Turns out I don’t have SARS (thanks for all the well wishes), just a bad head cold which has finally cleared up.
It was really sad saying goodbye to Hong Kong and our new friends. We had a really good time and felt at home in Honkers! I have a feeling that we may end up there for an extended stay sometime in the future (but don’t tell Philippa).
We woke up early in the morning to finish packing our bags and hurriedly ran downstairs to catch the shuttle bus (after a Macca’s breakfast of course) – after sitting around, complaining that the bus wasn’t getting ready, we soon learnt that the bus wasn’t running due to a public holiday. The hotel concierge quickly realised we where upset (as we had a flight to catch); he grabbed our bags and threw us into a taxi… which was nice of him!
We arrived at the train station 5 minutes later, checked our bags and boarded the train to the airport (how good is THAT… you can check in AT the train station!!!). 20 minutes later we arrived at the airport, boarding passes in hand with time to kill. After ummming an ahhhhhing for weeks, we finally decided to buy a few expensive electronic gadgets (figuring that duty free at the airport would be the way to go) – unfortunately the airport was a good AU$50.00 more expensive than the shops in Hong Kong city, so we decided to wait until we arrived in Holland – assuming you could purchase duty free goods there for a reasonable price (oh boy, where we wrong… more on that later).
Somehow we managed to be late for boarding; when we arrived at the gate, people where ready to usher us straight to our seats. Quite an experience, kind of felt like being a Munckton for a few minutes!
After the looooong flight over China and Russia (lucky we didn’t catch the train as first planned), we finally arrived in Amsterdam. What a grumpy bunch of buggers. Seriously,.. not a single welcome, hello or did you have a pleasant flight – all we got was “Passport”. We decided to get some food (yes Tommy… at Macca’s) – the staff there where just as unpleasant, not even “would you like fries with that”! Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy…, we guessed it’s because it is so bloody cold and they never see the sun! Give me Thailand any day!!
After Dinner (or was it breakfast??) we went to the duty free store at the airport to pick up our gadgets (after our mis-adventure in Hong Kong) only to learn that duty free once you arrive in the EU doesn’t exist (even though we hadn’t passed through customs)! The inc. tax price on the items we where looking at where over AU$200.00 more expensive than in Hong Kong. We decided we didn’t need an iPod after all. Note to anyone travelling to Europe – “The inflated prices at the airport in Hong Kong (or Singapore, or Bangkok) are CHEAPER than the cheap stores in Europe!”).
After exiting customs (no problems with the first use of my Dutch passport – except everyone spoke to me in Dutch), we caught the next train into town. Again, the staff at the information desk where less than helpful and it took us over an hour to work out which train to catch.
From our train stop, it was a short taxi ride to our Bed and Breakfast. We were on the third floor of a traditional Amsterdam flat and the room was lovely. Our host Anna Lynne was the first nice person in Holland we met; she gave us a quick run-down on what we could do and where the closest place for dinner was. We had a little snooze and than headed down to the local kebab shop! Mmmmm, Kebabs – just like at home.
Breakfast the following day was enormous; we couldn’t work out if it was for our entire five day stay in the B and B or just that morning. We found out the following morning that Anna Lynne expected us to eat two small loafs of bread, a block of cheese, a packet of ham, yoghurt, cake, hot cross buns etc every single day!we have since put on a lot of weight!
After recovering from breakfast, we made our way into town by foot. We passed the Anne Frank house, which was a real eye opener. It was a really odd feeling being in the same room (complete with her posters and stickers still on the walls) in which she wrote her diary. Unfortunately I couldn’t help comparing the Holocaust, which Anne endured with the atrocities that happened more recently in my lifetime in Cambodia.
As we were a little down about life after the Anne Frank house museum, we figured we should do something a little light hearted – so,… we went to the Sex Museum (we heard that as far the “sights” of Amsterdam went – this was the safest). Turns out it was quite interesting – the museum started with all sorts of antiques (lots of old master paintings and snuff boxes). Look if you want more details Tommy you can talk to me directly ☺ Afterwards we went to the tourist information, where not surprisingly they were very unhelpful. We passed up the 17 euro, two hour walking tour through the red light district as we figured that it was something that we could do ourselves. The rain started and we jumped on the number 17 tram home.
On route to the Van Gogh museum the next day, we passed a Cash Converters…it is exactly the same as at home…but so much cheaper, they know the true price of second hand goods over here. We had to elbow our way through the millions of school kids lining up to see the Van Gogh museum. It was good and all, but bah…I’ve seen and heard it all before – Cashies was the real highlight of the morning.
We walked around Amsterdam that afternoon and found more entertainment that this liberal society affords, an entire strip of Casinos. We were getting to the point where we were thinking “Is anything illegal in this town?”. The unhelpful, grumpy assistant at the “Cheapest internet café in Amsterdam” (which is false advertising by the way) would not give me change to buy a ticket “No change” he grunted, I had had enough of poor customer service by then so I grunted back at him “No Use!”.
So not to bore you too much more we also visited: Rebrandt’s house, hung out in Coffee Shops, went to the movies and had lots of croquets.
We went for a day trip the Hague before we left because Phil really wanted to see the World Court (geek). We were a little disappointed because we were wisked around on a bus (we felt like Japanese tourists), but in a way we didn’t mind because it was freezing outside, I don’t think that it got above eight degrees that day! We visited a huge model of Holland on the way home, which would have been a lot more fun if we didn’t loose circulation to our fingers, toes, nose…but it was really quite cool, they had working models of cannels, showing how 49% of Holland manages to stay dry, while below sea level. The airport in Holland is called Schipol which is literally Ships Hell, because when they were “reclaiming” the land (draining the land) they found many ship recks in this area. We went past a new housing estate on the way back to Amsterdam that they were building on recently “reclaimed land”, better watch out the Dutch might be knocking at our door soon ☺
We had wine and a long philosophical discussion with our lovely host Anna Lynne on the Saturday night before we boarded the plane to Copenhagen.