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Monday, 21 September 2009

London and Airports

The past Wednesday, I took a 14-hour inter-continental flight from KL and touched down at London.

My destination wasn't London, however, it was Nottingham. Nottingham is located some good 4 hours away from Central London by coach.

Good news and bad news. The good news is that the University of Nottingham provides free transport from London to the University. The bad news is AirAsia X only flies to London Stansted Airport, and the University's coach pickup is at London Heathrow Airport, so I had to take another bus from Stansted to Heathrow.

In summary,
Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal -> AirAsia X plane (14 hours) -> London Stansted Airport
London Stansted Airport -> bus (90 mins) -> London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow Airport -> bus (4 hours) -> University of Nottingham

I arrived at London Stansted at about 5pm (GMT +0). London Stansted is a relatively new airport, but most big airlines (such as Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines) fly to Heathrow.

Entrance of London Stansted Airport.

I spent my first penny in London Stansted. British coins were hard at first, as their values were imprinted pathetically small (I got the trick now, being able to recognise them by their shapes, colours and sizes).

Then I went looking for a bus to Heathrow. I went to the counter, and the lady casually said "twenty-two fifty, please," with a smile on her face.

What. The. Hell. I'm paying, er, 22.5x6, RM135 for an 80-minute bus ride?! But I was tired and I didn't have any other options available, so I grudgingly (and quietly) paid for my ticket, mirroring her smile.

The journey to Heathrow was uneventful, although the coach did brought me across the suburbs of London, giving me great sights.

The best picture I got from the bus ride. Witnessed beautiful sunset my very first day in UK.

It was dark when I finally reached Heathrow. I was extremely thirsty, hungry and tired, but I still had to drag my 20kg luggage and 7kg backpack across the huge and confusing London Heathrow Airport. Paid something like £3 for a yogurt bar and a box of sandwich. Boy, things ARE expensive here.

After filling my tummy (half-filling, more like), I went looking for a place to settle down for the night (the bus wouldn't arrive until the next morning). London Heathrow is famous for being busy -- it is the world's 3rd busiest airport.

Trolley passageway, Terminal, er, 1?

Don't let its fame fool you, though. Unlike KLIA or Singapore's Changi Airport, London Heathrow is incredibly old, dating back to the 1930's, before air travel became popular among the general population. When demand grew, structures were added where possible to accommodate the extra passengers. With five terminals spread carelessly across more than 12 square kilometres, along with my mind's compromised ability for navigation, I surely didn't feel like exploring or even shooting much photos at all.

Trolley passageway, Terminal 2.

I soon discovered that Terminal 2 was relatively quiet and peaceful compared to Terminals 1 and 3 (I was too tired to check out the newest two terminals) so I brushed my teeth (toothpaste-less), set down my luggage, curled up in a corner, and entered an uneasy sleep.

Almost all toilets in Heathrow have vending machines selling vibrators, viagra pills and condoms. What do they expect of their patrons, use those things on their flights? Click for high resolution image.

Terminal 2, where I slept.

The chairs were uncomfortable, it was too cold, and I had to wake up early the next morning, but I still needed my sleep.

Heathrow travellator.

Me in London Heathrow. I was sooooooo tired after missing two nights' worth of sleep I'm surprised I even managed to capture some good photos after all.

I woke up at 4.30am, Thursday. I could've slept more, but my back was hurting due to the uncomfortable chairs. My shoulders ached after carrying the heavy bags for hours. I was even shivering uncontrollably. Why the hell didn't they turn off the A/C of this deserted departure hall in this chilly weather?

Damn, I even pity myself right now.

I was sure that falling asleep again would be hard, so I dragged my heavy luggage to Terminal 3, preparing to meet my friends.

Entrance of Terminal 3.

I met my friends at about 6am. Boy, seeing some familiar faces in a whole new country really does give a boost of confidence. We then took the coach to the University.

Car park of Heathrow.

So if you were to ask me how I felt during my first few days in UK, I'd say tiring. I wasn't even looking backwards when the coach left Heathrow -- I just wanted nothing more than checking into my room and get a good sleep.

I had no idea that I had to wait for another 12 hours before getting it.

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