Days of Part-Time Job

This is the eighth post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England.

As a broke student student with limited funding, I was challenged to work part – time during my time in the UK. My student visa allowed me to work maximum 20 hours per week part – time, so I began searching for a part – time job after I considered myself settled in, approximately soon after my second term started. I figured it was the perfect activity to actually immerse myself in student life. Okay I was being subtle, truth is I desperately needed the job because I spent all my money traveling throughout the UK on my Christmas break … hahaha :p

Continue reading “Days of Part-Time Job”

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A Hollywood Experience

Back in 2013, when I was visiting LA – me, my boyfriend, and our friends went to downtown LA for a late night snack. We chose Fred 62 near East Hollywood – a 24 hours diner.

We sat outside, ordered some light meals and drinks, and just hung out. What started as an ordinary event, turned out to be extraordinary because of what happened next.

Continue reading “A Hollywood Experience”

Around Dorset

This is the sixth post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England.

How many of you know, or at least have heard about Dorset? Well I never heard about it until I set foot in England and learned that it’s a county where Bournemouth is at. To the world, Dorset may not be as famous as other places in England but while I lived there, I could not help but fall in love with the area, as turns out it has wonderful nature + tourist spots. Now, come and have a little tour around Dorset with me! 🙂

New Forest

To be honest I was not much of a nature person prior to living in England. Lucky me when I lived in Bournemouth there was not much to do (refer to this post to know why), except exploring the nature.

New Forest is a national park in South West England – a place widely known for its parkland and wildlife activities. There you can do all sorts of activities in the wild. For example, I took a walk with my friend and her host parents. You can also do horse riding, biking, camping, and there’s also a variety of attractions to see within the area.

New Forest is not far from Bournemouth at all, it’s only around 30 minutes drive from the town centre. So it’s easily accessible. Unfortunately since I went with my friends, I am not too aware of the public transportation to get there. But have a look at this page if you are interested to go!

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New Forest

 Swanage Beach

Swanage – a coastal town, is around 50 minutes drive from Bournemouth. It’s known for a weekend/holiday destination of people living in South of England (other than Bournemouth, of course hehe). It is home to Jurassic Coast which  I am going to explain just after this, and also a lovely beach.

Personally, Bournemouth beach is still better than Swanage. Hahaha. I might be biased… :p. Anyway the beach is still not bad at all! Plus there’s a variety of cute local shops next to the beach, something that Bournemouth Beach does not have.

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Swanage Beach
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Beach Shop at Swanage

Jurassic Coast

Now this is definitely one of the best places I’ve been in this world! Just look at the images first and I’ll tell you why…

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Durdle Door
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Jurassic Coast

 Jurrasic Coast is located very close to Swanage beach. In fact,  tours from Bournemouth usually involves going to bost places, plus Lulworth Cove and Corfe Castle (explained next) because they are located close to each other, all within an hour-ish drive from Bournemouth.

To get to the coast and see the amazing view (note that the pictures were taken with my pocket camera and using no filter – really pretty, right?!), you have to do a little bit of hiking. But, trust me, it’ll be worth it.

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On our way to see THE Jurassic Coast

Best time to visit will be in May-June because based on my experience that’s when you will get to have sunshine and can even jump into the water like myself! Not so much in late August/Early September because it can get very windy and foggy, like this picture, taken during my second visit in Early September (!!!)

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Very Foggy!

But then even during that kind of weather, my friends successfully dragged me to go on a hike all the way until the peak! That is, one of my greatest achievements so far hahaha. I was so scared because it was showering and the wind was very strong, but I managed to hiked up to the top. Yay me!

I hiked all the way to the top!

Lulworth Village and Lulworth Cove

Within the area of Jurassic Coat is Lulworth Village. It’s a small village with a cove that has a very clear water. I did not remember doing much there but it’s still very interesting to do a little bit of sightseeing and enjoy the atmosphere of British coastal village.

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Pretty building at Lulworth Village
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Lulworth Cove

 Corfe Castle

How often do you get to see a Castle? (remains, in this case). To me – I have never seen, yet been to one prior to living in England and that’s why I was so excited to go to Corfe Castle!

The castle is a survivor of the historic English Civil War and I wish I can tell you more about it but I’m lacking the historical knowledge. However, for ordinary tourist like me, the castle is still very magical and interesting to see.

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Corfe Castle

And Corfe Castle wraps up my tour around Dorset. Now you know why I love Bournemouth so much. Not only that I got to study, but also have the chance to go on day trips to amazing places during my holidays! 🙂

It was my birthday and we were in the middle of nowhere..

This is the fourth post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England. 

After dealing with homesickness, I started to love my new life as a student. Of course there were sleepless nights – those nights before the deadline of an assignment. But there were also other fun days, filled with the excitement of exploring a new place and making new friends from all over the world!

As we were approaching year end and the end of our first term, plans started to come up. Most of our European friends has made plans to come home for Christmas and New Year, basically leaving us Asians with no plans (yet). With a group of other Indonesians, I decided to plan a road trip throughout the UK during our term break/year end holiday. In between assignments deadline we began to build our plan – cities to go, places to visit, modes of transportation, budget, and all that. We also asked a group of friends to join us. In the end, there were 10 of us. 5 Indonesians, 2 Taiwanese, 1 Chinese, and 2 Thai. So fun! I had written the travel experience as a guest post in my friend Aggy’s blog and you can read it here.. what I haven’t shared there is the fact that I had my birthday during that trip! Yay!

We started the trip on the eve of Christmas. We decided to have a road trip and rented two cars for 10 of us. Our first destination was Bath – a small town up north of Bournemouth, less than 2 hours drive away. It was already dark when we arrived, and we were very much surprised to find out that the town was like a dead town! Our destination was the town centre but we saw almost no one on the streets. The shops were all closed, even though it’s only around 6PM. No restaurants nor pubs were open.. except a restaurant called Market, where we ended up having our Christmas Eve dinner!

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Christmas Eve dinner at Bath

After dinner, we spent some time wandering around Bath’s empty city centre, just having fun with each other because really, we felt like the town was ours! Hahaha. And then we left for our next destination, Bristol. Of course, everything was closed as well there. Being international students, we were not aware of the fact that during Christmas eve, British people tend to spend time at home and all shops would be closed. It will continue to be like that until Christmas day.. and then everything will start to go back normal on Boxing day which is the 26th of December. So yeah, we did not get to do much in Bristol except strolling around the empty town centre. We probably spent only a couple hours there before we left to our next destination… Liverpool!

It would normally take us around 3 hours from Bristol to Liverpool but somewhere along the way my friend in the other car called and asked to stop at the nearest motorway service areas. Because I was driving previously, I failed to realise that it was some time past midnight already, which meant it’s the 25th of December and I turned 23 already! That’s why I was so surprised when everyone gathered around me and sang me happy birthday. They gave me some nice presents as well 🙂

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Surprise!!!

It was definitely a moment to remember, It’s not every year I got to spend my birthday so far away from home, in the middle of nowhere, but surrounded with good friends and warm attention!

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With my birthday presents 🙂

After the quick birthday surprise, we continued our journey and reached Liverpool early in the morning. As predicted, everything was closed as well but we managed to find a Chinese Restaurant so we could have a nice dinner to celebrate Christmas and… my birthday. It was a very memorable day 🙂

Why I think Ho Chi Minh City is not for me

Back in fall 2011, I found an online promo for Air Asia which gave very good deal. Without thinking carefully, I bought one return plane ticket from Jakarta to Ho Chi Minh City for Spring 2012, simply because that destination was the cheapest I could find for that time frame. If I’m not mistaken, it cost me IDR 800,000 for that ticket. Not bad, right? I was scheduled to spend a 5 days 4 nights vacation there. Time passed and on early 2012 I realized that I was scheduled to go soon.

I started to do some research about the city. Where to stay, what to see, and whether it’s safe for female solo traveler. Based on my research I found that it’s sort of  a waste of time to spend 5 days just in Ho Chi Minh. It’s very advisable to use the time I had to travel to other cities. However, as it was going to be my first time traveling solo in Asia, I was kind of afraid to travel to other cities and after some considerations I decided to travel to Bangkok instead. The plan was to stay in Ho Chi Minh for 2 nights and Bangkok for the remaining 2 nights. I had to spend an extra IDR 2,00,000 for Ho Chi Minh – Bangkok round trip airplane ticket so the trip was not that cheap anymore, but in total was still within my budget. Lucky I have some good friends from the university living in Bangkok and one of them offered me a place to stay so that helped my budget 🙂

Then came the time to go. I was excited! I did travel solo several times while I was in the UK, but never too far (mostly day trips). Plus, it’s the first time in Asia and first time in a non-English speaking country. I booked a hostel in Pham Ngu Lao street – a popular tourist area. The hostel is called Saigon Backpackers Hostel and it has 8.0 ratings on Agoda.com.

The hostel's lobby
The hostel’s lobby

Just because I was trying to be careful, I opted for a female only dorm and surprisingly stayed in the same room with another Indonesian female solo traveler! She lives in Australia though, and she seems like a very pro backpacker compared to me 🙂 We got along well and went for a meal together, had nice conversations and happened to leave our hostel at the same time – she was continuing her journey to north of Vietnam while I was departing for Bangkok.

So what else did I do in Ho Chi Minh? Why I think it’s not for me?

Well.. the reason is simple. I think the city is just like a much older version of Jakarta. It’s crowded (but not as crowded), it got traffic here and there (but not as much), and humid as well. Let me elaborate further…

I spent my first night exploring Pham Ngu Lao street with a local I knew from Couchsurfing. He was very nice and polite,  and based on my request took me to eat Phở. The restaurant’s atmosphere and service was questionable, but definitely not the food. It was the best Phở I had in my life! No joke.

Enjoying the best Pho I've ever had!
Enjoying the best Pho I’ve ever had!

However, that night I began to realize Ho Chi Minh’s similarities to Jakarta. Because it’s Friday night, many youngsters were seen hanging out and there were many tourists as well, mostly Caucasian. They travel in groups and seemed to be having fun.

The next day, I went for a day tour. It’s easy to book one – most hostels would be able to arrange it but I remember that it’s cheaper (forgot how much it cost me though, oops!) if you use the local travel agents found mushrooming on Pham Ngu Lao street. My travel agent had two day trip options – one was to explore the Mekong river and one was to go to Cu Chi Tunnel. Without knowing much of the latter, I chose it because I thought was more interesting than seeing just a river.

It turned out to be a mistake. It was a war memorial, and I’m not much of a war history person. Our funny and lovely tour guide explained about the war and despite his sense of humor I was feeling sort of depressed when imagining the war. Really.

Cu Chi Tunnel
Cu Chi Tunnel

Lucky me the tour only took me half day and I got time to explore more parts of Ho Chi Minh after I came back to the hotel. I spent my last night with another local I met from Couchsurfing and she took me to see other tourist attractions like Notre Dame Cathedral and Saigon Opera House. I think they were pretty but not new for me as the sort of architecture can also be found in Jakarta.

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral

The next day I managed to go to Ben Thanh Market in the morning and had brunch with my Indonesian friend mentioned previously before leaving for Bangkok. Again, the market is interesting but not something new. It looks like Indonesia’s traditional market although I agree that the products sold can be very cheap if you master the art of bargaining!

Ben Than Market
Ben Than Market

To end my story, I understand that Ho Chi Minh can be very interesting to those from Western countries as it’s cheap and exotic – something that can’t be found in where they came from. But to me, it failed to offer me something new. Yes it’s safe, yes it’s cheap, yes the food were delicious and the people I met were nice, but it did not give me enough reasons to come back again.

Motorcycles everywhere!
Motorcycles everywhere! Just like Jakarta :p

Have you been to Ho Chi Minh? what did you think?

Surprisingly different

This is the third post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England. 

Moving to another country of course made you have to deal with differences. Especially when you are moving to a city which in size is a lot lot smaller than where you previously lived. Bournemouth – as I mentioned several times before, is a small town. It’s not even half the size of Jakarta. So when I moved there from Jakarta, I had to deal with differences. Here’s some surprising and memorable ones.

Public transportation are reliable

Unlike in Jakarta, People in Bournemouth use their public transportation –  in this case, bus,  to get around town. They are not the best, I have to say, because sometimes they got delayed. Sometimes it’s hard to get from a point to another without having to change buses.. but in overall, the public transportation works well. There were clear schedule which you can access in every bus stops and you can also find it online.

This was not the case in Jakarta (although there are improvements as we speak). Okay I was considered lucky because I had options, but I tried to avoid using public bus in Jakarta. Why? I just could not work out how they operate! One day the bus could show up at 7, the next day show up at 7.15, the next day show up at 6.50! Come on.. how should I work out my schedule then?

That’s why, moving to Bournemouth made me have to learn how to use public bus. There are two major bus companies in Bournemouth, one being the Yellow Bus and the other one More Bus, so you can conveniently choose which one suits your travel needs. The buses were clean, comfortable, although you might have to be careful with drunk lads if you took the bus on Friday/Saturday nights :O

The Yellow Bus
The Yellow Bus –   Image from commons.wikimedia.org
More Bus
More Bus – Image from http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk

Most shops close at 6PM, and they close on Sundays!

It’s either labor and operational cost are so expensive in England, or people just don’t like to shop.. but when I first got there, I found it very weird that most shops close at 6PM. They close even earlier on Saturdays, and fully closed on Sundays… especially in a small town like Bournemouth. Some big supermarkets like ASDA do close a little bit later though, probably around 8PM.. but that’s it. Don’t expect to be able to shop after 8PM, and forget about midnight sale, hehehe.

In a way, this was good for my wallet as I did not have the chance to shop after finishing my classes, and.. some bakeries or grocery shops tend to have 50% discount for fresh items between 5-6PM, right before they close – just the time when I was going home! Hooray!

Image from http://www.anderson-sheppard.co.uk

I think the condition is different in bigger cities like London, for example. When I went there, I could shop in Oxford Street until at 9PM, similar to shopping experience in Jakarta.

People do things on the grass!

Oh, this is one thing that really surprised me. Though moving to Bournemouth was not my first time going abroad, but I never really noticed this. In Bournemouth (and almost everywhere else I’ve noticed after I lived in Bournemouth), people are able to do things on the grass! Why is it so surprising to me? Well.. because..

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Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhaktiamsterdam

I bet those of you in Indonesia has seen this sort of picture before! Yep, I don’t know why but we are not allowed to step on the grass! Especially in parks! This messed up my logic because I thought we are supposed to do things on the grass? Like, I don’t know.. having a picnic? sitting around? studying? relaxing? Yet we are not even allowed to step on it.

In contrary, Bournemouth has a really nice garden right in the middle of the town centre, en route to the beach. It has a tourist attraction as well, called the Bournemouth Balloon.

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Image from http://www.tripadvisor.com

As you can see in the above image, the garden looks really nice, right? It’s also very nice to sit there, on the grass, just enjoying your day. Of course it can get really cold during winter days (bear in mind we’re talking about British weather here!), but I loved going there any other times of the year, especially during summer days, just to relax and unwind. I went there for picnic with my friends too. Now that’s what the gardens are supposed to be there for! For the people to relax! Now I really don’t understand why we are not allowed to step in the grass here in Indonesia.. Why is it there, then? just for aesthetic purpose?

Disposable BBQ do exist!

Speaking about summer, there’s a particular tradition that the Brits love to do, and I personally really love as well. It’s BBQ! Since Bournemouth has a pretty nice beach, people often do BBQ on the beach. Or the garden. Or their backyard. Basically everywhere, during sunny summer days.

But what about the props? Do we have to carry BBQ grill everywhere? Worry not, there’s what they call Disposable Instant Grill! I haven’t seen this everywhere prior to coming to Bournemouth. Really. You can purchase it on every supermarket, even mini markets, for as cheap as £2 when I was there. Me and my classmates love to do BBQ on the beach, we simply purchased the instant grill, the meats, condiments, etc, en route to the beach.

This is what it looks like. Have you seen it before? I asked my boyfriend in the US and he said he never even heard of this kind of thing. I think it’s a British thing?

Image from http://www.statichukd.com
Image from http://www.statichukd.com

People eat in Pubs!

Prior to coming to the UK, all I knew about Pubs or Bars is beer. Hahaha. I mean, I think it’s just a place to drink and get drunk. Little did I know that British pubs serve food! Some are actually delicious, I must say.

Image from www.tripwow.tripadvisor.com
Image from http://www.tripwow.tripadvisor.com

Have you heard about Sunday roast? It’s a traditional British or Irish meal and is commonly served in Pubs, on Sundays. I was a bit confused when I first got my first Sunday roast invitation from a friend. She told me to meet at our local Pub at noon for lunch. I thought, “wow British people really love to drink.. they even drink on Sunday afternoons!” Hahaha. But I was wrong. We did not come there to drink, instead we had a nice and proper meal.. Sunday Roast. It became a sort of tradition for me and my friends almost every Sunday, to have lunch together in our local Pub. Again, something I did not expect before, having meal in a Pub! 😀

Image from www.artvertise.co.uk
Image from http://www.artvertise.co.uk

So that’s about it. Some surprising differences I found during my first months in in Bournemouth. At the end, I became accustomed to them and at the moment, while writing this, I’m craving for a good Sunday roast… or BBQ at the beach! (I don’t miss not being able to shop after 6PM though.. Hahaha)

Have you lived abroad? Or simply, when you are traveling abroad, did you find any differences from your hometown? Please share in the comment box below! 🙂

I hate the weather and I want to go home!

This is the second post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England. 

It was early September when I arrived in the soil of England, all by myself. I remember feeling very optimistic, very excited to start my new life. Unfortunately, due to visa conditions, I arrived a week later than I was supposed to, thus making me missed orientations week and only had a weekend to settle before school started.

Worry not, through the help of Facebook I was able to make some friends before school started.. I found 3 other Indonesians in my year (there were only 4 including myself) and one of them – Andrew, pick me up at Bournemouth Coach Station after I spent 2 hours coach ride from London. He helped me find my house and carry my big suitcases (thanks Ndrew! hehe), and later on we met with the other 2.. Poppa and Yovita. Except Yovita who were an undergrad student in her final year, the three of us were postgraduate students.

Later on, I also found out that there were a total of around 20 Indonesians in Bournemouth.. some Bournemouth University students as well but started school the previous year, some working already, and a family with 3 kids. I think the amount of Indonesians were just the right amount. Not too little, not too many… A lovely community. I was happy and not worried that I would get homesick.

Now let’s talk about my house. I rented a room in a 4 bedroom flat.. the smallest room to be exact. There were no communal room, only shared kitchen and bathroom. It’s a tiny flat indeed.. located in Winton, a suburb (supposedly) not far from the university’s Talbot campus. When I looked at it through Google Maps before my arrival, it seemed close, a 20 minutes walk to the campus. It’s not too far from the town centre too, it’s only 3 minutes walk to the nearest bus stop. Oh, my housemates were nice as well. 2 British, 1 Japanese. All girls, no drama.  Everything seemed promising, right? 🙂

Then came the first weeks at school. My class schedule was looking great, I loved the lectures, it was not hard to make friends and I felt like I’m adapting well. I was excited. On my first weekend, I went out to the beach during the day and spent the night painting the town red with my class mates. I had my first experience of hanging out in an authentic British pub, had fun and made more friends. Again, all seemed promising. I (thought) I was adapting well.

Until… I experienced my first British rain. Oh, the lovely rain. I still remember it clearly, even after all these years! I was on my way home from the university; it was around 4 in the afternoon. I was carrying two bags.. one for my stuffs – laptop, books, wallet, etc – and one was my shopping bag – I made a stop at the supermarket to buy milk. The weather seemed pleasant at first. I was halfway to my house. Then, out of the blue.. it rained! I immediately grabbed my umbrella and tried to walk faster so that I could reach my house safely. Unfortunately my umbrella was not big enough so I still got sprinkles of water here and there. As if that’s not enough.. suddenly it became soooo windy. I was having trouble in keeping balance of my tiny umbrella and walking (plus carrying two heavy bags) at the same time. The wind didn’t want to stop, though. I felt it became stronger and stronger until my umbrella got broken… and there I was, soaking wet and freezing. I was lucky that my bag was somehow waterproof that my laptop and books were not wet… but everything else (read: me) were.

When I finally reached my house, I couldn’t help myself from crying. Never in my life before I had to experience being wet from the rain. Everything else went downhill from there. The homesickness started to kick in – I felt miserable, I missed my family, my friends, my (then) boyfriend. I was freezing and I hated the weather, I wanted to go home. I felt like coming here was all a mistake. It was midnight in Indonesia so I couldn’t call anyone.. and kept crying (even in the shower! Hahahahaha so dramatic) until I managed to cook myself a bowl of Indomie.

So that’s how British Fall season welcomed me. Afterwards, I managed to buy a bigger (and stronger) umbrella.. a thicker (waterproof and windproof) coat, and waterproof boots! All to keep myself warm during the rest of Fall and even Winter. I may spent a night crying like a baby because of homesickness, but I managed to live a happy life for the rest of my stay in the UK! 🙂

To end this post, here’s a collage of pictures.. Clockwise from top left: me and my (short hair) plus red (RIP) umbrella before the wind took it away – a glimpse of Winton (my neighborhood) – Bournemouth Beach – a night out with my class mates – and… a group picture of Indonesian community of Bournemouth, wearing none other than Batik! 🙂

Life in Bournemouth