We left London for Amsterdam by easyJet and found that air travel is not necessary the most time and cost-saving way to travel. Our tickets were bought last minute, costing about £80 one way each and the cost of the bus ride from Victoria Station to Luton Airport was £14 per pax. If we'd booked the bus ride earlier, it could be as low as £2 per pax. We also found that travelling by air can take much longer than the actual flying time--the time taken to go to the airport and the early check-in all add to the extra hours lost.
Delft is a big town (to me) about 45 minutes by train from Amsterdam, through beautiful countryside full of flowers, grass fields, cute Dutch houses and canals. We found the train instructions rather confusing. All the signs and instructions are in Dutch, a language that is hard to make head or tail of, unlike Italian or French. For example, 'exit' is 'sortie' in French and 'uschita' in Italian but until now I still can't remember the Dutch word for it. The good thing though is the Dutch speak perfect English, the best in Europe as far as I've encountered. Second thing was the signs are very ambigiuous. There are no announcements when approaching stops and the signs appear after the train pulls away from the stop, which is stupid. That's how I ended up in the next station after Delft a few days ago.
A farmers' market is held in Delft every Saturday and that was where I ate my first haring (herring). I could only eat half a fish the first time but after that I had to eat one (€1.25 each) every day, sans the bun so that I get the real taste. I'll miss haring when I get home. I think next Saturday I'll go for the €5 for 5 haring, even if Yi (who doesn't really like it) doesn't help me eat.
We took the train to Amsterdam the next day, about €9.50 per person return as Yi has a discount card that allows 40% off.
Many of the older buildings in Amsterdam are tilted because the whole of Nederlands is low-lying and waterlogged.
The Dutch eat their potato chips with mayo. Ming'll shudder.
White asparagus were in season (thanks for reminding, Lianne) and were nearly twice as expensive in Amsterdam than in Delft. These were as thick as bradwursts.
A beer bike is a weird contraption of several bikes (biking is more popular than driving) put together and participants ( stupid-looking tourists) ride it around the city while downing gazillion mugs of beer with a drag queen on board for support. I drink beer now and then but if our beer is like those in Europe, I'll drink them everyday like water. European beer is very light (I don't go red and dizzy like I do in Malaysia) and delicious, not the least bit bitter.
Amsterdam was crowded and fun on a Saturday, maybe everybody was high on weed and beer. It was dirty too, with garbage piled high everywhere because the garbage men were on strike. We did the usual tourist spots: Van Gogh Museum (good), didn't line up for Anne Frank's house and walked the red light district which was truly eye opening.
I thought the girls worked from little boxes but it turned out that their business premises are real multi-storey buildings, with store frontage of about 1.2 m wide and maybe 3 m deep each, enough for a little bed, a chair and standing space.
A guy would ask the hooker the price and if they don't agree, he'll walk to the next stall, like buying groceries, until he gets the cheapest deal. It wasn't about attractiveness but the lowest deal, it seems, like buying the cheapest, not the freshest fish. Yi and I rooted for a pretty brunette (who ought to be Miss Amsterdam)--stall no. 57 or was it 157?-- but nobody approached her. I think the reason was she wasn't smiling at all. Most of the girls were shapely and young but the ones in the side streets were fat, old and ugly. Some were scary looking even in dim pink light. I watched an Asian guy go into one of the stalls--she indicated €50--and the curtain was drawn. Prostitution is conducted like regular trading business, with the girls on their own without a pimp and they rent the little cubby holes from city hall and pay taxes like any other business. Btw, pls don't go up and take a photo directly of the girls. You might loose your camera.
We wanted real Dutch food but Amsterdam has become international like most big cities and all we could find was pizzas, kebab wraps and Argentinian steaks. Finally, because Yi hadn't eaten in a Chinese restaurant since January, we ate in Chinatown (small, but seemed bigger than London's) which is next to the red light district. We had a surprisingly good meal at Kam Kee, partly because we'd been walking for hours and were starved. On the way out, we passed by the red light district again and because it was late, the place was in full swing and most of the cubby holes were lighted up with scantily-clad girls slapping their butts and giving the come-on-over sign, even to me! So now I've seen the famed red light district, what about the happy space brownie? I'm not telling.
Mixed roasted meat on rice, 9.50 euros. Tasty. Big portion.
Fried noodles, 5 euros. A little bit dry but flavor was good. Big portion too.
Steamed oysters with black beans sauce, 4 euros. Was okay.
We found groceries much cheaper in Nederlands than other European countries. You can live cheaply if you buy the special offers such as the items below which were all 49 euro cents each, although the packaged wursts tasted yukky. In Malaysia, that wedge of brie would've cost about RM18/4.50 euros.
This is postelein (known as purslane in other parts of the world), a delicate veggie with a slight sour taste (we have a wild veggie in Sabah that's similar) and I like to add it to instant noodles because I have no idea how else to cook it. Veggies are cheap here, about 69 euros for a big bunch of lettuce or whatever veggie that's on special.
Cooking in Yi's place is a challenge because she has very little utensils (two plates, one bowl, 2 pairs of chopsticks, one fork, two spoons, one lousy fry pan and two pots). But because the meat and veggies are so fresh and of such good quality, very little cooking skills and condiments can turn out a terrific dinner. We love the white asparagus (peeled, boiled and doused with melted butter, lemon juice and zest) and I love the pork which was tender, tasty and most importantly, didn't have that porky stink such as those in North America or Australia. I ordered pork now and then in other parts of Europe and each time, it was excellent.
I'm not all that big on cheese but I am getting more adventurous and now I do appreciate Wey's love for blue cheeses although their flavor still remind me of stinky dried copra.