It took me about 5 hours initially to walk around Oxford without taking any tour with guide trips.

My host's brother; Mr Hassan from Willowbrook Farm was very kind to drop me off at the city center before going to the Sunday market on 19th October of 2014. Alhamdulillah, the weather was fine with bits of sunshine and blue skies.

I was at Oxford's city center at about 8.00 am on Sunday. It was really early by my standard but I had better grab the chance of saving my money rather than forking the three pound bus fare for half an hour journey from the farm.

If only the Oxford bus company has the route, I can actually save a lot by getting a day ticket. Unfortunately the route to Hampton Gay is served by Thames Travel bus and not in the smart zone.

However, if you are in the center, there is a daily pass of four pound where you can take any bus from Oxford bus company, Thames travel or Stagecoach to travel around. IMO, it is quite cheap.

Check out about the daily pass here. The ticket can be purchased inside the bus.  But...IMO x a million..the best way to appreciate Oxford is on foot. ^^ Oxford is not a big city, really. Trust me!


Top: Left- Ashmolean Museum; Right: Me, in front of Ashmolean Museum
Bottom: Left- bicycles parked along Magdalen Street; Right- The Oxford Martyrs

Initially, I planned to visit Ashmolean Museum as my bus stopped right in front of Randolph Hotel but the museum opens only from 10 am. Lets just explore the city then...when many were still sound asleep. T_T I walked in front of the Magdalen Street where I saw the Martyrs Memorial.

'The Oxford Martyrs were tried for heresy in 1555 and burnt at the stake in Oxford, England, for their religious beliefs and teachings. The three martyrs were the Anglican bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury.' - Wikipedia.

My eyes caught something just right below the statue. The many bicycles parked and locked against the park's gate! Cambridge led the highest number of bicycles in an area and followed by Oxford and there are also many bicycles stolen incidents around these areas. LOL.

Top: Left- History Faculty; Right- Oxfordshire city council
Bottom: Left-Carfax Tower; Right- Primark

I turned right towards George Street and I saw Debenhams just around the corner.  There are many restaurants along this street and my favorite Kebab Kid is around this area. Jamie's Italian is also located somewhere along this road.

Then I turned left after and walk until I saw Oxfordshire County Council which looks like a castle.When I walked more, I saw Primark but I was not really excited because there are so many Primark everywhere and I tried to keep my shopping list the bare minimum! Still trying really hard...hahaha.

Top: Left- List of colleges in Oxford; Right- Museum of Oxford
Bottom: Left- Christ Church Cathedral; Right- Post Office

After taking some pictures of the Carfax Tower, I walked to the right towards St Aldate's street. Here, I saw Oxford Town Hall, Oxford Museum and Christ Church Cathedral. After that I strolled inside the Christ Church Meadow...really awesome park! Subhanallah.


Top: Left and Right - Christ Church Meadow
Bottom: Left and Right - Christ Church College


Top: Left- Christ Church Meadow; Right- Rose Lane (next to Botanical Garden)
Bottom: Left- Magdalen College; Right- Punting under Magdalen Bridge

I walked until I found Rose Lane and turned right for the Botanic Garden which is located along High Street. The admission is 4.50 GBP but I skipped it. Maybe the free and pretty parks are enough for me.  I took a few pictures of Magdalen College. If you are interested to enter this college, there is an admission of 5 GBP for adult.

Just right next to the college, I saw the Magdalen Bridge and underneath it are rows of boats where tourists could enjoy the punting activity. I saw some rode it but I think it would be best enjoyed in summer. Check out for more of punting information here.


Since it was still early, I went back up to the High street where more of the beautiful colleges are located. Here, along the streets you can see colleges like The Queen's College, All Souls College, Brasenose College and many more.

I have left Oxford close to three weeks now but I still miss that charming city. A city that reminds me of knowledge and........... my old dictionary hahaha...yess! I have used a small Oxford English-Malay dictionary during my primary school while seriously playing Scrabble. ^^

Well, interesting enough...after more than twenty years, I had the opportunity to visit Oxford for the first time. Love, love, love...the city but I could only visit it for about three or four days of tour. If I want to stay longer, I need to enrol into Oxford University. Who knows the future right? Except the Almighty God.

As I get older, living in a small town is pretty tempting. My old self just want peace. No more rock music, no more hustle and bustle of the metropolis and yes to goat, rabbit, cats and etc. Helllllo animals..hehe.

On 19th October 2014, I had the chance for a day outing and to rest from farming!! Alhamdulillah, the weather was sunny and bright blue sky for most of the day. Well...the UK and its weather is really unpredictable. I can sum up for one thing: you can experience all the four seasons in one day in the UK! summer, autumn, winter and spring. How weird but how unique it is. ^^

After walking around Oxford city center for about four to five hours, it's about time to pray. I was advised by a German wwoofer at Willowbrook farm not to pay for the city bus and the best way to explore the city was to walk. I listened to his advice and had to walk about 45 minutes to the mosque from Debenhams at George Street! I did not regret the decision at all but my legs did.

Haha..well, I took my own sweet time. 45 minutes were kinda laid back sightseeing style. As I walked along Cornmarket Street, I saw Boots on my left. I stopped by to login to Boots's free WiFi..hehe. Nice!

At the end of the junction, I saw HSBC bank on my right just before turning left and went straight into High Street. Here on this road, there are many colleges of the Oxford University. I walked pass the University church of St Mary the virgin and walked some more towards the never ending road until I saw the pretty Magdalen College on my left.

By now, I saw the Magdalen bridge and many boats were underneath it where tourists do this activity called as punting. I would call it as the mini-Venice kinda canal hehehe..

Then I walked again where I saw Sainsbury's on my left and then a 5-junction roundabout and made my way into Cowley Road.

By now, I was pretty sure that I would not lose my way. I walked and walked until I saw this small park like in the picture at the bottom.


The park is called Manzil Way Gardens. I just followed the man in black shirt (picture above) towards the end and the building in that picture is NHS Health Centre Manzil Way. Take the small road and the mosque is there! Majestically standing. You will not miss it unless the trees are taller than the minaret.^^


This is the women praying area. Before entering, I met a Malaysian family who has just moved to Oxford because the husband is doing post doctorate at Oxford University. They come from Bangi and I was so so excited to be able to meet Malaysian!! Horay!

Right before praying, I met two Malaysian students from Oxford Brookes University. They major in architecture. Masya Allah. I met Malaysians all over Oxford. So so proud of them.

Although Oxford Brookes University is not actually the same as Oxford University but just getting into Oxford is definitely not a piece of cake!


After praying, we had lunch together at Kebab Kid. The most delicious Halal grilled chicken ever in Oxford! This is seriously good! I ordered the 1/4 chicken + fries + soda. It set me to only 4.50 GBP. That was quite cheap and the portion was a mountain. Be sure to ask for sweet chilli and garlic sauce. The chicken and the sauce went so well together. Nyammmmm....

Kebab Kid has another branch right at the city center:
Near Debenhams, 63 St George's Pl, City CentreOxford OX1 2BL


and the one that I frequented was at:

146 Cowley Rd
Oxford OX4 1JJ

The one at Cowley Road opened until 3.00 am!!

How to go to Oxford Central Mosque from Debenhams?

Just followed the map below:


 For more information: http://centraloxfordmosque.org.uk/
My first wwoofing stint in the UK was with Willowbrook farm.

I have blogged before in my previous post that there were none of my WWOOF requests in the UK got replied, felt like I have wasted my first 20 pound subscription but Masha Allah (ما شاء الله God has willed it), me the small, powerless human who can never predict the future, finally received a reply from a farm in Oxford. Alhamdulillah الحمد لله.

Willowbrook Organic Farm in Oxford has seriously sparked my interest.

First for being a Muslim-family owned farm.

Second for being located in Oxford and the farm was like 20 minutes drive from the center of Oxford and I was like.... I want to vist Oxford University!! (Calm down there...hehehe).

The reply from Willowbrook Organic Farm was received about a week before my intended date to volunteer there. Quite a shock! Fortunately, I did not have any immediate plan.

I was demotivated when one of the farms that I was interested in emailed me that winter season will be cold and working in cold weather would impose high challenge for tropical country girl like me. ^^

As usual, WWOOF is basically not for everyone. My arms were excruciatingly painful after a whole day working outside. I couldn't sleep until two in the morning because of the pain and only after swallowing two aspirins that I managed to get back to bed.

Back in the days, I had wwoofed in Japan for a week in May, 2007  and more than a year in South Korea in 2009 and 2010 (in cold and hot seasons). Check out my wwoofing experience in South Korea here.

Anyway, why I decided to Wwoof when I do have an option not to?

Well...I prefer to travel with a twist. Love to stay together with the native for at least a week and experience the country that I visit by helping the family ie farming, raising the animals and etc.

However Wwoofing is definitely a tiring job if you have never done something similar. For instant, in Willowbrook Farm, we have to work from 9am until 5pm everyday, lock the animals ie geese, turkeys and rabbits right before sunset and we are given two days off in a week. You can choose when you want to take your off day though which is quite nice.

So...you must be thinking, Oh no! This is like a 9 to 5 job except that it is farming. Back-breaking job! Yesssssss....you are quite right! ^^ 

On my first day to Willowbrook Farm...

I took Megabus because it was a cheaper option. I paid for a return ticket of 13.50 pound from Coventry to Oxford. It was drizzling when I waited for the bus near Cannon Park for a staggering one hour and 30 minutes!! *sigh*

My journey to Oxford was supposed to be one hour and 15 minutes but I had to wait more than that. Furthermore the wind was blowing quite hard, cold and drizzling. I was pretty frozen from top to toe. *Elsa mode...*

Anyway, the bus arrived at Oxford, in front of Randolph Hotel (as in the picture with the UK flag above). I asked the receptionist of the hotel for C4 bus stop at Magdalen Road and she directed me to the end of the road. It was still drizzling and as I just missed my bus to Hampton Gay at 4.00 pm, I had to wait for the next one which was at 5.

While waiting, I did some 'eye-scanning'..hehehe. The air in Oxford felt pretty different from London or Coventry. People seem to be more posh, cultured and the city itself exudes intellect. I felt like I am describing Oxford pretty weirdly. I'm sorry as I am not really articulate with words.

One hour wait was really long. Enough for me to actually do some kind of "observation". Many of the people are either students, tourist or local. Me? The tourist, of course! ^^

An old man who lives beyond Hampton Gay talked to me while waiting for number 25A bus. He was really nice to explain to me about the history of Hampton Gay. There was once a very devastating railway accident near Hampton Gay area on Christmas eve of 1874.

If not for my heavy bag, I would be able to roam the Oxford city but still if I think again, I'd rather not to. The weather was too bleak, drizzling and grey sky on the 13th of October.

The bus that I rode to Hampton Gay where the farm was located is called Thames Travel bus - thames-travel.co.uk. It does not operate on Sundays and the fare to Oxford-Hampton Gay is 3 pounds for about 25 minutes journey.

The main street of Hampton Gay was just behind me!

There is no bus stop to indicate the place is Hampton Gay! You must trust the bus driver. I was sure because before coming here, I surfed Willowbrook Farm's website and I thought the road towards the farm looked kinda familiar.

My gut told me so.  Off I walked to the farm for about 15 minutes from the main road. The son of the family welcomed me and I was told to rest as it's the family's rule that wwoofers will not work on their arrival day. I was glad because then I just needed long hot bath and some real sleep.  Look at my day-to-day activity in the farm:

In the morning after breakfast or even before, preferably right after the sunrise, we need to release the geese and the turkeys. The farm feels that the animals should see the daylight as much of possible instead of staying too much in the barn in the dark.

After feeding them with food, I would go to the geese barn and look out for the eggs. Normally I would get between three to six eggs per day.

We also need to move the rabbits out from their cage and put them next to the pond where they will feed on grass and play out on the field. The rabbits' nails were so sharp and there were so many countless times that we had been scratched by these small mammals. Hahaha..

Not to forget, Gracie the horse. We need to give her water and she just feeds on grass. The family normally rides her in the morning or late evening. Gracie is also very friendly and her body is so clean and glossy. So pretty!

My best friend: The black goat. He ( I guess that is the gender...hehehe) was so tame and docile!! Oh..I miss the goat already~~ and the sheep, aren't they gorgeous and genius? When I said,"Smile for the camera!" they automatically looked at me. Every morning I would bring them two large stacks of hay for their meal.

Other than the usual routine, the wwoofers are given jobs based on what needs to be done and usually either the owner of the farm or their children will delegate the tasks to us.

On top-left: That was on my first day. I had to build the boiler's room wall using cob. 'Cob, cobb or clom (in Wales) is a natural building material made from sand, clay, water, some kind of fibrous or organic material (straw) and earth.

Cob is fireproof, resistant to seismic activity, and inexpensive. It can be used to create artistic, sculptural forms and has been revived in recent years by the natural building and sustainability movements.' from Wikipedia.

The farm also sells free range and organic eggs to their customers mainly in Oxford area. Almost everyday, we need to help packing the eggs if there are huge orders.

On the bottom-right: I used the woodchips to make the bedding for the geese and turkey barn. Sometimes I layered the bedding, first with woodchips and hay on top. That way, the barn will not be so muddy and the animals will still has warmth at night for sleep.

When I first entered the geese and turkeys barn, I definitely could not stand the small of their poops. I can sense that the hay + woodchips + their poops = compost and it smelled fermented. I am gonna die, I thought so too but then I still wonder how I could manage to stand doing that for two weeks!! Hahahha...

'Woodchips are a medium-sized solid material made by cutting, or chipping, larger pieces of wood. Woodchips may be used as a biomass solid fuel and are raw material for producing wood pulp. They may also be used as an organic mulch in gardening, landscaping, restoration ecology and mushroom cultivation. According to the different chemical and mechanical properties of the masses, the wood logs are mostly peeled, and the bark chips and the wood chips are processed in different processes. The process of making wood chips is called woodchipping and is done with a woodchipper' from Wikipedia.

The left-bottom picture: We had to move those heavy wood planks to the boiler room and those were seriously heavy. I think we took about half a day to complete the task as we did it manually.

Other days, I helped to install the insulation for the cob house as you can see on the bottom left. The cob house's exterior is almost completed but there are so much things still need to be done for the interior.

Initially I installed the natural wool from the sheep as insulator which they believed have lanolin and I should do it sin the gloves. I tried without the gloves but maybe my hand was so dried and hardly felt the difference after completing the wall insulation.

Then they brought in the fiberglass as the wool had run out which worries me because of:

'Wool insulation costs significantly more than conventional fiberglass insulation, but does not require the use of protective gloves, and may have significantly lower health risks to both the building occupants and the installation crew' from Wikipedia.

The fiberglass are just too hazardous for my health and so we need to do it sparingly.

Why they need insulation for the house?

As I have lived in a tropical country all my life; Malaysia, we don't need insulation in the house. However for 4-season countries, they normally install wall insulation for the overall energy efficiency and warmth. During cold season, the house utilizes more gas, electricity or oils for heaters but if they properly insulate the house in the first place, the bill will not be so high. It all goes down to $$$$.

On the top-left: Those are pumpkins harvested from the farm. We got to cook them for lunch and made soups with the turkey meat on the bottom-right picture.

On the top-right: Those are grapes made into juice and other time there were abundance of blackcurrants and plums harvested from the farm that they made jam from it.

On the bottom-left: The family is also helping to support the Palestine economy by being a distributor for http://www.zaytoun.org/. The Palestinian Za'atar is great when eaten sprinkled on top of bread and dash of olive oil. In my case, I put a lot of butter! Nyammm....

Anyone interested to WWOOF in Willowbrook Farm, you need to register with WWOOF office first. Get to know more about wwoofing in the UK at https://www.wwoof.org.uk/.
I am already a month in the UK by now and so lazy to update this blog. Ohhhh..how time flies! It's time to lay out my trip to London's plan. So far, one week in London, one week in Coventry and two weeks in Oxford. Exhausted and money-sucking trip! Hahahaha...

It is about RM5.30 to 1 GBP and that currency rate sure "helps" me a lot! *the skeptic me..^^* I've been hopping from one highly-cost country to another! Korea - Japan - Spain - England...in that order arghhh!!

I'm not rich! So stop imagining things...you might be halucinating..hahaha.

Anyway, due to some unfortunate circumstances, I have to get out from Spain, leave my husband and stay in the UK for about three months.

It is a blessing in disguise...with more disguises than blessings. Hmmm...whichever it is. I believe that Allah has something GOOD in store for me. InsyaAllah and Amin. 100% trust solely in Him.

Honestly, I have no desire to visit the United Kingdoms. Hold your horses!! Don't swear at me or saying stuff like I'm a nutz for having no desire to visit LONDON?!! Not just yet...teehee..

Yeap...I know, many has dreamed to visit London right? But...surprisingly, never in my life. You can trace the reason by going to here: http://budgettravel2korea.com

So, 'this unknown reason' has forced me to 'imagine' the GOOD STUFF that I'm going to find in London and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Hmmm...the good stuff huh? If only I have unlimited cash, that would be awesome. But..the point in living a life is that you cannot have everything that you desire or at least you cannot get it when you REALLY need it.

WIN-WIN...but I am sure for this, The Great Almighty Allah is with me. He is the One who provides sustenance for us and no one else.

Having been through many difficult phases in my life; it has taught me that that the hardest time and the most bitter memory is indeed the sweetest one. There was nothing that I could do but brazen it out. This is easily validated by my experience here. Never before has anything brought me bittersweet memories such as this.

It made me think; Am I back to square one? Begging for life to be my teacher, yet again?

Nah...I'm too mature to whine or wail or consider the boxes of Kleenex. ^^

So, how was my London trip's plan?

Of course, to reduce my cost is on top of my list. As always, money is not important but sometimes you just could not run away from the fact that almost everything in material or non needs money. Where has the barter system goes? I need one!

I turned to my old experience of WWOOFing but I failed to check London's weather before I subscribed. Oh no...London's and the United Kingdom's weather.Here..I might have lost my first GBP 20 (Wwoof subscription fee).

Why?

Because..in autumn or colder season, there aren't much stuffs to do at the farm hence many hosts do not take many wwoofers.

Let's just say that I have lost GBP 20 here..but I might gain much more later. Who knows? Only The Great One knows. ^^ InsyaAllah, He will ease my pain and situation, no one but Him. Amin.

Ahah!! That reminds me of why I have never wished to visit London and United Kingdom! The major culprit is the weather.

Have always taught to myself, why the British seem so drappy. The weather is so moody and they wear somber colors to match that. Hmm...now I can sufficiently say...Ay, don't you find the weather bl**dy good mate? (It is highly IMHO and no pun intended).

I have been dreaming to visit the only country in Europe that I have ever dreamed of- Italy. Solely because I have read the book: Under the Tuscan Sun. That book is such a magnet! Don't read it! Made me transit in Roma Airport only for an hour and 45 minutes. No more..haha.

I heard Rome is quite fatally fascinating. Next time InsyaAllah. Keep dreaming, plan, you work hard, pray and wait for the time and the things to come to you.

Yahhh!! Where have you been?? Get back to planning your trip to London will you?? *sigh* Hahaha...I'm a classic case of Walter Mitty. Watch this movie, highly recommended.

Anyway, I have decided to stay approximately a week in London.

Why so long?

Nope...I am quite old now, so I need to enjoy London like the elderly and the mature being who I am now. Okay..I am 36..not 63! Hahaha..but my bones...oh my bones...well, I need calcium, magnesium..A to Z.

My accommodation

I booked 7-nights worth of stay for 162 euro via Airbnb.com.
The lady has ravishing reviews from as many as 14 guests!! I hope I will experience the similar welcome and gonna write a review on her pretty soon, if she keeps up to it, what I mean.

My Transportation

However, her crib is in Zone 4 which is a tiny bit further from Central London which gave me a reason to buy...The Travel Card for Zone 1-4 worth GBP 45 + GBP 5 (Oyster card deposit). Get this here.

Expensive?

I don't think so...it gives me the liberty to go during PEAK or OFF-PEAK time and ride all...yes!! ALL modes: bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and National Rail services within the London travel zones.

My Communication

A friend suggested to me to use Giff Gaff sim card for a very cheap and reliable service. I thought she was bluffing. Giff Gaff?? What a silly name! Hahhaa...but it turns out to be rather ingenious. Really...check the meaning out here.

However, being cheap means that they do have some tricks under their sleeves:

  1. You need to order your sim card online and  send it to an address where you will stay in advance before coming to London
  2. You can ONLY activate this card online via the website
  3. You can ONLY recharge the sim card online too

See my point? Cheap because all you need to do is just do everything ONLINE.
I am planning to get the unlimited data pack (Yes! It is for REAL) for GBP 12 ~ RM65 (per month). I just hope the quality of service and their coverage do not disappoint me. Wait and see ~~ RISK (Utada Hikaru's song by the way ^^).

Read other reviews for comparison on Giff Gaff against other competing telecommunication companies in the UK here.

All right!

Flight - checked
Accommodation - checked
Transportation - checked
Communication - checked

The final moment is...it is time for sightseeing in London!!

Because I will walk a lot so I want it to be in a theme or where it is located next to each other so I don't have to run around all over London.

Almost cheap...but we are married so we decided not to stay at double decked dormitory style. We left that to the young and the dangerous. Hehehe..For myself, been there and done that and for now, we just want to enjoy ourselves.

Our whole budget listed below:

ACCOMMODATION

84.00 euro - Accommodation at Los Tilos Hotel (2 nights double-bed) and my review here.

TRANSPORTATION

6.60 euro - Metro from Villaverde-Cruze to Méndez Alvaro Terminal bus (South) (Return for 2 pax)
67.60 euro - Return ticket from Madrid to Granada ( for 2 pax)
2.40 euro - Bus from Granada bus station to Granada city center ( for 2 pax)
7.00 euro - Credibus transportation card (only one card shared for 2 pax)

FOOD

6.00 euro - breakfast at Alhambra Cafeteria - Day 1
6.40 euro - breakfast just outside Los Tilos Hotel - Day 2
10.00 euro - breakfast at Alhambra Cafeteria - Day 3

20.18 euro - Lunch at El Ladrillo II - (menu del dia for 2 pax). Reviews by TripAdvisor here.
17.80 euro - Buffet Lunch at FrescCo (discount with coupon 2 euro)
44.00 euro - Lunch at El Ladrillo II - (ala carte for 2 pax)

10 euro - Kabab King
10 euro - Shawarma King
8 euro - Yogurt Ice cream at Smooy and TripAdvisor reviews here

ADMISSION

30.80 euro - Alhambra admission ticket (for 2 pax inclusive of online fee. Buy ticket online here.)

SOUVENIRS

5 euro - White plaster inscription of Allah
3 euro - Arabic calligraphy
22 euro - Alhambra inscription guide book
13 euro - Tea and honey
5 euro - Fridge magnet

Total = 378.78 euro ~ MYR 1,570
My trip from Madrid to London by Easy Jet from Madrid Barajas Airport Terminal 1 was on the 26th of September 2014. This was written on my Notes in Iphone but  did not have the time to upload it yet until today. ^^ It's pretty pretty long...

Alhamdulillah...the day to go to London is here!

This marks my first time to the UK but honestly I was not as excited as my first solo trip to Japan back in 2007.

Why? Because I'm married and going alone sucks!

Anyway, I can't do much about it.

A blessing in disguise. ^^

Surprisingly, I met Heliza Helmi, the AF artist with a Malaysian tour group at Barajas Airport Terminal 1! They just finished a tour of Toledo-Seville-Granada-Madrid using Turkish Airlines and they will stay for a day in Istanbul before flying back to homeland.

I chatted a bit with Heliza but the security guard at the airport did not permit any picture taken around the security area. I hate the guard!! Hehehe...

I did not realize that it was her until my husband told me. How come my husband knew Heliza only God knows.

Actually I couldn't care less if an artist is beside me but what I could care more was the fact that I met a Malaysian in Madrid!! I met many Filipinos in Madrid and they thought that I was one of them. Yes, we are from the same root and we are Asian.

The check-in my of luggage at 10.00am was a breeze as no one was around. I was super early. My flight was due at 11.35am.My husband urged me to get a second helping of breakfast as he was afraid that I would get hungry when I reached Gatwick Airport.

So we had our second breakfast at Mahoudrid, a brand new cafe' at Terminal 1 of Barajas Airport and kinda pricey. Breakfast at Mauhodrid set us off at 6.50 euro for a standard cafe latte, a glass of fresh orange juice and two slices of tiny oh tiny bread.

After the crocodile tears..hehehe, hugs and kisses, it was time to part with my husband. Time for both of us to strengthen our tie again, on our own with Allah.

Another Malaysian called Azah spoke to me right before I had to rush to Gate B20 but what a shame, the flight was delayed. It got delayed until 12.00 noon and that made my arrival at Gatwick Airport to be at 1.20 pm (London time).

Gatwick Airport.

Not much difference. The ETA was at 1.00 pm ^^ Gatwick Airport was quite big compared to KLIA2 (the old one before the newly erected) but less the oomppph! Among the similar characteristics of the both of them is that the walking distance between the flight tarmac to the arrival hall is like ages. ^^ Very long!!

And the funny part was where the separation at UK Border for UK/EU citizens and non UK/EU. The direction was kinda confusing as when I realized that you could just go into the same entrance instead of going over a different ramp.

I was asked loads of questions by Immigration officer. I think more than ten. For Malaysian, there is no visa needed to visit the UK for a maximum of six months but as usual you need to show your supporting documents ie. your saving account statement, credit cards, itinerary and etc.

But I didn't have my bank statement and itinerary. Just my credit cards, my accommodation confirmation and return ticket. I'm staying in the UK for 95 days. So she was curious and hence the multiple bullets of question.

There were a couple of gays from Indian descent in front of me whom were asked much more. About four or five  peopled had passed the immigration before me but they were still not finished!

After the frightening interview, I passed the immigration! With flying colors!! Hahahah..not an exam.

Then I went straight to pray at Gatwick airport prayer room. It is a multi-faith prayer room and there is a wudhu' area. That is pretty accommodating!

After praying, I tried to connect to the Free Gatwick Airport WiFi but failed too many time. I needed it desperately because I forgot to print the direction to my host's house! Aigoo...but finally the wifi was connected for a mere two minutes. Alhamdulillah.

My flight + immigration + luggage claim + praying...by this time, it was about 3 p.m. My bus to Victoria Coach Station is supposed to be at 5 p.m. I was tossed around by three guys telling me incorrect information for Easy Bus waiting point! But..since my ticket was at 5.00 pm..so I didn't mind.

I know...I am nice. Hahhaha...You should see me when I'm not so nice. Grrrr...

Top:
Left: Entrance/Exit to shuttle bus area
Right: Take the lift from South

Bottom:
Left: The bus stop for EasyBus customers (using National Express)
Right: EasyBus to other Aiport ie. Luton, Stansted. (Check out your
luggage allowance before you take this bus)

When I saw the EasyBus, I was totally freaked out. My luggage was huge! But this tiny bus only fits cabin bag. Do check the luggage allowance for every bus that you want to take in the UK.

But then, the guy told me that Easybus has joined with National Express for the route to Victoria Coach Station at platform 3 and it is a big bus with a maximum 25kg each person. Safe!

I boarded my bus by National Express to Victoria Coach station at 4.00 pm. The best part was that EasyBus customers get to enter first. We were prioritized.

The other best part was the bus driver of National Express did not mind and did not even glance at what was your departure time printed on the ticket. I should have listened to my host from Airbnb! She gave me so many reliable and near to accurate information. Masha Allah.

The journey was about 1 hour 30 minutes and I arrived at Victoria Coach Station at about 5.00 pm. Hmmm...the Victoria Coach Station (bus station) is not connected to the Victoria Station for train and underground (tube). I urged those who want to travel using tube to bring a small cabin bag.

The not so good was...I arrived at London's peak hour. Yikes!! All those  hustle and bustle of people...but I really don't care. I took my own sweet time. I paid for my ticket anyway hence I am entitled to some space right?

No!

London's rush hour was terrible...never ever go out between 6.30-9.30 in the morning or 4.00-7.00 in the evening. It will be a horrible experience.

I took the underground or tube from Victoria Station and changed at Oxford Circus Station to Central Line (red) to Redbridge Station. The central line was stuffy and hot. Every time, the tube went into some stations, my ear had some air trapped (only central line so far) like when you went to higher altitude places.

By now, I already miss the subway in Seoul. *sigh*

Escalator or elevator are really scarce in the underground or tube. Plan your transportation going to your accommodation in London really well or you will end up like me. Exhausted!

Not all station is equipped with escalator, elevator and toilet though. You may need to download a map from Transport for London site to check which one has them.

My host's house is at Zone 4. Her rate in AirBnb is pretty cheap but I really regret the whole thing. It took me close to one hour to reach her house from Victoria Station.

If you only have 3-4 days in London, stick only to zone 1 or 2. The reason because of the main important tourist spots are in this area. Like myself, I had a week in London so I didn't mind the distance. In fact, I only managed to go to one or maximum two places in a day. I really took my own sweet time. Traveling is tiring, honestly.

Zone 1-4 for 45 pound (7 days)
+ another 5 pound for the
oyster card deposit.

I will stop here. Until another day then. Read https://www.tfl.gov.uk/ to plan your journey in London.
I am now in London!

Alhamdulillah to Allah who has given me this opportunity to see one of His many creations and to reflect.



London! Forgive me for shouting out loud London again and again. The city really needs a few extra exclamations. Hehe..

Hmmm...I'm travelling solo. Alone. But never lonely. Quoting from one of my favorite bloggers' phrase - HartiniOmar. Alone but not lonely. ^^

I come here for various reasons and may Allah leads me to Him all the way. Amin.

I am still exhausted hauling my 20 kgs of luggage through
the London underground till here. I will make my word very
sparse. Hehe...
Manila Slums 25th September 2014. 0800-0900 hrs (Madrid time) on Al Jazeera.

I had visited, Manila in Makati area in 2010 with my Korean friend; Mi Hyeon. Love the place dearly. Watching this one hour documentary by Al Jazeera brought back the memory and made me realized how blessed I am.

I should be more grateful to Allah for giving me this ease in life, glorify Him at all times and appreciate his blessing on me by giving back more.

I am blessed with kind and supportive parents, family and now husband.

I am blessed with good education and many opportunities to go through my life. Looking back, there wasn't a single situation where I felt I was really poor or unable to achieve my desires. It did take me some time to achieve it but in the end I was able to. Alhamdulillah.

When I was 17 years old, I had a mock interview with my Chemistry teacher in high school for a scholarship application.

One of his questions and I still remember quite clearly until now was:

"What will happen if you don’t get the scholarship?"

My answer: I will be positive. By that I mean, I will always have a positive perspective in whatever result I will get.

He replied, “It’s impossible to be positive all the time and will positive help you?”

I said…Being positive is much much better than being or having negative thoughts.

Then, he gave me an alternative. I was applying for universities offering Computer Science program but many scholarships were offered for medical schools in the UK back then and I would have to apply for the second time (with slim chance of success) if my first application is rejected. So he advised me that I should just apply for medical school and then change my program after a year; listing the reason as unsuitable program for me.

I refused. Totally.

I will not accept such a cowardice act.

The scholarship should be given to those who really need it for the right purpose. I will use it for my education and not for the wrong reason. It took me 19 years to finally visit the UK.

Quoting myself “It did take me some time to achieve it but in the end I was able to. Alhamdulillah.”

Don’t you feel that everything is just so perfect? If I look again, again and again, I still feel that my life is so perfect because….Allah has created it for me. As He said in Surah Al Mulk; Chapter 67: Verse 3-4.

Hence, everything that Allah has given us was perfect, right from the very beginning and also whatever may come our path. It is just that human’s faculty is very limited as we are not able to forecast our future but we just work hard and pray so that Allah will give the best outcome for us.

Now, after many many years I think back at that specific moment. What if I did as my teacher said? I am glad I didn't. This is where my principal lies. Doing something according to my principal, right from the very beginning.

Allah leads me.

Alhamdulillah.

Now, how am I going to give back to my community? By writing my experience.

Doing something morally correct is definitely worthy.

Maybe not worthy in the eyes of humanity but to Allah.

But then, who is human to judge? A mere creation.

All perfection is only from Allah. Allahuakbar.
We had lunch at El Ladrillo II twice! The first was after Friday prayer (15th August 2014) and we were quite famished! The prayer finished at about 3 pm and yeahh…we always have our lunch pretty late. I’m kinda get used to it now.

After checking out all the other three restaurants, we were refused of our money saving Menu del Dia. My husband said there were so many people so the waiters probably did not have time to attend to people ordering menu del dia because it's cheap and not making many profit for them.

How cheap? You can get as cheap as 7 euro per person for Menu del Dia (not including IVA) for bread, appetizer and main meal. Unfortunately, you have to order a drink and water is not free.

Want to order your Menu del Dia? Read here first.

The bar area in El Ladrillo II. We waited here before getting our seats on the first floor.

We walked into many alleys and finally saw a decent restaurant. I was attracted by the interior and decided there and then to eat at El Ladrillo II!

Luck was on our side. The waitress said there was Menu del Dia. Mind you..we were there after 3pm! She was so kind.

But…the pretty patio! Arghh!! The place was full so we had to dine upstairs. We settled for a bit more privacy as only a table was occupied other than us.

I fell in love with the staircase and the warm first floor. ^^ Pity my husband. I love sun and warmth..hehe.

We ordered potato with onion and green pepper fried in olive oil and salad for appetizer (primer plato) and fried seafood for main meal (segundo plato). Bread is given once you made your order.

We had to order mineral water and in the case of El Ladrillo II; you have to order the big bottle or the carbonated water (agua con gas) for a small bottle (not sweet) but both are the same price.

The salad was just normal but this was my first time eating potato fried like this. Either we were too famished or the food was delicious; we were pretty unsure of that but we cleaned the plate!! Hehehe… I love the potato so much that I cooked it twice in Madrid.

In the restaurant, it cost 8 euro per plate but back home..less than 1 euro. ^^

The menu, the bread and the agua con gas (carbonated water).

The main meal in El Ladrillo II was heavenly….hmm…maybe because I have not eaten seafood for quite some time. About two months to be exact. I could only eat half of it. The serving was huge! The rest was into my husband’s stomach. ^^
In total = 20.80 euro

The serving was huge and I think 2 people should share a plate. ^^

The same happened on the third day (rejected of our menu del dia) but this time we went straight into El Ladrillo II because the time  was past 4 pm, I was super hungry and could eat a cow. I couldn’t wait!!

This time we got a seat at the pretty patio. Yeah!!

They also did not offer menu del dia so we just had to break our piggy bank for our last lunch in Granada.


 We ordered:
1- mixed salad
2- boquerones frita –  fried small white anchovies (delicious!!)
3- paella de mariscos – seafood paella
4- the compulsory drink - water 1.5 liter

The total was about 45 euros but it was worth every euro huhuhu... the paella was superb although my husband said Valencia's paella is much much better. I don’t know when I will go to Valencia but I know I had to eat paella then. ^^

Whatever!! Do not spoil my appreciation please...hahhahha *super hungry mode*

Want to cook your own paella at home? This might not be the original one from Valencia but the recipe is pretty simple to adopt. Valencian, don’t kill me! I just feel that it’s easier to cook this much for a trial. ^^

Ahhh... *sigh* a lovely place, my Albayzin. My only two grudges are..the pebble-paved road and the dog's ^^. So many dog shit...a statistic says that there are about 4.8 million dogs against 40 million people living in Spain. Not a shocker there.

I have nothing against dogs as I love pets myself but can you (the dog's owner) just please clean *them* up after your dog did the business...I want a clean and pretty Albayzin.

All my pictures of Granada are nice and glossy but I refuse to take the picture of 'mierda'. Okay...I learned this word from the Spanish sitcom Aida. ^^ My real Spanish learning curve..haha. It's a pretty old sitcom but it has helped me a lot.

Well, as I have written before on my post of Granada mosque, you must have decent shoes suitable for pebble-paved road if you want to explore Albayzin on foot.

High heel is a big no no. I saw a girl walking up the hill with a flimsy sandal, I bet her heel will explode once she went down the hill.

Anyway, a bit of the historical side of Albayzin shall we?

"El Albayzín (also Albaicín or El Albaicín) is a district of present day Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain, that retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past. It was declared aworld heritage site in 1984, along with the more famous Alhambra.

It rises on a hill facing the Alhambra and many tourists journey into the Albayzin primarily for the spectactular views of the Alhambra from the viewing point by the church of San Nicolas." from Wikipedia

You gonna have magnificent view of Albayzin if you enter the Nasrid Palace in Alhambra. Read my post on Alhambra here.

Our Day 1
Hiking Albayzin was my introductory tour of Albayzin hehehe... Our main goal was for Friday Prayer. Albayzin is pretty fascinating with many white houses and small alleys going up the peak. We could see Alhambra from almost any spot in Albayzin.

Our Day 2
We hiked up to catch Alhambra at dusk around Mirador de San Nicolas. Magnificent and breathtaking!

Our Day 3
We hiked up to check out the Sacramento area and took in the pretty sight of Alhambra from another viewipoint = mirador.

Firstly, make sure you get the Albayzin map from the tourist information kiosk or your hotel. Los Tilos Hotel's employee provided one for us right when we arrived on Day 1 itself.

What I love about the map is that there are many coupons that you can use for discounts. We did use the coupon for a lunch buffet at Fresh Co restaurant - a satisfying HALAL lunch buffet.

We would love to watch the flamenco dance using the discount coupon too but three days were not enough for us! Can you believe it? Heheh..we just love exploring Granada..on foot that is. ^^

The pictures below are from the Day 1 of hiking Albayzin. Enjoy!

After my beauty sleep, we headed to Albayzin for some serious exercises. Kidding! Hahaha...You can take the C1 bus from Plaza Nueva to Albayzin for 1.20 euro one way ride but if you have the travel card like Credibus or Bono; it is 0.79 euro per ride (as of writing).

The building above is around Plaza Nueva and just right after passing that building we found the stream below and was greeted with a breathtaking view of Alhambra as in the picture below.

Initially, I wonder why my husband did not want to ride the bus up to Albayzin? We have bought the BONO transport card though and I know...yessssss I did my research before coming ^^...that Albayzin topography is not flat...why oh why my husband? T_T

The city Center of Granada is relatively not so hilly but Albayzin reminds me of Seoul's topography albeit much harder.

Why? Because of this road is paved with small stones to massage my already sore feet. But I am glad because of my years walking up the hills in Korea has prepared me for this. Me was near Mirador San Nicolas above and my husband in front of his favorite door? Okay..not my favorite though..hehe.

Grapes! What a lovely view and pretty heavenly to just grab some grapes from your own gate..you know. I would love some of those!

A pretty window after we went down the hill and my husband was faking a tired pose. Hahaha...Here there are a few restaurants but none of them serve Menu del dia. T_T

My super sun-burned skin and a pretty courtyard of a restaurant and a house.

Not gonna walk up the staircase..no..no..no!

 We found this pretty neat bicycle! But I am afraid to ride one, I might fall down on my face! ^^