Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Turning back the Hands of Time

The last Sunday of October marks the end of British Summer Time, and all clocks in the U.K. reverts back to Greenwich Meridian Time.

So to cap an eventful Sunday which took me to Platform Nine and Three Quarters, Bond St., Buckingham Palace, and Borough Market (for some Hog Roll), I went to where all the vertical lines of the globe originate.


The Royal Observatory at Greenwich. (That strip of metal on the ground is 0º 0' 0" E/W. Ooooo...)

The complex stands atop a hill overlooking Docklands and Canary Wharf. The admission to the museum is free and from Cutty Sark Station (Dockland Light Railway, or DLR), you get to go through Greenwich Park with the vast green grass mixed with autumn yellow-orange.

There are a lot of places of interest nearby including the National Maritime Museum, The Cutty Sark a clipper ship, and Queen's House, which is a completely symmetrical set of two buildings. And there's Greenwich itself, with its street markets and its various eating places.

I got almost 1GB worth of pictures just for this day. I didn't need the extra hour because it seemed like a day well-spent, anyway.

The Essentials

Things you are most likely to see me with these days

Nike Diver Bag, Columbia parka/jacket, Nokia 6070, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere

Monday, October 30, 2006

Trooping to the Outlet Stores: Bicester Village

Last Saturday, me, my friend Gay and her husband Wood went and did a little shopping at some outlet villages. The choice was either Freeport Braintree or Bicester Village and we picked the latter because of the more frequent train schedules.


Bicester Village is in the town of Bicester (sounds like bees-tuh) an hour or so away from London, or more specifically London - Marylebone Station.

There are a lot of choice brand names here. I wouldn't honestly say that they are inexpensive enough. Certainly there are good selections and some good deals (discount on second pairs). I lament the fact that most of the selections are from the autumn/winter collections of their respective labels. Nonetheless, I managed to get buy a shirt from Tommy Hilfiger and another one from Reebok. It was very tempting to buy some nice long-sleeved shirts. But I'll be out of here after three weeks. Back to Singapore, where I rarely wear any less lighter than shorts a shirt and sandals.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Internet Is For Porn (and other Avenue Q songs)

I just came home from watching Avenue Q in Noël Coward Theatre near Leicester Square (West End, natch). It's pretty entertaining with all those catchy songs, smart quips and even graphic puppet-on-puppet action. The show is a little bit over two hours including the 15-minute intermission-val in which Häagen-Dazs sponsors the snacks. I got a Royal Circle seat for £37.50 (not on discount), which is second level, second row, center. The U.K. is the first country this is shown outside the U.S.

As one of the songs here say, there's a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time. I love this show.


I got a new favorite drink: Krispy Kreme Hot Chocolate.

I got a new favorite snack: Krispy Kreme Cinnamon Apple filled Doughnut.

I got a new favorite breakfast item: Bagel Factory Sausage Eggworks on Cheese Bagel



One of my colleagues today (who's in London from Singapore as well) told a story of how he got startled that someone entered his room at 5Am and almost gave him a heart attack. It turns out that a lady from room 24 had the guy from reception check something in her room. She mistakenly said she was in room 25 (where my colleague was).

So you people out there. If you're somewhere else, don't sleep in the nude.


I won't be able to catch Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan in the London Film Fest. BUT! Regular showing is on November 2. Cool!


This week is Star Wars week on cable. Today, I think, Star Wars IV: A New Hope is showing.


Next up, Spam-A-Lot! Ni!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Don't you Shiver?

I remembered a conversation a I had with a couple of people on my first day at work in Singapore. We were talking about each other's backgrounds and I learned that they come from various non-tropical countries. Places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand. And so I quipped that I've experienced spring, summer and I've yet to experience autumn and winter. Also that I haven't seen snowfall.

They said winter/snow overrated.

What the fuck? Way to burst my bubble.

Anyway, I realize that the proper response to someone saying "oh, I haven't experienced something-something" is "you should see for yourself and knock yourself out."

I was talking to a colleague who was originally from Liverpool who works with me in Singapore and now is currently on business trip to London. I told how I love this weather and that I can't get enough of it. He said it's a novelty that will wear off after a few days. I said that I didn't think so especially when I remember the boring humidity in Singapore and that I have been living in the tropics all my life.

So I love this weather, hovering around 9°-15°C because of the intermittent showers. I like the way that mist comes out of your mouth everytime you exhale. I like how you constantly walk around like you were wearing a blanket. I like how you breathe in the cold air that fills your lungs. And of course, I like how I get to wear these things that I don't normally wear.

Nice and chilly. It's getting colder and colder by the day.

No work for Manila and Singapore. In London, a normal cold work day.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Week One: God Save My Money

I did my first week receipt accounting using Google Docs and Spreadsheets. I was cheap enough not to buy Microsoft Office when I bought my laptop and instead tried to be content with Microsoft Works.

Anyway, more or less (not to mention I forgot to ask for receipts) I spent £179.12 on meals this week. Try to resist the temptation to convert in Singapore dollars or (shudders) Philippine pesos. It's no secret that the cost of living here is fifth in the world and second in Europe only to Moscow, Russia. Everything costs about an arm and two legs. Singapore is 17th and Manila is at 141st.


I rode the London Eye on a rainy Sunday morning, at £13.50. Yikes.

I also went to Oxford Circus to that three-floor Niketown store and bought a small messenger/diver bag and three pairs of socks. Cost me £27.00. Ouch. I also bought Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (£7.99) and Battle Royale DVD (£9.99) at the five-floored Waterstone's at Piccadilly Circus. Great shopping selection here, except (I'll say it again) it's so damn expensive. You better really (financially) prepare for a trip to London to sustain yourself.

I better leave shopping to when I'm in Singapore and just to absorb the culture while I'm here going on trips and tours around the area.

Transportation is also as expensive as it can get. A one way ticket can set you back around £3-4. A conversation between me and a colleague:
Me: ...transportation is also expensive...
Mike: Expensive AND rubbish!

The Tube or London Underground, as it is called, is pretty old and cramped in some areas. I can't imagine claustrophobes using it. They're bomb-shelter deep and sometimes unreliable on weekends (as some parts are being serviced, and stuff like this doesn't help). You're going to do a lot of walking down there especially when transferring lines. A good side, though, is that it has good coverage of the city. But then again, that's what it's supposed to do.

Train stations have a lot of history, which is good. Paddington Station, aside from servicing a lot of suburban and countryside towns and cities is also known for, what else...


...the Paddington Bear.

I haven't really scratched the surface of what's in London.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Appendix A: Things To Do While I'm Here (Part One)

First Days in Greenwich Meridien Time (DST): Part Two

Heathrow Airport is, well, unimpressive. But maybe it's unfair to look at it with respect to our own NAIA Centennial, Hong Kong Lantau, and Singapore's Changi Airport which are relatively new and better planned.

Halfway out of the arrival area and I'm already gathering as much tourist leaflets and brochures as possible. London walks, maps, theatre guides, and what-have-yous. Flying business class on British Airways allowed me to go on the fast track lane for immigrations so I didn't have to line up long. The immigrations officer asked about my trip here, the purpose, what sort of formal training I'm getting, how long, and what company I work for. After that last question, he stamped the page my UK visa was on and I was on my way. Heathrow Airport public address system reports a fire on another building. A good ten minutes waiting on luggage belt three and I'm on my way out. I had to look for the guy holding a sign with my name in it. The guy looked like Alfred Hitchcock and stood in front of the Hertz counter. Once I signalled him a greeting, we were on our way.

Out past the sliding door, I was greeted by an old friend, the cold climate, which I have missed for almost a decade now. The service was, I think, a BMW. I told the driver (who I later knew as Tommy) to guide me through the places we were passing.

Heathrow was a good 15-30 minutes from the interesting part of the city. I found the row brick apartments very appealing. Soon, the driver was pointing me to museums and parks, Buckingham Palace, the Thames, the London Eye, Tate Modern and various government buildings. We headed straight to Docklands and Canary Wharf, where he pointed out where I'll be for the duration of my stay, Circus Apartments.

(More on the apartment on a separate post)

It was already past seven in the morning and I was itching to squeeze out a walk to explore the city. It doesn't get any more touristy than the South Bank Walk.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

First Days in Greenwich Meridien Time (DST): Part One

My boss had tipped me about a possible London trip a few weeks back and asked me for my availability. I told him, I'm just about free until Christmas. A few days after, he told those of us who would be going to prepare requirements for the trip, but wait for approval. I had the tightest of schedules for preparation. I still needed to apply for a UK Business Visit visa, which takes about a week. The day I started was a Friday. I was supposed to leave a week and a day after, and I've yet to finish my visa requirements. The following Thursday (the 12th), I was supposed to get an answer for my visa application. No news. I had worried that they might need more requirements from me since I ticked the "Have you ever been denied visa to another country?" checkbox. Of course, I have, pinoy ako eh! Too many times I've been denied a US visa, I might add.

Friday, I haven't packed yet. No word on the approval at work. And no word about the visa. 1PM, I had an appointment for crowning the root canalled tooth the previous day.

You know how it went anyway. I'm here in London, after all. Friday morning, my line manager said to assume that I'm going. The company's travel agency said that the UK visa has been approved and ready for collection. Needed to do some last-minute cold weather shopping and I'm off.

One last thing I didn't do to prepare was to get a haircut. Bummer.

I had to fly Saturday night on British Airways. Business class, natch! I'd have picked Singapore Airlines to rack up the miles but anyway, it wasn't meant to be. The flight is for 14 hours long. It'd be the first time I'd be in this part of the world. I would be away from Singapore, my foster home, for a month.

The flight was Saturday, 11:25PM Singapore time. I'd arrive in Heathrow Airport in London, 5:45AM Sunday, British Standard Time.


The flight was great and not as long as it seemed. But then again, that's what you get with free flights on business class.

At first, I slept for about five hours. I woke up while we were hovering above India, Pakistan then Afghanistan. Mission:Impossible 3 was showing in one of the channels. Next time I woke up, we were somewhere above Slovakia, Austria, and finally Germany. The plane was on-time. When we landed at Heathrow airport, the pilot was pretty pissed that some of the guiding runway taxi lights weren't on as expected. So he announced that he will do something about that on our behalf. Looking around, it looked like I was the only Asian on the upper deck of the plane. I'm itching to get out into the city and step into the United Kingdom.

Friday, October 13, 2006

London Calling

After a mad scramble for requirements, I'm finally headed for the United Kingdom. I'll be staying for a month.

And you can bet your ass that I'm going to start blogging again, with pictures!