The marvelous maze of canals and quirky little side streets engulfed us as we stepped out of Amsterdam Centraal. A busy street with bicycles racing past welcomed us, we two weary-eyed travellers, the strain of our bags finally getting too much. Amsterdam, some would have you believe, revolves around the legal drug culture of marijuana, under-stated though it is, and of course, the Red Light District. The late-night mirage of lust certainly overwhelmed me on the first night, but there is much, much more to this picture-postcard place.


The night we arrived, we had some expensive steak at a sub-standard restaurant and received some terribly poor service! (But enough of that, we’re not here to complain). We then found our way to a Bull Dog CafĂ© and ordered a coffee before going downstairs into the smoky deluge of black walls, brown leather sofas and travellers. We sat outside in the haze of the moonlight glimmer, as it hugged the water beside us. The soft wind was a welcome friend. It rippled the waters and rippled me. Sometimes it feels good to be cold.


The night took us in her fiery grasp and in the early hours we became entranced, mesmerised by the glistening red lights and alluring women in each doorway we passed. The Red Light District, with its lights illuminous and women illuminating, some with meteoric eyes to draw you in to their worlds, was a unique and palpable thing to experience. The concept of women in doorways offering men sex is fascinating when you come face to face with it. The night-time crowd were out in full force tonight, and every food outlet stayed open until sunrise.


The morning, in our numb state, we slithered in and out of the streets in search of somewhere to relax. At one precise moment, clarity hovered over the water and my gaze became transfixed on two swans, happily paddling away. The mirage of the night before had subsided and the city looked different, clearer. After deciding against paying to go in the National Museum, we slowly worked our way to the famous Anne Frank House. Having read her diary, I was intrigued by her story and keen to walk in her footsteps to imagine more clearly what it was like to live like she did. I felt like touring the museum would help me comprehend the complex thoughts she encountered when she, her family and some friends hid from the Nazis in the secret annexe.


It was a moving and melancholy exhibition. I especially remember a video shown of her father, Otto Frank, who survived the Holocaust. His family didn’t. After returning some time later to the Netherlands, he discovered Anne’s diary and after a long while of deliberation, decided to have it published, so the world might know her story. When you read her book, you learn of the context, the horror and the humanity of the situation in Europe during that time. A theme that grabbed me was that of secrets; from one’s friends, family, parents. So much went on in the mind of that young girl, especially due to the constricted confines of the annexe and the constant atmosphere of fear. At the end of the video in the museum, Otto Frank concluded, “you never really know your children”. The great humanitarian story of this young girl will live on, I’m sure.


That night, we decided to sample some contemporary jazz for one last time. This was after sitting in a pub for an hour watching the prostitutes and their plights on the other side of the canal. The club, Alto, was terrific. A Spanish ensemble including bongo drums and an acoustic guitar astounded and filled our hearts. The beer and the sounds were soothing. So was the knowledge that we can pack our bags one morning, passports in our hands, desire in our hearts, and board a train heading anywhere.


The final morning of our travels, we sat on the monument at the centre of the Dam and took in the sun, the music. A man was singing cabaret outside for the tourists. It was a calm and joyful time, despite our knowing that our flights home were coming ever closer. We took a journey to a trendy coffee shop on the edge of the city. It was mid-morning and we sat on the seats alone by the canal’s edge. We spent the whole morning talking, taking a few pictures for posterity, and enjoying the philosophical chatter. The people on their bicycles constantly crossing the bridge before our matured eyes, constantly moving, they didn’t know about us. They get on with their lives, like everybody does. You see, everybody is on a journey. Mine hasn’t ended yet.

Bicycle Rush Hour in Utrecht (Netherlands).

I’m currently inside my hotel room at Schiphol Airport in my underwear and jacket. Please don’t try and visualize. I’m not trying to entice anyone. My choice of clothing right now resulted from a miscommunication between me and everyone else. Either that or this resulted from stubborness. Fine, not stubborness. Call it stupidity. 

So I arrived at Schiphol. I was looking out the windows and smiling at everyone, basically looking like the ultimate tourist. Then while I was walking, following the crowd from my flight, I realized most of them were just transferring planes. I on the other hand was staying overnight here until my flight to Prague the next day. So in my search for the baggage claim area I landed at the arrival counter where they checked my passport. Mr. Golden Blonde Hair asked me the usual questions and all that. In the course of our conversation he tells me that my baggage is at Prague right now and there’s no reason to stamp my passport and let me go out to the Dutch wilderness since my hotel was inside the airport. So I nodded and bid farewell to his dashing good looks and told myself that he couldn’t be right. So little ol’ me went to the airport information booth wherein this old lady tells me that I can actually claim my baggage at Belt 15 which seemed to be the farthest place on earth. So I had to go through another passport check where the officer kept calling me Ms. Pilipinas. He stamps my passport and by the time I reached Belt 15 there were only 3 lugagges left and mine was’t there. So I go to KLM service center where another lady tells me that my lauggage is in fact at Prague, my final destination. So Mr. Blondie was right. So then I asked how to get back in the airport where my hotel was supposed to be. She then tells me I had to go through customs and check in again. 

To cut the long story short, I think I’m really stupid.

I landed at Schiphol. Was supposed to stay in the airport overnight until my flight tomorrow am… But I somehow managed to go through a passport check thus leaving the airport and then going back to check-in AGAIN cos my hotel was INSIDE the airport. I must’ve explored Schiphol entirely.

Checking in my hotel was easy enough and I’m now relaxing after that dreadful blunder. I’ve got no spare clothes and toiletries. Of course I can just go down and buy at the store.

I hope I find my luggage tomorrow. This is day 1. 

Dutch Delight - F-16 Fighting Falcon


Post a Comment