Exploring: Amsterdam

Amsterdam Netherlands 2015
Amsterdam Netherlands 2015

It rained the entire time majority of the time in Amsterdam. A stark difference from the last time I was there. It made the ambience of the city a little more charming, but somewhat depressing too (the cold + wet weather tends to do that to you). We didn't have a set itinerary for Amsterdam, our mood being in a very "come what may" manner. And so, we spent three days walking around, getting wet in the rain, checking out flea markets and book stores, meeting up with an old friend and visiting the red light district every night. Unfortunately, I was not as adventurous as I would've wanted. Maybe the third time I end up in Amsterdam I'll gather up more courage to try a brownie or something. :-P

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Amsterdam, the capital city of Holland or the Netherlands, is a city known for their canals, the charming house boats and their citizens biking everywhere more than walking or taking cars -- In fact, Amsterdam has plans on becoming a car-free city! 

There are 165 canals in Amsterdam. And it's easy to get lost in this city, because aside from impossible to pronounce street names, everywhere almost looks entirely the same. 

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The Dam Square is the site of the royal palace, and for several times a year it's a site for funfairs like markets, concerts or carnivals, just like the time we were there.

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Amsterdam's locals like to ride bikes on all occassions -- going to work, meeting friends for dinner, moving houses, picking up their children from school, and even going to a wedding!

Where We Stayed: Stayokay Vondelpark Hostel

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Vondel Park is Amsterdam's most famous park, seeing about 12 million visitors a year.

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Our hostel, Stayokay Vondelpark is located in this famous park. Perfectly situated at a stones throw away from shopping areas, museums, and the city's vibrant nightlife.

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The colorful common area of the hostel where guests can lounge and meet other guests. 

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Our double private room, which was our favorite from all our hostel stays throughout the trip. 

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The bed where we spent our lazy mornings and staying in to pig out because the rain was dampening our mood.

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A wonderful travel quote found outside our room.

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Daily offers at the hostel bar if you choose to hangout at the hostel instead of go out.

Stayokay Breakfast Buffet

My favorite at any hotel/hostel is the breakfast buffet. Stayokay's selection is the typical cold cuts, some vegetables and cheese, different grains, butter & jams, and cereals -- a good variety of choices for a hearty breakfast before touring the city.

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Mine & Gab's typical breakfast at hostels. 

Our stay at Stayokay Vondelpark was quite satisfactory, the rooms were comfortable, the radiator worked like a charm for cold nights, and although our room was situated right beside the park, the noise from daily commuters weren't too bad and in fact I quite liked hearing the city come alive in the morning.

The only issue I had was with the cleaning crew knocking only once and then barging into your room without making sure if someone was in there or not. It somehow felt a little bit of an invasion of privacy, and they don't even greet you -- this is something I brought up in the suggestion forms before leaving the hotel. We also had one small mishap one night where a bunch of school girls would do the "doorbell ditch" prank, but instead of a doorbell they would knock on random people's doors and then run down the halls laughing manically. It happened to our room twice around 1 in the morning and I even told Gab that if they do it one more time I'd open the door and hit whoever was out there. It wasn't the hotels fault of course, but Stayokay is a hostel and hostels get school kids all the time. It's a risk that you get rude and disrespectful children mucking about in the halls in the middle of the night.

Other than that, our stay was a good one and the hostel is a place I would recommend for accommodations that is walkable and near the city center. For more information on Stayokay Amsterdam, you can visit them here.

Exploring More of Amsterdam

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On the first night walking around the Red Light District I gathered enough courage to take a photo from the bridge, a place I considered a "safe zone" for photography, because your photos couldn't possibly include images of the girls in the windows.

The Red Light District, also known as "De Wallen", serves as a place for legal prostitution and it is quite heavily regulated. Gab and I spent a lot of time here, checking out the shops, looking at the sexy women in the windows, even watching men solicit women or be seduced by them (most often quite hilarious because young boys look insanely smitten sometimes). If you're ever in Amsterdam, don't be afraid or intimidated with this place. It's interesting, intriguing, and actually quite amazing. Amsterdam is such a tolerant city, and at one point I had dreams of living here too.

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Remember when I said people in Amsterdam bike everywhere? Well, there are more bikes in Amsterdam than there are people. There are 881,000 bikes and about 811,100 citizens in Amsterdam. And there are about 25,000 bikes that end up in Amsterdam's canal each year. That sounds crazy, but it's true. Just google something like "Amsterdam bikes in canal" and you'll see what I mean.

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FEBO is a chain of Dutch fast food restaurants, most known for their automatic format (like a vending machine). Gab and I randomly saw a FEBO while walking our way to the city center and we were starving, and so we went to experience it ourselves.

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Kalfsvleeskroket is a dutch croquette containing a veal ragout. Try to pronounce it right the first time, it's close to impossible. The verdict? It's okay. Wait for the food to warm up a bit, they're made fresh and get very hot.

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Amsterdam is primarily built on water and the entire city is built on poles to support it and keep it from sinking, which would explain why some houses are lopsided! An average house in Amsterdam is built on 5 to 10 poles. The entire city? About 11 million poles! A freezing morning outside Bagels & Beans waiting for a warm seat inside the restaurant for our breakfast. Bikes, bikes everywhere, I tell you!

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Charming little side streets we walked through while exploring. 

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Gab and I got on the ferriswheel to get a birds eye view of the city. It was quite steep, considering the entire ride was only two rounds and went by relatively fast, but it was still worth the cost.

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A chocolate covered banana with nuts at the fair.

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But if there's chocolate covered strawberries, that's always my first choice.

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Henk's Haring by the Red Light District 

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In the Philippines we enjoy herring in its dried form (aka tuyo), but in Europe it's commonly eaten in its raw form. I tastes great with onions, pickles I've never been a fan of.

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Herring is one of my favorite fishes to eat, and I clearly enjoyed eating raw herring. Gab, however, could do without the experience. Haha

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Usually when you see a year on buildings and monuments in Europe, it's an indication of when it was built. According to Bureau Monuments & Archeology of Amsterdam, this back gate of De Brakke Grond doesn't necessarily mean it was built in 1624, it could be even older, or younger. 

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"Stop here, appreciate life for a minute, and smile." So I did, after I took the photo of course.

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Houses in this city are famously narrow because they used to be taxed based on their width. Can you guess the size of the narrowest house in Amsterdam? ... It's 3 feet and 3 inches. That's crazy narrow. You can read more about the narrowest house in Amsterdam and how it came about here. It's a nice short story.

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I found some free time to meet up with my friend Anita, whom I met in Amsterdam two years ago when I first visited. We met because she recognized me at a thrift store where her sister worked. She asked if I was a blogger, and it turned out she knew me because of my blog.

Anita introduced Gab and I to the best fries we've tried in Europe:

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My fries from Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx with "oorlog" sauce (meaning "war"), which is peanut sauce + mayo and onions. It's incredibly good and I definitely recommend a stop to this stand when you're in Amsterdam!

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Anita, Gab and I enjoying our fries while walking around the drizzly city, trying to make the most of our last day.

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Walking back to our hostel to rest before moving on to Ghent the next day, the drizzling was relentless but the rain mixed with the glow of the city lights at dusk was the perfect ending to our Amsterdam trip.

I have little regrets that I didn't get to do as much as I wanted to in Amsterdam. Admittedly, I did let the rain dampen the mood and gave in to the lazy vibes. So, for my next visit to Amsterdam I'll make sure to try a brownie, visit the Van Gogh museum, get on an actual bike and cycle around the city with zero fears of biking the wrong way or getting hit by a tram, and heck maybe even stay at an Airbnb houseboat!

Our next stop: Ghent, Belgium!