At the Schiphol Airport
My adventure in the land of the famed Red Light District, space cakes and tulips came earlier than planned. My brother broached the idea of us meeting in Amsterdam where he was to attend a weekend conference. We haven't seen each other for more than a year and it seemed a perfect time for us to have our pre-birthday celebration. As soon as my brother freed up his schedule, I booked a flight from Stockholm to Amsterdam which came with a hefty price tag since I bought the ticket a few days before the trip.
Four years ago, at around this time of the month, I found myself at Schiphol airport. My brother and I scheduled our flights so that our ETAs will just be less than an hour apart. My plane arrived at noon, on time. After picking my luggage, I checked the monitors at the airport. Geez, my brother’s flight from Casablanca was delayed for more than an hour. We agreed beforehand that we will meet at the luggage carousel but I didn’t want to just stand there so I made my way to the exit, amused myself with the sights and sounds beyond the arrival area and sent an SMS to my brother that I would be waiting for him at a designated area outside the arrival hall.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, the two peas in a pod finally converged. It was the first time for both of us in The Netherlands. We took a train to the city center and proceeded to Stay Ok near Vondelpark which was to be our home for the weekend. We were already late for the Amazing Race activity of the conference. So we, together with Lanie Monteaguado (a Filipino based in The Netherlands), had our own amazing sightseeing around Amsterdam that afternoon. We took a stroll, stopped by a cart to fill our tummies with herring, and gazed at the crystals and diamonds displayed on window shops.
Has it ever occurred to you that every time Amsterdam is mentioned, sex is often associated with this city? That did not escape us. For the remainder of the afternoon, we visited the sex museum and some sex toy shops.
On display at the Sex Museum
Merchandise at the sex toy shops
We also did an early shopping for souvenir items.
After our dinner, we joined the rest of the conference participants for a walk around Amsterdam. It was not just any ordinary walk. We decided to explore the famous Red Light District in the company of a priest and a bunch of other devout Catholics.
As we were walking down the lane teeming with men and pimps, I saw a row of window displays filled with women instead of the mannequins you would often see in stores. Ladies of different nationalities engaged in prostitution. Men brazenly expressed their satisfaction. I was told that when the curtains are drawn with ladies doing tittilating acts, they were trying to entice customers. But once the curtain covers up the whole window display, business is ongoing and it’s time to move on to the next window.
After doing the rounds at the RLD, we decided to go back to the hostel and call it a night. But we found ourselves moving around in circles. Until we realized we were lost. We were already famished by then that we decided to have pizza. After consuming big slices of pizza, we trooped to the old church, tried to visualize the streets of Amsterdam from that point, and finally made our way back to the hostel.
The next day, after breakfast, my brother attended the conference. I called up my high school buddy and fellow culturati JNM based in The Hague then and we decided to meet at the Centraal Station.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning so I decided to walk from Vondelpark all the way to the Centraal Station. I didn't mind the distance because I was amazed at the buildings and I enjoyed seeing the locals go about their weekend life.
Buildings in Amsterdam
Finally, after having spent my legs with all the walking and sweating it out under the morning sun, I found myself at the train station and there waiting for me was my friend. We ventured again for another walk. We wanted to get inside the Anne Frank House but the line was already long. So we decided to get to know more about Rembrandt in his quarters which according to our guide was refurbished so that it would look pretty much like the way it was at the time when Rembrandt was creating his masterpieces.
From the Rembrandt house and studio, we continued walking until we saw a flea market where we lingered for quite long. I bought an impression of Van Gogh's The Bedroom by a local artist. It was already noon by the time we exited the market. My friend wanted to try Amsterdam's coffee shops but I wasn't in the mood for space cakes so we ate at a restaurant for some proper meal and we could smell the marijuana-like air inside the resto.
I had to take a picture of this on our way to the resto.
After lunch, we took a train to The Hague (where my friend was currently an intern at the ICC). It was a Saturday so we didn't get to enter the premises of the International Criminal Court. Instead we went to the Peace Palace.
The Peace Palace
World Peace Flame
The rock donated by the Philippines that lined the Peace Pathway.
From the Palace, we continued our walk around The Hague, making stops for photo ops at the Parliament, The Queen's Residence and the Mauritshuis.
The Mauritshuis under renovation
Another view of The Hague
As the dusk set in, we went to buy some ingredients for our dinner and several bottles of San Miguel beer. Then we trooped to my friend's apartment. Joining us for dinner was my friend's Spanish colleague at ICC. At around 9 p.m., I took a train back to Amsterdam.
Last day in Amsterdam, I learned that I was too early for the bed of tulips at the Keukenhof Gardens. So I contented myself by looking at the bunches of tulips sold in the market.
The rest of the morning was spent at the Van Gogh museum. I was waiting for my brother but he was unable to make an early exit from the conference. From the Museumplein, I went back to the hostel. My flight back to Stockholm was in the afternoon. I wanted to be early at the airport so I'll have time to visit the Rijksmuseum and other facilities at the airport. I had to make a quick goodbye but my brother prodded me to stay for a bit as he was busy making introductions with the conference participants. By the time I checked out of the hostel, we were racing to the train stop. And to add to my agony, the train to the airport wasn't anywhere in sight. Finally, when I saw the train, I heaved a sigh of relief but not without huffing and puffing my way to the coach. I was praying that the train ride would be without any glitches. When I reached the airport, the counter was about to close. In fact, I was one of the passengers bumped off from the flight due to overbooking. I waited and waited until I would be accommodated on my flight. An airline personnel (KLM) approached me and said if in case I won't get a seat on the economy class, they'll accommodate me in the business class. That was really a very welcome news. When I reached the counter, I was told that I could be accommodated on my flight but still on the economy class. You could just imagine how happy and relieved I was at that moment, although I won't deny my wishful thinking for a business class accommodation. I only had a few minutes left before boarding time so I was unable to explore the airport. But it was a fun weekend getaway and I'm wishing I'd set foot in The Netherlands soon.