Amsterdam (day trip)

I don’t know why I was so scared and worried about traveling alone; really, there’s (minimally) nothing to be afraid of. Each city has its own locals, and all locals wouldn’t think of their city as dangerous, in a way. I mean, they live here. I spoke to an Italian on the train and I told her some of the pickpocketing ways / tactics I’ve heard about in Italy (e.g Milan) and she was surprised, and she said it was sad that people would think this way, and she’s never heard of it or felt her city was dangerous to venture alone. I guess what I’ve gathered is that, well, each city has their fair share of crimes, their own locals, and is a home, a safe haven to someone, a place they grew up happily in as a child. The scariest looking, burliest men smile back so nicely to me when I ask for directions. Sometimes I think I even deliberately approach these suspicious looking men just to see how they respond contrary to what my subconscious would think (pls don’t lecture me about safety). I’m just really glad that I made my way through these cities and met so many people, fleeting encounters, but conversations that enrich my trip and my memories in ways that they do.  
 On the train to Amsterdam now, so many have told me about smelling the weed in the air by simply being there. Can’t wait to find it out myself. In the meantime, the train passes by cows flicking their tails lazily in the sun, and sheep grazing along the patches of green.  This is one of the things I love about the Netherlands 🙂 

can’t.. stop.. eating…..

I reached Amsterdam late noon, left my luggage in the lockers and made my way to the central city. My only aim of the day was the house of Anne Frank, and it started to rain awhile after I reached. Skies were gloomy, I caught drifts of weed in the air, people hurried along the streets, cars, I thought to myself, yes well, I prefer the other cities of the Netherlands.  
And then, I met 2 very, very kind people here that really brightened my view of the city. By the end of the day I was note-less, but I had many coins and I thought they’d be enough for me to get by. Unfortunately when I bought postcards and wanted to get stamps I realized I ran out of money, so I told the lady I didn’t want the stamps anymore. She nodded and after my purchase of the postcards, she put the stamps in and said, it’s for you, the stamps – for free. Such a nice gesture!!!! :’)) And then I told the bus driver I only had 1.50 euros left, which wasn’t enough for the 2.50 euros bus ride and he nodded and let me in. I wanted to give him every penny I had but he said it was alright. So…. yay!!! Hehehe. They really could have chosen to do otherwise, but they did what they did and I left the city happily.   
Also, the city brightened up after the rain. It’s my second time in Amsterdam (the last was an airport transfer) and there’s something about the clouds that I’ve only seen here – golden linings that peek out from behind the clouds, making the sky a yellowish-golden hue. Very pretty.  
^ that golden hue i cannot quite capture
I heard from Diana that the queue was insanely long on her last visit. Thankfully, because of the rain the queue was actually pretty short (very quickly grew when the rain stopped) and the only people who persisted were the ones with umbrellas (me, yay!)

 The museum was pretty powerful, and i felt chills down my spine many times in the house. It’s just hard to believe that right in front of me were the pages of Anne Frank’s diary. There, so well-preserved, too. Her room, the Secret Annexe, the pictures she stuck on her wall while she was oppressively forced to hide in the room. The creaking floorboards. I read that book so long ago but I can still vividly recall some of the scenes and the things she wrote about. I think it always stuck with me abit because she started writing a diary when she was so young, (the age I did and her language and content is more fluent and with depth..) and you could see the progress of her thoughts with age and the dawning of the Holocaust, and it just makes me wonder about how she’d be if she had been alive. Well I guess maybe her diary wouldn’t have been as famous as it is now? i don’t know. If I have time, I would like to reread the book again.  
 A little wordy today, somehow I’ve been a tad more emotional today. Otta Frank said one line which made me want to cry: ‘i say this because i have a very good relationship with Anne… that all parents don’t really know their child like they think they do’ (upon reading her diary, and discovering her inner thoughts and feelings so different (or unexpected) from her comments and daily criticisms)  
Manchester tomorrow! It’s nice to settle with familiar people after the few weeks of city-hopping. Looking forward 🙂 Meanwhile, here’s to a long night in the Schipol airport…
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Maastricht, the Netherlands

Maastricht is a beautiful city, and being a student city it feels safe, and nice and snug. Many ice-cream shops with yummy stroopwafels-flavoured ice-cream ❤ speaking of which, i love these syrup-oozing stroopwafels and their maple-filled sweetness. 🙂
 For some reason though, I still prefer Utrecht. Maybe because Utrecht came first, or maybe because I spent a longer time there, but somehow Utrecht stole my heart in ways, I think. The street graffiti, the canals, the windmill and the doors.  Yes, that’s why I loved the city. Pretty interesting, then? I remember reading somewhere that building water bodies create attachment to the place, and yes it seems to work on me. Freiburg’s rivulets, Utrecht’s canals.   But Maastricht is lovely in its way too, especially with a cute sexy host 😉

cooking dinner on the floor. HAHHA
beautiful doors, doors, doors 🙂

stumbled upon random sheep grazing

  On the second day I wandered around on my own, and I stumbled upon a park (which we couldnt find the next day, hmm…) and there were goats (whom, I might add, are my friends and who bring waves of calm over me when I stare at them or talk to them) and donkeys and ducks wandering around. Parents held their children by their hand as they giggled wildly, running around tossing bread over the enclosures to the goats and the donkeys. The ducks roamed freely, quacking loudly. 

The little girl ran to her mother, took the bread and ran to the donkeys, placing them in their open mouths while whispering sentences in Dutch I did not understand, but which sounded like ‘you’re welcome, you’re welcome’ to me. She then ran back to her mother for more bread, and the cycle continued for awhile.  At that point I thought to myself, I really want to bring my kids to feed animals. Doesn’t it cultivate a kindness to animals from a young age? Letting them feed out of your hand, and you gently pat them thereafter – a connection, sealed.  In a conservation park like this, that is. In zoos they become commodified, an entertainment, where you pay to feed them. Here, in an open park that you take a stroll in on a weekday/weekend, it’s… soothing. 

800 year old cathedral converted into a bookstore

Dutch candy – chewing on a piece of wood…..

Maastricht Caves of Saint Pietersberg hill – pictures overload

annoying host. u sux

act cute only

on our way to invading random homes
WEIRD WOOD CANDY. I really really wanted to bring some wood candy for Lyn / Cher in Manchester but I didn’t go back to the shop 😥 😥 😥

french onion soup which was really tasty, but i only had 2 sips because someone was so selfish
rabbit eater. CRUEL. And those fries……. sigh

hahah random much and pretty anticlimatic but……. ITS THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS ^^^^^

Maikel, Madeleen and Me! / Goodbye Utrecht

Today was a day of cheese, stroop waffles, Dutch candies, coffeeshops, Dom tower, running man
Best day in the week 🙂
Madeleen and Maikel – it was nice to meet him again, although circumstances have changed (HAHAH) but it’s one of those times where you thought you’d never meet that person again, and then you get the chance to! It was a great day, and I’m pretty sure all 3 of us had alot of fun 🙂
 Dutch candies, Dutch candies everywhere!!!
Spotted: case study of Singapore in her textbook on Cities and urban planning, + TC Chang! Hehe I was surprised………. #nerdyee

they took me to a secret spot, and unfortunately it was emptied… but the signs remained

spotted: a coffeeshop! 😉

my great company for the day :))

comparing education systems – initiated by Madeleen, but it’s very relevant to me and it’s something I’d like to understand more about now, from other cultures

100x more appetizing than it looks – we marched around nervously in the kitchen, wondering how it’d turn out and it was yummy!!!! but they kept laughing at ‘bak kut teh’, which apparently means something not-very-nice in Dutch…. hehehe
Talked about awkward things and random stuff and watched running man thereafter, which was sooooo funny hahaha and by then it was almost 11, so it was time for Maikel to head back
Saying goodbye – the Dutch way 🙂 
Sad face because it’s my last night in Utrecht, a city I dearly feel for!!!! Initiated by Madeleen NOT MEEEEE hahhahaha
So it’s goodbye Utrecht (my favourite city, still) and hello Maastricht! 
Here’s what I’ve learnt here that’s particularly interesting – Geert Wilders, and Sinterklaas <- very, very surprising festival I never knew about – santa-claus-ish + carrots in shoes!!!!! (and his apparently black slaves?! Hahaha) 
Dutch cheese and cheese samples / PROOST or you get bad….. for the next 7 years
and of course 40% of Netherlands being under the sea level! Windmills
(^ wordy because I didn’t pen down and inscribe those emotions at the point they occured, and they have passed 😦 *writer’s woes*)

And what do you get from this?

The miller who’s lived here for 50 years said it’s always been his dream to own a windmill, climbing rooftops as a boy just to gaze at them. He loves the swishing sounds of the blades with the wind. He’s living his dream, now. 
And what do you get from this? This is it, for me:
Your dream, no matter how simple a dream, is still your dream. And it is that that will make you happy.

Kinderdijk!

Heart bursting with excitement when I first set on my eyes on these signs 😉

He made me wear the wooden shoes to walk around. Hehehe

 So today I learnt that 40% of the Netherlands ia actually below sea level, and in some places up to 8m below. That’s what the windmills are for – to pump up the water to higher levels. I never knew that!!!
Always associated windmills with Holland, but never knew why in particular

 I prepared laksa, which tasted pretty good and accurate (duh, instant!! HAHAH)

 ‘shiok!!!’ <- teaching Singlish and watching their 'huh?!' expressions when i try to explain 'lehs' and 'lahs'
🙂 🙂 🙂

this post is dedicated to one of my favourite museums

I’ve always been fascinated, held captivated by self-playing instruments. Musical boxes playing their tune gently in the quiet air – i’ve always loved watching them and their twinkling chime.

Museum Speelklok, with its large collection of automatically playing musical instruments, pretty much kept me in awe throughout its exhibitions. I really loved it, watching their mechanisms and listening to the tunes and just being fascinated by how such lovely music is produced by a machine, by itself
 
– after which, the invention of the grammaphone replaced these self-playing instruments. Such a pity, I would love to have one of these at home.

Utrecht, the Netherlands

Utrecht is one of my favourite cities. Top 3 now, definitely.
I really like the Netherlands, maybe because it feels like a free city to me – euthanasia is legalized, homosexual marriages are legalized, the cities are peaceful, green (different and preferably unassociated/unrepresented by Amsterdam, as the locals have pointed out)
My first time couchsurfing was with Madeleen, and it was a such a great experience :’) 
5 minutes after we met she tossed me her keys and said “here, make yourself at home”
maps all around her walls, her tables, the walls along the toilet
i’m lying in the bedroom of a fellow geographer, one who understands about cultural differences, about the fascinating ways of life, about travel
i think her passion for geography and understanding the WORLD and its cultures should really serve as an inspiration for me

Dinner on the first night! Something typical Dutch, I think it’s called the stamppot

On the second night, I tried microwaving rice for the first time with the guidance of Erik and WE ARE PROUD TO SAY IT WORKED!!!!! 
doors, doors, doors

tried the frikandel

The Dutch, and their slicing of cheese

FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE – something we do not particularly have in sg

windows – and the lights filtering through to form a pattern on the floor

travel talks travel thoughts

 Good travel companions
Crazy, Stupid Love and Hairspray on my way – both of which were so good. Can’t believe it took me so long to watch Hairspray, I should really be ashamed of myself.
Love the 1960s context and the social issues they weaved into the show
And uhm… Link Larkin 😉
While waiting for the bus to Utrecht, I spoke to 2 girls from Israel. I learnt that they were Jewish, and that in Israel they they had a Holocaust Day, like another holiday, where they played Holocaust movies and had ceremonies in school. They had annual trips to Poland with the school (as with German schools I think), where they visited concentration camps and memorials.
Sometimes the things that seem so mundane and so normal to us are so surprising or bewildering for others. For instance, English as our first language. Our chewing gum ban. Our non-mixed dorms. The 7th month.
So here I am now, hi from the Netherlands!!! I always wanted to visit the Netherlands, so I’m really, really happy to be htere. My geographical imagination – green, peaceful, windmills. (I told the students, and they laughed. hahahah)
I’m on the bus now and we passed by the canals, and i like this place already, very much so. Can’t help feeling this surge of familiar happiness again, bred with excitement, bliss, and appreciation for everything that I have and am having.
Lying in the bed of a fellow Geographer’s room after a lovely night of chatting. :’)