Arriving home is, and will always be, a captivating experience.
My latest feature article for the Shanghai Daily is a travel report on how to spend 72 hours in London.
Kenyan world record holder Wilson Kipsang won his second title at the London Marathon today, while fellow Kenyan Edna Kiplagat won the women's race. Kipsang set a course record 2:04.27 with compatriot Stanley Biwott coming in second. It comes as no surprise to hear that the mighty Kenyans and Ethiopians are in the top 10 places in a marathon in any given place of the world- they are the undisputed world champions in this sport.
Mo Farah, the Briton who won 5,000m and 10,000m gold at the 2012 London Olympics and last year's World Championships, came in 8th place in his first marathon race. Despite missing out on the British record, Farah recorded the fourth fastest time by a Briton.
The London Marathon covers a distance of 26.2 miles (approx. 42 km), and even the most meticulously prepared marathon runners are often surprised by the sheer physical and mental challenge presented.
The photos below were taken at the 24 mile marker near London Blackfriars bridge.
Good to be back home, and I caught this photo of London on final approach into Heathrow's runway 27L. You can just about see Buckingham Palace (top- left, just before Hyde Park), through the wispy clouds over the capital city. No doubt, Ma'am must be very excited. She’s probably getting the house ready for the arrival of her new great-grandchild (who would one-day become King/Queen). The London Eye and the Houses Of Parliament sit beside the River Thames (middle-right).
TV channels were running non-stop coverage, as were the world's media who had waited patiently for DAYS outside the private Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in Paddington. I overheard an Aussie on the plane saying that 'the Poms must be sick of it’ - Rupert Murdoch's Sky News is running the complete guide to the events leading to the eventual birth of 'Baby Cambridge' to HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - EVERY HOUR as the Royal baby is due anytime soon.
Opened to the public on the 1st of February 2013, and designed by the architect Renzo Piano, the 'Shard' is officially Europe Union’s tallest building standing at 1,016 ft (309.6 meters). The Shard contains premium office space, a hotel (The Shangri-La London at the Shard will open in 2013), luxury residences, retail space, restaurants, and a five-storey public viewing gallery. The public viewing gallery is located between the 68th and 72nd floors, with its highest section at a height of 245 metres (804 ft). The Shard's observation floors, unlike most other high rise global landmarks, does not have a fancy restaurant, or a cafe. The cost of entrance to the Shard viewing gallery is £24.95 per head. Now, while this may sound expensive just to go to the top of a building and see the city, in fact the price is competitive (and somewhat acceptable) when compared to other similar global landmarks.
To put things into prospective the entrance fee for the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is set at 100 AED (about £20) if you book in advance, and 400 AED (around £70!) if you pay at the door on the day. Well, OK, that’s the tallest building in the world I hear you say, and we are only talking about the tallest building in the EU (not even in Europe….that title goes to the Mercury City Tower in Moscow). Nevertheless, as with any new establishment, the price is going to be a bit high in the beginning so that the holding company can try to break-even, and eventually in time we hope that the entrance fee would go down (it’s been proven with the CN Tower, Petronas Towers (Malaysia) and many others). Thankfully the views are, as one would expect, priceless.
LONDON (U.K.): For the past four years I have celebrated Christmas and the New Year in mainland China, where it does not really feel like Christmas (except in Hong Kong & Macau), and the Western New Year is not celebrated with the same song and dance as in the rest of the word (again...except only in Hong Kong, and more recently in Shanghai and Beijing). Last year I was in Suzhou (China), where there was not a whisker in sight to be seen at the stroke of midnight on the 31st December 2011. So this year was a special one as I celebrated the New Year festivities with my parents in London.
At the stroke of the first chime of midnight from Big Ben, amid miserably cold, and rainy skies, around 250,000 brave people were treated to a spectacular display of bright colourful fireworks that lit up the dull London sky. As 2012 was being concluded with slow-motioned fireworks that were erupting away in front of my eyes, there must have been a myriad of thoughts that went through my head at the same time. There were reflections of how 2012 had gone, and also thoughts on how 2013 can be a more productive year ahead. Some people have reflected that a certain optimistic future is in sight for the world, especially after the economic financial crisis in 2008. But in the reality of the times, let us not forget those individuals who are still suffering from the global economic crises, and still have no jobs. The world is still going through a difficult time financially. Companies are limiting as much as they can on their expenditure.
I personally believe that 2013 would be a continuation of an effort to make the world a better, safer, and more friendlier place to live in for everyone. Most of this contributes to whatever happened in 2012, especially with all the stories exposed by the media (i.e. the scandals in the banks, terrorists, radical Islamists', Right-Wing British racists like the EDL and BNP, the hacking by newspapers, the shameful/disgraceful episode of the BBC where they had child abusers and serious sex offenders employed as DJs and journalists for so many years, the rape cases in India, and other stories that were thankfully brought to the public's attention).
In regards to the BBC, anyone with a right frame of mine is furious and completely lost as to why the horrible acts were allowed to happen at BBC studios for many years by some really vile and disgusting humans who disguised themselves as being superstars (Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall, and many others). The question here is, how many more idiots like that are working for the BBC? Who else are they protecting? We need to smoke em' out of their caves, and name & shame them. And more importantly, if this can happen at a respected company like the BBC, then what about other institutions?
I know that the media has been blamed sometimes, but on the whole the effect from the media's influence on people and governments can bring about a positive change and a good result for humankind.
Though, the key question here is, whether 2013 will be the year that will take us all out of this global economic financial crisis? Most people think not (realistically...we may be looking at 2018!). Time will tell...and we shall see.
The trip to London was so short and snappy that it almost felt like a dream. Thankfully on the day of the flight from Heathrow we were gifted with a clear blue sky, and slight easterly winds, which allowed an excellent opportunity to take beautiful photos of London and beyond as the plane took off from runway 09R (heading towards Clacton-on-Sea, and then onwards towards Germany). I flew with Qatar Airways, so both the first flight (LHR-DOH, QR008), and the second flight (DOH-PVG, QR888) provided great opportunities to take some superb photos of the skyline of not just London but also Doha, Northern Thailand, Guiyang, Wuhan, Wuxi, Kunshan, and Suzhou (my home!!). And not to mention the magical sunrise that we were treated to somewhere over the Pakistan/India border.
I should have put these photos up while I was in the UK but unfortunately, due to a short and hectic schedule I did not have enough time to update my weblog while I was in London. But nevertheless, here is a show of some of the beautiful weather that I happened to enjoy on my short trip. Rather unusual for London to experience such glorious sunshine in the first week of October. In fact the unseasonably warm weather brought in the hottest October for over a century to the U.K. Just four weeks before the clocks go back for winter, Britain was in the middle of an Indian summer like no other with sizzling temperatures soaring all over the southern region. It was nice to be a tourist in your own city for once and also to go to Hyde Park.
I recall my younger years in the 1980s when it used to start getting miserably cold during late September in London. This kind of weather would have been unheard of during this time of the year. I would not be surprised to see this kind of weather in the future. Here are the shots of London:
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