City serves real taste of Canada
Americans often consider Canada to be America's hat. Visually on a map, there's a resemblance. But in practice, I prefer to think of Canada as America's brains (although I don't have any solid proof to justify this claim). Well, that's just me - I might be a little biased, eh!
Growing up in Toronto, on the edge of Lake Ontario, in southern Canada, and coming to Hong Kong three years ago, taught me the value of fresh air. It is ironic: Toronto's air quality is among the worst of any city in Canada. Yet compared with Hong Kong ...
Like any destination, there are the touristy places that everyone knows and hidden gems. Good places to visit include the Eaton Centre shopping complex, the CN Tower communication and observation landmark, Harbourfront - offering a mix of parks, boating, theatre shows, craft studios and galleries - the Royal Ontario Museum and the Gothic-style Casa Loma house and gardens.
If your 'T-Dot' stay is short, skip these (or simply zoom by for the obligatory photos) and head to Tim Hortons, the proudly Canadian coffee shop serving the best coffee around. Order a coffee 'double-double'. They'll understand!
Street vendors in Toronto make some of the world's tastiest hotdogs. My favourite is in my old stomping grounds at the University of Toronto. Countless hotdogs made by a Greek lady (people call her 'Mama') are wolfed down on the sidewalks lined with students. She splits the sausage (no we don't call them frankfurters - just sausages or wieners) lengthwise, down the centre, and makes angled cuts so it cooks evenly on the grill, and allows more room for toppings.
Our pho (noodle soup) restaurants serve authentic Vietnamese-style noodles. I've been to Vietnam and tried the pho in Hong Kong. But, really - it's a bold statement - there's no comparison.
For burgers, you must try Lick's Homeburgers for a fatty burger and milkshake. If you're lucky, and staff aren't slacking off, they'll sing you a song when your order is ready.
If you hope to take home a part of Canada, try our legendary maple syrup. No offence Aunt Jemima, but in Canada, we eat real maple syrup.
We're also known for our fresh salmon. Every piece of sashimi I had in Japan is better than anything in any part of the world - except for the salmon found in Canada.
If you miss Hong Kong, visit the Markham or Richmond Hill area, in the north of the city. It's a bigger, more spacious and cleaner version of Hong Kong, with lots of cha chaan teng, kiosks and, of course, hair salons. English isn't required. Yet skip Chinatown area in downtown; it's more Vietnamese than Chinese.
Torontonians bleed blue - the colour of our beloved hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. We live and die by hockey, the only true grass-roots development sport that we care about. Justin Bieber is a major fan - for proof, watch Never Say Never and pay special attention to the logo on his wall and blanket covers. Tickets aren't cheap, but you won't experience the same atmosphere in any other rink in the world.
For shopping, visit Queen Street, our less-busy equivalent to Causeway Bay. It's where cool hipsters hang out, shop or just chill at cafes. For more upscale dining and shopping, try Yorkville, a 15-minute bus or subway ride.
Near Harbourfront is Saint Lawrence Market, voted the top food market by National Geographic magazine. It has the freshest meats, breads and veggies in the city.
Hong Kong Identity Card holders do not require a visa to visit Canada.
Health and Safety
There are no special health warnings for Canada.
One Hong Kong dollar is worth 13Canadian cents
Weather and climate
Temperatures in summer can rise above 30 degrees Celsius. In winter, they can fall to minus 30 degrees (including the wind chill).
It is best to visit in late spring to early summer, when temperatures range from 6 to 15 degrees. If you want to experience snow, go in winter (November to February).
There's one main subway system in Toronto. Buses and the subway are run by the same company; it costs about HK$23 per trip regardless of the distance travelled.