Like the previous years, 2018 passed by in a blur; it was a fast-paced year full of memories, mistakes, and the usual mumblings. An amazing Amsterdam experience was a great way to start 2019, I thought ( Because it’s one of my dream destination to go specially on a winter season). And indeed, while cold breeze strikes my home country which is the Philippines, I decided to travel more than 10,000 kilometers away to feel the cold vibe of the Netherlands – to explore a portion of the world and seek a different experience apart from my comfort zone. More than a country where cannabis (or weed) is tolerated and a city known for its red light districts, Netherlands have made me interested to know the Dutch culture. So I readied my mittens, parka, and winter boots for the expected thick snow in Amsterdam. Also, I invited a great companion of mine to have warm conversations, have good times with, and capture the moments. Btw guys meet my travel buddy @KrisBst08 ( We’ve been together also in my Greece and Turkey Trip last year! )
Creating hubbubs and serving as the hub of commerce and culture, the canal-side city boasts of its tolerance to cannabis. Most coffee shops allow customers to avail and possess a maximum of 5 grams. Despite its illicitness, informal culture permits authorities to allow this as long as it’s regulated. The more than 400-year old Canal Ring is also one of the most historic landmark in Amsterdam which is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage.
Interestingly, we found the famous bench where Augustus and Hazel (from The Fault in Our Stars) sat and scribbled the popular line Okay? Okay, overlooking the long stretch of the canal, among other canals in the city. ( Located near the intersection of two canals ‘The Herengracht and Leidsegracht” ) To be honest.. P.S I’m really fan of the film as in legit! Super happy ko nung narating namin sya super kilig to the max akooooo!! hahaha I want to crave my name sana sa bench but parang vandal for me kaya I respect it na lang hehehe.. addition to this I forgot to enter the museum kung saan sila pumunta. Medyo kelang sa time lol anyways going back! poof!!
Coming from a country where there’s a high stigma against marijuana, we were shocked to witness how the coffee shop culture includes selling of cannabis. Even seeing cannabis lollipops came as quite appalling to me ( Shookt is aka for real hahahaha ). But it’s astonishing to see how this culture works as people are still permitted to use marijuana recreationally, but with the authorities monitoring its sale and suppressing the spread of hard drugs, leading to the part legalization of weeds in Netherlands. ( You can check the full experience in stores on my VLOG 🙂 )
Another simple yet a novel sight for me is seeing the lines of bicycles along the bricked Dutch houses. It was as if we were in a film or some sorts. We were able to endure hours of walking because of how – despite the low temperature – beautiful yet modest Amsterdam is. I’ve realized how true it is when Augustus Waters said that The world is not a wish-granting factory. Then we set on, walking again as if it was a journey of self-reflection. We also visited the countryside with its picturesque windmills and different kinds of cheese; it was amazing to taste a wide variety of cheese. ( Check my VLOG to see all the cheese!! hahahaha )
After long hours of roaming around Amsterdam, we’re grateful to have lounged in Hotel V Amsterdam, keeping us relaxed and well-warmed, for 2 nights. With their bricked walls, elegant living room and fireplace, we’ve managed to enjoy the aesthetically pleasing and cozy place. Hotel V Frederiksplein had been the perfect location for us since it’s near train stations and tram stops. Staying in Hotel V Amsterdam’s room gave us the feel of really living like a true Amsterdammer. With the Amsterdam street view from the lounging area, Hotel V Amsterdam gives an opportunity for guests to observe a microcosm of the community while relaxing and warming up. It’s also a great thing that there’s a fitness gym across the hotel which prevented us from skipping from working out. The location is also accessible to various establishments. More than customer experience, what’s great with Hotel V Amsterdam is that they are socially aware and responsible. They strive to work on reducing the negative environmental impact of the hotel and even share sustainable methods of operation and technology on tourism and hospitality to other hotels in Amsterdam. ( Full experience of the room on my VLOG hihi )
Life continues as the dawn breaks and red light districts started to open their neon light sign posts and LED lights, reflecting in the steady water of the canal. Since 2000, prostitution has been legal in Amsterdam. It’s a way for sex workers to earn money; both sex workers and businesses are expected to pay taxes and get licenses. Some citizens of Amsterdam have become dependent on this industry and now, their businesses are threatened to be closed and they might become unemployed. In the Philippines, there’s an informal culture of those kinds of workers along the country’s own red light districts. The numerous cases of human trafficking forces the government to ban the industry in the country.
Amsterdam’s countryside is very different from that of the center. Colorful windmills line the road overlooking the canal. It’s amazing how there are a lot of canals in Amsterdam as if the city was built on it. The village of Zaanse Schans is only a ride from the city center near Amsterdam. The historic village of windmills ushered the Dutch Golden Age. More than the photos, what I’ll truly treasure from the tour is the new knowledge on the cheese-making process; the wide array of cheese types also amazed me.
As a person living in the tropics, I can hardly say that the cold didn’t bother me. But walking around Amsterdam beating the cold breeze was all worth it; we witnessed the simple yet sophisticated life of Amsterdammers and got to see the duality of their coffee shops, prosper of the red light districts, and ambiance of the countryside. We’ve also tasted their chocolates and brownies with a twist. A few days aren’t enough to get to know Amsterdam. But having a taste of their cuisines and glimpse of their culture are what drive me to travel more and experience life – a privilege I honestly recognize.
Aside from sharing the videos and photos I took from our trip, it’s a pleasure sharing these stories to you, Deegeemons, my readers and followers. I had a great time experiencing Amsterdam. The world may not be a wish-granting factory, but having the spirit to believe and work hard to get to know even a group or community of people will make a change, one person and one story at a time.