Conference Trip to Cambridge, UK
I just went back from my UKSIM 2012 conference trip in University of Cambridge, UK. The last time I went out from Malaysia was in 2009, during my personal trip with wife to UK/Eire/France. This time, my employer provided travel and conference funding to the conference venue, which is awesome (super!!).
The conference was held in 28-30th March 2012, at the Emmanuel College, Univ of Cambridge. As I did not familiar (I guess same to many of us who haven't been there) to the university, it seems that this university is more than a normal university that I ever saw. It is actually a small town, comprises 22 colleges which is scattered in the Cambridgeshire. Interesting stuffs, most of the students here are not allowed to drive a car, so they either have to get a bicycle or get on the bus. Both are convenient since the bus arrives on time, and cycling does not give much problem too given the weather is quite cold. (I am not sure about Winter, my a friend from Malaysia chose to walk on foot instead from his home to the school, even it was winter, sounds cool, eh?).
I stayed in De Vere University Arms, just besides Parker's Piece, a huge field where usually in the afternoon the students (I guess) played football there or having chit chat with their friends on the field (something which you may not see in Malaysia, I guess since the grass is different.. and there's insects too). In the weekend or when there is strong wind, I see people playing kites there.. - I guess kids.
The university is open to everyone, much like attraction to tourists. In some colleges however, the outsiders are not allowed to enter (perhaps, they are having state of the art facility/research - I do not know, just guessing).
As a small town, there are several shops which you notably will see if you got chance to come here:
-Mark and Spencer
-Apple Computer shop
-Gap and Gap for Kids
-Sunburry's - a big branch and smaller one.. you can get a bottle of mineral water for just 25-37pence here.. quite cheap
-Markets where you could buy fruits and souvenirs.
-T-shirts' prices are almost the same for all the shops, market or normal shoplots. You can expect a price tag from GBP7-GBP10 per t-shirt, or higher. If you can get cheaper price please tell so I could update.
For a Muslim like me, there are several halal food outlets over here, more than six shops spotted at Mills Road, one at Regent Street. You can even find a mosque nearby Mills road which holds two session of Jum'ah prayers due to the number of the people. I could easily spotted Malaysian faces once I get here.
To get here, there are several ways, either by train, bus (National Express) or cab. If you're rich, get a cab. Train is fast, but if you are on budget like me, take the bus, which cost GBP44.20 for return ticket from Heathrow Airport (you can opt to get "Open Return, which means it will valid within three months, but you have to call them to confirm which time you want to take as they will confirm you there will be a seat for you in the time you have chosen).
The most lovely experience is taking the punt boat, through the Cam River. It costs GBP10 per journey so I think it's worth it since you can see most colleges from the river.. and the punting boatman will also tell you the stories behind these places.