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Published: November 15th 2005
Central City Mall beside Surrey Central Station at 4am
There are many ways to travel between Vancouver, BC and Seattle. Some people take Greyhound, some people take Amtrak, and some people drive. However, a trip by Greyhound, Amtrak, or car easily costs more than USD$20 one way. I'm a stingy person and wanted to save as much money as possible, so I looked for a way to travel from Vancouver to Seattle as cheaply as possible. In the end I managed to do so for just $4! (In addition, I made a stopover in the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington.)
I just wanna tell you that I didn't walk all the way from Vancouver to Seattle. (I didn't cycle or hitchhike either...) All I did was to make use of public buses. It's an crazy idea. Before I embarked on this trip, I did my research on the websites of the various transport companies in Washington state (e.g. WTA, Sound Transit, Community Transit, etc). I checked the fare information and the bus schedules of the various companies. Basically, I can travel in Vancouver for free, because I'm a student in UBC (Univ of British Columbia) and I have the U-Pass. Hence I can travel from UBC to the USA/Canada
Newton Exchange is a major public transport hub in Surrey.
border for free. From the border, I can take a WTA bus to Bellingham, change to a County Connector bus to Mount Vernon, then take another County Connector bus to Stanwood. From Stanwood, I can take a Community Transit bus to Smokey Point, where I transfer to another Community Transit bus to Everett or Lynnwood. At Everett or Lynnwood, there are buses to Downtown Seattle...
In order to reach Seattle before noon, I need to leave UBC at 2am in the morning. (Well, that's the price of saving money... The more money you try to save, the more time you'll spend.) I took the nightbus N17 from UBC to Downtown Vancouver. Then I took the nightbus N19 to Surrey Central Station. From Surrey Central, I had to walk around 5km to Newton Exchange, in order to catch the first bus 321 to White Rock South. (It's crazy walking 5km at 5am at 5ºC!) I alighted at the very end of the route of bus 321, at the intersection of King George Highway and 8th Avenue. From there, I walked for another 1km to the USA/Canada border. I reached the USA immigration at around 6:30am and luckily the whole immigration
Blaine, the first town I saw after I crossed the USA/Canada border.
process took less than 2 minutes. (I visited USA before and the Visa Waiver record is still in my passport. Hence the process is fast.) Across the border is Blaine, a small American town. From Blaine, there's a WTA bus 70X to Downtown Bellingham. There's only 2 buses in the morning for 70X, one departing at 6:50am and the other at 7:50am. (That's why, in order to catch the first 70X, I need to leave UBC at 2am.) The trip on 70X costed USD$0.50. I reached Downtown Bellingham at around 7:30am. From there, I took a County Connector bus 80X to Mount Vernon. I showed the bus driver my transfer ticket (gotten on the 70X bus). According to the bus driver, transfer tickets from WTA are invalid on the County Connector buses, but nevertheless she let me board the bus without paying... (She told me that'll be the first and last time.)
I reach Mount Vernon at 8:25am. There, I waited for another County Connector bus 411C. To my pleasant surprise, I didn't need to pay on bus 411C! (The bus-ride was free for everyone!) The bus departed Mount Vernon at 8:50am and reached Stanwood at 9:10am. From Stanwood,
Bellingham Station, the main public transport hub in the city of Bellingham, Washington
I took a Community Transit bus 240 to Smokey Point Transit Centre. The ride on bus 240 costed USD$1.25. At Smokey Point, I transferred to another Community Transit bus 201. I didn't need to pay on bus 201, because I got a transfer ticket on bus 240.
The bus reached Everett Station at around 10:35am. I could have stayed in the bus and gone to Lynnwood to tranfer to another bus to Seattle, but I didn't. Instead, I got off at Everett, because I wanted to visit the Boeing factory. From Everett Station, I waited for the Everett Transit bus 1. The bus finally departed at 11:16am and it reached the Boeing factory at 11:36pm. Once again, I didn't pay on this bus, because the transfer ticket from Community Transit allowed me to transfer to an Everett Transit bus for free. At the Boeing factory, I visited the Boeing store and bought some Boeing souvenirs. I also joined the Boeing tour ($5), which led visitors into the plane-manufacturing building, the largest building in the world by volume. The place was simply awesome. The gate of the building is as big as a soccer field. Inside the building, we saw
Skagit Station, the main public transport hub in the city of Mount Vernon, Washington
jumbo 747 planes being built. It's fascinating to see how the various parts of the plane is being made and assembled together to form the entire plane. We also saw a cutaway cross-section of a real 747 plane. The cross-section is huge. I think a double-decker bus can travel through the cross-section of the 747 plane and still has plenty of room on the left, right, and top. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed during the tour, so I can only describe verbally about the trip and cannot show you any pictures.
After the Boeing tour, I made my way to Mukilteo Highway to catch a bus to Lynnwood. Mukilteo Highway is around 1km west of the Boeing factory and it's the main road connecting the town of Mukilteo to the town of Lynnwood and Interstate Highway 5. I took the Community Transit bus 112 from Mukilteo Highway to Lynnwood. I reached Lynnwood at around 3:30pm and I intended to catch the Sound Transit bus 511 to Downtown Seattle at 3:53pm. However, I suddenly realised that I didn't bring an adapter for my phone charger. (My phone charger has the 2-round-pins European plug, but USA uses the 2-flat-pins socket...) The
County Connector Bus 80X
The County Connector bus 80X from Bellingham to Mount Vernon
battery level of my mobile phone was running low and I needed to recharge my phone in Seattle. (My mobile phone is very important to me because it's my only source of keeping time. I had no watches and no clocks.) In the end, I had to run around Lynnwood and asking stores whether they were selling adapters. In the end, I managed to buy one from the Radioshack store far away from Lynnwood Transit Centre. By the time I returned to Lynnwood Transit Centre, the 3:53pm bus was gone! Damn! In the end I had to wait for another half an hour in Lynnwood waiting for the next bus, which would depart at 4:23pm.
I took the bus 511 from Lynnwood to Seattle and the trip costed me $1.00 (Actually the trip costed $2.50, but I only needed to pay $1 because I got a transfer ticket from the Community Transit bus 112.) I arrived at Downtown Seattle at 5pm. Unfortunately, the sun had set and the sky was already dark when I reached Seattle. After I checked into the hostel and put down my luggage in my room, I went out to explore Downtown Seattle. The sky
County Connector Bus 411C
The County Connector bus 411C from Mount Vernon to Stanwood and Camano Island
was dark and I didn't see anything much, but nevertheless there were still some interesting places to see at night. One such place is the Seattle Central Library. From the outside, the building already looks weird. And once you went inside the building, more weird stuffs await... There are lime-green elevators, blood red corridors, slanting walls and ceilings, and talking sculptures... By the way, I realised that the people in Seattle really like to read. Beside the Central Library, I also visited the Elliot Bookshop, Barnes & Nobles, Borders, and Kinokuniya. (Yes... Seattle also has Borders and Kinokuniya, just like Singapore...) Btw, the Kinokuniya in Seattle has a good collection of Chinese books. The collection of Chinese manga (comic books) is also awesome! I saw the entire set of Doraemon there, and I also saw the recent episodes of Death Note. (I read episodes 1 to 5 of Death Note in Singapore. Now there are already 8 episodes!)
Ok, back to my point... In summary, I spent nothing on the transport in Vancouver, $0.50 on the trip from Blaine to Stanwood, spent $1.25 from Stanwood to Everett, $1.25 from Everett to Lynnwood, and $1 from Lynnwood to Seattle. Hence,
Community Transit Bus 240
The Community Transit bus 240 from Stanwood to Smokey Point
I spend $0.50 + $1.25 + $1.25 + $1 = $4 from Vancouver to Seattle!!! The trip took one whole day and it's indeed a very very long journey. But nevertheless I manage to see many nice places and meet many interesting people along the way. Some of the bus drivers were rather amusing as they tried to talk like talk-show hosts or news reporter. The conversations among some of the fellow passengers were equally amusing too. According to a magazine article that I've read, a good way to experience a place's culture and everyday life is to take the public transport. I certainly agree.
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