Sunday, 19 January 2014

You are Now Entering …. America

Flashback : USA Visa Application
Back 4 months ago in Singapore, my plans to travel round the world was almost killed prematurely when the USA embassy rejected my first tourist visa application. If I couldn’t step onto US soil the only way to go round the world was to go either Canada or South America. Too much hassle when I had less then a month to plan so with ‘hope’ I applied again and luckily got a merciful tourist visa …

My profile was horribly a ‘Jumper’ …

Are you married : No
Do you have any relative or friends in USA : No
Have you ever been to the USA : No
Do you have any reason to return / leave USA after travels : I answered yes such as family and work … but the immigration officer looked at me like I could have jump plane and try to stay in the states for indefinite time … no property, no gf, nothing to tie me anywhere …  a jumper … hence rejected …

Show me proof you have enough money to go around the world …… the second round with all my savings from all my banks which was just enough to travel on a shoestring the officer asked the big question

Why do you wannar travel the world ? : Life long dream I said …
Collect your passport in a week …. Yippee ….

London Heathrow Airport

So here I was standing at Heathrow Airport waiting in line to get my boarding pass. Before I could even reach the counter there was a mini check by the US gov body with a small table in the middle of the line …. Checking my passport, my visa, asking questions, giving me that cold special agent look but luckily still allowed me passage.

So I passed the test to board the plane to USA … peace for the next 16 hours of flight.

Touchdown NEW WORLD 

I was damm excited when the plane finally landed. New York, America … first step in the NEW World, land of freedom, land of opportunity … well I still needed to get through the immigration and customs before my imagination of actually considering being a ‘Jumper’hiding in some small town orchard working as a illegal Asian fruit picker, and hopefully after 10 years of illegal stay the somehow a green card and the full blown American dream.

Yep .. I was daydreaming a lot between the plane to the passing of immigration …

Queuing up to get my passport checked the pre check officer was asking for passports and checking them slowly … my turn came and she read out loud ….

“So where did you come from ?? Ah … Greece, italy, Switzerland , ladada bla bla bla, Backpacking eh ?” the officer asked

*glup* Yep I answered … doing the Round the World gig …

Next up was the actual immigration officer at the counter

Q1 : How long are you planning to stay ?
A : about a month and half
Q2 : You have a return ticket
A : Showed my RTW ticket
Q3 : How do you get by with money
A : I have my ATM card and credit card

… *STAMP* …

That was easier that I thought it would be … quickly went on to grab my bags and exit the airport before some idiots change their minds.

What I notice was the bags … was outside the arrival area … now if you were say not flying but instead drove to the airport walk up to the conveyor belts of luggage ( its accessible by outside people ) you could grab a few luggage and quickly before the CCTV camera catches you and guards swarm you … which I believe most of them just sleeps on the job … you could actually steel peoples luggage before then even clear immigration …. Scary …

I saw my backpack …. In one piece …  Phew …

Walking out that door from the airport .. Stepping on the footpath … breathing the cool air …

America … land of opportunities ….

I was exited for my new adventures to come

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Spending Chinese New Year Alone in London

It has been almost four months now and I guess I have gotten used to traveling around Europe and being a nomad. I have yet to meet anyone from where I knew them before I started my trip apart from family. I was a little but sad but then again I planned it that way… was curious how being alone on a festive day would be (especially one that you celebrate with family for your whole life).

London was limbo … since I have been there before a long long time ago it felt familiar … yet so much places I had not ventured such as the Natural History Museum or the British Museum. My cousin words hunted me from a few years back …. According to him … ( I cant remember the exact words but it sounded like so )

“The British Museum is the best museum in the world …. Because its where England looted the whole world and display all the trophy there”

Hence a trip down the British Museum and the Natural History museum to see dinosaur bones. Of all the museums I had been to this one was definitely worth the visit … plus it was free J

A Taste of Home - Melau Restaurant

Dinner time was when I was wondering around Chinatown in London on the first day of CNY 2012. I was curious how it was like to celebrated overseas but I guess it was more tourist than ever. Restaurants were fully packed and price was sky rocketed as when back home. Turning around the corner off the main street of Chinatown I found a small shop selling Malaysian cuisine.

As I walked in the shop which was empty a nice old lady seated me and pass me the menu. An English menu which stated all the dishes in Malay with translation at the bottom and filled with description of the food.

It went something like this :

Nasi Lemak
( Coconut Rice )
Fragrant Rice cooked with coconut oil, served with stew chicken in special sauce (rendang) accompany with fried egg, cucumber, fried peanuts and anchovies.
Comes with special home made chilli ( Sambal )

I had walked into a Baba & Nonya shop which cooked almost everything authentically Malaysian. As I placed my order for food there was nothing to do but wait. Listening to the workers in the restaurant passing time chatting in 4 different language at the same time mixing them up as they speak, I knew they were definitely from Malaysia and a small smile formed as it reminded me of home.

A new customer came in ( British Guy and Girl ) and the guy said , this is where you get the good authentic stuff. Not the watered down version for the white guy. I was grinning when I heard that and by the time the food came it was hugely satisfying.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Small Town Staines and a Hop to Windsor for THE LONG WALK - England

Windsor Castle
I had mixed feeling for Staines. My cousin and her husband picked me up at the Heathrow airport since that’s was where the bus from Salisbury stopped. Staines was a small town thou still quite chirpy with a mix of locals getting by. A town within an hour train ride of central London yet far enough to feel like a suburb.  Pit stop was a short one night before I head off to my next destination London.

Time was running fast … it felt somehow like the coming of an end to the adventure yet it also feels like the calm before the storm. I was about to leave for the next big leg … AMERICA … flight from London to New York … a whole new chapter in the travels … I was a tad bit nervous.

I skip hopped on the train for a short ride to Windsor. Windsor is a another small town just outside of London. The beauty of Windsor is the humongous castle in the middle which rose totally out of place. The royal line of England come from the House of Winsor apparently thou most tourist would only see the Buckingham Palace and not know of it.

Next to the castle was a park with the sign … THE LONG WALK … it was long alright and looked like one of those 1800 movies where people go for horse back rides or parades. The start of the walk comes from the castle and go on forever … I couldn’t see the end of the trail even till the horizon. Long indeed. Pheasant like me would enter from the side gate  during normal days but you could just imagine during a royal walk, that the side gates would be closed and only the Royals would enjoy the peace and quite walk.

The Long Walk - Windsor

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Journey to Salisbury and a Visit to Mystical Stonehenge

I have not had a traveling adventure in such a long time. It was a small adventure alright getting from Bath to Salisbury. It all started by me deciding not to book anything for Salisbury and try to wing it since it was so long ago since I did anything without some safety net. After all I was in England how bad could it go. 
Hostel at Salisbury

Planned to take the train where they told me it was about 5 pound but when I was about to buy the ticket it became 17 pound. WTH. Apparently I needed to buy in advance for that price. So I change towards the bus instead. The bus interchange attendant had no idea which bus goes to Salisbury and sold me the wrong ticket for 7 pound. Worst yet he was suppose to tell me when it was my stop to get down … ( I sat in front) but guess what … when I saw the bus journeying back down the same road where I passed before apparently he was already going back to Bath. He forgot to let me off in the small town where I had to catch another bus at War-minster.

I was dropped off in the middle of nowhere … I only saw fields of green and a long road and a bus stop across the road …

Luckily the next bus came fairly quick and I manage to catch the connecting bus to Salisbury. Remember he sold me the wrong ticket ??? Yep I had to buy another for the connecting bus and it cost me 4 pound … Total of 11 pound with a 6 hours journey when I should have just paid the extra fee for a 1 hour journey … oh well

There was only one hostel in Salisbury which was pretty easy to find and I settle down for the night before heading for a day trip to Stonehenge the next day.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY  :) 20 Jan 2012
Me at Stonehenge

So it was my birthday which was rewarded with a self planned trip to Stonehenge. It was definitely not as disappointing as I thought It would be. I remember most people whom I spoke to which had actually seen it before had comments like “Its just a Stone Formation”or something along that line. It was actually quite fascinating to me thou it was hard to put it in words. Blue Stone sell like a fortune down there …. Since Stonehenge is made of blue stone but the only souvenir shop that sells it was darn expensive. Hype of the place I guess.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Taking a Bath in Bath

When I found out there was a town named Bath in England and that there was a natural hot spring there was no way I was going to miss that. How I determined my stops in the trips are not entirely random. First plot a route … point A to point B … in this case was Bristol to Stonehenge ….. If the journey takes forever … look for tiny pitstops to visit. Look at map and find towns along the way … that was how I discovered Bath.

I had my suspicion when I saw Bath on the Google maps and decided to check out the place a bit more. About an hour local bus ride from Bristol the journey was pleasing. Bath was definitely worth the detour even if just for the hot springs only.

There was a walking tour in Bath as is popular with all cities in Europe and I decided to join one just for cheep trills. This one was a good walking tour … Bath is beautiful with its Georgian Architecture, which the tour guide give detailed elaborate explanation of what a Georgian Architecture would look like. Intricate but at the same time should be of Harmony. Just slightly outside the city was the half moon crescent housing and many beautiful design township … but alas I was not paying attention to the talk but was just admiring the view ….I did understand that if viewed from the sky it would have looked like the Cross and the Moon symbolizing some sort of religion …
Bath - Heritage Building Hot spring

The Hot Spring was still active till today but no one actually Bath at the old building anymore. It was turned into a sort of museum / heritage area. They did give small amount of the hot spring water for people to drink or taste it and it was really rich with minerals giving the mouth a lingering after taste.

No entrepreneur would had left the hot spring to waste fortunately and had piped the water to a nearby building offering Thermal Spa. For 13 Pounds I got in thou I spend a bit more buying a swim pants for 15 pounds and renting a towel for 3 pounds. Two hours was the allocated time and you could go to the open pool rooftop , the indoor pool with bubbles or the steam room (it was not open at the time so the ticket was discounted to 13pounds) 

Two hours … to cure my flu with hot spring :)

Friday, 3 January 2014

How to Get Into England Without a Passport - Bristol

Poseidon in Bristol
Never would I have ever thought of crossing from one country to another without even taking out my passport, especially if the country uses different currency. I went to the Dublin airport early as I am always paranoid when it come to moving between two far far away places and whenever it involved flights .. ( I hate missing flights ) … I sat there waiting for the time to board the plane.

I got my boarding pass pretty easy from the counter and that was the last time I shown my passport … no stamps of exit …. Just proof of ID so I could get my boarding pass.

Walk walk walk …. I am now sitting in the plane ….. Something was not right but I couldn’t put a finger on it.

An hour or so later I touchdown in a small airport in England , Bristol. Got down the plane took my luggage from the conveyor belt which was fortunately in one piece …. I always worry it will go missing … my entire belonging for the trip … it was like basically my house that bag …

Walk walk walk … I am outside the airport … Wait …. WHAT ???

There was no immigration of any kind , not even a counter of sorts … I think I just found a loophole into smuggling people into England and if you have read a few post back you would have realized how easy it was to get into Ireland …. They were almost begging me to stay longer . ( Tourist are good money I guess ) …

So I’ll keep this in a mental note … to my fellow Asian friends who wants to jump plane and become a illegal worker in England … buy a ticket to Ireland … and a domestic budget airline flight to Bristol … from there trains are all good :)

Municipal Office in Bristol

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Karaoke at Dingle , A Kiss on Blarney Castle, and a Pint of Guinness for a Merry Goodbye

Looking Forward to America
We headed from Galway to Cliff of Moher checking out stunning views and later Martin even showed us a cool rock out of nowhere that was overhanging the Atlantic ocean. I took my chances , I am still alive today and got a amazing photo taken … now that I think about it … a strong wind and bye bye Edwin …

Dingle hostel was really in the middle of nowhere … there was like one house opposite and that’s it. The hostel however had a full Karaoke bar fitted with a small stage. Another tour group from Paddywagon joined up and between pool table, pokies, karaoke and many many drinks … it was an awesome night.

Cliff Of Moher
Blarney Castle
Next day was killarney the last night where everyone went all out and we saw our first couple of the tour. Kudos … by now I was getting tired … a week of partying was rough on my old bones … hence by day 5 it was mostly quiet and contemplating ride watching out the window.

We stopped outside Blarney castle and almost all of us went kissing the blarney stone which was said to be enchanted by a witch to whom kiss it shall receive the gift of gab / babbling. Maybe shouldn’t have kiss that one … I started a blog … apparently babbling and writing does not go hand in hand …

Last stop Dublin …. And guess what last part of the tour … Guinness brewery … which I been before on my first day in Dublin …. Good old Martin gave me more coupon tickets so I could skip all the self tour and went straight for the drinks.

End of the tour guys …. I hope you had a great time …