Amsterdam and other pretty cities of The Netherlands

My eight days long adventure in The Netherlands started with landing at 8 am in the capital city of Amsterdam, greeted by a beyond gorgeous sunrise that I witnessed from my window seat on the plane. It was worth it waking up at 4:20 am in Zurich to catch this early flight.

Sunrise over Amsterdam

From Schipol airport I took a train to Amsterdam Central Station, the journey took me around 30 minutes and costed around 10 euros.

The building of the station is quite impressive and my accommodation was a 10 minutes walk from it, right in the city center, so I headed towards it, passing beautiful canal views and observing how the city comes to life.

Amsterdam Central Station

Once I dropped my luggage I was headed to Dom Square, where my free walking tour started. I definitely recommend booking in advance a free walking tour of the city, the guide was extremely knowledgeable and I found out a lot about the history of the city and discovered sights that maybe otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered.

The tour took around two hours and a half. I made a new friend on the tour and we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring together. He made quite a good city explorer buddy. We walked along the beautiful canals, took pictures and even hang out in the red light distract, which is quite dead during the day.

One of the beautiful canals in Amsterdam

We discovered the impressive flower market and also some kinky places, such as a condomeria.

Amsterdam flower market
Condoms shop in central Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the city of freedom, sexual diversity and acceptance. The city is very vibrant, full of bikers and very open minded and excellent English speaking, tall Dutch men and women.

With my new travel companion we walked around a lot on my first day, reaching also the museums quartier, where especially the famous Rijksmuseum stands out.

Rijksmuseum

On this occasion we didn’t go into any of the museums, but on the other hand was stunned to discover that the I AmSterdam sign disappeared from the museum plaza. Nine years ago was still there, then apparently it has been removed due to some political dispute over it. I wanted to recreate my picture from nine years ago, but that couldn’t happen. Regardless, we had a nice time around there, many buildings are beautiful.

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without mentioning the coffee shops, which here reffers to the shops that sell weed and other drugs that are legal in The Netherlands. There are plenty of them and basically any adult can try them either in form of a joint or brownie and probably in other forms as well, I wouldn’t know because I wasn’t interested in these stuff. What I do know though is that the best of them seems to be the Bulldog chain, that has a gift shop and museum too. I purchased myself some Bulldog thongs ( = flip flops ) as a memory from Amsterdam.

The most good looking Bulldog coffee shop
A random coffee shop

Apart from admiring the canals, passing by coffee shops and chilling in nice cafes, on another day I visited some museums too.

The most interesting I found to be the Moco Museum, where apart from Bansky’s art work, there’s a very beautiful and interactive light installation too.

I checked out also the Allard Pierson museum, where I learned about the Egyptian era.

In Amsterdam there’s a museum for every taste, from modern art to even the art and pleasure of sexual intercourses, hences there’s an erotic museum and also a museum of prostitution. I guess the name says it all, no need from my side to discuss what can you see in each of them.

Checking out some museums has been definitely fun and interesting, but probably even more interesting than that has been all the breakfast and brunch places that I got to eat from.

Eating places in Amsterdam are amazing and my favorite of all probably has been Mr Stacks, where you can eat the most delicious pancake stacks, which look like a tower of pancakes and are filled with fresh and delicious fruits and of course lots of chocolate. I licked all my ten fingers after eating there.

Eating at Mr Stacks

Another amazing breakfast place I’ve discovered it’s called Jacob’s Juice , where I tried the delicious avocado toast and drank a very healthy ginger,lemon,spinach,fennel juice. It’s located a short 10 min walk from Rinksmuseum. It’s small and cozy and everything on the menu sounded amazing, so the choice was quite hard.

My brekky at Jacob’s Juice

A more central brekky place, by Dom Square, is Corner House, where the salmon bagel is absolutely delicious and the hot chocolate equally amazing.

Brekky at Corner House

Too many amazing eating places in Amsterdam for sure and the list of great restaurants is just about to start.

The best dinner I had in Amsterdam was certainly at Sea Palace restaurant, which is located just by central station, it’s a massive building right on the water, impossible to miss.

Sea Palace restaurant

It’s a Chinese restaurant, where we were lucky to get a table without booking in advance. The food is amazing and deserts are wonderful too. If I ever visit again, I’ll make sure I’ll check it out again.

My dessert at Sea Palace

T’Stuiverte has good food in a stylish ambiance, you have the feeling that you are in art gallery. Amazing food, very delicious desert.

Fish with veggies at T’Stuviertje

The Yeti – for finger licking Nepalese and Indian cuisine, go with confidence to this little restaurant, located in the red light district, it’s wonderful and service is very good too.

There have been a few other restaurants that I checked out, but I didn’t find them so amazing to mention them.

On the other hand, there’s a few bars with a view that I’d mention.

Skylounge

Luckily we got there right in time for the sunset.

Sunset view of Amsterdam

A’dam lookout bar

This one is great for the views, especially after swinging above Amsterdam.

Cocktail with a view
Swinging above Amsterdam

Apart from swinging above the city, I can proudly say that I also biked around Amsterdam, with a local, like a local and the only incident that happened was that I nearly took off the mirror of a truck that drove too close to me. It was a fun, but little stressful experience , however I don’t regret any second of it.

Although Amsterdam is a wonderful city, I also traveled a bit further and checked out some other places in The Netherlands.

Bergen Aan Zee

For a daytrip I ventured out to the see and to my amazement I witnessed a gorgeous sunset, walked four kilometers on the beach to catch a bus and ate a delicious onion soup and drank a refreshing smoothie while listening to the waves. It was a fun day!

Bergen Aan Zee sunset
My smoothie and I

Oh, and also saw very cute and friendly cats along the way.

Cat love ❤️

Rotterdam

Just around 30 min by train from Amsterdam, there’s the modern, also vibrant city of Rotterdam, where I spent threee days, out of which two were rainy and gloomy, but still enjoyable.

Rotterdam is beautiful, very different from Amsterdam. We took a canal tour that took us around the port and could see huge ships there.

Checked out also the Maritime Museum, where we could learn about ships, boats and the importance of Rotterdam port.

A trip to Rotterdam would g be complete without visiting the iconic cube houses, that look like they would be out of a fairytale. Apparently people also live in them and one of them can even be rented out on Airbnb.

Posing at Rotterdam Cube Houses

Due to the rain we kept most of our exploring indoors, which was just fine when it came to eating .

Markthalle, the food court of Rotterdam was just a short tram ride from the accommodation and was the perfect place to start the day. A massive location full of all kind of specialities. My favorite of course was the waffle and the Brazilian juice.

Eating a waffle at Markthalle
My delicious

At Markthalle apart from food, one can buy different spices, cheese and so on.

Also in Rotterdam I’ve discovered some good restaurants, one of them is Ayla, an afghani restaurant where the oysters and frog legs where absolutely delicious, but also the cocktails are remarkable.

Frog legs at Ayla
Cocktail at Ayla

Speaking of cocktails, there’s one bar in Rotterdam that I liked in particular, it’s called Spikizi, it’s cozy, little and the cocktails were very good.

Spikizi bar from outside
Spikizi bar from inside
Cocktail at Spikizi

I love views, hences I dragged my friend, Jay, who joined me for the Rotterdam part of my Netherlands trip, to Euromast and we ,also him, were impressed of the views. Rotterdam is truly magnificent at night. I let the pictures speak for themselves.

Euromast tower
Rotterdam at night from Euromast

The Hague

Another place that I dragged my friend , Jay was The Hague, which I heard about a lot, everybody saying how beautiful it is. Well, it’s quite nice, true, but on a rainy day it was just so and so.

We checked out the Peace Palace, but with the Covid restrictions in place, we were not allowed to visit the actual palace, just did an audio tour in a separate building and saw the palace from distance.

Peace Palace

Although it was raining, we still went to the beach and saw even people bungee jumping there.

The beach in The Hague

We wondered around the city a bit and eventually ended up at another drinks with a view place.

Skybar – beautiful views of The Hague at night and delicious mocktailes in a romantic ambiance.

The Hague at night from Skybar

Our day in The Hague could have been nicer if there was sun and no Covid restrictions, but I guess nowadays that’s the new normal…

After spending those few days in Rotterdam, by I said goodbye to Jay and continued my trip solo to another beautiful town.

Utrecht

Utrecht has been recommended to me by many Dutch people I met and I was excited to check it out. Everybody was saying that it’s the smaller version of Amsterdam, but maybe slightly more pretty. I must say I found it in a way even nicer and definitely more calm than Amsterdam. I was also very lucky with a sunny day in Utrecht. I walked around the canals, visited some parks and admired the beautiful autumn colors.

Autumn in Utrecht

Also in Utrecht, of course I went to eat yummy food and ended up at this cozy, little cafe in the center and had my pancake fix.

Sadly, I can’t remember the name of the cafe, but in case I’ll ever visit Utrecht again I know where I need to go.

On the other hand with the restaurant I dined at I have more memory, it was called Springhaver and it’s right next to the cinema with the same name.

Dinner at Springhaver
Dessert at Springhaver

I had so many waffles, pancakes and desserts every day of my trip that now, as a conclusion I can say The Netherlands is awesome for anyone who has a sweet tooth.

But, it’s not only food and desserts that made me enjoy it so much, it’s also the diversity and the kindness of people.

In Utrecht I had a Turkish – German fellow travelled that joined me in exploring. We walked around the town the whole day, doing also a little shopping along the way, but mainly just checking out various landmarks, a beautiful church and a little bar too.

In beautiful Utrecht

For my last day I returned to Amsterdam and with the same travel companion that I had in Utrecht we went to Upside down Amsterdam, a fun place, where you can’t be upset or side. This place for sure will cheer you up.

Upside down Amsterdam
Chilling at Upside down Amsterdam

Determined to find waffle places back home, I left the country satisfied and happy with how I spent the last 8 days. Dutch people and their country impressed me and left me with great memories that I’ll carry around for long. I might even bike more often from now on…

Relax, it feels safe in Istanbul!

Due to unexpected and surprising, but pleasant ways of life, I found myself in Istanbul in a period when everybody is avoiding approaching Turkey. Here I am for 3 weeks, right after some bombings, attacks and other scary events and believe it or not I find it safe and exciting. Well, the more than one hour waiting time in the line ( what line? ) , sorry, I meant chaotic crowd, at the arrival wasn’t very exciting at the airport, especially felling your comfort zone being invaded from every possible side. Skipping that part and ignoring the usual issue of this city: crazy, really crazy traffic – Istanbul has a great vibe!
Taksim square at any time of the day or night remains the central point of entertainment.

  
  
Obviously if I made my way until Taksim square I wasn’t going to miss taking the funicular along Istiklal avenue.

  

Istiklal avenue had everything that I could wish for: shops, restaurants, beauty salons, bars and a few really good cafes. 

Turkish people are good at many things, but what I certainly appreciate the most is their skill of preparing really delicious sweets . Sometimes delicious is not enough for them and then they make it also impressive. How? For instance with this enormous tower of sugar, honey and others they managed to attract quite a few customers, at least until the window to take a photo.

  The big variety of baklava certainly distracts, but it does worth giving a chance also for the local cuisine, which never dissapoints either . 

  
  

With full stomach of Turkish food and delights I’m feeling pumped to make the most of my free days in this awesome city full of varieties. Not that much interested in the touristy spots, but at least from outside it does worth checking out the Blue Mosque and the Galata tower. 

  
  

 Some other worth seeing spots are around the two above mentioned ones and with the small number of tourists in no time I checked them out too. 

  
   

  

  

While sipping a refreshing home made lemonade at a nearly empty terrace near the Blue Mosque , the waiter tells me how on a regular Sunday like this I wouldn’t be able to find a table. Now it’s different though…The number of visitors dropped so much that the staff are bored during the working hours…On the other hand the degrees didn’t drop at all, instead kept increasing, so actually I’m quite glad I have a spot with my lemonade.

  
 All energized I’m hitting the road, not too far I bump into the Basilica Cistern. 

  
   

In order to make it all complete a bazar must be included too . I head to the spice bazar at the suggestion of my just met American mate , not that much cause I want to buy any special spices, but more for the experience. We get to discover that the spice bazar is actually a kind of bazar of everything: soaps, towels, sweets, teas and of course spices too. 

  
   

 In case you didn’t know what a great advertising are Turkish sellers able to improvise , at a bazar you will certainly notice. “Everything is the best quality, the most intense and long lasting perfume, at the best price and just for you with a semnificative discount . If you have any doubts you can try it: have a bite of the baklava, a sip of the tea.” Still not convinced ? Maybe the names will make it easier. Lacking some love? At every stand you will find some love tea. Feeling weak today? Red bull tea for you. Having a boyfriend with issues? Hopefully one of these two will solve the problem! 

  
We didn’t purchase anything, but had heaps of fun! “Bazaring” it’s cool and Turkey, you rule!

  
  
  

Trip to a Thai floating market 

   
As if the various markets going on all around the city were not enough, decided to check out a real special one. A market on the river.
After a two hours drive from Bangkok we reached this very touristy, but yet so authentic floating market, called Damnoen Saduak floating market.  

The bus drive there is way longer than spending time at the market itself, but it does worth the travel. More or less in an organized way – Thai standards – the tour guide directs us first of all to the long tail boat and in each boat board aprox 6 people. Off we go! Not more, maybe just less than 10 minutes of long tail boat ride and we had a sneak peak of the market. But that’s not all. 

   
   
Those people put out all their products to be sold and they definitely know to advertise them. In order to have a close look and literally float between “boat boutiques” we take this time a regular boat that a strong Thai gentleman is rowing around trying to avoid the boat traffic. 

  
That’s nearly impossible though, all the others trying to do the same thing. Boats everywhere, we are being pushed either from the right or from the left ,but also from front and back and our boat does the same thing to the others . Perfect location for socializing with people from the other boats. 

  
As soon as we get close to a boat full of souvenirs the seller quickly pulls the boat closer and the bargain starts. 

  
Seller: “1000 baht for 2 wooden elephants.”

Tourist: ” whaat? 400!”

Seller: ” 500″

Tourist: “350.”

Seller: ” ok”

And that’s how my friend, Jonas ended up buying his souvenirs for much much less than the initial price. Basically they accept any price you offer as long as you don’t give up on bargaining. When you give the impression that you are losing the interest they will accept your price instantly. 

The floating market is going on all day long, 7 days out of 7 and if you haven’t found what you’ve been looking for on the boats, there’s a chance to find it on the riverside. 

From clothes to souvenirs, the selection is vague. 

   
 You can easily empty your wallet, but fill your stomach. Food is present in several locations, great cooked meals or easy snacks and fruit salads, mango or coconut ice cream and my favorite of all: pancakes. 

   
 There is also an unusual attraction that I got the chance to meet from close and despite his scary behaviour , I enjoyed posing with the massive snake.

   
  
 Shopping, eating, snake cuddling, all possible at the floating market! Don’t forget sunscreen and hat, the sun is burning over there! But if you did forget, for sure you’ll find at the market! One rule: bargain rules!

Bangkok – a bit of a culture shock

I’m a first timer in the Thai capital and as expected, the adventure comes together with a bit of a cultural shock. Not as much the first evening , when I land and surprisingly the taxi driver doesn’t charge me double or triple fare. The boom is the next day, when I hit the road to explore this new city. What other way to feel the real lifestyle than riding a local bus? Now that’s gonna be a bit of an adventure!
  
What air condition, what ticket machine, what station announcement or punctuality? Not even rules, but still as chaotic as you could imagine the traffic – and frankly there’s quite a bit of a chaos – after a while I realize that I haven’t heard any honking or fights, that makes me think that those people must be having their order in the big disorder that I see.
  
However, the bus ride is endless, takes ages and people around me are sweating but with lots of patience and water you can survive it and it’s actually fun. Not many tourists opt for the local bus, so apparently I’m a bit of attraction for the locals, who give me shy smiles when getting on and off.  

I was curious to see a market that everybody has been talking about, but that didn’t impress me. Unless you are after cheap and not good quality products it’s a place to be, if you need good stuff better you go to a shopping mall I guess. In any case, checking out a market it’s one of the top things to do in Bangkok. The variety is huge: night market, day market, weekend market, food market and the list could continue. 

   
 Bangkok wouldn’t be Bangkok without the famous tuk tuks and their as well known drivers, who’s voice keeps following you everywhere : ” tuk tuk, tuk tuk”. 

   
 They all try to attract you to their tuk tuk and so kindly offer you the magnificent best price, which at first will be at least the double of the normal fare. Bargaining has never been my thing but I quickly improved my skills in such environment and proudly rode the tuk tuk around the city. 

  
The cheapest way to get around is still the taxi – cause riding the local bus is enough once – and it has air condition! 

As European ( and probably every other nation than Asian ) getting a lot of attention, compliments and smiles from all around becomes usual after a while when you just ignore it automatically because otherwise it’s just way too much to handle. Maybe it’s because it’s Valentine’s Day and you are solo in a park?! I don’t know…, but I don’t think I remember any other day of my life feeling so admired. Hilarious! 

   
 Also, you wouldn’t expect Asians celebrating love in such an intense way! I spotted dozens of romantic pals driving their scooter towards their partner with flowers, gifts or heart shaped balloons in hands. Love is in the air in Bangkok!

From my side all the love goes to the food and the marvelous pancakes I got the chance to eat every single day in Bangkok and later on in several other places in Thailand. Simply delicious and insanely cheap ! Also the street food is safe to eat, just adviseable to have a look from where you buy it. I’ve seen a few places where I wouldn’t have eaten for sure. 

   
    
 
   
 That’s Bangkok: everything happens just a step away from the busy traffic, on the street they cook and serve your meal, exchange your money, make your pedicure and offer you a massage. 

   
 Khaosan road, Silam and Chinatown are great examples for that and definitely must see spots while in Bangkok. 

 
   
  

Singaporean layover – excellent choice

When you are on your way to the charming Aussie summer, escaping the cold European winter, along the way you may end up enjoying the Singaporean stop over. I can only recommend it!Singapore looks appealing already from the window of the landing airplane you’ve been staying in for many many hours.
   
   

Finally taking off the last piece of winter clothing you have on and starting your summer vacation in the middle of December is epic. Singapore is warm and humid already in the early hours of the day, but that’s just a good reason to directly jump in one of the most famous swimming pools in the world. Not only the water is refreshing, but also the view is a buzz that will lift your energy up.

   
   

I’m talking about the Infinity pool, located on the 57th floor of the luxurious Marina Bay Sands hotel, where a room per night starts at the ” modest” rate of $400 and can reach the stars. Theoretically only the guests of the hotel can benefit of the pool, in reality if you are lucky and know who to talk to, you can find your way to the big attraction completely costless. I can consider myself fortunate in this case, because I wasn’t willing to pay insane amounts for such a treatment, yet still I was spoiling myself at this cool spot just like that, free! 

   
   
After some chill time, ready to explore the city that from above looks so interesting and diverse.

Singapore won’t disappoint anyone that appreciates quality, safety and clean surroundings. I would call it the Switzerland of Asia. It is indeed clean, safe, public transport is good and people respectful. A lot of nature at every step and no need to travel long from a spot to another.

Marina Bay Gardens is absolutely impressive, with a huge variety of vegetation and a cute Christmassy atmosphere.
  
   
    
    
   
  
Whether it comes to shopping or eating , Singapore is a good place for both. You can find from very cheap to very expensive, but in both cases you will not be disappointed. Though some areas are super cheap for eating out, it’s very safe for your stomach, I’ve tried and licked all my ten fingers a few times. Asian food is amazing and hospitality is their number one quality!
In my 15 hours layover I truly felt at the end of the day that I did explore the city and felt like I’ve spent at least a few days. 
    
   
    
   
I arrived to Singapore tired after a long flight, left Singapore refreshed to continue with another long flight, but in between I had a big smile on my face and nothing else matters…

Porto – Portugal

Arriving to the second biggest city of Portugal was from the first moment a positive experience. I was welcomed by a very generous sunshine and an even more impressive Portuguese hospitality, together with honest smiles and kind words of the locals I met on the bus from the airport to the city center. Though English is only briefly or not at all spoken by the big majority, I found it extremely easy to get around using some Spanish and a lot of sign language. In Porto wine is impossible to avoid, not that I would want to do that, and once tried it’s hard to stop drinking it. A huge variety of local and regional wines are served for as less as 2 euros per glass. No wonder that in the company of my girls on the riverside we made unforgettable memories from the very first evening already.

  
Though it’s the second half of October, while the rest of Europe prepares the winter gear, Portugal still enjoys a short taste of summer: 14 degrees at 10 pm. The view is fabulous, wine is divine, food is great for those who are not too picky?!

   
 
Speaking of food…well…Franzesinha, or Franciska – as I liked to call it, look like this:

  
and tastes like… hmm… cheesy ! It’s an absolute local dish, luckily comes with some fries – in this way I didn’t leave the restaurant as hungry. However, for who likes a toast with meat covered with a lot of cheese, might be tasty. For me: no thanks ! On the other hand, batata de carne – potato with meat- serve me, please, warm is the best! 

  
Yes, it’s 1 euro, nothing fancy but simply delicious and good before and after a wine tasting event. Wine had an important role in my two days Porto adventure and I still think about it with pleasure. Quevedo Port Wine tasting event is just one of the many going on every day in the romantic city of Porto.

   
 
Wine is not the only delicatese you bump into though. We managed to find things that I didn’t except. Fancy some cannabis chocolate?

  
Or your love life needs some inspiration? 

  
I definitely declare this shop my favorite in Porto! 

  
I was distracted several times by the great wine and the variety of chocolates, but a visit at the local market brought me back to reality, thanks to the big bunch of garlic.

  
Porto has the positive vibe, the romantic atmosphere, a convenient climate, over decorated churches and very pretty sights.

   
    
    
  
It’s the city where all you need to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Even cats do that…