I have to yet fully experience Amsterdam since I arrived in the Netherlands earlier this month, so once we finally set a couple days aside to indulge ourselves there, I was pretty excited. But first, I made a brief trip with Mieke and Hanneke to Rotterdam, home of Europe’s largest harbor and then to a town called Den Haag, a city facing the North Sea. It was here where I resumed my hobby of collecting samples of sands from all over the world. The idea is to blend all of the sands I’ve been collecting into one giant super bottle work of art. It’s a long but rewarding work in progress.
After Den Haag, we went back to Ede to pack a small bag for Amsterdam. It would only be Mieke and I, as Hanneke had school stuff to take care of. We booked a hostel overnight in the center of the city, relatively close to everything. We boarded a train that took a little less than an hour and soon enough we were in the internationally blended city most famous in the Netherlands. We were dropped off right by the Heinken Brewery, so that’s where we went first!
I went into the Heineken Brewery disliking the beer and came out a new fan! They way they create the beer is crafted with only the best ingredients and the purest of waters. Their international marketing campaigns are carefully put together as well. Heineken beer played a big role in the history of Amsterdam. You wanna find out all about it? Go to the Heineken Experience, even if you’re not a huge beer drinker. The informative tour transformed into an interactive experience where you could pour virtual beer, create lasers that follow your hands, and take pictures along the lines of this…
There was even a part where we got the opportunity to test our pours making sure we achieved the perfect amount of foam. I did it in one fell swoop.
We got our fills of everything Heineken for sure. I liked the brewery so much, that I also felt the need to brand a special edition, one-of-kind, Sellers Abroad Heineken bottle.
Once that experience was over, we took a tram and headed straight to our hostel right near the center of the city. This was my first time in a hostel since last summer and just being in one again brought back many great feelings and memories of the dozens upon dozens of hostels I’ve stayed in before. We didn’t lounge here long though. We checked in and headed right back out. Our destination: anywhere with food. Thankfully, Amsterdam is flooded with many different restaurants! There were alleys and streets littered with Italian restaurants , German, Argentian, Thai, Vietnamese, you name it. We chose a cozy little Mexican restaurant only because a scouter who worked for the restaurant easily convinced me to come inside. It helped that I’m in love with Mexican food, so it was pretty easy convincing.
It was growing dark outside, which meant for the perfect opportunity to see the the infamous Red Light District. I just wanted to see all of the red lights. I go to all the places for all the wrong reasons. But here I was.
In case you didn’t know, this Red Light District is known for it’s hundreds of windows displaying scantily clad women ready for a good time, all perfectly legal; all under glare of sinister red lights. Everywhere you walk, you see adult museums and posters displaying adult things in between coffee shops around every few steps. By the way, the coffee shops here in Holland are not exactly coffee shops. It’s more of a place where you can buy and smoke marijuana amongst the company of other people who enjoy the green stuff. It’s definitely a completely different world than what I’m used to back home. Walking through the Red Light District brought back the despondent feelings I felt back on a certain night in Thailand. These woman were equivalent to caged animals in a zoo. I nonchalantly took out my phone to record video footage which unbeknownst to me, was a really, really bad idea. As I walked past the windows with my phone on record, one of the girls bursted out of her
cell window and practically chased after me down the alley screaming not to take pictures and other insane things. “Are you taking pictures of me because your girlfriend is ugly?!” she shouted. I was a tad embarrassed and sped walked away from her. It was then that I noticed, on each girls cell window, there was a symbol of a camera with a strike through it, indicating NO PHOTOGRAPHY. Ooops. Well, at least I still have my video footage if anyone would like to see!
It was a rainy night in Amsterdam, just like every other night since I came to Holland. It kind of dampened the mood so we headed back to our hostel for the night. The next day we wanted to do a couple excursions and later on meet up a couple friends of mine that I met on previous trips that live near the city. First, we took a boat cruise through the canals of Amsterdam. It took about an hour but apparently it’s the best way to see Amsterdam. I beg to differ. I think the best way is on foot for sure.
Mieke and I went to a restaurant called CAU where we met up with a friend I met in Muizenberg, South Africa two years ago. Her name is Bruna and she was part of the new group of volunteers that arrived after I returned from Tanzania some time ago. She’s originally from Brazil but now resides near Amsterdam. She has been studying here and on her free time enjoys traveling to different places. She actually worked at CAU and was able to score us a 50% discount on our delicious meal we had there. So great to see ya again Bruna!
Immediately after, another friend of mine joined Mieke and I. Her name is Charissa and I met her last year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She stayed in the same hostel I was in, the Mad Monkey. While Bruna had to start her shift at CAU, the rest of us went to a nearby bar around the corner. It was almost exactly a year since I saw Charissa and since then she’s been taking classes at the University hospital in Amsterdam and has been hard at work in completing her academics. She took us to one of her favorite spots, a whiskey bar, down the alley where we sampled a variety of different whiskeys. If only you could have seen my face!
Amsterdam was a pretty cool place! Very touristy, but still fun and interesting. My biggest lessons I learned: never take a photo of those women in the Red Light District or otherwise they’ll chase you down and also bring an umbrella…it rains all the time! At least when I was there.
Mieke and I had only planned on two days in Amsterdam, so we had to take a train back to Ede that night. I had plans to visit another friend of mine who lives in Groningen, a student city way to the north of Holland. Just like everywhere I’ve been in Holland, I had no clue what to expect.