I have read countless travel blogs featuring Amsterdam. Almost all of them have great things to say about this Dutch city: the friendly people, clean and beautiful streets, lovely buildings, and even lovelier canals. I agree with them.
They also say that Amsterdam is best experienced by foot or by bicycle, that you need to take your time soaking in the peaceful atmosphere. I agree with them too.
Unfortunately, when you visit with a tour group, you don’t get to do these things. You get to do very touristy things. In my case, it was three things.
1. Gassan Diamonds
When we left Zaanse Schans for Amsterdam city, our first stop was this place called Gassan Diamonds.
I am embarrassed to tell you that this place did not leave a lasting impression on me. I remember the tour guide telling us that Amsterdam is also known as the City of Diamonds. I remember the tour guide telling us that Gassan Diamonds is the biggest diamond processing house in Amsterdam (or is it the whole of the Netherlands?)
I don’t remember anything else. I have the photos, although most of my Europe photos were taken by friends and not me. When I look at the photos of other places, they would make me unconsciously smile as they trigger happy memories. When I look at photos from this diamonds house, I did not smile. In fact, I could not remember anything.
For example, the photo above. I remember we were gathered around a large table where a guide from the diamonds house explained the history of diamonds and Gassan Diamonds. I don’t remember this guy. He is obviously a diamond expert. Was he showing us how to polish diamonds or how to determine the quality of a diamond?
I guess I was (and still am) not enthusiastic about diamonds. They say diamond is a girl’s best friend. Well, as you can see, I am obviously not a girl. So, to me, diamonds are just uninteresting, overpriced pieces of junk.
Since I don’t remember much of this place, I can’t tell you whether this is a place worth visiting or not. I guess if you are a diamond aficionado, then yes, this is a wonderful place to visit.
2. Amsterdam Canal Cruise
Now, this I can remember quite well. We got out of Gassan Diamond and the cruise station is just across the street.
I mentioned in the beginning of the post that I agree Amsterdam is best experienced by foot or bicycle, but if you do not have the time for that (maybe you’re on a tour like me, or you are only passing by with a few hours to spare), then the next best thing will be to get on the Amsterdam Canal Cruise.
Why? Because the cruise takes you on a scenic route around the canal ring area, and you will be able to experience the lovely canals, the lovely bridges and the lovely buildings beside the canals all at once. Of course, one drawback is that you can’t stop to get the perfect angle for that perfect camera shot, so your photo quality will be compromised.
Once on the boat, the tour guide will be next to useless. It is time for the boat’s captain to take over in explaining the notable places as we cruise by. The cruise took us along a planned route around the canal ring area of Amsterdam.
Well, in case you are wondering what the canal ring area means, let’s show you a bird’s eye view of the area.
Of course, the cruise is not going to cover all the canals in the entire area. The cruise is one and a half hours, and covering all the canals would probably take one and a half weeks. There is a planned route which will show you certain notable landmarks of Amsterdam.
Amstel Hotel – According to the captain, this is the most famous hotel in the Netherlands. He made it sound like it was a big deal, so I suppose it was. Of course, it was 2007, I don’t know if any other hotels has taken over that title now.
The Seven Bridges of Amsterdam – This is supposed to be a world famous canal. There are seven bridges lined up along the straight canal, and you can see through all of them. Apparently this is also a big deal. And I guess it really is a big deal. This is one view that you won’t be able to see on foot or bicycle. Yes! Tourists 1 – 0 Locals for once!
The Narrowest House in Amsterdam (or is it the Netherlands/Europe/the world?) – I’m sure you can see which one is the house I am talking about. While this fact sounds awesome, I don’t think I would want to live in this house. Looks too narrow for comfort, and worse is you would probably have to contend with countless tourists taking photos at your door if you live here. Locals: You can’t selfie with the house by sitting on the boat. Locals 1 – 1 Tourists!
The cruise will make a quick exit to the open waters just outside the canal ring area before going back to where we started.
After writing this section, I suddenly feel like: “Not bad eh?“. I suppose I can say that the Amsterdam Canal Cruise is not such a bad way to see the city. You might want to consider it even if you are backpacking or something. 😉
3. De Wallen (Red Light District)
If I don’t feature this place, the horde of horny men readers of this blog is going to bay for my blood.
Yes, De Wallen is one of the most famous red light district in Amsterdam (meaning there are actually a few more smaller scale ones). Yes, prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. Yes, you can buy cannabis legally in the coffeeshops that operate in this area.
But, the fact is, this place is a no camera zone. Most of the alleys leading into this area are sealed off with locked gates, and there is only one entrance and one exit (at least that was the case in 2007). At the entrance, there will be a signboard warning that photography is prohibited. According to the tour guide, there will be plain clothed officers patrolling the area and catch any violators. So if you want to snap photos, snap at your own risk.
So, as much as I want to show you a million photographs of this place, I can’t. We can only snap photos in a secretive way. And it was dark anyway, and cameras in 2007 weren’t as good as cameras today so it was really hard to snap photos anyway.
I DID NOT PATRONIZE ANY OF THE PROSTITUTES. I DID NOT PATRONIZE ANY OF THE PROSTITUTES. I DID NOT PATRONIZE ANY OF THE PROSTITUTES.
What? You think I’m crazy? I was a student back then. And I was with a big group of people. And I did not even have much money. And I was with a big group of people. And I was apprehensive and worried about safety on certain aspect. And I was with a big group of people. So whatever I told you is what the tour guide told us before he set us free to roam around.
How this works is that each unit has two rooms: one facing the streets and one at the back, with a wall in between. The girls will strut their stuff to attract horny men. The horny men will window shop for the girl that they fancy. When a man found a girl that he fancies, he would stand in front of the girl’s window and gesture that he is interested. The girl would then retreat to the back room and the man would enter. Then they would negotiate and if a deal is struck, they would proceed further. So if you see that any front facing room has no girl, that means DO NOT ENTER, I’M BUSY HONEY!
Besides finding your dream girl for the night if you are a horny man, or if you are not a horny man, there are other things to do. There are various differently priced Live Shows around the area. Some of the tour members went with the tour guide to watch a € 45 Live Show. I didn’t go because I was out of budget, so I didn’t know what happened in there.
Of course, not all shows are that expensive. There are shows that cost as low as €2 (maybe a bit more now, €2 was the 2007 price). But even €2 was too much for me, plus I was with a still relatively big group of people, so I did not enter these cheap shows and did not know what happens inside.
Well, if you are like me, if even a few Euros is too much for you, then there’s the free of charge option: sex toys and DVD shops. Unlike most places where you can find one shop hidden in a corner of the mall, here there is an entire street full of similar shops. M’s in Akihabara, Japan is a seven floor sex goods shopping mall. This street in De Wallen, Amsterdam is the horizontal version of Akihabara’s M’s.
Since this place is free to enter, we did enter a few shops and feast our young, inexperienced and naive eyes with various interesting objects.
I have a few more photos, but best not to share anymore here. In fact I might have stepped over the limit already. Maybe some uptight moms will hate me and un-friend me and un-follow me for posting this last picture..
Come on, moms, be reasonable. Your kids will inevitably learn about and be fascinated with the various things that they can do with the opposite gender. You can either be open about it with your kids and have a better chance to at least know what your kids are up to, or you can be uptight about it and never know what they are trying to hide from you and you won’t even have the chance to teach them the importance of using ‘protection’.
Shit. Uptight moms will never reason with you like this. SHUT – UP – NOW!
Well, that’s Amsterdam for me…