Our first stop was the BC Wildlife Park. Since we didn't get to see any bears in Banff, we wanted to see them here. The BC Wildlife Park was not huge. It had grey wolf, black bear, brown bear, elk, bison, cougar, etc. The best part was the 2 grizzly bear cubs. They were the cutiest. I wanted to hug them and squeeze them. I know. I know. I couldn't really to that since they would kill me. However, they do look stupidly cute with their fluffy hair and their cute movements.

We started our drive to Vancouver around noon.

For dinner, we went out to Club House Sushi. This restaurant was ok.  It was more geared toward western people. 

Day 8 and 9 Photos

Day 10 -Vancouver

We first went to Standley Park. Then, we went to Robson area. We had lunch at Japadog and walked around the area.  Robson St was like Yonge St.  We had dessert at Beard Papa. The mango puff wasn't very mango.  The Paris Brest puff was pretty good.

We went to Gas Town and China Town.  Vancouver China Town was like Toronto China Town.... Nothing special...   Gas Town was kind of like main St. 

Then, we went to MetroTown.  It was a big shopping mall in Burnaby. It reminded me of Eaton Centre, but it had the same stores as Toronto's mall.

For dinner, we went to Sushi Garden, close to Metro Town.  It was a very busy place.  The portion was huge.  The quality was good, but not excellent.

After that, we went to Cheesecake Etc.  This place had very good cheesecakes and live piano music.  It was a nice place to hang around at night.  

Day 11 - Vancouver

We went to Capilano Suspension Bridge.  It was fun with the suspension bridge (450ft long and 230 ft high), cliff walk (300 ft above the canyon floor), and tree tops adventure (10 stories high). We walked the suspension bridge and treetops adventure twice!  ;)

We saw a TVB actress there: 唐寧

After google, I found out that she was in Vancouver for the 首影 of 大藍湖 in Vancouver Film Festival (Oct 4).  I guess she was taking a tour after work.  ;).  I saw 3 other women with her too.

Then, we went to Lynn Canyon suspension bridge. It was nothing compared to the Capilano one.  This was was small and little slippery due to wet wood.

For dinner, we went to Griffins in Fairmount Hotel to taste their dessert buffet.   Both of us ordered their 3 course dinner (for $23):
Me - Griffins Casear Salad (w roasted garlic, olives, rosemary lavash), New York Steak, dessert buffet
Wen - Philipane style chicken soup, New York Steak, dessert buffet

Their desserts were all western style. I had 2 big dishes of dessert.   I was so full.  I had tasted:
- lemon cheesecake
- strawberry mouse cake
- strawberry shortcake
- banana cake with passion fruit
- pumpkin cheesecake
- fruit square with berries inside
- cream puff
- chocolate mouse 
- some fruits
Day 10 and 11 Photos

Day 12 - Whistler

After breakfast at Starbucks, we were on our way to Whistler. The drive was pretty nice. Half of the distance was beside sea (Howe Sound). Half of the distance was inside forest & mountains... Kind of like driving in Banff, but there were tons of electrical wires.  Those electric wires reminded me that we were still in city areas. You would not see them when driving in Banff.

On the way, there is a place called "Cheeye". It's a funny name. I guess next time when we take photos, we can say Cheeye instead of Cheers... Hahaha.. :D

We were there around 1pm. We walked around Whistler Village and then went to Upper Village.  Afterwards, we went on a trail from Whistler Village to Lost Lake.  Then, we followed the trail around the lake and went to the beach at that lake.

I think I know why this lake is called "Lost Lake"... It is a beautiful lake...  It is a "lost" treasure.... The water was so clear that I wanted to swim in it.

After walking back to Whistler Village, we had a drink at Blenz Coffee.  Blenz Coffee is a chain coffee shop in BC. We saw a little bird walking inside the coffee shop while we were enjoying the drinks. 

After driving back to Vancouver, we then searched on Internet and decided to have dinner at The Boathouse.  It was a nice restaurant at Horseshoe Bay near BC Ferries and the food was very good.  

Day 12 Photos

Day 13 - Vancouver

The Fisherman's Wharf at Steveston Village was a fish market at where fish boats parked there selling their fresh catch. People were buying big fishes and shrimps.  The prices were cheaper than grocery stores and the fishes were fresher. I would've brought some if I live in Vancouver. I saw salmon roe too. However, they didn't look clean enough to me for eating without washing first. Since I was not a big fan of salmon roe, I decided to skip.

Then, we went to Aberdeen Centre (時代坊) for lunch and shopping.    I loved Daiso, the Japanese toonie store.  We also walked to other Chinese malls around Aberdeen Centre.  The ones I remembered are 統一 and 八佰半中心, etc.   None of them were interesting. One thing did surprise me was that I didn't see any bootleg CD/DVD stores in any of the malls.

We drove around Richmond to see the expensive houses. We searched the realtor site for homes over 1 million, 2 millions, etc.  Those homes had 3-4 garages. It seemed a lot of people buy old houses to get the land and rebuild with new houses in Richmond. 

We had dinner at Sushi Hachi. I made a reservation for "name your price chef menu".  Since the minimum was $45, we had that ordered as well.  The first dish was a lobster seaweed salad. The second dish was sashimi. The sashimi were fresh and tasty. I could taste the sweet fish taste in the fishes.  The third dish was grilled fish. It was really good.  The fourth dish was spicy octopus cucumber fish eggs salad.  The fifth dish was sushi.

Day 14 - Flying back to Toronto

Day 13 and 14 Photos