After saying goodbye to my friends at Rotterdam, my next stop is the famous city of Amsterdam. There, I will be visiting my friends, Asti and Mathijis, whom I met while travelling in Drakensberg, South Africa. And of course, I will be exploring the city Amsterdam.
Dropping off my stuff and joining a city walking tour in Amsterdam
After taking the train from Rotterdam, I finally made it to Amsterdam. I made my way to Asti’s home early in the morning to drop off my stuff before she had to go to work.
From there, I went online and googled “Free city walking tour in Amsterdam” and signed up to join the walking tour.
This turned out to be one of the best decision I have ever made.
Part of me dislikes joining city walking tours cause they take forever to finish. But, a part of me also enjoys joining them because you get to learn more abut the city and take the best pictures which the tour guide can point out to you.
First impressions of Amsterdam
I made it to the gathering spot of the walking tour group earlier than planned and decided to snap some pictures and load up on some water before we got started.
My first impression of Amsterdam is that it’s a really busy city. There are hordes of tourist everywhere and tons of street performers hustling for money throughout the city centre.
Not knowing much about the city, I kind of felt like Amsterdam looked like just another European city. Thankfully, I joined the city walking tour and got a whole different opinion of Amsterdam after learning of its history.
Amsterdam walking tour starts
Our tour guide gathers everyone together and I’ve got to say, she is great at hustling for tips right off the bat. As soon as our tour started, she tells everyone: “free city walking tour means you are free to leave a tip at the end which is typically 15 Euros per person”.
This upfront approach definitely worked for her as I can she got a lot of tip at the end of the tour.
Our tour guide is also quite polarizing. Her very first question she asked our tour group was: “Do you now what you need to do when you are in Amsterdam?” which answered with “You first hire a prostitute to give you a blow job then afterwards, you go to one of the coffee shops and smoke some weed”.
This first few comments definitely shocked many people, especially those who are more conservative. I personally liked her blunt style and how she set the tone of the tour. Her no-none sense straight to the point speaking style definitely worked for her.
She then made a point that Amsterdam is a very liberal city. You are free to do whatever you want and express yourself however you want while you are in this city.
Being a big fan of freedom and self-expression, the tour guide’s comments made me like the city of Amsterdam even more. Nothing makes me more annoyed than going to places where freedom of speech and expression is hindered by extremely conservative people.
One of the very first thing our tour guide does is to walk us through the red-light district.
The history of Amsterdam’s red light district
As soon as we arrived at the red light district, we got a history lesson of how the red light district was formed. Because Amsterdam is a big trading city, many sailors would be gone for long periods of time. Being out in the ocean for so long, it’s obvious what the sailors wanted when they returned back home: sex.
Because of the high demand for sex, many prostitutes set up shop to capitalize on this business opportunity.
However, having sex with prostitutes was considered a sin and the sailors felt guilty about this. Because Amsterdam is a merchant city, everyone here wants in on making money.
Interestingly enough, right beside the whore houses are….churches. Why churches? Because the churches also wanted in on the profit. After having fun with the prostitutes, the next thing the sailors wanted to do was go to a church and confess their sins. They wanted to get rid of the guilt of having sex with a prostitute and their “sins” can be forgiven by paying the church to receive forgiveness. The more debauchery the sailors participated in, the more they had to pay the church. As a result? Both the prostitution industry and the church prospered greatly from this business transaction.
At this point of the tour, everyone was wide awake. Everyone loves hearing this kind of stories. We left the red light district but not before our tour guide made a hilarious comment, “Is everyone still here or did we lose some males in the red light district?
An interesting fact about Amsterdam’s canals
As the tour went on, I learned one really interesting fact about the canals in Amsterdam. Besides the fact that the city is built on water consisting of about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges, they also recovered many things under the water. Our tour guide asks everyone “What do you think is the most common thing recovered in the canals?”
“Cars!” yelled one of the tour members.
Nope, it’s not cars.
Nope, not bicycles either.
Yes! It’s dead bodies!
Apparently, many men who gets drunk at night decide to use the canal as a peeing hole end up falling over and drowning. As a result, over the century, many dead bodies are found in the canals.
End of the tour by Anne Frank’s memorial
After a very long 3-hour tour, we gathered together at a bridge that serves as a memorial (and maybe even the original hiding place) of Anne Frank.
Our tour guide gave us a brief story of the bridge and how troublesome it is to get tickets to see Anne Frank’s hiding place. She then concluded the tour and started collecting tips. Very kindly, she said that if you are a backpacker, then a smaller tip is just fine.
Our awesome tour guide
I would have to say, this is the best walking tour I ever been in. If you get a chance to visit Amsterdam, look up the lady above and join her walking tour. You won’t regret it.
Learning some cool things you can do after you finish travelling from my friends
I spent two nights with Asti and Mathijis while I was visiting Amsterdam. Unlike my friends from Rotterdam, Asti and Matt are closer to my age group (we are millennials) and we are doing similar things with our lives.
For example, they have travelled around the world for 1.5 years before and planning another one very soon. I got very excited hearing about their plans to travel around the world for 1.5 years (which is ironic because I am doing a round the world trip right now as we speak).
Regardless, nothing makes me happier than to hear people travelling around the world. One cool thing I learned from them is that after you finish travelling, you should make a picture book.
Back in my parent’s days, they would take pictures and have them “developed” to be placed in a picture album. In the digital age, this tradition has been long gone…or is it?
Actually, I learned that in the Netherlands, people would take their pictures and make a picture book! You basically take all the pictures that you want and compile them at various online websites (like Apple). From there, you can create a professionally made picture book with all your travel adventures.
I got a chance to see Mathijis travel picture book and man was it awesome! Asti comments that despite having lots of cool pictures herself, they only see Mathijis cause he has a picture book.
Note taken, when I get back to Canada, I will make myself a picture book.
Chilling with Mathijis
We also got a chance to try foods we cooked ourselves. I made them a Filipino dish called sinigang which they seemed to have liked. Then, they showed me how to quickly make home made baked tacos which was cool.
The next morning, I said my goodbyes to them as I head for my next destination. Amsterdam has been great and I think it’s the people in this city that makes it so.
Next blog post – Visiting my friend in Eindhoven, Netherlands.