back in london


it’s been a few days since i last posted, but i’ll just pick up where i left off.

after writing my other post, we hopped on the train to go back to london. we needed to stay in the uk for one more day until we flew to paris, and we decided that we’d stay at a new place instead of going back to the piccadilly backpacker hostel. our new place was in a less hectic part of town, and though it may not have been as central and exciting, it had it’s own more mellow charm. plus, it was half the price of the last place, so that was nice!

after our usual fish and chips dinner (sheez, how many times have i eaten that in the last week?), we went to wander around kensington gardens, a huge park w/ it’s own small lake. one of the cool things in the park was the lady Di memorial fountain which was this long eliptical never ending modern artsy fountain, and a modern art gallery called the serpentine gallery. the gallery happened to have this *dope* exhibit by Glenn Brown. he has this really unique style where he very meticulously draws paintings that seem like they have huge gloppy brushstrokes, but really are very finely drawn.

as we were walking away from the gallery, we stopped to check out this display by it. this group of people had devised all these interactive projects for people who visit the park… for example they had these little hoops w/ nuts next to them so you could train the squirrels to jump through hoops, or little garden trowels so you could help the park by pulling weeds etc… all of the things were kinda funny, and then in the end, the woman poured two glasses of water, put them in this cardboard smiley face, and told us that we were to go out and find someone to give the water to and start a conversation w/ them. doh!! so, now caryn has these two cups of water and we’re walking around the park asking if anyone wants some. i dunno, if some stranger came up to me and offered me water in a park from an open container, i’d say hell no! but finally, we found these 2 people to take some water and by random chance, they were russians who were living in israel, and i chatted w/ them in russian. how random!

oh yeah, on other thing i wanted to mention about london. it’s really really big on fashion. everyone dresses really nice and very stylish. walking around and staring into all the cool shops, i really started wanting to buy a ton of clothes. of course, i can’t really afford to buy a bunch of clothes right now, plus even if i could afford it, i dont really have any more room in my pack for clothes… *sigh*. oh, and one more random thing about the UK, is that they have a dessert called the Spotted Dick. i dont know about you, but that really doesn’t sound appetizing to me!


more brighton

we’ve been hoping for a lazy day for a while now, and today was it. we planned on doing pretty much nothing and it was really nice. after spending a ridiculous amount of time in a net cafe uploading photo, etc, caryn and i went to go have tea at this place called Tallulas. having british afternoon tea was one of the things we definitely wanted to do while we were here, and it ended up being pretty cool. i didnt really know what to expect, and thought it would be just tea w/ a few small cookies or whatnot, but it ended up being a huge amount of food! the place we went to was really small and quaint, and w/ tea we got several sandwhiches, gigantic scones w/ clotted cream, and desserts too. by the time we finished eating, we were sooo full!

after tea, we ended up talking to the owners of the shop and they were both super cool. i guess one of them went to Davis (crazy coincidence, eh?), both of them loved san francisco, and we just kicked it w/ them for quite a while. we talked about everything ranging from hating Bush, to the british govt, to weather. it was really cool to chat w/ the locals. it was funny, halfway through the conversation, one of the owners got a quizzical look on his face and asked us why in the world we decided to come to brighton of all places. i guess brighton doesnt really get too many international toursists. but ya know, despite that, i really liked it here. the town has a relly nice feel to it, and although there never really was all that much to do in terms of sightseeing, i still really enjoyed myself. on a sidenote, i think that i must be very unobservant… i left the place thinking that the two guys were father and son, but i guess they were actually “partners”. woops! good thing i never accidentally said something implying that they were father and son!!

after tea, we went and checked out the main tourist location in brighton, the Royal Pavillion. it’s this large “pleasure palace” built by a prince in the 1800s. the whole thing is really cool and built w/ a huge asian influence and is the only know oriental-gothic structure in the world. the inside of the palace was uberfancy and we learned quite a bit about how decadent of a life the prince had. i guess he didnt even drink water… the mildest drink he ever drank was white wine!! he smoked opium from waterpipes filled w/ port! he washed down the sedatives he took w/ wine, and at his banquets, there would be 100 cooks cooking for a group of just 30 people. i guess sometimes, the meals would have up to 126 dishes per meal!! oh yeah, one other crazy thing we learned… back in those days, sometimes in order to power machinery, they’d get basically a large hamster wheel, put a stray dog in it and drop burning coals inside so that the dog had to be constantly running in the whhel so as not to ge burned!! so messed up!!

after the pavilion, we went to the brighton pier. the weather was pretty shitty unfortunatly, so pretty mcuh all the rides were off. sucks, cause we hella wanted to go on the roller coaters. the weather for the rest of the day was what youo might typically expect from uk weather. grey, windy, misty.

that night we watched a football (soccer) game on tv in our hostel’s pub. people here are so crazy about soccer. we totally wished that we had gone to manchester and gone to the game. hopw cool would that be?? what’s more british than soccer? *sigh*. oh well. watching the game while drinking beer at a pun was pretty nice too. i’ve actually (thanks in part to tom) been drinking quite a bit of beer on this trip. i’m usually much more of a vodka tonic person, but the beer here is pretty damn good, especially this beer called john smith’s and when we can fins it hoegarden. the food on the other hand, is nothing to write home about. it’s not bad per se. it’s pretty decent… but just not very exciting. plus, it seems like pretty much every place has the exact same menu. we’ve had fish and chips soooo many times… although, fish and chips are pretty cool.

oh, one thing i dont think i’ve mentioned is the bathroomat the hostel. we’ve got one bathroom to share between the 10 beds in our room. each moring, the queue to shower is forever. not to mention that the bathroom is quite small. the other annoying thing, is that the bathroom door is pretty mcuh clear. yeah, it distorts stuff inside a *tiny* bit, but you can pretty mcuh see evryhing people do in ther while showering etc. i fogot my shampoo in there yesterday, and today it was 1/3 empty!!! someone toptally went to town on my shampoo!! and i’ve been so craeful to conserve it too. grrrr. also, last night i went to use the bathroom, and to not bother people, i left the light off in there. of course, at one ponit when i grabbed for the wall to steady myself (i was sleepy and out of it), i accidentally grabbed onto the industrial hairdryer in the wall, and it came off in my hand and everything was all loud and crazy, and it was dark so i kept trying to put the hairdryer back in it’s place. heh, people in the room must’ve been wondering what the hell was going on!!

did i mentino that there are starbucks everywhere here?? ugh!!! she’s, it’s bad enough that they took over the sdtates completely, but now they have to swamp the uk too?

so it’s ou last day in the uk today. wow. we’ve been here for 6 days now… and it seems like years!! being back home seems like it was centuries ago!! it’s weird how time stretches weird while traveling!




so we left london. we only really spent 4 days there (one of which was a tired hazy day) but we really were hoping to see at least one more city in the uk and, after much deliberation and shrugging of shoulders (none of us had a strong opinion as to where to go), we chose brighton. brighton is a seaside town on the south coast of england about 1 hours train ride from london. we got up in the morning and, after our last toast/”juice”, we headed off.

the train ride was short and uneventful… well, actually i guess it wasn’t completely uneventful. we stopped at one stop and tom and i were extremely thirsty. when the conductor announced that we would be stopped at that station for 7 minutes, we decided to run off the train to buy some water. well, it turned out that the nearest shop was much further away than we expected and there was a line for the cashier. by the time we bought our stuff, the train was only about 2 minutes from departing. tom and i sprinted back through the station (and got a bit lost) and were practically sure that we would end up missing the train and be left behind… but luckily we jumped on the train w/ only like 30 seconds to spare. phew!! both of us were imagining a very unhappy caryn left on the train w/ 3 huge backpacks on the way to brighton!

brighton is a really nice town. much much calmer and more mellow that london, but still lively and fun. from what we can tell, the town is full of 3 things: little shops, job placement centers, and restaurants. people walk all over checking out the different shopping areas which are really cool… they’re kinda alternative and remind me of a toned down haight street feel: lots of vegetarian cafes, skateboard shops, funky clothing, boots, incense, etc. from what we can tell, brighton is also quite small in size. we walked pretty much the whole town from top to bottom in a pretty short amount of time. seeing as it is near the beach, it has all the usual beachfront touristy things: a santa cruz beach boardwalk type area (coasters, rides, etc), beachside seafood vendors, sand volleyball courts, mini golf, etc. we spent most of the afternoon just walking around and taking it in. the one thing that their beach lacks is sand. instead of sand, the whole beach is these large pebbles, which i can’t imagine would be comfortable to walk on barefoot. i keep thinking how someone who grew up hear thinking that this is what the beach shouldbe like would be quite impressed when they went to a “real” beach.

one of the cool things we saw was the ConTemporary gallery, a small gallery in an abandoned post office. half of the gallery was underground where the mail was stored and there are tons of old vaults and weird spooky iron doors down there. the whole place actually had a very unsettling eerie vibe to it and it was a bit unnerving to be down there. one of the diplays was a hospital gurney covered with old letters in envelopes and behing a chainlocked metal cage. it turns out that people were encouraged to address envelopes to people in their life who were “returned to sender” and drop the envelopes through the cage onto the gurney. spooky.

after walking around, we had dinner and then went back to our hostel’s bar. it’s nice to have a bar that’s actually a part of the hostel. oh, i forgot to mention just how crowded our hostel room is. there are 5 bunk beds in this tiny room and they are scattered about randomly giving our room a maze-like feel. it’s funny how quickly people adapt to new situations. i’m getting pretty used to this new lifestyle already. i already have new morning routines, i have certain sections of my pack where i usually store stuff, i lock things down in a certain way, etc etc. i’ve fallen into the traveller’s life wholeheartedly.

the one problem is that my clock is still all messed up. once again i got tired really early and we went to bed at like 9:15pm. i always feel bad going to bed early. i’m on my trip… i should be out and about till all hours of the night exploring, drinking, having fun and whatnot… but i’m just sooo tired!! conversely, i always end up waking up damn early! like 7:30 soemtimes. ugh!!

tomorrow we’re thinking of finally just taking it easy for a day. not doing too much sightseeing, not doing too much walking… mostly just chilling. we have one sight we definitely need to see, but other than that, it’ll all be relaxed…


all museumed out


we got up this morning and were too late for the usual toast breakfast (since we went to bed last night at 4am). we decided against our better judgement to go to the british museum. the museum was on our list of stuff that we defintely wanted to check out… but we’ve been going to museums etc for the last several days in a row so we kinda were hoping to take a break… to take a day off from rushing around and just relax. but it was our last day in london, so we went to the museum.

the british museum is actually really really cool. first of all, the building that it’s in is really cool looking architecturally and second of all the museum is *huge*. seriously enormous. inside they have rooms that hold complete greek temples. that’s how big it is. we saw some pretty cool exhibits, but like i said, we were kinda museumed out by then so it was hard to take it all in. not related to the museum, but odd nonetheless was that we saw this tiny dog on a leash there. huh, dogs allowed in the museum? when we walked closer, we saw that the dog had a sign saying that it was a “hearing dog for the deaf”. so, ummm, how does that work exactly?? what exactly does a “hearing dog” do?

after the museum, we went out to leicaster square. it’s an area where hella people walk around and to me seemed super touristy… kinda like union square or whatever. we grabbed some food at a restaurant, and then were surprised after the meal w/ a 10$ cover charge!! a cover charge?? for eating at an italian restaurant?? wtf?? anyways, then we checked out this bar called the Alphabet bar. that place was really cool… until it closed at 11pm. i’m sooooo not down w/ this whole closing at 11pm thing. that’s just too damn early!! at this point, our only option for nightlife would be to pay a $20 cover just to get into some small bar. not worth it!! so we ended up having another earlyt night in london. so frustrating. we really just wanna go out and have fun, but this 11pm curfew just keeps messing things up.

well, after this night, we’re leaving london and going to check out brightopn. hopefully it’ll be cool…


long days continued…

sheez, our days are so packed that these posts get really long! anyways, the next thing we did was to go to check out the London Eye. this is basically this *ginormous* bicycle wheel looking thing that is a ferris wheel. this thing is 433 feet high!! attached to the wheel are these pods that hold about 25 people. you can buy a ticket and it takes about a half an hour to make a full circle on this thing. i’m really not sure why i decided to go on this thing since i am deathly afraid of heights. as soon as i got in i started getting super nervous. ugh! in the end, i was glad i did it though. from that high up (1.5 football fields!), you get some incredible views of london!

after the London Eye, we ran into some touts trying to get us to go to the saatchi gallery. usually we try to avoid anyone trying to sell us anything, but when they showed us pictures of some of the art inside, we decided to check it out. we were *so* glad that we did. this gallery was absolutely incredible. it was all really modern art (last decade) and blew the tate modern art museum away. they had some art pieces that were so crazy and intense. for instance: this guy had a whole real shark in formaldahyde suspended in a cube. there was a room where the whole room was filled waist-height w/ used engine oil. you walk through a notch cut in the center of the room and the whole room is reflected mirror image because of the oil. there was a huge 7 foot tall aquarium that was made to look like a cubicle w/ an office desk, computer and chair, but there were fish swimming around inside. basically, everything we saw there was totally cutting edge.

by the time we left the gallery, we were exhausted. our feet were totally killing us. we’ve done soooo much walking here that it’s ridiculous. my feet will never be the same. we were also feeling super sleepy, so we took a nap as well.

got up later since it was friday night and we were absolutely determined to check out some nightlife. we decided to eat on the cheap so we just got some small sandwiches and a coffee. guess how much that cost?? about 30$ for the 3 of us. can you believe it?? ouch!! everything here is sooooo expensive. we haven’t even been able to stick to our budget of 175$ per day for the two of us which is crazy seeing as a lot of countries we’ll be going to, we’re budgeting 50$ per day for the two of us!!

anyways, we ended up going to this really cool club called “the end club”. they were playing breakbeat and the music was really good all night. it was definitely fun to finally get out and party and stuff. i kinda felt like i was in a scene from Human Traffic or something. clubs here dont start until around 11pm, and this place was still going strong when we left after 3am. i wanted to stay later but we were all just sooo tired!! did i mention that the bottled beers were over 6$??

after the club we had trouble finding a taxi to get back home. luckily there was a guy on a bike rickshaw that pedalled all three of us back to our hostel. i can’t believe this one little guy was able to pull us all. we finally got back to our hostel around 4am to find some backpacker completely passed out on the ground in front of the hostel w/ his drunk american friends yelling and taking photos of themselves poking his butt. nice. heh.

sheez, what a long long day….


long days…

the next day we got up early and had our usual toast/coffee/”juice” breakfast. we still haven’t completely adjusted to the time, so we wake up early w/ no need for an alarm. all the loud noise of people banging around in our room and slamming doors at odd hours helps us wake up too 😉 .

our first stop of today was the tower of london. this is this huge castle in the middle of london, and is where the royal family used to live. we got a tour and learned all about the history of the place and all about the brutal executions that used to go one there. one of the interesting things we learned on the tour was that all of the waste from the castle was just dumped into the moat surrounding it. can you imagine how bad this place would have smelled being surrounded by a stinky cesspit of human waste mixed w/ garbage?? yuck! after the tour we walked around the castle a bit.

this place was really cool. it’s really neat to be able to walk through places that you know are hundreds and hundres of years old. and it’s pretty crazy to think that even though ths castle is roughly *1,000* years old, that during our trip we’re gonna visit places that are 3 times as old as this. a couple other cool things that we saw there were: the crown jewels (unbelievable how much gold/gems they had there), the ravens (there’s a myth about if the ravens leave the tower, england will fall), and all sorts of crazy suits of armor and old medieval stuff. it’s really weird to me to think that knights actually existed. in my mind they seem like just another mythical thing you find in stories like unicorns, dragons, etc…

After checking out Tower Bridge, we grabbed a bite to eat. i decided to just go for it and ordered sheppards pie which is ground beef in gravy with baked mashed potatoes on top. it tasted really really good! it’s so weird though… i haven’t eaten any kind of red meat in over 3 years. it’s been really difficult for me to decide whether or not to eat red meat on this trip, but in the end i finally decided to do it. i’ll probably go back to just eating fish and fowl when i get back though. i also tried some of caryn’s Bangers and Mash, (weird mushy hot dogs w/ mashed potatoes and gravy) so now i’ve officially tried the three main foods i associate w/ the uk.

after lunch we crossed town on the tube. dude, this tube is so great. you can get to any part of london in pretty much no time flat, and it’s easy to navigate. why the hell dont we have these things on the west coast? you’d think san jose especially, being so spread out, would wise up and have a subway system.

when we’re not in the underground, we try to naviagte around the streets of london, and let me tell ya, it’s crazy! everything here in this city is moving about at a frantic pace. the city never sleeps and people are constantly rushing everywhere. there’s this electric energy in the air and it feels like there’s stuff constantly going on. unfortunately, the cars here also go at a frantic pace and since we’re still used to looking the wrong way when we cross the street, we’re in serious danger of being run over. in fact, pretty much every time we cross the street we’re paranoid of the cars whizzing by. yikes!

i really love getting used to the feel of a new place. it’s weird, on one hand, london is definitely a lot less different than a lot of places i’ve travelled: western culture, same language as the US, etc.. but it still has so much stuff that keeps it unique and separates it from where i’m from. all the little differences like which direction the cars go, how people talk, the food, etc are an endless source of fascination to me. i totally want to take it all in and sample it all… get completely immersed. i want to try all the weird candies i see sold in the stores, read the different newspapers, see the sites, try everything there is to try… but unfortunately i’m only here for a week. that’s just a drop in the bucket, and i’ll leave london barely knowing anything aboout it… i proably wont even have enough time to be able to decipher all the british coins i have jingling around in my pocket.

*continued in next post*

early nights…

2 nights ago, after i posted my last entry, we deicided to try to go out. unfortunately, there’s this stupid law here where bars and pubs must be closed by 11pm. 11?! and i thought 2am back home was pretty bad. fortunately, there’s this loophole. for some reason, if the place is a “dance club” instead of a bar, it’s allowed to stay open way later (not sure how much later, but at least 4am). so we wander around trying to find one of these places and it turns out that the Cheers here has music playing and is thus a dance club and is serving alcohol late. sweet! unfortunately, they end up not letting me in because i was wearing shorts. a dress code… at Cheers of all places?? sheeez. well, i think i learned my lesson. i’m gonna try to wear pants as much as i can from now. maybe even all the time. weird eh?

so many things to see

we slept for 13 hours straight last night. literally. feeling much better now 🙂

so, the hostel we’re staying at is called piccadilly backpacker hostel. it’s humongous, 7 stories tall, and it’s been pretty cool so far. the location of it is great: right in the center of town and only several blocks from buckingham palace and other important stuff. today, when we woke up, we got free breakfast which consisted of: a plate w/ 2 pieces of white toast, a cup with a tiny bit of instant coffee in it, orangeish liquid (orange juice??), and huge vats of butter and mystery jam for the toast. i dunno, for something reason, there was something i really liked about how ghetto the breakfast was. it was cool to be in this room surrounded by people from every different country and speaking all sorts of different languages and eating this cheezy meal. oh, the one annoying thing about the hostel though, is that it has only one *very* slow elevator. ugh. so most of the times we just give up and walk up/down all 7 flights of stairs. last night, caryn and i got our own room, so we were able to sleep no problem, but tonight we’ll have a dorm room, so we’ll see how that goes.

after breakfast, we went to buckingham palace again to see the changing of the guards. it was pretty cool, but to be honest, we got kinda bored after the fisrt 20 minutes. it was hot outside, and there was a total mob scene outside the palace. sheez, if we got bored standing out there in the hot sun for 30 minutes, how do the guards survive?? standing still outside for hours on end in those furry hats?? ouch!!

next we went to go see westminster abbey. we were way impressed by that place. the church itself is extremely beautiful from the outside w/ impressive architecture and completely amazing stained glass windows. the inside was extremely ornamental and beautiful as well. one thing i had never realized about westminster was that it is the place where a ton of famous people are buried. they had graves there for everyone ranging from queen elizabeth to Isaac Newton to Lewis Carrol. walking around inside the church was really cool. it’s funny, when i was younger i was very afraid of checking out churches… i felt like somehow just being inside a church was in some way going against my religion. heh, luckily i dont really feel that way anymore or i’d definitely be missing out on some cool stuff.

then we went to go check out big ben and took some obligatory photos there. we also went to the tate modern art museum. i kinda left that place w/ mixed feelings about it. there was some really good stuff in there, like Dali, Magrite, Picasso, and some others but at the same time, a lot of the stuff in there i didnt really care for. oh well.

by this point we started getting tired again. damn jet lag. even w/ all the sleep we got last night we still were sleepy by around 7ish. but also part of the reason we were tired was the sheer quantity of stuff we saw today. being here has such a different feel to it than my last trip. in thailand you spend most of they either just chilling or you do like one activity, while here in europe it’s all about checking out the sites and attractions.

hrm, what else is there to say about today? we went to our first british pub here. we tried malaysian food for the first time and that was pretty good. my shorts have a pickpocket-proof pocket and it’s damn annoying (read: the zipper is broken and comes apart every time it is pulled).

the computers here dont have usb ports so i can’t post photos unfortunately, but hopefully i’ll be able to next week in france!


day one..

my first day out has been a bit of a blur. i’ve gotten no sleep in the last 24 hours, and can barely keep my eyes open as i type this. going out or doing anything tonight is out of the question… i think i’m gonna have to crash at 8pm. we did do a *tiny* bit of walking around. we saw buckingham palace, and our hostel is right at piccadilly circle so it’s in a great location. we’ve already had fish and chips, and some good curry. also, we’ve already met up w/ tom and that’s been cool. well, hopefully tomorrow i’ll post more…