The Oddities of Traveling as an Asian American (12/3/14)
So, my first train ride ever. It was pretty amazing – and scary. I definitely enjoyed riding the train, but the movements were so soothing I fell asleep. The scary part would be if you fell into such a deep sleep that you miss your stop. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me. However, I did miss my second train, as I’m not sure how European transportation systems work. So apparently the time they print on the ticket is the time the train LEAVES, and you better be there 5-10 minutes before it leaves, as they leave ON THE DOT. So, I missed my second train, I asked the guy who was in charge and he complained – WHILE I was in front of him – to his colleagues that I missed my train because I spoke poor English. Seriously?! Just because I’m Asian and I’m shy doesn’t mean I speak poor English. Don’t talk about me in front of me. Goodness gracious. Thankfully, he was pretty nice about helping me find another route to get to my location though, so I still made it to Liverpool.
Upon arrival, I found my hostel (Hoax Hostel), which was thankfully not too far from the train station. It was located right in the middle of the shopping district, which was nice in its own awkward way. I was thankful that people were willing to confirm I was walking down the right streets though, especially since street names are somewhat nonexistent in the part of Liverpool I was meandering around.
After I got comfortable and settled in – and took a nap – I decided to go hunting for a pub that I had heard about thanks to a pamphlet distributed by the train line I took from Edinburgh. Instead of finding it, as I wasn’t trying that hard, I stumbled into Liverpool’s 10-restaurant “Chinatown”. It had one of those fancy “Chinese arches” defining it as Chinatown, in addition to all the street names having Chinese names on the bottom of the English name. It wasn’t anything impressive. The area around the “Chinatown” had a lot of Westernized Chinese food, but the places on the street after the arch had pretty authentic Chinese food.
A Look Around Liverpool (13/3/14)
Today was the main purpose for coming to Liverpool: to meet my penpal whom I had met a year ago online. Yes, yes, there’s always the “be careful” and “protect yourself”. I’m almost always super duper cautious.
Anyhow, I got out of bed a little early and looked around the area to get to know where I was going and what I was doing. I ended up wandering over to the docks and I spotted THE yellow submarine (as in…from the Beatles). Then, it SUDDENLY dawned on me that the Beatles were from Liverpool. Well, what a coincidence. Hahahaha, though to be honest, that yellow submarine looked rather scary with those eyes and mouth painted on it. On the docks, there were also a lot of love locks locked onto the chains facing the bay. Some of them were regular little locks, as I’ve seen in the other places where there are love locks, but others of them are SOLD as love locks with hearts and/or engravings around it. It was interesting, as always.
Then, I finally met my friend. It was pretty awesome to finally meet someone after year of talking, again, as always. It was nice to see him in person and just spend time together. He told me a little bit about the city of Liverpool, although he lives out in the suburbs, as most people do when they say they’re “from a city”. I was happy that he made the journey out to Liverpool to meet up with me, for sure.
One of the most interesting points of discussion we had revolved around the Liver Building. It’s this grand building with a large clock on it and two birds tied down to towers on it, facing opposite directions. He told me how that building and the ones surrounding it were made from limestone, so they have to be washed every so often, as the pollution often effects the colour of them. Also, he said that the two birds on top are known as “Liver birds” and one of the folklore surrounding them is that if they fall over or disappear, the whole city of Liverpool would flood and cease to exist.
Also, there were these weird sculptures known as Superlambanana all over the city. They were everywhere you walked. I’d see them and be like…why is this weird looking thing sold everywhere as a souvenir?! Turns out, it’s supposedly a “new symbol” of Liverpool. The original idea was created on a 4-inch scale by a Japanese artist and has then been replicated and modified by four local artists. Apparently there’s 128 of them scattered around the city of Liverpool and in the Merseyside region. Crazy stuff.
When the sun had set and the moon had awaken, went out on the town alone in search of Berry & Rye, the hidden pub I had failed to find the day before. Why was this place so hard to find? Well, it’s in the style of a speakeasy, hidden and only known by word of mouth. There’s no signs advertising its existence, they have no store front sign. There are blinds over the window so you can’t see in, you’d think it was just another abandoned store. Not to mention, the door is locked so you can’t just walk straight in. How did I know it was a place? Because the pamphlet said so. I stood by the window and I heard pub noises, so I knew I was in the right place, but I didn’t know how to get in. So, I stood there like a weirdo, next to the door. As two girls were heading out, I went in. There was a nice bouncer who told me that the way to get in is to simply knock, as there is always someone by the door. It was definitely fun to get in, almost like being a part of a secret society. I stayed in the pub for a good few hours just soaking in their 1920’s atmosphere with “secret” menus pasted inside old books, a jazz piano player, and specialty cocktails – mostly revolving around whiskey and gin, though they had ones for aperitif, sherry, brandy, rum and vodka. It was a wonderful night ending to my only full day in Liverpool.
Introduction to the Infamous London (14/3/14)
I woke up REALLY early this morning to catch my £3.50 Megabus ride to London at 6:15am. We made a stop at Manchester at 8:30, Birmingham – apparently also known as B’ham for short – at 9:30, Coventry at 10:12, then finally London at Victoria Station at about 1:15pm, though we were scheduled to arrive at 12:30pm. During the ride, I was happy to find SOOOOO many daffodils in Manchester and felt a little awkward seeing a Shell station there, as I’ve rarely seen then since I left America. Also, between B’ham and Coventry, we were on a highway without a divider at one point. I don’t know how they do it and how it works so well either! It was crazy: there were 5-7 lanes, and each one only indicated direction by a green check mark or a red x on a marquee over the lane. It was impressive – and scary.
Upon entering the area known as “London”, it felt no different than another other large city. You have to drive everywhere and there are sidewalks, but not all are pedestrian friendly. Just, a place that’s not easy to traverse on foot – which, I’m finding is my preferential way of city exploration. Not to mention, it felt even more like home because the cars were like those at home, both in models seen, brands spotted AND size. In Ireland, most car brands, models and sizes are a strange sight to me; but this definitely didn’t apply in London.
When I finally got off the bus after a 6+ hour ride, I took the tube over to my hostel after several minutes of walking around confused due to the fact that the transportation symbol (red circle with a bar through it) was for ANY transportation: underground (the tube), overground (regular trains) AND busses. It was all very confusing but I finally figured it out. Then, I paid a ridiculous £4.70 to ride the tube from the city centre to my hostel’s stop just because I didn’t have an Oyster card. After that, I just stayed in my hostel because I was too tired and taking the tube would exhaust me of all the pounds I had brought with me, which I needed for food and the next few days.
A Day with My Cousin (15/3/14)
Today was my only full day in London. It was spent with my cousin whom I grew up with during my first few years of life and I haven’t seen since I was 9, apparently. It was pretty strange to speak in Mandarin Chinese for the whole day, as I don’t normally speak/converse in Chinese. I guess I’m somewhat impressed that I managed okay. We went to the Camden Market, since she had been suggested by her friends to go. Then, we went below the bridge there and took the Jubilee Greenway Walk along the Regent’s Canal to Little Venice. It was 2 miles/3km, but it took us quite a while as we were meandering our way through. At the end, in Little Venice, it wasn’t anything impressive, but the walk itself was lovely. It was THE prime example of “It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.”
After an exhausting walk on a relaxing day, we had dinner at Eat Tokyo. They had SUCH a big menu of authentic Japanese food. I got to have my long-craved for authentic ramen. It was scrumptious! I was so thankful my cousin knew a good place to get GOOD Asian food. Then, we passed by the National Gallery, with a giant blue chicken outside, on our way to the tube station before we ended my full day in London.
Returning to Home in Dublin (16/3/14)
Today, I flew home to Dublin. My cousin met up with me at the tube station and waited with me for the bus to the airport. It was interesting leaving my cousin. I didn’t feel like I would never see her, or sad that I probably wouldn’t see her for a very long time again. It was like saying goodbye to a friend that you knew you’d see again very shortly. It was a nice feeling to have.
Then, flying back into Dublin, we had some interesting company on the plane: a bachelor party – I think. There was a group of 15-20 guys all dressed up in formalwear with green vests and green bowties, and one guy wearing a morphsuit with the Irish flag colours on it. They all had a dandy time on the hour ride back to Dublin.
When I stepped food off the plane and into the airport, it really felt like coming home. The wind sent me cold kisses. I felt all fuzzy and warm inside. Boy was I glad to be back. What made it better was seeing one my friends soon after my arrival. It made Dublin feel even more like home. Alas, the feeling of comfort when you see a familiar face.
Things I Learned “today”
- Liverpool recently built within past decade. Many of the buildings, including those of the shopping district I lived in/around, have signs that said “built in 2008” or somewhere around that time.
- British AND Irish people also say quid when they refer to their currency, even though British and Irish currency has been different since the 1920’s when the Republic of Ireland separated themselves form the UK.
- The cell phone provider EE (Everything Everywhere) owns three “subcompanies”: T-Mobile UK, Orange (the biggest network provider in the UK), and EE. Thus, what we know as “T-Mobile”, according to Wikipedia, is not an actual company, but a “holding company” that owns shares of OTHER companies. What madness is the business world?!
- Tesco is the reason why Fresh & Easy existed. WHAT?! Crazy. Too bad they decided to transfer ownership to somebody else because it didn’t work out for them.
- In London, the overground and the underground are two totally different things. The underground is “The Tube” that everyone speaks of. To get even more confusing, the National Rail (part of the overground) and the bus systems also use the same symbol, the symbol for Transport for London.
- When in London, on the escalators, stand right. The left side is for people who run/hike up the escalators in a hurry.
- Oyster cards are a money saver in London if you don’t travel too much. It’s totally worth the £5 security deposit for card, which you get back if you return the card at a station after you’re done with it.
- Tube shutdowns are normal, as they’re always trying to improve sections of it at a time. Check for shutdowns the day before travel.
- Tube tickets get stamped on your way in. DON’T LOSE IT, since it’ll be eaten up by the machine to allow you to get out.
Words/Phrases of the Day
- Buttie = sarnie = UK term for a sandwich
Panoramics from Liverpool:
Additional Pictures from London: