I have been thinking to make a trip to UK for a long time. But I kept delaying the trip with a hope that the company I work for (which has a headquarter there) will send me there someday – so I can save for the airplane ticket :D. And finally the opportunity came on July 2013, I was sent to UK for training. It was not a perfect time because it was fasting month (Ramadhan) for moslem, and it was in summer, the night was so short therefore the fasting time will be much longer than in Indonesia (average 18 hours/day) and it was so hard to travel on this condition.
So, in short, besides the training, I only added 4 more days for this trip (2 days before and 2 days after the training). My training location was in Stockport, a small city in the southeast of Greater Manchester, around 10 km from the city of Manchester. In 4 days, I managed to visit London, Manchester and Liverpool. From Jakarta, I did transit in Abu Dhabi then continued to London. Personally, I don’t like Abu Dhabi International Airport, it was too crowded. There was a section in the airport where people from every directions met, and the airport officers was shouting and pointing where to go, you might get lost there if you just followed the crowd.
I arrived in London in the afternoon. From the airport, I went directly to the hostel. I stayed in Canterbury Hall (Tube: St. Pancras), I supposed it is sort of college student accommodation, but it was quite cheap (42 GBP/night) and comfy (single room with shared bathroom). I only had 1.5 days in London, so I started right away that evening. The nearest destination from the hostel was King Cross Station, which is famous with Harry Potter’s 9 3/4 platform. One important detail, current position of this platform is not in the real platform as in the movie.
This platform now is basically a wall besides Harry Potter Shop, with half of cart attached to it. And you have to pay to the shop to get the picture of you holding the cart while wearing Gryffindor scarf. Don’t bother to try it in the morning or late night because they de-ttach the cart from the wall when the shop is closed. King Cross Station is located exactly beside St. Pancras Station, and St. Pancras is the most beautiful train station that I have ever visited.
Next day, I dedicated the whole day to visit all interesting place in London as many as I can. The secret for it, buy 1 Day Off-Peak Travel Card for 7.3 GBP, the card was cheaper in the weekend and what I bought was for zones 1-2 only because all place that I want to see was in that area. You can buy the card on vending machine in every tube station. With that card, I could travel by using London Tube as many as I can for one day. London tube was so efficient and comfy. List the places that I visited with their tube station as follows:
- Tube: Arsenal – place: Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium
- Tube: Westminster – place: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, House of Parliament, Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge (Thames River)
- Tube: Waterloo – place: London Eye
- Tube: St. James Park – place: Buckingham Palace
- Tube: Fulham Broadway – place: Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge Stadium
- Tube: Baker Street – place: Sherlock Holmes Museum (Madame Tussaud, Reagent’s Park and London Central Mosque are also in the area, but I did not make it to visit them).
- Tube: Tower Hill – place: Tower of London and Tower Bridge
My conclusion was, I love London!! It even has beaten Turin as my previous favorite city in the world. London is big and beautiful, the transportation is excellent, the people are nice, and it is a multicultural city so I did not feel so odd in there.Next day, I left London for Stockport by train from London Euston Station. The Station is located in the same street of St. Pancras and King Cross Station. I did not really know why there are 3 big train stations so close to each other. I supposed they service different connection to other cities within UK or other countries in Europe. I bought the train ticket online, and the ticket was sent to my email, then the printed ticket can be used directly, no need to re-print it in the station. The fare was 27 GBP for one way London – Stockport.
Stockport is a small city and not much to tell about it. I stayed in a beautiful hotel (where my training was located), but it was quite far away from public transportation stop. As soon as I arrived in my hotel, I headed to city of Manchester. Public transportation in Manchester runs by Metrolink, there are 3 transportation modes: Train, Tram and Bus. You can choose 1 mode only, combination of 2 or combination of three. The daily ticket available for these 3 options and the ticket should be bought in vending machine in Train/ Tram/ Bus station. To get around in Manchester city, using tram is enough, but I also needed to use bus for come back to Stockport. So I bought Metrolink daily bus/tram ticket for 6.5 GBP. One important thing, bus operation hours is different in every stop. So ensure by reading timetable in every stop that the bus that you want to take is still available, otherwise you will wait there for nothing.
To be honest, the places that I wanted to see in Manchester were the stadiums. As a soccer fan, I always love to visit stadiums, moreover the famous ones. I’d like to take a picture in front of every stadium with my Juventus’ scarf and posted it to tease my friends who are fans of the football club who owns the stadium. So, I visited Etihad Stadium which owned by Manchester City FC (Metrolink: Etihad Campus) and Old Trafford Stadium which owned by Manchester United FC (Metrolink: Old Trafford).
One thing that I picked up in Manchester/ Stockport was the people there is even nicer and kinder than London, and it was truly amazed me that majority people in UK (that I met) is all nice and kind, more than other European countries. One note if you like to visit stadium just like I do, in my opinion, stadiums in UK are the best, they always has a big store near it and offer stadium tour. But to be sure, do book online the stadium tour, otherwise it will be difficult to get in, especially during holidays.
Last city that I visited in UK is Liverpool. I chose Liverpool for two reasons, it is close to Manchester, only 1 hour by train and I also wanted to complete my stadium tour as Liverpool is home to two great football club: Liverpool FC and Everton FC. So I took East Midland Train the day after my training was completed. I departed from Stockport Station to Liverpool Lime Street Station. I have bought the ticket online from Indonesia. There are several website that offers train ticket pre-sale in UK, I used thetrainline.com. You might browse other website to find cheapest price. I got the round-trip ticket with price of GBP 12 which was very cheap in my opinion, and it was very comfortable too. Different with London-Stockport ticket, for Stockport-Liverpool ticket I had to print the official ticket in the automatic machine in the station of your choice, by entering the booking number that sent by email when I booked through the website. So, it is important to notice about this ticket rules after you made online booking, because it will not be the same for each train service in UK.
So, the first thing that I did after arriving in Liverpool Lime Street Station was to buy unlimited public transportation ticket, as I did in other cities. Because at that time I only spent 2 days in Liverpool, I chose “Saveaway” ticket for GBP 4.8, the ticket is valid for unlimited ride of Train, Bus and Ferry ride in one day. It was ok for me because the plan was spending the whole first day for sightseeing in Liverpool and returning back to Manchester the next day for flight back to Indonesia. Ok, so with “Saveaway” Ticket in my hand – my Liverpool itinerary was:
- Anfield Stadium (Liverpool FC), by Bus No. 20
- Goodison Park (Everton FC), by Bus No. 19
- Pier Head (Harbour of Liverpool), by Bus No.20
- Walking from Pier Head to:
- Albert Dock
- The Beatles Story Museum
- Liverpool Museum
- Mersey Ferry ride to Seacombe and Woodside
- Liverpool One
Btw, the Lime Street Station itself is a very beautiful. One important note, commuting in Liverpool is not as easy as in London and Manchester, so it is better to have all the bus maps and timetable in your gadget to save time finding the right bus. A ferry ride is a must, since you can take a beautiful landscape picture of Liverpool from the beautiful park on across land. The saveaway ticket was really worthy!
I finished the sightseeing around 9 PM and headed to the hostel for checking-in and staying for 1 night only. I stayed in Embassie Backpacker on Falkner Square, I chose female dorm room (8 bunk beds in a room) with shared bathroom for GBP 21/ night (included breakfast). It is a good hostel and hosted by a very kind old man. The only downside when staying in a dorm for me as a moslem, is difficult to do praying (sholat) as remaining space (that is not occupied by bed) was very narrow. You might as well to pray on your bed. The next day, I checked-out early because I had to walk to the Station (SaveAway ticket was no longer valid for that day), but it was not too far, only about 20 minutes. And I passed the ruins of a very beautiful St. Luke church, which was badly damage after bombed by Germany on Second World War.
Overall, my trip in UK was amazing. Someday, I would like to comeback and travel to other cities in UK.