Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

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Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by buksida » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:16 am

I'm not going to do my usual photo trip report here as a lot of it was visiting family so I'll post a series of observations and comparisons to living in Thailand along with a few photos instead. They are simply what I saw, felt and experienced on a 5 week trip I took to the UK during June and July, it was my first time back there since 1998.

Most of my time was spent in the southeast, flying into Gatwick (Emirates 22,000 THB return) and staying at the following places for 3-5 days each; Crawley (Surrey), Rochester (Kent), Hornchurch (Essex), Hythe (Southampton), Folkestone (Kent), Strood (Kent), Stratford (London), Chalgrove (Oxfordshire) and back to Hornchurch.
  • The weather was diabolical, even in “summer”. It was the longest day when I wrote this, summer solstice, and it had been pissing down cold rain with wind, fog and a temperature around 14 degrees. There was even a hail storm one day – ice falling from the sky in June, I think there was about 4 days out of the 5 weeks with clear blue skies and sunshine. Needless to say I was rucked up in several layers and a fleece jacket for most of the trip.
  • The day I got off the plane I got hayfever, something I haven't suffered in nearly 20 years living in Asia. Snot and sneeze attacks were a regular occurrence every morning, I guess there is simply more pollen in the colder climes of the UK whereas in the tropics plants are more likely to be pollinated by insects instead.
  • Everything seemed a lot cleaner and more orderly, no plastic all over the place (you have to pay extra for bags), no feral dogs roaming the streets, neatly cut verges, hedges, trees and well taken care of gardens. People seem fanatical about their gardens in England (most of which are postage stamp sized) which is surprising considering the weather is too abysmal to enjoy them!
  • The daylight took some getting used to and I dont think I ever really did during the trip, it was like having jet-lag every day. I would wake up every morning at 4am as that is when it got light, had to tie a t-shirt around my head to get back off to sleep for a couple more hours. I could never tell what time it was and bright daylight at 10pm was just bizarre, the light seemed clearer also, it felt as if the clouds and sky was further away. Seasons are definitely something missing in Thailand where over the course of a year it gets dark at the same time and is just 4 month periods of hot, hotter, and wet.
Some random photos from the garden:
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More to follow ...
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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by J.J.B. » Thu Jul 21, 2016 2:16 pm

Good observations and nice to note you can see the positives as well as the negatives - were you over just to vote for Brexit? :naughty:

I left for Hua Hin just after you arrived, shame as it would have been good to buy you a (warm beer) as we're just down the road from Creepy Crawley.
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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by robcar » Thu Jul 21, 2016 4:05 pm

I came back yesterday after being there (Shropshire) for the same length of time. My thoughts are about the same. I have been doing an annual pilgrimage from here and Cyprus for some years.

This years trip ended with a new twist. I flew Malasia Airways this time, Bangkok/Heathrow via Kuala Lumpur and return. I returned to Bangkok last night at around 8.10pm............my luggage stayed in Kuala Lumpur and I have a taxi meeting me at gate 3. Just a slight panic set in lol.
Had to contact the cab company to wait while Thai Airways located it and made arrangements to get it to me.

All ended well when it arrived at my home here in Hua Hin at 6am today.

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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by oakdale160 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 6:26 pm

Looking forward to more posts

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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by Big Boy » Thu Jul 21, 2016 7:48 pm

I'm waiting for the full report with interest. As you know my son set off for the same length trip a couple of weeks after you. It will be interesting to compare his observations. The only real difference so far has been the weather. By UK standards, he's had some glorious weather (although I've seen photos of him wearing a hoodie and a jacket :D ).
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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by buksida » Thu Jul 21, 2016 8:10 pm

I was there for the vote and went to the polling station to have a look ... but wasn't allowed to vote as I'd been out of the country for over 15 years. The general consensus from the people (mostly my age group and older) I spoke to during the trip (and I went to a few different places) was to leave the EU, watching the live debates on TV also made the leave argument look more convincing - the remain camp didn't actually provide any facts and figures as to why remaining would be beneficial. Never thought it would actually happen though especially with the government and big corporations wanting to remain. Anyway enough of the politics, will post more observations shortly.
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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by caller » Thu Jul 21, 2016 9:50 pm

Great first post, had me laughing out loud. I went back after 12 months of being here and it was if I hadn't been away. Popped in to see my account manager at my bank and she simply said, 'oh, you're back then'! Keep the posts coming!
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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by STEVE G » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:18 pm

Everything seemed a lot cleaner and more orderly, no plastic all over the place (you have to pay extra for bags), no feral dogs roaming the streets, neatly cut verges, hedges, trees and well taken care of gardens.
This is the one thing I notice when going backwards and forwards between Europe, the UK and Thailand, although I enjoy being based in Thailand, it is a very dirty place in comparison. I'm also always surprised by the number of derelict buildings and businesses as well that never seem to get redeveloped or otherwise cleaned up.

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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by pharvey » Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:43 pm

STEVE G wrote:
Everything seemed a lot cleaner and more orderly, no plastic all over the place (you have to pay extra for bags), no feral dogs roaming the streets, neatly cut verges, hedges, trees and well taken care of gardens.
This is the one thing I notice when going backwards and forwards between Europe, the UK and Thailand, although I enjoy being based in Thailand, it is a very dirty place in comparison. I'm also always surprised by the number of derelict buildings and businesses as well that never seem to get redeveloped or otherwise cleaned up.
For me (from experience) it was China more than Thailand, but certainly the same was true with regards to cleanliness/plastic bags etc. when returning to the UK - unfortunately (and sorry to say), after working and travelling to areas prevalent with immigrants..... it was certainly not the same! :cuss: :banghead: :( - more reason for the "Brexit" for certain people I'm sure.

Getting back to topic - appologies buks..... great photo's as usual and a nice report. Weather now absolutely great! Hottest day of the year yesterday, "BBQ City" at the moment as I'm at home (downside is MIL is here!!).

Thankfully, have a very sympathetic neighbour who invites me over for the odd glass of cider!!

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Post by hhinner » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:52 pm

Those tortoises are serious pests.

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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by lomuamart » Fri Jul 22, 2016 3:53 am

Our time back in the UK overlapped, Buks. I was there between 19th June and 19th July.
On the whole, I couldn't agree more about the weather although I thought my first week was just about OK and I remember that hailstorm - was in Northants that weekend and it was pretty violent for 30 mins or so. The rest of the time, other than the last three days, were dismal and dreary. Those last three days though - temps up to 35 degrees on the 19th July - was hotter than here in Thailand.

I suppose that I don't get fazed out too much about the differences between the UK and here as I've averaged a trip back every 3 or so years over the 18 I've been living here and overall I enjoy the experience of being there - that's tempered because I know I'm always returning here.

The long nights were awesome, weren't they? I think this time was my only trip during the long days as I'm normally back around September. One thing I loved was to be able to sleep with the bedroom window open - no mozzies and definitely healthier. A decent duvet helped me through the colder moments and I slept like a log every night, definitely much better than I sleep here.

The prices didn't surprise me but that's related to the frequency of my other trips back but I sure cut down on the cigarette intake as a packet of Marlboro cost between 9.87 and 10.18 GBP depending on where I bought them. Mind you, I "smuggled" an extra 100 (5 packs) of LM deng back there and with some serious rationing to 8 or so smokes a day most of the time it meant that I only needed to buy cigarettes on three occasions.

What definitely gobsmacked me were the food prices. I regularly did food shopping for myself and my parents and 20 quid went nowhere. How those less well off can eat well is beyond me.

I was lucky enough to be included on the insurance for my mother's small car and was driving around most days - I don't drive here in Thailand. That was a breeze as everyone's so orderly. After a month of the UK's roads, the taxi journey from Swampy to HH the other night really freaked me out. That wasn't helped as we managed to wipe a stray dog out at around 110 kph as we approached HH - just after that Energy place. Was a pretty big dog and it made a mess of the front of he minibus/taxi. Driving here is such a lottery.

Transport of any description in the UK is efficient compared to here but the prices are mind boggling, the trains are stupidly expensive but are at least normally quick. Buses/coaches provide a cheaper although much slower alternative. The London underground was excellent for getting around although as I was there during the high tourist season it was pretty busy - I always tried to avoid the normal rush hours.

I also suffered a little with hay fever but fortunately only in the early mornings. It would have been pretty miserable if it had affected me day long.

The beer is awesome, the telly shite (even Fox has the rights for The Open these days), the newspapers offer an infinitely better range of opinions than here in lala land and the food is excellent although expensive as already mentioned.

I don't want to get involved in politics too much but IMHO the younger folk in the UK were shocked at the exit vote - I certainly was. The fall in value of the GBP obviously dosn't affect those back in the UK, at least in the short term, but the exiters may well be complaining soon about higher prices due to more expensive imports. It will hit the UK sooner rather than later. Another cut in interest rates will lead to further weakening of the GBP so the vote didn't and won't do me any favours over here. It's gonna be a rocky few years ahead for the UK. It's not the end of the world but I'll be out on the golf courses less than I was pre exit - hey ho, there you go.
And as a parting shot, English tea is great and I'm enjoying my pot of Waitrose English Breakfast as I write this.
I'll be trying to get back to the UK a bit more regularly in future years but that is for family reasons rather than personal. I'm sure I'll enjoy the place as much as I have in the past although the whole exercise is a bit expensive.

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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by buksida » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:20 am

I'd agree with most of your observations, especially the sleeping (Thailand is so bloody noisy) and driving, however I found food and groceries there cheaper than Thailand. I'll come onto that a bit later, here are a few more of my observations and experiences:
  • Drinking the tap water was an alien concept to me, just could not get my head around it. I came up with a few conspiracy theories to wind up the people claiming that there are chemicals in the tap water that are making all of their kids hyperactive. Our two bairns are like little Buddhas compared to some of the kids over there – they're literally out of control. I was told that it is now illegal to smack your own child, teachers are not allowed to reprimand them, and you get fined for letting them have a day of school. I guess the little monsters know they can get away with anything.
  • Pretty much every person I met is on some kind of medication and was complaining about some illness or other be it migraines, blood pressure, stress, allergies, depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. Big Pharma really has the UK population in the bag; tablets, pills, potions and GP appointments just to get through the day seems to be a common practice. Very strange to me as I wont even take a paracetamol unless one of my limbs has been cut off!
  • The pace of life seems so fast and everyone is stressed out about something or other, they all have to be somewhere ten minutes ago and nobody takes time out to relax. Life = Work – Eat – Sleep. People even speak fast and I struggled to understand a few of them – I really was the foreigner in this case and needed a mate to translate on a few occasions as my accent was apparently incomprehensible to a few people.
  • Cameras are everywhere, all over the place you're constantly on surveillance – even in tiny villages there are cameras. This gives rise to an overbearing sense of caution, almost fear, among the people - everything is so highly regulated and you'll get fined for even the most minor infractions such as putting a can in the wrong bin - I inadvertently broke 7 laws on my first day! Speaking of bins, the government, in an effort to promote recycling, now forces everyone to have 3-4 different bins (all made of plastic) so the streets now look like a wheelie bin party.
Rochester Castle and the Medway (I did mention that the weather was shite) ...
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Some shots around Hythe, Southampton ...
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More to follow ...
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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by Big Boy » Fri Jul 22, 2016 11:03 am

buksida wrote: I found food and groceries there cheaper than Thailand.
Actually, I gave my son a shopping list of a few small things to bring back. I went onto Tesco online, and am actually thinking some previously expensive things may now be cheaper here e.g. Gillette Fusion Blades. They were about double the price when I moved here, but the savings 4 year later are minimal, if anything at all.

He's been eating out most of the time, taking advantage of Wetherspoons Fatboy Breakfasts, and a plethora of carveries, which make eating out very affordable, but I think he'll have to pay excess baggage to bring his stomach back with him on the plane.
buksida wrote:the kids over there – they're literally out of control.
This is no different to when I left 4 years ago. I put it down to PC Britain, which was one of my pet hates before I left. Strangely, I noticed the trait in Thai parents in the UK first because many would not discipline their kids at all.
buksida wrote:every person I met is on some kind of medication and was complaining about some illness or other be it migraines, blood pressure, stress, allergies, depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. Big Pharma really has the UK population in the bag; tablets, pills, potions and GP appointments just to get through the day seems to be a common practice. Very strange to me as I wont even take a paracetamol unless one of my limbs has been cut off!
Yes, everybody used to moan about the NHS, but whatever they are doing seems to be working, or is it? People are living longer, but with these illnesses/medication, which puts an even greater strain on the system. A viscous circle.
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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by Bamboo Grove » Fri Jul 22, 2016 2:08 pm

Just a few thoughts from my 6 days and 5 nights in Blighty earlier this month based on your comments.
The beer is awesome, the telly shite (even Fox has the rights for The Open these days), the newspapers offer an infinitely better range of opinions than here in lala land and the food is excellent although expensive as already mentioned.
Excellent beers, and good variety of newspapers, they can keep you entertained for half a day. Excellent food? Where did you eat? I had one meal that tasted good, that was in a pub in Bromsgrove but maybe it was that I ate in the pubs most of the time, even the hotel breakfasts in London where quite tasteless.

I agree about the transport. Obviously you don't have the Onnibus company there. Since they entered Finnish market, the prices have gone down remarkably. Only a year and a half ago a train ticket from Helsinki to my home town could cost 50€ now I can get a ticket for 16€. With Onnibus the cheapest price is 5€ but it's slower and not so confortable (no restaurant car to have a beer.)
I don't want to get involved in politics too much but IMHO the younger folk in the UK were shocked at the exit vote - I certainly was.
Neither do I, I've said my bit in the other thread but just want to add that the university people where shocked about the exit as a great deal of research funding has been coming from the EU. Also most of the people I asked who were in favour of the exit said that the reason why they voted for leave was a. immigrants b. the amount of money UK must pay to EU.

As with Buksida and Lomuamart, I got attacked by hay fever. I suffer a bit from that in Finland but England's summer time seems to be worse. I think one of the reasons is that there is so much graze land, that can be easily observed from the train windows while travelling around.

As for the kids, I basically only met one set, that was my friends' family (English-Thai) in Bromsgrove and they were behaving excellently. I really enjoyed playing with them in their garden. As for the behaviour of the youth on the streets, not any worse than in the 70's when I stayed two summers in Brighton.

Weather-wise, I didn't expect much but surprisingly it was cooler in Midlands that it was in Finland at that time.

All in all, I've always enjoyed my trips to Blighty and I'm now trying to get tickets to 1-2 Arsenal matches in October, which then will be my next visit. With these budget airlines, travelling isn't that expensive these days, only the hotel prices in London are outrageous. The St. Giles, where I stayed in London (near Tottenham Court Road underground station, excellent location, though) quoted something like 150£ for a small, noisy room. Thankfully this was a working trip so I didn't have to pay for it.

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Re: Trip report: A visit to England after 18 years

Post by buksida » Fri Jul 22, 2016 2:23 pm

Bamboo Grove wrote: I agree about the transport. Obviously you don't have the Onnibus company there. Since they entered Finnish market, the prices have gone down remarkably. Only a year and a half ago a train ticket from Helsinki to my home town could cost 50€ now I can get a ticket for 16€. With Onnibus the cheapest price is 5€ but it's slower and not so confortable (no restaurant car to have a beer.)
Trains in and around London are cheap if you use an Oyster card and travel off peak (5 quid return Romford to Stratford + bus home), if you just get on and pay cash it costs a fortune. The UK has something called Megabus which keeps prices down (London to Manchester 7.5 quid!): http://uk.megabus.com/
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