Thursday, April 8, 2010

ambient amsterdam.

Amsterdam was...nice.

It was a refreshing break from all the assignments and projects, and it was a nice change from the four walls of my dorm room.

It had beautiful scenery, with idyllic canals, artistic and one-of-a-kind buildings, and fantastic nature at its best.

It is supposed to be the land of sin, but we managed to steer clear of sin and instead stayed in a christian shelter right next to sin itself.

It was enjoyable, but there seemed to be a lack to things to do and see once nightfall came, and us girls who were less keen on the cannabis and sex, went to bed every night before 10pm.

(then again, the sex part was never an option for us as Amsterdam is the land of window girls and not window guys!)

Amsterdam has its fair share of beauty and bounty from mother nature. It would make a nice relaxing weekend trip for the less adventurous, and could also provide an exciting escapade for those who are more...naughty.

On the first day we went for a free tour of Amsterdam city by Sandeman's tour group. It was a perfect way to kick off our stay in Amsterdam. On the 3-hour tour, we covered--

• The Old Church
• The Red Light District
• The Jewish Quarter
• Royal Palace
• The Jordaan District
• The Anne Frank House
• The Dutch East India Company
• The Begijnhof Convent
• Masterpieces of Dutch Art
• The Widest Bridge and Narrowest House

Amsterdam is a place of paradoxes. A large church is located right next to the busiest part of the red light district, and people can go right from the arms of the girls straight into the embraces of God, to ask for forgiveness. Makes life much more easier, don't you think?

What's that sitting quietly in the corner of the building? That warrants a special mention by our tour guide? Aha! It is a PEE SHIELD. Literally, to shield the dark corners of Amsterdam from people's pee. When someone pees in that corner onto the pee shield, the pee reflects off the shield right onto the pants of the offender! What an ingenious contraption, eh?

Bucketfuls of flowers, mostly tulips.

On the second day, we went to the Keukenhof flower gardens. Amsterdam is famous for its tulips in the spring and Keukenhof is a must-go for every traveller to the city. The gardens boast fields and fields of tulips and loads of other flower species, almost everything imaginable under the sun. Unfortunately our timing was not perfect for the tulips and only about 60% were blooming. The rest was still sleeping or too shy to meet us.

real flowers looking as if they had been cut out from paper.

the greenhouse in Keukenhof where tulips can bloom and be pretty all year round.

The third day, we went to Zaanse Schans, a tourist area off Amsterdam with everything the city is famous for. Think windmills, cheese, wooden clogs, and canal cruises.

Zaanse schans. You can see that Amsterdam is all about the scenery!

Fourth day: we went to a few little towns on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Some of us commented that the scenic small towns around Amsterdam would make a perfect place for retirement. I couldn't agree more. Living in Edam and Marken would quite possibly add another 10 to 15 years of robust healthy years to our lifespan had we settled down here. What with bubbling brooks running right in front of your house and vast green fields of tulips behind, it's a wonder these quaint little places aren't overflowing with senior citizens!

in volendam, a small town on the outskirts of amsterdam. A lovely place to have a coffee and watch the world go by.

what is there to complain about if you lived in a place like this?

the all-girls tour group. picture taken from jane's camera.

Last day we hung out around the marketplace near our hostel and marveled at the huge array of veg, fruits and traditional Dutch pastries sold in the small space. I bought a piece of cake made from brown rice and walnuts.

wet market in amsterdam. So colourful and fresh and juicy!

A few of us opted to visit the Heineken beer factory, located right in the heart of its birthplace, Amsterdam. The short tour of the factory was perfectly planned and the layout was ingenious. It almost had a Disneyland feel to it, so good it was.Entrance fees were a little steep for us poor students (15 euros) but it was totally worth every penny, even more if you finish the three beers allocated for you.

Heineken factory visit, where everyone was entitled to three glasses of beer. love!

the apple pie Amsterdam is famous for. and coffee, as always.

breakfast in Shelter City, listening to christian music and munching on hot pancakes with maple syrup. picture by jane.