The long-awaited trip finally happened in the beginning of 2022. I applied for the UK Standard Visitor (tourist) visa at the end of September 2021 and only got my passport returned to me and obtained the visa by early December. Initially, I wanted to visit the UK in December to see their Christmas markets. However, since it took quite long for them to process my visa application (a bit more than 2 months!), I did not manage to arrange my time off from work before Christmas, so I postponed the plan for January instead.
In case this is the first time you’re here on my blog, I’m an Indonesian citizen who’s also a resident of Lithuania/EU. I still need a visa to enter the UK (thanks to Brexit). So if you’re interested in knowing how I applied for the visa: I submitted my online application through the UK government’s website, here’s the link: https://www.gov.uk/standard-visitor/apply-standard-visitor-visa. After submitting it, I had to book an appointment to visit their partner, TLScontact, whose office is located in the Holiday Inn hotel in Vilnius. The visit was required for them to collect my biometrics and take my photographs. All in all, without adding any extra services, this visa application process cost me €183.38. My visa is valid for 6 months, from December 2021 to June 2022.
I flew into the UK through Scotland. I took a Ryanair direct flight from Kaunas to Edinburgh on January 15 evening. I arrived at midnight and from the airport I took the Airlink 100 bus to Edinburgh city center. I got off near the Edinburgh Waverley, the main railway station there. I stopped a taxi on the streets and took a ride to my accommodation for the next 3 nights: Brig O’Doon Guest House.
Right after I checked into my room, I did the lateral flow test and submitted the negative result. FYI – I already ordered the kit about a week prior to my arrival in the UK. I got mine from Vivo Clinic, it only cost £10.99 and the kit was delivered to the guest house in a few days. I think this one’s already one of the cheapest options out there – totally recommended.
This cozy guest house that I was staying in is not far from the city center and it has a bus stop right in front of its door (Bangholm Place). Super convenient. It’s also overlooking football fields, so it feels very… British. Ha! It’s owned and run by Jim, a guy from Santa Barbara, California (USA) who’s been living in Edinburgh for more than 30 years. He has a lovely dog named Gabby. She’s always welcoming the guests with such joy and excitement.
If you check the reviews of Brig O’Doon Guest House, you’ll find lots of great comments about the breakfast – and I can assure you that they’re not lying. Jim makes amazing breakfast! I find it very satisfying and fulfilling that I never even had to get lunch during the 3 days I was exploring Edinburgh. The breakfast gave me enough energy to go up and about for hours.
For dinner, I tried these 2 places:
Kampong Ah Lee
Not gonna lie, I tried searching for Indonesian restaurants in Edinburgh. There’s none, but of course the smart Google showed me that there are 2 Malaysian restaurants in town! I decided to try one of them: Kampong Ah Lee, located in Newington. Turned out that the area has lots of international cuisine places there. Mostly Asian, I would say. I had Nasi Lemak here and I couldn’t be happier finding this gem in the Scottish land!
Before catching a bus back to my guest house from Kampong Ah Lee, I noticed there’s this Japanese restaurant that sells omurice in the same area! There was a time when I got pretty obsessed with omurice (omelette rice) after watching an episode of Midnight Diner series on Netflix. Having never tried the actual omurice itself, I tried cooking it myself several times at home, and it was not bad to be honest! At least my boyfriend said he liked the way I cooked it 🙂 Okay, so back to this Hope Omurisu – I decided to give it a try the next evening. For some reason, I thought the portions of the dishes here were gonna be small, so I ordered kimchi and a pork belly BBQ satay as well. They turned out to be pretty big and I almost could not stand up and walk back home after eating them.
Hey, I think I’m just gonna focus on my movements between cities and what I ate in the UK in this particular post. Details of where else I’ve been in Edinburgh can be found here.
On January 18, I took a train to Manchester and met up with Lois at Manchester Piccadilly station. It was so surreal to meet her there! We knew each other since 1995 and went to the same schools from grade 1 to 10. The last time we met was in 2011 when we both went to Avril Lavigne’s concert in Jakarta.
Lois took me to Shoryu, a ramen place at Piccadilly Gardens. It was so good to catch up with her! She had finished her PhD studies in Economics at the University of Manchester and is currently teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University. We talked a lot about what happened in the past years, including the time when we used to spend time writing songs in junior high school, even trying to form a girlband together called Popperebels – ha! 😀
We then moved to Ducie Street Warehouse to grab late coffee. I was telling her about Mariana and Justinas, the Indonesian-Lithuanian couple that would host me while I’m in Manchester, when Lois mentioned that she actually knows Mariana as well! It’s crazy – what a small world indeed! We then decided that Lois would come to Mariana’s place as well another day so the three of us could meet and hang out together.
I took another train that night to arrive in Stockport – where Mariana and Justinas live. The two picked me up at the station and we went to their house. They live in a really nice neighborhood called Bramhall. I was staying there for 3 nights and Mariana took us around the area the day Lois came to visit as well. She also took me to explore the city center of Manchester and you can see all the details here.
So besides Shoryu, another place that I went for dinner was:
I’ve got quite a funny story for this one. Well, the funny part was not about The Botanist itself, but what happened before we ended up at this restaurant. So Mariana, Lois, and I were in Alderley Edge that evening. This is a pretty ‘elite’ neighborhood as many football players and basically rich or notable people in general live in this area. David & Victoria Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo are some of the former residents of Alderley Edge.
Anyway, so we decided to have dinner there since we already got quite hungry after so much walking. At first, we spotted a restaurant called Victors, a fancy-looking one that surprisingly has food menu with a very reasonable price range (just like in any other average restaurant in the UK, let’s say). So we walked in and asked for a table for 3. The hostess declined us, saying that the place is already fully booked. We got pretty confused as the restaurant was pretty much empty and it was only 5.30 PM. We left and crossed the street to try the second restaurant called Gusto, just to get declined again. This time, they said that they didn’t accept walk-in guests. We got outside and tried to make a booking, but there was only 9 PM availability online, while the restaurant was still quite empty that time. Super weird!
We walked down the London Road of Alderley Edge and finally found The Botanist. They didn’t have any weird regulation and accepted us right away. Friendly service, good food! It made us wonder about Victors and Gusto – were we actually declined, not because the restaurant was fully booked or we didn’t have any reservation, but because we didn’t ‘dress up’ a certain way – or worse, because we’re Asians? Hmm. We checked some Google reviews for the two restaurants and found some comments from other people who got rejected as well – most likely due to the way they were dressed that wasn’t up to their ‘standards’. Well, if that’s the case, they could’ve just told us straight up, you know? No need to lie about being fully booked or not accepting walk-in guests. There’s nothing wrong about restaurants applying a certain dress code. This way, honestly they just make themselves look pretentious and not professional. Especially since their price range isn’t anything special or high-end – literally the same as other ordinary bistros. So yeah, at least (I hope) it wasn’t a case of racism.
On January 21, I said goodbye to the girls and continued my trip to London. This time, I took a bus as it only cost me 1/10 of the price of a train ride! I got a pretty good deal in Paddington area for Belvedere Hotel. There’s also a bus stop literally just a few steps away from its entrance (They upgraded my room for free and I got a slightly bigger one for my 3-night stay there. Not bad!).
The breakfast provided in Belvedere is also very decent! They offer you a full English breakfast with options of cereal boxes, if you want them. When I’m not not on a trip or vacation, I usually don’t have breakfast (except for coffee), so just like in Edinburgh, the breakfast was enough to keep me up the whole day until dinner time.
Let’s have a look at where I went for dinner (and lunch) in London!
For 2 out of the 3 nights I was in London, I had my dinner at/from this place. The first night I arrived in London, again, I googled where the Indonesian restaurants are. Melur London was the closest one to the hotel and I could reach it in a few minutes by foot. It serves Malaysian and Indonesian dishes! I did a takeaway for – guess what – Ayam Penyet!
The last night I was in London, I went back to Melur London and dined in there. I opted for Nasi Lemak this time, as I was still thinking of the one I had in Kampong Ah Lee, Edinburgh. Oh how I hope there would also be Indonesian/Malaysian restaurants in Lithuania!
I wasn’t exactly alone in London as I got the chance to meet my friend, Dhara, a local Londoner that I first met back in 2017 (in Bali) through Couchsurfing! She showed me around the city and took me for dinner at Ippudo. This restaurant required a temperature check for all the incoming guests, different from all the places that I’ve been in the UK during this trip. Guess it’s safer that way, of course. They seem to specialize in the spicy ramen options, which are the ones Dhara and I had. So delicious, and yes, spicy!!!
The only lunch I had while being in the UK was actually at none other but this Filipino fast food joint – Jollibee! I randomly watched its opening at Leicester Square on YouTube, on my last night in London. I got curious and then checked whether or not I’d still have the time to give it a visit before heading back to the airport on my last day. Turned out that they have another branch in Earl’s Court, which is not far from the area I wanted to go the day I was leaving the UK, so I went there to try their famous Chickenjoy and Jolly Spaghetti. I have to say that I still prefer KFC when it comes to the chicken, but theirs is pretty okay, too!
See where else I’ve been in London here!
Overall, I had a wonderful trip and it was actually the longest one since I moved to Lithuania in summer 2019! In the last 2+ years, I’ve been to several places and countries for vacation, but usually only for a weekend getaway or up to a week! This 9 day, 9 night-trip has definitely been the longest one so far.
I’m thinking of going back to the UK (most likely to London) before my visa expires in June. One thing I was not yet able to do in this trip was to go to at least one of the musical/theatrical shows that UK has to offer! I was in such awe, discovering how many shows they have every day throughout the year – and just how huge the selection is when it comes to this type of entertainment. If I were to live in a place like London, I’d probably just keep going to different shows every weekend. Magical!
What about you? Have you been to the UK? If so, what's your favorite city/place and what do you like to do there? Let me know in the comment section here.