BY: Frankie Chee
SINGAPOREAN ABROAD IN MISSISSAUGA WITH...
Occupation: Freelance copy editor and writer
Length of stay: 2 years
Space may be a luxury in crowded Singapore but it is something that everyone who visits Mississauga, Canada, can enjoy.
The city located in the regional municipality of Peel, Ontario, spans about 288 sq km, two-fifths the size of Singapore, but has a population of only 704,000 people.
Having resided there for more than two years, freelance copy editor and writer Annabel Tan, 34, likes the place for its laid-back, spacious and close-to-nature qualities.
The pretty city is also centrally located, with easy access to the thriving bars of Toronto, a mere 30-minute drive away, and the imposing Niagara Falls.
The best way to explore Mississauga is by...
Driving around in a fuel-efficient car - to save on fuel costs for travelling long stretches of road - and then getting out and walking around. The bus system, known as the Mississauga Transit, will get you wherever you want to go, as long as you plan your route in advance.
There is a strict schedule and the wait between buses can be long, so it is not time-efficient if you have limited vacation days. It costs C$2.50 (S$3.35) per trip to anywhere within a two-hour limit. But, if you buy tickets in advance, it costs C$2.30 per trip. There is no subway in Mississauga - only in Toronto.
The best time to visit is...
Likely to differ, depending on who you ask. For someone who hates the heat like I do, winter (December to March) would be the best time.
I also love the winter outdoors and there are many winter sports you can engage in amid breathtaking sights
and scenery, especially on top of the mountains. There is skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and iceskating on frozen lakes.
However, if you are afraid of the cold, then summer (June to August) would be a good time. That is also when all the festivals happen and people come out to play.
In eastern Canada, there are four seasons, though it is really more like three cold ones and one warm one. So, when summer rolls around, everyone cannot wait to get outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and lack of snow - no more shovelling required, at least not for a while.
Summer is also when you can go camping with pals in the provincial parks, jump into lakes for a swim, and go canoeing, kayaking, whitewater-rafting or tubing.
In winter, the temperature can dip to as low as minus 20 deg C and the winds are chilly. But in summer, it can get as hot as 35 to 40 deg C. The cool and moderate temperatures during spring and autumn are the most pleasant.
Which places in the city excite you?
The downtown city itself is not terribly exciting, but it is the proximity of Mississauga to so many other areas that makes it a great place to live in.
It is just a 30-minute drive eastward to hip-and-happening Toronto, which is a happy playground for those who like a thriving nightlife and all things urban. You can also go celebrity-spotting there.
Go in the other direction (north-west) and you will find yourself in Milton where there are many mountain-hiking trails surrounded by peaceful farmlands that stretch for acres, and lovely country drives that you will never be able to find in Asia, least of all in Singapore.
Go south and you will get to Niagara Falls.
FOOD AND WINE
Where can you find food that is close to Singaporean food?
At my Singaporean friends' homes. Seriously, I don't really look for Singaporean food here. Every Chinese restaurant here tastes the same to me and the flavour is not Singaporean but more like Cantonese fare.
Your favourite breakfast is at...
Sunset Grill (2901 Eglinton Avenue West, Mississauga, tel: +1-905-569-6009), where it serves great granola with honey on yogurt and fantastic home fries - different from french fries, these are diced chunky potatoes with the skin still on.
Your favourite eating place is...
Pho Mi Asia (1248 Dundas Street East, Mississauga, tel: +1-905-566-8898), the best Vietnamese restaurant that serves great pho noodles at low prices - perfect for a cold winter's day. Compared to other Vietnamese restaurants, this place gets the texture and consistency of the noodles just right, with the right balance of spices in the soup.
|In winter, head to Pho Mi Asia for soupy noodles at an affordable price.
The coolest place to chill out is...
By the lake at Port Credit (Mississauga's village on the lake, tel: +1-905-278-7742), where you can either take a leisurely stroll after dinner or just sit on the stone cliffs and watch the Canadian geese or herds of seagulls fly overhead, with a steaming cup of Tim Hortons (an affordable Canadian brand) tea or coffee in hand.
|In summer, get close to nature by taking a walk around the lake at Port Credit.
If the weather in summer is good, fishermen (hobbyists included) will be lined in a row on those cliffs in the evening and at night, waiting for the fish to bite.
What do you think Singaporeans will like most about the city?
The weather and the incredible amount of space.
What's the biggest difference between Singapore and this city?
The space. In Mississauga, the streets are wide and the people relatively few in relation to the amount of space.
The similarity is that Mississauga is surprisingly multicultural, with a mix of Asians (Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans), South Asians (Indians and Pakistanis) and Caucasians.
About 40 per cent of Mississauga residents are non-white.
THINGS TO DO
Where's one place you will always take your friends when they visit you?
Toronto or Niagara Falls.
|World-famous Niagara Falls.
What is the one thing one must do in the city?
Visit a true-blue Canadian family in its home. You don't get a real sense of what real Canadian culture is until you live with the locals and experience their way of life.
Most people see only the urban city side of the country, but I recommend going out to the farms, of which there are many in Canada, to get a glimpse of something more unique and colloquial.
Canada Homestay Network (Central Canada office, 13 Binscarth Road, Toronto, Ontario M4W 1Y2, tel: +1-416-926-0355) comprises Canada Homestay International and Homestay Toronto, and it arranges homestays in more than 25 communities in Canada, including small towns in beautiful rural areas and major cities.
What do you do on weekends?
I go hiking in the mountains and trails nearby and also cycle around the city for hours at a time.
In Mississauga, there are more than 481 parks and woodlands, and 23 major trail systems. In winter, I put on my snowshoes and clamber happily through the snow in the wooded trails.
|Go fishing in Erindale Park
Where is the best place for shopping?
Square One Shopping Centre (100 City Centre Drive, Mississauga, tel: +1-905-279-7467) is the largest shopping mall in the province of Ontario, and one of the largest in Canada.
It has more than 360 stores and services, four major department stores (Hudson Bay, Sears, Wal-Mart and Zellers) and more than 40 places to eat.
In summer, the weekend Farmers' Markets are ripe for fresh pickings. You can get really fresh cherries and berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries), and all sorts of locally grown fruit and produce such as tomatoes, peaches and vegetables.
Are there any notable festivals that travellers should look out for?
July: July 1 is Canada Day. It is celebrated with performances and fireworks in the Mississauga Civic Centre (www.mississauga.ca).
There is also the Mississauga Ribfest (www.mississaugarotaryribfest.com) from July 18 to 20, in front of the Mississauga City Hall, when you get to savour the best ribs from all over.
August: Port Credit's Busker Festival (www.portcredit.com) from Aug 15 to 17, where comedians, contortionists, magicians, mimes, jugglers and acrobats perform at this scenic village by the lake.
September: The South Side Shuffle Blues and Jazz Festival (www.southsideshuffle.com) is held from Sept 5 to 7. Canadian and international acts entertain on a main stage as well as in the bars and restaurants in Port Credit.
A LITTLE FURTHER
What is there to do or see outside Mississauga?
There are so many places to go, depending on how far you are willing to drive: from the Glen Eden/Kelso ski region to Mount Nemo and Rattlesnake Point, a haven for mountain climbers.
And just more than an hour south is one of the great wonders of the world - the world-famous Niagara Falls.