London: 18 May-1 June 2013

I admit - I've never had much interest in urban cities. That's why I never visited London, not even when AirAsia X offered budget flights from Singapore to London years ago. My dad had been asking me about going to Melbourne. But I found the sights that we went to in Melbourne very boring (there are other interesting places but they are inaccessible). My dad had been talking about visiting his friend in London for the past year so I suggested London instead of Melbourne.

Return tickets for 2 people cost SGD 2,863.60 on Singapore Airlines (with Economy "preferred" seat for my dad). My dad would only fly by Singapore Airlines. I thought I was booking my holiday early (March 20 for trip starting May 18) but it turned out to be later than the majority of people who were planning to be there for the summer vacation. The better apartments (price and location) were unavailable so I had to find alternatives. Self-catering apartments would be the most feasible option because booking 2 rooms per night in a hotel would cost a bomb. The hotels there are just as expensive as the ones in Singapore. Also, there would be a washing machine so we wouldn't have to bring 2 weeks' worth of clothes.

GPS is fairly reliable in London and the 3G signal coverage is good. I bought a £10 prepaid card from Orange Mobile and selected the Dolphin plan (by calling the plan activation number) that comes with the £10 credit, 400 free texts and 1GB data. Incoming calls are free. This last me the entire 2 weeks without needing to top-up. My dad, however, managed to spend £30 on phone calls and texts.

Arrival - 18 May

Neighbourhood cat

I didn't sleep on the plane so I was rather tired when we arrived in the evening, London time. The plan was to take the train. However, I looked rather tired so my dad suggested that take a cab instead. The London cab from the airport to the apartment cost about £100. On hindsight, I should have arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport for £50 offered by the owner.

We arrived at the apartment in about an hour. The owner's niece was there waiting for us. She briefed us on how to operate the appliances, spoke about the house rules (pasted on the wall), and gave us a stack of take-out (delivery) menus and maps.

For the first week, we stayed in a 2-bedroom 1-bath unit of a duplex house at Carson Road in an area called Plaistow for £450 including wifi (max. 2.5GB data). I paid a £200 non-refundable deposit to book it. A refundable security deposit of £300 upon check in was required. A cleaning service was available for £50 if we didn't want to clean the apartment ourselves. The apartment was a short walk to the main street where there are shops and the bus stop. Taking a bus 3 stops or walking 15 mins would get us to the Canning Town underground train station. The owner and his niece were very accommodating and helpful. Except for the neighbours upstairs who didn't sleep till 1am, it was a pleasure staying in the homely apartment.

4 Markets - 19 May

Fortunately, I had brought 4 packets of instant noodles. My dad had already cooked and eaten one by the time I woke up. Being jetlagged, we were up rather early so there wouldn't any place to get breakfast.

We bought 7-day unlimited travel Oyster cards (for zones 1-3) at £35.60 each. For details on the pricing and maps, go to Transport for London website. It's easy to figure out how to get to anywhere in London using and the subway map. Streetmap is more reliable than Googlemaps. Googlemaps may give you the wrong location.

My dad was very interested to visit the markets so I had planned list of markets for us to visit for the week. Some markets are open only on certain days. The plan for Sunday was to visit 4 markets:
1. Brick Lane Market
It's a real dog
I stepped into a convenience store to buy a SIM card. As I stepped out, a guy asked me for some money. I walked back into the shop because it felt a little safer inside with the other tourists and the shopowner. I left the shop after the guy was no longer there. I was surprised to encounter such a beggar so early on my trip. I don't mind beggars sitting on the street as long as they don't bother people but I dislike those that come up to you to ask for money.

There are many stalls selling food but they are not cheap
3 for £5
More stalls selling food
My dad bought some Chinese food from a stall here. The noodles, fried chicken and fish were rather salty. My dad was looking for nice posters with scenery. The majority of the posters were of old movies. He commented that there wasn't much to buy - just many shops selling clothes. We were unimpressed.

Brick Lane Market
What you can find here: Ethnic restaurants, stalls and cafes, second-hand wares, art posters, old records, clothes and accessories.
Market Opening Times: Sundays 9am-5pm (best day to visit is Sunday)
Shops, Galleries & Restaurants: Monday-Sunday, varying times

How To Get There:
Address: Brick Lane, Shoreditch, E1 6PU
Nearest tube: Aldgate East (5 mins)
Nearest overground: Liverpool Street (10 mins)
Buses: 8, 26, 35, 43 (Sun market hrs only), 47, 48, 67, 78, 149, 242
Parking: Spitalfields Car Park (6 mins)

2. Columbia Road flower market

"Supernice" shop
We walked from the Bricklane market to the Columbia Road flower market. It was very crowded here and it wasn't worth walking through the crowd because we weren't going to buy any flowers or plants. There are shops here selling home decorations but the items are very expensive.

What's worth seeing though are the gardens and the nice houses in the area. I spotted a squirrel outside a house. It was looking for food near the rubbish bin.

Squirrel looking for food

Columbia Road flower market
What you can find here: Flowers, plants and home decorations
Market Opening Times: Sundays from 8am - 3pm, some shops open during the week
By Underground: Bethnal Green station or Old Street station

3. Spitalfields market
And now, for our favourite market of the day. We took a bus to Spitalfields market. The place looks brand new. There are a number of nice shops selling artwork, handicraft and food, and a number of stalls selling hand-made goods with original designs. This is a rather interesting place. You can take pictures with a vintage car, buy ice cream from an ice cream van and even get a massage. You can also buy dogs here.
I bought these dogs. Aren't they lovely?
Vintage car
Ice cream van
You can get a massage
London-style umbrellas
I love British humour :D
They are all very expensive though. There wasn't anything worth buying. For handicrafts, this pales in comparison to Bangkok's Chatuchak in size, variety and price. Not that I was there to compare, but after reading such wonderful things about this market at the website, I expected more. And unlike Chatuchak, you can't really buy dogs here :(

The dog's owners are the man and woman

Spitalfields market
What you can find here: Market and shops selling fashion and interiors, handicraft, original artwork and food.
Spitalfields Traders Market Opening Times: Monday to Friday, 10am - 5pm, Sundays, 9am - 5pm including public holidays.
Spitalfields Shops Opening Times: Monday to Sunday, 10am - 7pm*
Restaurants in Spitalfields Opening Times: Monday to Friday, 8 am - 11pm. Saturday and Sundays, 9am - 11pm*

By Underground: Liverpool Street Station
By Bus: 135, 26, 35, 388, 47, 48, 78 and 8.

4. Petticoat Lane Market

No, I did not see any petticoats at this market. Not many women wear them anymore. But you can buy bras, panties, underwear, clothes, shoes and suitcases. Some clothes are very cheap but they might be second-hand. The dresses are the same as the ones that you can find in Bangkok and Singapore's Bugis Street. Out of curiosity, I asked a shop owner about the price of a simple dress. He wanted to sell me a dress for £18 ! I won't even pay SGD18 for it.
Many shops selling bras and panties
The clothes look like they were imported from Bangkok
Not sure about the source of these clothes
Not sure whether these are 2nd-hand clothes

Petticoat Lane Market
What you can find here: Men's, women's and children's clothes, innerwear and accessories
Location: Between Middlesex and Goulston Streets, Spitalfields, London E1 7HT. Market Opening Times: Sun 9am-3pm, with a smaller market open on Wentworth Street from Monday to Friday 10am-2.30pm.
Nearest station: Liverpool

It was only our first day here so my dad decided to take it easy and go back to rest. We took the tube from Liverpool station back to Canning Town station.
Liverpool station
Pub near Liverpool Station. This pub won't be granted a permit to operate in Singapore
Canning Town

Then we went to a supermarket to buy some microwaveable food to keep in the apartment. Interestingly, instant noodles were not sold here. That's where I saw a guy teenager buying 2 extra large bottles of soft drink.
Supermarket in Canning Town

It was dinnertime and my dad wanted to continue sleeping so I said I would headed out on my own. I took the tube to the River Thames. It was very pleasant and romantic walking along the river. Too bad I didn't have a partner :(
Along River Thames
Street artist

Portobello Market - 20 May

This was my dad's favourite market on this trip. It was a rather chilly day - that's why I had my hands in my pockets in these pictures. This is an upmarket residential area so the houses here are beautiful.
Along the way to Portobello Market
Along the way to Portobello Market

There are many different types of decorative original vintage items and copies of vintage items here. I love the vintage signs. My favourite is: "Drink coffee - do stupid things with more energy"
And if I had a slave, I would buy a "Speakers' Corner" sign to hang in a corner. The slave would only be allowed to speak there.
The sexist ones are funny too!
"Both of us can't look good at the same time - it's either me or the house"

My dad bought several items from this shop. It's interesting how one person's junk can become another person's treasure.

This market is a long stretch of road. There are different items are different sections of the road:
Antiques Section - from Chepstow Villas to Elgin Crescent
Fruit and Veg - Elgin Crescent to Talbot Road
New Goods - Talbot Road to the Westway
Fashion Market - Street in General and Westway Area
Second Hand Goods - Westway to Goldbourne Road

There's a "makan" restaurant here
There's a nice, clean public toilet below street level

Portobello Market
Website: What you can find here: Men's, women's and children's clothes, innerwear and accessories
Location: Portobello Road
Market Opening Times: 8am-6.30pm Mon-Sat, closes 1pm Thu
Nearest station: Notting Hill Gate Station
Buses: 7, 12, 23, 27, 28, 31, 52, 70 & 328

My dad went back to rest and I went to meet a friend for dinner at a restaurant along the River Thames near the Waterloo Tube Station. I didn't bother to get on the London Eye. Like the Singapore Flyer, I find the London Eye slow and boring. I was early so all I did was take picture of it.
London Eye

British Museum - 21 May
My dad was meeting his friend for lunch and he isn't interested in museums so I went to the British Museum on my own. I was particularly interested in the Egyptian exhibits.

The British Museum
The museum is a huge building housing many different exhibits. What's wonderful about this museum is that it's free for locals and tourists. I understand that the British have refused to return many artifacts that originate from other countries. But the exhibits are well-displayed with adequate labels and explanation. Great amount of care is taken to preserve the artifacts. I've seen the state of the Cairo museum and I'd have to say that for the preservation of the artifacts, it would be best to leave them here. Besides, there is no fee charged at all so it's not like the British are making money from these exhibits but rather spending money to preserve them. What's interesting was: only the blind are allowed to touch the exhibits. That's brilliant! (No pun intended).

Here are some pictures of some of the exhibits. After walking for 2 hours, I hardly I only covered a small section of the museum. Photography without flash is allowed.

York - 22 May
Please refer to this post: York: 22 May 2013

Greenwich and Walthamstow Markets- 23 May
My dad had watched some videos about Greenwich on youtube and was keen to visit this market. We actually wanted to get an apartment in Greenwich but none were available at the right price. We had to change trains at the new financial district, Canary Wharf, from the underground to overground (docklands light railway or DLR) train to get to Greenwich. It was chilly and the wind was blowing strongly. Boy, were we glad when the train arrived!
Canary Wharf

Greenwich was most disappointing. The market was tiny. Most of the shops there sold old stuff such as used, vintage jewellery that wasn't in good condition but ridiculously expensive. Well, one man's junk is another's treasure? Not mine. The market was so small and miserable that it didn't even warrant a photo. This felt like a wasted trip and we were "grateful" about not living here. Greenwich Market
What you can find there: arts, craft and food stalls on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; antiques, vintage and collectables on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Opening hours: Tuesday - Sunday and Bank Holidays: 10am - 5.30pm. Many market shops and pubs open all week.

It was still early in the day so we decided to go to another market: Walthamstow market. This the longest street market in Europe. There was supposed to be a bird shop near the train station. My dad was looking for bird-related items such as feeders. I tried calling the shop but nobody ever picked up. When we got there, we found that the shop had closed down. I had tried searching the internet and my dad had asked around but nobody seemed to be able to tell us where to find a bird shop.

It was quite a walk from the station to the Walthamstow market. It started to drizzle halfway. The market wasn't as long as we'd imagined. And there wasn't anything interesting to buy. Most of the items here look like they were imported from Asia. It was drizzling so I didn't want to ruin my camera. This place wasn't exciting enough to warrant a picture either.

We had a meal here. My dad order curry chicken. It tasted like it came right out of a frozen boxed meal from the supermarket. I had a burger. It was rather oily. While eating, we were entertained by a program in which people aired their grievances about their relationships and the host would try to help them solve the problem. I can't imagine why any one would hang out their dirty linen. Even if they are paid to be on the show, it's way too embarrassing!

Walthamstow Market
What you can find there: Clothes and accessories, food, household items
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 8.00am-5.00pm
Getting there: London Underground Walthamstow Central
London Buses Walthamstow Bus Station 20, 34, 48, 58, 69, 97, 212, 215, 230, 257, 275, 357, W11, W12, W15, W19
St James Street Station 158, 230, W12

We headed to the Westfield Stratford City mall for dinner. This is a large mall with many mid-range shops. But being from Singapore where malls are aplenty, I wasn't impressed.

We had fish and chips at the food court. This not a cheap food court though. Fish and chips were the cheapest item here (depending on the type of fish you order). Everything else was at least £10. I liked the buzzer that they provided. It would vibrate when the food was ready for collection. The fish and chips was very nice and big. The plate overflowed with chips and we couldn't finish it.
It was delicious!

Bourton-on-the-Water - 24 May
Please refer to this post: Bourton-on-the-Water: 24 May 2013

Broadway market - 25 May
Broadway market

The main attraction here is the food. My dad and I had some freshly cooked ravioli pasta and Vietnamese tea. In typical Asian style, there was a notice that the seats were only for guests of the tea shop. The pasta was wonderful! I would have bought some frozen ones home if I lived in London. We also had to switch apartments on this day so it wouldn't be feasible to pack an extra bag of ravioli. The tea was just ok. Perhaps we should have ordered coffee - which the Vietnamese is famous for.
Broadway Market
Marketing opening time: Only on Saturdays
What you can find here: Mainly food such as cheese, olive oil, meat, bread and other cooked food.
How to get here: The nearest tube station is Bethnal Green.

Nice wall mural at Broadway market
Fresh rabbit meat
Along the way to the train station, we saw a shop with many stuffed animals. This was someone's personal collection. We couldn't take pictures because photography wasn't allowed. An entrance fee is charged if you wish to go in and look. It's a very weird-looking shop - it took us a few seconds to figure out what it was - so it's no wonder they had to put this notice on the door:
Door of morbid shop
Morbid shop with stuffed animals

We had to switch apartments so we went back to clean and pack right after visiting this market. As luck would have it, the vacuum cleaner died on us. I informed the owner's niece about it and she said not to worry. We left the key in the house as instructed.

We had booked a car to take us to the other apartment but after waiting for 15 mins, there was still no sign of the driver. My dad walked to the shop where he had booked the car. The driver arrived 5 mins after he left. I asked the driver to pick my dad up at the shop but he asked me how to get there. Doesn't he know where the shop is that hired him?? My dad didn't tip the driver because he was late.

For the second week, we stayed in a 2-bedroom 2-baths apartment called Central House at Bow Road/Pudding Mill Lane. The apartment's map location is ( ) - Central House, High Street, London, E15 2NZ. The apartment is about 5 mins walk to the tube/DLR Station and there is a bus stop right in front of the apartment. The Mile End and Bow Road stations are several bus stops away. Payment had to be made through Googlepay so although the rent was £595 without wifi, the total amount spent including all the fees was £640.82. (£250 Non-refundable Reserv Fee + £10.42 Credit/Debit Card Fee was required to book the apartment, and the balance rent and security deposit of £345 + £14.57 Credit/Debit Card Fee + £500 + £20.83 Credit/Debit Card Fee were payable before arrival.) We had to clean the place and wash the towels, rugs and sheets. This apartment was more accessible - and definitely more expensive. The apartment is on the top floor of the building so we could see seagulls flying around the building. This is a refurbished industrial/office building so the placement of the radiators were a little strange (in the bathrooms and living room only). We had to use mobile fan heaters to heat up the rooms. I found the owner friendly but he follows a strict system and process to manage his properties. He has a no-nonsense style. Well, he worked in the banking sector in Singapore for a number of years so perhaps that has helped developed his style. He said we were the first Singaporean tenants who have never been to London before. I think we're either the last Singaporeans who've never visited or that most Singaporeans who visit would live in hotels on their first trip. There aren't many stray cats in London but I spotted one in the apartment compounds.

Cat at Central House
Outside Central House

Camden Lock and Borough Markets - 26 May
Camden Lock Market is very crowded and colourful place. Many of the shops sell the same type of souvenirs and those closer to the train station would obviously charge higher prices. There's a good variety of food here and places where you can sit and eat. My dad managed to buy some nice posters and I bought a few souvenirs. I think this is the cheapest place to buy souvenirs. If you're looking at my blog, searching for places to shop a good guide is: if you see me carrying a carrier bag in the picture, then yes you'd probably be able to find some interesting things to buy.

Camden Lock Market
Camden Lock Market
Lots of food choices here
You can enjoy eating by the river while sitting on these cute chairs
Camden Lock Lion - local celebrity
The most interesting window display I've ever seen
This is a good one!

Camden Lock Market
Nearest underground station: Camden Town station.
Market opening time: 9.30-5.30 Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm Sat and Sun.
What you can find here: Antiques, clothes, books, food, crafts, souveniors.

FYI: typical salaries here
We went back to the previous apartment to collect the refund of the security deposit. They would normally refund it by bank transfer but because it would be from UK to Singapore, my bank would need to convert the currency and then also charge me a fee for the transfer. So getting the cash back by hand would be the best for me. The owner's niece was kind enough to oblige.

We headed to the River Thames. I had gone that before alone but since my dad hasn't been there and it was still early, we went there for a walk. The Borough Market is not open on Sundays but we went there to look at the old building.

Borough Market
Market opening time: For lunch only Mon-Wed 10am-3pm; Full market Thu 11am-5pm, Fri 12pm-6pm, Sat 8am-5pm
What you can find here: Cooked and uncooked food.
Nearest underground station: London Bridge Station

On the way to the river, we saw a car stuck in a narrow street, not meant for cars. Amused tourists like myself were snapping pictures and many were trying to walk through the small instead of waiting for the driver to clear the path. This made the woman in the car furious because she couldn't get out of there while people were not giving way to her.
Stuck car with furious woman and amused tourists taking pictures
River Thames

My dad wasn't interested in seeing the crown jewels so we didn't go to the Tower of London. £21.45 per adult is a rip off. Besides, there are many things to do in London for free, such as going to the many museums and seeing replica of ships such as this:
Replica of Sir Francis Drake's Ship

My dad wanted to go back to rest so I went to explore Oxford Street, Regent Street, Soho and Chinatown (they're all in the same area).
It was crowded but not as crowded as Singapore.
So cute! It makes me smile whenever I look at this picture!

Chinatown was unavoidable. We had run out of instant tea and instant noodles. I heard that we could only get such items in Chinese shops.
Massage is rather expensive £33
Instant coffee is extremely expensive £6.99
All the trishaw riders are non-Chinese
People had told me that Soho is a must-see. For a while, I wasn't even sure whether I was at the right place because it really wasn't that interesting. my friend told me that I would see a gay bar and that's where Soho starts. I saw the gay bar but that was about it. Perhaps I was there are the wrong time of the week or it's not nighttime yet. I saw people queuing food or the theatre, and sitting around at pubs. Mostly young people here. Perhaps it's a must-see because it's supposed to be for trendy, young people. But for me, it's just so...?
Rental prices in the area

Bath - 27 May
Please refer to this post: Bath: 27 May 2013
Some sections of the underground train lines were down for maintenance. But it was easy finding alternative routes. It's so different from Singapore. In Singapore, if a section is down the whole system is stalled. Maintenance happens in the wee hours of the morning when the trains do not operate.

I met my ex-colleague for dinner at Westfield Stratford mall. He's Singaporean and now works in London. He shared with me why he prefers to work and live in London, spoke about the pace of work and also why there's no cellphone reception in the underground trains. The workers maintaining the train system are not expected to work after midnight and employees in general are not expected to be on call after office hours. As for underground cellphone signals, it seems the technology is possible but many people object to it because they do not want to be disturbed by other people's conversation while sitting on the train. They made a good point! The trains here are condusive for reading because there aren't any annoying people talking loudly on the phone. Instead, you'll get to enjoy witty advertisements such as this:

Harrods, Victoria & Albert Museum, Brompton Cemetary - 28 May
My dad was meeting his friend for lunch Westfield Stratford mall. He had intended to go to his friend's house and then his friend would take him to some nature spots but it was raining. Since my dad was occupied, I was free to go shopping and visit places which my dad wouldn't be interested in.

Everyone knows Harrods and I was interested to visit see it! There's an Egyptian-themed section which I found very nice. There are many luxury goods sold here. The Harrods brand items are nice but expensive. Check out the items on sale and you might find some good buys. There's also an interesting small collection of exhibits of autographed items by famous actors, and a memorial of Princess Diana in the basement.
To Harrods
Egyptian Theme
Harrods-brand teddy bears
Harrods-brand bags
Furniture and restaurants
Nice washroom with free perfume
Drinking water is provided in the washroom
The only failure of Harrods was in not providing a waiting area and chairs for the people waiting outside

I thought it would be easy to find a quite bite there - just like it is in Singapore malls. Well, there's plenty of food there but there didn't seem to be any place to stand and eat. So I walked around the food area while eating the food. A cashier stopped me and told me that I'm not allowed to eat in the food hall. I complied but I thought it was silly to be selling food there but you can only eat it outside! I suppose they're too high class; walking and eating is improper.

The memorial is in the basement. There are many people there wanting to take a closer look at the engagement ring.
Memorial shrine
Memorial shrine with engagement ring

My next stop was the Victoria & Albert Museum. It would only have an hour to browse because it was rather late in the day already. There is no entrance fee so I didn't have to worry about not getting my money's worth from the ticket.

The Victoria & Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum are in the same area. Unfortunately, I only had time for one. Near the underground station, there's a Szechuan restaurant that uses the Tiger Balm logo.
Imitation tiger balm

Natural History Museum
VA Museum

Here are pictures of the gorgeous interior and some of the artifacts.
VA Museum
VA Museum
VA Museum
Drawing area

Victoria & Albert Museum
Opening hours: 10.00 to 17.45 daily, 10.00 to 22.00 Fridays Nearest Underground station: 5 minute walk from South Kensington underground station.

Because the sun sets rather late in Summer, I would be able to visit the Brompton Cemetary while the sky was still bright. This is a huge cemetary that's "one of the finest cemeteries in the country", according to the Royal Parks. To get there, I took the tube to Earl's Court. This is an upmarket residential area.
Earl's Court
Brompton Cemetery is about 8 min's walk away. I found the cemetery very beautiful and peaceful. There were joggers, cyclists and even lovers sitting in the park. There are squirrels running around in the park. There are many interesting and beautiful headstones.
Cyclists in Brompton Cemetery
Couple walking in the cemetery
Jogger in the cemetery
Friends walking in cemetery
Couple sitting in cemetery
There are houses beside Brompton Cemetery

I left the Cemetary by another exit at the opposite end of the park and took the tube from another station.

Brompton Cemetery
Opening time: Varies. Check the closing time at the website.
Tube: West Brompton - District Line (Wimbledon branch)
Buses: 14, 74, 190, 211, 328, 414, 430, C1, C3

For dinner, I bought some burger at the train station near the apartment. I spotted a convenience store with a Chinese owner. I found instant noodles in the shop. The prices were ok - not exhorbitant like in Chinatown. The ones in these pictures are the more expensive varieties. My dad was delighted when I told him about my discovery. He went there to buy the noodles the next morning.
Chinese provision shop
Instant noodles £0.45
Instant noodles £0.30

Covent Garden - 29 May
There was a small queue to get into the lift at the Covent Garden underground station. Taking the stairs wasn't an option. We were here on a weekday so it wasn't so bad. The advice to tourists is to stop at the other stations nearby instead of here.
Covent Garden underground station

Just outside the station, there are "street performers" who attracted curious looks. How did they do it?
How did they do it?
He did not tell me how

You can take photos with them but, of course, do give them a donation afterwards. I think they use magnetic plates. What do you think?

There are stalls with nice souveniors here. My dad and I bought a number of souvenirs. Besides, it was one of our last few days here so we felt safer about spending because we knew we had more than enough money to last us for the rest of the trip. It was drizzling again today so we had coffee and snacks at a shop. The owner was friendly and seeing that 2 of us only ordered one donut, sliced it into 4 parts without us asking.
Covent Garden
Yes, I bought souvenirs

Piccadily craft market, Harrods, Buckingham Palace - 30 May
What I love about the London underground is the music. The music is always different and it creates a relaxing or lively atomosphere in an otherwise stressful or boring commute.

Piccadily craft market is a small market outside St. James church. We saw antiques and crafts here. My dad bought vintage-looking keychains. It seems the stalls sell different things on different days.

Off we went to Harrods. I wanted to buy some toiletries and claim VAT refund. They are cheaper here than in Singapore. My dad waited for me outside Harrods because he said he wanted to enjoy the cold. There wasn't a queue so I got the VAT refund form in less than 5 mins. The cell signal in this shop is weak. My dad was trying to call me but I was unreachable.

After that, we went to Buckingham Palace. We alighted at Green Park underground station. It was a lovely walk in the park and the park was very green indeed. It would be great if my life could be a walk in this park!
Green Park
Green Park

There was a celebration for the 60th Anniversary of Her Majesty's Coronation so there were many well-dress people queuing to get into the palace. All the women had hats on. I heard a foreigner ask a lady how she kept her hat in. She explained that there's a clip to clip the hat onto her hair.
Long queue
I was there!

St. Martin-in-the-fields, National Gallery, Waldorf Hotel, Victoria Park - 31 May
This looks like a place where secret meetings were held. It's in the basement of the St. Martin-in-the-fields church. Now this a small gallery and you can have a meal here in the "Cafe in the Crypt". For people who like Christian religious items, the gift shop in the basement has a collection that was enough to interest my dad for half an hour.
St. Martin-in-the-fields
Cafe in the Crypt

Next, we went to the National Gallery. The Trafalgar Square is beside the National Gallery.
Trafalgar Square

There are many famous art works housed in this gallery. It's free entry. Photography is not allowed in it. If you wish to buy copies of famous art pieces, the museum shop offers a small collection. While browsing, I noticed that one of the piece had a sign stating "Donated by XX in lieu of taxes". Coincidentally, the museums were on strike and only some rooms were open.
On strike

My dad was rather bored with the exhibits. I said that the next stop would be another museum but he said he'd rather go home to rest or hang out at the Stratford Westfield mall on his own.

I went to meet my friend for high tea at the Hilton Waldorf Hotel. The tea itself was great. The flavour was much stronger than what I get in Singapore's Goodwood Park Hotel. I'm glad my friend suggested it otherwise I have missed having high tea in high tea country!
High tea at the Hilton Waldorf Hotel

After that, I went back home and my dad was there. So we went to the Victoria Park nearby. There were some roadworks so we had to take an alternative route. What should have been a 10-minute walk became a 20-minute walk to the park.

Along the way, we saw some apartments under construction. They cost less than apartments in Singapore but the mortgage rate is much higher in UK. We also saw a Johovah Witness church.
Gunmakers Wharf apartments
Now Bow apartments
Johovah Witness church

Victoria Park is a very spacious park, with its maintainence funded by the lottery. Barbeques aren't allowed but some people clearly don't care about following the rules. We saw people with bicycles so we asked them where they got them. They told us that the bikes were available along the road outside the park. We went there but we needed some sort of card to operate the machines for bike rental so we had to keep walking instead.
Victoria Park is a very spacious park
Lottery funded (see top right)
People having a BBQ
Victoria Park
Victoria Park

On our way back, we booked a taxi to the airport for the next day.

We also took photos at this lovely wall mural and went to the supermarket to buy some breakfast for the next day before going back to pack and clean. The washing of the sheets and towels required some planning because it would be impossible to fit all the sheets and towels into the washing machine at one go. We had loaded the first batch into the machine before going out. We would also clean and vacuum as much as we could so that we would have less to do the next morning.
Wall mural at Bow Road
Dog waiting outside supermarket at Bow Road

Departure - 1 June
We packed our bags, cleaned the house and loaded the second batch of sheets and towels into the washing machine before leaving. The driver arrived on time. There were some road closures and minor traffic jams due to the Queen's celebrations but we managed to get to the airport with sufficient time to check in and get the VAT refund.
Minor traffic jam

The regulations regarding liquids was overly strict. Just a few small bottles of liquid foundation and cleansing gel caused me to wait half an hour for the officer to remove those items and put them into a transparent bag. This isn't even needed in any of the other countries I've visited - not even Germany.

The VAT refund process wasn't clear. Many people were in the wrong queue. All the staff there pulled long faces. They were all foreigners. If they were British, I suppose they would be smiling and saying "thank for you spending money in our country" or would they also be pulling long faces at having to refund the VAT to tourists?

I enjoyed my trip except for the dry skin condition that afflicted me due to low humidity. Many of the people there were helpful and friendly (except for those who worked at the airport). It seems like a very nice place to live. The cost of renting a room or apartment there is higher than in Singapore.
Rent 1BR per week
Rent 2BR per week
Rent 3BR per week
Rent 4BR per week
Buy 1BR
Buy 1BR
Buy 2BR
Buy 2BR

Food of similar standard and quality is about the same price as it is in Singapore. Public transportation and taxis costs more in London but the trains and buses come from frequently and are less crowded. Needless to say, private cars cost less in London. The price of housing is lower but the mortgage rate is higher than in Singapore. In London, there are many things to do and nice open spaces to hang out at for free and they're not as crowded as Singapore. Taxes are high in London but healthcare is free.
Handphone prices

I think the standard and cost of living in both cities are similar. I wouldn't mind living in London if I have a good job offer there. But for now, I love living in Singapore - in my home sweet home and with my lovely cat.


Anonymous said...

Been looking forward to this post!

Reader said...

Enjoy reading your travel posts and looking foward to more.....

David said...

Yu-Kym, Enjoying your U.K. travels.

Impressed with how many places you managed to visit. Great photos and great links!

My wife and I want to visit Britan in the future. Your links will be useful!