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 •


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