I was mortified to note that my last post was on 30 August last year. Now, don’t imagine for a second that this blog is dead and buried. It’s just that nothing terribly interesting has been happening at all – still haven’t met the girl that I could love unconditionally, ordinary work schedules drowning me, people around me are still not as inspirational as ever. The list goes on and on.
This was the second time I traveled alone to a foreign country – the first was to Japan.
I could write lengthy discourses on the benefits of traveling alone but the first one is this – if ever I screwed up my trip, it was my fault and I would have to take responsibility entirely. People all their lives seldom want to take responsibility for themselves and so, is a trait which I don’t want to be associated with.
The second one would be the need to engage my brains constantly. Third – I’m apprehensive of traveling with just about anyone. Past trips to France a decade ago and Singapore last year confirmed that we see the worst in friends during trips. I so hate people screaming at me when I’m driving. Fourth – I could go to anywhere I want and at anytime. Rain or shine, I don’t need particularly long stops or lazing around in a café. I don’t need to put up with complaining and bitter people who don’t share my convictions or travel plans.
That’s not to say I will never travel with someone – it would have to be with someone great and the gut feeling will tell me when the time comes. I’d just know it.
Now – I’ve always wanted to go to Holland for these reasons (in no particular order): (i) Oranje is my favourite football team – possibly the strongest never to win the World Cup; (ii) the Netherlands is one of the most beautiful countries with unspoiled beauty; and (iii) I’ve wondered how flat the entire country is and came away a total believer.
Etihad Airways offered the most attractive price for a last minute booking as compared to the other airlines. The catch is – I’d have to transit via Abu Dhabi airport to continue to Amsterdam from Kuala Lumpur. The delay was for three hours but time passed soon enough. I only booked my flight one week before the actual trip and planned my itinerary within that timeframe. KLM and Lufthansa initially provided some pretty good packages to mull over but with each passing day (delay), the predictably elevating costs would mean that some form of sacrifice isn’t too bad.
There was Wi-Fi connection within the airport itself, so I shot off some Facebook pics, messages and waited for time to pass. Three hours aren’t terribly long if you are sufficiently occupied.
There wasn’t much to do around the duty free area, so I opted to wait at the gates where my flight was due. Remember that the airport staff are terribly rude – I was asking for directions to the Terminal 1 (my e-ticket said Terminal 3) and the helpdesk guy took my ticket and mumbled something in Arabic and pointed agitatedly one direction.
There are complimentary copies of TimeOut (Middle East editions) which you could pick up to pass time too. There are some global dailies which you can also read while waiting to board the plane.
All in all, my visit to Abu Dhabi airport was uneventful – I was content to wait and time also obligingly passed soon enough.
The trip to Amsterdam was around 7 hours long. When I touched down at Schiphol, the first thing to do was to get an OV-Chipkaart.
A card costs around € 7.50. At any point of time, you’d have to load at least € 30.00 before traveling. You may load up to € 150.00 per card which is sufficient for you to travel around the Netherlands. You may purchase this card at the counter shown above. The staff are friendly and helpful, so don’t be apprehensive to approach them.
At Schiphol airport (or at most train stations), always remember to ‘check in’ before boarding a train. There are free-standing posts erected around the escalator terminals. Just tap your card once and you’d see some Dutch words stating that you have checked in.
I’m saying this because I made the mistake of not checking in at Schiphol and ended up going to the next station ‘Hoofddorp’ paying €20.00 which is crazy fare upon checking out. This is because if the system doesn’t know which station you came from, that automatic fare would kick in.
In fact, this doesn’t just happen at Schiphol – there are similar systems at Den Haag or parts of Amsterdam. The Nederlandse Spoorwegen won’t check on you – it’s up to you to ‘check in’ at the station you are boarding on and then dutifully check out at your destination. If you are used to barrier gates (like the MRT in Singapore), then it’s fairly easy to get caught in this mess.
Anyway, once I checked into my hotel (Best Western Hotel Amsterdam), I ventured into Amsterdam Centraal for a quick stroll:
I got some ‘Oliebollen’ for supper and also a large packet of ‘Manneken Pis’ fries which the storeowners claimed is the best in Holland. They got that part totally wrong. It was dried out, bland fries which didn’t seem much different from ordinary ones. Definitely overrated stuff.
The ‘oliebollen’ was fantastic funfair food though – laced with sinful cream and powdered sugar.
The next day would be a busy day, though – and a wonderful trip to southern provinces of Brabant and Limburg. Stay tuned for more updates!