I didn’t expect to meet the sun in London. I’ve heard a lot about London’s unpredictable sometimes grey, sometimes rainy, sometimes a little bit sunny weather. But, with all the faith I have, I packed colorful summer outfit and a lot of skirts. Thank God I can wear them all.
London was all sunny and happy when I started entering UK territory using Eurostar train from Paris. They said the train will go thru the sea, and I was excited to see the sea from the train, just like in a big aquarium. But of course that’s only happen in my imagination.
I feel a huge relief when I was arriving in London. Everybody’s speaking English. And mostly very friendly and helpful. I think London reminds me a lot of Jakarta, minus the beautiful historical buildings and parks 😀 The city is also like melting pot where people from all over the world work and live there. So, someone wearing hijab is widely acceptable, a lot of Muslims too, like in Edgware Road, where I went to to have my birthday dinner in one of Middle Eastern restaurants (yes, my birthday was celebrated in 2 cities, Paris and London :D)
Just like in Paris, I tried all kind of public transportation including London Underground. People said, if you can master London’s tube map, you can conquer the world. But I must say, if you can go around Jakarta without getting lost with our bus, you can conquer the world :)) Anyway, London Underground has the same complexity with Paris Metro, but after some time you will get used to it. From one place to another only take maximum 15 minutes, and it’s always on time. So, I can’t help but comparing Jakarta. From one point to another we must suffer for at least 1 hour in traffic -_-
After ‘travel hard’ in Paris, Amsterdam, Le Mans for 7 days, I decided that I want to take it easy with London and learn to be a ‘laid back’ travelers like my best girls. Too laid back that I missed a lot of places LOL. But then, I only stay for 3 nights, so yeah, I can’t see much anyway.
I enjoyed London bit by bit and in a very personalized way. Photo hunting and sat on the grass at Regent Park, making poetry in London Bridge overlooking Tower Bridge at night, running to Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter (because Nana insists I should take picture there haha), posing beside Sherlock Holmes’ statue at Baker Street (this time, fulfilling my promise to Lisa), cruising at Thames river, checking the cool British Library, watching the entertaining Shrek musical, get the highlight of London with red city tour bus, eating gelato outside Italiano ice cream parlor in the cold afternoon at Covent Garden, going in and out secondhand bookstores at Charing Cross road, wondering ‘what the hell was all these’ at Greenwich museum and many more absurds little thing that I enjoy in London.
I also met 3 of my Indonesian friends, Yayas & husband Rullah & their daughter (I met Yayas only 1 time during a project in 2007) and Nina (I met Nina only once in Ho Chi Minh City in 2009, then we met in London, so basically we never meet in Indonesia at all LOL). It was a fun reunion at East West Indonesian restaurant. Hope to meet you guys again sometime!
I’ve been ‘lucky’ during my trip, Alhamdulillah. Strangers keep giving me something out of the blue. At Underground, someone suddenly giving out his train ticket to me, and when it was very hard to get a Taxi (that cute little black London taxi) after midnight in London, someone stop to give me a ride. How cool is that 😀
One unforgettable experience was at London Central Mosque. In Indonesia, at the Mosque, we just pray and leave. But in London, sisters say salam, and ask me where I’m from. I said I’m from Indonesia. They’ve been reading Quran, so they invite me to recite 3 Ayah from the Quran. I feel like they’re curious with Indonesian Muslim. So, I read. They praise, Masha Allah!, and ask me to read more. This time, they want me to recite Surah ar-Rahman. I was shocked.
Ar-Rahman is my favorite Surah from the Quran. I read it almost every day. The ladies from Iraq & Yemen, didn’t know me at all, yet they asked me to recite my favorite Surah! I instantly felt Allah was trying to speak to me.
Bismillah, I recite it with all my heart. The silence filled with the warmth from Surah ar-Rahman. I felt the tears start flowing down my cheek. After I finished reciting the whole Surah, ladies start giving me a tight hug, they’re crying too. “Masha Allah!! Please pray for me! Insha Allah, you will get Jannah! Allah will give everything you wish for! Pray for me… please pray for me…!” Tears in our eyes. I was choked. I didn’t deserve such praise. I didn’t deserve it at all. So I walked out of the Mosque with mixed feelings. It was overwhelming.
When I was in Heathrow airport, ready to fly back home, I sat in a cafe in the center of the terminal, sipping my orange juice and ponder. I haven’t shop at Harrods, haven’t spend enough time in London’s icon like Big Ben, London Eye, etc, haven’t visit football stadium, haven’t check Olympic venues, cancelled my visit to Manchester and Liverpool to see my childhood’s favorite football team, haven’t visit Shakespeare and Jane Austen house, I just realized there are many things I haven’t experience yet in London. It’s a sign of one thing: I need to come back.
“You had a pleasant stay in London, miss?” The Cafe’s Manager greet me politely.
I collect my bag, put my black Londoner hat and smile, “It was the best time of my life.”