Experience · Travel

Siem Reap Trip Journal – Day 3 ( Artisans D’Angkor – Angkor National Museum – Floating Village )

After a tiring day visiting temples in Angkor city, the 3rd day we decided to do some relaxing activity. After breakfast, we met our remorge driver in front of the hotel and headed to Artisans d’Angkor.

Artisans d’Angkor is a handicraft workshop center. They have workshops for wood carving, stone carving, silver plated, fabric painting and so on. They are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm and free entrance. Once we arrived there, someone welcomed us and became our tour guide for the entire stay. And the great thing is it was free of charge! Yes, they also provided free guided tour in our language.

It was very interesting and fascinating to see the process of crafting the product. They are very talented indeed. There were a lot of questions popped up in my head, mainly about “how did they do it?! how did they have such an inspiration?!”. For a person who can’t create any art, these things are always amaze me. It such an amazing trip to this place! Please take a look of some pictures I took there 🙂

Wood Carving Artisan d'Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia
Wood Carving
Step by step wood carving Artisan d'angkor cambodia
Step by step of how they do wood carving
Step by step wood carving Artisan d'angkor cambodia
Using a metal version as a model for wood carving
Stone Carving
From a block of stone to a beautiful statue
Stone carving for Temple Restoration project
Stone carving for Temple Restoration project
Elephant stone carving artisan d'angkor siem reap cambodia
Elephant stone carving (model & work-in-process)
silver craft artisan d'angkor siem reap cambodia
Silver plating
step by step artisan d'angkor cambodia
Step-by-step process. An amazing end product!
Silk Fabric painting artisan d'angkor cambodia
Silk painting. Look at that level of detail!

After we finished visiting all their workshops, we arrived at the shop where they sell their product. The shop is pretty big with a lot of product from every workshop. I enjoyed strolling around the shop and adored the pretty stuff. Make sure you make time to visit this place if you like handicraft. Happy Shopping!

Next place we visited was Angkor National Museum. Another fascinating place to visit! The entrance fee is US$12 for adult. We had to leave our bag at the counter and they gave us a small bag to put our wallet and phone (and camera for me). Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photo in most rooms so my camera had no use there.

Bag Angkor National Museum Siem Reap Cambodia
Small bag for our stuff

When we entered the area, I had a low expectation of this museum. Thankfully I was wrong! This museum is a must-visit for a history lover or an art lover. There are total 9 galleries in Angkor National Museum and my favorite is the Exclusive Gallery which has 1000 Buddha Images. I didn’t count them, of course.. but there are many of Buddha statues in that gallery. All different kind of Buddha. Amazing images. Visit their website to have a sneak peek on how does the gallery look like and to get to know other information. Some people recommends visiting the museum before visiting Angkor Wat, but I think visiting it after Angkor Wat also can give you insight of what you’ve seen at the temple. It might answer your question about the temple as well, if you have any.

Angkor National Museum entrance to Galleries
Angkor National Museum entrance to Galleries

Our last destination for the day was floating village by the lake. It took around 42 mins from the city by car, or about 1 hour by remorge. Sitting on the remorge for an hour was quite a journey. The wind blew so hard on our face but the good thing was it made the weather less hot 😀 (although I was afraid I might catch a cold lol). I think it even rain that time..

On the way to Floating Village

We stopped by at the ticket counter to buy our entrance ticket. We paid for US$23 per person for the ticket. Quite expensive but we had no complaint since we got our own boat with noone else around. Lovely private trip 😀 If you need to go to the bathroom, this is the time because there will be no more bathroom after this point. After we got our ticket, we continued our journey.

We boarded on our boat and went to Floating Village. I wished our guide, Mr Bun Rong, was with us. He can speak English very well. Floating Village is not my favorite place to go. Not because of the view but because I’m scared being on a boat 😅 I don’t like to get on a boat that is shake so much. This boat was actually not bad, but whenever we passed by another boat it would shake because of the wave. Thankfully, I was busy enough taking photos so the trip was not too bad for me. Although I must say it is better to go there near sunset time. For the other time, the view is just like a normal floating village, no special lighting 😀 The villagers have to live and do their daily life from boat to boat. Temples and schools are on top of water as well.

After about 30 mins boat ride, we arrived at sunset point. It was an open space with a lot of other boats around. They were also waiting for sunset like us. We stopped by at one spot and just waited there. There was a small boat approaching us and turned out she was selling drinks and snacks! 😄

Drink seller on boat!

It was a bit cloudy near sunset time so the sky was not as we expected 😔 There was no orange sky in the horizon, but at least we could still see some yellow-ish and magnificent sky. Ah~~ I love sunset! We enjoyed it until the sun almost gone then decided to head back because I didn’t want to go back too late.

Beautiful floating village at sunset
Sunset on the boat at Tonle Sap Lake

Thank you for reading, my story! Have you been to any of these places? What do you think about them? Let me know in the comment 🙂 Bye for now! See you on day 4.

Selfie on boat floating village siem reap
Drinks · Experience · Food · singapore · Travel

Siem Reap trip journal – day 1 (The Amazing Residence – The Oasis Siem Reap – Pub Street )

Woohoo! Finally visited Siem Reap! As Indonesian, I don’t need a visa to visit Cambodia, but my friend needed one because she is Dutch. To learn more about whether you need a visa or not and what kind of visa you need to enter Cambodia, please read this post here. Other than a visa, we also needed to fill out 2 forms, an arrival card (and departure card) and customs clearance card. I didn’t bring my pen so I had to borrow from my neighbour on the plane.

arrival card departure card custom clearance card

Once we landed in Siem Reap, we entered the arrival hall and I went straight to Passport Control, while my friend had to go to Visa on Arrival counter with many other people. After she finished with the visa and paid $30, she then proceeds to passport control. I was done before her so I just waited near the baggage belt. We didn’t have checked-in luggage though, only 1 small bag for the cabin. But I think if we checked in a suitcase, it wouldn’t take long to retrieve it since the queue for passport check and visa takes some time.

Arrival Hall Siem Reap Cambodia
Arrival Hall

Once we’ve done inside, we went to customs area and handed over the form to the officer. We tried to find our shuttle from the hotel but couldn’t find my name so we decided to buy a sim card first. The sim card seller is located on the right side from the exit. I bought the one from metfone because of what I read before I flew. It said metfone has the best coverage even in suburb area. The price is $3 for 7 days tourist sim card with 5 GB data. My friend bought cellcard sim card from the next shop because it was cheaper. Tourist sim card for 7 days was $2 with 1.4 GB data and 50 cents balance for call. At first, I thought I needed a lot of data and no need of phone balance but later that day I found out I was wrong…

Metfone tourist sim card Siem Reap Cambodia
Metfone tourist sim card

Once we got our sim cards, we went back to exit area to look for our driver. This time we found him! A guy name Bun Rong held my name on the paper. He introduced himself to us. His english is really good! We walked to the gate where he asked s to wait for him there while he picked his tuktuk. We called it tuktuk because it’s easier. The vehicle is called remorque in Cambodia. Hence, there is remorque tour.

I was excited to ride it! It can fit 4 adults and less shaking than Thailand’s tuktuk.

Mr Bun Rong and his tuktuk
Mr Bun Rong and his tuktuk

Riding a remorque in Siem Reap Cambodia
Riding a remorque!

Siem Reap city view

Siem Reap city view

We arrived at hotel 20 minutes later and proceed to lobby to check in. The staff explained many things but he has an accent when he speaks so we hardly understand what he said. I got better understanding at his English compared to my friend, maybe, because I’m used to Vietnamese speaking English with their accent as well. Even so, I missed some words too.. In short, he explained about the tour and how to reserve it. We told him that we want to see Angkor Wat for sunrise and he told us the normal price for tuktuk is $18 but since it is very early, there is a charge of $5 (so total $23 for 8 hours tour, sounds reasonable!). He also told us that the hotel will prepare our breakfast in a box so we can carry it and eat it at Angkor Wat. Great service!

After all the explanation, he showed us our room at 2nd floor. Holy molly, the room is huge! We picked room with 2 twin beds and it is not two-single beds but two-queen beds! The bathroom also spacious, it has shower area on one side and a bathtub on the other side. They provide bath robe and slippers as well. A fridge, and a safety box. In one corner, there is a dressing table with a huge mirror. Really nice for a very good price!

We tried the safety box but it said error and nothing we could do so we called the reception to ask about it. The staff came to our room to check and he told us how to do it. I explained to him that we followed the instruction on the leaflet but still error but he insisted that we should try again later after 20 minutes. Fine. To be honest I didn’t like that respond but I let it go since we wanted to go out first. We were hungry and want to find some food!

The Amazing Residence Siem Reap Cambodia
The Amazing Residence

The Amazing Residence Siem Reap Cambodia
Lobby area

The Amazing Residence Siem Reap Cambodia
The room with 2-queen beds

The Amazing Residence Siem Reap Cambodia
View from our balcony, pool area

The Amazing Residence Siem Reap Cambodia
The bathroom

Our hotel is located near city center. The famous pub street is about 10 mins walk. Our destination that time was something else. I saw it on the app and it has good review so we were interested to try it. We walked with the help of google map and took some photos on the way. The road was busy and there is no pavement which made it hard for us to walk. The weather was nice at that time and it was almost sunset. After about 15 mins walking, we reached Genevieve, the restaurant that we wanted to try. Unfortunately, they were closed! 😦 We didn’t know there is a holiday going on at that time. We found another restaurant nearby but it was also closed. There is another restaurant, about 6 mins walking, called Wat Damnak which is also nearby. My friend suggested we call the restaurant first. This was what that phone balance for! I couldn’t call the restaurant because I didn’t have any balance on my sim card. Luckily, my friend’s 50 cents balance saved the day. She called the restaurant and found out they are open but they are fully booked for the night. Bummer.

We decided to walk back to city center and find something there. On the way, we saw a Cambodian restaurant in a guest house, named The Oasis Siem Reap, so we decided to try it. We ordered the curry, steamed amok fish and mango salad. For the drink, I ordered Cambodia Beer because what’s more refreshing than beer after a long walk 😀

The mango salad was good, fresh and a little sour. It has fish in it though. Curry was just so-so. It was very bland and the curry taste also very thin. Also, the chicken was very small pieces and less than 10 pieces (yes, I counted it!). Amok fish was okay, a bit bland as well. In the end we didn’t satisfy with our food. I was still thinking that it might be because of the restaurant was not good enough. The total cost for two persons was $11.

We continued our journey to City Center and this time our destination was the famous Pub Street. It took about 10 minutes to reach the Siem Reap old market area. There are a lot of shops on the side of the street selling Cambodian handcraft, souvenir, massage, snacks, clothes, and many more. The streets are very vibrant and lively. And there we arrived at Pub Street! You won’t miss it. They put a big sign with lights on it. Cafes, bars, restaurants are there along the way. Even if you don’t like night life, you will still enjoy it. Okay, maybe for a shorter time. It actually reminded me of Pham Ngu Lao area in Ho Chi Minh City. Very busy and loud street but this one not as loud though.

There are some local restaurants that offer Cambodian Cuisine cooking class in the area. One of them is Khmer Family Restaurant. We went there to order cocktail because we were still full. My friend ordered Kampot Pepper Mojito and I ordered Passion Fruit Mojito. Somehow I couldn’t taste the alcohol in it. The prices for cocktail and alcohol in general is cheap though, especially compared to Singapore (well doh! lol).

Pub Street Siem Reap Cambodia Night time
Pub Street

Cambodian Landmine Survivors Donation Pub Street
Cambodian Landmine Survivors

Khmer Family Restaurant Siem Reap Cambodia
Khmer Family Restaurant

Cocktail Menu Khmer Family Restaurant Siem Reap
Cocktail Menu

Kampor Pepper Mojito and Passion Fruit Mojito
Kampor Pepper Mojito and Passion Fruit Mojito

After we finished our drink, we head back to hotel because we need to get up very early the next day. The pick up to Angkor Wat will be at hotel by 4.30am, which mean we have to get up at 3.30am at least. Eek! We really hope the sunrise and Angkor Wat really worth the effort…

Thanks for reading, continue on day 2!

Ciao!

Experience · Travel

A day in Chiang Mai (Doi Suthep Temple, Bhubing Palace, Night Safari)

After an ‘easy’ day (you can read here), the next morning we went to mountain area around 10 am with my friend. Before that, I went to a nearby market to find breakfast and bought a grilled pork skewer, then continue checking out the market area. It was a small market and a clean one too.

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I went back to the hostel first to eat the pork skewer. It was very delicious! Too bad I only bought 1 piece. And after I finished, my friend told me that they usually come with rice as well. Ugh.. missed a nice meal!

Around 10am, we left the hostel heading to mountain area. It took us around 1 hour to reach there. The best way to reach the mountain area is by motorbike or red car taxi. We went there with his car and it was hard to find a parking spot for the car. Very crowded with all the car parking around the area.

red car taxi chiang mai

Parking spot at Doi Suthep Temple

Doi Suthep Temple

Our first destination in the mountain was Doi Suthep Temple. There are many temples in Chiang Mai but this one is the most famous one. The entrance fee is 30 baht for a foreigner, and free for local. Before you enter the temple,  make sure you wear proper clothes. No tank top, No shorts, No mini skirts, etc. You don’t need to wear a long sleeve but you need to have a sleeve. For the bottom, need to be at least under your knee. Safer if you wear long pants or long skirts, but if you don’t have those clothes you can put on a scarf or borrow a cover from a counter there.

Doi Suthep Temple Entrance Area

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Climbing up to temple area

One of the building in temple area

View from Doi Suthep Temple
View from the top. It was foggy at that time 😦

Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai
Many visitors inside the temple area

I don’t know much about this temple since my friend can’t explain anything to us, but it is a very beautiful and magnificent temple. It has a great view of the city as well (if not foggy). There is an area where you need to take off your shoes and walk barefoot, and this area is the main hall of the temple. Many Thai people do a prayer or ceremony there. It can be very crowded in there so be careful of your belonging.

Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai
People pray in Doi Suthep Temple

Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai

Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai

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Doi Suthep Temple Chiang Mai
Pouring oil

Dragon Sculpture Stairs Doi Suthep Temple
Beautiful Dragon sculpture all the way down the stairs

On the way out, I saw one of the shops selling pork skin. Bought one bag pork skin with fish sauce for 60 baht.

Deep Fried Pork Belly in Fish Sauce

Royal Palace (Bhubing Palace)

Our next destination was Royal Palace of Chiang Mai called Bhubing Palace. It is located at the higher end of the mountain. We went up by car about 20-30 minutes and looked for a parking spot again. This time it wasn’t that bad. They have a parking area.

The weather there was cold for me! Luckily I brought my jacket. To enter the palace, we need to buy a ticket at the counter, 50 baht per person. For this palace, please wear proper clothes as well.

Once we entered the gate, the security guy asked us where are we come from. Then he ushered us to a lady who gave us a map and explanation of how to explore the palace based on the map.

Map of Bhubing Palace
Map of Bhubing Palace

This royal palace’s area is very huge. Make sure you’ve eaten before you visit it. I was hungry when I arrived there but thinking to just visit first for a short time. It wasn’t a short time in the end! We were inside for more than 1 hour and still have some areas which were not explored!

There are a lot of beautiful flowers. I love their giant rose. It was so big, as big as my face! (Nah, I’m exaggerating a bit… but it was really a big rose though). The buildings have a classic style. It is a very nice place to enjoy the nature and fresh air. You can easily spend 2 hours in that area.

I almost fainted when I exited the palace area. Too hungry! We immediately looked for food at nearby restaurants. No idea which one is good, we just went into the restaurant with most customers. The menu was on the table including the price. Luckily I was with my Thai friend so he read the menu for us. No English menu. We ordered Khao Soi, Laab Pork, and Pork Sausage. Khao Soi is one of the specialities in Chiang Mai, so you have to try it if you go there. I love it. It is a noodle dish with curry and chicken.

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When our order arrived, I just realized that I should haven’t ordered Laab Pork! I was so tempted to order because I only remembered how delicious is the minced pork meat dish. I forgot about one important detail… it is VERY spicy 😦 The Khao Soi was not bad for me, but for my Thai friend it was bad and expensive than the one in the city. Well, kind of expected for a restaurant at a tourist spot. The pork sausage was very spicy as well! It has chilli inside it. I couldn’t eat more than one. In total, our bill was 415 baht.

After lunch, we headed back to the hostel. At least that was my plan because my camera was out of battery and I needed to charge it first. My friend suggested us to go to Night Safari right away but I told him that I would go there by Uber later. Apparently, he wanted to not let us waste any time so he silently drove us there!

Night Safari

I love seeing animals and especially in Safari, and I’ve never been on a Night Safari before so this is very interesting for me. From the outside, it looks huge and beautiful. Very promising! To enter the safari, we had to buy a ticket at the counter. There are differences in the prices between local visitor and foreigner. For example, the price for set B Night Safari for a local is 300 baht, while for a foreigner is 800 baht. It is pricey! We bought set B. It includes night safari (savannah safari and predator prowl), jaguar trail (walking route), night predator show, and tiger show.

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Night Safari Chiang Mai Thailand

Main Stage Night Safari Chiang Mai

 

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Activities Show Time

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There is a timetable for each show so you better check it first and arrange how will you do the activities as efficiently as you can. The night safari has 2 routes at different places. The difference is at the type of animals shown there. Also, each route of night safari has 2 lines of queue, one has a Thai guide and the other one has English guide. Both start at 6.30pm. You can buy a basket of food to give to the animals as well before you enter the queue for the tram.

From my experience, you need to prepare some things before you do this night safari. First of all, you need a jacket because it’s gonna be very cold! Especially if you come from tropical country or city. The second thing, if you are like me who like taking photos, is a good camera for low light situation or just use it in video mode. I tried taking photo with my camera (after charging it with power bank) and it turned out bad. Couldn’t get a nice photo since the tram only stopped for a while and it kept moving so all the photos were blurry. I couldn’t use faster shutter speed due to my lens limitation, so I tried taking photos with my phone instead.

 

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Failed attempt at photographing a deer

 

The Jaguar Trail or the walking route is really nice. I like it. The things that annoyed me was the group of tourists who didn’t respect the rule. It is said to keep silent and not to speak loudly, but they just keep talking as if they were inside their house. Also, another rule is not to use flash when taking a photo, and they did… I was so annoyed that one time I told them not to use flash.  They didn’t care about the animals at all, it is just a show for them.

 

Speaking about a show, I watched Tiger Show because it is included in Set B as well. I don’t like it at all. The tigers and lions were skinny and they looked scared. While other visitors were enjoying the show, I just sat there quietly.

 

After finished watching and doing the night safari, we looked for dinner. There are food stalls in the middle area. We bought some snacks to share, pork mushroom (20 baht), roasted squid egg small (60 baht), roasted squid small (70 bath) and orange juice (35 baht). They were quite nice. We finished on time just before the water fountain started.

 

Water fountain on the schedule was at 8pm, but it didn’t start yet. There was a dancing show which was started at the same time, and it was at the main stage. Everyone went to the main stage area to watch the dancing show and I was too lazy and tired to see so I just waited for water fountain show.

It lasted quite a while and we didn’t wait until it finished. I ordered Uber and waited at the designated location. If you want to use Uber, the best meeting point will be near the entrance to parking lot, away from red car area. You need to walk a bit but it is better than waiting near Giraffe Restaurant. Total cost from night safari to our hostel was 177 baht.

Beautiful sculptures at Night Safari Chiang Mai
Deer water fountain

Night Safari Entrance at night
Night Safari Entrance

Evening Snack

Yup, we were hungry again once we arrived at the hostel. Therefore we walked to the food market nearby and bought some buns and mango sticky rice again (yeah! they were so good and cheap that I could eat it every day).

 

That was it! I hope it can help you organize your trip in Chiang Mai and itinerary on how to spend the day there. The next day we didn’t go anywhere because it was raining the whole day. But we did go to a delicious burger place for lunch and tried a famouse pork rice for dinner! I love staying in Chiang Mai 😀

Thank you for reading this post!

Ciao.

Experience · Travel

Traveler Information – London

I’ve just returned from a trip to London. Yes! London. As you have read on my previous post about how to apply visa to UK, finally that day has come!

London is a HUGE city! I was confused by how to make my itinerary there because I didn’t know any area in the city. I got help from some friends who lived there before, so that was convenient. They pointed out some places to go and I marked it on my google map app. I also did some researches on website. One of the them that I used more was the official visit London website. They have many things to learn about your trip to London. Although some are confusing until I arrived there and tried it myself.

If you’re too lazy to read that link and wonder how did I do my trip, keep reading. Psst, it’s easier to understand 😉

What currency should I bring?

London uses Poundsterling (£) as currency. You can either have it before your trip or after you arrived there. I always bring USD whenever I traveled, and exchange it to local currency on destination’s departure hall. So for this time, I brought some USD as usual and exchanged it to GBP (£ ) at airport. At Hearthrow terminal 2, there are 2 money changer. They are from the same company, which is Travelex. Their rate is pretty bad though. For my trip, 1 GBP = 1.43 USD, while on online listed 1 GBP = 1.27 USD. Such a big difference! But I still recommend you to do it there. First, it is easy and convenient. Second, if you exchanged more than USD500, no commission fee. And lastly, if you have leftover £, you can exchange it back to USD with same rate by showing the receipt. They gave me receipt on paper and via email.

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Where to buy a Prepaid Simcard?

Okay, this one is important. Everyone wants internet haha. There are many fending machine at airport selling simcards. How cool is that?! A simcard fending machine. If you want to buy there, select vodafone or lycamobile or 3. And not more than £20. It depends on how long is your trip as well. But for £20 you can get internet access for a month period. So if you’re staying less than a month, it would be more than enough.

There is a booth as well where you can buy a simcard with internet package included. I was interested to buy there but I saw the price was not reasonable (more than £20), with a very minimum package of internet data. So I waited until I reached my hotel before buying a simcard.

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If you want to buy it in the city, try finding a Tesco (or Tesco Express). It is a supermarket and they have prepaid simcard. I bought mine at Tesco Express. £0.99 for cards only. Then I bought a top up voucher there as well, for £20. The guy at the shop might not know how to activate the package. But don’t worry, just connect to wifi and go to the provider website, and follow the instructions there. I bought simcard from Lycamobile, you can read it here on how to activate the data package.

How to Reach my Hotel if I don’t have any internet connection yet?

This was what happened to me as well. I didn’t have any connection on my phone. And trying to connect to wifi at airport was taking too long (then failed in the end..). But I wasn’t worried because I have been searching the route to reach my hotel before my departure. I took some screenshots on my phone on all possible route with train. I didn’t want to take taxi or Heathrow Express. So tube train was my only option.

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Citymapper route

I downloaded Citymapper app on my phone. It is available for both iPhone and Android. For London, it is easy to use this because it is listed as one of the city. This app doesn’t have some cities. Only big cities in the world. Changed your city to London, then find your way from Heathrow to hotel. Take some screenshots on every possibility (not too many though! Or else you’ll get overwhelmed or confused by it lol). Once I arrived in London, I opened the screenshots and followed the fastest route (less stations to reach my hotel). I went to ticket machine and bought a one way ticket to nearest tube station from my hotel (it was Tower Hill). The ticket price was £6. It would be cheaper if I used Oyster Card ( I will explain about this on next section below).

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One-way tube ticket

Another way to reach city from airport is by Heathrow Express. They claimed to be faster than tube train or taxi, which is true but not by far actually. You can buy the ticket online or on the spot. For on the spot ticket, it was £27.

The last resort to reach your hotel is by taxi. They are the easiest but most expensive way to reach your hotel. For my case, it would be around £70. Or you can use Uber as well which is much cheaper, would be around £40. These rates were from estimation on google map. It could be higher as well depends on the traffic.

It takes almost 1 hour to reach my hotel from airport by taxi, which is about the same if I take train. That is another reason why I choose train. About the same time to reach hotel but a lot cheaper!

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Piccadilly Line from Heathrow Airport

But after I rode the train, I found out that the train was narrow and was packed with people along the way to my destination. So if you have a big suitcase, you might want to find a place in the corner to make it easier for others (and to not getting on people’s nerve..). Also it would be easier for you to get off of train. I sat on the seat with my suitcase in front of me, and it was hard for people to pass by (and for me to get to the door). I got up to reach area nearer to door 2 stations before my first destination.

Another thing you need to consider is how many time you will change the line. If your hotel is located near one of station on Piccadilly Line, it is easy. Mine wasn’t at it. I needed to change line to reach my final destination. So it was not much a hassle. If you are unlucky though, you can get off at station without elevator, stairs all the way to exit. I have no idea which station has no elevator. I only know Tower Hill has it 😀

How to get around in London?

One thing I like about big city in a developed country is they have a really good public transport system. London is one of them. It is very easy to get around in the city. There are many ways you can take :

Taxi

The easiest and the most expensive transport in the city. Some area will cost you a lot if you take taxi, because of the bad traffic. Area around Westminster Bridge to Westminster Abbey is always busy. There are 2 type of taxis in city, the normal taxi (fit about 4-5 persons) and large taxi (it fit up to 8 persons). Their rate also different, the large one is more expensive.

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Tube (Underground Train)

Tube is a convenient way to travel around the city. Their routes cover most of the place in the city especially for visitors. To ride a tube, you need to buy a ticket or oyster card or travel card. This one I read it before on visitLondon website. Rest assured I’m gonna suggest you which one you should buy. My friend suggested me to buy 7-day travel card for zones 1-2 because there are where all the attractions mostly at. From the website, I read about Visitor Oyster Card and I tried to buy it before my departure date (because it is said you can only buy it via online and not in London). Sadly, they don’t deliver to Vietnam. So I was thinking to get a travel card instead once I was there.

For zones 1-2 and 7-days travel card, it costs £38. I arrived on Wednesday and would leave on Monday. Not exactly 7 days but I thought still okay. When I was about to buy it, I saw a notification paper next to the machine, where they encouraged people to buy Oyster card (pay as you go) because there is no limit on the usage per day. I thought travel card was like that, wasn’t it?! In the end I bought Oyster Card. And after using it during my trip, I highly recommend it! Buy Oyster Card when you travel to London.

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You can download the map first to your phone. Or if you are using Citymapper app like me, you don’t need to carry map. Another thing to be considered is walking tube map. It provides you on how long will you take to walk between the tube station. And why is it important? Because some stations are very far to reach the train. Sometime it takes the same amount of time to reach the train and to reach the next station. So, you can plan ahead which mode of transport are you gonna take.

How to ride a tube : If you have experience with subway system in big city, it won’t be a problem with you so you can skip this part. When you entered a station, tap your oyster card and wait until the light turned green and the portal opened. If you have ticket, put it inside a slot, and take it at top side of the gate, then you can enter the portal. Do not forget to take your ticket because you will need it to exit the station on your destination. For oyster card, tap again on the gate once you reached your destination. So, tap > enter > find your train > get on on the train > get off > tap > exit station.

How to buy Oyster Card : Oyster Card can be purchased at any tube station. There are 2 types of machine, small and big. The small one only accept card and coin, and doesn’t give change. You need exact amount of money, or else the leftover won’t be returned to you. The big one accepts anything (coins, notes, card). On the machine, press “Next Customer” if it is not the main page. There is a split screen on main page. On the right side, pick new oyster card. Then pick how much money you want to be in it. They will charge £5 for the card. And later on you can return the card and get your money back before your departure from London.

How to Top-Up Oyster Card : On main menu, choose top up oyster card on the right side. Then tap your oyster card on the machine. Pick how much you want to top up. Lastly, tap your oyster card at the machine again, and it’s done. Very easy.

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Boats (River Bus)

I only tried this one time during my stay. I traveled from Tower Hill pier to Embankment Pier. I could traveled with train as well, but decided to take this boat just to try. The one-way ticket was £8 per person. Quite pricey indeed. We went to the waiting line with a bunch of people there who wanted to go to the same direction. The boat was big and convenient. It has a small shop that sells snacks and drinks. We (the boats) stopped by at several piers before we reached our destination. You can use oyster card to ride this as well (the reason we bought one ticket was because we haven’t had enough credits on our card haha).

Bus

Bus is one of my favorite public transport. You can only ride a bus with oyster card (and easiest way anyway). When you get on on a bus, tap Oyster Card on the machine and take a sit. The bus will have announcement of which number is it and where is it heading when you boarded it. If you want to stop on next station after they announced it, press the “Stop” button nearby. When the bus reached your destination, the driver will open the door and you can get off the bus. No more tapping! I was confused when I first ride it haha, apparently for bus in London they charge flat rate everywhere! £1.5 for each ride everywhere.

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Inside the bus in London

Bicycle

There are many bike for rent in the city. We didn’t try it. But I saw one of the machine, and you can pay with bank card. To read more information about it, you can check out their website.

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A bus and bike docking station.

Cable car

If you want to travel between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks, then you should try Emirates Air Line Cable Car. It is said to have a magnificent views over East London. We didn’t go to those areas so we didn’t have a chance to try it. If you want to read more about it, check here.

Walking

London is a nice city to walk around. If you plan to walk far, make sure to wear a comfortable shoes and don’t bring too many stuff on your bag. I walked so much there that my feet sore… On 2nd day of my stay, my friend was visiting me from another city, so we walked around the city (rode train in between). I checked my step counter that day and it was 28.942 steps! But I really enjoyed it 🙂

How to pay on Self Check Out in supermarket?

This is for just in case you go to local Supermarket like we did 🙂

I never done this before. Coming from Vietnam and Indonesia, I haven’t seen something like this. But I guess there is always something to learn when you travel!

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We were at Sainsburry’s local supermarket, buying some snacks. We didn’t bring any bag, so we just clicked on “Start”. Then we scanned our item one by one. Each time we finished with scan, we needed to put the item on the metal area. After we finished scanning all of them, the machine asked if we want a plastic bag for 5 pences. We didn’t take it because it was still manageable with my bag. And finally we had to pay for it. This machine accept every payment; coins, bank notes, cards. Very convenient!

How to get tax refund in London?

No, I’m not gonna buy anything in London. Really?? Even I didn’t think that! I knew I’m gonna buy something there. Therefor I need to know about the process for tax refund. What you should know about tax refund in London are : 1) not all shops participating in this scheme; 2) different shop will have different minimum purchase condition. Make sure to ask the shop attendant about this. I had an experience where the shop attendant didn’t know the minimum purchase condition but she gave me tax refund form. It was more than £100 though.

These are the step by step on how to claim tax refund : 1) Ask for tax refund / tax free form; 2) The shop will need to put signature and stamp on it, so make sure your form has it; 3) Before leaving to airport, fill in the details on form and sign it; 4) At the airport, go to tax refund claim BEFORE checking-in your luggage. If your total purchase is more than £5000, then you can do it after check in (that was what I understood from the officer, but better check it again here); 5) Present your goods to the officer and they will check all the form, passport and boarding pass; 6) They will pay you the tax minus administration fee in currency other than GBP. I chose USD instead.

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The queue at tax refund office

If you want to get your tax refund, make sure to arrive at airport at least 3 hours before your flight.

How much should I give for a tip?

Tipping is unusual for me, that is why I liked it in Netherlands when they don’t normally give a tip 😀 In London, tipping is ‘optional’. Most restaurants put it as service charge included on bill (some put it as ‘optional’ under your total spending, which is a bit awkward if you don’t pay that..). Few of others don’t put it on the bill but it will be at the machine when you pay with card, then you can choose how much you want to add as a tip for them. The average service charge in London is 12.5%. It is quite high, but overall their services were great.

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Example of service charge on receipt

 

Should I buy ticket (shows, trains, attractions) on the spot or online?

Online. Plan your trip and find everything on internet, from musical shows, train tickets to another city, madame tussauds, warner bros studio, etc. Everything is better to do via online booking. Some tourist attractions need you to queue to buy their ticket. Come early if needed.

What if I have another question that is not listed here?

Then ask the receptionist at your hotel or Google 😀 I put everything that I know and experienced here. Hopefully this can help you and your upcoming trip.

Most importantly, enjoy the city! Explore, Experience.

Extra tips! If you’re planning to take picture of Tower Bridge, do it in the afternoon before sunset. If you joined a tour though, it will be tricky since they usually go to that area in the morning to visit Tower of London.

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Tower Bridge at sunset

Extra tips #2! If you want to take picture of Tower Bridge on sunrise, you can do it at London Bridge. The view will be Tower Bridge with sun in the background.

I will post about places to go in London soon! Until then, ciao!