Having lived in Hong Kong for over two years now I have solely been travelling in the Asian / Oceanic region. However, I had just been shortlisted for an interview in London (all travel and accommodation costs covered) so it was time to return to my home country.
London is rather unfamiliar to me. I have only visited the capital a handful of times during the 20yrs in which I lived in the UK and having only 2 days I would have to make the most of my fleeting visit.
Who put a voodoo curse on me?
Oh yet again the airline curse struck. I should go into the world record book as being the person with most airline grief. This time Cathay Pacific had overbooked their flight by 8 people! Of course I was selected as a passenger to be removed. What annoyed me the most was that I was only flying to the UK for 2 days. The flight itself is 13hrs so my time was short and precious. Instead of removing passengers that live in the UK they removed a person on a short stay – even after I explained that I had an interview. It was clear I as a passenger was irrelevant to them. They forced me to sign a receipt to prove that they paid me $1500HKD (they had paid me this) a somewhat apology for being removed from a flight. What they had failed to mention due to them scrupulously folding the receipt was that my signature was waiving the airline of any responsibility or liability. Well as I was going to be interviewing in an international law firm I made sure to contact Cathay Pacific to let them know that misrepresentation is unlawful. In the end I earned an extra $150USD (after me negotiating – originally they were only going to pay me $100USD in inflight vouchers which was ludicrous as I never intend to fly with them ever again).
Having not paid for the $11,000HKD flight, this compensation I was being rewarded with was soothing my anger, but still, I had to wait an extra 7hrs at Hong Kong airport for the next flight and then fly for 13hrs to reach London all whilst returning 2 days later. Cathay Pacific are definitely in my bad books.
Having now arrived in London in the middle of the night and taken the cramped and slow underground train (in comparison to Hong Kong’s spacious MTR) I made it to my destination. Well, almost! Finding the Premier Inn became a colossal task. My phone has a Hong Kong sim only so Google was unavailable to offer me a map and Londoners are not the friendliest. I had asked a shop keeper where the hotel was and in the rudest possible way, whilst mimicking a ventriloquist, shrugged his shoulders and looked at me as if I was from a different planet. I then asked a hotel receptionist that ended up giving me completely the wrong directions, even though he had searched online.
In total I spent over an hour walking around the dark streets of London trailing my hand luggage behind. Eventually, an old and knowledgeable lady in Sainsbury’s directed me clearly. At the hotel I reunited with my parents who had driven down from the Midlands to see me.
That was a long journey.
The 3hr Interview
The next day I had my arduous interview at a Magic Circle firm that I thought had gone swimmingly. Clearly it hadn’t as I didn’t get the job. At least I got a free trip to London – silver linings!
What to do in London?
It was now time to explore London with my parents. Having been to the London Eye and London Dungeons as a kid the big sights and attractions had mostly been completed when I used to live in the UK. Finding it difficult to think of things to do we opted for an early dinner. Having missed out on over 104 Sunday roast dinners it was a necessity to eat such a national treasure along with the prized Yorkshire pudding. We ate at Simpsons in the Strand that offers an elegant dining hall to eat a carvery but the waiting staff could refine their skills.
Having walked aimlessly around to kill time and to kill calories we started to make our way to the theatre district as my parents had bought tickets to a play about a dead dog. Yup, a dead dog. The play was called “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” and it was as boring as it sounds. When you begin to envy the dead dog in the play for not having to sit through the needlessly long play, you know it’s a bad play. Why my parents didn’t opt for a well-known show or musical such as The Lion King I will never know.
On the way to said theatre we stumbled across a fight on the street and the premier of Bridget Jones – I even got to see Renee Zellweger. London is a land of extremes. After, my parents tried to drag me around Chinatown…have they forgotten that I live in Hong Kong!
The next day was my last. In the early evening I would be once again packed onto a plane, being forced to watch the same, non-recent movies that Cathay provides. However, it was time to seize the day.
Having been unable to volunteer at the London 2012 Olympics due to being 4 days and 4 months too young, we decided to have a ponder around this exciting real-estate.
The Olympic Park, now known as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is surprisingly baron. Considering the area was meant to carry out a legacy it seems rather lack lustre. The Arcelor-Mittal Orbit is even more heinous face-to-face that it appears on TV. Despite its appearance I still ascended it for a view of London. Sadly, coming from a skyscraper city the view was underwhelming. The area surrounding the park looks like a wasteland and the view of the financial city cannot be fully viewed as the outside observation area stops before you can see the world famous skyline.
Irrespective of the above, I was looking forward to whizzing down the slide that was recently installed in the tower. As the Orbit already resembled a Helter Skelter designed by Tim Burton, adding a slide made perfect sense.
Just like at a carnival you sit in a bag and let gravity do the rest. Here though, you are forced to wear a helmet, arm pads and knee pads. Before it was my turn a teenager freaked out at the possibility of going down the slide so those with a fear of heights may want to skip the activity.
As a thrill seeker I was ready. At first, the slope wasn’t steep so you descend steadily until, out of nowhere, the gradient vastly changes and you begin hurtling down a metal tube at speeds the Flash would be proud of. Then the transparent tube changes from being glass to opaque. Pitch black darkness followed by bone crunching turns. Twisting and twirling perilously in what seems like an ogres intestines you get spat out the other end. It was a lot of fun and more than compensated for the dreary skyline view.
In the vicinity of the park was the Westfield Shopping Centre, a modern mall with everything you expect. One interesting find though was the Levi Root’s Restaurant. Levi Roots, of Dragon’s Den fame (equivalent to Shark Tank in the USA), has made himself a household name for his delicious reggae reggae sauce. The food was well priced, especially for London and the friendliest waiter in the world works there…someone should give her a promotion! The food was everything you wanted it to be and more and I urge anyone to go and visit.
Hong Kong Bound
And that’s it. I returned to the airport and spent another 13hrs in the sky. In total, I spent more time in the sky and airport combined than I did actually in London!
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