I spent two weeks in Chiang Mai to unwind after Nepal. I went straight from working 45+ hours a week to hiking to the base of Mt Everest and it wa time for this gal to have a holiday. This was my first time I’d spent such a long period alone but it was definitely worth it. I spent my days cycling around Chiang Mai, finding new cafes every day, wandering through temples and resisting the urge to buy everything! Chiang Mai is a city set-up for someone who just wants to stay in one place. It’s so easy to get around, the accomodation is cheap and the food is delicious. Chiang Mai is a popular spot for digital nomads to reside and I can totally understand why! If I ever succeed at becoming a digital nomad this is where I’ll be coming to live!
Below is a few snaps of my time here. I did touristy stuff towards the end of my stay which I’ll post soon! For now, here’s some of Chiang Mai in pictures.
With some crazy luck I managed to visit two theme parks in two weeks! Considering it had been about three years since my last theme park visit, I was stoked at the chances of this happening.
I wrote about Disneyland a week or two ago and now I bring you the Dutch version (sort of) and I have to say, the Dutch can theme park pretty darn well. The thing I realised about theme parks as an adult is that you have to approach them with a young heart. It makes the experience so much more fun and gives your inner child a chance to run free again.
Drievliet is located just outside of the Hague and easily accessible by tram or bus. Of course though, as I was with my youngest kidlet, we were spoiled and my host dad dropped us off. What first started as a tea garden, Drievliet has morphed into one of the most popular theme parks in the Netherlands.
Spending the day at Drievliet with my host girl M was a stack of fun. She is 11 and I admit, I probably acted 11. But we raced around the park, going on the roller coasters at least five times each, stuffing ourselves with suikerspin (fairy floss) and taking silly photos. It was my last week with M and I was grateful to spend this time with her, this little girl has warmed my heart and I’m going to miss her and her goofy ways.
Before we knew it, we’d been on the fastest roller coaster, the Formula X eight times and my host dad was calling to let us know he was coming to get us.
If you have a spare day in the Netherlands and are looking for something fun, head to Drievliet. It is aimed at a younger crowd, but it’s still an awesome day of fun and fast rides.
From the girl whos insides are totally flipped around and upside down.
This fine (and slightly windy) Sunday was spent with my two best girlfraaans IB and E. We were the remaining three in our little ‘Animals’ group and as sad as that was, we weren’t gonna let that get us down. After a Friday night thats a little too fuzzy and a more civilised Saturday night baking biscotti and trying to master the art of headstands, our Sunday activity was the attend the annual Parkpop festival in Zuiderpark in The Hague.
Parkpop is a free music festival held each year on the last weekend in June in The Hague. For awhile there it was the largest free music free in Europe but Poland’s Przystanek Woodstock and Austria’s Donauinselfest have rudely taken over. In comparison to Australia’s music festivals such as Big Day Out or Stereosonic, it didn’t seem to be like a huge festival but we still had a blast nonetheless. Parkpop also happened to coincide with the soccer (sorry, football) match between the Netherlands and Mexico. They played the match live on the huge screens so we were surrounded by a sea of Dutch people in bright orange clothing who almost created a tsunami of orange when Holland defeated Mexico.
All in all, a wonderful day with wonderful people in a wonderful (and proud) country.
Amsterdam. The name that was conceived from the word Amstelredamme – which pretty much means the city’s origin was at the dam of the river Amstel – sparks many different thoughts and opinion from people worldwide. Amsterdam is renown for its casual view on drugs and sexual liberty. It’s often the party stop on a person’s Europe tour and people come and go each day, only being drawn to the racy Red Light District and then to mellow out in one of the many coffee shops. This is the sad part about Amsterdam, that it’s reputation as being the wild, party city overrides what is really beautiful about the city of canals. So here’s a few reasons why you should keep walking through the Red Light District and explore what Amsterdam really has to offer.
1. Sprawl out in the sun in Vondelpark
The largest park in Amsterdam is 45 hectares of lush greenery which is just begging to be picnicked on. Situated close to Museumplein, Vondelpark is a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike, with over 10 million visitors a year. Always buzzing with activity, you will never be short of people to watch as they run, cycle or rollerblade around the park. During the warmer months, the grass is covered with people enjoying the sunny weather with a picnic and a beer. There are often free open-air concerts which draw large crowds and are a great way to see local talent. With the sun not going down until around 10pm in the summer, its the perfect place for you to escape the crazy streets of Amsterdam and relax and watch the sunset.
2. Get cultured in the Museumplein
Museumplein is so aptly named because it literally translates to Museum Square. It hosts the grand Rijksmuseum, which is home to approximately 8,000 pieces of art and paintings. This included many masterpieces by Rembrandt, such as the colossal sized and world famous ‘The Night Watch’. You will also find the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and the infamous IAMSTERDAM sign, with tourists clambering all over the larger than life letters. Once you’ve been cultured, rest your brain and plonk yourself down on the soft grass to do a spot of people watching.
3. Catch the ferry to the other side of Amsterdam and dig for second hand treasures at the flea market
Instead of walking out of Amsterdam Centraal towards the hustle and bustle of Dam Square, exit the train station from the other side and catch the free ferry across the IJ River to Amsterdam Noord. This industrial area is the upcoming ‘place to be’ in Amsterdam, which is is infinitely better than the Red Light District. Once a month, the IJ-Hallen flea market is held in the old NDSM ship building structures are are a hidden treasure in itself. The markets, which are the largest flea markets in Europe run from 9am until 4:30pm and have absolutely everything on offer at dirt cheap prices. It’s the place where you will find that unique treasure that you can take home and boast to all your friends about how you ‘just bought it in Amsterdam’. As well as the markets, there are several cafes and bars on this side of the IJ which are effortlessly hip. In particular Pllek, the ultra cool beachy bar and restaurant that sits on the banks of the IJ River. Made up of a warehouse and old shipping containers, Pllek attracts all the cool kids with its chilled out vibe and is a great place to enjoy the warm weather. Theres live music on Sundays as well as yoga and massages on the beach.
4. Ride a bike through the narrow streets
There is no better way to see the city of Amsterdam than by bike. Apart from boats, this city was built for bicycles. There are special bike lanes everywhere and with a shrill ‘brrriiingg’ of your bell, you will have people leaping out of your way as you buzz past. Bike riding is a way of life here in the Netherlands, not just a form of exercise. So for a true Dutch experience, get on yo’ bike and enjoy the city on two wheels. Just a bit of advice from an (almost) local – if you can’t ride a bike, don’t begin here. It is a similar experience to crossing the road in Asian cities, just with fancier bikes and taller people. Locals get seriously peeved by stupid tourists trying to steer their bikes around and blocking the roads. And don’t ride a bike if you’re planning on spending some time in coffee shops. Leave the smoking and riding to the locals who have perfected that talent over the years.
5. Visit the house of Anne Frank
This one is a given. You can’t go to Amsterdam without visiting this iconic place, even if you aren’t that familiar with the story of Anne Frank. Located on the Prinsengracht canal, the nondescript building would probably by bypassed except for the multitudes of people that line up outside the doors everyday to witness Anne Frank’s hiding place. A sobering but fascinating place, the Anne Frank House (or in Dutch, the Achterhuis) not only has the original secret rooms that Anne and her family hid in for more than two years, but also a museum that exhibits the life and times of Anne Frank. The Achterhuis is always busy so it’s best to time your visits either early in the morning or in the evening (From March to October it is open from (9am-9pm).
6. Enjoy a beer (or three) in Rembrandtplein
Instead of losing yourself amongst the red lights, keep on walking to Rembrandtplein, where there are bars and pubs are aplenty and the atmosphere alive. The square is, of course named after famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn, who had a house nearby. in 2006, as a part of his 400th birthday, Russian artists Mikhail Dronov and Alexander Taratynov created a bronze-cast representation of his most famous painting, ‘The Night Watch’. Rembrandtplein is a hive of social activity with tourists and residents filling up the bars and restaurants that surround the square. A short walk away is Leidesplein, another popular drinking area. Both are exponentially better than the trashy, touristy Red Light District.
8. See the narrowest house in Amsterdam
Just when you thought the houses of Amsterdam couldn’t get any narrower, there is one that takes the cake (or clearly not enough cake) in being the skinniest of them all. Situated at Oude Hoogstraat 22, this building which would make supermodels envious, is a mere two metres wide and 6 metres deep. There is also Amsterdam’s narrowest street, whose width is no more than 100cm. Known as Trompettersteeg, you will have to traipse through the Red Light District for this one as it’s located right in the middle. Either side of this narrow street is filled with prostitutes posing through red-lit windows. A popular stop for city tours, this teeny tiny street is alway jam-packed with either people wanting photos of Amsterdams narrowest street or a glimpse at the ladies behind the windows. Or both.
9. Heineken Experience
This one only just makes the cut because essentially it is just a big tourist trap. However, despite this, it’s a pretty bloody fun tourist trap. 18 euros will set you back to enter the old brewery and inside you will find plenty of information and history on the brand. You go behind the scenes in the process of making a beer, as well as ‘becoming a beer’ on the 4D adventure which is every bit as cheesy and fun as it sounds. You get free samples of the cold brew and there are plenty of interactive games you can play. The best part is the free boat ride through the canals of Amsterdam that takes you to their flagship store just behind Rembrandtplein. It’s the best way to see the city. Just be wary of the gift shop, those souvenirs might look a whoooole lot more appealing after several beers!
10. Get out of Amsterdam
Unfortunately, most people only spend a few days in Amsterdam before moving onto other countries. Having lived in the Netherlands for almost a year now, I can only emphasise how much more there is to see. Beautiful old cities such as Maastricht and Utretch are full of history and culture. The fast paced industrial city of Rotterdam is way ahead of the rest of the class. With their party hard attitude and flair for new and innovative architecture, it’s not hard to understand why it’s one of the New York Times ‘Must See Cities’ for 2014. The political city of The Hague is where all the big shots come to talk world affairs, but is also home to the popular Scheveningen Beach if politics don’t take your fancy. During the spring, the world famous Keukenhof comes alive and the national flower of tulips pop up everywhere, which have to be seen to be believed. There is also the UNESCO site, the Kinderdijk, where you will find 19 windmills furiously spinning year round and the gorgeous town of Gouda, where cheese is the official language. The best part about getting out of Amsterdam? The country of the Netherlands is so small you can drive from one end of the country to the other in a matter of hours.
So instead of making Amsterdam your marijuana-smoking-drink-all-you-can-and-oogle-at-the-prostitues stop on your Euro trip, get out and about and experience the city from a locals point of view. You (your liver, lung and dignity) will be thankful for it.
After two relatively quiet weekends I was ecstatic to have my three buddies C, K and P visit me in my little old city of Den Haag. It was probably the shortest turn around since we had last seen each other but it didn’t make our time together any less special and like every other time we’ve been together – I didn’t stop laughing the entire time they were here.
C arrived into Den Haag around 10:30pm. After some initial confusion of being at the wrong station we finally found each other and promptly headed to the Grote Markt for a sneaky drink. We were joined by some of my au pair friends and as everyone got acquainted with C it made me appreciate the simplicity of introducing a new person into an already well-oiled group. Having the job of au pair as a common theme, conversation flowed easily and hilarious stories were shared as we compared our day to day lives. Several drinks later, midnight struck and C and I decided it was time to head home. We had planned a big day tomorrow and needed shut-eye though this wasn’t before devouring some honey ribs leftover from dinner and watching a few episodes of ‘The Inbetweeners’.
The next morning we woke and got ready for the day ahead. C was unaware of K and P were coming to town and despite my lack of being sneaky, so far I had managed to not blurt it out. We met with my friend IB and headed into the centre to “meet somebody”. My level of stealthiness doesn’t even make the radar, so I’m pretty sure C had worked out what was going on but pretended to be oblivious, making the surprise extra special. The five of us made a neat little group and we were ready for the days adventure – visiting the worlds largest flower gardens, the Keukenhof. Before we made the voyage to the town of Lisse, where the Keukenhof is situated, we grabbed some picnic supplies from the Albert Heijn and made the unanimous vote that lunchtime was a perfectly acceptable time to start drinking, therefore going all out for the occasion and buying some Australian made Jacob’s Creek wine. A train and a bus ride later we were at the gates of the Keukenhof, ready to get our flower power on.
The Keukenhof has a rich history dating back to the 15th century where it was a part of the estate of Jacoba van Beieren. The aptly named Keukenhof – which is Dutch for ‘kitchen courtyard’ was source of herbs for the castle. In 1857, the castle gardens were re-designed by landscape architects Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher. The English landscape style still remains the basis of the Keukenhof to this day. I have never been much of a garden enthusiast – despite all my grandmas efforts – but the elaborate and colourful gardens featuring approximately 7 million bulbs captured my attention and my previously benign gardening genes started to fire up. We hadn’t walked twenty metres into the park and I was already overwhelmed by not only the vast array of flora on display, but the detailed upkeep of the place – not a weed or tulip out of place!
Before we delved further into the park, our grumbling stomachs indicated their need for food so we found a spare bit of grass to lay out our picnic. Cheeses, bread, wine, carrots, hummus and deli meats made up of savoury portion of the picnic but the best part was our dessert of pancakes, strawberries, bananas and Speculoos. A pancake burrito filled with the crunchy, gingerbread spread of Speculoos, topped with sliced strawberries and bananas were the ultimate treat and gave us a serious sugar rush to explore the garden. We consulted the map but kept getting distracted by the tulips, daisies, daffodils and various other flowers whose vivid colours were amplified by the brightness of the sun. The Keukenhof has different themes each year and this years theme of ‘Holland’ was distinctively Dutch. This theme accentuates the most famous export of the Netherlands – the tulip. The highlight of this years theme was the 60,000 flower bulb mosaic displaying an Amsterdam canal scene, symbolising the tulip mania during the Golden Age.
We worked on our photography skills – each of us trying to outdo each other with the most ‘arty’ photo. And took typically touristy photos amongst the bulbs. Before we knew it, it was reaching late afternoon and our flower power was starting to wear thin. We laid in the grass for awhile, finishing the wine and relaxing in the sun and then decided it was time to head home for a rest before getting a dose of Den Haag nightlife.
K and P headed back to their little apartment they rented for the night and C, IB and me headed back to home in Scheveningen, . We chilled out for an hour or so before getting ready to go back into the centre of the city for some drinks. We met up with K and P in their apartment and were joined by some of my au pair buddies, N and E where we listened to my ‘white girl thug’ music and played drinking games until we were a bit too silly to function. The night only escalated from there and was a blur of more drinks, meeting up with more friends, dancing on bars and chowing down on frites with lekker garlic sauce before passing out in K and P’s apartment.
We woke the next morning after a short four hour sleep with slightly sore heads and cleaned up the apartment in time for 10am checkout. Breakfast was at the hipster cafe, Hometown and then we caught the tram back to my abode, ready to sloth it out for several hours. Even though our Sunday was totally unproductive, it was so nice to be around my pals and just relax. K and P headed off to Amsterdam in the late afternoon and C and I kept on slothing until the following morning – only stopping to plan a Paris trip in June, and pick up more carrots and hummus.
Like always, I was sad to see my friends off and fall back into daily au pair routine. Though April is looking particularly busy and exciting so I am eager for the days to go faster so more fun could be had.
From the girl who single-handlely started a Speculoos revolution amongst my Aussie/American pals.
Coming to the close of my seventh month in the Land of Dutch, I have noticed that I have picked up a few Dutch behaviours which I’m not sure whether I am ashamed or proud of. Regardless of how I feel about it, the truth is, I do all of the below. Regularly.
Saying ‘Ja’ instead of ‘Yes’ when asked a question. This also includes saying ‘Dankje’ instead of ‘Thanks’ and ‘Lekker’ when something is yummy or nice.
Riding your bike everywhere. And forgetting what its like to be in a car.
Being capable of riding a bike one-handed, whilst holding an umbrella/shopping bag/texting on your phone whilst dodging traffic and pedestrians – all while carrying a friend/child on the back
Thinking you own the road as a cyclist, demanding everyone stop for you and get out of your way, including cars and trams.
Also thinking this as a pedestrian.
Pronouncing your ‘e’s like an ‘a’, your ‘i’s like an ‘e’ and your ‘a’s like an ‘ah’.
Thinking bread is acceptable to eat at every meal time
And you can put whatever you please on your bread without judgement – chocolate sprinkles included.
You decide you only need an umbrella if theres a torrential downpour. Any other rain is simply not worth it.
You think its perfectly fine to use a postcard as a birthday card, especially the free ones you find in restaurants.
Stroopwafels and Speculoos are staple foods.
You will never eat hot chips with tomato sauce again. Its all about frites with mayonnaise and satay sauce. Life changing.
Albert Heijn is the answer to any question regarding food. Albert knows best.
You don’t hesitate to say what you really think. The more blunt you are, the more Dutch you’ve become
You’re content with leaving the curtains open, showing the world your private space. I mean hey, they can admire all your cool stuff as they walk past.
You know that even though the sun is out, its still cold as hell and blowing a gale
But you should take advantage of any moment of sun because it could be raining/snowing the next day
And finally, my favourite –
You’ve at last nailed that weird, throaty noise you have to make when saying anything with the letter ‘g’ in it. And pity others when they can’t do it.
From the faux Dutchie who can’t really ride a bike and doesn’t really eat bread. But would eat lekker Stroopwafels all day, everyday.