Whirlwind Tour of Holland

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As the blog title suggested, I had a short whirlwind-like tour travelling in the land of windmills,  Netherlands. The weather in May is unexpectedly, chilly at 10 degrees celcius even though it is already springtime.

I reached Amsterdam at noon after 2 hours of train journey from Brussels Central Station. The train ticket was 29 euros. Ain’t cheap, even though my sister help me with the purchase via online 2 months ahead of the journey.

Getting Around

Transportation in Amsterdam is quite costly, thus the best option for us would be buying day ticket instead of single fare ticket. I made the mistake of getting a day ticket at first, thinking that I would only need to buy single fare ticket on my last day. A single fare ticket valid for one hour costs 3.20 euros whereas single(one) day ticket costs 8 euros. In the end, we figured out that 3-days ticket is the best option for us and it costs 18 euros. Click here for more info on GVB day ticket price.

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Accommodation

Accommodations in Amsterdam isn’t cheap as well. AirBnB has some good options too but snapped up pretty fast by 3 months ahead (since it’s such a popular tourist destination). Just bear in mind of the travelling time and costs if the location is not in central of Amsterdam as regional travel is not valid using GVB day ticket. We stayed in Hans Brinker Hostel for 2 nights. Each night per pax costs about 30 euros. Getting to the hostel is relatively easy and straightforward with nearby metro Vijzelgracht and tram Line 12 Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht all within walking distances. We were quite satisfied with the hostel because its location is strategic and the beds are quite comfy and clean.

Day 1 : Amsterdam – Haarlem

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My initial plan is to rent a bike and cycle to see the rows of tulip fields said to be somewhere in between Lisse and Haarlem instead of joining herds of crowds in Keukenhof. When we reached there, the person in charge told us that the probability of seeing tulip fields may be in vain as it’s already nearing the end of blooming season by mid-May and we might not be able to make it back in time by 6pm to return the bicycles as the distance is about 10km one way.

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Feeling gloomy like the skies of the day, we decided to make up for our let-down by rewarding ourselves with this frozen yoghurt as dessert at The Yoghurt Barn . Suddenly I don’t feel that down anymore. Perhaps, I would get to see tulip fields on another day in the future.

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Insta-worthy because of these beautiful roses

Looking at all these beautiful Insta-worthy door fronts reminded of my last visit to Maastricht together with my sister and cousin a few years back. I think the Dutch has a really good taste when it comes to decorating their door fronts.

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After some time strolling in the town, we found ourselves enjoying the walk around Haarlem more than Amsterdam. Stating on the obvious fact that it’s less touristy, much cleaner, less rowdy, and certainly quieter which makes it no less beautiful than its capital. Just look at the streets, neighbourhoods and canals, it’s just so pretty.

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Posing with a bike since I didn’t get to ride on one ;(

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De Adriaan Windmill is the most distinctive sight in Haarlem that is located just by the side of Spaarne river.

There are other attractions to see in Haarlem but we are short of time and need to get back to Amsterdam by evening for the visit to Anne Frank House at 8PM.

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Anne Frank House

Admission fee: 10.50 euros

If you are a prolific reader or history buff, I’m sure you would have heard of this girl name Anne Frank before. Famous for her secret diary that detailed her family’s hiding from the Nazis in the secret annexe, her maturity beyond her age that was reflected in her writings and optimism despite living in fear has won over many people’s heart.

My uni friend Eddy told me about this place when he first visited Amsterdam many many years ago. He told me, ” You must go and have a look when you visit Amsterdam ! ” And so, I dragged my sister along with me even though she wasn’t that keen at all. The queue was horribly long and boring even though we have bought the tickets for the time slot online. FYI, 80% of the tickets are released exactly two months in advance of the date online and the rest are usually sold out on the day itself.

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What was shown in the above pic was actually only half the queue….

No photographs were allowed inside the house. Every visitor was provided with an audio guide thus you can enjoy the museum tour at your own pace. Despite my sister’s initial reluctance and I never did manage to finish the book itself, the museum visit proves to be a real eye-opener and informative indeed.

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Amsterdam at Night
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Overlooking Amsterdam Central Station in the evening

 

Day 2: Giethoorn

Have you heard of this village, said to be the Little Venice of Netherlands ? I had always wanted to visit this place since I first read about it on BuzzFeed about 5 years ago. Since then, it seems to become more and more popular on the tourist radar.

 

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On the Sprinter train

From Amsterdam, it took about 2 hours journey with train and bus to Giethoorn.

Thanks to my sister who found this affordable option from this website Discover Holland , we bought this ticket for 26 euros per person that includes return ticket (train and bus) from Amsterdam Central and 1 hour boat ride in Giethoorn. Why you need to pre-book the transport ticket ? Because if you buy the train and bus ticket separately on the day itself, the total damage would have come up to 40 euros instead. Thank god there are no entrance fee charged at the time being. For timing on train and bus, you can go to this website NS .

After approximately 1.5 hour of train journey, you should get off at Steenwijk station and take the Giethoorn Express bus 270 (blue bus in the picture below) before stopping at Blauwe Hand.

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It took not more than 15 minutes of walk from the bus stop to reach this calm and peaceful village. It is really interesting to see these little islands with thatched-roof houses interconnected to each other with canals and bridges.

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Over here, the villagers move around by foot, boat or bicycle. Our guide told us that all the boats here operated using electricity in order to avoid noise and air pollution instead of using diesel for their boat’s engines. What a thoughtful and environmental friendly practise indeed !

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Despite the influx of tourists nowadays, the village didn’t lose its charm and maintain its serenity and tranquility. Courtyards of the houses and landscaping were maintained impeccably well.

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The boat tour lasted about 1 hour and the guide is a really fun and friendly middle-aged guy who enjoyed explaining the history and characteristics of each house that we passed by. One of the house ( I can’t remember which) is said worth up to 1 million euros !

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Such a perfect place for retirement

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For those looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of city, this is a great place to chill and relax. We saw many Dutch families doing picnics by the lake and some of them rented a small boat like this fella below.

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We are blessed with good weather that day. So good that we started to take off our jackets and lazed on the grass as the day became so much warmer compared to Amsterdam. It definitely felt more like springtime compared to yesterday.

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Happy faces

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Rijksmuseum

If you have plenty of time left, a visit to either Rijksmusum or Van Gogh would be nice. The reason we stopped by the museum is to get a shot of the iconic “I AM AMSTERDAM”. Our search ended in vain as the whole thing was relocated to another place months ago. I only found out the reason when I managed to google about the iconic logo of Amsterdam. Believe it or not, it turns out that the marketing strategy works too well causing mass tourism and so they decided to take down the campaign gradually and removed it altogether later. You can read more about it here.

 

 

Day 3: Zaanse Schans

Other than tulip fields, the Dutch is famous for their iconic windmills. Besides Zaanse Schans, another well-known windmill tourist attraction is in Kinderjik.

There are 2 ways to reach Zaanse Schaans, either by bus 391 or Almaar-bound Sprinter train (3.20euros one way). We chose to take the bus as less walk is required to reach the entrance of Zaanse Schans. Return bus ticket costs 10 euros and the journey took about 45 minutes. If I remembered correctly, the bus interval is about 20-25 minutes. No admission fee is required, however you need to pay for certain windmills and museums visits.

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My mood is slightly dampened by the gloomy skies besides the nagging by my sister earlier on. The weather is chilly and temperature lingers around 10 Celsius.

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Clog Workshop

Admission: Free

This workshop is one of the highlights in Zaanse Schans. Everyday they have free demonstration on the making of wooden clog besides explaining basic features of the traditional footwear. The demonstration is really interesting as it shows how the traditional clog is made from one single wooden block.

Since early 1300s, they were worn throughout Europe by farmers, fishermen, factory workers, artisans for practical purposes. Although we might think that in modern times they are heavy to be worn as shoes, bear in mind that they were designed for one and only purpose in the olden days, that is to protect the feet.

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The wooden clogs keep the feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

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Inside the biggest clog shoe that I’ve ever seen !

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De Kat Dye Mill

Admission: 5 euros

Windmill plays a huge role during the Industrial Age in Dutch history. They have different functions, e.g. pump water, grind spices, oil and for this mill, creating pigments for dyes.

Inside the windmill, you have to climb up a steep ladder to reach the upper storey where the main rotating cap is seen in the above picture. It harness the wind power to grind the limestones into powder then pack it with pigments. The whirring sound made by the windmill which in turn generated such a huge force to power the rotating cap of grinding stone was certainly impressive.

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Stepping outside of the upper storey in the windmill, one can see plenty of other windmills scattered around the lake. In its heyday, up to 600 windmills are active in Zaanse Schans !

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Finally get to see some tulip bulbs up-close. =D
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One of my favourite shots taken using portrait lens on tripod.

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We spent about 3-4 hours in Zaanse Schans visiting souvenir shops and taking photos. As the place is really touristy, the price of the food that we saw in the restaurants over there are expensive. In the end, we chose to settle our lunch by buying sandwiches and pesto pasta in Albert Hejn Supermarket. Not only it is cheaper than your average dine-in lunch, their packed sandwiches and noodles are also of great quality and really tasty too.

 

Dutch Food To Try

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Herring Sandwich

When I walked into this random shop The Seafood Shop nearby my hostel, I was just looking for a quick fix for my lunch. For 5 euros, this sandwich is the cheapest on the list. *Yeah, not cheap at all after converted to Ringgit T.T* As you can see in the picture above, the fish inside is served raw and salted with pieces of olives and chunks of onions inside the bread. Not too bad for one bite but only try if you must (if you are a gastronomic enthusiast), with a pinch of salt and rawness.

My sister gave me a one-eyed disapproving look and when she saw what I bought for lunch.

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Kibbeling (Lekkerbekje)

This is Dutch version of fried fish WITHOUT the chips. Served with tartar sauce, it’s really good and we loved it ! We got this for 7 euros at the same shop above.

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Pancake (Pannenkoeken)

Not knowing what to eat for dinner before our Anne Frank Museum visit, we finally settled down at The Pancake House, just a stone throw from the museum. Dutch pancake is somewhat like a crossbred of pizza and French crepe. The pancake is thinner than a pizza but thicker than a crepe and can be served plain or savoury. We ordered one with bacons and guacamole sauce for 15 euros.

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Bitterballen

Slightly different from your usual meatballs, Bitterballen have crunchy breadcrumbs coating with soft, meaty doughy-like fillings inside served best with mustard sauce. Apparently it’s their favourite snacks ! We tried it in Gierthoorn for our lunch.

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Stamppot

Eager to try out a proper Dutch cuisine for our dinner during our time here, we were doing window-shopping for restaurants after we got back from Giethoorn. The crazy thing is, many popular restaurants that we saw and recommended on TripAdvisors are fully booked days ahead ! We passed by this restaurant called Haesje Claes and were lucky enough to get a table outside after initially being told that it’s fully booked for dinnertime. Stamppot is a typical old Dutch comfort food and usually served in winter. The Stamppot that we tried is quite special in the sense that mashed beetroots is used in substitute of mashed potatoes. Other ingredients includes sausages (they called it rookwurst), bacons and then it was topped with hot gravy sauce.

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Another dish that we tried for dinner is their steak with mashed potatoes. Not the best that we’ve tried but quite well done. Their service is good and dishes were served pretty fast despite overwhelming amount of customers inside the restaurant.

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Stroopwaffel

Undeniably , this is the twins’ favourite snack. We bought a packet of these in Albert Hejn supermarket and eat it on the go. It has 2 thin layers of net-like baked waffle with caramel-like syrup in between served best after putting in on top of hot coffee.

Fun fact: It originates from Gouda, south of Amsterdam also famous for its Gouda cheese.

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Cheese (Kaas)

Last but not least, who can miss out on cheese when you are in Netherlands ?! Dutch consumes cheese a lot, which explains why they are also the largest cheese exporter in the world. Though not a major cheese lover, we enjoyed trying out different types of cheese in this cheerful shop The Dutch Delicacy. The shop also sells amazing varieties of sandwiches and utensils specifically for cheese-tasting at downstairs.

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That’s all for now ! What’s your favourite moments or experience in Amsterdam ? =)

 

 

 

 

 

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