Having postponed the intended 5 months trip across the world due to work commitments, I do have a couple of weeks to spare for a shorter trip. Initially I couldn’t make my mind where to go. I have a long list of “places to go before I die” and eventually I settled for taking the journey “home’. It’s supposed to be one of the stopovers in my “Journey of A Lifetime”.
You may be wondering wasn’t I already at “home”. The answer to that is YES. I’m based in MALAYSIA, my beloved country which I proudly called home. However having spent 5 good years studying in UK in the late 80’s, somehow I do have a soft spot for this country which I consider as my 2nd home. I have always look forward at every opportunity to revisit UK. Before this trip, I was back there twice, once in 1997 and another one in 2008. However, in both occasions they were only short working trips in London and opportunity to venture out were almost non-existence. This time I’m doing a solo trip and I hope to revisit some familiar places and venture out to unfamiliar places too.
Firstly I have to survive the 12 hours 35 minutes long-haul flight, something that I dreaded with the hours spent on board on an “economy” seat, it is never easy to kill the boredom and more so as I’m not a good sleeper on board. But this time around it was different. I was really looking forward to get on A380 for the first time as much have been talked about this awesome flying machine. I boarded on the 100th A380 owned by Malaysia Airlines. Somewhat the economy seat and leg room seemed to be bigger and longer. Flight MH4 to London Heathrow is ready and preparing for take-off. One of the feature you get to see live on the video screen, the aircraft taking off and landing. It was quite interesting. You could watch the video here and see the pilot taxied the aircraft to KLIA’s runway 32R -14L before the engines were ramped to full speed, the aircraft was off the ground and speed through the clouds. The other video is how the pilot landed the aircraft safely on LHR runway despite a slight cross wind. Taxing the aircraft to the terminal has to be done with precision and a single mistake could end up with ground collision.
Flying on Malaysia Airline has always been pleasurable with excellent Malaysian Hospitality service. The food served were acceptable. I had tomato rice with chicken for lunch and beef kurma with white rice for dinner. I had miserably failed to sleep ¬ well a short nap of less than 2 hours was all I get before the girl seated next to me had to wake me up because she needed to go to the toilet. To kill the boredom, I went on a movie marathon; Iron Man 3, Disconnect, 42 and 12 Rounds. By the time the plane landed at London Heathrow Airport, I knew I haven’t got enough sleep.
I wanted to see a bit of London before my night coach to Newcastle. The best and cheapest way to Victoria Coach Station is to take the National Express direct service. However, it is not the fastest way. In order to get more sightseeing time, I have opted to take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station and then take the circle line to Victoria Station where I have planned to leave my luggage at the left luggage service. Yes I did get there in less than an hour, but honestly I regretted doing it. I have totally forgotten that London Underground was not people friendly. Most of the stations do not have elevator or escalators. There are many flight of stairs that one have to go through. It was a back breaking experience for me as I have a 22kg suitcase, a 10kg camera bag and a 2kg sling bag to carry. By the time I get to Victoria Train Station, I was so exhausted and drenched in sweat. But again my spirit was still high for some sightseeing. After all I had slightly more than 4 hours before my night coach to Newcastle. I could still remember how during the school term break I had to assist Kak Sharifah who’s my foster family in London entertained her VVIP guests from Malaysia. She would let me be the tourist guide. I would normally take them around Westminster, see the House of Parliament and Big Ben, Horse of Guards, No. 10 Downing Street (home of the Prime Minister), St James’s Park with its exotic wildfowl and around Tower Hill to see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Then I will take them to Oxford Street and let them do their shopping. My very own favourite places to wander especially during the weekend are the markets such as at Covent Garden and Camden. Sometimes I go to Little Venice just north of Paddington where I could enjoy the tranquility of the waterways that feel like a million miles from the busy London streets. However, this time around I won’t be able to visit all the places mentioned above. Westminster is only 2 stops away on London Underground and would be my best option for a short sightseeing. I hope to take a few photo shots of the House of Parliament during sunset. But I end up disappointed as it was too overcast for a good sunset light. I end up taking shots of London buses. After about an hour in the area, tiredness and lack of sleep started to kick in. It’s time to get some rest and my body is saying don’t push it. I head back to Victoria Station, picked up my bag and dragged them another 100 metres to Victoria Coach Station. I found a seat to rest and waited for the 11.30 pm coach to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
The National Express coach ride number 435 was right on time for the 6 hours journey to Newcastle. I only paid £11 instead of the full one way fare of £35. What a bargain eh! They called it “fun fares”, and you could get it by buying the ticket online well in advance. Not long after I settled in my seat, I finally fell asleep. My body and mind needed to shutdown for a while. Well this is only the beginning of the journey “home”. Good night everyone.