All I wanted was to see snow falling down from the sky, as usual, things don’t turn out as planned –because I got so much more.
Oh, The Agonizing Wait
So I was in Bangkok for 8 hours because my flight to Schiphol Airport got delayed. During check-in, my passport was examined by an officer; he flipped it over and over again trying to see if my Schengen visa was authentic. I know it’s like a protocol. But I was annoyed at how the check-in counter attendant questioned my luggage and when she asked her colleague if “A Filipino is allowed to go to the Netherlands for a conference,” Yes, people. I can’t speak Thai/Lao but I know enough to understand what she said. Her eyes were also twitching with an irritated glare at my ticket. When I asked her what the problem was, she snapped at me and was all “Just a moment, madaaam,” I swear to God, I love Thailand but really, snapping…not pleasing.
When the officer and his microscopics were finally satisfied with their investigation:
Officer: What do you do in Laos?
Me: I’m a travel writer.
O: Oh! That’s why you got a lot of stamps!
M: (to myself, you could’ve asked that first time around, saved you time flipping the pages) Yes, sir. *with a smile*
Then the attendant handed over my boarding pass. Thank you, job!
On board KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, I didn’t feel that I was on the plane for 11 hours. It was a pretty smooth ride, considering the weather, and service was good! When the plane finally touched down, I couldn’t see anything because it was 6AM. But then again, I had to be patient.
Schiphol, you guys!
At immigration, I asked the officer if I had to sign some entry card. I know, that’s very Asian of me, but he just laughed and answered “No, we don’t need anything like that here,” and stamped my passport the date of my first ever entry in the Schengen Area. “You do have a lot of stamps,” he said matter-of-factly. I just smiled and it was another opportunity for me to say “I’m a travel writer,”
“Ahh, that’s why,” and handed over my passport.
As soon as I fished out my luggage, I went straight to the doors. The wind gave me chills, in every sense of the word. I see blondes and brunettes, green, blue and hazel eyes everywhere, towering heights, knee-high boots, thick trench coats, mufflers and gloves. Yes, I’m in Europe!
Schiphol is such a nice airport, it’s like a mini-mall. Although I was tempted to check out the Shoe Store with a wide array of boots I’ve never seen before, I had to walk toward the red and white box in Schiphol aka the Meeting point. I met my host and after some more waiting time, it was time to drive all the way to the Hague, roughly an hour drive from Amsterdam. On the way to the Hague, we’ve passed by Leiden, with all those beautifully-structured houses I only saw in magazines. I couldn’t help but gawk at the snow brought about the day before’s blizzard –the one I was afraid to jeopardize my flight. My host said that the temperature the day before I arrived hit -7 degrees Celsius. We were actually lucky that it turned 5 that day. Although, I was kind of disappointed because I really wanted to see snow falling from the sky, but hey, it’s better than nothing.
Then I was in the Hague, a quaint little town with the same fascinating architecture I’ve passed by. I hopped off the BMW limo and checked-in at Hotel Ibis: Den Haag Centre. No time for jet lag and other hangups on weather, I met with Nishant, Maesy, Momin and Jasmeen at the hotel lobby and went to a Japanese restaurant named Shabu Shabu. Eat-all-you-can Sushi, you guys!
Quick reminder: Ah, the Netherlands has those two-contact sockets. I think CEE 7/16 or 7/17…whatever, those blunt and rounded tip power plugs are essential. My hair was limp for two days because my straightener has a different plug and would you believe, shops and the hotel ran out of plugs?? Get some at your place or at the airport! 🙂
After lunch/dinner, we strolled along the streets of the Hague. I wasn’t dressed properly (apparently, my coat was flimsy) so I felt really cold but I liked it so much. I mean come on, it was my first taste of Winter…I didn’t want to ruin the experience. Then it was drinks night for the organizers and the participants of the Thinkathon, the reason I was there in the first place.
The next days were devoted to the Thinkathon which requires a separate entry. Fast-forward to the day we explored Amsterdam!
Okay, so Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands –very metro but still charming. We hopped on the train from Den Haag Central to Amsterdam Central and walked our way out in the city. We tried out the boat tour and had an hour-cruise to get a glimpse of the place. After the cruise, we found our way toward De Wallen aka Red-Light District. Shut up, we didn’t do anything in there!
As we go walking around the city; we had some pancakes and stumbled upon a Christmas market. We tried out some gluhwein, one of the few drinks Maesy likes (mulled wine, usually red with some spices like cinnamon and a little other liquor). Then off we go to Vondel Park (where public display of affection, in all forms, are perfectly fine).
After some drinks, we walked back to the train station. But before going back to Hague, we shared a slice of Winkel Cafe’s famous apple pie. It was really good, very Holiday-ish. It was a tiring day but you know why it’s fun? It was because you’ve spent it with amazing people! And I mean that (I’m not just saying this because I am forcing Maesy and Prabhas to read this, and no, I’m not defensive HAH!).
The next day was dedicated to exploring nearby towns from Amsterdam. We went to Volendam first (just take the bus from the Central Station), a harbor in Northern Netherlands. The sea was frozen, hence. it was so much colder than the city. But the town is just the cutest thing ever. You will feel like you’re walking in a movie set because everything was just really, manicured and cute!
From Volendam, we took the bus back to Monnickedam. Hopped off the bus stop and wait for the next ride to going to Marken. What’s in Marken, you ask? Well, for one, my friends saw two black swans. Apparently, they thought it was a myth. Second, you can check it out here, it’s Prabhas’ dream to do so. And third, it’s just really cute!
From Marken, we went back to Amsterdam, and explored Openbare Bibliotheek: Central Library aka the coolest library I’ve seen. Seven floors of sleek and minimalist interior, millions of books, movies, and music. Mac desksets in every floor, comfy couch, modern architecture and restaurants. Really, if the libraries are like this one, I know I would want to study more!
Then off to the Hague for some drinks, it was also my last night. I so didn’t want to go home, but you know, reality bites. The next day, we explored the Escher Musuem and then it was time to go home.
Walks and talks in their full glory. One of the reasons why this trip will be unforgettable, apart from the fact that this was in Europe, because it was spent with good friends, laughs, and randomness. As much as I want to blab about my Holland-Walkabout, my photographs are enough to tell the story. Good times, good times.
PS If hangover can last a lifetime, I think this trip will be it 🙂