Whether they admit it or not, a lot of Hong Kong people have some kind of emotional/sentimental attachment to Britain (although memories of the pre-handover days are starting to get fuzzy now, I’m sure). This is demonstrated by the English National side’s popularity in Hong Kong, and the number of Hong Kong tourists in London when I was there.
I arrived at Heathrow at 8:30am (the plane had to circle before landing again, is that really common for Heathrow?), waited 30 minutes for the luggagage, and took the Heathrow Express to Paddington (Note: buying Heathrow Express tickets online, namely from the JAL web site, saves 1 pound per trip). From Paddington, I took the Hammersmith and City line to Euston Square. This was a mistake, as the walk to the hotel was 20 minutes, while walking to the hotel from King’s Cross/St. Pancras (the next stop in the line) was 5 minutes. I guess tube maps that failed to clearly show which line goes where did not help, but it did show that I lacked preparation (i.e. not pinpointing where exactly the hotel is beforehand).
I got to the hotel at 10:30 and was told that the room is not ready yet. So I had to change my plans slightly – originally my first item on the agenda is the Tower of London – and headed off to the British Museum.
With more than 200 years of history, the architecture of the British Museum itself is a wonder to a “culturally-deprived” person like me. I went through a number of exhibitions, including Enlightenment, Ancient Greek, Ancient Roman, and Middle Ages. I only browsed through the Chinese exhibits, knowing that I will return for another visit for sure. I saw a number of Cantonese-speaking tourists around in the museum (as well as a couple pretty Japanese female tourists…), and I suddenly came to realize that it was the start of the Chinese New Year holiday.
The collection is all in all very interesting, as the captions are well written, and there are a lot of things that I cannot see anywhere else in the world (e.g. the Pantheon Marbles).
I had a Krispy Kreme donut for lunch. I was surprised that Krispy Kreme is so readily available in London, as I found one in Paddington and another one in Euston. But then there are Subways (no, not the tube) around too…
I went back to the hotel at 14:00 to take the room. The room was really big and well furnished. Perhaps I got lucky and got one of the bigger rooms, since small room size is a common complaint for hotels in London.
Afterwards, I rode the Underground to Bank/Monument, visited the Monument, and walked towards the Tower of London. However, by the time I got there (15:30), it was too late for admission. I walked around the exterior walls of the Tower and took some pictures. I then proceeded to walk across the Tower Bridge and onto the south side of Thames. After walking past HMS Belfast and the Hay’s Galleria, I took the Underground again to Westminster.
London’s Underground system is the most complicated public transit system that I ever encountered (Munich’s S-Bahn and U-Bahn look pretty complex too, but I was only there for a day). Transferring from one line to another in a station, or to exit at a particular exit can be quite different than it was with the MTR in Hong Kong. Not all walkways have access to all the platforms and exits, therefore when I got off the train, I need to pay attention to the signs to see which way I should go in order to get to where I want to go. More often than not I found myself walking the wrong way.
The main attraction around the Westminster station is of course the Westminster Palace. I took several pictures of the Big Ben, and walked around the fences of the building along Millbank, and then along the Thames in Victoria Tower Gardens and all the way to Lambeth Bridge. I finally walked back to Westminster Abbey along Millbank and right about that time the battery on my camera went out (and my spare was charging at the hotel room).
I headed back to the hotel at around 17:30 but got lost around the King’s Cross Station and the Pentonville area (I didn’t know I needed to walk to the St. Pancras side of the station when I was inside the Underground station) for about 15 minutes. That’s what happens to people who rely on intuition and “feel” (instead of being prepared and observant) to get around places that they are not familiar with.
Went to Mornington Crescent at 18:45 to meet up with EY. We then went to a nearby Japanese restaurant. The dinner that we had there consist of teriyaki chicken and beef, plus the usual a-la-carte items (e.g. rice, miso soup). The restaurant was ran by Japanese people, so it was more or less authentic (at least more authentic than the Chinese-ran joints in Vancouver).
I told EY about my craving of Japanese curry. She told me that there are a couple of places around Chinatown that makes good Japanese curry rice, and we can go try it out the next day. I was absolutely delighted. :p