Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I AMsterdam

I first heard about Amsterdam from my parents who went there for their "2nd honeymoon"! My brother and I were still very young then, when my dad was assigned there for a short-term training. My mum visited him for awhile and left me with our maternal grandparents, and my brother with our paternal grandparents.

So I was naturally quite curious about this country, which I have never expected to visit. After the Euro backpack tour, I did think perhaps I'd like to visit the other neighbouring countries if I ever go to Europe again. Never in my mind did Holland cross my mind though. I've seen enough Dutch Lady milk cans, and seen enough photos of windmills and clogs to think I know it all!

But it's when there are no expectations, that surprises abound.  I've heard about the (non) hospitality of non-Asian airlines and was expecting KLM to be something like American Airlines (if you remember my experience from before!) So I was naturally delighted they had pretty decent service on the plane.

Later I found out from my French colleague that the flight attendants on the Japan route are specially trained. Not bad, I was surprised myself how good the service was. They might not look as dolled up and young as their Asian counterparts, but the unexpected European hospitality made up for it. Still better than the American stewardesses who did nothing but walk up and down the aisle with a tray of orange juice and offered no one anything.

It was snowing lightly when I arrived. I was a little anxious because I had just recovered from influenza. I didn't even have time to shop for extra warm clothes. I thought, worse comes to worse, I'll just add on more layers or recycle my clothes.

Perhaps the sight of snow took my mind off the state of my health. It was quite beautiful seeing the snow fall. I was a little disappointed it wasn't snowing in Kobe, and was about to plan a trip to the north just to experience some.

My first time staying at the Hilton! Only because my boss had booked himself into this hotel, just next to the Schiphol Airport. Apparently the corporate hotels are located in the middle of nowhere, so I was glad the airport had decent restaurants, shops and even a supermarket. Food is a necessity especially in winter!

Ms Barbie had to warn me that even if it's a hotel such as Hilton, I should not expect Asian hospitality. Well, first impressions do count I suppose. No smile at the frontdesk as I checked in. A Welcome card addressed to "Mr Lee". Bath tub clogged up.

Nevermind, still Hilton. I'm grateful.

I was totally blown away by our European HQ at Hoopddorf. A fully glassed building that lets in plenty of sunlight. Apparently most buildings are like this since they don't get much sun in this part of the world. And yet, it's well heated that people walk around in T's when it's warmest in the afternoon.

Which only made me envy them, and dislike our office in Kobe :( Oh well, grass is always greener on the other side. Modern building with sleek interior, yummy food selection at the cafeteria, and unlimited servings of tea coffee and chocolate drink. To think that Europe has economic issues?

I was so excited to go outside the office one day, earlier than usual because the workshops ended before the sun set. Netherlands is really a flat country. I was glad I managed to capture this, because it melted the next day. So excited that I didn't watch my step as I turned to head to the station and fell down on a sheet of ice! I have a bruised knee as a momento of my trip.


Sher said...

amsterdam is lovely, isn't it? i love the canals and the bicycles and their tiny dutch souvenirs...did u manage to go to zaanse schans to see the windmills and cheese factory?

it's nice that you get to travel so far for work hehe:)

hope you're wrapped up cozily in jp...must be crazy cold right now!

miss ya*

§nóflèk said...

Sher : hey thanks dear for dropping by :) we did the boat tour during the weekend, so was quite educational. i didn't get to really go around nor shop then because it was a week of work.
well, you've been to many countries free and courtesy of your company - that's even better!! :p