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amsterdam - coffee shops and window shopping

NETHERLANDS | Saturday, 10 May 2008 | Views [1082]

we both had great expectations for Amsterdam and it must be said these were only exceeded. We arrived and after asking for directions discovered we were staying in the heart of the red light district - whopps. We found our way to our 18-bed room - our first dorm experience for the trip. Not great fun considering no one spoke English and the people in the bunks beside us kept kissing and hopefully nothing else really loudly all night. thank goodness for ipods.

The red light area didn´t seem to dodgy and like party heaven really, as it was filled with countless bars, coffee shops (meaning places to buy and smoke weed), and porn shops. We went for a walk along the canals and both noticed just how beautiful Amsterdam actually is, you hear about it because of weed and girls in the windows, but it should be considered a tourist destination in its own right as it is simply stunning. The canals are lined with old houses and there are heaps of trees and bridges and plenty of churches etc dotting the skyline.

Our favourite thing about Amsterdam, and the most dangerest as well, was the fact that everyone rides bikes. It is so easy too because the entire city is so flat, but there are bikes everywhere and not many cars at all. They are dangerous however because you can´t hear them coming, and Lize had many close calls.

When in Rome.... we went coffee shopping and it was like a supermarket, with weed to make you giggle, weed to make you ponder, hydroponically grown, al natural - however you want it, done. We got some joints and then headed back to our hostel bar to smoke them, but it didn´t take long and poor Kim was off to the loo about to spew - he claims he didn´t but he def couldn´t handle it!

With Lize in charge, she suggested a walk and together we strolled along the foreshore and checked out all the house boats and some amazing architecture - or was it amazing becuase of what we had been up to previously?. Was nice to escape the city and it was the first of much walking that would be done in Europe.

The next day we decided to take on the Heiniken Experience and in true backpacker (aka stingy) style, walk there. It took a while, but we reasoned we would be walking off all the free beer we had heard you get on the tour. That thought alone got us there and when we arrived - we discovered it was shut. bugger. big big bugger.

We decided to keep walking as there was a massive park marked nearby and we wanted to check it out which was a good decision. It was a beautiful sunny day although we still needed jackets. We enjoyed watching all the locals enjoying their park, it was nice to see so many people out and about, and then headed off for a heiniken, deciding we had earnt it!

The next day was Queens Day, the birthday of the Queen Mother and basically an excuse for the entire country to party in the streets. Stages were set up in every single square, on street corners - it was incredible. Everyone wearing orange, drinking and happy. Awesome. We got involved and followed the crowds, even donning a discarded orange hat for the occasion. Walking, drinking beers, seeing the various acts and chatting to the dutch, it was an amazing day nearly on par with our water festival in Thailand and both of us were surprised that the day isn´t raved about along with running with the bulls and the tomato festival because it rates it. a very big day which ended with american style pizza and big jug of water.

Surpisingly not seedy, we woke up ready to explore the last section of our map and take in Anne Frank´s house - with Kim given a quick run down on exactly who Anne Frank was on the way.

It was on the way, on a sunny afternoon, that eagle eyes Lize spotted the first girl in the window - just on what seemed a normal street. Kim, shocked at having missed what he had been looking for for 3 days, walked back to have a look and then insisted we follow the red lights leading off the main street. It is no myth, these girls actually sit in the windows and sell themselves. It is pretty shocking really and quite disgusting when you see the seedy old men window shopping and some even going inside and the curtains being drawn. Not cool. Still, it is what people see in Amsterdam so we felt like we had really had the Amsterdam experience now and could leave satisfied we hadn´t missed anything.

We only wished we could have headed out of the city and had a look around at other places in Holland, because if anything like Amsterdam, we would have been in for a treat.


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