AdventureNotes #27: London (again!)

It’s been a while! After more than a year, I finally have the spirit to update my website. Back with AdventureNotes as I have been inspired by travel vloggers. This is a trip that I did in 2016 during spring. And again, it’s London!

London is a city that I visited – and would like to visit – over and over again. Yes, you can’t get enough of it. This time, I went to London because of visa stuffs. I wanted to apply for a schengen visa for my trip later to Spain. My husband and I decided to stay in London for a few nights just because we wouldn’t want to miss spending days visiting places in London.

Day 1

We went, I think, in around April/May. Having a trip in Spring is perfect because the weather is nice, the flowers are blooming, and the day is neither too short nor too long. We decided that on our first day, we will visit Greenwich area. Who don’t know Greenwich? I think it is a vocabulary that you will come across at school. That is the place where the 0 longitude lies. It is located rather in the south east of the City of London, and you can take the DLR or tube to get there. From central London, you will pass so many modern office buildings, which is really nice and also different from the old-style London touristy places. There’s also other alternatives, such as bus and cable car. Yes, if you are interested, you can take the Emirates Cable Car to cross the River Thames and get to Greenwich area.

Getting down in Cutty Shark station, you can walk straight to the Greenwich Royal Observatory. However, we wanted to take a longer route and went near the river instead. We walked to Cutty Shark, which is a kind of monument made of a real ship. You can come into the place with a certain fee. However, my main goal was to go to the Royal Observatory. Therefore, we skipped that and walked along the street to the Greenwich Pier. From the river bank, we can go inside the University of Greenwich area. The most popular view from the University of Greenwich is its Old Royal Naval College building. It is a part of the Maritime Greenwich, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site (I just knew this!). We didn’t come inside as we don’t have that much time – and part of the complex is not open for public. We walked through to the National Maritime Museum to get access to the Greenwich Royal Observatory complex.

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Greenwich Royal Observatory is actually located within the Greenwich Park. We needed to walk through quite elevated road to get there. It was around 10-15 minutes walk from the National Maritime Museum, crossing the park. It was a fun walk and up there, not even inside the Royal Observatory, you can see a beautiful view of the Old Royal Naval College and the River Thames.

It was not cheap, but for the sake of fulfilling our curiosity, my husband and I decided to splurge on some more money to get inside the Greenwich Royal Observatory. The ticket price is 10 per person for adult. We got in and explored the complex. The Greenwich Royal Observatory consists of several buildings. We can come inside each building and go up to the observatory. The visit was educational and the highlight was the Prime Meridian. There is a planetarium as well there, but we didn’t have a chance to visit it (extra fee!).

Finished with the visit to Royal Observatory, we opted to visit the National Maritime Museum. It was an unplanned visit, but we got attracted by the whole exhibition in the museum. As most museums in the UK, the visit to this museum is free of charge (except for the special exhibition). There are so many things to see and there is also a great children area. We went around and fully covered the whole exhibition before going out to see the Greenwich Market.

Greenwich Market is a so-called historic market in London. The area is full of small shops, selling many things from clothes to crafts. There are also food stalls there. At the time we visited the place, it was very crowded, with so many people queueing for food. The price of the food ranges from GBP 5-10. We decided to have a little snacks before leaving the market as we planned to have lunch elsewhere.

The rest of the day was spent to eat lunch (this best eating spot – at least for us – in London called Noodle Stop near Piccadilly) and to meet friends. Tired with all of the luggage and everything, we ended our day by resting in our pre-booked hotel room. Again, we chose to stay in Easyhotel. It is a hotel chain that has properties in many cities and it always has a great offers. The first time we were in London, we stayed in Easyhotel Victoria with only GBP 25 per night. This was such a deal – keeping in mind that it was Christmas and holiday season! This time, we booked a room in Easyhotel South Kensington. We chose this place because it is close to tube station and many attractions. We paid GBP 38 for a night and we stayed for 3 nights. The room was super small, but it is enough if you really want to spend the days travelling and visiting places and only use the room to rest. What prime is its location with Easyhotel. All super central and really close to everything.

Day 2

We went out pretty early in the morning to apply for Schengen Visa. We finished quite early, around 10 am. We got back to the hotel to put documents away and planned out itinerary for the day. We originally wanted to visit the Natural History Museum, which is very close to our hotel. However, the queue was super long, reaching to the underground station. We skipped that plan and opted to walk to the Knightsbridge area. There are mostly shops and shopping mall in Knightsbridge – yes, Harrods is there. We didn’t spend too much time there and decided to visit another museum in London. We went to the Museum of London. It was such an interesting museum with loads of information, mostly about London. The exhibition areas are divided based on era, starting from the ice age to the current modern days. I got to learn about the London great fire, how it was in the Victorian age, and how it is today. Cool.

After that, we searched for interesting places near the museum. Finally, we found that Leadenhall Market is not too far away. On this day, we chose to go around by bus as we have plenty of time. We got off the bus a bit far from the market as we wanted to explore the surrounding area. We walked pass the Bank of England (they have a museum, too!), London Troops War Memorial, and Social Stock Exchange. The Leadenhall Market is not too far from there. What do we do in the market? Well, in my opinion, it is mostly about the architecture. It is unique and I think one of a kind. There are shops and restaurants, but not too much of a choice. After exploring the whole market, we hopped on a bus and basically just wandered around London, going where the bus took us.

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We went back to our hotel area and tried to explore the neighborhood. South Kensington is a quite famous neighborhood in London. It is known as one of the most exclusive real estate area and the buildings are really nice. We particularly were interested in the small shops around the Natural History Museum. There is this small bookshop with amazing collection. I couldn’t stop myself and bought quite a lot of books! Yes, the next day’s travel back to Birmingham would be heavy.

Day 3

This was our last day in London (and now I know that it was our last visit during our year in the UK). We only had the morning as our train leaves at 2.00 pm. After having breakfast in the hotel (nah, we bought our own food), we checked out and went to visit Camden area. I’ve always wanted to know the area since I watched this movie when I was in middle school. Now I already forgot the movie, but I’ve always wanted to go there. So this day was THE day.

Camden Market is located rather in the north of London. It was a huge complex with many crafts and food stalls. What they sell in the market is similar from one to another, and coming from Indonesia (where the crafts are beautiful), I didn’t really find an interesting stuff here. What was tempting was the food. There are so many food stalls with so many choices. There are foods from all around the world, I guess. However, it was nowhere near lunchtime and we were still full. We just walked around the market and the area. Again, we decided to take the bus back home. What interesting was that there are so many shops too outside the market. The road was just full with sellers, many of those sell London souvenirs. People say that the souvenirs here are quite a bargain and lots of tourists come here to buy gifts for their loved ones at home.

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Overall, it was such a relaxing and fun visit to London. We didn’t have that much in our itinerary, but for me, it was more enjoyable. Well, again, it was not enough. I don’t know how much more visit that I have to make to London until I see the whole thing. Anyways, see you next time, London!


AdventureNotes #26: Peak District

Edensor, Peak District

Most of my AdventureNotes talk about traveling to cities (except if you consider Hull not as a city, haha!). This time, I will share my experience traveling to villages. I think around February, I got a chance to visit Peak District. It is an area categorized as one of National Parks in the UK. It is located to the north of Birmingham, just beside Sheffield. If you love the greens and nature, you will sure love it here.

It is not easy to reach this place. First of all, Peak District is big! There are various villages and green areas included in this district. Therefore, you have to be specific as in where you want to go to. As an Indonesian, we (yes, I visited the place with some of my friends) are inspired by a novel written by Andrea Hirata that is titled Edensor. Indeed, Edensor is the name of a village in Peak District. We don’t know why he chose that title for the novel, but it is legendary. We decided to visit the village as our main destination and then explore the surrounding area later on. So how did we manage to get into the village? By car. There is access by public transportation, but the service is scarce. You have to go to Sheffield first, and then take a bus to somewhere near Edensor. It is even more scarce in the weekend.

Actually, it was my first time experience renting a car to go somewhere in the UK. The process is not difficult and we can do it online. My husband just had to collect the car in the appointed place (usually airports) on the allocated time and to return the car also at the allocated time. We paid a little bit more for the insurance because it ‘safeguard’ us from further claims from the car rent company if something happen to the car. As a common policy here, we take the car with full tank of fuel and we have to return it in the same condition. So, don’t forget to calculate these costs when you are comparing the price of renting a car and of taking a public transportation. Oh! One more thing. We can use our Indonesian driving licence here as we have been living in the UK for less than a year. If you have lived in the UK for more than a year, you have to apply for the local driving licence.

The journey from Birmingham to Edensor should take around 1.5-2 hours. We took longer time because we got a bit lost. The intersections in UK is just confusing! Haha. Starting our journey from Birmingham at 7, we finally arrived at Edensor at around 10. The journey was pleasant and the surroundings and ambience was really different when we start coming into the Peak District area. It was just green and beautiful. Finding a parking space is not too difficult there. There is one big parking area near the Cathsworth House, but we chose to park just along a street in the Edensor Village. Edensor Village is a very small area that consists of maybe around 20 houses. It has only one main street, a church, and a tea house. At the end of the main road, there is a huge green area for farming. We explored the village, came inside the greenery area and enjoyed the view.

Having had enough of the village, we then walked across the road to a park. I think the name is Cathsworth Park. The view from the park onlooking the Edensor Village is even more beautiful. We seriously thought that it was the place where the inspiration for the book cover was. We endlessly took pictures there. Walking through the park, the scenery was amazing. At one end, we could see the Cathsworth House. It is the house for the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Nowadays, it is open for public, exhibiting numerous art collections. We can also visit the farm, garden, and annual Christmas event there. Unfortunately, at the time we visited the area, the house was closed for renovation. It was such a shame. I would love to see the inside of the house as the outside is so grand!

After having a picnic near the house, we just drove around the Peak District area. There are many little villages and the so-called towns. The villages are not far from each other. Again, it is all about the beauty of a country-side. We drove to a high point in Buxton. Climbing up to the hills, we can see such a beautiful scenery. Along the way, we saw many cyclists. I think it is a popular area for outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, and motorbiking. What’s interesting is that with that contour (steep hills and slopes), the outdoor activities are really for everyone. I mean, we saw kids with their parents, and even senior citizens doing the same activity. Gosh! How strong are they!
Anyway, the visit ended there. It was such a refreshing escape from the hustle bustle of a city. Peak District done, but I still have a long checklist to go. Maybe next, I will visit Lake District!

AdventureNotes #25: Liverpool

Liverpool is blue. I don’t know why but the two times I visited Liverpool, I was welcomed with great weather and the blue sky. Therefore, I associate Liverpool with blue. I don’t know a city with bluer sky than Liverpool. I just love it. In this article, I will share my experience visiting the city. It is such an interesting city so that I want to visit it again and again.

Going to Liverpool is quite easy. The city is accessible by train or bus. As it is a popular city, the train station is big and there are a lot of services from and to Liverpool. We can also go by bus as Megabus provides service to and from Liverpool to many cities around the UK. The last time I went to Liverpool from Birmingham and the journey takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. It was quite a pleasant journey. I arrived in Liverpool at around 9 so I could take my time to reach my destination.

In my opinion, Liverpool is not too big. At least the city center and the location of most attractions are within the walking distance. Therefore, I chose to just walk around the city. Well, at least the last time I visited. The furthest distance was covered in around 25 minutes. Not too bad, right? The first time I visited the city, I opted for the Hop On Hop Off bus. There are many tourist bus providers in Liverpool and it is quite an efficient way to explore the city in limited time. However, these two options may not be good enough for you if you want to visit the football stadiums. Anfield is located a little bit out of town so that you have to take the city bus to visit the place.

Liverpool is home of The Beatles. This legendary band was founded in Liverpool and all of the members are Liverpool boys. It is rather difficult to separate the fame of this city from The Beatles. For those who are hardcore fans, visiting this city is a must, along with entering The Beatles Museum. To enter the museum, we have to pay around GBP 30 admission fee. It is expensive, indeed. I would not recommend it if you don’t really like The Beatles or not interested in getting to know the band. However, for the fans, it is a worth visit. You can read stories of The Beatles, soaking at the atmosphere of the band, seeing the replica of the Tavern Pub where they first had they performance, etc. I must say that the museum is not boring at all and very attractive. Ah! And don’t forget to take a picture with the life-size The Beatles statues just in front of the Pier Head.

Keep calm, Liverpool is not just for The Beatles fans. It is also a city for football fans. There are two quite famous football teams in Liverpool, which are Liverpool FC and Everton. If you are a football maniac, visiting the stadiums of those clubs can be heaven. Similar to many football stadiums in the UK, the place is open for visitors and you can take a tour for some amount of money. I didn’t visit the stadium as I was not too interested in it and my husband is not a Liverpool fans. For you who want to know the stadium but is on a limited budget, you can always take a picture outside the stadium as there are also many players pictures and statues outside.

Still not too interesting? For me, Liverpool is a city with many museums that all are very interesting. One day is not enough to visit one museum in Liverpool. However, as I only went for a day trip, I had to cram two museums into one day. The museums I visited were Liverpool Museum and Maritime Museum. There is one other museum, which is World Museum. My favorite? Liverpool Museum, off course. The museum is not themed, but it is about Liverpool. I just love how everything is explained clearly and attractively. I felt like a child, there. I played around, read stories, experimented with things, and such. There are also two movies being played daily, one about The Beatles and one about football. There is also a repeated short movie about the movie industry in Liverpool. How nice! I really didn’t want to go out of that museum. My friend who lives in Liverpool said that it took him three days to finish the museum. I guarantee that you won’t be bored here and the image of traditional museum will vanish!

I also managed to visit Liverpool Maritime Museum. It mostly tells us stories about Lusitania and Titanic although there are also stories about warships. It is quite interesting to know the history of warships and megaships. On the top floor of the museum, there is a slavery museum. I forget the exact name for this museum. For me, this is even more interesting than the Maritime Museum. Haha. It tells stories about slavery, how it was and how it is now. Indeed, there are many forms of slavery and there is still implicit slavery all over the world. It is such an inspiring exhibition.

There is also a newly opened exhibition at the basement of the Maritime Museum building, which is about customs. As its name, the exhibition is about tax and customs and how illegal goods are transported from one place to another. It also highlights the danger of imitation goods to the economy and our health and daily functions. Interestingly, there is even an exhibition of imitation goods, such as shoes, bags, and electronics. I bet many Indonesian people’s goods deserve to be there. LOL.

Those museums are located very close to each other in the areas called Pier Head and Albert Dock. There is also Tate Liverpool gallery in Albert Dock. It is such a touristy area, an interesting one. I really like the ambience in Albert Dock, such a unique and beautiful place. Nearby, just across the road from Albert Dock, there is a shopping district. There is one unique shopping place called Liverpool One. It is like an outdoor shopping center. If you like to shop, it may be a good idea to visit this place and wander around the shops.

For me? I’d rather go to other attractions, such as Liverpool Cathedral and Metropolitan Cathedral. I love to stroll on the small alleys with unique shops and cafes. What a lovely city! You can certainly visit the cafes and the independent shops. They are one of a kind. I was also determined to eat fish and chips there as cities nearest to the sea always have the best seafood. Indeed, the fish and chips is sooooo delicious! The best one I’ve ever had in the UK, I must say.

Liverpool has it all. Good place, good attractions, good people, and good food. Do visit the city and experience it by yourself.

Home Away from Home: Daily Life (1)

Setelah berbagai hal yang cukup ‘ribet’ dan terdengar ‘serius’ kami jelaskan di artikel-artikel sebelumnya, sekarang kami akan berbagi pengalaman mengenai kehidupan sehari-hari di UK. Topik ini akan kami bagi menjadi dua artikel karena pembahasannya yang cukup panjang (atau memang kami yang terlalu excited berbagi pengalaman?). Di bagian pertama ini, kami akan membahas dunia belanja-perbelanjaan (maklum ya, dependant memang tugasnya tidak jauh-jauh dari belanja) dan tentang makanan halal bagi Muslim di UK. Dalam artikel ini, belanja yang  kami bahas adalah khusus untuk barang-barang kebutuhan sehari-hari yaa.. Sedangkan belanja barang lain, seperti baju, tas, kosmetik, dan lain-lain, akan tergantung selera dan budget masing-masing.


Belanja kebutuhan sehari-hari

Berbelanja di UK rasanya tidak jauh berbeda dengan di Indonesia. Apalagi, sekarang tekah banyak supermarket di Indonesia yang juga menjual barang-barang impor sehingga kita tidak asing lagi dengan barang-barang ber-label asing. Seperti halnya di Indonesia, terdapat banyak sekali jenis supermarket yang menawarkan barang dan harga sesuai dengan target market mereka, mulai dari yang harganya mahal hingga murah. Bagi yang pernah tinggal di Jakarta, mungkin tahu bedanya berbelanja di Foodhall dan di Tiptop – beda barang yang ditawarkan dan juga beda (jauh) harganya, ya.

Untuk kelas harga menengah ke atas, ada dua jenis supermarket yang cukup populer di UK, yaitu Waitrose dan Sainsbury. Kedua supermarket ini menawarkan produk-produk prime dan groceries yang fresh dan berkualitas sangat baik. Intinya, ada harga ada barang. Sainsburry ini termasuk supermarket yang gerainya menggurita ke hampir seluruh pelosok UK, mulai dari toserba lengkap dengan warehouse dan mini cafe nya hingga Sainsburry local yang hanya berupa minimarket. Signifikan kah perbedaan harga yang ditawarkan oleh kedua supermarket ini? Tidak juga. Kira-kira perbedaan harga maksimalnya adalah 1 GBP (jangan dikonversi ke rupiah yaa, di sini jumlah tersebut adalah perbedaan harga yang masih bisa ditoleransi). Kalau harganya agak mahal, lalu adakah yang belanja di Sainsbury atau Waitrose? Ya tentu saja ada. Mengingat kualitas barang yang sangat baik dan kadang-kadang ada promosi atau diskon, banyak juga warga Indonesia yang berbelanja di Sainsbury dan Waitrose. Bahkan, Sainsbury berani memberikan garansi uang kembali atau menurunkan harga barangnya apabila pembeli dapat membuktikan bahwa kualitas barangnya sama dengan yang ditawarkan oleh supermarket lain dengan harga lebih murah. Wah, ternyata berbelanja kebutuhan sehari-hari di kedua supermarket di atas cukup menguras dompet.

Mau alternatif yang lebih murah? Ada ASDA dan Tesco. Kedua brand ini menawarkan harga tengah untuk barang-barang yang mereka jual. Selain itu, keduanya adalah jenis supermarket PALUGADA (apa lu mau, gue ada). Yak! Mulai dari mie sedap sampai seragam sekolah dan laptop pun dijual di ASDA dan Tesco (online atau di Tesco dan ASDA Extra). Untuk Tesco, ia pun memiliki varian dari toko yang sangat besar (Tesco Extra) hingga ke minimarket semacam Alfamart (Tesco Express). Kedua merek supermarket ini sangat populer di UK dan sangat mudah mendapatkan barang-barang kebutuhan sehari-hari disana.

Oh ya, untuk keempat supermarket yang telah disebutkan diatas, ada juga promosi harian yang ditawarkan. Setiap sore atau malam hari, mereka me-reduce harga produk makanan segar, seperti sayur, buah, dan daging. Mengapa? Karena produk-produk tersebut sudah hampir ada di batas kadaluarsa. Apa? Produk itu ada kadaluarsanya? Ya, hal ini memang tidak lazim di Indonesia. Wong sudah lama saja masih dipakai memasak, yang penting belum busuk. Hahaha… Namun, hal ini tidak diterapkan di UK. Regulasi mengenai makanan cukup ketat. Oleh karena itu, sayuran, daging, dan buah-buahan pun memiliki masa kadaluarsa, dimana biasanya tercetak tanggal kadaluarsa di tiap label atau kemasannya. Adanya barang reduce ini kadang-kadang cukup membantu karena kita dapat membeli kebutuhan sehari-hari dengan harga yang lebih murah.

Golongan supermarket ketiga adalah supermarket kelas ‘mahasiswa’. Mengapa namanya begitu? Karena harganya pun pas dengan kantong mahasiswa. Contoh supermarket kelas ini adalah ALDI dan LIDL. Kedua supermarket ini menawarkan barang yang sedikit lebih terbatas, tetapi dengan harga yang sangat murah. Biasanya, para mahasiswa (termasuk keluarganya seperti kami-kami ini) banyak berbelanja kebutuhan sehari-hari disini. In the name of pengiritan, memang berbelanja di supermarket ini merupakan cara jitu untuk menekan pengeluaran. Apalagi, untuk mahasiswa yang membawa serta keluarga ikut tinggal di sini, selisih harga yang tadinya tidak material akan terasa cukup signifikan bila dikalikan jumlah anggota keluarga, hehehe..Tetapi lagi-lagi, prinsip ada harga ada barang pun berlaku. Jangan harapkan barangnya dalam kondisi prime atau rasanya sangat enak, kualitasnya pun tidak sebagus di supermarket yang sudah dibahas terdahulu. Selain itu, memasuki musim panas, sayuran yang dijual pun kadang-kadang sudah hampir tidak bisa dimasak atau sudah dalam kondisi harus segera dimasak. Ya, semua ada trade off nya. Khusus untuk LIDL, supermarket ini juga menawarkan fresh bakery yang super enak! Jadi, jangan lewatkan mencoba fresh bakery disini, dijamin ketagihan (malah promosi).

Selain supermarket-supermarket yang telah disebutkan, ada juga berbagai jenis toko yang menjual barang-barang kebutuhan dengan harga miring. Misanya, Poundland (serba 1 pound), Home Bargain, dan B&M Bargain. Toko-toko tersebut hanya sedikit menjual makanan segar, tetapi lebih banyak makanan kaleng atau kering, snack, barang kebutuhan sehari-hari, seperti sabun, sampo, alat masak, kebutuhan untuk bersih-bersih, dan barang-barang kebutuhan taktis lainnya, mirip toko kelontong di Indonesia mungkin ya, hehe. Ada juga toko-toko spesialis makanan beku, seperti Heron Foods, Iceland, dan Farmfoods. Biasanya, harga makanan beku di toko-toko spesialis ini lebih murah. Nah, khusus untuk toko-toko yang disebutkan di paragraf ini, sepertinya mengecek dan membandingkan harga sangat diperlukan karena walaupun banyak barang yang ditawarkan dengan harga murah, ada juga yang ternyata harganya lebih mahal daripada di supermarket biasa.

Jadi, di UK hanya bisa belanja di supermarket? Nggak ada pasar tradisional? Tenang saja, di beberapa kota, masih ada pasar tradisional kok, ada yang bentuknya di luar ruangan atau di dalam ruangan. Ada juga toko-toko kecil yang memang langsung menjual hasil kebun sendiri. Di Birmingham misalnya, ada outdoor market dan indoor market yang menjual sayuran, buah, dan daging segar. Harganya pun sangat bersaing dengan supermarket lho. Bahkan, di outdoor market kita bisa membeli sayur dan buah seharga 1 GBP saja untuk 1 bowl penuh. Rasanya seperti di surga! Eits, mau lebih murah lagi? Jangan lewatkan datang ke indoor dan outdoor market di atas jam 5 sore saat toko nya hampir tutup ya, karena hampir semua barang didiskon. Hanya dengan uang 1 GBP, kita bisa mendapatkan dua hingga tiga bowl sayur dan buah. Tawaran yang sangat menarik, kan?

Harga sayur dan buah di pasar tradisional murah. Lalu bagaimana dengan harga bahan pangan pokok seperti beras, minyak, dan telur? Sepanjang pengamatan dan pengalaman kami, harga makanan di UK cukup stabil. Kalau tidak salah, kenaikan harga bahan makanan terakhir terjadi di tahun 2013. Itu pun tidak terlalu signifikan (sekitar 5-10 pence) dan hanya berlaku pada produk tertentu. Harga beras dan minyak stabil dari tahun 2012, yaitu di 40 pence per kilo untuk beras dan 85-90 pence per 1.5 liter untuk minyak. Harga tersebut adalah harga ‘kantong mahasiswa’ di ALDI dan LIDL. Untuk mengetahui harga kebutuhan pokok secara lebih detail, silahkan cek ke website masing-masing.


Toko Khas Asia

Ketika kebutuhan makanan sehari-hari sudah tersedia secara luas di UK, bagi orang-orang Indonesia semacam kami ini, rasanya kok tidak puas ya, makan ala barat setiap hari. Tetap saja, banyak orang Indonesia mencari bahan makanan yang familier dan ketika dimasak cocok di lidah. Banyak supermarket di UK memiliki Asian section. Disana, kita bisa mendapatkan bumbu khas Asia dan bahkan bumbu jadi (keluaran Malaysia atau Thailand). Namun, biasanya range produk yang ditawarkan masih terbatas. Lalu? Apakah harus kirim dari Indonesia? Tenang, di Inggris ada sangat banyak toko yang menawarkan produk khas Asia. Biasanya, toko-toko ini didominasi oleh produk Cina dan India/Pakistan. Oleh karena itu, kami biasa menyebutnya ‘toko Cina’ dan ‘toko India’. Salah satu toko Cina yang sangat besar dan ada di berbagai kota adalah Wing Yip. Apa saja barang-barang yang dapat dibeli di toko khas Asia? Banyak sekali! Tempe, tahu, berbagai jenis mie, buah kaleng, bumbu khas asia, gula aren (mirip gula jawa tapi warnanya tidak coklat gelap), bumbu dapur beku, berbagai jenis seafood beku, sambal dan kecap ABC, hingga cemilan-cemilan mulai dari yang tradisional sampai yang kemasan pabrikan semacam Hello Panda. Orang-orang Indonesia biasanya agak kalap kalau belanja disini. Rasanya seperti kembali ke negara sendiri. Hahaha. Di beberapa tempat pun ada yang menjual durian hingga ikan teri. Selain itu, ada juga toko Afrika dimana kita bisa membeli ikan asin, plantaine (pisang kepok), dan singkong. See? Hidup di UK tidak menderita kok! Asal mau usaha, ada saja toko yang menawarkan barang kebutuhan kita.

Bagaimana jika tidak ada toko khas Asia di kota Anda? Dengan kemajuan teknologi dan banyaknya diaspora Indonesia di UK, ada fasilitas online shop barang khas Indonesia. Sejauh ini, ada dua toko online yang cukup populer di kalangan masyarakat Indonesia, yaitu toko IndoPro dan Toko Gordon. Kedua toko ini memiliki akun di Facebook sehingga cukup mudah untuk diakses oleh siapa saja. Khusus untuk kedua toko ini, barangnya pun sangat khas Indonesia. Namun, kadang kita harus berebut memesan karena setiap barang tersedia hanya dalam jumlah terbatas. Ketika barang datang, secepat mungkin harus memesan. Selanjutnya, barang pesanan Anda akan dikirimkan melalui pos. Saran kami, karena biaya pengiriman cukup besar, lebih baik jika Anda memesan bersama teman-teman yang tinggal di kota yang sama. Dengan begitu, biaya pengiriman dapat ditanggung bersama sehingga lebih hemat.

Bicara mengenai harga, produk-produk khas Asia ini memang harganya lebih mahal. Jarang sekali ada satu barang yang harganya kurang dari 1 GBP (kecuali Indomie). Cukup menguras dompet juga kalau sering-sering berbelanja disini. Kalau harga produk beku dan kemasan mahal, maka harga produk segar, seperti sayur dan buah bisa dikategorikan sangat mahal. Suka sayur kangkung? Sayuran ini adalah barang mewah di UK. Bayangkan saja, dua ikat kangkung harganya lebih mahal dari satu ekor ayam. Atau anda kangen dengan sawi putih? Harga satu bonggol sawi putih pun setara dengan tiga kilogram beras yang biasa kami beli. Yak, penggemar kangkung, sawi putih dan sayuran khas asia mulai menangis (dompetnya). Sekali-kali bolehlah beli untuk mengobati kangen, hehehe..Intinya, bijaklah dalam berbelanja di toko Asia. Jangan sampai budget Anda kendor karena membeli barang-barang disini. Sebenarnya ada alternatif lain jika anda ingin lebih berhemat, misalnya dengan menanam sendiri sayur-sayur dan bumbu dapur, yaitu dengan cara menyisakan batang dan akarnya kemudian menumbuhkannya di media air dan atau tanah. Beberapa yang pernah kami temui dan berhasil ditumbuhkan kembali adalah kecambah, daun bawang (spring onion), kangkung, daun mint, dan daun seledri. Dengan begitu, anda dapat menghemat pengeluaran dan memiliki stok sayuran segar sewaktu-waktu dibutuhkan.


Makanan Halal

Kebutuhan makanan halal merupakan kebutuhan pokok bagi masyarakat beragama Islam, karenanya sangat penting untuk menentukan kehalalan makanan. Memasak sendiri adalah cara paling tepat untuk menjamin kehalalan makanan kita, karena kita dapat memastikan mulai dari bahan, cara olah, alat masak, dan alat makan yang tidak tercampur dengan zat yang tidak halal. Lalu banyak orang bertanya, susah nggak sih, mencari bahan makanan halal di UK? Tidak! Hampir di setiap kota, bahkan di beberapa cabang supermarket besar seperti ASDA dan Tesco, ada toko atau bagian yang menjual daging dan makanan beku halal. Jadi, kita tidak perlu puasa makan sosis, nugget, dan makanan olahan lain saat tinggal di UK. Banyak sekali produsen makanan beku halal di UK. Toko daging halal pun ada banyak sekali. Biasanya, toko-toko ini berada di pusat kota atau di area pemukiman muslim. Cari saja masjid, biasanya di sekitarnya ada toko barang-barang halal. Dengan banyaknya muslim di UK, maka  keberadaan toko bahan makanan halal pun tidaklah sulit untuk ditemukan. Indeed, kurma pun bukan makanan aneh disini. Murah pula harganya!

Selain daging-dagingan yang cukup jelas batasan halal-haram nya, kita harus cukup teliti dalam membeli barang tertentu untuk memastikan kehalalan suatu produk. Otoritas di UK cukup tegas dalam hal ini. Secara umum, kehalalan produk dan bahan makanan khususnya produk daging di UK dapat dilihat dari ada atau tidaknya sertifikat halal dari HFA (Halal Food Authority) dan HMC (Halal Monitoring Committee UK). Dengan adanya dua badan tersebut, warga muslim di UK dimudahkan untuk mencari tahu tentang halal tidaknya produk bahan makanan yang mereka konsumsi. Ada beberapa produk yang sudah mendaftarkan kehalalan produk sehingga tertera label halal di kemasannya. Meskipun begitu, masih banyak juga produk yang harus ditentukan kehalalannya dengan membaca keterangan bahan yang terkandung dalam produk tersebut. Salah satu indikasi yang mungkin dapat di jadikan guidance adalah apabila pada makanan kemasan tercantum ‘suitable for vegetarian’. MInimal, kita menjadi tahu bahwa produk tersebut terbebas dari kandungan bahan-bahan yang berasal dari hewan. Pengecekan bahwa makanan tidak mengandung alkohol dan zat aditifpun perlu dilakukan. Menjadi muslim di UK memang mengajarkan kami untuk lebih teliti dan berhati-hati, juga untuk semakin aware tentang kehalalan makanan.

Masih juga merasa kesulitan? Anda bisa dengan mudah mengecek apakah suatu produk halal dengan bertanya langsung pada penjaga toko atau kepada produsen barang tersebut. Mereka akan dengan senang hati membantu Anda. Sebagian besar masyarakat UK sudah memahami peraturan halal/haram bagi umat Islam sehingga Anda tidak akan disangka sebagai ‘alien’ ketika bertanya mengenai hal ini.

Selain berbelanja bahan makanan untuk dimasak sendiri, ada kalanya kita mungkin sedang  capek atau dilanda kebosanan, lalu muncul keinginan untuk makan di luar rumah bersama keluarga. Nah, kalau sudah begini kitapun harus memilih restoran yang halal, bukan? Untuk menemukan restoran halal di Inggris memang tidak selalu mudah, tetapi juga bukan hal yang sulit. Hampir sama seperti toko bahan makanan, jika anda ingin mencari rumah makan halal, maka datangilah area dimana komunitas muslim tinggal, maka biasanya dengan mudah anda dapat menemukannya. Selain itu, terkadang di lingkungan sekitar kampus dan pemukiman mahasiswa, banyak juga terdapat gerai makanan halal ini. Contohnya di Birmingham, banyak sekali tempat makan halal yang berlokasi di sekitar universitas dan pemukiman mahasiswa. Di Manchester, ada sebuah area yang dijuluki ‘Curry Lane’ saking banyaknya restoran India dan timur tengah disana. Karena kebanyakan penjualnya adalah warga timur tengah, maka jenis makanan yang dijualpun adalah seputar nasi biryani dan kebab. Bicara harga, anda perlu menyiapkan GBP 3-5 untuk seporsi makan, tergantung varian dan topping yang anda inginkan. Meskipun mayoritas rumah makan tersebut menempelkan logo halal, jangan kaget jika ada juga restoran yang menjual kebab tetapi tidak memiliki logo halal di gerai nya. Nah, kalau sudah seperti ini, penilaian halal-haram kembali kepada keyakinan diri masing-masing ya, hehe.

Jika anda bosan dengan menu makanan arab dan timur tengah, ada juga beberapa restoran cepat saji di UK yang menyediakan menu halal, KFC dan SUBWAY adalah contonya. Kedua restoran ini, merupakan franchise restoran cepat saji yang juga cukup familier di sini. Ada gerai KFC dan SUBWAY yang menyediakan menu halal di restorannya. Untuk KFC halal, mereka mengklaim bahwa semua makanan yang dijual adalah halal dan merekapun biasanya telah mengantongi HFA halal certificate. Sementara SUBWAY halal, ada yang semua makanannya halal, tetapi ada pula yang partially halal, dimana mereka menyediakan beberapa pilihan menu halal disamping menu non-halalnya. Wah? Kalau setengah menunya non-halal, berarti tetap tidak halal dong, karena ada kemungkinan kontaminasi? Well, peraturan mengenai pengolahan dan penyajian makanan di UK cukup ketat sehingga kontaminasi bahan makanan pun diperhatikan. Biasanya, restoran-restoran yang sudah mendapatkan label halal ini pun memiliki standar baik dari segi pengolahan maupun penyajiannya ke customer, sehingga makanan halal tidak akan tercampur dan terkontaminasi oleh makanan non-halal.


Meskipun kita tinggal di UK yang setiap pengeluarannya menggunakan pound sterling, tetapi jika kita tahu dimana harus belanja, bisa banget kok menghemat jatah bulanan. Tinggal di negara yang muslimnya minoritas pun, sebaiknya tidak dijadikan alasan untuk tidak memastikan kehalalan makanan yang kita konsumsi. Dengan tetap mencari informasi, berhati-hati dan selektif, maka mencari makanan halal tidaklah sesulit yang kita kira. Semoga cerita kami di atas dapat menjadi sedikit panduan berbelanja khususnya groceries dan daily stuff di Inggris ya.

Minggu depan, kita masih akan membahas seputar kehidupan sehari-hari di UK. Stay tuned!

AdventureNotes #24: Chester

Chester? Not Manchester? No, they are different cities. This time, AdventureNotes will be about Chester. Where is it? The city is actually located not too far from Manchester or Liverpool. It is rather small, but indeed such a beautiful one. As usual, this piece will be written based on my experience and further information from the official Chester tourism website,

I went to visit Chester at the end of March. My first destination was the Chester Zoo (, but having known that the city is also famous for its beauty, I allocated a little time to explore the city. However, indeed it is not enough. Chester is too interesting to be visited for only a few hours. I think a day should be okay, though. Here, I will describe my few hours in Chester.

So the first place I visited was the tourist information center. It is located at the center of the city, near the Grosvenor Shopping Center. As I arrived there quite late, 3.30 pm, there are not many places that are still open. Therefore, I decided to just see the city and walk along the Chester Wall.

In my opinion, Chester is a bit like York. The city center consists of small streets with old-style buildings. In Chester, the buildings are more into the Tudor style. You know, the white color on top with list of wood. It is very interesting to see those modern brands’ store in the old-style buildings. Very unique, indeed. There are many shops in Chester so that the city also proclaims itself as a paradise for retail therapy. If the shops in the city center are not enough for you, you can always go to Cheshire Oak Designer Outlet, a little but outside of the city for a cheap bargain of designer labels.


The city is surrounded by a wall, which is known as the most complete city wall in Britain. At one part of the wall, there is a gate called the Eastgate, which is famous for its clock. It is quite beautiful and has become a city icon. From there, we can also go up to the city wall and start our exploration.


After taking pictures near the clock, I went to the city wall and started walking around the city. First, we can see the Chester Cathedral. You can always visit the place for free, but from the outside, it is already majestic. The scenery is very beautiful from the city wall. I walked pass the Falconry and along a canal.  It was very calming. Alongside the wall, there are also some shops and tea houses. At that time, all of them were already closed, but during the day, it can be fun to have a cup of tea on the city wall.

At one point, I stopped for quite a long time to see how the canal system works. There was a boat wanting to pass by a water gate and the people on the boat had to come out, open the water gate and balancing the water level before the boat can pass by. It was such an interesting sight. I didn’t know that we should do that. What a good to know fact!

After we parted from the canal side, the wall turns to the horserace area. Chester is also famous for its race days. The area is just so big! There was nothing at that time, but the view was certainly mesmerizing. I feel that the whole city is just charming. At the end of the racecourse area, we can see the Chester Castle. The place is now used as the Cheshire Military Museum.

Passing the castle, I walked neat the university area on my left side. On the right is River Dee. Walking along the river side, we can see a meadow in front of a church on the other side of the river. With spring coming, the colorful flowers are just gorgeous. There are actually many things that we can do on the river side and on the river. There are people canoeing, you can take a boat trip, or just walk along the river, enjoying the scenery.


Passing the river side, the wall then makes it turns towards our starting point. However, before we arrive at the Eastgate, we will pass a Roman Amphitheater and some kind of Roman Garden. Then, we would have completed our walking on the city wall experience. It took me around an hour or so to get around the city wall. It is not boring at all because the city is indeed so very beautiful.

I wish I have another opportunity to visit Chester. I’d love to come inside the museums, watch the Town crier (a traditional ceremony of some kind of proclamation), and explore the shops. It is such a recommended place to visit and now is on my second most beautiful city in the UK!

Home Away from Home: Proses Aplikasi Visa bagi Dependant (2)

Setelah mempersiapkan berbagai persyaratan visa, tahap berikutnya adalah melakukan aplikasi visa. Berikut ini adalah penjelasan kami mengenai proses aplikasi visa.


Proses Aplikasi Visa

Bear yourself, kepeningan belum berakhir. Setelah mempersiapkan segala hal yang berkaitan dengan pengajuan visa, langkah selanjutnya adalah melakukan pengajuan visa. Proses aplikasi visa sendiri dilakukan secara online (bagian pertama) dan dengan datang ke visa application center. UKVI sendiri tidak secara langsung berhubungan dengan aplikan visa, tetapi menunjuk pihak VFS ( sebagai third party. Saat ini, terdapat tiga visa application center di Indonesia, yaitu di Jakarta, Bali, dan Surabaya (

Bagi Anda yang tidak berdomisili di kota-kota tersebut, sayangnya Anda harus mengeluarkan dana lebih untuk menghadiri visa appointment di tempat-tempat yang telah ditentukan. Proses aplikasi visa dapat dibagi menjadi lima langkah yang akan dijelaskan satu per satu berikut ini.


  1. Mengisi formulir online

Langkah pertama dalam pengajuan visa adalah mengisi formulir online di Saat masuk ke website ini, kita diminta untuk melakukan registrasi terlebih dahulu. Satu registrasi dapat digunakan untuk mengajukan beberapa visa. Setelah registrasi, kita dapat mulai mengisi formulir visa. Pengisian formulir bisa dilakukan secara bertahap karena kita bisa menyimpan form yang telah diisi. Pastikan bahwa kita telah memiliki semua bentuk PDF atau JPEG dari dokumen-dokumen yang diperlukan, termasuk passport. Karena visa yang akan kita ajukan adalah dependant visa, maka kelengkapan dokumen visa pasangan (Tier 4 (General) Student) juga diperlukan.

  1. Membayar IHS

IHS adalah singkatan dari Immigration Health Surcharge ( Bahasa lainnya, asuransi! Pemerintah UK memang memberikan fasilitas kesehatan gratis bagi warganya. Dulu, para imigran juga dapat menikmati fasilitas ini. Namun, meningkatnya jumlah imigran di UK membuat pemerintah UK mengenakan biaya IHS sebagai persyaratan visa. Pembayaran IHS ini dilakukan pada saat mengisi formulir online. Akan ada link yang mengarahkan kita ke website untuk membayar IHS. Mahal kah IHS? Jumlah pembayaran IHS bergantung kepada lama tinggal kita di UK. Jadi, apabila kita berencana untuk tinggal di UK selama 12 bulan, maka kita akan dikenakan biaya selama 12 bulan. Kemudian, jumlah biaya IHS akan dihitung secara pro-rata. Bagi aplikan Tier 4 (General) Student, jumlah yang harus dibayarkan untuk studi 12 bulan adalah £150. Biaya IHS dikenakan per orangan sehingga anak-anak pun harus membayar, ya. Sedikit tantangan yang akan dihadapi saat membayar IHS adalah kita harus membayar dengan menggunakan kartu kredit. Tidak semua orang memiliki kartu kredit, toh? Biasanya, teman-teman yang tidak mempunyai kartu kredit akhirnya harus meminjam dulu kartu kredit milik orang lain dan kemudian mengganti uang ke orang tersebut. Setelah membayar IHS, kita akan mendapatkan nomor referensi. Penting untuk diingat bahwa jangan sampai nomor referensi ini hilang ya, karena kita harus memasukkan nomor ini ke dalam formulir aplikasi visa. Selain itu, coba untuk screen capture halaman bukti pembayaran Anda sehingga ada dokumen bukti bahwa kita telah membayar IHS. Biasanya, kita juga akan mendapatkan email keterangan dari IHS yang harus di-print. Sebaiknya email dari IHS ini juga disertakan pada saat pengajuan visa, karena berdasarkan pengalaman, saat itu alif diminta menunjukkan email tersebut oleh petugas di VFS. Oh ya, apabila pengajuan visa ditolak, biaya IHS ini dapat di-refund.

  1. Membayar biaya visa

Tahap terakhir sebelum pengisian formulir visa selesai adalah pembayaran biaya visa. Lagi-lagi, pembayaran harus dilakukan dengan menggunakan kartu kredit. Pada saat ini, biaya visa bagi student dependant adalah USD 476 per orang ( Setelah biaya visa dibayar, barulah kita dapat menentukan jadwal visa appointment, yaitu saat kita harus datang ke visa application center untuk menyerahkan dokumen dan melakukan biometric information collection. Biaya visa ini tidak dapat di-refund apabila ternyata aplikasi visa kita ditolak.

  1. Menjadwalkan perjanjian visa

Karena sebagian besar program studi di UK dimulai pada bulan September, maka jadwal perjanjian visa di beberapa bulan sebelum September cukup padat. Oleh karena itu, kami menyarankan Anda untuk mendaftar lebih cepat. Kita dapat memilih tanggal dan jam untuk visa appointment kita. Tentunya, jadwal yang dipilih adalah preferensi pribadi dan menyesuaikan dengan jadwal yang dimiliki. Tetapi meskipun terkadang kita sudah merencanakannya dari jauh-jauh hari, tetap saja pada akhirnya kita mengajukan visanya sudah mepet dengan jadwal keberangkatan. Nah kalau sudah seperti ini, yang bisa dilakukan adalah memilih jam appointment yang pagi banget agar meminimalisir antrian yang membludak. Selain itu dengan semakin awalnya kita datang, maka jika ada dokumen atau syarat yang masih kurang, kita bisa segera melengkapinya dan kembali ke counter di hari yang sama.

  1. Datang pada saat visa appointment

Langkah terakhir dari proses pengajuan aplikasi visa adalah datang ke visa application center pada jadwal yang telah direncanakan sebelumnya. Semua orang yang akan mengajukan aplikasi visa harus datang sendiri. Jadi, apabila Anda berencana membawa anak yang masih bayi, maka anak tersebut juga harus ikut pada saat visa appointment. Bahkan, meskipun anda menggunakan jasa agen untuk pembuatan visa, anda tetap harus ikut datang sendiri ke VFS lho.

Pada saat visa appointment, kita harus membawa bukti visa appointment yang berupa print-out email dari VFS atau UKVI. Email tersebut berisi nomor registrasi aplikasi visa, waktu perjanjian, dan nama kita. Selain itu, kita juga harus membawa berbagai dokumen persyaratan visa, yaitu formulir online yang telah di-print dan ditandatangani, bukti ketersediaan dana, dokumen pribadi (buku nikah, akta kelahiran, dan lain-lain), foto, dan passport. Seluruh dokumen yang diberikan harus merupakan terjemahan dalam bahasa Inggris dan disertai dengan dokumen asli (berdoalah semoga semua dokumen kembali dengan lengkap). Ada baiknya dokumen asli dan copynya tersebut sudah disusun (di set) berurutan untuk memudahkan kita dan petugas pada saat verifikasi dokumen. Semua dokumen yang dibawa akan diserahkan kepada petugas VFS pada saat visa appointment. Menyerahkan semua dokumen tersebut seperti menyerahkan nyawa! (hihi, maaf ya sedikit lebay)..Super deg-degan karena dalam proses ini, kita tinggal berpasrah dan berdoa menunggu hasilnya setelah semua ikhtiar yang kita lakukan. Setelah menyerahkan dokumen, kita akan mendapatkan struk tanda terima yang juga berisi nomor barcode yang dapat digunakan untuk mengecek status aplikasi visa kita.

Selain menyerahkan dokumen, pihak UKVI yang diwakili oleh VFS juga akan mengambil biometric information collection kita pada saat visa appointment. Apa sih biometric information collection? Intinya adalah mengambil foto dan sidik jari kita. Keseluruhan proses visa appointment tidak memakan waktu yang lama. Tanpa antrian, seluruh proses bisa selesai dalam waktu kurang dari satu jam. Namun, pada saat-saat tertentu, antrian bisa jadi cukup panjang sehingga proses ini memakan waktu yang lebih lama. Seperti yang sudah ditulis di atas, kuncinya sih kalau bisa dapatkan antrian di jam yang pagi.


Hasil Aplikasi Visa

Setelah proses aplikasi visa selesai, kita hanya bisa berdoa agar pengajuan visa kita diterima. Biasanya, kita akan mendapatkan hasil aplikasi visa dalam waktu sekitar 14 hari kerja, bisa lebih cepat atau lebih lama. Apabila dalam waktu 14 hari kerja hasil visa belum juga keluar, maka kita bisa menghubungi VFS untuk mengetahui status visa kita. Biasanya, hal ini terjadi karena masih ada dokumen tertentu yang belum lengkap atau karena antrian yang panjang. KIta akan menerima e-mail dari VFS yang akan mengabarkan apakah visa kita granted atau ditolak.

Ketika hasil aplikasi visa sudah tersedia (beserta dengan segala dokumen yang kita sertakan), kita bisa mengambilnya di visa application center atau memilih agar hasil aplikasi tersebut dikirimkan ke tempat tinggal (tentunya dengan biaya tambahan). Opsi tersebut bisa dibaca lebih lanjut di website VFS: Terdapat dua kemungkinan hasil aplikasi visa, yaitu granted atau not granted. Berbahagialah ketika Anda mendapatkan izin tinggal di UK. Berarti, langkah selanjutnya adalah memesan tiket dan mempersiapkan keberangkatan. Namun, apabila tidak mendapatkan izin tinggal, apa yang harus dilakukan?

Bisa jadi dokumen yang disertakan belum cukup untuk membuktikan bahwa kita bisa mendapatkan izin tinggal. Biasanya, poin yang menjadi perhatian adalah mengenai dana dan bukti relasi kita dengan pasangan. Pada saat aplikasi masih dalam proses UKVI, kita mungkin akan dihubungi oleh UKVI untuk memberikan informasi tambahan sehingga UKVI dapat memberikan izin tinggal. Namun, apabila UKVI sudah memutuskan untuk tidak memberikan izin tinggal bagi kita, kita masih dapat melakukan appeal. Proses appeal dapat menghabiskan waktu yang cukup lama. Intinya, pada proses ini, kita berusaha untuk membuktikan bahwa keputusan UKVI salah dan kita berhak mendapatkan izin tinggal. Apabila appeal diterima, maka kita akan mendapatkan visa UK sebagai dependant. Namun, apabila tidak diterima, maka kita harus mengulang proses aplikasi visa dari awal, dengan biaya visa yang tidak dapat di-refund.

Nah, selesai sudah penjelasan mengenai aplikasi visa UK bagi dependant. Semoga membantu anda semua dalam mempersiapkan diri mengajukan visa. Tunggu artikel kami berikutnya mengenai persiapan keberangkatan ke UK.

AdventureNotes #23: Birmingham


It’s been a busy time for me and I missed last week’s AdventureNotes. And although this week’s article is late, I’m going to make it up to you! This week’s AdventureNotes is about Birmingham. It is the city where I live in now. I’ve lived here for more than six months now and I can find more and more interesting places to visit.

Birmingham is the second biggest city in the UK. It used to be an industrial city where car manufacturers do their production. Indeed, it becomes a quite busy city until these days. People come here for business, but less for tourism. Yes, as it is more perceived as a ‘metropolitan’ city where people trade and conduct business, it has less tourist attractions. There are more office buildings and shopping malls.


Having lived in Birmingham for more than six months makes me realize that this city grows rapidly. There are more building developments each day, a newly opened apartment, a construction for a new office center, and a new mall. I feel almost like it’s growing to be Jakarta. Indeed, I think this city has so many shopping centers spread throughout the city. Birmingham itself is big with different areas with their own village centers and attractions. I haven’t had a chance to visit all of them, but here are some that I would recommend.

There are many ways to enter Birmingham. The most common one is of course by train. When you arrive in Birmingham, you will most likely arrive in Birmingham New Street Station. It is a newly built facility, just opened by Queen Elizabeth II a few months back. It is such a modern and iconic building just in the middle of the city center. Besides functioning as a train station, the building is also a shopping mall called Grand Central. It is almost like PIM in Indonesia as this shopping mall is connected with another shopping mall. The place is always bustling with people, even in early morning. Birmingham has two other big train stations, which are Snow Hill station that is located within Birmingham business district and Moor Street station that was once the central train station in Birmingham before it was moved to New Street Station. The architecture in Birmingham Moor Street station is unique and preserved to maintain its characteristic during the old days.

As I said, Birmingham is a city with so many shopping centers. Walking in the city center, you can see different kinds of markets, shopping mall, and shopping area. Besides the Grand Central, another bigger and more iconic shopping mall in Birmingham is called the Bullring. It has been a Birmingham icon for a long time. It is actually a regular shopping mall with unique layout. I really think that the first time people visit this place, they will be lost. Haha. I quite like the surrounding area of Bullring. There are outdoor market where people trade fruits, vegetables, etc., indoor market to sell meat and poultry, rug market where you can find just anything, literally anything, and the streets nearby where you can find individual stores. Walking along the city center is quite nice, really, just hopping from one shop to another.

Birmingham is not just about shopping spree. My favorite place in Birmingham is its Canal Side area. We can walk near the canal, looking at bars and restaurant alongside. Near the canal, there is an area called the Brindley Place where there are restaurants, gardens, and a gallery called Ikon Gallery. I like to visit Ikon Gallery because it is quite unique. It offers different independent exhibitions throughout the year. The garden there is nice and calming. The area is surrounded by tall office buildings, but I can just feel the serenity. Opposite the Brindley Place on the canal side is ICC. It’s a convention center where people see performances, exhibitions, and conferences. Walking through the ICC towards the street, we can see Centenary Square. The annual Birmingham Weekender closing performance is usually held there. Last year, the festival ended with an acrobat performance that was magical! Be sure to visit the city during the event.

In the area near Centenary Square towards the Victoria Square, we can see the Library of Birmingham that is shaped like a wedding cake, the Town Hall, and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Those are the usual places to visit. At the top of the library, there is a Shakespeare memorial room where we can see the city from above. There is also a sky garden where we can have a nice chat outside, on the 7th floor of the building. The library itself is massive! I love coming inside to just look around. The place is so comfy and sometimes there are also exhibitions held there. The library is indeed a very nice place to visit whereas in my opinion, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is kind of a so-so place. The layout is rather outdated compared to other museums in the UK.

An area of the city that is rather less explored is the Jewelry Quarter. It is located rather outside the city center, but not too far away. The area is full of jewelry shops where people can window shop (literally through their windows), looking at different jewelry offered. There is also a museum there, but it charges an admission fee around £10 per person. I basically haven’t entered the place because of the fee, but I think it will be quite interesting because we can see the process of jewelry making as the place was once a jewelry factory before it was changed into a weapon factory during the World War II, and now it serves as a museum.

Less people know it before they arrive in Birmingham, but the city was once lived by Cadbury – yes, the founder of that Cadbury chocolate. Therefore, one of the attractions of Birmingham is the Cadbury Experience. Located in a village called Bournville, which was really founded by Cadbury himself, the attraction offers a full experience of chocolate making and its history in the world. There are fourteen different experiences offered by the place, along with its so-called biggest Cadbury shop in the world and a tea room. The admission fee to enter the place is not cheap, but will certainly worth it. However, you need to be careful because you have to book the ticket online as the place is so popular that sometimes there is no slot available for you to visit, especially during the school holiday.

One of the things that attract people to come to Birmingham is its university. Put among highly ranked universities in the world, University of Birmingham does not only offer a good quality of education, but also a place to visit. The university area is famous for its clock tower called the Old Joe. The clock is so high and big that a double decker bus can go through its clock face. The university complex is quite interesting to visit and has its own tourist attractions, such as the Barber Institute, which is the university’s art gallery, and the Winterbourne Garden that attracts people for its beauty. The Valley area, where the university accommodation is located in, is also interesting to explore. The annual bonfire night of the university is held in the Valley.

The last attraction that I would recommend to visit is called the Black Country Living Museum. Located outside the city center, particularly in Dudley, the museum is very unique. The full review of this museum can be found here: Be sure to visit this place when you are in Birmingham because the experience is like no other. Indeed, we can learn many things from how people manage this museum. The place is very educational, yet not boring.

For me, a very nice aspect of exploring Birmingham is the food. Yes, the food. There are lots of different food stalls offering different kinds of food. Especially for me, who is a Muslim and have to eat halal food, the city is full of halal restaurants. I can find halal Japanese restaurant, halal Chinese restaurant, and the common fast-food joint serving halal food. I love it! There are so many delicious food offered with a very reasonable price. It is not difficult at all to pamper your stomach in Birmingham.

As I said, I haven’t explored the whole city, yet. Yes, despite of my months living here, Birmingham is indeed a very big city. I will certainly have to write some more about Birmingham later on when I have visited some more places. See you next week!

AdventureNotes #22: Chester Zoo

Visiting a zoo has never been a choice for me while visiting a city. I don’t know why but I am just not interested in seeing animals and exploring more about them. In addition, zoos in Indonesia (the old ones, actually) are not attractive. However, this one stole my heart.

Chester Zoo is named as the best zoo in the UK. I think it is also ranked within the top 10 in the world. As I said, I’ve never been interested to visit zoos – anywhere in the world. However, when I browsed the internet about Chester, this attraction is mentioned on the top of the list. I visited the website and voila! I had to scratch myself out of my curiosity. The newest attraction in Chester Zoo is called ‘Islands in Chester Zoo’. What is it? It is some kind of an area that displays animals from the South East Asia for conservatory purpose. Uniquely, five out of six islands showcased in Chester Zoo are in reality located in Indonesia territory. There are Sulawesi, Sumba, Bali, Sumatra, Papua, and Sumatera. Wow, indeed. As an Indonesian, I haven’t even visited all of those islands. I was sooo tempted to go. Therefore, despite its high admission fee (I had to pay £20 for student ticket), I went there anyway.

The access to Chester Zoo is not difficult. From anywhere in the UK, we can just hop on a train to Chester. Arriving in Chester at around 9 am, I waited for a bus to Chester Zoo in front of the train station. The bus is scheduled to be one in every twelve minutes. I didn’t have to wait for long before the bus arrived. There are two bus stops near Chester Zoo. The first one is at the front of the parking lot and the second one is inside the parking lot, only a few meters away from the front gate of the zoo. I got off the bus at the front of the parking lot and had to walk around 10 minutes to get to the gate. As it was quite early, the door hadn’t been opened yet. However, the queue was already long. At 10 am, Chester Zoo is opened for public. If we have an online ticket, we can just go through the gate by showing the barcode sent to our email. As usual, buying tickets online is always better. The price is lower and you can also buy other attractions ticket, such as the monorail ticket, etc. However, you can always buy the ticket on the spot at the ticketing counter available there.


As our first aim is to see the Islands, we traced the map and found the nearest route to the Islands area. On our way, we passed a monkey house where there are baboons and the black monkey (I don’t know what they’re called but they’re not chimpanzee). We also passed a bear, capybaras, zebras (there are lots of kinds of them! I just knew!), and some kind of deer. The Islands is located at the corner of the zoo. It is kind of excluded, but it is indeed for a reason.


From far away, we can already see the top of Tongkonan, a traditional house from Sulawesi. It is colorful so you can’t miss that. Entering the Islands complex is like entering a new world. I don’t know if it’s the weather that day or the atmosphere, but the air is getting hotter, just like in a tropical island. I was amazed. There was this made up beach complete with ships and the white sands. As an Indonesian, we said that it’s typical Pantura (North Java Seaside Way). There was a small cabin with Jokowi picture on its wall that in Indonesia used to be called Pos Kamling (Area Security Post). There were also cooking utensils displayed on small bamboo stalls. Amazing! We got to talk with the zookeepers who recognize us as Indonesian. They asked us whether the place looks real. Indeed, it is. Super real! As we walked along the pathway, we could see Indonesian animals, such as Anoa, Babirusa, Banteng, Cassowary, etc. It is quite impressive how the zoo helps the animals adapt with the new environment along with its very different weather to the one those animals used to. As we walked along, we met some other zookeepers who told us that all of the decorations were made in Indonesia, from the ‘village-like’ toilets, small bamboo stalls, up to the wooden chairs and stone sculptures. Wow again for Chester Zoo. It takes the whole thing seriously. It gets more serious when we came into a tropical house where there are tropical plants and birds. I was so happy I could see a real tropical banana trees in here! I felt like I want to take the leaves to cook. Hahaha… typical Indonesian, right? The temperature inside the tropical house is quite hot, maybe around the same temperature as in Indonesia or other South East Asian countries. Before the end of our visit to the Islands, we went for a lazy boat ride. We could see the whole islands from a boat. It is for free, too. Just beware that the queue may be quite long, especially in holidays. As the boat ride ended, it was time for lunch. There is this Manado restaurant inside the Islands area with fusion Indonesian food. There is also this gift shop that sells batik and other Indonesian souvenirs. Seriously, UK just tastes like Indonesia.


After a half day in the Islands, we had lunch and went out to the common zoo area. The place is pretty big, but don’t compare it to Taman Safari Indonesia. We took a monorail ride from one point to the other end of the zoo and explored the place. There are quite a lot of animals, such as lions, giraffes, komodo dragons, penguins, sloths, leopards, elephants, etc. It is quite tiring walking around the zoo. Yes, unlike Taman Safari where we could ride our vehicle to explore the area, here we have to walk, looking at animals inside ‘cages’.

Overall, I think Chester Zoo is worth the visit. That was the first time I went to a zoo and really read the information boards about the animals and explored the place quite thoroughly. A day in Chester Zoo is enough, but after that I still wanted to visit the city of Chester. And indeed, the city is also worth another article to write.

AdventureNotes #21: Leeds


Leeds is a popular city among Indonesian students. It has at least two universities with good reputation, added with its quite affordable living cost. No wonder there are so many Indonesian students in Leeds. Besides for studying, Leeds is also quite popular for its tourism because it is located (almost) between two national parks, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the North York Moors National Park. Both national parks are famous for their beauty; they are even mentioned as the must-visit places when you are in the UK.

I personally have not been to both national parks. Some of my friends have and they love it! Indeed, it is something worth to do. However, I have visited Leeds several times now. My purpose was mainly to visit a friend or to do something. Mostly, I went to Leeds to go to the airport, Leeds Bradford. Hahaha… Anyway, during my visits, several times I tried to explore the city. I cannot find a word that can represent Leeds, but just say that it is a combination of old and new.

I had enough time to explore the city (excluding its museums and galleries) during my last visit. I visited the Kirkstall Abbey, went to the Museum Quarter (without entering the museums), and explored the Corn Exchange. There is actually I place that should worth to visit but I haven’t got time to do it, which is the first Marks and Spencer outlet in Kirkgate Market. So, here’s my story…

I saw Kirkstall Abbey a few times when I had to go to the Leeds Bradford Airport. It is located a little bit out of the city center, but not that far that you have to allocate certain time to visit it. When I passed by, I didn’t know that it can be quite interesting visiting the place. Kirkstall Abbey is a complex of park, abbey ruins, a museum, and a small café. In normal days, visitors can come inside the abbey ruins and the museum. There is also some kind of farmers market held there once in a while. However, at the time I visited the abbey, I could not get into the place because it was holiday. I had to be satisfied by just exploring the park and looking at the ruins from the outside. I was happy, though, because I could take a lot of nice pictures.

Again, visiting cities during holiday can be tricky. I went to the Museum Quarter but I could not get into the museums because of it. Therefore, again, I had to be satisfied by just strolling on the streets of Leeds. I heard people recommend Leeds City Museum and the Royal Armories Museum as places to visit. However, it was quite interesting to see how the old buildings and the new developments are blending in the city. The shopping center, which is not too far for the Museum Quarter, is also a blend of old and new. There are many shopping arcades with interesting interior designs.

Near the end of the day, I ran out of ideas of where to go to. Then, my friend suggested me to see the Corn Exchange. Basically, it is a shopping center – or a vintage shopping center if I can say. The building was quite old and has been used as a shopping center for a long time. It is interesting to see the inside of this building because although it is old, the building is preserved well. It is simply gorgeous. I also like to see how the shops still maintain the ‘vintage look’, blending themselves to the surrounding architecture. My husband was especially happy there because there is a camera shop selling second-hand cameras. I was surprised that the shop still sells the analogue camera there!


Anyway, that is my review about Leeds. It has not been much. However, if I visit the city another time, I would love to use it as the gate to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the North York Moors National Park.

AdventureNotes #17: Mainstream London

After a week off last week, this is the last AdventureNotes article about London. Yeay! This last article will explore about the mainstream London. London’s first visitors certainly must at least pass along these places to really prove to the world that they have visited this wonderful city! The whole passing along these locations can be done in a day and cheaply if you are not interested to go inside those places. However, the museums and galleries listed in my version of mainstream London can take up to one day visit. Therefore, allocate enough time if you really are interested in going into the museums and galleries.

Everyone’s list of mainstream London can be different from one to another. I make this list of mainstream London based on my experience and the Visit London website. So, here’s the list and brief explanation about each of them:

1.      British Museum – a must visit place in London. If you only have limited time, I would suggest you to pick one or two galleries to visit. The place can be very crowded during the peak season, so beware of not being comfortable inside this museum. It is a good photo spot, especially inside its famous center hall.

2.      National Gallery – if you are an artistic person and are interested in paintings, you can go inside. The place is huge and again, you have to allocate special time for you to visit. I like to sit around the Trafalgar Square, instead. It is located in front of the National Gallery. Sometimes there are celebrations or special occasions held there.

3.      Natural History Museum – this place is huge! I think people can go again and again to this place because it is so interesting! The admission is free, another advantage for budget traveler.

4.      London Eye – this spot is one of the iconic places in London. Strolling near the London Eye in the Southbank is already satisfying. It is indeed worth it to pay the price for the London Eye ticket. It is quite expensive, but there are promotional options to get a better price. I love the view from the London Eye at night. It is so beautiful!

5.      Tower of London – The place is located near the Thames River and it is now a museum. There are galleries and tours for you to choose when you are visiting this place. You have to pay for the admission ticket, though.

6.      Tower Bridge – this iconic place is a must visit in London. You can just walk along the bridge, take pictures near it, or even come inside the towers of the Tower Bridge to see exhibitions. Again, you need to pay for the admission ticket in this attraction.

7.      Madame Tussauds – there are Madame Tussauds in other cities, indeed. I don’t really know the difference between those Madame Tussauds, but if you haven’t been to one, you surely can visit the one in London. The admission price is quite expensive and the queue can be very long, but you can take pictures, a lot of them, inside.

8.      221b Baker Street – Sherlock! For Sherlock Holmes fans, this is a must visit place. However, I was disappointed coming inside this place to see the exhibition because it is not that interesting for me. With the price and the queue, surely I wouldn’t recommend you to come except you really a hardcore fan of Sherlock Holmes. I think, taking picture in front of it and visiting the shop is quite enough.

9.      Buckingham Palace – an attraction that you can see when you visit this place is the changing guard. It happens daily or once in two days at 11.30. The procession lasts around 45 minutes. Quite interesting, but not that much. During the summer, the palace is open for public and you can see the inside of the building. Again, it is not free of charge.

10.  Parliament House – definitely cannot go inside, but taking picture in front of the Parliament House is a must. It really shows that you’ve visited London. The best place to take your picture in front of it is from the bridge just next to the building.

11.  Big Ben – attached to the Parliament House, this is also the icon of London. Take a picture of yourself in front of this place!

12.  Westminster Abbey – located just on the square of the Parliament House, Westminster Abbey is famous as a place for the Royal Family to do their religious activities. You can take a picture in front of it, and you can also come inside to see the place.

13.  St. Paul’s Church – I love this building! Walking across the Millennium Bridge and seeing this building is just magnificent! You can take pictures and come inside the church. All free of charge.

14.  Piccadilly Circus / Soho – it is not a building but an area. The place is so famous and is always crowded. I like to just walk along the streets in this area. It is nice!

15.  Oxford Street – shopping! That’s the word comes to my mind every time I hear Oxford Street. Lots and lots of shops here, where you can just have your retail therapy.

As I said, it only takes a day to visit all these places if you are not going inside and just take pictures of them from the outside. Most of the places are located along the Thames River, so it is not difficult to reach them. I would suggest people to go to the Buckingham Palace first, and then walk through the St. James Park to reach the Parliament Square, where the Parliament House, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey are located. You can walk across the bridge from the Big Ben and follow the pathway to the London Eye. Then, cross the bridge again to reach the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. From there, I usually take the tube to the Tower of London, quite near to the Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The other places left are the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Madame Tussauds, 221b Baker Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Street. I like to categorize the places into their location. For example, the British Museum is not too far from the Oxford Street, which is adjacent to Piccadilly Circus. Then, Madame Tussauds and 221b Baker Street are close to each other. Finally, the Natural History is located in the museum quarter of London, where there are also Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.

It is very easy to visit the mainstream London points of interest. If you like to take the bus, you can take London Bus Route 4, which passes along the Waterloo, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Barbican. Another bus route, London Bus Route 88, passes along the Regent Street, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the House of Parliament. See? You can even just stay inside the bus to pass these iconic locations. The district and circle lines of London Underground are also the main route if you prefer to use the tube as your mode of transportation.

That’s all about London – well, up until now. I am sure that there will be loads and loads more after I visit the city more.

Mar 04, 2016