If you haven't heard the news by now, you may have to sit down for this. Starting 2013, the high holy land, better known as Amsterdam, will be airing out the hotbox and closing its doors to toking backpackers. A new law promises to make purchasing and smoking ganja in cafes only available to card-carrying nationals.
Don't go donating your best bubbler to Pipes for Tots just yet; OTP has a back-up plan that's cheaper, closer and more Canadian. That big, looming, fair-as-can-be cloud up north, is full of intense snowy scenery, ridiculously friendly people and, as it turns out, cannabis.
Vancouver is your gateway city and Samesun Backpacker Lodge, your new squinty-eyed best friend. Sitting on a peninsula that jets into the Pacific, this dense metropolitan city is surrounded by mountains aching with adventure. But we're not here to talk about filling your lungs with crispy fresh Canadian air. Bake up some good times by letting Samesun show you the way.
While pulling out your piece at Samesun won't fly, the good people at the hostel know all the right cafes. Check your paranoia at the door and take your stash on a 20-minute walk (or five-minute cab ride) to appropriately-named New Amsterdam Cafe, where whatever you're smoking smells right. Once you've become a regular fixture at the cafe, hit up Samesun for similarly chill smoke spots in the vicinity.
When you're ready to reel yourself in from the clouds, entertain your high by hopping on the Moose Bus at the hostel door and riding that wheeled mammal for about an hour and a half to Whistler. The acclaimed snow sporty, party poppin' spot was the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics and keeps hoards of backpackers busy with endless slope options.
If you're a lazy stoner, hydrate your cottonmouth and quench the munchies at The Beaver Lounge, Samesun's restaurant and bar, usually filled with backpackers looking to make small talk and big plans. The scene here is mostly comprised of Aussies and Europeans; throw a hacky sack in there for the good 'ol U.S. of A. and show Vancouver how we do it south of the border.
A warning: Vancouver is dangerously, unimaginably beautiful. You will want to have dual-citizen babies with it. While marijuana is not technically legal in Canada, as long as you're not over the top about it, smoking in some cafes is cool and Canadians are generally accepting of it.
If smoking isn't your thing, the legal drinking age in Canada is 19. While you're wasting two years trying to get into places with your brother's library card (or avoiding malaria in TJ), Canadians are partying it up hardcore. Samesun is in the thick of it with a spectrum of bars hugging the surrounding streets. Or you can always go bobbing for beaver in-hostel, which hosts socially lubricating events, from trivia to karaoke, every day.
Never thought of Canada, did you? Well this sleeping giant knows how to have a good time. When Amsterdam stops burning, hop past Washington, blaze through to Vancouver and make Holland beg for forgiveness.
-- Anna Starostinetskaya