iAmsterdam

[Warning Mum! This post does contain some sexual references]

Wednesday morning I was awake and excited at 5am. An hour later I was checking in for my Contiki tour and beginning to get to know the other forty-six people I would be travelling with for the next eighteen days.

A long bus drive began. Six hours later, including a ride on the ferry across the English Channel, I was in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is a Dutch city with a population of around 800 thousand. The main themes of the city seem to be cheese, clogs and sex sex sex.

The first night we ventured into the red light district. With our tour manager guiding us, we had a look at some of the ‘coffee shops’ and the ladies on display. Coffee shops are where tourists and the Dutch can go to buy weed. It comes in the form of ‘space cakes’ or the more traditional cone to smoke. I didn’t try any of the products but a few of the other group members did. I did learn what ‘greening out’ meant later that night.

The ladies on display are prostitutes which is a legal working profession in Holland. They display themselves in little rooms with a window to the street and a neon red light outside. Usually wearing lingerie that glows with the lights. Closed curtains means a customer is inside. Apparently the sex industry brings in approx $100 million US in revenue every year. It was really interesting to see how pretty and normal-looking most of the women were. And there were some that weren’t so nice.. There was an alleyway called Fat Lane within the district. I’m sure you can imagine the types of ladies on display down there. A lot of the women I saw that night could have been models, some were amazingly beautiful, but maybe the money is better in this line of work? But I personally don’t think it’s a job that I’ll try!

Based on the recommendation of the tour manager, our group went and saw a sex show for the full Amsterdam cultural experience. It was certainly a very eye-opening experience. It may have involved some people having sex on a stage as one of the acts. But that’s all I’m going to say about the show. You will just have to go to one yourself to find out what else happens. Cost €40.

On the whole, as dodgy as all the stuff I’ve just said about the red light district sounds, it was actually very interesting to see such a different side of life. And the atmosphere has a good vibe. I felt very safe walking around the district the whole time. Originally prostitution was introduced to the city as a way to lower the rates of rape by making sex so easily available. It certainly seems to be working judging by how happy and cheerful the Dutch people are ;) The rate of rape has apparently much improved. Photography of the girls is frowned upon but I did find this photo on google just to give you an idea.

Image courtesy of theworkzine.com
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The next morning, feeling a little bit bleary eyed, it was time to go see how cheese and clogs are made. This was actually a really neat experience. The staff at the Cheese Farm were really interactive. Especially the clog man. He was very creative and amusing as to his reasons why wooden clogs are amazing to wear. I felt almost persuaded to buy a pair. Lucky I didn’t as my backpack really cannot fit anymore items inside. The clogs are surprisingly comfortable to wear. And make a fantastic weapon or hammer should you need it. Dutch cheese tasting was part of the tour and very very delicious.

Don’t ya just love ’em!
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Then my favourite part of the morning was next – riding a granny bike along the canals in a small Dutch village called Edam.

Edam is stunningly beautiful. It really made me fall in love with Holland. Just look at these photos (which were difficult to get while riding a bike I have to say! Try it sometime).

If you think this is beautiful, in person it’s even more gorgeous
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A decked out granny bike
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As much as I loved Amsterdam city, I actually liked the smaller Dutch village more. Maybe I’m just not as much of a city girl since living in tiny Norseman in Western Australia for a few months, but I do appreciate my quiet little towns now.

Later on in the afternoon I went to another very famous Amsterdam attraction. The Anne Frank museum. Definitely worth a visit. It is a very moving experience seeing where Anne and her family actually lived while hiding from the Nazis for over two years. I haven’t read the book for a long time, but after seeing the museum and feeling incredibly affected by it, I am reading it again now. Just be aware the queue can be quite long and slow moving. Only a certain number of people are let into the museum at a time which is actually quite nice if you think about it. Overcrowded exhibitions (like Madam Tussards was) are definitely a kill-joy. Cost €9.

Image courtesy of annefrank.org
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The rest of the day was spent shopping, going on a cruise through the canals, eating delicious Chinese-style food at the Sea Palace restaurant, getting quite tiddly during all of this (each tour activity included a number of free house drinks which of course I couldn’t let go to waste), posing for classic touristy photos, before tumbling into bed.

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Unfortunately I didn’t get a great sleep that night as two of my roommates came back at 2am drunk and high from their night out. Sadly they did not know how to whisper (they were yelling), or that turning on all room lights is kinda rude when there are sleeping people in the room. That’s the first time I’ve come across that in all my hostel experiences. Most people are usually really considerate as it is basic etiquette among fellow backpackers sharing a dorm room. But personally I am thinking that I just won’t share a room with those particular two girls again on this tour.

That was my last night in Holland. But I certainly plan to return and see more. In Amsterdam alone there are over thirty-nine museums which I would like to meander through, let alone all the other attractions and beauty in the rest of the country. I also want to try more Dutch food like the vlaamse frites (chips with mayonnaise) and stroopwaffel (waffle biscuit things stuck together with toffee goodness) as I ran out of time to eat these local delicacies.

Final verdict on Amsterdam – Awesome!!!!!!

13 thoughts on “iAmsterdam

  1. What contiki tour package did you get? Is it true that its a lot cheaper compare the DIY tour? Or doing the tour on your own? Anyway sorry to hear about your room mates who were rude? And last question: is it true that most tourists on that contiki tour love to party? Im not a party person – maybe in between, good party, good sleep and more of a foodie and i want more scenery than parties…

    • Hey there. You must be planning to do some travel soon! Good on you.
      I did an 18 day European Whirl package which was priced at about NZ$3500. I then spent another grand during the tour doing all the optional activities plus food on top of that. For doing all the activities and going to so many places at a fast speed the tour does work out cheaper. But if you had more time to spend in each place then you could do it cheaper again if you self-toured. Contiki does take the stress out of planning which is such a nice feeling. It is indeed a bit of a party tour but you can choose which parties you want to attend and how late you stay out. Alcohol is cheap in Europe and the age group of the tour group means lots of fun times. Looking back now that I’ve done more do-it-yourself travelling since the tour, I prefer doing it that way and not rushing through Europe. But it just depends what you want. A contiki tour is a great way to travel alone and make some new life-long friends. You will have an awesome time but you will be super tired and partied-out by the end of it. Bus-a-bout is another great option too that you could look into. Hope that helped!

      • Actually i find your blog on contiki travel, very informative. How about the optionals? Did you avail all of it? I am looking forward to try the paragliding :-) Anyway im not sure about the optional dinners like tuscan feast, volendam etc… Is it really good? E.g. The swiss fondue lunch? I saw some blogs that better to try it somewhere else… Im just thinking if i leave the group, i might end up spending more since i need to spend more on the transportation (taking a cab or commuting).

      • I did all of the optionals apart from a Prague cruise. The majority of them were excellent I thought. Especially the Swiss mountain one. That was my favourite. I did a cruise in Amsterdam which I thought was quite average. It was just sitting at tables in a boat with wine. Not so exciting. And the other optional that I thought I could have missed was the Tuscan dinner in Florence. The food was not that tasty. Especially considering the price it could have been so much better.
        Otherwise I loved everything else.
        And yeah transportation can cost a bit. I like buying all-day train/bus tickets to help make it cheaper and avoiding expensive cabs. A lot of places are surprisingly walkable too which is free

      • Actually im doing a bit more of research on how to save more money. And im a foodie myself that’s why i need to maximize my trip on trying their cuisine rather than ending up in a buffet or fine dining meal without really experiencing how each country have their food in reality. Im thinking of trying old/institutionalize local restaurants… And yeah i read some blogs about the tuscan feast :-) maybe will skip that one and also the amsterdam cruise – maybe will walk instead along the canal if ever :-) or maybe buy the amsterdam museum pass? What do you think? Is the anne frank free of entrance? Or it’s already included in the contiki? Also the louvre in paris, is it already included? have so many questions – sorry.

      • Haha that’s okay. I remember I had so many questions too before my tour.
        Neither Anne Frank or Louvre are included. Only what’s listed in the tour guide. You still end up paying a lot extra on top of the optionals to go into other attractions too. But you also don’t get a huge amount of time in each city. Amsterdam I think we only had 4 hours of free time then it was time for the cruise optional and dinner. So I wouldn’t get the museum pass there personally as there just isn’t enough time to get around to everything. I queued for an hour just to get into Anne Frank. Which cost €9 entry btw. June is a busy time of year but hopefully the queue lines should be better in march. You will get lots of chances to try the local food as only some dinners are included with the tour so you are encouraged to go and find some local stuff to eat on quite a few of the nights

      • Well I can’t say I actually read more than a couple of those links. I am thinking you are going to end up being waay over-prepared for your tour. I did nowhere near this much research. The Fodors community one seems really negative. I don’t think that person likes travelling at all! But yes the hotels can be a bit of a mixture ranging from grungy to surprisingly nice. It’s part of how Contiki keep the cost down. I am not going to review the hotels myself. If you want nice accommodation, then you need to book a more expensive tour.
        After doing a Contiki, I do admit that I probably won’t ever do a tour again. I find doing it myself much more satisfying and I feel like I get a lot more out my trip that way. But depends on your reasons behind going for a tour like if you’re nervous to travel alone in Europe etc.

      • I agree with you about fodors that it was really negative (i felt depressed after reading it). well i’ve been travelling a lot and its my first time to try a packaged tour which is for a change… I really wanted to save time in preparing… Im doing a research for the other stuff – like im dying to see Louvre- i want to spend at least half day for it – im a museum and art person and foodie so i really want to check on those…
        Anyway! Your blog is really a good read :-) and its refreshing to read you focused on the positive rather than negative :-)

        By the way did you pass by Verona? It’s near Venice? I really wanted to go there too:-) just like the movies of Letters to Juliet :-)

      • I felt depressed too! It focuses on all the negative parts of the tour in such an angry way. That person needs their passport taken off them! Nope didn’t go to Verona. I would like to though on my next visit to Italy. I plan to spend at least a month there because I really want to see EVERYTHING and eat all the food too. Thanks for liking my blog! It’s so nice to get feedback. I still feel like only my mum and a few close friends read it but it’s awesome finding out that other people that I’ve never met enjoy it too. If you have travelled before, then you might find contiki will only hold you back. Like Paris for example, you only have half a day to do your own thing which isn’t enough time to see everything. Especially if you are wanting to dedicate half a day to the Louvre alone.. Really when you pay for a tour, you are paying to have the stress of planning taken away from you..

      • Well im a planner by nature haha i just want to remove half of the load like accomodations and transport :/)… Anyway my plan is to skip London the first day and have flight straight to Paris instead and have at least 4 nights there and have a day trip to Mont St Michel in Normandy (which im dying to see for my pilgrimage before i start the trip) Then end the trip in London-Scotland, 4days in London and 3days in Scotland… This is on our own. I wanted to see the stonehenge, edinburgh and arthur’s seat… Well my friends told me that I could do backpacking in europe on my own since i’ve been to some really creepy places and dangerous places in some part of asia and some parts here in the Philippines… Well i just told them that im very meticulous in getting transpo and accomodation etc which will take me a lot of time (though it will save more money) – maybe contiki will be sort of adventure since its my first time to try a tour with total strangers ehehe…

        Anyway is it ok to follow your blog? Im planning to go to Australia and NZ myself. I have friends in Perth and Sydney – so I might visit them after the EU trip…

      • You will find contiki a different kind of adventure I think!! But that sounds like a great plan. It’s funny but I’m half planner/ half not. I’ll plan out my hostels and transport between cities up to a month or two in advance, but slack at actually researching what to do in each location. But usually the hostels and trip advisor are great at giving me ideas after I arrive haha. Of course you can follow me! I won’t be back in NZ for a couple of years I think, but you never know, you might be able to visit me somewhere :)

      • Thanks!!! By the way if ever you plan visiting asia especially south east asia you can ask me… Im really a backpacking freak by nature… And a little paranoid myself cause i experienced one scam in Bangkok… And i said that’s it.. I need to be super streetsmart to outsmart those **** hehe my fave out of Philippines Tour is Cambodia then Thailand :-) And within Philippines is Mindanao :-)

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