The first thing that struck me about this city was its architecture – unmistakably austere, gabled brown facades, solid, and gravelly, much like how their language sounds. As the plane makes its descent into Schiphol Airport, I looked out and noticed the stark difference from the architectural fashion of the buildings I was used to seeing in Paris. The Parisian buildings follow the distinguishable French Classical style birthed out of the ancient & renaissance architecture. Up in the air, the aerial view of Amsterdam was a carpet of brown Monopoly houses scattered on a vast green.
We touched down in the evening, when the sun was just shy of setting, the dark was slowly cloaking the sky, and the town was quietly revealing its effortless beauty.
|Gorgeous canals of Amsterdam at dusk|
|Crowds on boats, drowning in cheers & merriment|
Among the slew of amusing things we saw on our first night were people on boats, cheering in exultation, a transvestite prostitute standing patiently for his (her?) clients behind a brightly lit neon-red glass window, couples sitting by the canals having takeaways, crowds of cyclists at every turn on the roads, and people carrying banners, marching in bizarre costumes. The whole town was astir, and we were but mere spectators, mildly inebriated with the presence of it all.
Second thing that struck me as peculiar is its transportation system. It was confusing, to say the least. For the three days that we were there, we haven’t had the slightest clue on how they really worked. The gates were perpetually open for everyone, ticketless or not, to enter. We wondered if we could just board the trains without paying for the tickets, but figured we shouldn’t take the risk, just in case.
|En route to Landgraaf|
We were in Amsterdam during the Adventure Weekend, and while our friends were roughing it out with nature and doing extreme sports in the south of France, Ruz & I flew to this town to have our own adventure. One of the highlights of this trip was Pinkpop Festival 2014, the biggest & oldest annual music fest in the Netherlands, held in Megaland in Landgraaf, which was a 3-hour train ride away from Amsterdam.
We joined the conglomeration of festival goers on a Saturday afternoon. Landgraaf was spilling with people of all ages – the crowd’s the largest I’ve ever seen in a festival (think Laneway x 100). It was a good day, and we got ourselves a good spot to watch the bands on stage.
The acts I was anticipating for that day was The Kooks,
|So amazing live. When they played Junk of the Heart, I remember happily singing along to it when a Dutch girl in front of me, who was dancing on her own, sang along with me. Sing-along-sessions with a live band, good vibes!|
|He sure knows how to entertain a crowd. Never knew he’s quite the rapper too!|
and, as the crowd steadily grew thicker, we got ready for the best –
Arctic Monkeys (!!!)
BE STILL, MY HEART
|O hai there, we finally meet|
When Arctic Monkeys finally emerged on stage, I fainted. Not really. But I was completely beside myself it’s crazy. Been waiting for this for a good 8 years. Gave up waiting for them to come down to Singapore, so I took the opportunity to catch them overseas instead. Yes I’ve been crushing on Alex so bad it’s bordering on mental, so this was pretty much a dream.
They played a lot off their latest album, AM, and pumped the fans up with the crowd favourites. Alex was being the confused rockstar that he is, and I wondered, in the midst of it, just where did the shy, polo tee, reeboks, awkward guitar strumming person, that I first fell for? Times have changed and replaced them all with leather jackets, suits, boots, & slicked back quiff (though I still do appreciate that he’s the same, genius of a lyricist and musician, so I won’t lament). The height of the moment was when they played 505 – my favourite song of all time. When everything kicked in at 2:32, my tiny, imponderably euphoric heart couldn’t contain all the feels. I’ve always imagined this moment, as I jumped about in my room, playing 505 live on Youtube. But the experience of having it played right in front of your eyes, is of course, infinitely more exciting.
What do we do now?
There were 2 Dutch girls, who were hanging around the station, looking equally as lost. We approached them, and got to know that they were from the festival too. One of them had a cute-sounding name, while the other had a name that sounded like Marguerite (I remembered hers better because it’s a flower). After finding out that they’re heading back to Amsterdam too, we went to ask the drivers who were waiting outside their black cabs how much it’d cost to get to the city. It was a jaw-dropping 200 euros. Sitting outside the station till the sun rises like a hobo, again, was definitely not a choice. One of the girls had an idea – we would stay the night at a nearby hotel, before waking up the next morning at 7 to catch the first train back. So we walked to the hotel where we were attended by a certain Erik van den Hoogen at the front desk, settled in for the night, before waking up early the next day to head back to Amsterdam and get ready to catch our flight.
Amsterdam at night is something else, while Amsterdam in the morning still holds its feist. We took more photos for keeps, and checked out shelves of fascinating things sold at the souvenir shops. We were so taken with everything around us that we didn’t keep track of the time, and when we eventually realized, we found that it was already 30 minutes past our check-in time.
Once at the airport, we rushed to the machine to retrieve our boarding passes, but somehow our names couldn’t be detected. Alas, we had to join the long queue to get our passes. Our flight was at 1:45pm, but by this time, it was already 15 minutes past 1. Half an hour to take-off.
The line didn’t seem to be moving, and I fought the urge to burst out crying “LET US BE NEXT! Please.” I was praying hard for the hands on the clock to stop, hoping that a miracle would happen.
And indeed, it did.
When we reached the counter, we were anxiously hoping the person attending to us would let us through in a second. She was checking our details on the computer, when she frowned.
“Your flight that’s about to depart in 5 minutes, will only be taking off an hour later. Bad weather in Paris due to the heavy rain.. your flight will be delayed for another hour.”
We could’ve been stuck in Amsterdam and never get back to Paris, and we could’ve been left with no choice but to buy another flight ticket back (we were dead broke so this is entirely hypothetical). But what a close shave – a miraculous one that couldn’t have saved our ass, if not for His will.
|I am… sad to be leaving you. But you’ll always have that special place in my heart.|
So Amsterdam, thank you for being a great lover; we’ve had the good times, mad times, crazy times, the best of times, but when morning came, it’s time to say our goodbyes. You’ve been the first city to witness my teenage dreams come true. I’ll come back when I’m older, and stay a little longer, for our next rendezvous. Been one hell of an adventure with you.