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Early Morning Flower Market

New Covent Garden Market
Flower Market

I was the one who found out the flower market on Instagram and proposed the idea to my friends. Chloe and Connie were excited about staying up late and wander around London. After two weeks of waiting, the day had arrived.

Late Night Train to London

Guildford Railway Station
Guildford Railway Station

“So, where’s Chloe?”

Connie had dialled her number several times. Her boyfriend picked up the phone instead and told us Chloe just woke up from her slumber. We had to wait for her in the freezing station. I approached a vending machine to get a can of soft drink for me to stay awake for the next few hours.

“Huh,” I pressed the same buttons again. “Why does it state, ‘Product Disabled’?”

Connie pressed the buttons. The screen still showing the same message. We went to the other platforms to try out more machines, but they were equally irresponsive. Weirdly enough, the snacks machines could react to the commands.

“They’re too tired for the day,” Connie said. “Just like us.”

The night was too cold for us to stay on the open-air platform. We hid ourselves in the underpass, admiring two aluminium collage artworks by a Surrey artist named Julie Hoyle. Chloe, who was on the way from the campus, asked us to take the 11:37 train instead. Our bodies were freezing for over thirty minutes, and Connie hid her hands in her winter coat. When it was almost time, we rushed to Platform 2 and hopped into a carriage. Chloe was already onboard, but she was in a few carriages ahead of us. Through the phone, Connie bickered with Chloe on our seating area and gave directions to join us. In a dramatic style, Chloe barged in through a metallic latch door.

The late-night train towards Waterloo had a different vibe than the usual ones. The vacant seats reminded me of my previous journey to New Malden. I tried to close my eyes for a brief nap, but the shaky train refrained me from falling asleep. So, I took out my notepad and write. It was already 12:40 when we reached Waterloo. While we got off the train, the other passengers rushed themselves to catch the last train of the day. Otherwise, they would be like us, the wanderers in this city.

Even though many English towns had fallen asleep, London still functioned like a beating heart. The traversing Londoners and visitors were like red-blood cells flowing from one place to another. Within the Tube, some passengers had cups of alcoholic drinks on their hands, probably having fun from their TGIF party. At one point we even eavesdropped on an awkward conversation between two young men whose date night had gone sour.

Liverpool Street Railway Station
Liverpool Street Railway Station

Our destination was at Liverpool Street. This busy railway station during the day had barricaded itself with towering boards and long barrier tapes. Onlookers could see the rail tracks via the glass panel, but only the cleaners were present to wipe the floor spotless.

Questioning Our Life in a Café

Polo Bar
Polo Bar

To spend the three hours before the flower market opens its door, we found a 24 hours breakfast café. How rare for London to run a business for more than 12 hours. This gave a Malaysian Mamak vibe where people could have roti or teh tarik in the middle of the night.

This all-day dining establishment functioned like a nightclub. A tall, beefy guy standing in front of the entrance asked us to join in the line. He even asked for our IDs before allowing us to enter. A smart decision for me to bring my BRP card around for situations like this. We straightaway headed to the top floor, passing through tables full of beer and cocktails. An empty seat was ready for us.

The entire setting reminded me a lot of the American diner I had seen from movies and TV shows. Despite the cramped area, the cushioned seats were high enough to provide privacy. Loud music blasting in the background made it harder to communicate. We dived ourselves into the A3 sized menu, but the dim light made reading harder. I had a hard time choosing between the pancake and the chips (again, I had a hard time adapting to the local variation of ‘fries’). Jumping back and forth, I finally understood the struggle of indecisiveness.

“We definitely need 30 minutes to make our order,” I heard Chloe said among the deafening beats.

A server arrived with his tablet ready to take our order. On a whim I said Royal Pancake, while Connie and Chloe ordered American breakfast for each of them. It did not take long for our food to arrive. At first, we were delighted at the aesthetically arranged meals, especially the pancakes with vanilla cream and berries on top. I shoved the pancakes pieces into my mouth, but I overlooked its thickness as my stomach was too stuffed after finishing half of the plate.

Two hours in the café, we did nothing. There were times we tried to ignite a conversation, but the music drowned out our voices. My eyelids were getting heavier, calling me to close my eyes and sleep like a baby. I resisted by humming along with Britney Spears and Rihanna. Chloe could not finish her food, and Connie dissected and rearranged the mushrooms.

Why did I even come in the first place? Why am I wasting my time? Is it worth for me to stay up all night?

I kept asking myself such answerless questions. There was no way I could return to Guildford without an operating train or bus. I was in the middle of London in the middle of the night. In this sleepless city, I shall stay awake.

When the time reached three-fifteen in the morning, the three of us escaped the café. The chilly wind blew into our faces like those mint mouthwash ads that refresh one’s mind. We ran back to Liverpool Street Station to wait for the bus that would carry us to the flower market.

Feeling like Miley Cyrus


I screamed as the driver made a sharp turn to the corner. Chloe suspected he was from Malaysia as he honked at every car, cut lanes, and sped up when the light turned green. It brought me back to Penang where everyone would bully the one being civil on the road. The bus passed by familiar locations such as the Shakespeare Globe and Elephant & Castle. A flash of realisation hit me. It was the same route that I took to the Imperial War Museum. The bus went along the southern banks of Thames and headed west. We dropped off when the signboard stated, ‘Battersea Power Station’. I had heard of the name several times from the Tube stations, but the idea of exploring the area never came to my mind. If the weather turned a little warmer, I would pay a visit.

New Covent Garden Market
New Covent Garden Market

A bright neon signboard with the words ‘New Covent Garden Market’ already caught my attention before I hopped off the bus. We dashed to an obscure entrance, which was akin to a disinfection corridor in a laboratory. The wide and bright space was a contrast to the dead night outside, and there were already several East Asian students sauntering around the pots of flowers. There were tulips, roses, daisies, and baby’s breaths in various shades. Whether they were in their natural colour or artificially dyed, these flowers were born to bloom in vain. Sturdy shelves full of succulents and potted plants dispersed around the hall, yet they were not brightly coloured enough to gain the attention of visitors.

“Sunflowers... sunflowers,” I mumbled as I scanned through the floral sea. There were a few bundles of sunflowers, but the size was small enough to be mistaken for daisies. Upon my flatmate’s request, I bought a bundle home. There was no way for me to get a single stalk, as the market was for wholesale purpose.

Chloe had a hard time choosing her favourite. She had a strong desire to pick every type of flowers, but it was impossible for us to bring all of them back to Guildford. At first, she had her eyes on a pastel, multicoloured baby’s breath, like the colour of the rainbow Paddle Pop ice cream from Malaysia. When Chloe was in a middle of hesitation, all these bouquets of flowers were robbed in front of us.

“Noooooo,” she lamented. The other multicoloured bouquets had a darker hue. After comparing among the various shades, Chloe settled on a lavender baby’s breath. An excellent choice.

See, we can buy ourselves flowers.

Shady Fruit Market

“The fruit market is closed, sorry.”

We looked confused as we stood near to a building with an airport terminal vibe. Lorries and vans parked in front with bulked crates loading into the vehicles.

“Maybe they misheard as ‘food market’,” Connie said. “Let’s go ahead and check out.”

Passing through the guardhouse, we headed into the darkness. There were warehouses with crates and boxes full of fresh vegetables and fruits, the fresher batch before they were delivered to local groceries and restaurants. Chloe hoped she could find lychee in the market, and we could share among the three of us. I was wondering how we could carry them back home when there were bouquets of flowers in our hands.

New Covent Garden Market
One of the suppliers

We followed the pedestrian signs and found a metal door, but inside the warehouse was an empty and no litter around. A tall guard with a torchlight approached us, so we asked him if the market was open.

“Of course, I opened it.”

He took us to another warehouse where most shops had their shutters closed. The floor was cluttered with packaging and orange leaves. While walking around the vacant halls, Chloe chatted with the guard. He was from Clapham Junction, just ten minutes away from the market. He described how people would flood the warehouse during opening times, and they would hunt for strawberries, cabbages, and bak choy. We could have come here earlier rather than sitting in that cafe for hours.

Under the dim streetlight, we carefully strolled by the roadside. The area looked like a drug dealer might pop out of nowhere and offer us substances. I switched to my alert mode and stuck close to my friends. Within the pitch darkness, there was a bright pedestrian lane full of hand-drawn murals. Like the moths hovering around the light, we were eager to take photographs at the lane.

“Ah yes, Princess Chloe,” Connie rolled her eyes. “She finally has a photographer.”

It was time to put for my photography skill to the test. I directed Chloe to pose for the camera and took multiple shots of her under the faint light. Although I was not confident about taking portrait photography, the results turned out to be more splendid than I imagined. I had a couple of photos taken as well, showing off my odd poses.

New Covent Garden Market
Rocking the night with a fresh bouquet

As dusk was approaching, the sky showed a streak of bright hue. We followed a London Wayfinder to Vauxhall, the nearest station. Right at the end was a metallic fence between an apartment block and the main road. All the gates were locked, and there was no way out. Did we miss an exit? We were trapped.

When Chloe and I turned back to look for an exit, Connie found an unlocked gate.

“Come here,” Connie cried. “I don’t want to get into trouble.”

We ran. The breeze carried us to the exit. Connie shut it once we leaped through the gate. I huffed out puffs of hot breath, but Chloe looked energetic than ever.

“I feel like a main character,” she said. “Running across the street in London.”

I had heard this term from my flatmates who had rushed to the Tube station a few days ago. Why people were so desperate to become a main character of a romance movie? Such a cliché move. Instead, I was more like a knight who had finished a mission and was ready to head to her homeland.

Vauxhall lives up to its reputation as the second busiest bus stop in London. At six in the morning, there were passengers loitering around while waiting for the bus to arrive. This was not our way back to Guildford; it was the adjacent railway station.

“When’s the train to Guildford?” Connie asked.

Chloe looked at the digital board and said: “It’s on Platform Eight... and there’s three more minutes to departure.”

“Should we get the one to Waterloo? Or this?”

“Should we? What ticket did you buy?”

“London Terminal.”

“Guys,” I pointed that the board. “It’s two minutes to departure.”

In a heartbeat, the girls ran into the station. It was hard to catch up to their speed, but I tried my best to follow them. Getting up the stairs was challenging, so I slowed down my pace. When we reached the platform, the train had closed its door and began speeding up. How frustrating. We headed back to the sheltered station and waited forty minutes for the next train.

“Let’s hope there’s a sunrise so I can get a warm glow,” Chloe said.

There was no sun rising from the horizon, but the sky became brighter until the round, and the white sun became more visible.

Date of Visitation: 4th March 2023

Polo Bar-24 hrs Great British Cafe

6 out of 10

Address: 176 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4NQ


New Covent Garden Market

Opening Hours for Flower Market:

  • 4am-10am (Weekdays)

  • 4am-9am (Saturdays)

  • Closed on Sundays

Opening Hours for Fruits & Vegetable Market:

  • 10pm-6am (Weekdays)

  • 10pm-5am (Saturdays)

  • Closed on Sundays

Address: Nine Elms Ln, Nine Elms, London SW8 5BH Socials


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I'm Jenny, you may read my bio here.

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