After the ballgame in Toronto last Friday (and as of writing, the trade deadline has come and gone and Roy Halladay is still a Bluejay! Hooray! At least until the off season…), Shengrong and I spent the rest of the weekend in Niagara Falls. She’d always wanted to go ever since Dashan (possibly the best known Canadian in the world) took her on a “tour” of the falls in one of his TV programs. The falls are very well-known in China: westerners who go to China want to see the Great Wall, Chinese who come to Canada want to see Niagara Falls.

The falls themselves are as spectacular as you would expect. If you’ve never been there, there are two waterfalls, one much larger than the other. There’s a boat called the “Maid of the Mist” that’ll take you up close, which is a pretty intense experience, and made more so for us because it absolutely poured rain for the 30 minutes we were on the boat, and then the sun came out. They give you a stylish blue slicker to keep you from getting soaked by the spray, so we came out of the experience relatively dry.

The town of Niagara Falls is a little surreal. It’d pass as a fairly ordinary small town, except for the giant tourist area grafted on to the side nearest the waterfalls. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants, which is to be expected, but also a large number of “attractions” like the one pictured above that don’t really fit. Apparently, everyone is trying to offer an answer to the question of “we’ve seen the waterfall, what now?”, and answer it louder than his neighbour. I suspect there’s a positive feedback loop in action: each outlandish attraction pushes the next to be even crazier.

The waterfalls, at least, are beautiful. We mostly stayed away from the surrounding madness, but I couldn’t resist snapping the photo above of Frankenstein’s castle-and-burger-king, which is across the street from the toppled over Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum and just up the hill from the pro-wrestling themed “pile driver” amusement ride, and the wax museum where teenage girls busily snapped pictures of a wax statue of Heath Ledger as The Joker in the window.

I found myself trying to imagine what the Falls would have been like before the town. What must the first people to see it have thought, coming upon this roaring display of nature surrounded by the quiet woods? It would have been like finding the hand of god reaching down to the earth in the middle of the wilderness.