On June 14 2013, I took a flight to London to meet my friends who are currently studying in the UK. My friends and I planned a trip to Scotland during the first summer holidays and I was very excited, because it was my first road trip. Before that, my friend Aaron promised to bring me around his second home, London and his school, Imperial College London.
This trip was very memorable to me because it was also my first time when I travelled alone on the plane to a faraway land. Honestly I was nervous when my parents sent me off that morning. I remembered shivering slightly to the cold air inside Changi Airport Terminal 3. Suddenly the whole airport felt so cold and unwelcoming. I was that nervous and yet excited at the same time. However, my fears were quickly allayed when I boarded the plane. The feeling of home and a sense of belonging calmed me down in the Singapore Airlines flight. The flight attendants were bringing service to an overwhelming level, as usual, and I felt comfortable and great throughout my 11+ hours flight to Heathrow Airport.
Familiar faces greeted me when i arrived at Heathrow and I was really glad to see my friends, Jun Jie and Aaron at the arrival hall waiting for me. Together, we went underground and took the Tube towards South Kensington. And that was where my journey to the United Kingdom began.
Going to London has always been my childhood dream. To me, it was like a place filled with red telephone booths, old clock towers, cute taxis, people with huge black hats, and more recently, the amazing London Eye. I have always been fascinated by London’s architecture, its people, and of course, its famous Tube. It is a place filled with hope, aspiration and dreams. Often, many would associate London as a dull, dark and gloomy place, due to its horrible weather. I beg to differ, when I was there, London was bright and sunny, and it has one of the best summer days in the world. The temperatures were just right, and the city was brimming with colour, sound and rhythm.
During my 4-5 days in London, I visited places where visitors will usually go, the Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace Gardens, Chinatown, London Eye, River Thames, Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Robert Albert Hall, and the list goes on and on. The museums were also free of charge for all visitors, and for that I am really grateful, if not I would have burnt a really huge hole in my pocket for my trip to UK.
The night walks along Thames River was really a great experience, and it was also that place that made me realise how similar London was to Singapore. It was a metropolitan city, with a huge melting pot of cultures. We could see many modern buildings across the river towards Canary Wharf, and they blended so well with the old architecture of buildings like The Palace of Westminster and the Big Ben.
Some modern buildings which caught my attention included the London Gherkin and the Shard, possibly one of the most sophisticated and elegant modern buildings I have ever seen. While London embraces its amazing history and culture, it embraces modernity, unlike many other European cities, and I believe the city planners have done a really good job maintaining a balance between the old and new. Good job indeed.
Chinatown represents a sense of belonging of home to many immigrants from the East, and a sense of home especially for Asians residing in London, whether as permanent residents, or as citizens. Like other Chinatowns, London’s Chinatown is very colourful, and always busy with activities. It is very crowded even during the weekdays, and one can sense the vibrancy and energy of the neighbourhood. It was also the place where my friends and I caught the Musical, Les Miserables. It was one of the best musicals I had ever watched, after Phantom of the Opera.
We also did some shopping at Knightsbridge, Regent Street and Oxford Street. and of course Piccadilly Circus. I did a little research on this street and surprisingly, I realised that is a road junction and public space of London’s West End in the City of Westminster builtin 1819, the same year Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles.
One of the highlights of the London trip was the Queen’s Birthday Parade which was held on June 14th 2013. London celebrates The Queen’s official birthday in June each year with Trooping the Colour, a fantastic military parade that has taken place in London since 1820. I caught a glimpse of the Queen and of course, Prince William’s wife, Kate.
After exploring London, my friends and I took a train from King’s Cross Station northwards towards Edinburgh. I will be writing my Scotland trip in my next post. Stay tuned!