MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Archive for the month “August, 2019”

Singapore at Night

As the sun continued to lower, I walked in the slightly cooler air from my hotel to Marina Bay. This was my first sighting of the city’s famous hotel, the tri-towered Marina Bay Sands and it was just as impressive to see for myself as it had been in photographs. The next few days were to be taken up by the conference that I had come to the city for, and the conference centre was within the mega complex that includes a multi-level shopping mall. I needed to sign-in ahead of it starting so I made my way round the marina edge and into the air-conditioned mall. Thankfully there were signs telling me where to go because it was massive, and as I continued through the labyrinthine mall, I was shocked to discover a Venice-inspired canal in the middle of it, complete with boats to go punting on. This was one of many things that utterly amazed me about Singapore, and once I’d done the formalities at the conference centre, I was quick to venture outside to one of the city’s well known attractions, the Gardens by the Bay.

 

I had arrived at the end of a festival which had seen the gardens filled with lanterns, and this was the last night it was running. The sun had set by now and as dusk grew darker, the lanterns I came across glowed brighter. Filled with lakes and gardens and giant trees, the Gardens by the Bay is spectacular. I followed a vague trail through it, trying to see as many of the lanterns as I could before finding a large food market and entertainment area at the foot of the incredible Supertree Grove. Every night at set times, the giant trees here light up to music and I found myself a spot on a hill above them, away from the crowds to wait and watch. As I sat on the grass in the dark, I was befriended by a cute little cat, and I smiled as some families joined me, inwardly laughing at one woman’s failed attempts to shoo the cat away from her. When eventually the light display started, I was enthralled from start to finish, a grin on my face in the still-warm night, as I had one of those pinch-me moments that I get when I’m somewhere foreign and exciting, and feel truly in the moment. Afterwards, I joined the crowds to get dinner at a food stall and parked my butt on a bit of grass to eat a delicious meal. I am a massive fan of a variety of Asian cuisines, and with a multi-cultural influence, I knew that it would be an easy city to eat well.

 

Each subsequent morning I would rise and walk with the locals heading to work, taking that same walk round Marina Bay, feeling the impending heat that was to come before hiding away in the air-conditioned conference hall for hours on end. I always love attending conferences, but the long days can be tiring and it can be easy to forget where you are each day, as you get shepherded from lecture hall to lecture hall to exhibition room. Finishing around 5.30pm each evening though, I was at least grateful that the outside temperature was starting to cool a little by the time I was leaving, and every night, Singapore proved itself to be just as incredible in the hours of darkness as it is in the hours of daylight. In fact at times, it could almost feel like visiting a different city, with some places coming more alive after nightfall.

I headed straight out into the Gardens by the Bay for a second night. The lanterns were in the process of being removed, and I cut round the gardens to the promenade that runs along the water’s edge. Here it was packed with locals out jogging, couples walking hand in hand and tourists intermingling with them all. Across the water, the Singapore Flyer observation wheel flashed a multitude of colours. Past the distinctive structures of the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, I joined the throngs of people at a mass of food stalls. I was in heaven, wandering round and round in a sea of indecision at all the choice. Eventually I opted to try a few places, getting dumplings from one, beer at another and satay at yet another and I enjoyed every little morsel.

 

Once satisfied, I returned to the promenade and continued to the Barrage, a large structure that played a functional part in the watercourse, and had some lit-up water features nearby. I crossed the bridge to the far side but the gardens on this side weren’t very well lit, so I decided to retrace my steps back to the main gardens. I spent another evening ogling at the Supertree Grove, wishing my night-time photography skills were better. I followed a few of the paths through the gardens before heading back into the mall. Following a different concourse than I had to reach the conference hall, I passed a Formula 1 store complete with F1 racing car in the window, and walked the length of the Venetian canal to discover an incredible vortex waterfall at the far end. This indoor waterfall was stunning and I couldn’t help but admire it from all angles. Passing high-end shops with security guards, I found myself at another annex where the main food court was and here there was a giant light display complete with motion picture projected onto the floor. I got some dessert here before heading back to the hotel.

 

I had an extended lunch break on the second day of the conference and used it to head round to the far side of the bay to see the city’s famous Merlion statue. Smaller than the one I’d seen on Sentosa Island, it is probably the city’s most famous Merlion, complete with water spout coming from its mouth. I had been worried I wouldn’t get the chance to see it in the daytime, but even with an extended lunch break, it was still quite a distance to get all the way round the bay and back and still have time to look at it. The heat and humidity of the hottest part of the day blasted me in the face the minute I left the air conditioned building behind. I hot-footed it there, and joined the mix of people grabbing lunch at the nearby eateries, and the mass of people trying to take photographs at the Merlion. It was hard not to become one of them, and I too mingled for a while, trying out different angles and compositions to capture the essence of the place.

 

I don’t take photographs specifically for Instagram or social media, instead I take photographs that try to capture the essence of how I see or feel about a place. I’m well known among my friends and family for being terrible with memories, and I’ve become increasingly reliant on photographs to keep previous travels alive in my mind. I can remember conversations very well and things that I read well, but when it comes to names of faces, or locations I’ve been to and places I’ve stayed or eaten at, I sadly can forget all to easily. The large Merlion fountain and the cute little Merlion statue behind it were much more attractive than the stone Merlion on Sentosa, and whether it was shot with the Marina Bay Sands in the background, or the city skyline in the background, it was almost impossible to take a bad photo here. I could have hung out for much longer if it wasn’t for the heat and the need to get back to the conference. I meandered past the bars and restaurants that lined the promenade, Clifford Square and round the Fullerton hotel before returning to the much-needed air conditioning.

 

That evening as the sun prepared to set, I legged it across the road to the Marina Bay Sands hotel to visit the SkyPark Observation Deck on its roof. This hotel is famous for its rooftop infinity pool but as it is only accessible to guests, and the hotel’s price tag put it out of my budget, I had to make do with this one portion of roof that was open to the general public. Obtaining a frozen daiquiri from the bar, I proceeded to spend the next few hours chilling out watching the sunset. From the view over the Gardens by the Bay and the incredible number of ships offshore beyond it, to the city skyline full of skyscrapers, there was a lot to take in. Only the haze from the humidity dulled the view, but as dusk became night and the lights of the city turned on, a whole new city view came alive.

 

From the rooftop I watched the light and water display that takes place on Marina Bay. I could barely hear the music, but the light and laser show was impressive. The rooftop bar was by now spilling over, and eventually my hungry stomach dragged me away. I’d previously spotted and been recommended Black Tap which was in the mall below me. Famous as much for their shakes as their burgers, it was hard not to order both, especially as there had been quite a wait to get a table, but I was pretty full by the time I’d finished my burger, so when my monster shake arrived, I felt sick within just a few mouthfuls. I’m a glutton for punishment though and hate wasting food so I soldiered on, stuffing spoon after spoon of cream and chocolate and sauce into my mouth. I very much waddled home and rolled onto my hotel bed to wallow in my food coma.

 

The sun was a little higher when I got out of the conference on the third day, and I was able to take my time walking the long way back to my hotel, this time crossing the Helix bridge to the Grandstand where a man with a cart was selling ice cream. It was the perfect time of day to indulge in some as I slowly walked to the far side of Marina Bay as the lowering sun cast pretty colours on the reflective towers of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel. The crowds at the Merlion were still present and after a while I left them behind to take a dip in my hotel pool. Up high among a mass of skyscrapers, it felt a little weird taking a swim with office workers visible in some of the nearby office blocks. I was lucky to get it to myself for a while before others arrived shortly before I needed to get going. I had booked a spot on the Singapore Flyer and needed to make sure I made it there on time.

 

I hadn’t initially planned on going on the Flyer, but after watching it from a multitude of vantage points during my stay, I’d changed my mind. It was a bit of a walk to get there, but I make a point of using my feet to explore cities wherever I can, so this was nothing unusual for me. I ended up sharing a pod with a group of friends but there was plenty of space for all of us to enjoy the view. Standing at 165m (541ft), it takes just over half an hour to do the full revolution, rising up in view of the east marina, and lowering down in view of Marina Bay and the city skyline.  There was a commentary running which I paid very little attention to, and as we lowered down towards the base, the group of friends offered to take my photo, amusing me by mocking up a mini photo studio, using their camera torches to make sure I was perfectly lit for the photograph. The eateries at the Flyer didn’t really whet my appetite so instead I headed to the food court inside the mall across the water. The food I got looked the part, but it wasn’t as good as what I’d eaten the previous few nights. In the darkness, I took the now familiar route back to my hotel, gazing over the now familiar view.

 

With the conference wrapped up after 4 days of lectures, I stepped outside to a beautiful Friday evening where locals had draped themselves along the seating areas along the waterfront. The reflections on the pool outside the mall were stunning, and as the sun lowered, the colours of the sky reflected on the water changed with it. A mass of lotus flowers were in bloom and lily pads broke up the reflections in places. I watched the sun set once more as I crossed the Helix bridge and as I reached the Esplanade area, a multi-cultural dance theatre was taking place so I joined the crowds to watch some flamenco dancing. This is the kind of thing I love to just stumble upon, and why it is important to just go with the flow sometimes. I really vary between trips that are planned to the day, and trips that I make up as I go along, and whilst Singapore certainly had more to offer than I had time to do, I was thoroughly enjoying myself just winging it each day.

 

The crowds on the Jubilee bridge and around the Merlion were the biggest yet. There was no mistaking that it was the weekend with locals and tourists alike out enjoying the warm but not oppressive temperature of the darkness. In every direction there was some kind of light display, either from lit-up skyscrapers to lasers and water features, and after several nights of enjoying these scenes, this was to be the last time I’d see Marina Bay at night. After making the most of what the marina area had to offer, it was time to delve more into the city itself and experience what the different districts had in store for me.

Sentosa Island

By the time I left my life in Scotland behind to emigrate to New Zealand back in early 2012, I’d spent more time than I would have liked transiting through American airports. They’re not the friendliest of places and with a real dislike for Los Angeles airport (LAX) I was keen for an alternative transit point between my new home and old home. My original booking that took me to New Zealand had been a return ticket, so I’d used the return leg with its LAX transit to go home and visit my family for Christmas at the end of 2012, but I was keen to avoid the same route back, and booked a ticket home via Singapore. I had a few hours layover at Singapore’s Changi airport and was blown away by the country’s national carrier that took me there and also the airport itself. I transited Changi twice more on my next visit to Scotland in 2016 and again revelled in the marvel that is now my favourite airport. With a multitude of gardens, entertainment zones and shops and eateries that stretch far through the concourse, it almost feels like the airport is a destination in itself. It also whetted my appetite to see the country who’s borders it sat within, and so when a work-related conference was announced in Singapore, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be attending. So last September, after a couple of weeks spent in Scotland, I left Amsterdam behind and flew to Asia.

I arrived in the early morning, and after obtaining a travel card for the public transport system, I caught the train into the city and went in search of my hotel. It was far too early to check in, so I simply dumped my bags and sat in the lobby perusing a guidebook, wondering what to do with the day. This was one of those trips that I’d left totally unplanned, making it up as I went along, and after a bit of reading and studying the transit map, I decided to take the train to Harbourfront, the gateway to Sentosa Island. Attached to the mainland via a bridge, there are a multitude of ways to get onto the island: a cable car, a train, boardwalk and road all link the island to Harbourfront. Looking to save money, and naive to the heat that would hit me that day, I decided to walk over, coming out of the Harbourfront mall and taking the boardwalk. Despite the early hour, the temperature was on the rise and a slight hazy smog coloured the sky, and before long I was sweating. In fact the humidity kept fogging my camera lens as I tried to take photos and I found myself torn between admiring the view and seeking out shade.

On arrival to Sentosa, I was greeted by a large resort but I was so early that nothing was open and there was hardly anyone around. It made for a pleasant walk in relative solitude as I cut along the promenade, admiring the cityscape across the waterway. At the main building complex, I cut up through what would no doubt be a bustling shopping and eating mall during opening hours and past several water features which led me up and out the other side at a raised area where I was faced with the giant structure of a Merlion. The official mascot of Singapore, represented by a lion’s head with the body of a fish, it is an iconic symbol of this island nation. There are several Merlion statues in the country, but this one on Sentosa is the largest and it is possible to climb up inside it for a fee. Here, I was thankful for the early arrival as the crowds had yet to appear and there was only a handful of people milling around, making it relatively easy to get an uncrowded photograph.

I skirted round the base of the Merlion and down Merlion walk, a paved route with a funky water feature running down the middle. At the far end, stairs took me down to the back of the beach amphitheatre, but rather than head straight to the coast, I double backed past a funky sculpture and a scented garden to head up into the higher points of the island where the cable car comes in. Up in the canopy, the insect noise was epic, and a boardwalk led away from the cable car complex towards a trail through a forested area. A few more people were about now and I regularly passed others as I meandered through the tree-lined path up, round and over the hill here. The path eventually cut back down to the north coast and once more I could see back across to the mainland.

By now I was grateful for every piece of shade I could find. The heat combined with the high humidity was intense. But the view across the water made up for that, and I soaked it in as I became more and more saturated in my own sweat. At the western end of the island I found myself at Fort Siloso, a gun battery utilised in WWII. Free to walk around, it is a cluster of buildings, tunnels and guns, and although I wasn’t really interested in the history of the place, I still took my time to wander around it. I was especially glad of the air conditioning that was on in some of the buildings which now represent a museum. At the back of the complex, I found myself at the Siloso skywalk, an elevated walkway that gave a stunning view across to both the mainland and the nearby beach of the south coast. For the first time I could see the reams of ships berthed just offshore and I realised how important Singapore must be as a shipping port. Now quite high above the main level of Sentosa, I had planned on getting the elevator down off the platform but it wasn’t working, and so I retraced my steps back to Fort Siloso and cut down the hill at the side of the walkway. Only when I got near the bottom did I realise that a high fence blocked my path, and frustratingly in the heat, I had to climb back up the hillside and cut back through the fort to get out.

The south coast was the gem of this place for me. An expansive series of stunning sandy beaches, turquoise water and off-shore islands welcomed me and the now increasing crowd of people. The remnants of a sand-art exhibition was being dismantled as I first hit the beach and I was quick to take my shoes off and paddle in the water as I wandered. I’m not one for relaxing on holidays, instead I have a constant urge to explore when I’m abroad, so although I was sorely tempted to get in the water and swim, I hadn’t actually brought by bathers and as such, I had to be content with just dipping my toes in the water. I was by now pretty hungry, and thankfully there were some eateries here, so I found myself a shady spot in one, ordered a nice cold drink and got myself some food to fill me up for the rest of the day’s walking.

Of the offshore islands, a couple have a bridge over to them, so at Palawan beach, I crossed the swing bridge to reach the largest of them. Immediately at the far side, a sign declared it to be the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia. Looking at the location of it on a map I highly doubt the accuracy of it but that didn’t stop me and everyone else getting a photograph at the sign. Two towers behind here took me up above the canopy for a view back onto Sentosa Island and in the opposite direction, seaward where once more I was astonished by the shear quantity of ships hanging around offshore. Back down in the undergrowth, I found a spot to lie down in the shade and promptly dozed off, overwhelmed by the heat and humidity following my inability to sleep on the plane ride there. I awoke a little while later when the shade had moved and the sun reached me. I returned to wandering around this islet before cutting back across the bridge to Sentosa.

I briefly considered continuing along the coast to Tanjong beach but as beyond that the island is pretty much consumed by a golf course and resort, I decided that I’d had enough of the heat, and instead retraced my steps back to the Merlion walk. Cutting across the island here, I headed to the S.E.A. Aquarium and decided to head inside. I’m not a big fan of aquariums and zoos, and discovered after buying my ticket that this aquarium had captive dolphins which I really don’t agree with, but I was desperate for some air conditioned indoor time so headed on in anyway. What I discovered inside blew me away. After going downstairs and into the complex, I came through the entrance to a floor to ceiling glass wall that was the end of a huge exhibit, complete with shipwreck and a collection of sharks and large shoals of fish. It was exceptionally crowded, but I didn’t mind that I couldn’t get right up to the glass, because even from a few steps back, it was so high that there was plenty to take in. I stood here at this first exhibit for quite some time before moving on. Nearby there was a skeleton of a Great White Shark, which due to its nose, was rather amusing.

Through a tunnel below sharks and past eels I came out at a coral garden, and wandered past a really cool tubular aquarium. At the far end of the complex was the extensive Open Ocean Exhibit, another exceedingly large floor to ceiling glass panel wall that looked into one of the largest aquarium exhibits I’ve ever seen. Containing 40,000 fish within it, it was mesmerising and it was no wonder there were so many people draped across the various levels of the viewing area just staring at it. I too parked up in different areas to just watch the creatures swim by, and was torn between the happiness of seeing manta rays and the sadness that they were in captivity. I’ve seen manta rays in the wild off two different continents and they are an awesome sight to see. When I finally pulled myself away from the place, I found some jellyfish appearing to dance. Then there were octopus and more coral exhibits and I was glad to see that I could skip the dolphin section without visiting it, as I really didn’t want to see them in there. Finally, the route takes you back through the other side of the shipwreck exhibit and I left the building utterly impressed with what the place had achieved. It is definitely the best aquarium I have ever visited in my life.

The sun was dropping low as I returned to Harbourfront mall to catch the train back to my hotel. The mall was a total rabbit warren and I went round in circles looking for the station within it. I ended up among the rush hour crowds so I was happy to finally reach my hotel although I felt rather self conscious appearing in my sweaty and disheveled state. I’d booked my accommodation some time in advance and I can only assume I got some kind of deal because what I had noticed when I’d dumped my bags that morning was that it seemed rather posh, and this was confirmed on checking in as I discovered that my hotel was 5-star. As someone who regularly stays in hostels, and had in fact just been staying in a shared dorm in Amsterdam prior to arriving, this was a slightly shocking change of scene. Nonetheless, I was certainly going to make the most of it and had a huge grin on my face as I wandered round my large and fancy looking room. This would be just the ticket to come back to each day whilst in the city, and I soon felt at home.

Return to Amsterdam

It was an early morning flight that took me away from my Homeland once more, speeding towards Amsterdam with an unusually high tail wind. In fact, the flight I was on broke a record for the route, having reached Amsterdam well ahead of schedule and before I knew it I was back at the Clink Noord hostel in Amsterdam Noord. There was a totally different vibe to the city than there had been a couple of weeks prior. The weather was looking a lot more unsettled for one, but it was a Saturday, and as it turned out, there was a city-wide walking festival taking place in a city full of bikes. The crowds on both sides of the IJ river were intense. But despite this, I couldn’t come back to Amsterdam and not do it on wheels this time, so after dumping my stuff at the hostel, I hot-footed it round to the nearby bike rental office to get myself some transport for the day.

The free ferry across the IJ river was as packed with walkers as it was cyclists, and a surge of people disembarked at the Amsterdam Centraal pier. I cut up and under the railway station and immediately came out at a mass of people, cyclists, trams and cars. It took every sense I had at full alert to navigate this sea of hazards whilst trying not to get herded in the wrong direction nor fall off the bike. I didn’t want to end up in the city centre which was where the masses were going, so I cut off towards the Jordaan district to try and shed the crowds. I wasn’t always sure of the street signage to determine rights of way so at times I meandered off in random directions, doubling back or winding round canal networks if necessary. It wasn’t being lost, it was just making an interesting route. I knew where I was aiming for, but I had no time commitments and it was fun to explore side streets as I went. There were pockets of the Jordaan district that were busier than others but the main bridges across the canals were often a focal point for tourists and I could see some locals getting annoyed with those that abruptly stopped on the bridges when they were trying to go about their daily lives.

 

The crowds started to build up as I circumnavigated the main city centre and aimed for the crossing near the Rijksmuseum, marking the entrance to the museum district. This is one of the city’s major tourist zones and there were people walking, cycling and stopping everywhere. Whilst the large facade of the famous museum dominated the view forward, I was more interested in the beautiful turreted building that stood on the river opposite it. The bridge here, like many of the city’s bridges, had flower baskets along the railing and the blooms added a pretty touch to those canal views. Amsterdam has some incredibly famous museums with some incredibly famous exhibits, but the museum district was not my target destination at that stage, so after getting my fill of photographs of the canal, I cut in front of the museum instead of under it as most people were doing, and headed a couple of blocks away to the narrow entrance of Vondelpark.

 

I loved cycling through Vondelpark. From this access point, the park was narrow, and consisted mainly of the access path and a bit of green space either side, but after a long stretch of this, it cut under a road and entered the main part of the park where immediately I found myself at a lake and a route decision to make. Although busy being a Saturday, only small pockets felt crowded, and I was loving the cycling, so I started off by looping the park round the outer trail, past pretty buildings, statues and lakes. The main track was wide enough for multiple bikes to pleasantly pass each in other in both directions and before I knew it, I was back at the first lake where I’d started. The second time through, I utilised the narrow secondary tracks to snake through the park and enjoy the various points of interest. Being late September, it was autumn, so there was a variable amount of blooms and foliage. I spied a heron in a lake where some fountains sprouted up, and nearby there was a rose garden where some roses were still thinking about blooming.

 

After this second circuit, I was getting hungry and decided to get lunch at one of the cafes halfway up the park, but when I got there there was absolutely nowhere to lock up my bike. I’d noticed often as I’d cycled through the streets that every available post or bike park was often taken and in other places, especially bridges, it is not allowed to lock your bike. I certainly didn’t want to risk losing the bike, so after circling round the area looking for somewhere free, I eventually had to give up. I cut across to the more southern side of the park where a path hugged a lake across from some large houses. The sky was rather grey but the reflections of the houses on the water were still distinct. Nearby, there was an exit from the park and I headed back into the melee of streets and urban life.

 

I was only a few blocks from the museum district and turning onto the main street of Van Baerlestraat took me deep into chaos. The pavements were packed with people, the cycle lanes packed with cyclists and between all of this was a very busy tram line. I passed eateries that were packed to the brim, and struggling to negotiate the crowds, I found it difficult to get off this street, being herded by the masses in a straight line. There was definitely a knack to turning against the flow, and whilst the locals knew how to do it, I certainly did not. I ended up a lot further down than I’d planned to before I was able to cross over and double back. My hunger was driving me, so I decided to park up the bike and look for a place to eat on foot, but this was easier said than done as every possible bike park was full. Cutting down back street after back street I finally found a single bike park and quickly claimed it, only to discover that I couldn’t work the padlock. Finally sussing it out, I was glad to get walking for a bit, mentally making a note of where I’d left the bike as I made turn after turn to retrace my steps back to the main street.

The cafe that I’d eyed up from the bike was beyond crammed when I walked there and so was every other cafe within sight. Only when I found myself at the Stedelijk Museum did I realise there was a large restaurant there, so finally I could satiate my appetite. I spend a lot of time travelling solo and this means I eat out a lot solo. Even at home in New Zealand, I have no qualms about dining alone, but in different countries, this habit is often met with a variety of responses. The man that was serving me here at the museum restaurant seemed a little put out that I was on my own. It wasn’t that there was a shortage of tables, but I seemed a little unimportant to him, and I struggled to get served. If I hadn’t been so hungry I might have walked out, but eventually I got myself a coffee and a sandwich. My coffee arrived with a little Stroopwafel, a small Dutch wafer biscuit, and although the coffee was much better than the one I’d had near Anne Frank Huis on my first visit to the city, it still wasn’t as good as back home.

The weather was really making a turn for the worse by the time I was back out on my bike. The clouds were thicker and darker and there was a hint of rain in the air. There had been a few light and brief showers as I’d cycled that morning, but the afternoon was looking ominous. I’d seen photos on social media of the ‘I amsterdam’ sign outside of the Rijksmuseum and when I first saw it in the distance, it was only a hint of the red and white amongst a sea of people. The crowd here was phenomenal and for the first time I felt like was seeing the Instagram effect. As I moved closer, I was astounded by the mass of people posing on or in front of this sign, with people dictating to and grumbling about the people in and around their shot. It was impossible to get a photo without a multitude of other people and I found myself taking photos of the crowd itself rather than the sign. It was an unbelievable scene. There were some distinctive buildings around here though, so I left the crowd to ogle at these for a while before it started to rain.

 

I wasn’t interested in visiting any of the museums, so when it looked like it might get quite wet, I decided to head for the nearby Heineken Brewery. Finding a bike park round the corner from it, I joined the long crowd of people waiting to get in. If planned ahead, it is possible to book a time slot to turn up for, but on a whim, I had to wait in a queue for a space to open up. It took quite a while to get in, and the rain was just starting to get heavy as I finally made it indoors. It turned out to be both interesting and fun. In groups, we were led round an introductory section where staff talked about the history and the beer itself, and as we went deeper into the experience, the groups merged together to form a mass of people gradually meandering around the one-way system. Passing giant vats and an old cart horse, the experience became a bit more digital as we got shepherded into a large room for a CGI experience. Out the other side of that, we got our first taste of the beer with a small glass of Heineken.

 

The rest of the levels were quite interactive with the ability to film short movies, and pose for silly pictures. There was so much information about the history of and association with this famous beer, and I was amazed with how much time could be spent here. These latter levels were also completely blocked in with no windows to see the world outside, and it felt like a rabbit warren walking through small corridors and holes in the wall, up and down stairs with no idea where I’d come out. Where the route did end up was what I assume was down in a basement, in a busy and loud bar where you could claim the 2 glasses of Heineken that were part of the entry fee. This sort of thing is the one time I can feel a bit self conscious being on my own, especially as I’m introverted and won’t openly talk to strangers. Nonetheless, I found a spot with my beers to hover and I enjoyed them immensely. I’m really not into beer, but Heineken and Stella Artois are the two that I actually quite like, so I enjoyed these more than I had done the Tennents Lager on my recent trip to that brewery a week or so prior.

After quite some time in the cocoon of the Brewery, I was shocked to step outside to heavy rain. Back on my bike which was soaking wet, I pedalled back to the Rijksmuseum to discover that the crowd had thinned out a lot by the famous sign. The food trucks I’d spotted earlier were thankfully still open and I ordered some waffles to huddle up and eat under an umbrella as the workers started to pack up for the day. The rain got heavier and heavier until it was torrential so by the time I’d finished my waffles, there was barely a sole at the sign and I was able to snap a quick photograph before the cold drove me onwards. In the archway of the Rijksmuseum, there was a group of men playing classical music and they had drawn a decent crowd. It was a good excuse to shelter from the rain for a bit, but it became increasingly clear that the weather was not planning on abating. I had had a whole route planned back to the hostel to see a few more sights but the weather meant that my day was going to have to be curtailed as before long once back on the road, my waterproof jacket failed and I became soaked to the skin.

 

By the time I reached Amsterdam Centraal it was dark and gloomy and I was hungry again. I parked my bike and headed inside to eat at one of the eateries there. Grabbing a free spot in an otherwise busy restaurant, I waited and waited and waited to get served. I failed to grab anyone’s attention, and after an extended time drooling over other’s people meals and feeling positively ignored, I walked out and bought some food at the market shop to take back to the hostel. It was still grey the next morning when I made the now familiar trundle with my suitcase to the pier, across the IJ river and into the train station to head to the airport. I’d left with plenty of time and so had a lot of time to wander around the expansive terminal. The elephant parade was on display so there were several of these dotted around the terminal to look at and I laughed to myself when at the end of the terminal, I stepped outside to find another ‘I amsterdam’ sign with absolutely no-one about. The backdrop might not be as impressive as the Rijksmuseum, but that was okay. Finally it was time to leave Europe behind and head to Asia, to finally explore the city who’s airport I know so well.

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