Saturday, November 20, 2010
It was finally on a Saturday morning that we decided to go to Amsterdam. I was already in Holland but in a different city. We took an early morning train to Amsterdam. (Oh, and by the way, we traveled first class ;) ) It was early November and winter had still not set in. The minute you land in Amsterdam, the first thing you notice - People! Its really crowded, people visit Amsterdam mostly as Tourists. An early morning ride had gotten us all hungry, so we decided to stop for breakfast before we begin exploring the Dutch capital. Since we were vegetarians, it was hard to find a good place. After looking around for 30 mins, we decided to visit the tourist office first to get some information and possibly book tickets for museums and other attractions of the city.
After a long wait, we were finally called to the counter and the lady at the information desk told us the tickets to Anne Frank huis were sold out and gave us some details about the places we wished to visit. Not very helpful, we thought and decided to go one of the main attractions of the city. The Dam square. Its about 15 minutes walk from the Amsterdam Centraal Station to Dam square. On our way we decided to stop for breakfast and convert some currency we had. Stopping for currency was the best thing we did. This place called GMX traveller, on the main road does currency exchange and sells tickets at discounted prices. They also give away free maps of the city. It is otherwise 2.50 euros at the information office. We decided to book tickets to Madame Tussaud's and the canal cruise. The tickets to Madame Tussaud's worked out to 16 euros/ person and the canal cruise was 7 euros/ person by one of the famous cruise company, the Holland International. We collected our tickets and decided to visit Madame Tussaud's first. This ticket we got for 16 euros has some time constraints. You could visit within 12pm or after 4pm. So went in there around 11 and as soon as you enter, they make you stand next to Obama's wax model and take a picture, which you can buy later for 10 euros, I think. And then we were on our way to see the wax models. There is a brief history to the place and beautiful wax models depicting it. After a certain point, there are two ways you could take, one is the scarier place which apparently has 'live' pirates trying to scare you and the other, the normal way to see the rest of the stuff inside. Having seen other scary house kind of stuff, we decided to take the normal way. The usual pop artists like Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Victoria Beckham and the likes were all there. But the best ones for me were George Clooney, Johnny Deep and the wax model of Albert Einstein. They were all really nice. On our way out, we got a wax hand done for 15 euros. It was a very nice and slightly painful experience.
Next stop was lunch in of the döner places. I think it's the best and cheapest option for a vegetarian. We also tried some 'frites' with mayo.
After lunch, we went to the canal cruise. This was actually a little disappointing. The company, Holland International has these huge boats which can seat up to 50 people,with tables for 4. So we ended up sitting with a couple and that too, against the direction of motion. It was quite annoying. They play an audio recording as we pass by about the history of the canals and various other places in 3-4 different languages. I remember it to be Dutch, English, German and French. Apart from the bad seats, we quite enjoyed the ride. There were boat houses which were permanent houses of people. Many canals were almost a 100-200 years old. The houses in Amsterdam or any other Dutch city are built beautifully with small but many windows, pretty drapes and small flowering plants.
After this we decided to walk to Anne Frank huis to see if we could buy a ticket there but there was a huge queue of people waiting to get inside. We thought of dropping it for this time. On our way back to Dam square, we stopped by to have a nice cup of coffee in one of those street cafes. It was really nice to sit outside, looking at the passersby, drinking coffee and thinking of the good times :-)
We also stopped at one of the souvenirs shop and bought a few things for family and friends back home.
As we were walking by and decided to take a little detour to explore more than just dam square, we ended up at the Red light district. There is a board written saying no photography allowed and that is when it occurred to us that we were already in the place.
Although, this place is very safe, looking at the girls dressed in bikini by the windows made me sad. It was so demeaning. The girls were trying to attract customers by doing a little act. Every girl there must have had a story behind before they landed there.
It was almost 8pm and time to return when we saw many 'coffee shops'. Having read and heard about them, we thought of going inside to see how life is like there. I was surprised to see so many Indians buy the stuff in bulk. Thankfully, this place was also selling milk shakes and coffee, we bought a coffee from there and quickly made our way out.
The whole day was well spent and the experience enough to last a life time.
Amsterdam, where drugs is legal, prostitution is legal and such huge floating population and many industries, it's unbelievably clean and surprisingly safe. Although, it is advised that certain localities must be avoided after it gets dark.
-> If you've never been to any of the Madame Tussaud's, do make a visit. 16 euros is totally worth it.
-> If this is the only time you plan to visit Madame Tussaud's/ Amsterdam, get one of those wax hand thing done. 15 euros sounds expensive, yeah, but its totally worth it.
-> Never make any conversation with a stranger, they usually give you the information you asked for and then ask you for money.
-> If you feel adventurous, you could try (and I know most people go there for) some pot. Apparently, they have really mild stuff for beginners and stuff that can be a delicious snack, a Muffin.
-> It's always a good idea to book tickets to places like Anne Frank huis/ Madame Tussaud's or Canal cruise. Do so in of the currency exchange places. They usually have good offers if you buy all the tickets in one place.
-> "Moeven Pick" is one of the hotels I recommend for medium-high budget bag-packers.