First Impression

After a 7 hours flight from KL to Dubai, a 5 hours transit wait at Dubai International Airport, another 8 hours flight from Dubai, I finally reach Manchester, the first city that I am going to start a new live outside of Asia. There are always lots of excitement together with confusion when one arrives to a new city. And my first week in Manchester is considered a smooth and quite lucky one (although it can be better if I knew the city better and knew british english better...). At least I have settled down with a lovely apartment which is near to the school as well as the city centre; know where to shop, where to dine and where to party; or I should say that there should be no problem for me to survive in the next 18 months. 

For those who have never visited Manchester before, here is my first impression. Since I have been living in Tokyo for the past 10 years, it is inevitably that I tends to compare the city with Tokyo.

1) City
Manchester is the "second" city in UK according to BBC survey in 2007, mainly contributed by its popularity in Football. A very small yet vibrant city, with the mix of ancient and modern architecture. Although the public transportation is very convenient in the city, with free mtero shuttle, tram, train, but basically you don't need one to travel within the city centre. A walk around the city centre that cover the main spots like the China Town, Piccadily Station, Piccadily Garden, Arndale Shopping Centre, Town Hall, John Rylands Library and the Manchester Central will take you less than an hour. The city is busy even on the weekdays, with lots of activities/festivals over the weekend. I was so lucky to witness a gay parade, the so-called Manchester Pride during first weekend in Manchester. Residential area is clean and beautiful but the city centre where drinkers and smokers gather is so...

     Manchester Pride Parade
2) People
Manchester is the city with largest student population in Europe with several big univeristies in the city. Therefore, the population in Manchester is young in general and full of diversity. Walking on the street you will pass by the Whites, Blacks, Asians, South Americans, etc. A mix of colors, culture is normal and so no one will look at you strangely and say, "Hey, there is an alien here!". British men are very gentlement, as what I read in the books. They are polite and helpful, especially in showing us, the easy get lost new comers the way to our destination. But I have to say that I am still struggling with the British Accent or "Mancunian" Accent in specific. They tends to pronounce "u" as "o", like "bus" as "boss", "pull" as "poll" etc.   
3) Weather
Rain, rain, and rain. A waterproof jacket and umbrella is neccesary whenever going out. But I was so blessed because there were few sunny days (although mix with rain occasionally) in the week. The sky was so clear in the sunny day. And people were out especially in the garden to enjoy the sunshine. The temperature was just nice, about 17 to 24 degree celcius, so quite comfortable compare to the hot and humid summer in Tokyo.

Blue sky at the Media City, Salford Quay

4) Food
Thanks to the diversity in the city, there are lots of international cuisine besides the "notorious" British food. Tried the "famous" fish and chips at the Lowry Outlet Mall but will never give it a second try. There are many Chinese restaurants and Chinese grocery store in the city which help to reduce my homesickness somehow. Eating out is generally expensive, although the lunch menu will cost a bit less. The cheapest (and may be the most delicious one) is a home cooking dish, as the grocery  price is quite cheap compare to Tokyo. Not forget to tell that there are lots of pubs. For beer lover, the pubs can be found any corner in the city.

British "famous" Fish and Chips
Nando Chicken

5) House (Accomodation)
There is a saying in Chinese that the man's happiest life is getting the US salary, a Japanese wife, a Chinese cook and a British house. It sounds that the British House is highly regarded by the Chinese as the best in the world. So, how about the reality? Well, depends on the location (city centre or suburban), the price (a businessman afforable or student affordable), the type (house or flat), it will varies significantly. I can't make any conclusion yet right now to say whether staying in a British House really contribute to the man's happiest life. But at least for the same price I pay here, I can get a more spacious, stylish, better location and well furnished apartment compare to Tokyo, one of the most expensive city in the world.    

6) The University
The Univeristy of Manchester is located at the south of the city centre. Due to its gateless campus, the universities building made up part of the city. Just like the city, the architecture is a mix of the 18th century and modern. The university museum,which is also called the Manchester Museum is housed in a castle-like building aged more than a hundred year while the Univeristy Place just opposite the Museum is new and stylish. One thing to my surprise is there is no free student sport facilities. I have to depend on the street jogging for free work out.

University Buildings

Anyway, these are all my first impressions after a one week stay. For sure there will be more to discover and the feeling may change when time pass by. And the fact is, I am already here in Manchester! This is the city that I was looking forward since a year back and that I will spend my next full 18 months (if I am not going elsewhere for the internship & exchange). For better or worse, it is up to me to explore. One thing for sure is, this is not the comfort zone (both the city and the program) for me, which will indeed stretch me after I get over with it. 

Previous blog tittle of "Road to Manchester" may sounds obsolete now. While I am thinking for a better tittle, let me tentatively rename it as "Roads in Manchester" to kick start the new journey!

<Lost my grandpa while writing this last week. May he rest in peace and continue to witness my endeavor from the heaven.>