We took an AirAsia flight into Kuala Lumpur and stayed at the Swiss Inn in China town. Had a great dinner at the Fat Yan restaurant, which serves Chinese Buddhist vegetarian. The next day, we took another AirAsia flight, 14.5 hours, to Stansted airport - London. We sat next to a young Australian fashion and graphic designer who told us about her own travels throughout Europe. We stayed overnight near the airport at the Holiday Inn Express. The next day we took a bus into London. Our first impressions of London was a rainy but bright, clean city, with wonderful old buildings lining the street with lovely shop fronts. Few high-rise buildings, and a lot of renovation work on the old buildings. While we were walking to find our accommodation, two Londoners asked if we were alright and helped us with directions. Londoners seem quite friendly and don't rush about too much. It stays light until 9pm! There are a lot of corner pubs where business people go after work. For our first two nights, we stayed at Carr-Saunders Hall which is a London School of Economics (LSE) residence. Fantastic for the price and location, great breakfasts. To cut down on costs, we've been going grocery shopping at Sainsbury's and Tesco's. Around this location, we went to the British Museum (great at night time), Regent's Park (where we saw squirrels but no hedgehogs), we've walked around swanky Camden, shop lovers Soho, sat in Trafalgar and Leicester Squares, and gone past University College. Chips and curry sauce highly recommended!
After two nights staying at Carr-Saunders Hall, we booked into another LSE residence for 4 nights - High Holborn. Again, really good, central accommodation for the price. In this section of London, we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Hyde Park (not as nice as Regent's Park), and walked along the Thames river to go to the Tower of London. The Tower tour was a lot of fun, long queue to see the Crown Jewels, and the highlight was sitting in the 900 year old White Tower Chapel. We did a tour of Westminster to learn more about the British Parliament, and had a good meal and drink in a pub. One night we splurged and had a delicious dinner at the oldest Northern Indian restaurant in London, the Punjab. Being close to the date of India's Independence day, we did a tour that highlighted significant buildings and points of interest to the Indian community. Another good experience was the National Gallery, with works by Van Gogh, Vermeer, Cezanne, Rodin, Picasso ... you name it. You can hire audio guides that tell you more about the artist, painting techniques and symbols in the painting. There are a lot of Europeans here on vacation, particularly rich Italians. The London Museum seemed to be a bit overlooked by tourists and more popular with locals - it was a real gem of a place. Jade liked the prehistoric Briton's and the suffragettes in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Chris liked the photographs and artefacts of the early 20th century. It inspired us to walk along the banks of the muddy Thames, but we only found old bits of pottery. For our last night, we relocated to the otherside of the Thames to stay at our last LSE residence - Bankside House. It is right next to the Tate Modern Art Gallery and the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. We spent 15 minutes in the Tate compared with 3 hours in the National Gallery - modern art is a bit lost on us. The last night we did a Jack the Ripper tour with London city walks. The speaker was very convincing, made many audience members a bit squirmish with the details of the murders, and set the scene well. The atmosphere in the East End lended itself to the story well. The speaker also emphasized the dire circumstances for London's poor in the 1800's, and how many middle aged women (100,000) turned to prostitution on the side just to survive. All in all we had a great time in London. Check out the photo's.