Holland, a region in the Netherlands, is a unique destination. I really enjoy Holland – it was not love-at-first-sight but I slowly discovered how cute the place was. You can go party and get crazy in Amsterdam, or you can take a short train to somewhere beautiful, quiet and romantic. The visit to Zaanse Schans (nearby Amsterdam) and Red Light District are the highlights of my trip.
In fact, my first impression of Amsterdam (capital city of the Netherlands) was not good. When I arrived in Amsterdam, I think it was a chaotic city. There are so many people and bikes – many of them going around in many different directions! I was nearly hit by them for a few times. Someone told me that it is 3 times busier during the summer, that’s insane!!
Coffeeshop and Nightlife
On the first night of my stay, I met a few people at my hostel. All of us were from different countries and met each other for the first time. They asked if I wanted to go to coffeeshop with them (in Amsterdam, the coffeeshop is drug shop)…… I was very blur and thought it was a real coffee shop, so I said: “sure, why not?” >.<
On the way to the coffeeshop, one of them explained to me that the coffeshop sells spice cake (weed cake) which is kind of legal in Amsterdam. I was shocked, he said, “but you don’t have to eat if you don’t want”.
In the end, I was the only person who did not eat any of the weed cake. One of them convinced me to try, but I didn’t although it was actually very tempting to try a small piece of it. Now I understand the power of peer influence. However, it was not something for me because my father was a very heavy smoker and passed away many years ago – I can’t afford to do anything that may repeat his step.
There are two broad types of weeds. One type is to make you feel high, one type is to make you feel relax and sleepy. I was glad that they had the relax one, so it wasn’t too awful for me. The coffeeshop did not sell any alcohol, so we went to the Heineken bar and had some beer. I had a glass of Heineken beer, Jager bomb and cinnamon whisky shot. It was a nice chat with them, and I had a good learning about the drugs.
After the drink, we had some snack at Febo. In this shop, you just need to insert coins to purchase hot food. It is the fastest and easiest way to get food when you are hungry. I think this is a very interesting concept, and most importantly, the food is delicious! This is very popular in Amsterdam and there are many branches in Amsterdam, so if you spot one, give it a try!
The nightlife in Amsterdam is fantastic. If you like a party, you will love this place. I am not really a party person, but it feels amazing to go once in a while. 🙂
Free walking tour in Amsterdam
A few companies provide the free walking tour in Amsterdam. The free tours start at Dam Square and usually take between 2-3 hours. You give tips after the tour ends; the amount of the tips depends on how much you think the tour worth. I love this concept. – most of the places in Europe have this kind of tour.
At Dam Square, you can find the free walking tour easily as they hold an umbrella and wear a uniform. Different colour of umbrellas means different tour companies. Usually, you do not have to make any booking, but it is recommended to book online during peak season.
Although my tour guide was very young and looked inexperienced (sorry!), I enjoyed the tour very much. Most of the tours explained a lot about history, while he taught us many general things about Amsterdam, such as why the buildings in Amsterdam are leaning forward or tilts to one side; gave a brief background about the red light district, as well as how to spot a drug shop (Coffeeshop and Magic shop with mushroom logo) – I wish I knew this before I went to coffeeshop yesterday. 😛
The tour guide said he loves the golden tits. 😰
Amsterdam is a very interesting city. It really broadens my horizons.
I met a person from Finland during the tour. After the tour, we had a long walk together and had a dinner at Hard Rock Café.
I had the most expensive meal for my 2 weeks of Europe trip so far – luckily it was very delicious. I told her that I am going to Copenhagen for 4 days, and she gave me a very helpful suggestion. She suggested I can go to Malmö (a city in Sweden) by taking about 30-minutes train. So I add this into my itinerary.
Canal Cruise – A very popular activity in Amsterdam
Many people will advise you to take a canal cruise in Amsterdam because it is a very popular thing to do here. The normal canal cruise costs about €18 in Amsterdam and €10 in Leiden. I did in both places.
I was a little bit disappointed as I did not quite enjoy the cruises. Maybe it is because: (1) the guide explained a lot about history, but I was less interested in history, (2) my expectation was too high given the high ranking of this activity in Amsterdam, (3) nothing too special about it. If you want a really beautiful view, I suggest to go to Zaanse Schan – see below.
Zaanse Schans (Windmill Village) – very beautiful!
This is one of the most beautiful and romantic places that I have ever been! (although I am going alone again…) Zaanse Schans, or called windmill village, is a neighbourhood of Zaandam. It takes about 25-minutes train ride from Amsterdam Central Station (cost €7.20) – not far from Amsterdam!
The windmill village gives me a very Dutch feel. An image keeps appearing in my mind: a young Dutch couple falls in love with each other in this village and begins their new life here. Then, I saw a fridge magnet at a souvenir shop was exactly what I described. So I bought it.
The village is cute even when the weather is terrible. I think the view will be even more beautiful when the weather is good. I wish I can come again.
Red Light District – creepy or exciting?
I think Red Light District is something unique in Amsterdam and I really want to see it (there are Red Light District in other places but Amsterdam is very famous for it). If you haven’t heard of it, it is ‘a part of an urban area where a concentration of prostitution and sex-oriented businesses, such as sex shops, strip clubs, adult theatres, etc. are found’ (source: Wikipedia). In Amsterdam, window prostitutes are everywhere in Red Light District.
I really want to go there but I feel creepy to go on my own. A friend at my hostel told me that there was a Red Light District Tour and it cost only €14 for two hours! And the best thing is, you can just go without reservation (provided their tour is not full so it is better to make the online booking during peak season). So I joined the tour.
The big condom shop in Amsterdam – once passed this point, we were at Red Light District. By the way, I really don’t understand why do people wear condom with cartoon on it…. 😰 😰
Just like any guided tour, we were explained a lot about the red light district in two hours. If you think you will be seeing hot girls for the entire 2 hours, you will be disappointed (you better come alone if you want that). I learnt a lot from this tour.
Most of the prostitutes are not locals; they are mainly from Romania and Bulgaria. Most of them want to earn some money so they can buy a car, a house or even start a business in their home country. One interesting point that the tour guide told us is: those gals who quit this job are likely to come back again. Once they tried, they will want to come back again and earn more money.
There is legal or illegal prostitution. The legal prostitutes are usually displayed on the window. The prostitutes here typically earn €6-8k per month, some of them can earn up to €20k per month (very unlikely – but possible for some really hot gals).
During the entire tour, we can see some window prostitutes occasionally. The real exciting moment is the last 10 minutes of the tour when the guide brought us to a narrow street and we saw many window prostitutes. Some of them are very hot and pretty!
I didn’t take any photo of them, as the tour guide told us that we should respect them. I saw some people taking photos of them secretly which I don’t like. If the prostitutes knew that you are taking photos of them, they will go crazy! Even if they did not notice, but hey, show some respect, please.
The tour guide also gave us some recommendations, e.g. the best sex theatre and peep show. I will go if I am with someone! I met a gal from the tour; she is from Australia and staying at the hostel nearby my hostel. So we went back together. Although it is safe in Amsterdam at night, I still feel more comfortable to go back with someone. 🙂
The only museum that I have been
There are plenty of museums in Amsterdam. If you love the museum, you should plan for a longer stay in Amsterdam. I am not a museum person, so I didn’t go to any museum except one museum… wonder which museum did I go? This may be a little bit embarrassing… I went to the Sex Museum… >.<
There are a few sex museums in Amsterdam. I saw one on the way back to my hostel. The entrance fee is only €4! It is a small museum. As you can imagine, there are fewer words and a lot of pictures in the museum… sometimes there are special effects that will terrify you a little bit and will eventually make you laugh. I quite enjoyed the museum. 😝
Leiden is a small town near Amsterdam. It is a 36-minutes train ride from Amsterdam Central Station to Leiden (cost €19 for the return journey). I feel that Leiden is very much like Amsterdam, but it is much quieter.
The food here is cheaper; you can get a delicious lunch for below €10 (though the train ticket to Leiden is not cheap). It is worth a visit if you have extra time in Amsterdam. 🙂
Amsterdam is an interesting destination, with a price
Amsterdam is a fascinating place to visit but comes with a price. Amsterdam is very expensive. I blew my budget in Amsterdam as I overspent by almost double of my budget. Most of the friends that I met in Amsterdam told me the same thing, some of them think that Amsterdam is more expensive than Paris. Nevertheless, all of them love Amsterdam just like I do. Some of them come back to visit Amsterdam over and over again.
In Amsterdam, the smell of weed is very strong; the drugs and prostitute are everywhere. This is Amsterdam, yet I feel safe in this city. Sometimes, I feel that the situation is worse if you try to control or ban them. The tour guide told us that the other cities in the Netherlands do not like Amsterdam being a drug city. But in my opinion, if they enjoy what they are doing and do not hurt other people, I don’t see why this is wrong. Amsterdam is a unique city.
I stayed in Amsterdam for 4 nights which is just nice for me. I had a good time here. I also learnt a lot from this trip. I think this is the place that I would really want to come back again. Perhaps come for the tulips (when it is the season) and the windmill next time. 🙂