If people say that Amsterdam is about the canals, old architecture Dutch buildings, coffee shops, red light district and freedom… they are right! Although there are more to it than that. It is rich in history, museums, bicycles, cafes, food, flowers, and The Netherlanders. I am loving Amsterdam!!! All those postcard pictures for Amsterdam were not exaggerated, I saw it in my own eyes on normal days.
I stayed with a host that I found through Couchsurfing website. That was my first couch surfing experience. I was blessed meeting such a nice host who took me for a tour around Amsterdam and showed me tourist attractions such as parks, museums, canals and red light district. Amsterdam has numerous amount of beautiful canals with bridges that allow pedestrian, bikers and cars to cross them. Life does not happen only on the land, but also on the canals. Canals were filled with tour boats, private boats and boat houses. Most of those boats park along the canals. Bridges were decorated with flowers and numerous bike locked to the bridges. On the side of the canals, typical dutch buildings were seen together with cafes and shops. The buildings were closely packed in a tidy manner and decorated with big windows. Although the city was busy, I felt peace seeing the beautiful canals and relaxing atmosphere.
Museums and buildings
The old buildings have brick outer appearance with various colours, built adjacent to each other and have four to five levels. Most buildings have multiple windows in each level that are arranged neatly. Because the doors are small, the furnitures are often inserted through the windows using a small hook and some kind of lever to get it up. Clever, isn’t it! I love the architecture and the arrangement that is seen from the outside. The inside of the building could be quite small and packed; based on public places that I have visited such as Rembrant house. Entering Rembrandt house and listening to the electronic guided tour gave me some insight of not only his life but the kind of life happening in Amsterdam around 16th century.
There are only so many museums you can visit before you run out of time. Most museums would have entrance fees, but thank to Museumkaart lent by a friend of mine, I can visit most museums for free. Big museums such as Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank Huis, Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam) and Madame Tussaud have long queue and might take most of your day. I walked pass those buildings and wish I could visit them. To make the most of my time, I decided to visit small museums such as Cheese museum, Rembrants house and other not so crowded museums; NEMO science centre and Het Scheepvaartmuseum. I love the places I visited. Nemo science centre was filled with science experiment for all ages. Both children and adults are enjoying themselves interacting with all sort of science equipments. I thought it was such a great place for interactive education that most countries should have.
Het Scheepvaartmuseum (The ship museum) was another museum that caught my attention. Next to the museum building is VOC ship. The ship that was used to sail across the ocean to find spices at colonial time. The ship was equipped with canon, ammunition, bread, cheese and plunders in the form of spices, coal, cacao, and many other things. The load was based on the resources of the countries they went to. The experience was quite personal for me.
I was also impressed by other buildings. They looked beautiful.
The Red Light District
The last highlight of my Amsterdam trip was the red light district. It is an area in the central where you can find numerous coffee shops and buildings with numerous sex workers on display on their windows. The room is is lighted with dimmed red lights. The district gets busy at night although few can be seen on operation during daylight. As for coffee shops, they are generally busy at all the time. The coffee shops here are not your ordinary coffee shops. They are selling various type of cannabis, joints and magic mushroom. They have good descriptive menu and if you still need help, the staff would be ready to assist you to get the “high” you want. For those with sweet palates, the shops offers cakes with various weed (space cake), coffee with cannabis, lollies and other goodies. Walking through the streets, I could smell strong weed.
In red light district, most of the ladies behind the window will smoke and take vitamins that is believed would help them do their work. The idea of having an area for this kind of activity is to allow government to better control such activities. I guess it make sense in a way. As I walk pass and look at the people behind the glass windows, I wonder what they feel being stared at. Although the Red light district was not my cup of tea, the visit certainly was an interesting experience for me.
I love Amsterdam with its diversity and richness. I met a lot of nice people, spoiled with the architecture, canals and beautiful city views. Love the amazing street artists, the markets, the squares and the food. Most of all I enjoy chatting with locals and tourist and hear their thoughts about the city. Thank you Amsterdam. I hope I will come back one day to visit more museums and eat more cheese and kroketten!
Tips for travelling in The Netherlands:
- Biking is a big thing in the country. Buy yourself a cheap bike if you want to bike in The Netherlands as bike thieving is very common. However if you are a passionate biker and want to explore the country by bike, no one shall stop you from getting a good road bike!
- Most attraction is centralised in Amsterdam city centre and it is best to explore the centre by feet.
- Get a Museum card which cost €60 for a month which allows you to enter more than 400 museums in The Netherlands. It is definitely worth to get one even if you just visiting big museums in Amsterdam.
- Go to cheese shops and indulge yourself with free tasting cheeses. Gouda cheese there could easily be my favourite!
- After all those cheese testing, enjoy Dutch beer at Heineken experience