Northerners at Northern Quarter

Rumin and I went to Northern Quarter this evening after class, a spontaneous trip because Rumin was having a rough week and needed out of the halls and I decided to recharge before facing another gruelling week (the last week of the semester though!) of classes. We didn’t really know where we were going after we Google mapped to Northern Quarter (which I’ve heard before was kind of like Publika and Sungei Wang Plaza combined in terms of cafés and indie clothing shops) and it wasn’t like we had a plan in mind, we were just going where our feet took us (and also our stomachs because I only had cereal in the morning) and ended up at so many small shops that we’d never seen before in the big city of Manchester. We found a lot of vintage clothing shops, (which, after my first visit to a thrift shop last week, I’ve grown an affinity for), small boutiques, shops that sold bizarre clothes and gadgets (not unlike La La Land at Sungei Wang) and I even found an anime shop and also Forbidden Planet (after all this, I am still grade A D&P trash) which made me really, really excited. It felt like we were in a whole different country altogether, or at least it was our first time truly exploring Manchester and its every nook and cranny besides the most obvious and blindingly bright city lights of Arndale and Piccadilly Gardens.

However, because we didn’t have the £££ and it was really cold and started raining halfway through, we didn’t stay at any particular spot for long and winded up at a café called Teacup Kitchen and it wasn’t until I sat down and looked at the menu that I realised I haven’t been in an environment like that in a really long time. Alor Setar café hopping during the nine months were few and far in between, but café visits were integral parts of my college life (lol) so I felt a strange sense of nostalgia eating overpriced sandwiches using a fork and knife in a quaint dining area with mismatched chairs while indie music played in the background. I ordered a pork and fig sandwich and it was my first time eating out which wasn’t a) McDonald’s or Subway or b) Asian food in Chinatown so I savoured every single bite of it, pretending that the pork slices were sio bak and conjuring up mental images of hawker food centres which sent huge pangs to the heart. And of course also because I was incredibly hungry and the dish costed £6.50, a numerical figure that made my heart feel as empty as my stomach was before I took my first bite.

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Sometimes, it’s still hard for me to digest the fact that I’m actually living in the UK, even more so in situations like this in which it’s so easy for me to believe that I’m a mere tourist visiting a brand new place for the first time

It was so, so cold when we left so we took the shortcut to Arndale and the whole-new-environment illusion broke as we got groceries at Aldi and then Primark, where I got some socks.

It was a really fun night of adventures, reminding me that sometimes, even in this foreign environment, being adventurous isn’t all that bad after all.

Published by

Michelle Teoh

26-year-old cynical Asian, book enthusiast and purveyor of fine sarcasm.

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