Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Over to Amsterdam

My first trip into the continent of Europe... This time it is only Amsterdam .... hopefully I will be back someday to be to other places as well...with my beloved.

It was indeed a pleasant journey... though half way. The reason... I travelled in Business class (though I'm entitled to economy class) from Chennai to Paris in Delta Airlines. This airlines cannot be compared to Singapore Airlines.. but business class made things better. It was a window seat with only 2 seats and hell lot of legroom (economy class has 3 seats together with much lesser legroom). I could almost flaten the seat and sleep as though in bed. Well... this comfort did not really make me sleep... but it was good with a well-focussed lamp and special attendant to serve drinks (I mean juices !! They would have served Champagne had I asked for !!) and food & tea/coffee. To add to my comfort ... the person supposed to be sitting besides me found his friend and the seat besides him was empty .. so he ended up sitting there and I was alone comfortable... Spent almost the whole 10 hrs journey reading the newspaper and the novel. Reached Paris at around 9.30am local time and went off for immigration. Well... in my case since Paris was the port of entry into European Union, immigration happened there and not at Amsterdam. Immigration was a little problem. Reason... I wasnt prepared for it. Thinking of it later in the hotel room, I realised that I wasnt prepared (mentally) for this trip at all. So didnt bother to see if I had carried everything along! Fortunately I had my laptop to show the immigration officer my hotel confirmation & stuff... but I was wondering.. what situation I would have landed up in had I not carried the laptop !!! There are some more things that I've forgotten to carry .. one of them being camera... so unfortunately no photos of this trip...

I'm feeling particularly sad of not having a camera ... since this country is really beautiful. When we are about to land... we see a cluster of buildings and what follows is a farm... it looks awesome from the sky... The roads are cool... houses are different in architecture... kinda olden European one... not so sure about it though.

The hotel I'm staying is a 4 star one [not a 5-start this time :-( ] It is much like our guesthouse in Gurgaon. The surroundings are too good..... quite peaceful.... outside the city... on the highway.. so nothing to shop around... kind of living in the country side of Amsterdam !! No means of transport available except for the hotel shuttle to the airport. There's a lake at 5 mins walk from the hotel ... went there yesterday... but was full with sun-bathers & boozers.. hope a weekday would be better... though this is just a hope... for the sun nearly doesnt set here !!! Yes yes yes... nothing to be surprised about.... it was as hot as an afternoon in India here at 8pm!! I just didnt realise it was half past 11 when I finally went off to bed after waiting long for the sun to set which it didnt until that time... Guess it set around half past midnight or so.. dont know exactly when... but was dark at 3 am and I was wake up to see the sun already up in the sky when my alarm rang at 6.15 am !!!!

Food is a little problem for me here..bcoz I'm a veggie.... though not a major one ... there's just one shop on the whole road which has bread & butter... learning from my previous experience... I am carrying some food items like ready-to-eat meals, maggi, instant soups packets, etc. Hope to survive on that. Fruit juices are pretty cheap .....around 2-2.5 Euros ...hey.. no conversions to Indian currency please... I can never eat anything if I do that !!!

Credit cards arent a popular thing here... so you got to have some cash in your pocket !! Amsterdam airport does have a counter to exchange currency and ther fortunately take visa & mastercards... no american express cards please! Hotels do have the facility of conversion but not from Indian currency (moreover it foolish to carry so much Indian currency along which will fetch very little Euros... currency rate will confirm this statement of mine!!) and they charge around 9% commission.

Having read some amount on Amsterdam, we land with an impression that Amsterdam is all about it world-famous RedLight District... it's pickpocketing, free gay society and stuff. Well... much of it is true...If you are good at sensing people's intentions... you will find pick-pocketers right on the airport.. So ought to be careful there and same is for the streets. Redlight district id the major attraction of Amsterdam but if known majorly due to the tourists. You can hardly find Dutch people visiting there (Bachelors excluded from this statement !). Drugs are sold in the coffee shops ... I was a couple asking for marijuana in the shop I mentioned earlier near my hotel... The hotel receptionist warned me about not moving around the lake far too long for Gay people just pop-up from bushes... "They wouldnt farm you... but why take risk...". Having learnt this, I had a talk with the local team in my office here... and what I found was that this is not something a Dutch person is proud about. This is not a kinda reputation they want there capital city to have. But they also dont deny the fact that these are the chief attractions of the city !