Thursday, 12 January 2017

My First Solo Trip

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته and good day!

I know I haven't updated my blog in a while, it's been a pretty crazy few months. It's going to be a back forth postings of Amsterdam and Germany. hahaha...

So a few months ago, I had the opportunity to go to a Cell and Gene Therapy Conference in Amsterdam. The conference was free of charge since I received a free PhD student pass from Imperial College London. The cost of the conference alone was supposed to be £500!!

My travelling and accommodation expenses were supported by my bench fees (though I did all of these behind my supervisor's back since she wouldn't have let me go in the first place). 

I was so excited to go to my first ever conference. I booked an early morning flight (7 am to be exact), so I had to be at the airport by 6 am! My bestie could only send me up to Liverpool Street since it'll cost too much for her to go with me to Stansted Airport. This would be my first time to Stansted Airport. If you've never been to London before just so you know, all airports in London are relatively small. I think KLIA is way bigger than any airport in London. They all look relatively the same to me. I'm mostly more familiar with Gatwick and Heathrow. 

Moving on, I touched down at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport 10 minutes earlier than the ETA. Since my check-in time was at 3 pm, I decided to walk around the city and see the sights first. I have been to Amsterdam before, but I didn't really walk around the city that much. Since I've already been to Keukenhof and Zaans Schans, which is located on the outskirts of the city centre, I will take this opportunity to really see the sights within. 

When I came for the conference, I actually made a mistake thinking that it supposed to start on Monday when it actually started on Tuesday. So When I arrived on Sunday, I actually had two whole days to walk around and see the sights. Before I came, I actually did a bit more research than my first visit since I only followed my friend. After I arrived at the Central Station, I put my bag in the hold luggage locker (cost me €7) 


Then I head to the harbor to ride the free ferry towards the IJ-zijde.


The ferry is what's connecting the central Amsterdam with Amsterdam-Noord.


The white building is the Eye film institute, a museum. 

 

And this tower is the A'DAM lookout point. The circle shows the swing.

 
The lookout point opened at 10.30am, which was just in time as I arrived and the swing opens at 11am. So I needed to wait half an hour before I can ride it. As I went up, there's this chair 

 
And a photo booth where you can capture pictures on a beam. This will be the end result.


haha..some people even hangs. It'll look awesome though. You need to pay for the hardcopy photos, but the softcopy ones are free to access online. They'll give you a card with the link to retrieve the photos.

You'll need to take a lift to go to the rooftop. 

video 

The lift takes you directly to the top floor. 

 
 As I reach the top, I can see the swing, suddenly I got chills, aside from the already freezing wind. 

 
 This is what the swing is called. This swing is relatively new. It was just opened just a few months before I was in Amsterdam. Lucky!!

 
 While I was waiting, I took some amazing panoramic views.

 
 Some people think the XXX means porno (since Amsterdam is so famous for their pornographies and red light district), but it is actually the city's "coat of arms". 

 

The symbol was chosen and put on their flag over 500 years ago. Which is such a coincidence it is also the shorthand for adult entertainment.

 

Apart from that point, the view from up here is absolutely stunning.

 
Amsterdam sign on the Central Station.

 
 As soon as the swing opens, I queued up since there are a few people there already. The guy attending the swing was super nice. He sat me by myself on one swing

 
 He even offered to take pictures and videos of me. 

video 
The swing lasts for 7 minutes. It may seem short, but as the girl at the front desk said, once you're up there, it'll be just the right time. Luckily, the wind wasn't blowing too hard when I was swinging.

 

This picture was displayed at the gift shop. It was sold out, so I only managed a picture of it.

 
 Afterwards, I took a stroll around the area

 
 The tower look a bit short from down here, but it's not once you're up there. 

 
 Another interesting point here is the I amsterdam sign. I found out there's three sites with this sign, and this is one of them with fewer people around. 

 
So if you want to avoid the crazy crowd, you can get a picture here instead.

 
 So serene..

 
 These boats were birthed near the lookout tower. Felt like jumping on and act like a pirate. =P

 The central station. I've lost count of the pictures I took in front of this place. Always a pleasure.

 
 I bought a 48 hours pass that allows me to ride any public transport around the city. The best way to travel here is by tram.

 
 The first place I want to visit was Anne Frank's house. If you don't know who Anne Frank was, google it. Literary buff should know. 

 
 This water fountain can be seen all over the city. Not too much of them, but convenient enough especially if you're in need of a drink. Great for birds.

 

Can anybody translate this please??

 
 The view in front of Anne Frank's house. Gorgeous! 

 
 This is not the house. It's the museum.

This is said to be the house.

 
 Since Amsterdam is a city surrounded by canals (other than Venice), of course you'll see loads of pictures of it. =D

 
 Near Anne Frank house, there's many museums such as the Tulip Museum

 
I find this inscription interesting. Did you know that the tulips are not actually from Amsterdam? Amazing how they made it theirs and people often associate Amsterdam with tulips.

 
 Then there's this cheese museum. It smelled in here, but the cheese are terribly awesome!

 
 and more canals...

 
From the tram stop Marktstraat, this tall tower building is the first thing you'll see. It's actually a church. I discovered something interesting in front of it on another day, which I'll tell you in another post.

 
 This is actually the castle, but the view from the back.

 
 Later on, I took the tram to Rijksmuseum. I didn't go to any of the museums here since you have to pay to enter and the queue is looooong..  


 Of course, a picture at the all famous sign. This is what it looks like during peak hour.

 
Those people sitting on top of the letters doesn't seem to want to get down. Nothing you can do. hahaha...

 

During other times, this area is actually a fountain. During winter, they covered it up to make an ice rink.

 
A better view I guess... 

video 
These kids are playing hockey at the famous I amsterdam sign. I can't even stand straight while skating, how did they managed to play hockey...I want that... 


 
Afterwards, I just took one last stroll around the park since I wasn't in a hurry.

 
The Van Gogh museum at the back. So sad I didn't get to enter. The last time I went here they were under renovation.

 
After I got tired, I head to my hotel, Motel one. This is the nearest hotel I could find through Expedia, and they weren't kidding. The picture on top is the Amsterdam Rai convention centre. The hotel is just across the road.

 
Yup..it's huge. There are multiple venues, gates here. One can get lost. I planned to look around to know where my conference would be a day before it starts.

 
That night, I didn't have anything to do. Rather than getting bored in the hotel room, might as well walk about the city. Winter time is always filled with many decorative lights.

 
The central station again...hahaha 

My friend asked me to talk about the different experience I have since I've been to Amsterdam before, but with friends, and this time, I went by myself. The most difference that I felt was the first time I went was with a car. We did park and ride the tram to enter the city, but we didn't really go around the city that much and experience a lot of the public transport. This time, everything I relied on the public transport. 

The second one was that I spent more time in Amsterdam this time. So I get to see a lot more of the city this time, and see other places I didn't get to go before. The downside (for me) when being a lot is taking pictures of yourself. You have to be bold to ask other people to take pictures of you, or better yet, bring a selfie stick. Luckily I don't like taking pictures of myself. Only on certain occasions. 

Third, traveling alone will teach you to be independent, and to trust yourself a bit more. I've never had a problem finding my way, but there are times that I did get lost since I don't have internet connection on my phone or my phone died (my friends know this happened to me a lot). So this is where your instinct comes, or maybe some might prefer asking for directions instead. People in Amsterdam has an excellent command in English, so communicating will not be an issue. Maybe should try in a non-english speaking country later on. haha...

That's about all I can think of right now. It's 12am already and this was a while back, so I can't recall a lot of things already. I will do another solo soon, hopefully. Not intentionally, only if I have a conference and needed to go alone. All of which will be a great lesson for me, I'm sure.

I'll tell you about other days later on...until next time...