Wednesday, June 10, 2009


So today I really felt like a tourist in my own city. I tried to look at my own town with the same amazed eyes that I have when I am in some far off destination. Sure enough I began to see my home in the same way that a tourist might, and through this process I developed a new appreciation of this wonderful city that I call home.

Getting to Chinatown is very easy. Take the subway to the Spadina station, then walk upstairs and catch the streetcar going south. This should be very easy as every streetcar that leaves from the Spadina subway is going south. Get off the streetcar at College and head south into the heart of Chinatown.

As you walk south along Spadina, you will encounter some of the best bargains that the city has to offer. While I can't vouch for quality, you're not gonna beat the five T shirts for ten bucks and I am quite happy with the two pairs of shorts that I bought for $20.

Clothing is not only bargain here, as cheap eats abound, including Thai and Vietnamese offerings. Personally, I favour Kings Noodle House. The hot and sour soup cannot be beat. It is on the west side of Spadina, just north of Dundas. Be prepared though, this ain't fine dining and you may find yourself sharing your table involuntarily.

There is also another favourite spot for cheap food. Located at the southwest corner of Spadina and Dundas is a great spot for Dim Sum. I don't even know the name of the place, but it is located on the top floor of the mall . I have never spent more than ten bucks a head here and the elevated location cannot be beat for cheap eats and a great view of the city.

Next up, I decide that I need a haircut and you are not going to find a cheaper haircut in this town than you will find here. I almost opted for the "Dreamalnd Salon" but given that there was a lineup, I choose the "First Clean Cut Haircutting Salon" located on Dundas, just west of Spadina. The "salon" is an odd combination of lottery kiosk and the very latest in "Haute Coiffure". Given that my hair is in its own neverending global recession, I am not that fussy about who cuts it and at this point I was starting to look like the guy from Eraserhead every time it got windy.

So I walk into the "First Clean Cut Haircutting Salon, past the lottery kiosk and into the salon area. One lady is cutting someones hair and their is a guy having a siesta in a chair. I'm loving this place already. After a moment of me waiting a voice from the lottery kiosk barks a name and suddenly my siesta-ing stylist comes to life.

Leaping to his feet, he quickly twists a chair in my direction and beckons forth. As I sit in the chair he takes a moment to size me up and says "medium?" I'm not exactly sure what "medium" means but it sounds safe enough to me.

In a flying flash of razor and scissor, with the dexterity of a surgeon and the speed of a juggler the haircut begins. Clearly, this guy has cut a lot of hair in his day. He jokingly remarks about me waking him up and I jokingly apologise for waking him up, and we all share a laugh. Ten minutes and six bucks later I'm out the door, still not quite ready for GQ, but at least I don't look like the guy from Eraserhead anymore.

Feeling peckish, I decide that my next stop should be for dinner in Toronto's other Chinatown, just south of where I live. I hop on the eastbound College streetcar and it meanders its way through the city. We pass through the University of Toronto Campus, across Bay Street (the financial hub of the city), past Yonge Street (the longest street in the world), through Cabbagetown and Regent Park (home to a very large social housing project) and across the Don Valley to Broadview and Gerrard, home to a smaller but no less vibrant Chinatown.

As I step off the streetcar, I know my destination, the beloved Ka Ka Barbecue Restaurant. Located on the east side of Broadview, just south of Gerrard street, this is the best deal in town. For four bucks you get a huge portion of rice and a side of vegetables with BBQ duck or pork.

Obviously they are able to keep the prices ridiculously low by doing huge volume, as I witness a neverending stream of customers lining up for takeaway while I enjoy my dinner.

As I leave the restaurant, I smile to myself, awash in the joyous knowledge that my "staycation" is revealing to me the wonderous magic of the city that surrounds me. Next stop, Kensington Market, and how I discovered my new hobby there.