Just back from Lodon - brief trip report

Jan 27th, 2004, 02:26 PM
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Just back from Lodon - brief trip report

Hello all, thanks for the great tips. I just got back last night, a bit ill -- not sure if it's cold or flu. Probably from all the walks in the rain. I'll try to write a report but hope it's coherent (I did take some medicine).

I didn't change/get any money until I got to LHR. There was a Barclays (no fee charged for Bank of America customers) ATM right near the Tube station in the airport so I got some money. It was fairly easy to use the Tube, took 45 minutes to my hostel in Piccadilly Circus. I've never stayed in a hostel before, and am glad that I got such a good experience using the hostel first time. It's got such an excellent location, right in the center of London, near everything. I would recommend it to anyone going to London.

I got to London so early in the morning and of course couldn't check in yet. I grabbed breakfast at the hostel -- which is only toasts and OJ, coffee, tea, and milk. (Good thing I brought my own cup'o'noodles.) I stopped by the Visitor's Center and grabbed free guides and maps. I then walked to Buckingham Palace and saw the changing of the guards. It started to rain.

I walked towards Big Ben and was so tired so I took the double-decker red bus and went to Leicester Square/Chinatown.

Grabbed lunch at a Chinese restaurant - 3.80 pounds. Pretty much most of the restaurants in Chinatown offer meals at cheaper prices. I must recommend Wong Kei, it's pretty good and cheap, fast and efficient service too. The lines can get long but you can get seated pretty quickly. I am Chinese and must say that the food is authentic. It is Chinese New year and the streets were decorated festively.

Bought a ticket in one of the "discounted" ticket agencies for Phantom of the Opera. Big mistake. I should've bought the ticket at the official selling office. When I got to Phantom later in the night my seat was occupied by another person with the same ticket. The theatre, citing my ticket price was lower, seated me in a worse section. I tried talking to the manager but he was not helpful at all and told me to deal with the agency directly. I've seen Phantom many times before and just went to the theatre for the experience. Now that the experience was ruined I just left. I would try to get my money back from the agency the next day. The agency, Atlantic, refused to acknowledge their error and only gave me partial refund. I didn't want to deal with dishonest people anymore and just took whatever they offered. So they got to keep their 4.50 pound fee, my tuition for a lesson of life.

In short, I've visited these places: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Tower, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Millenium Bridge (at night), London Dungeon, British Museum, V&A Museum, Chinatown - ate there many times, Marble Arch, Covent Garden, Notting Hill/Portobello St., Harrods -- it's so huge!, Burberry -- too expensive for my taste. I went to Madame Tussauds, but the price - 20 pounds - kept me outside. I was never a big fan of wax museums anyway.

I ate at Chinatown many times, I like the food and the prices. Sometimes I just grabbed a sandwich (at Covent Garden and
across Harrods), all less than 4 pounds. I did eat at an all-you-can-eat pizza place once because my roommate had a flier for a free drink. They were pretty bad pizzas. I forgot the name but don't go to a pizza buffet place in Piccadilly Circus. There was one time when we saw a cheap Chinese buffet in Chinatown. Almost ate there -- good thing we took a look at the food first! So, I think I will not even consider buffet the next time I travel. It's not that I don't enjoy good food, but
I've had many fancy meals and go to nice restaurants often here in California. I just don't think I need to pay twice as much
eating here in London.

London is so interesting and vibrant, I really liked my visit here. I'm amazed at how efficient and easy the transportation system is. It's really nice for visitors like me, I got day passes and weekend pass and was able to see all the sights using the tube and the bus. The nightlife is just incredible, you can't get bored here. The only thing is just that the weather was not so nice, cold and raining off and on, and that it's so expensive. Also, traveling alone is tough for me, I find myself missing my boyfriend and wishing someone would share the same experience. It was a good thing that I met some nice people at the hostel, and did
some sightseeing with roommates, which made the journeys better having some company.

I didn't shop too much, bought some toffee tins from Harrods as souvenirs. All in all, I've spent 150 pounds for all meals,
purchases, attractions, and expenses, and 54 pounds for my 4-night stay here. I've tried to keep a low budget for this trip,
and I think I did pretty good and enjoyed myself nonetheless.
singlegalzzz is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 02:33 PM
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Sounds like a great time.

Sorry about that theatre rip-off. I rant here all the time about avoiding those rip-off booths near Leicester Square which people believe the signs saying "official" and "half-price" instead of going to the free standing TKTS booth. I wish you had reported them somehow to authorities, and I wish they could get those dishonest places closed down. Their other gimmick is selling people really cheap seats in the back of the theatre at prices higher than the theatre charges and then telling the customer that they are actually half price (by comparing them to expensive seats).
Patrick is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 03:25 PM
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I did have a good time, and I'll get to do some more sightseeing in my next trip in March.

I think what you described is what happened to me, and then I found out the ticket price is lower at the box office! I only blame myself for not looking at the box office first.

Of course the title should be London and not Lodon, but I don't know how to change it (and if it's possible to change it).
singlegalzzz is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 05:15 PM
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Hope you are feeling much better.

Enjoyed reading your trip report. Well said, "so they got to keep their 4.50 pound fee, my tuition for a lesson of life". What a positive way to look at it.

Will you have a travel companion when you return in March? How lucky you are to go back again so quickly. Perhaps the weather will be better.

SandyBrit is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 05:45 PM
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Sandy -

I'm taking medicine for coughs and running nose. I hope this won't be the norm every time I take a trip! (I was sick for a month after I returned from Hawaii in October.)

Trying to convince boyfriend to take a few days off to go to London with me. But if he doesn't, I think I'll be better prepared (mentally) for my next trip alone.
singlegalzzz is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 11:38 PM
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Thanks for publicicising Wong Kei, which consistently serves extraordinarily cheap - and excellent - Cantonese comfort food.

American readers used to all that "customer is always right" mollycoddling nonsense may, however, find the place disturbing.

I've seen a Mandarin-speaking customer physically assaulted by the staff for his difficulties in communication. Those of us who speak no Chinese language are routinely bullied into utter subservience, eating at the most crowded bit of a shared table, and forced to vacate our scrap of space the instant we've devoured the last mouthful.

Even in a country where we generally regard giving or expecting customer service as a sign of moral turpitude, the Wong Kei stands out for its spectacular rudeness (ask for a menu and some of them react as if you'd insulted their ancestors. Though given the staff's exceptionally limited language skills, they may well genuinely believe that's what you've just done). And it's not even as if service was snappy: long waits both to be "served" and to get your food aren't at all unusual, and singlegal obviously hit them on one of their organised days.

But it's worth it for its value. And at least they have the grace neither to put a service charge on the bill nor to seem to expect any kind of tip.

Some time soon, the owner's going to get a son with an MBA who'll have waiters telling us their star signs. Go there while it's still run like a proper cafeteria.
flanneruk is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 04:53 AM
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flanneruk, if that is an endorsement, I think one of your "negative" reviews would result in a place being shut down

Keith is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 05:11 AM
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singlegalzzz: Great report - hope your are feeling better soon.

flanneruk: Your description of Wong Kei will remind many Americans (especially Northern Californians) about Sam Woh's. It is a restaurant in SF's Chinatown that is famous for its good food and really rude waiters. In fact many folks go there BECAUSE of the rude service and are disappointed if they are treated well . . . go figure.
janis is offline  
Feb 4th, 2004, 08:35 PM
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singlegalzzz - Thanks for posting your experience!

What was the name of the hostel you stayed at, and what was the age range of guests there?

I'm travelling to London next week (a last minute trip) and will have 3 full days to explore. It will be my first hostel experience and first time in London. I'm in my upper 20's and am wondering if I'll be much older than most of the other hostellers.

skygirl is offline  
Feb 5th, 2004, 02:32 PM
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Thanks for what must be the funniest post of the year so far!

I'm going to be down in London in early March & Wong Kei will be top of my list.

JJBhoy is offline  
Feb 5th, 2004, 06:50 PM
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skygirl -

I stayed at the Piccadilly Backpackers Hotel (really a hostel). Don't worry - there are many different people staying there, age range from under 20 to over 40. I myself is in my late 20s as well, and did not feel out of place at all.

Have fun!
singlegalzzz is offline  
Feb 5th, 2004, 06:54 PM
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flanneruk -

Wasn't sure if you were endorsing Wong Kei???!!!

Ok, looking back, the service was fast but limited. Quickly got my order, quickly brought my food, no inquiring whether everything was ok...It was ok by me as I just wanted to eat my food and leave. Wasn't one of those restaurnants where I wanted to experience the "atmosphere"!
singlegalzzz is offline  
Feb 6th, 2004, 06:29 AM
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Flanner's description of service at Wong Kei (or Wonky's, as we referred to it) was absolutely how it used to be when I ate there more often in days gone past.

Since they refurbished recently (I think it was sometime in 2003 though it could have been 2002) I don't think service has been quite as consistently appalling though I really don't choose to go there anymore so I can't comment with any authority.

Certainly, in my student days, that "service" was actually one of the positive reasons to go there (but only in reasonably good sized groups of 6 or more) since it just added to the hilarity of the evening.

These days I go to ChinaTown for lunch more often than dinner as I love the Dim Sum menus in many of the restaurants.

Thanks for your trip report and so sorry to hear about the scam at the not-so-official "half price" ticket booth.

Kavey is offline  
Feb 6th, 2004, 06:31 AM
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PS Flanner, thank you - that's the first time ever that I've seen the expression "moral turpitude" used anywhere other than the immigration card one fills in on the plane before landing in America!

And it fits just so...
Kavey is offline  

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