Over the past week I’ve traveled from London to Hong Kong to Doha to Munich, battling a bad cold in the process. Of course this travel was all done in premium cabins, which I’m incredibly grateful for – I doubt I’d have loved this week so much if I was stuck in economy for all three flights.
Prior to that, I spent two weeks at Imperial College London, where I attended an intensive course on physical sciences (I also did more, but the course was the main reason I was there). Apart from being a travel blogger I’m also an aspiring pure maths/mechanical engineering student, so I was glad to be able to meet other aspiring STEM students (if you’re reading this, hi!), and I made some invaluable friends throughout the process, which I’m happy about (technically I shouldn’t be as I won’t be seeing most of them for a while, though we’ll see where this blog takes me over time).
As part of the programme’s pastoral activities, I was also able to visit various parts of London, which I was especially excited about, given it was one of the 10 travel destinations that I’ve visited for too brief a time and wanted to return to most.
London, United Kingdom
I figured I’d share some of my thoughts of traveling to London, as London has gone through a few crises lately, including an attack near London Bridge in early June which killed seven people, and the Grenfell Tower disaster, which killed 80. For the record, the current UK Threat Level is set as “Severe”, the second highest in the hierarchy, which suggests that an attack is “highly likely”. I was curious to see if this would change the way people lived their lives particularly around touristy places in London, and if I would leave London with a different sense compared to what I had felt before.
Unfortunately, past incidents have changed the way people see London
In June London endured two major tragedies that resulted in a total of 87 people killed. A further incident in Manchester, another major UK city, resulted in the lost lives of 22 people. I won’t comment on how and why these incidents happened, and how they could have been prevented. That would encourage a political debate, and as a travel blogger that’s not what I’m here to do.
Unfortunately, this has seemed to change the way people see London, and the UK in general. A few of my friends asked me where I was headed to for the summer, and their first response to “London” was “be careful”. The perception of London, at least from Hong Kong, is now that it is a targeted city full of crime. When I first met people at Imperial College I don’t think they felt the same way, and that feeling was soon gone as well for me – it shows how the the way the media exaggerates can transform people’s views so drastically.
I don’t think London has been transformed by these incidents
As a student and a travel blogger (both areas with lots of room for failure), a quality I really admire is resilience. Entire cities have to deal with challenges, and that’s what London had to deal with this entire time. Despite that, I felt the same buzzing, cheery vibe that I previously felt from London, which I respect and appreciate.
Oxford Street, London
London is even more vibrant than I remember it
On a side note, London has become such a fun city to hang out in. I got to spend time in different areas of London, such as Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Westminster, Hyde Park, etc.. Ultimately these are all touristy destinations, though I was bound to Imperial College’s programme so I didn’t have much of a choice.
What I noticed was that unlike Hong Kong, people managed to be friendly despite being in large crowds. Street performances gained many viewers, and consequently, much respect. I also felt safe wherever I went – obviously that doesn’t mean I actually was, and probably my friends being there factored into that as well, but I was surprised at how pleasant London was both for visiting and living in.
Leicester Square, London
Imperial College is located in South Kensington, which is somewhat of a more upscale area. The direct area around the campus was relatively quiet, including Hyde Park, which I loved – it doesn’t seem to be a popular tourist area despite its fame, so most of the time we were interacting with locals (and swans).
Hyde Park, London
Evidence that the incidents happened can be kind of scary
On a bus ride we passed by Grenfell tower, which gave me mixed emotions. On one hand it was sort of thrilling, but on the other hand I couldn’t help but think about the tragedy that happened there a month prior. I’m not sure how to think about that. It’s definitely sad that Grenfell tower has simply become something cool to look at, as something like this should never be “normalised” (e.g. in the sense that visiting a place like Auschwitz is now simply a “thrilling experience”, while 75 years ago people suffered there). I only managed to get a terrible picture of Grenfell Tower, but my friend Michelle got slightly better footage, which I’ll use instead.
Keep in mind that after these incidents London has implemented heightened security around streets, so I wouldn’t feel any less safe than I would’ve before these incidents happened whenever travelling to London. Obviously these incidents were tragic and I send my thoughts out to the friends and family of those involved, but I wouldn’t have any qualms travelling to London.
Otherwise I’m not too sure what my point is, actually. London was fun to revisit and the incidents that happened in June didn’t change my perception of London at all, which I really respect.
Has anyone traveled to London after the June incidents? Does anyone live in London? What do you think?