It’s my last night in Europe before I head to a week in Indonesia via Singapore – there’s not much to write about today. It was drizzly when I left Brugge – I was a bit worried how I could survive the 10-minute walk from the hotel to the train station, with my luggage if I have to carry an umbrella as well. The clouds parted a bit and provided me with good enough weather to get to the station and take the 10.20am train to Amsterdam via Antwerp. It was sad leaving Brugge but I’ve had a great time in the city and it was time for me to go.
The trip from Brugge to Antwerp and from Antwerp to Amsterdam were uneventful. There was a guy with his golden retriever from Brugge to Antwerp and when we arrived in Antwerp, I could see that his dog was so scared that it kept on shaking. I told him that his dog was scared and he just laughed and said that it was its first time on the train! The dog’s such a big sook – but it made me want to get one for my own when I get back. Haha.
I arrived in Amsterdam and headed to the hotel which is close by to the Centraal Station Amsterdam. It seems that the station is in a state of perpetual (re-)construction. The last time I was here in 2006, there were some work being done on the building. Flash forward to 2008, there are still some construction work going on!
After I got to the hotel, Hotel Bellevue at Martelaarsgracht, I went out to revisit Damrak, Dam Square and Kalverstraat. For those who don’t know Amsterdam, Damrak is the main street from the Centraal Station to the Dam Square, where you will find hotels and tourist shops. Kalverstraat is the shopping strip in Amsterdam – always busy, and filled with souvenir shops and other retailers. Because of the fine weather (blue sky, a smattering of clouds with some fresh breeze), there were lots of people milling around. I’m sure it’d be the pickpockets’ convention too! Hehe. There were a lady who loudly proclaimed that people needed to repent, whilst next to her there was a guy dressed as Darth Vader waiting for some coins. Hmmm, kinda hard for anybody to take the message seriously. I stopped by for some frites for a late lunch at a frite shop called Manneken Pis at Damrak – taking advantage of the landmark in Brussels. I was amused by the comments made by the sellers when one of the buyers was too stoned to remember what he ordered in the first place. I ate my frites in Kalverstraat, feeling quite overwhelmed by the number of people there. I spent some time in Kalverstraat before heading back to the hotel as I had arranged to have dinner with my friend Sjoerd at 6.00pm.
At the end, it was the three of us who had dinner as Oscar was also coming along to have dinner. It was good to see Oscar in good spirit – he was diagnosed with throat cancer some months ago, but the latest prognosis is that the cancer’s all gone after three operations and numerous radiotherapy sessions. The three of us had dinner at a restaurant called ‘De Belhamel‘ in a nice and quiet area not far away from Centraal Station. Hugo would’ve been proud as I ordered pasta vongole with skin-fried wild bass for my main course! Dinner was nice – none of the dish was maagtig. [Thank you for dinner again, Sjørd!]
So tonight I’m taking things easy – winding down and slowly changing my persona again from being a tourist to being a whitecollar careerguy. Before that happens, tomorrow I’m planning to have a daytripper to Haarlem, 15 minutes away from Amsterdam by train. One of the places that I want to see is Corrie ten Boom’s house. I read her book many years ago and I didn’t know that you can visit her house and see the actual ‘hiding place’. Sjoerd mentioned that he might come along with me tomorrow morning so that will be nice to have a travel companion again. I will also shop around for some souvenirs for my Mum and Dad – thesedays they usually prefer something that they can eat and enjoy. I bought them a pair of slippers made out of rabbit fur when I went to New Zealand in 2001, I believe that the slippers are still as good as new, because they’re too afraid to use them. “Lebar”, they would say. Lebar (pronounced: luh-bar) is Sundanese term when something’s too good to use, or when something may be spoilt or wasted.
Well, I’ve certainly been rested, rejuvenated, enriched, educated, blessed, and learned a lot through this trip. I don’t know when I will have my next major trip – hard to say as it is quite costly to travel out of Australia.