On Wednesday I jumped on a series of flights from Phuket to Bangkok to Abu Dhabi and finally on to Brussels as the first leg in my journey to Amsterdam for Queen’s Day. It was a fairly grueling series of flights with merely a cat nap here and there, but upon arriving in Brussels I was feeling energized.
Going through customs, the gentlemen asked me where I was coming from and I responded with “Thailand – I’ve been in Asia for the last few months and can’t wait to have a real beer.” He grinned at me, stamped my passport, and said “Just don’t drink Heineken, that is piss water.” Words to live by.
The original plan was to rent a car and hit a trappist monastery selling one of the rarest and top ranked beers in the world, but unfortunately it was closed. Instead, I ran into Sanil at the baggage claim (first time I’ve seen a friend from back home in months! *tear*) and we decided to just grab a train to Amsterdam. Four hours later we pulled into Centraal in Amsterdam, checked into our hotel and went out to explore.
First stop was our old standby of Betty Boop, a coffee shop with many fond memories. I was disappointed to find that my CDMA/3g phone doesn’t roam here, so I popped onto their wireless to chat with Jau in the Amsterdam Blackboard office and get the scoop on their location. A couple hours later we swung by the new office and ran into all sorts of awesome people from the Blackboard days… what a great time.
Not wanting to keep them from their work for too long, we made plans for drinks that night and went off to find some food – I wanted, no, needed a real steak after not having any decent beef for months. We rolled up to Gauchos and had ourselves an amazing dinner – chorizo sausages to start, awesome salad with avocados, and finally two huge steaks. And of course I can’t forget to mention the many bottles of Afflingen Tripel that we drunk, a fine trappist ale (I’m disappointed that a lot of the places around here have tripels but haven’t seen a quadripel yet!).
At this point I’d been awake for around 40 hours and it was time to start off Queen’s Night – and I admit I wasn’t sure if I’d make it! We met up with a bunch of folks for beers at Winston and, major deja vu, Jau’s same set of friends from two years ago were out here again! It felt like old times, but Sanil and I were getting tired fast and decided to walk out early to see what the streets had to offer – and, thank goodness considering the state we were in, between the cold and the rain the streets were pretty dead. Additionally the cops were closing down the street parties really early (before midnight), whereas last time I was out here they ran until 4AM+. Using the excuse to bail, we ended up crashing around midnight after the day that seemed to go on forever.
The next morning we were woken up by housekeeping at what my watch said was 8:30AM, shooed them off, then eventually got up and went out seeking breakfast. We were really surprised at how busy the streets were considering the early morning plus the cold and rain, but I shortly realized I had my watch on the wrong mode and it was actually closer to noon! Insert the typical Queen’s Day experience here – we wandered the streets for many many hours laughing at all the people (I openly confess I spent most of my time gawking at all the gorgeous blondes, a very welcome treat for my eyes after months in Asia), ate doners from the street vendors, and generally had a good time.
Went back to the hotel around 6PM to take a nap, then headed out around 10PM to meet the crew again at a club. Ah, the joys of Amsterdam. Let’s summarize by saying a number of glasses of Leffe Blonde (fantastically good on tap), massive pounding techno, some beef with black bean sauce, and assorted interesting club experiences later (apparently after hitting on me for half an hour, one guy went over to Sanil and apologized for moving in on his territory? wtf? lol), we went home at somewhere around 2AM and crashed again.
Today was much more relaxed (so far), a slow morning followed by a quick breakfast of gourmet sandwiches at the Waag, a cool upscale Panera style place in an old church. We then wandered the city trying to find an adventure store so I could pick up a smaller pack for trekking in Nepal, got extremely lost and ended up 2+ miles south of where we thought we were, but eventually found what we were looking for. I ended up getting a great 50L women’s pack, mostly because it’s hard to find men’s packs in that size – oh well, I’m sure it will make my boobs pop anyway.
Now we’re holed up in Betty Boop again leeching their internet (I had Sanil bring me my Dell Mini 10 to use on the treks in Nepal since it’s much smaller than my 13.3” Sony Vaio S, even though the 1.3ghz Atom is about a thousand times slower than the 2.5Ghz Core i5). The plan from here on out is to keep chilling, keep eating fantastic food, and generally unwind.
Tomorrow afternoon we’re back on the train to Brussels (round trip – 80Euro) for dinner in the city. Monday morning Sanil is back to the US and I’m off to Kathmandu Monday evening, so I get to wander Brussels for a bit before getting back on a series of planes for 30 hours. Oof.
Once I get to Kathmandu it’s off to Pokhara the next day, then random trekking from there! I’m flying in with almost no plans, so it’ll be cool to just breeze through a month in Nepal. Mmmm.
Back to DC in early June! Now, how is it I’ve gone 2+ days in Amsterdam without taking any photos? That’s just ridiculous!