Wednesday, December 05, 2007

First impressions

1. Amsterdam is bleak and cold at this time of year. Daytime seems a luxury. We leave the hotel at 8 a.m. and it's still dark. We go back at 5 p.m. and it's already dark. I wonder if sunblock ever does good business here.

2. Driver's licenses are a big thing here. An advisory says one of the things you should check to see if a cab driver is legit is his license displayed in a prominent part of the cab. Last night, after a one-of-a-kind dinner at a fancy theater-restaurant that had a virtual vaudeville show of acrobats, contortionists, jugglers and singers entertaining us in between courses (got pictures of the spectacular gymnasts!), we boarded our bus and it began moving while some others were still outside. This excitable Singaporean lady began yelling, "Stop, stop! You can't leave the others!" The driver bellowed back, "I can't stop!" That agitated the woman even more. Turned out the driver only needed to park at a safer corner. After everyone had boarded, he faced the woman and, in deliciously accented English, growled: "Let me be the driver here. I've got my license!"

3. I miss hot meals. Our hosts are feeding us well, but the choices are usually cold cuts, sandwiches and cold salads. A Malaysian journalist I met is practically starving, refusing to eat anything that he thinks isn't halal (prepared properly the Muslim way). He says he has Nissin's Ramen in his hotel room. Why didn't I think of that?

4. Our hotel is very near a street junction with a sign pointing to Utrecht. Jose Ma. Sison lives there. It'd be a blast to meet him, but I've no time nor the proper introductions to go there. Let me say this though: He must be living quite comfortably to go by how Amsterdam generally looks. It's a scenic, clearly prosperous city. Mr. Sison has chosen well for his place of exile. So on the one hand we have leftist firebrands sojourning in Europe, and on the other we have rebel soldiers hatching coup plots in five-star hotel suites. We're a poor country overflowing with bon vivants.

5. The Fall/Winter look is glamorous, and it's fun wearing scarves, bonnets and jackets. But it's also a tedious thing. I itch all over from the cold (our tropical body lotion seems no match against the icy winds here) and by the end of the day I'd like nothing better than to be out of my three layers of clothing and thermal underwear.

6. I've not seen a tulip. Or a windmill. Or anyone wearing clogs.

7. Goodlooking guys are everywhere! Aw-right, I can live here.


beektur said...

i miss amsterdam. it's a city of contradictions and paradoxes. have you been to the bulldog coffee shop yet? it is refuted to have the best grass in town. :) have you been/are you going to the red light district, where window shopping takes a different meaning? :)

also, a former student from bicol university owns a hostel in amsterdam. it's called "albay homestay. the owner went to amsterdam with practically nothing, started as one of the service staff and ended up owning the hostel. and at an age much younger than either of us. good story for a profile. check the website and maybe interview him.

have fun! you are a stranger in a strange city. be free to do strange stuffs!

aryo said...

pictures! pictures!

Rick said...

panalo ang 7th item mo ha. haha! :)

dp said...

Wow! Amsterdam's fun- great to walk around, except for the cold, of course. Masaya bumisita pag summer kasi 11pm na, maliwanag pa.

Be sure to visit the Museumsplein area where they had the giant "I Amsterdam" installation before and of course, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum. And try their own version of "street food", eg. croquettes (the wall-vendos- "Febo" is one of them, I think.)

clem said...

hi gibbs,

how nice! amsterdam, like any other european city, is beautiful and wonder-ful to visit for the first time.

soak it all in: the canals, the bike lanes, the bikes, their bell-horns, the tall, lanky dutch, the blonds.

the spiritual, the aesthetic, the carnal, and the hallucinogenic co-exist in an almost surreal, celebratory harmony.

the van gogh museum. the wheatfield series. gave me the thought: i could die at this very spot. it is so beautiful.

the venice of the north. the gay capital of the world before san francisco, barcelona, and bangkok gave it a new scenery and clime.

the flowers, windmills, and dikes are outside amsterdam. but holland is such a small country. and like the germans, the dutch speak english well.

enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

rody vera said...

haven't been to amsterdam in a looong looong time. but i don't think you'll easily see tulips around because it's winter. I think they bloom in springtime. as for windmills you have to go out of the city.

we stayed for about a month in a room where squatters lived. they were students in a university and they simply took this old abandoned building for themselves-- without paying rent! hahaha. bohemians. and yes hashish is nice. and yes joma was very friendly-- not living in style like you think, though.

by the way, i texted you thinking you were here in manila. Rene villanueva, dearly loved friend, teacher, playwright passed away on Dec. 5. just went to his wake yesterday, dec. 6-- it was so festive. he will be cremated on dec 10, monday.

without stopping to enjoy the beauty of amsterdam, hope you can find time to say a little prayer for rene.

beektur said...

rene villanueva is a kind man, willing and ready to give stranger guiding words. millions of kids who grew up with -- in -- batitot should stop and give him an hour-long TV moment of thought. this is my way of giving him thanks.

Jules said...

I LOVE the Fall/Winter look! I just bought the cutest scarf at Gap yesterday, shame I have to wait until a rainy day to wear it. :(

Jego said...

I was in Utrecht on assignment about this time of year last year. I thought about paying Mr. Sison a visit just to say hi but I got paranoid about spies taking pictures of his visitors and those pictures finding their way to our Military Intelligence people.

(Oh, and what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam, so I won't ask for details of your stay. :-D

Anonymous said...

Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Amsterdam. So many men, s little time ha ha ha ha.

Punta ka rin sa mga iskaparate.


Abaniko said...

Do anything you want to do in Amsterdam Gibbs as long as you don't forget to bring pasalubong for us. Enjoy!

decorator said...


near helmerstraat (street ng marriot just outside of the central area of the city) merong indonesian resto. if you miss rice (hot and steamy), go to this store, they are seling take out asian food. sarap...

konting ingat sa madidilim na lugar.. like the park where the film museum is...

you want to meet sir joma? check my friendster. bait yun.

may windmills outside of the city... modern ones. umm... summer ang tulips.

ummm... ang lalaki ng mga dutch!

gibbs cadiz said...

BEEKTUR, awww, sayang saw your post late na, nakaalis nako. i'd have searched for that kababayan and interviewed him. :)

ARYO, naman, haha! :)

RICK, siempre, tayo pa. :)

DP, even with the rain and the cold, i spent hours just walking around. you're right, it's exhilarating crossing all those bridges! :)

CLEM, thanks! i really enjoyed the trip. :)

RODY, hi, thanks for letting me know about rene--and joma, too. :)

JULES! haha, a gap scarf? and i bought mine from a stall in robinson's place for p50, hehe. yeah, am a cheapskate. :)

JEGO, hmmm, if you're interested, i can tell you the details. :)

ANONYMOUS, now i know what you mean by iskaparate. unfortunately, they're not exactly what i was looking for, hahaha! :)

ABANIKO, pakita ka for your pasalubong! :)

DECORATOR! *faints* at your last comment, haha! :)

decorator said...


try thermos day... hahahhahah!!!

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