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Amsterdam on my mind

May 9th, 2008

There is always a first time for everybody. Two of perhaps a million of my first times, happened at the same time in 1998. One was my first time to travel abroad, to the Netherlands, and the other was my first snow. It was in Amsterdam that I first saw, felt and played with snow.

I was a student in a short non-degree studies in Amsterdam in 1998. We stayed in the school’s dormitory during the whole duration of our study. Our school was located at Willemsparkweg, just a few meters away from the Vondelpark and the Hotel Zandbergen. Amsterdam for me then seemed like a very big park. So during class breaks, together with two of my Filipino classmates, we strolled around the city center of Amsterdam by just walking. Being first timers in Amsterdam, every street corner is a new site to behold, making it impossible for us to get tired of walking.

From where the school was located, we walked to and stroll around Leidseplein, Damrak, the Dam, the Royal Palace,etc. A stroll down Vondelpark became a usual destination during short class breaks. Our Dutch classmates called the Vondelpark as Fondle Park, an allusion of course to what pairs usually do in that park any time of the day. We also visited museums and took a boat tour around Amsterdam via its canal network.

The first thing I learned in Amsterdam was never to go to a Coffee Shop if you just wanted to have a real coffee and some food for snacks. But if you want a good trip around A’dam, a-la Cheech and Chong, then a Coffee Shop is your perfect whistle stop. Coffee shops serve ‘ganja’ Yellow Coffee and some good stuff and joints. These Coffee shops are aplenty and you can find them scattered all over Amsterdam, like the Grasshopper, Bulldog, and a lot more. In The Netherlands, soft drugs like cannabis sativa are legal, albeit regulated.

Moving around Amsterdam is quite easy. The Dutch can speak and understand English perfectly well. So if you get lost, you can just ask anyone for instructions. We were always mistaken as Indonesians when we converse with a Dutch on the street. Indonesia was once, and the only Colony of Holland in Asia. That is why next to the Morrocans and Turks, one can find a lot of Indonesians in Holland, like one can find a lot of Vietnamese in Paris.

Assuming you’d ask, Yes, I visited the popular Red Light district of Amsterdam. But it was merely to “kijkend” around. A Dutch friend told me that there is an unwritten law in the alleys of the Red Light district, taking pictures of the women of the place is a no-no, it is considered disrespectful. You might find yourself in trouble if you can’t prevent clicking your cameras. Next time you know, your camera had found a new home under the canals of Amsterdam.

Finding hotels in Amsterdam is not hard as well. You can find all kinds of hotels just within the City center, from cheap hostels to five star hotels. Or you can locate one through the internet. One good finder in the internet is the easytobook.com.

I went back to Amsterdam two more times, after my first time.

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