Toronto.

May 27-30

From Chicago, we flew into Buffalo (NY) to catch a Greyhound bus to Toronto. It’s cheaper that way, because flying into Toronto from Chicago would have incurred international flight costs. Way cheaper to break it up into flight-bus. Met Yeh Yang at the airport, his flight came in a little after ours.

We took a cab to downtown Buffalo where the bus terminal was and bought our round trip tickets to Toronto. We went out of the terminal to look for some food and was surprised that Buffalo was literally empty. I remember clearly seeing more sea gulls than people. It was a Sunday I think, so maybe that’s why it was so deserted. But Scully (one of my professors from IC) mentioned that Buffalo was one of those upstate New York cities that was booming in the days of early industrialization but is currently in a state of disrepair.

So anyway, the bus ride took four hours, and the bus got really crowded towards the end because it picked up passengers along the way, all heading towards Toronto. From the bus station, we took a cab to our hostel – Global Village Backpackers. It was not too bad. Yeh Yang and I were in the same room, Angela and Xinpei were in a room one floor below. I got into touch with Eliana, a really good friend of mine from Fairfield, who had been studying at the Uni. of Toronto for a few years now. She was going to join us for dinner.


Eliana locking her bike at the hostel before we headed out to dinner.

We walked to a Fish & Chips shop recommended by Eliana, and settled at a park to savor it. I think I’ve said this before but I haven’t had decent seafood in the US. Probably too expensive to get reasonable seafood in this country. But, thinking of calamari, soft shell crab, oat prawns….. Aahhh, very sad. Cos these are so readily available in Singapore.

Caught up with what’s going on in Eliana’s life. We were really close back in school, but after she went off to JC, we didn’t keep in touch. Funny how some people actually thought we were attached, when all there was was platonic. Weird lah. Fairfield days just seem so long ago.

We went to a little bar for some nachos and drinks, and chatted more about being vegan, and places to see in Toronto. When we got back to the hostel, Jane was there waiting for us. She’s a friend from school, doing her exchange studies at Uni. of Maryland, and joining us for our Toronto leg.

The next day, we set off early towards Casa Loma, passing through the city and the historic Uni. of Toronto. The architecture of the buildings here are a mix of old and new, urban meets Scottish tradition in the heart of the city.


I believe this is the Ontario Parliament Building, at Queen’s Park.


I have no idea what building this is; located across the Parliament Building, to emphasize the new and old mix.


Can you say the Uni. of Toronto is beautiful? NTU’s campus doesn’t even get near enough for comparison.


Last of Uni. of Toronto.


Inscription at Royal Ontario Museum – Man’s art, but Man is God’s art.


Jane, Angela, Xinpei and Yeh Yang, after a really long walk to Casa Loma.

Casa Loma is a castle built in 1914. It was, for some time, the largest private residence in North America and houses two pipe organs in its interior. It belonged to a Sir Henry Pellatt, who was famous for bringing hydroelectricity to Ontario by harnessing the power of the Niagara Falls.


Interior of the castle’s hall


View of downtown Toronto and CN Tower from the castle’s tower, currently undergoing restoration works


Jane and I in the castle’s garden


Found a little hole in the bushes to look at the CN Tower

After we left the castle, we took a cab to Chinatown for a late lunch, settled at a Hong Kong place that sold the traditional roasted fare. I had congee, and we ordered oyster-sauce vegetables. Actually, Chinese food in the US is not as bad as I thought it was. It got better as I traveled – had fantastic Chinese food in Boston at a Taiwanese restaurant, and here in Washington D.C. I found a really nice place that has Crystal Jade standard. But back to Toronto. Jane left for the hostel after lunch to rest her eyes, while we walked around Chinatown and Kensington Market, some quirky sights there.


A car filled with soil, with grass and a bush growing out of it.

The most quirky of all was finding a Singaporean restaurant in Chinatown. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the signboard and the pictures of their dishes. Other than Singapore Day in New York, this was the closest to me finding Singapore in North America.


Merlion Restaurant – Singaporean without a single doubt.


Oyster with egg, and the correct chilli sauce!!!


Laksa!


Singapore Chilli Crab!!!

There were other dishes too – satay, popiah, pineapple fried rice, chicken rice, mee goreng, chicken curry, mee pok, teochew duck and in keeping with the spirit of sambal stingray, they had grilled spicy fish. HAHA. Sadly, the restaurant was closed though. Very very disappointing. Finally, a Singaporean had some sense to bring our famous hawker fare to N.America.


Toronto’s streetcar, with CN Tower background.

In the evening, we took a walk southwards towards the Toronto Harbour and Lake Ontario. Passed the CN Tower, a water fountain depicting the salmon’s journey upstream to lay eggs, the SkyDome where the Blue Jays were playing, the Air Canada Centre where WWE was taking place. There really wasn’t much to do in that area, so we headed up Yonge Street in search of a place to eat, and settled at a Japanese place.

The next day, we planned to go to Niagara Falls. We were renting a car from a company, (more on that later). Jane’s eye wasn’t doing any better so brought her to a clinic for a check. The doctor diagnosed it as cornea ulcer and recommended that we go to the hospital to see a specialist. I thought I should stay with Jane, while Yeh Yang, Angela and Xinpei went ahead to Niagara Falls. So, yet another reason for me to return to Toronto – to see Niagara Falls. Funny thing, how Ithaca is closer to Niagara Falls and Toronto than New York City, but by the time I’m done here in the US, I would have spent a total of 13 days (non-consecutively) in New York City, without having seen the Falls.

That evening, while Jane was resting, and the rest were still at Niagara Falls, I called Eliana out for dinner and we went to an Indian restaurant. She’s staying on at Uni. of Toronto for her grad studies. So that was goodbye, till I see her again one day.

The next morning, we sent Jane off to the airport because she decided to return to Maryland to get her eye treated. After that, we sent Angela and Xinpei to the bus terminal for their bus back to Buffalo. Their flight from Buffalo to New York City was earlier than ours and we were staying in different hostels in the City, so we would meet the next day. Yeh Yang and I then went to return the car, and got charged a lot of money cos the car had a minor scratch that no one really could have noticed, except the money-faced car rental guy out to make money. So, the lesson we concluded is that saving a little bit of money is not worth it and probably should have rented from a bigger company instead of trying to save some money.

That kind of bummed the whole day for us, especially for Yeh Yang. Can’t blame him for feeling lousy. So I tried to impart my skill of not letting things affect myself too much. What happened has happened, feeling lousy about it isn’t going to make things change. Yeah, so our moods picked up a little.

We left Toronto for Buffalo a little after 4PM I think. Not much to mention, except for an obnoxious police officer with a sad sense of humor. Well you see, I had all my belongings with me since I wasn’t returning to Ithaca until August. Naturally to a police officer, it wouldn’t make sense for someone who was in Toronto for three days to be carrying two large luggage bags. So I patiently explained that I studied in Ithaca for four months and this was everything from then, I was backpacking around N.America till end-June and was carrying everything with me. He then joked that I was a homeless man carrying my home with me. Yes.

The last straw came when it was time for baggage security checks. He watched me struggle to lift my bags onto their security table, because they don’t have a conveyor belt for that. After I had done that, he said, “Oh, I’m not going to check that. I just wanted to see how you were going to lift that onto the table. *Sniggers.”

…………..

Americans have surprised me with their social graces. I meet some really nice people who are just so friendly, and yet you also meet people like the above-mentioned police officer. I think that made me pretty blasé. Americans and me? Chalk and cheese.

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