Monday, June 9, 2008

First Impression of London - Guest post by Sher.

I have the honour of being asked by CK to write an article about London for his blog. I pretty much doubt it'll be one article. I have so much experiences in London over the last few years that it could not be described in one post. So let's begin.


London Heathrow (2003)

I was flying on Air France from Singapore and transitting in Paris CDG. When we got on the connecting flight, half the seats were empty. Why I could remember about this flight? Because the pilot was a French lady. It took quite a while for the staff to unload and load our luggages unto this plane. Probably the other half decided to stay in Paris.. having abandoned London as their travel destination!

When we reached LHR in the evening after a long 14 hours flight, I was rather disappointed with how the world class airport look like. The walls are screaming out for a fresh coat of paint. Throngs of people arriving from different planes were being herded into a long long queue that would lead us eventually to the scary customs desk. I didn't really do a count of the number of counters that were there but it could easily be 20. Extra officers were there to direct each confused looking person in the queue to the correct counter. (Someone please I had to complain! The carpet stinks!)

When it was my turn, I hesitantly produced my passport and I had equipped on my side all the necessary documents to prove my status as a student. I was then being led into another room where I had to complete some forms. It was a long long wait and stressful process just to pass the UK customs!

Finally we arrived at the arrival hall to collect my luggage bags.. and alas. The Frenchmen had decided to keep it in Paris. I had to queue at another counter to lodge a complaint about missing luggage before I dragged my bags (and myself) out to the main arrival hall. Again there were lots of people everywhere. Tired, stressed out, confused and in a foreign land, it wasn't a good sign. Lucky thing a cab was booked before my departure. When I saw the cab driver with a placard bearing my name, I was overjoyed! After bargaining for a reasonable rate to bring me to my mate's aunt's place, I slumped back on the back seat and drifted off to dreamland.

First impression of London streets

I didn't really remember how the streets looked like on the first day I arrived because I was so jetlagged. The place I was putting up at was located in Surrey. South of London. So probably it was not an accurate image of how London look like. Sparing you all the details of how the day went out, I shall jump on to my impressions of the 'first' day in Central London.

I visited my university and the student hostel that I had to survive in for the next school year. It was located in Southeast London – Elephant and Castle. To be frank, I was scared. I have never seen so many Blacks in one neighbourhood before (besides the only Oakland trip I made years ago). Streets were narrow and dirty. Patches of spits were everywhere, along with pigeon poo and disposed chewing gums. It was a horrible experience.

London buses were not air-conditioned! Eeks!!! It was September but the heat was still unbearable when half a dozen people on the bus decided to save water by not washing themselves. Ew.. And bus fares back then was 70p before it increased to 1.50 pound in 2006. That's really expensive!!

First English food that I ate.. Fish and Chips prepared by an Asian man. Pretty tasty. But it is getting rarer to find decent Fish and Chips (Chish and Fips!) in London. Chicken and Chips have taken over. However, the delicious fat Chips (not Fries) were still my favourite! And I had to learn what they meant by 'Open' or 'Closed' for takeaways. Open means you wish to eat your chips while transporting back to where you wish to finish those greasy sticks of spuds.

More Culture shocks.. shops shut early on Sundays! Eeks!! Why?? I'm totally bored out on Sundays with everything shut in my first few weeks. I had to walk a LOT to get to my destinations.. supermarkets to bus stops. Pavements were narrow. Bus drivers were rude and mostly Indians (???). Well.. and not to mention, Prices of everything were astronomical.

And last but most important point, I couldn't understand the accents. Yeah.. it was quite a struggle trying to speak to anyone. First I had to try to understand their English (Londoner (Cockney or SE Londoner), Geordie, Scouser, Scottish, Irish, Brummie,etc..) accents. Then I had to make them understand my Singaporean accent English. It was tough. Really hard times. And you tought how hard it is for an English speaker to live in UK? All right love that should do it for my first impression of London. Be back for more. Oh Blimey. I had so much to tell.

Sher, a Singaporean in Croatia, is the author of Travelheart. She is a trained baker and chef. Currently residing in Croatia with her fiance, she shares her expertise in food preparation in uR rEsiDent CheF

Read also
How different is London from Singapore

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LadyBanana said...

Oh dear Sher, Elephant and Castle is not a nice introduction to London at all - I hate that area..

I hope you saw nicer parts later on!

C K said...

Though I've never been there, I've not heard good things about that area. However, a friend told me that there's a decent dimsum restaurant there...

SheR. said...

Hahaha I know that too my Lady! At least I get to see the "real" London. The bad side instead of what most tourists see.. only the posh and beautiful capital.

Most posts to come...

CK! The Dim Sum restaurant only opened one year after I moved out of that hostel in E&C. Arghs... Glad I did!

eastcoastlife said...

I hear so many beautiful things about London.... ok, nobody likes the weather. :)

Deb said...

E&C? Good church there, since the time of Spurgeon. A huge one, but heard it's rather run down lately.

C K said...

Is it really that good? Have you been to that dimsum restaurant?

Am in San Francisco now and the dimsum here is nothing to shout about...

C K said...

Depending on the weather, tourists with love or hate London. So it's really important to time your visit. I would say that July-Sep will be the best time.

Perhaps Ladybanana will be the best person to ask.

C K said...

Is there one there? Hmm... it should be rather prominant if there's one. Will look out for it when I go for dimsum... :p

Jasmine Shanea said...

Sher sher you look soooo cute!! great post of London. This is the only way I can go to the part of the world where you and CK have all the fun at. :(

C K said...

@jasmine shanea,
Oh well, we'll try to do our best. ;p

Anyway, happy birthday to you and your hubby!