In the latest research released by Euromonitor International, London has beaten cross-Channel rival Paris in the race to be Europe’s most visited city. In my opinion, this is not surprising considering the number of “foreign languages” that we could hear being conversed by people along the busy Oxford Street when we were there last month. and yes, we are now officially part of the stats that contribute in making London #1!
It was good to be able to wake up fresh after a full day of traveling from Kuala Lumpur to London (click here to read my previous post on MH4). Probably the excitement being away from work and in a foreign country helped me to overcome any form of jet-lag that I usually suffer on my previous Euro trips. Felt great to be back in London after my last visit in 2008. London was not a ‘by default’ city for many people travelling to Norway and Svalbard, but since we are half-way around the world from Malaysia we might as well make the best of it and spend a couple of days being a tourist in this great city.
The familiar sight of the iconic red double decker busses, red pay phones booth, classic black taxis, the famous landmarks, shops along Oxford street, the fish & chips brought back a lot of memories from year 2001 and 2008. Still there are so many things to see and experience and there’s always not enough time!
Since it is my wife’s first London experience, we planned for a full 2-day itinerary to cover as much as we could. This is make possible thanks to London’s efficient public transportation system. Equipped with an oyster card (thanks Dian!), a pocket Wifi (thank you Wiyo Malaysia!) and Google Map (thanks Larry!) we enjoyed getting around the city using the frequent and punctual public busses.
As much as we enjoyed the red double decker busses, we felt that it is part of London experience to try out the Hop On Hop Off buses hence we got into one and it was worth every penny.
The advantage of a hop-on hop-off tour bus is that it is informative and I could put my phone away and just enjoy the view and commentary given by the guide.
Some random shots of of London’s “must-see”.
We made a couple of hops at the most famous attractions but were easily put off by the number of tourists. There were just too many people for us to even chill and enjoy the landmarks.
And for every 50-70 tourists, we would bump into a Malaysian.
We always try to greet or smile and many smiled back, but some are just too into “tourist mode” with their selfie sticks – another great way to spot Malaysians and Asians. He he he.
London is also a nice walking city. The weather was between 2 to 9 degrees Celsius and it was a perfect way for us to get acclimatised to winter before reaching Svalbard. Coming from a country with an average year-long temperature of 26-34 degrees Celsius, it is not easy to adapt to the cold weather and being outdoors in London helped a lot!
Walking also allows us to take our own sweet time and get really close to some of the attractions.
Another plus point about London is the availability of halal food. Just next to our hotel is a nice little café that serves halal food. Additional discount for Tune Hotel guests so it’s a great place for a heavy breakfast to start a day.
Many halal kebab stalls/shops are available at different areas in the city. Some with dine-in options.
No London trip is complete without a bite on London’s authentic fish & chips. Though there is many restaurants and pubs that serve this local specialty, we only had the chance to try one – Micky’s Fish and Chips. It’s a certified halal restaurant and it is delicious!
London’s Burger & Lobster is another “must-try”. We enjoyed lobsters for only GBP20 per plate! Good value for money considering how fresh and generous the portion is. Note that this is not a “halal-certified” restaurant so stick with the lobsters ok!
At the expense of a trip to Bicester Village (too far!), we think we did quite well in seeing as much as we can and also shopping at stores at the heart of the city.
We bought most of our winter clothing for Svalbard here in London. Comparing to Malaysia, it’s cheaper and the quality gives us more confidence to face the sub-freezing temperature of the arctic 🙂
3 days in London were great. To be honest, we wish it could be longer by at least a couple more days but then it gave us the good excuse to come back one day insyaAllah.
An additional travel tip: for places like London, having a phone connected to the Internet is a powerful tool that can allow a traveler to navigate around easily with GPS and access real-time schedule of public transport. Of course data roaming is super costly so I encourage anyone traveling outside Malaysia to consider renting a pocket WiFi. My wife and I were both connected to this Pocket WiFi device by Wiyo when we were outside the hotel and we were able to rely on Google Map to solve any disputes on directions 😛 Oh it’s also nice for those who love to be connected to their social media when they are on-the-go. So head on to http://www.wiyo.my/ for more details.
Svalbard #KeHujungDunia adventure continues…..very soon!