Day 10: Last Day in London

all you have is your fire
and the place you need to reach
don't you ever tame your demons,
but always keep them on a leash

Arsonist's Lullabye - Hozier

This is the last post of this trip peeps. I don't think it's going to be long. You know I often feel that I cram all my physical exercises requirement in a year when I go travelling. I was outdoor a lot, I walked a lot, especially when I got lost. I even sometime felt that I got home skinnier. Now I start to feel that I cram all my writing requirement in a year when I write these posts about the trip. It's not like there's a requirement or anything, but I do think it's important to write. It's forcing my brain to think of words and be creative in putting my thoughts and opinion. Not that anything I write is beautifully phrased or any thought I have is sound and logical. I just always feel it's important to get my brain challenged. I guess that's why I've been taking language classes one after another, despite of me having days when I was just so frustrated of it all and felt that a 1-2 week break is too short. So after this post, I think you will not be seeing a new post soon due to my laziness. If you miss it (I doubt you will), don't worry, I force myself to write at least 1 post a month and so far I've been keeping it.

Before I start with this last post, let's talk about the UK leaving the EU. Man, I didn't think they had it in them. I thought they're going to chicken out and remain. So they're leaving, congrats I guess. The markets around the world as CNN put it are freaking out. If only they're not. Perhaps people need to chill. Yes, things are going to change. It may go downhill, but hey be positive, be resilient, get back to work, and make the best out of the decision. The ride downhill will eventually stop and things will start looking not so bad. So unlike me to sound positive. Right now things may seem disastrous. There are already talk from politicians in the Netherlands and France wanting to get out too. There's also talk about Scotland wanting to vote for their independence again. Then David Cameron is resigning, goodness right now everything does seem so nightmarish. I have to say he may have made the wrong move by allowing a referendum to take place in the first place. It's like opening a Pandora's box. Again it brings me to mind a conversation in the book The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Anyways, one good point is with the pounds going down, it might be a good time to travel to the UK :)

So my last day in London. My flight out was at 8 pm, so I still had time to explore the city. The plan was to visit The National Gallery and Westminster Abbey. I took my time that morning. I checked out from my hotel and went out to a rainy morning. The evening before as I checked the weather I saw that there's a 12-hour yellow weather warning until 12 pm of my last day. Finding out there's a warning, it seemed serious to me. I didn't know what yellow warning meant. When I went out that day, I had to use the umbrella (again it proved that my decision to bring one was correct), but the rain was so-so for me. It wasn't heavy. It made me think of being in Singapore, I don't think we have weather warning and we often have big heavy thunderstorm rains with lightning and thunders. If there is warning, it's not something that appears in the news. So the whole thing was a bit strange for me that day. I did hear a tree fell on the track somewhere though and some train wasn't operating, but all and all it was an okay manageable weather situation for me.

The National Gallery is this awesome museum in Trafalgar Square. I say awesome because it's free (again the UK is so awesome about their museums) and the collections are great. I read that you can not bring your backpack so I put it at the cloak room, but then I did see people with their back pack :( So anyway, I started at this special exhibition of flower paintings. You can't take picture here, so I don't have any. I think they're all by Dutch painters and they're all so so beautiful. The museum is divided into different styles: Early Renaissance, High Renaissance & Mannerism, Baroque, Rococo, post-1800, Impressionism & Post-Impressionism. When you enter the sections, you really do see the different styles. Unfortunately my knowledge on this is still very very limited. The Early Renaissance section is kinda further off and you go through High Renaissance first before getting there. I thought it might be better if it's the other way around. This picture below is from one of the room in the High Renaissance & Mannerism section.

This is from Early Renaissance. I think all if not most of the works are about Jesus, the angels, and the saints.

This one is from the Baroque era. Looking at the picture, the kids look so happy. For a more detailed explanation of the painting, you can go here.

Here are paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Left is Dancing Girl with Castanets and right is Dancing Girl with Tambourine and I think they fall under Impressionism.

For more pictures from the gallery, you can go here. I forgot how long I spent here. I had lunch at the gallery, had Guineafowl. It's not bad, I actually enjoyed it and I actually googled what it looked like alive while waiting for my food. Leaving the gallery, it was still drizzling a bit, but I still walked around Trafalgar Square a bit. Seeing this picture, I think the weather that day is cliché London. It's like England was saying, you cannot leave yet without experiencing this :D

Next stop was Westminster Abbey. Again I have booked for this, but they didn't seem to have a dedicated entrance for people who already had their tickets :( You can't take pictures inside the Abbey, so all have is the exterior pictures.

Inside you are given an audio guide. I listened to all the stops. There are a lot of important historical things inside the Abbey. A lot of tombs. A lot of people were buried there, of course some of the Kings and Queens of England, but there's also people like Isaac Newton. There's a Poet Corner which contained many famous writers. There was a Shakespeare statue and I also saw a memorial for Jane Austen. I wonder if the Abbey is still used to bury famous people. If yes, I wonder if they really just start making a hole on the floor to bury the person. When I was there, lucky me, the garden was opened that day. So I went there too. It's not very big though and since I was running out of time, I didn't linger. This below is among the last pictures I took in London. It's a picture of the Big Ben that I took before I dashed to the tube station.

As you can see, it shows 03:30 PM. I had a ticket for the bus to Heathrow at 4 pm. I needed to rush to the hotel, get my luggage, and go to Victoria Coach Station. Victoria Coach Station is very near my hotel, but with 30 mins to spare I was cutting it close. When I arrived at the coach station, I got confused with the TV boards so I just asked one of the staff there. He was taking his time examining my print out, but luckily the gate wasn't far and I made it. As I sat down, I saw the clock in the bus showed 03:58 PM, that's how close I was cutting it in. When I booked the ticket, I thought I may have made a mistake, I could have taken a later bus, but then as the bus struggled with the traffic in London I thought I may have made the right decision after all. It made me think of how it's the same in Jakarta. When I need to get to the airport from home, the struggle is to get from my house to the toll. The distance is short, but the traffic can be a killer. In the end though, the bus arrived at the stated time, so really they have calculated the journey time to include traffic. I arrived with a lot of time to spare but as my mom always says, it's better to just wait at the airport than be late. The airport wasn't busy and after passing security check, I just spent the time walking around. Somehow I found out that I needed to take their internal train to get to my gate and I thank God that I didn't find that out at the last minute. I would have been in such a panic then, like the few passengers who seemed to be quite panicky about it. The section where my gate was didn't have a lot of shops, only a Starbuck and something else so yeah it wasn't much fun waiting there, but at least it was quiet. Perhaps that day really made me tired that I was able to sleep on the plane, as mentioned in post 1. At the end, I really thank God for this blessing and opportunity. It's another adventure done and each time I am always still in disbelief that I did it, that I am still blessed enough to be able to do all these. It's humbling and my gratitude to God is never enough. For pictures of London, please go here. So that's it peeps, we're done. THE END :)

:) eKa @ 10:06:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 9: Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio London & The Tower of London

in the wandering city you're free
with mountains made of gold and silver
you'll find who you're meant to be

Navajo - Island Cassettes

I have 20 pictures planned for this post. That's too much yes, let's see if I can edit myself and cut down on a few. One of the thing I really wanted to do while in London was to visit Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio and I did just that (mission accomplished, thank You God for the blessing). To visit Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio London, you have to book the ticket beforehand, you can't get it on the spot. I booked more than 1.5 months before the day of visit and many of the time slot were already sold out. I ended up choosing the first slot at 09:00 AM. I would have liked a later option so that I didn't have to wake up early, but alas such was the decision that God made for me and I do see that God chose this so that every other things can work out. To make me more excited about this time slot, I think of my mom who would think 09:00 AM is not early at all and would chastise me for being lazy and wasting precious time during holiday :P I think if you cannot get the ticket on your own, you can take any of the day tour that would include transport from London to the studio, but they cost like more than 2 times than when you book the ticket yourself. I paid 44.95 GBP for my ticket which includes digital guide and a guide book. I was quite in a dilemma if I wanted the digital guide and the guide book, but then I thought I should just get it, I didn't want to miss out.

I was quite worried if I was able to arrive on time. London tube website is very useful, when you google journey planner, they also give you the timing of the train. First I had to make my way to Euston station. That was easy. Then I had to take a train from there to Watford Junction. Arriving in Euston, the TV board confirmed the train that I should take and I found out which platform it was. Then I got confused because there's no gate in accessing that platform, so I wasn't sure how I was supposed to pay for the fare using Oyster card. I asked a random guy and he told me about the small machine at the corner where I had to tap in. He reminded me that I could use the oyster card to Watford Junction only. Nice guy. So I went to the machine and tapped my card. This reminded me of years ago, first trip to Italy in which I had to remind myself to find the machine to validate every train ticket I used. That really felt so long ago as it really is. Side note: I do miss Italy sometime. So anyways this train I took was the express one, it skipped all the stops and went directly to Watford Junction. It took around 20 minutes, maybe less. Watford Junction is not a very big station and that's good. I was worried I would get confused in this station. Found the bus station easy enough because it's just outside on the left and as googled the Harry Potter shuttle arrived as expected and all of us Harry Potter fans got in.

When you arrive, you should use the machine and scan in your print out to get the actual ticket. It was straightforward to use. I actually arrived there before 09:00 AM and I have to say it's kinda nice to be on the first slot. It's not as manic with the so many people which I saw later in the day. That being said, the first slot itself had a lot of people. I saw some little kids in robes, the cutest thing. Being first, you had time to slowly take your time, use the toilet, or have breakfast at the cafe. The reason why they have to divide it into slots is because the first thing we do is enter the Great Hall and each time the doors are closed and each group enter together. If it's your birthday, I think you can tell the staff and they let you open the door. This simple act of opening the door and bringing you into the Great Hall is enough for people like me who's a fan to like gasped in awe and I don't even think I'm that big of a fan. I give myself like 7.5 out of 10. The digital guide I had gave explanation on each of the stop point and there were also additional videos in there that you can watch. There's actually some staff in some of the point and they gave explanation at some time interval. You can also ask them question if you like I think. The whole thing is extraordinary. As a person who loves Harry Potter, I was just giddy with excitement in everything that I saw. The studio is big but it's also not that big when you think about it. So each time when they have to reset the studio for a scene, it's kinda amazing to think of the logistic and such. The creativity in each of the craft is as they say magical in itself. When I saw all of these, I thought of the amount of work done and felt kinda sad to think the people working on it didn't get paid the millions. So anyways here are some of the things I saw. They're just so amazing and hence I had difficulty not putting them here. If you're not a fan, all these things might be so boring for you.

The Great Hall is in the actual size one would imagine it to be. At the end of the Great Hall is the teacher's tables. Here you have all the costumes that the teachers wore.

This is the room that Harry and Ron shared in Gryffindor. The beds became too small for them as they grew.

This is the Gryffindor common room with costumes worn by Hermione, Harry, and Ron. Painting on the left is the picture of Prof. McGonagall in her younger days.

These are the different important items in Harry Potter universe. You have the philosopher stone, the shell that Harry used to made Dumbledore drink the potion in the inferi lake, the golden snitch, and many others.

Here's one of the cupboard in Dumbledore's office. It contains many curious things. One thing that really made me excited was seeing the pensieve. Obviously there are so many things in Harry Potter world that I would want to have, but a pensieve would be quite top of the list.

These are the different paintings that adorned Hogwarts' walls. Fun fact: some of the people in the paintings are the people in production.

Potion room. It's pretty big and I did get quite sentimental a bit because Prof. Snape is like my favorite character in the whole thing. Never doubted from the beginning that he was evil. I think it would be a twist for me if he's evil instead. Seeing the room and be reminded that the actor Alan Rickman has passed away, well it's rather sad.

Below is a picture of Hagrid's hut. By the way as you can see we're allowed to take as many pictures as we want. I remember when there was a Harry Potter's exhibition in Singapore way back years ago, we weren't allowed to take any picture at all. How mean. What I remembered from that exhibition was that Hagrid's sofa was very big and for some reason I think we're allowed to sit on it. Anyway here I learned that there was a body double for Hagrid.

The snake door of the Chamber of Secrets. It looked menacing and cool at the same time.

The Weasley's dining room and kitchen. Here there were some items that moved by themselves like a pair of knitting needle which were moving as if knitting a scarf, a knife which was cutting a carrot, and a pan being washed.

The Black Family tapestry. Very cool. Another example of how detailed the craftsmanship on these things are, things that didn't appear for a long time on screen or even things that only appeared in the background.

The Hogwarts Express. It's an actual train. You can get on it. It didn't have many compartments and they're all dressed with items from where they appeared in the movies.

After this Hogwarts Express and platform part, it's actually the end of section 1. I went for lunch before continuing. You could get butterbeer too. I didn't because I had read some people saying it tasted very sweet and not very nice. I had butterbeer ice cream instead. I can't remember, it may cost 4.95 GBP or perhaps 3.95 GBP, point is I thought it's quite an expensive ice cream, but there were a lot of it. It tasted okay. Not the best tasting to die for ice cream I have ever tasted. It's just okay I think. Anyway the second section begins with the outdoor lot where there's the knight bus and the Hogwarts Bridge. There's also the Dursley's house. We were allowed to enter it and see its living room. In this picture the envelopes are being hold by transparent strings and as you can see they're invisible. By the way it's been 15 years since the first Harry Potter movie. I feel extremely old :|

By the way, back in section 1, as mentioned some points have staff manning them and they would give explanation from time to time. Well there's one point on the mechanics of some of these magical effects and there was a demonstration of how the many envelopes could fly out from the door slot. We're allowed to take the envelopes that flew out and of course I took one. While section one was about the sets and items used in the movies, section 2 was the production side of things - the research, the experiment, the blue print for the sets, etc. It was truly mind opening. There's a lot of work involved in all these. The people doing all these worked so hard and I truly doubt they get paid the millions. Made you wonder why movie stars deserve the millions they're getting and the people behind the stage who work as hard, if not even harder, don't get that kind of money. Anyways, the last thing we saw is this model of the whole Hogwarts castle and ground and it was big and majestic and awesome. They used this detailed model to film the exterior of the castle and ground and using special effects they put everything together with the live action. It's totally amazing.

Then it was the gift shop. I bought perhaps the most useless thing ever. Please don't tell my mom. I was in a dilemma about it, but then I decided to give in. I bought Prof. Snape's wand. Again he's my favorite character and his wand is black in color, so it's nice and it's also cheaper than what I saw during the Harry Potter exhibition in Singapore. At that time I remember I found the wands to be so expensive that I just couldn't. This one is still expensive at 20 GBP plus for a stick made in China (no surprise), but ultimately it was cheaper than when they're sold in Singapore then. Even though it doesn't have a purpose, I was really happy when I got it :D In the end I think I left at around 1 pm. For more pictures from Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio, you can go here.

The plan for that day was to visit the National Gallery after Harry Potter Studio and the next day to visit the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. Direction wise, they all made sense. However then I'd been hearing that the next day it would be a really rainy days in London, so it's better to do outdoor activity before that day. I hate having to change plan, I'm not very good with changes, but I had to. You can't be stubborn all the time, because you'll end up being stupid. So the plan next was to go to the Tower of London instead. Unfortunately the stupid me still did a stupid thing. I had actually googled the journey back and got the schedule. When I arrived in Watford Junction I was in such a hurry and stupidity that I didn't consult the TV board to confirm the schedule and check the correct platform and train. Instead I just walked on. I saw the train, seemed like a correct one and indeed it was, but it wasn't the express one. This one was the one that stopped at every stop, arrrghh!!! Okay the good point is at least I was in the correct train. However instead of the 20 mins or so, it took me so much longer.

I still arrived at the Tower of London and I should just be thankful for that. Just like everything else, I have booked for this. The staff didn't seem to scan the print out. It made me wonder if I could still use the ticket again. Unlike the other things I booked, the ticket for the Tower of London is valid for 7 days from your selected date instead of for a specific date. So anyway, just like everyone recommended, the first thing I did was to queue up to see the Crown Jewels. As expected the queue was long. People were writing that you should do this first to make sure you can get in. In retrospect, perhaps it's better to go see it nearer to closing time because I saw the queue was much shorter then. I really didn't enjoy being in the queue. I didn't like the noise, from the horde of French teens on a field trip to the 2 American girls behind me who couldn't stop talking. The queue moved pretty fast but it still took a lot of time from waiting outside to actually seeing all the crowns and all the other regalia. You can't take any picture here. There's a lot of gold and everything are impressive. Below is the building that houses the Crown Jewels.

The internet also recommends taking the free Yeoman Warder tour. However after I exited the Crown Jewels, I saw that the tour was already started. I didn't feel like joining them and so I went to see the ravens and then I explored the compound by walking the walls. Walking the walls bring you to the different towers and there's some exhibitions in them. After I was done I saw that there's another Yeoman Warder tour. Again I found them when they're already in the middle of their tour. When I found out they're visiting the Church of St Peter ad Vincula, I joined in. You can only enter this church with the Yeoman Warder tour. I couldn't remember much of the explanation in the church. After the church the tour was done, so yeah sadly I didn't experience the complete Yeoman Warder tour. After this, I went to see the old torture devices that they had; they're medieval kind and they were really scary. I also went to the White Tower where there are armouries on display, but I didn't feel like exploring this much. When I left the tower, I took another way to get to the tube station and I took pictures of the Tower Bridge.

It's been a long day, but considering the next day was my last day in London, I still had things to complete. I still needed to see the important sights. If you've been reading, I haven't gone to see Buckingham Palace yet. So I stopped at St. James Park. I was very tired and quite worried that this walk through the park would be long and I may not make it to the palace. Turns out St. James Park is very charming. It's quite small when you compare it to Hyde Park, but small thing can be better too. It's definitely pretty and it made for a really nice walk. I love it a lot. There's a lot birds, ducks and all and there's also some flower beds.

There's a bridge in its lake. Standing on the bridge, you will see the London Eye peeking from all the trees on one side and on the opposite side you will see the Buckingham Palace also peeking from all the trees.

I made it to the palace. There were a lot of tourists as expected. There were the guards. As you can see, the one on the left was marching. I don't know why he did that. Maybe they're allowed to do that when they're getting bored? The queen is not around because the flag is the UK flag.

I walked around the area a bit. Walked up to the big Victoria Memorial and that's pretty much it. The next day was my last day in London. That means I only have 1 more post to write people *phew* We're almost there peeps :D

:) eKa @ 9:53:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 8: Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle

everything that's broke
leave it to the breeze
let the ashes fall

Let It Go - James Bay

Day 8, I took a day tour that visited Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Warwick Castle. The tour group was again very big. I happened to sit next to a Singapore lady who's currently based in Hong Kong. She's in the banking industry and was in the UK for work. She's very hardworking, she brought her work in this trip. I talked to her a bit. Found out that she went on a trip to South America some months ago alone. I was very fascinated. I asked her how it was with zika virus around, she said she felt it's was over hyped. I wonder if it's a sign from God. It's like meeting Carl for the first time years ago, the first woman I knew who traveled alone. Me this time meeting another Singaporean woman who traveled to South America alone, a place that's quite on top of my list, is this a sign God? A sign that I can do this?

Anyways, first stop was to Oxford. I learned that Oxford university is composed of many colleges. Reading Wikipedia helps me understand this concept more. The guide took us on a walking tour around the main places. We didn't enter any of the buildings. Honestly I don't remember much of the places that the guide brought us around. There's this Bodleian Library which was used in Harry Potter movie as the hospital wing.

After the walking tour, we're given some time to explore on our own. I wasn't quite sure on what to do and I ended up visiting Balliol College which was nearby. You need to pay 2 GBP to enter. The colleges function as hall of residences as well and it made me think of my hall of residence back in NUS. It's not as cool; we didn't have a chapel, tower, or a beautiful garden, but we also didn't have random tourists walking around. We couldn't enter any of the buildings except for the chapel, but I still wondered if the students feel it's weird having all these tourists walking in. At that time the college felt very quiet, with not many people around, except for the few random tourists such as me. I wonder if it's because the school is on a break or if it's because it's a Sunday.

After Oxford, we made our way to Stratford-upon-Avon which is Shakespeare's birth place and also where one of Singapore founding fathers, Lew Kuan Yew, eloped. We got the chance to visit the Shakespeare’s Birthplace museum where you can see some exhibits about his life and works.

You also get to get into the house where he's supposedly born. The house is not very big and the rooms have been staged with things or art works to represent what life was like back then.

In the garden, there were actors enacting some parts of Shakespeare's plays. After this I made my way to the River Avon. There were so many people there that I didn't feel like exploring it. There's like a small pop up market by the side of the river. I only explored a bit of it and then I decided to walk back. I really don't enjoy crowd much.

Our last stop was Warwick Castle. The guide explained this castle a bit in the bus and she made a strange comment when she said if all of us were wondering if we're visiting a theme park.

The castle was bought by an entertainment company and when they opened in to the public, well they made it very commercial. There's a lot of games and activities for the kids. There were people in costumes greeting visitors and it really does have a theme park feel to it. In the castle, the rooms are staged with Madame Tussauds' like characters. It felt very Downton Abbey for me actually and it was rather interesting in a strange way.

One of the most precious room in the castle is perhaps the room that contained Queen Anne's bed. After exploring the castle, I went to explore the ground. The ground of the castle is very big and I didn't explore it all. There's this peacock garden with real peacocks. I didn't expect that. I thought when I saw feathers fluttering, they weren't real. Only when I came closer I saw that indeed there are peacocks. Lucky for us, there was one bird spreading its feathers.

It is rather strange visiting Warwick Castle. I totally didn't expect this, but I guess it's a good experience. I get to learn something about England. Downton Abbey towards the end touched on issues on how difficult it was for the nobility to manage their big estates and a lot of them fell to crumble. It also brought back to mind the comments one of the guides in Scotland said about how the whole land of Scotland are owned by only a few hundred people, but that doesn't mean they're really rich. They're perhaps land rich, but they may not have a lot of capital. A castle is difficult to maintain, you will need a lot of fund and you need to think on how to get those fund. While it's weird that this castle is managed this way for tourism, it's perhaps a good kind of different. The kids visiting seemed to be having a lot of fun. For pictures from these places, please go here.

On other note, I finished reading The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. So this is like the 3rd book of the year. It's quite an interesting story, but I don't know if I like it much. There's a warrior, knight, dragon, and a old couple. Maybe it would make a good movie. The book started with an old couple. It talked about how they often forget things. I wonder if it's some sort of allegory for how old couple may forget important things about their lives due to sickness like Alzheimer. Do I use the word allegory correctly? :( Anyways, the ending felt sad and I don't know how to feel about the whole story. Kazuo Ishiguro writes beautifully for sure but out of the 2 books of his I read, this one and The Remains of the Day, I'm just not totally in love with his works. The Remains of the Day has an argument about politic that really stays with me though. I often think about it when I look at the world political situation, especially during election. So I guess he actually did a great job. If your work can stay with people and make them think about the world in a different perspective, well it's rare and it's quite an achievement. Right now I am reading the 3rd book of the Buru Quartet, the tetralogy written by the Indonesian author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. My cousin kindly hunted for book 3 and 4 and gifted them to me when I went home during Chinese New Year. I just started on Jejak Langkah (or Footsteps in English) and our main character is in Jakarta now. His description on Jakarta is so interesting. The author used the word Jakarta, but I wonder if it's still known as Batavia. The Jakarta during colonial time had a lot swamps and monkeys roaming around. I am really really curious to see how Jakarta looked like back then, truly curious.

:) eKa @ 10:13:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 7: V&A Museum, Les Misérables, and Hyde Park

I go wherever I want, wherever I please
I look forward to the day where this is just a memory
Come on, come on I gotta get away
Save all the bullshit for another day
Get me a ticket and an alibi
There's nothing holding me down so teach me how to fly
Here we go, up up and away

Up Up And Away - Newton Faulkner

Day 7 was spent all day in London. The plan was to go to Victoria & Albert Museum then take an 1 hour or so break in Hyde Park before going to Queen's Theatre to watch the matinee performance of Les Misérables. The V&A Museum opens at 10 am so I didn't have to get up so early. Managed to get there without much trouble because the sign was clear from the tube exit. It's actually quite a long walk through the tunnel. The V&A Museum like many other museums in the UK are free. It's seriously really nice of them and imagine living in a place where you can see amazing collections and don't have to pay a single cent or penny as they say in England.

The V&A Museum is very big and it has such a varied collection. So varied that there were times when I was surprised finding what they have in their collection. Here are some of the different things I saw there. This below is a french board game about love. It's made of ceramic and I'm not sure if it's played with a dice. My french was too awful to understand how to play this.

This is one the gallery with paintings. I particularly like the dog there. I think there are many paintings from English painters. Unfortunately my knowledge on this is really limited. There's definitely a few from J. M. W. Turner, who I learned to know from a movie (Mr. Turner).

This one below is a stage set model from Matilda the Musical. The V&A Museum has a whole section on Theatre & Performance and it features sets like this from play or musical, costumes, and posters. Really interesting.

This one below is from the ceramics collections where there are many rooms with shelves and shelves of figurines such as below and also of ceramic plates, vases, and so on. I think it might be the biggest collection of this kind of figurine anywhere in the world. It's like when you are allowed to go crazy to collect as many things as you want, you may end up with all of this. I wonder how many of these items are there in total. Wikipedia tells me that there are 74,000 items in the ceramics section. For more pictures from this museum, you can go here.

So anyway here, quite early in my visit when I was in Raphael room, I met a girl who was in my tour group the day before. She was alone too then. By the way, the Raphael Room is quite something. It features these big paintings from Raphael and they belong to Her Majesty the Queen (again the royal family is really rich). So anyway, we kinda looked at each other the same time and so the only thing we could do was to say hi. Her name I found out later is Laura. At the beginning I thought she's an American Chinese. She does live in America currently, but in actuality she's PRC Chinese. I complimented her on her accent which sounded great and she said she worked hard on it. It made me feel sad that I don't have a good accent. She said let's walk together. She had a flight to catch later on so she couldn't stay long. We talked about this and that. She once spent some time in Singapore to do some design competition and she loves Singapore. She said she's actually with a group of people while in the UK for a study work trip, but she didn't feel like hanging out with them because she felt they're too young. I was curious about her age. She's 27 and these young kids she mentioned are in their early twenties. I was quite surprised finding out she's so much younger than me. I thought she would be nearer my age. She was surprised finding out I'm 34 and she said I looked like 23. I think she's being nice. By her logic, I should feel like I couldn't connect with people her age.

You might think after doing so many things alone in the past few days, I would have enjoyed the company and the chance to have a conversation. I actually didn't. Walking and talking, I feel it made for a rather distracted visit and one that wasn't effective especially considering I didn't have the whole day to spend. In Raphael's room I was curious to find where the Raphael Cartoons are. I couldn't find it then. We both agreed perhaps our understanding what the cartoons are is quite different from the actual thing. Now reading that link above, I think perhaps what I thought were just paintings by Raphael are the actual cartoons. So anyway, I actually just wanted to get off her, but I couldn't tell her. Then we kinda have circled the same area again and I said I was going up and she said okay perhaps she should start heading to the airport. At one point, she said she should ask for my Facebook. I told her that I don't use Facebook anymore, so that's just that. We said goodbye without making any attempt to stay in touch. I know it's very bad of me and I should be thankful that God gave me a friend for a short while and I should appreciate it. I hope she didn't feel that I was rude or anything. She was a really bubbly chatty girl. I wonder if it's because she's young and since I'm this old, I'm just so jaded. However I think I'm always jaded regardless which age I'm in, perhaps not when I was a toddler or in my teens. High school onwards I think I have a more tired look of the world :(

After we separated, I quickly explored the rest of the museum. The sections that I kinda missed or didn't see much were the Asian and Britain sections. There were so many things to see that I scrapped the plan to go to Hyde Park and I just stayed at the museum until it's near time to go to Queen's Theatre. I almost arrived late again. Oh my God, it's so bad of me. I arrived like 5 minutes before it started. I got a really good seat for this. Stall section, 4th row from the stage. It's not cheap, at 79.92 GBP, but it's much cheaper than in Singapore for the same section and I think it's one of the reasons why I chose to watch this in London. Another reason is because I have heard a lot of good things about it. The theatre is still kinda small if compared to Singapore, but I found the seat to have more space than Her Majesty's Theatre. Les Misérables was really really good. I love it so much more than The Phantom of the Opera. I actually have a new found appreciation for the 2012 movie and thought yeah Anne Hathaway did a really good job. Hearing On My Own still broke my heart like when I heard it for the first time sung by Joey Potter (Katie Holmes) in Dawson's Creek. It was really really good and I'm glad I went to watch it. I was on the fence about it because of cost and such and thought there were many other things I could be doing, but truly I'm glad I made the decision to watch it. Good job Eka. Oh, forget to write this before. One interesting thing about these theatres in London is that during intermission, inside the theatre, they sell snack, like Häagen-Dazs ice cream and you can eat it inside the theatre. I just can't imagine this being allowed in Singapore.

After it's done, since the sun was still out and it was still quite early, I thought I should go to Hyde Park next. Reading about this park, I found out that there are cycling paths that connect to Kensington Gardens and there are a few Santander Cycles stations nearby where you can rent a bicycle. So I thought that would be fun. Exiting the station, I couldn't find the docking station which my map told me should be there. Eventually I did spot it from across the street, but it looked empty for me and I didn't feel like investigating more, so I just walked in. You can't cycle in some places like the rose garden and Diana Memorial Fountain so walking has its benefit. There were quite a number of people there, tourists and families, enjoying the nice day with the sun. I saw this cave like tree which is so cool. A lot of kids were playing inside it and some were climbing up. I heard one of the kids shouted, "This is the most awesome tree ever!" and that kid was right :)

Reaching The Serpentine which is this lake in the park, there were more people sitting around it and birds, geese, and swans. Some of them are really big and some people threw some bread to feed them.

If you're really active, you can take one of those pedal boat and explore the lake. If I'm in any of this boat, I don't think I'll make it far. I walked all the way to the Serpentine Bridge which turns out to be a bridge accessible to cars as well. From here, you get a more lengthy view of the lake.

Nearby this area, I know that there's also a Santander Cycles docking station and I was right. I found it and there were some bicycles and there's this couple using the machine. Honestly, I really wanted to cycle around the park but at the same time I was also lacking the confidence to do so. It's like what if something went wrong, I got into trouble, and I couldn't figure it out. It's kinda the same fear as when I went to hike up Arthur's seat. You may think that I had done the extraordinary of going alone to a country thousand of miles away, 6 hours time difference from home, a country I have never been before, so I should be daunted by things as minor as these. Surely travelling alone to a foreign country was more difficult to do and a bigger mental mountain to climb. Yes it is, it's just, I have thought about this and I guess in my mind when there's trouble going up Arthur's Seat or cycling in Hyde Park, then I may trouble other people to help me and being that burden is bad and also very embarrassing. Getting on a plane alone and figuring out things are all on me, it would be very unlikely I would have to get people to rescue me. So when there's a chance I have to involve other people, I just get more shy about it I guess. I don't know if I am making sense or if this really is the issue in my head. Seeing that couple, I thought I had to do it because they're doing it as well. One of the points of travelling alone is to challenge myself, conquer my fear, try new things, and put myself in new different situation. I cannot always be in my comfort zone. So that's another reason I told myself I had to do this.

It took awhile for them to use the machine and then I understood why. Let me explain a bit about this Santander Cycles. In London there are a few of these unmanned Santander Cycles stations where you can rent a bicycle. Santander is a bank currently sponsoring it. With the many dedicated cycling paths in London, this is actually quite fun. You can also cycle on the roads, but I don't trust myself to do so. To rent the bicycle is quite straightforward. You need what in the UK is called a cash card. Basically if your ATM card or your credit card has a chip on it and you activate it for overseas use, I think you can use it. You go to the machine and follow the instruction and read the many disclaimers and information; there are really quite a number of pages hence the process is quite long. Using your card, you will pay 2 GBP for a 24-hour access to a bike. So this means for 24 hour you can take a bike in any of the docking station. Once you are done with the process, the machine will print out a slip with a number on it. You go to the bicycle that you want, I chose the one with the lowest seat possible, enter the code in the keypad and take the bicycle out. You suppose to check if the bike is okay to use, but what do I know about these things. The bicycle felt much bigger than what I thought it would be when I saw people using it. Though it was already the lowest seat I could find, only my toes managed to touch the ground. You can adjust the seat, but I didn't bother. You can also adjust the gear. When I started it felt super light and I was going much faster than anticipated going down, but I decided to keep it.

The first 30 minutes ride is free, but after that you will get charged. I forget the rate, you can check the internet if you're interested. The advice on the internet is to dock the bicycle before 30 minutes is up and then take out a new one if you still need it. This way you don't have to pay anything aside for the 2 GBP access. I actually don't know how the process to take out a new bike after docking works. I guess if you insert the same card then the system will notice it and you don't get charged again. Anyways, my plan was to just dock this bike before the 30 minutes. If I had followed my original plan, I should have cycled up to Kensington Gardens, but I chickened out on it because to do so I have to encounter cars as I navigated the Serpentine Bridge and the road around it. It is a shame but I think public safety is important. I don't trust myself. The last time I rode a bicycle was in Moerenuma Kōen back in 2013 and even then in an empty park I think I was a bad cyclist. In the end, I was just proud that I didn't kill anyone or anything like a bird. Yes there's dedicated cycling paths but there were many pedestrians as well. One time there was this toddler who just ran and almost got into the cycling path, luckily she didn't get hurt.

I basically just cycled back to Hyde Park Corner tube station. It was a really short route. I had fun and wished it could be longer. Okay let's put this in the list if I ever get a chance to go to London again, to try more of their cycling paths. I returned the bicycle at the docking station near Hyde Park Corner tube station. I know I should push the bike into an empty place, but I was a bit confused if I should consult the machine again upon returning. There were a few guys using the machine and as mentioned it takes a while, so I just pushed the bike into the docking station until the green light was on and it's really locked. I did it correctly because when I checked my bank transaction history, I was really charged only for that 2 GBP. It's really fun people, I suggest you give it a try when you're in London :)

:) eKa @ 4:51:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 6: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath

we sit together, forever
by the color TV glow
telling stories, allegories
letting ourselves go
Stay in my corner, babe
Stay in my corner, please
Stay in my corner, babe
I will fight for you if you fight for me too

Stay In My Corner - The Arcs

I have many favourite songs and this one is definitely one of it. So well written. By the way I noticed that I listen to male singers more than I do of female singers. I don't have the statistic, but I think it will be 85% : 15%. I wonder why this is so with me. Okay enough random thoughts, let's get on with this post.

Day 6 was a a Friday and I took a day tour that included Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. Really all I wanted was to go to Stonehenge. I wouldn't forgive myself if I had come all the way to England and I didn't go there. The meeting place for this tour was at Victoria coach station, a really short walk from the hotel and so I thought I didn't have to rush. When I got there, things were very chaotic. There were so many people and I didn't know where I should go and the information wasn't clear. At one point I waited at the wrong gate, but then I found the correct one and I was just glad that I wasn't late. It was quite a touristy season when I was in London so there were many tourists. The Monday of the following week was also a bank holiday in the UK, so there could be more people taking Friday off to make it a long weekend and they contributed to the number of tourists. As far as I know, there were 3 groups doing this this same tour and there were like 50 people in a group. Yes it's a big group, one that can make things rather difficult. The chaos didn't just end that morning. It carried on until the end of the day. Our guide was an ex-soldier, lecturer, author, and of course a tour guide. He's a great guide and I think it's really because of him we all had a satisfying trip, well except for a few people. He loves history so he knows this stuff. He's had a lot of experience so he knows useful things like the route to take to avoid traffic. His military training means that there's a certain discipline in him that benefit all of us, again except for a few people. The only things that really weren't within his control that day was the amount of people travelling to these places and the traffic.

First stop was to Windsor Castle and already there were many people here. Queuing wasn't fun and we had to queue quite a while :( but we finally got in. You have to go through airport security kinda check to enter Windsor Castle. The queen wasn't in when we're there. Inside the compound, I visited the Queen Mary’s Dolls' House, The State Apartments, and St. George's Chapel. Time was limited, so I didn't really linger in each place. You can't take pictures inside these places which I think kinda helped me to get through all these places within the time allocated. Here's a picture of some part of the castle from the outside .

Queen Mary’s Dolls' House is an actual doll house. It's quite big because it's modeled after an aristocratic home with their many rooms. It's very detailed. The miniature furnitures are very cute, but I don't recall seeing human figurine / doll inside the house. So it's quite an empty house. The State Apartments are really really grand. It's quite big. You get to see a lot of things, from dining rooms, bed rooms, all the precious paintings, armories, and many many things. The royal family are indeed rich. St. George's Chapel was interesting for me. Many of the royals were buried here. My knowledge of England history is like non-existent, most of it came from movies (I think of Queen Victoria as Emily Blunt, Queen Elizabeth as Cate Blanchett, Anne Boleyn as Natalie Portman). So seeing all the names, they didn't mean much to me. I did notice seeing Jane Seymour's tomb. It felt kinda strange because some of these tombs are below the floors so you are walking on top of them. It's not that I fear their ghosts will haunt me, it's just maybe the Asian me felt it's rather disrespectful to walk on top of them even though they had died hundred of years ago.

Anyways, here in Windsor we left some people in our group. It was my first time ever leaving people for being late. I think my guide has done this a few times before though. My guide with his military training just had no tolerance about it. I think we waited less than 10 minutes. He was like, they're adult, they should be responsible and it's unkind to the others who made it on time. He tried to look for them, but he said he couldn't even see them walking out to the bus so they most probably were still inside and didn't even bother. Of course he's right. The day had proven to be quite hectic with the many tourists. We may need to wait in queue again at other places, so we should use our time effectively. While it may sound harsh with the driver asking him a few times, are you sure, he was making the best decision for the rest of us. Usually the plan for this trip is to visit Windsor Castle, Bath, and then Stonehenge, but he made a decision that we should visit Stonehenge first because with the crowd and traffic, we might not make it if we leave it to the end. There was really traffic on the way there. Luckily our guide knows of another way, so we were able to avoid traffic in the commonly used road. It was a pretty smooth sailing drive for us to get there.

Stonehenge is surrounded by fields. In fact to get to the stones, you need to take the provided small bus. I suppose you can walk there if you want. Also if you have the time, you can walk to the burial mounds that are located on the fields. These burial mounds are like little hills. Our guide gave a thorough explanation about Stonehenge, many of which I have forgotten. Some things I remember was that the stones were transported by glaciers and the reason the tribe of people who built it eventually left the place was because their source of water was getting bad and so they had to move. It is quite an interesting feat of engineering, especially considering how the people managed to get the heavy big slabs of stone on top and this is still quite a mystery.

After that we went to Bath. We had entry to the Roman Bath. Before entering, we were briefed to not touch the water because it's dirty. We're told we would have a chance to sample it near the exit. The Roman Bath is also a museum and we got an audio guide to listen to while exploring the exhibition. I didn't listen to all. To be honest I wasn't that interested. What I learned was, there were 3 types of pools with different degrees of temperature from mild to hot. The Romans would go into the pools one after another starting from the milder one to the hottest one. Then they would get their oil massage and perfumed. After that they would go back to the pools, this time from the hottest one to the mildest one. This picture below shows the great pool and as you can see the colour of the water is a strange green.

I saw people walked on the upper level, but I couldn't find the way to go up there and so I didn't. It was also drizzling quite a bit, so I didn't try to find the way. I did sample the water and man I didn't like it. It tasted metallic and I have doubt if it's really good for you. One word I would describe it is the Indonesian word, air tanah, which is ground water in English which is exactly what it is. When I wanted to leave, it rained quite heavily. I usually don't have a habit of bringing an umbrella during my trips, but because I was going to the UK which is famous (perhaps unfairly) for its wet weather, I remembered to bring an umbrella and was actively packing it into my bag. So it came in handy that day. Since it was raining, I didn't feel like exploring the surrounding area. I ended up having a meal at Burger King because they had empty seats. I know it sounded so not spectacular, but it turned out to be a good decision for me.

When I came back to the bus, I saw this one guy talking agitatedly to our bus driver. I thought our bus driver was in trouble maybe for parking wrongly. Turned out, he's not. This was a tourist who was left out by the other groups. I think what happened was he's very annoyed that he and his group was left there and then he got very confused when our driver was telling him that we're going back to London after this. I think his groups was following the usual itinerary and so he was expecting to go to Stonehenge. He was also very agitated and rough when he finally talked to our guide, but our guide isn't the type who takes this kind of treatment and he just roughed him back and said he wouldn't be talked to this way. That shut the guy up. Finally he accepted the situation and got on our bus. Lucky for him actually that we had spaces for him and his group. We found out from our guide that the other groups didn't make it to Stonehenge. I googled, the last entry for Stonehenge is 2 hours before closing time, so I think because of the traffic and stuff, they didn't make it and I felt truly thankful for the decision that our guide made that we made it.

On the drive back, we had bad traffic. I was actually calm in all of it. I guess it helped that I had a filling meal so I wasn't hungry and also because I didn't have to wake up early the next day. Also considering what happened to the other groups, we had a fabulous day so there were much to be thankful for. It got quite worrying for the driver because by law their shift is only 15 hours and his time was running out. The worry was if we couldn't make it to London and he had to stop. Luckily we made it and the guide made another decision to stop at only one stop instead of trying to get to the different drop off points because the traffic was just not cooperating. He chose a stop near Gloucester Road tube station thinking it's the best considering where were were and that's good for me because there's a direct tube line to get to my hotel. I arrived in my room at 9 pm plus. Tired for sure, but truly thankful. Our guide might be tough for some people, but really it's because of him we got to see all we wanted to see :) For pictures, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 5:23:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 5: Chelsea Flower Show

No sweet nothing could ever be turned into something new
No grand gesture could ever be made to measure you

What You Don't Do - Lianne La Havas

Day 5 was the day I left Edinburgh for London. My hotel is Edinburgh was very nice and very near the bus stop where I can take bus to the airport. So there's no issue on getting there. The airport was quite busy. The security queue was very long. By the way, in America right you are requested to take off your shoes and get them scanned. Aside from the US, I have never been asked to do such a thing in any other countries. The thing is Americans are so used to it that they do it like everywhere even though they're not asked to do so. It's slowing the queue and the part where I don't like the most is, they will put the shoes in the tray and though perhaps there's no visible dirt left there, I don't feel good putting my things into the tray, especially jacket and stuff :( So that's one reason why I always put my clothing items into my bag instead of putting them directly into the tray.

Anyways, I chose the flight that landed in London City Airport because I had decided to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel. With my luggage it will be hard trying to use public transportation to my hotel especially since I didn't know exactly where my hotel was even though I have studied the maps. So I needed the nearest airport possible to the city center so that I don't go broke on taxi. London taxi design is one of a kind. There's a lot of space on the passenger side and I was very surprised where the taxi driver just put my luggage there. I thought that made sense, now I get why all this space is there and it's also great because you can just spread out your legs. Compared to the New York taxi that I took last year that felt cramped, this one is definitely much better. As we went along, I noticed that the meter was not on. However I didn't tell the driver because I thought maybe what I thought was the meter was not the meter. Turns out I was right, the driver noticed it and told me sorry, he forgot, he didn't usually drive this taxi and said the drive so far should be around 10 GBP. I said okay because really the main thing was me getting there safely and he didn't drive me in circle which I think he really didn't. It was quite a scenic route he took, I saw a lot of London during the drive from the Tower of London to the Big Ben. Heard the Big Ben chime too. Of course it was around this area we got into traffic. He said it's all because of the bicycle lane taking up the road. He didn't seem to appreciate it because he told me, see there's no one cycling. Well there were only a few people cycling and a few people jogging. I told him it's nice, people get to jog there. His comment was pretty funny for me actually because that's the same comment drivers in Jakarta would make about the already busy roads having to be made smaller to give way for busway. Unlike Jakarta, the drivers in London do really have to stay away from the cycling lanes. With the bicycle rental stations around these lanes, I think these dedicated bicycle lanes are really fun actually. Anyway arrived at my hotel, the driver said to pay him 40 GBP, which I think it's correct and fair. In fact it may have cost a bit more. I could check in straight away but the room wasn't great. As usual I got pretty demoralized especially after coming from Edinburgh where my hotel room was great. Well like in New York, location can really allow hotels to charge more but provide somewhat adequate rooms. I put my things and then I headed out.

The plan for this day was actually this: go to Chelsea Flower Show in the afternoon and then go watch Billy Elliot the musical in the evening. Then 2 things happened that caused me to be quite demoralized. Chelsea Flower Show tickets get sold out pretty fast and as much as I had confidence that I would get UK visa for this trip, I just didn't want to buy the ticket before visa was out. When finally I got my visa, the afternoon ticket (03:30 pm) for the public was already sold out and this was more than one month of the actual day of visit. There are actually not many days where the public can go to the show, members get more days and flexibility and cheaper tickets. Anyway then I also found that that Billy Elliot the musical was finishing its run before my trip. So yeah I was sad about it, but as mentioned in previous post I prayed so that God helped me make good decision. Well He did and things may have worked out for the better. I got the 05:30 pm entrance for Chelsea Flower Show and it was 17 GBP cheaper than the 03:30 pm entrance. It was not ideal because the show closed at 8 pm, but I had to make do with what's available and I really really wanted to go. Chelsea Flower show was the reason I scheduled the trip on this period, it was really so that I can go to it. Not being able to watch Billy Elliot, I decided to watch another British product and so I settled with The Phantom of the Opera. As luck would have it, on that day there's a matinee that started at 02:30 pm and there was a promotion for seats at the stall level and I got to buy it for 42.50 GBP. Considering how much these seats usually cost, that's like really cheap even by Singapore standard. So God made everything work out for me.

I was still quite early when I arrived in my hotel room so I had time. Of course there were some things to sort out first, figuring out where I was and understanding Victoria station and most importantly getting Oyster card to use the tube. That settled, I went first to visit Shake Shack in Covent Garden. I don't know how it happened but somehow I found out that Shake Shack has a branch in London. I had fond memories of it when I was in New York and I really don't think I get to eat it anytime soon and when this chance arrived I thought I should go for it. It's been a year and I felt like it's sooner than I thought it would be. I found it easy enough. I was worried about not finding place to sit. Lucky me after I placed my order, there was no queue for the seating area and I found an empty seat right in front of me as I entered. As in New York there were many people at Shake Shack. There's actually a staff who tried to get people seats in the sitting area so I was lucky to find it on my own. Being alone, I had to ask a German dad who was dining with his fellows German mom and dad tourists to look after my bag for awhile while I went to collect my food. There are times where you just have to put your trust on strangers right. When I came back, it was really cute of him to be putting his hand on my chair and made sure my bag was okay. I didn't even know if he understood me when I asked him for help :D So anyway, I ordered the standard ShackBurger, peanut butter shake (which I adore and it's not easy to find peanut butter shake anywhere and Shake Shack does it just all too well), cheese fries (even though I knew it would be too much for me but I was rather hungry). I made sure to make the peanut butter shake malted because I was curious about what malted meant. I still don't know what it means, but it felt milkier for me. It was still heavenly, but I think next time I wouldn't want it malted. As expected the whole meal was too much for me and I couldn't finish the fries. Other observation about Shake Shack: I was surprised to see some muslims eating there because I didn't think it's halal. I googled, I was right, the ones outside Middle East are not halal. Well maybe because these people came from the Middle East and they have Shake Shack there, so they thought it would be halal in London too. It's a curious thing that Shake Shack has a lot of locations in the Middle East, while in Asia they only have 1 location in Tokyo, in an area I'm not familiar with.

Around 2 pm I made my way to Her Majesty's Theatre thinking that would give me enough time. It would if I actually knew the way. Figuring where it was was harder than I expected. It's just you know how sometime when you exit a station, you don't understand which side of the station you are, so even though you have a map, it still gets confusing. Thank God, I made it on time, really just on time. Luckily the show started not really on time, but a few minutes later so I didn't miss anything. The theatre reminded me of Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center last year. It wasn't very big (by Singapore standard) and the seats don't have a lot of leg space. Even though my seat wasn't quite at front, I still had a really good view of the stage. It still felt very near. I thought the staging was wonderful. The sets and the costumes, all the many details were just amazing. Story wise, I wasn't that satisfied, but overall it was still pretty cool and I'm glad that I got to watch it. It finished at around 5 pm and so I made my way to the Chelsea Flower Show.

Arriving at the Sloane Square station, again I was confused on which street to take. Finally I figured it out and managed to get there. One word to describe Chelsea Flower Show is insanity. I'm really sorry and I really mean no disrespect to the organizers who I am sure put a lot of hard work into this. It's just there were so many people, too many people. This made the visit not a super pleasant one for me. It's also sad because for me the ticket price is not cheap. If you're not a member and you cannot get the time slot that you want, you can get an all day ticket price for 100 GBP. Imagine that. It must be some really rich people forking this out, like perhaps celebrities whom I didn't manage to spot any (Dame Judi Dench was there!). Perhaps the British are just polite people that if you ask them about it, they will just answer, "Oh it's lovely", everything is lovely. There were many well dressed people, guys in suits, it made me feel rather under dressed for the occasion. People can eat and drink while going around the exhibitions and they can also smoke, something I really dislike, but I guess this complain of me annoys smokers who feel they have the freedom to do so. Anyway like Singapore Garden Festival, the Chelsea Flower Show had the indoor and outdoor exhibition. The outdoor one shows different garden designs which I'm pretty sure I didn't see all because of the crowds. The indoor one shows different arrangements of flowers and some vegetables and it was really amazing. There were so many varieties of flowers. Sometime in shades of colours I have never seen before in a flower. Comparing this to Singapore Garden Festival, well there are differences. The varieties of flowers in Singapore Garden Festival may not be as much as the Chelsea Flower Show, but well we live in the tropics, some things just wouldn't grow well here. I took so many pictures, many of which I dump here and if you want to see more, you can go here.

I was getting tired and I really didn't like the crowd so I didn't make the effort to explore everything and just left like half an hour before closing time. As I exited, there were these 2 guys in suits shouting, vote for Brexit, and they were handing out papers which they exclaimed stated the reasons why people should do so. Curious, I took the paper from one of the guys. For a split second I think he eyed me strangely, well perhaps because I didn't look British.

The first part of this article talks about the flood of immigrants. As someone who's living not in my own country, this issue is always an uneasy one for me. It's not an issue specific to the UK. During Singapore election, sometimes I felt uncomfortable with the things mentioned during the campaigns. Sure some people can say, but you are different, you are educated, you're financially stable and all, but on paper I am still a foreigner and in the argument where there's us and there's them, I will never be one of us. So the first part of that article was hard for me to read. I wonder how this argument fares on immigrant citizens and voting adults who are the children of immigrants. There's a TV show when I was there, An Immigrant’s Guide to Britain, which I watched a bit. It's a comedic look on this issue and one guy said everyone including refugees should just call ourselves expat, it sounds much better and people don't get too alarmed with that. It may sound funny, but truly it highlighted that whether you are some rich people immigrating to another country or you are refugees coming on boats, you are still an immigrant. You're the same. To think of yourself better just because you have more or you come from a more developed country doesn't feel right for me. So anyway, that first part of the article was not very nice. The rest was actually much better. It talked about the negative impact to the UK economy since being in the EU and it also talked about the waning UK influence in the EU and the world. This sounds more persuasive even though I don't know how correct these arguments are and what the facts are. I thought they should have started with these instead of fear mongering with the immigrant issue, but hey perhaps that's the easiest way, yes? It seems the Brexit campaign is working really hard to get voters. When I was in the UK, I don't think I saw any of the remaIN campaigns. For Brexit, I saw a few billboards saying, Vote Leave, on some of the drive around the country. I don't have any prediction how it will go. My tour guide the next day seemed to think leaving is better. He didn't say it openly but he talked about corruption in the EU and he didn't seem to have much patience for it. All this Brexit talk has made the pounds go lower these days and it made me sad because it was high when I was there *sigh* Well I have had good fortune in this trip, I just cannot have it all :)

:) eKa @ 10:31:00 PM • 0 comments