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.