I can’t believe this is my fifth Amsterdam trip already and I’m not even halfway through the sights to be seen. I love Amsterdam though, I just absolutely love it! Every time I go back there I just love it even more.
The trip I am about to write about happened last Friday and I think it’s busiest trip I’ve done yet. I arrived in Amsterdam around one in the afternoon and between then and five I managed to pack in four museums, the cannabis college, a Buddhist temple and a restaurant! WOW! Now really it isn’t that much of an achievement, you will see why in a few moment.
Again this was a pretty spontaneously planned trip, which seems to work a lot better for me than planning weeks ahead. I actually go, whereas the times I’ve tried to plan ahead, I end up not going. So I’ll be sticking with this method. I must say I already feel a new trip coming on again this week. It excites me! I might even go twice. I actually was thinking of going today, as I heard there’s a Game of Thrones exhibition on and today was the last day, DoH! Why I not know this Friday? But I decided before doing another trip I should really write this blog post first. So I’m not going to get to sit on the iron throne today :( , but you never know, the exhibition will probably be back at some point, ‘because of amazing success!’
Anyway I should probably start my story.
So it was Friday the weather had me taking my coat off and putting it back on all afternoon, I must have been through this routine about 10 times throughout the day. One minute it was really sunny and warm and the next minute it was raining and cold. I wasn’t actually really looking forward to this trip, two of the next three sights in my LP just didn’t do it for me; ‘The Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum’ and ‘The Erotic Museum’… “Just great, really great, really looking forward to this stuff…. NOT!!” I don’t know if it’s just me, but these kind of cheap (I am not talking about the prices :O !!!) touristy attractions are just not my thing. After the Sex Museum which was a couple of trips back I could pretty much confirm my suspicions. Now I might actually have to say, that the Sex Museum was better than the two I just noted.
First up was the Cannabis College, which I actually feel very positive about. Basically it’s a little information centre about cannabis and I think it’s a really good initiative. People (whom will mainly be tourists) can go there and ask questions about anything cannabis related. Also the guy behind the counter was really very very friendly. They also have some plants in the cellar, as I’ve never seen cannabis plants before I decided I would go and take a peek. It costs three euros to look at the plants, included in the three euros is also the use of the vaporisers upstairs… The ticket is valid forever, so you can go back and do it again whenever you want. It’s more of a donation really as they’re a non-profit organisation. I asked the dude where the good coffee shops are in Amsterdam, because most of them are really touristy and the quality of the cannabis is therefore often not very good. He marked about five places on a map for me. So I now know where to go. I think it’s a really good thing to have, especially for people who go to Amsterdam and want to smoke weed but haven’t done it before, they can get some truthful unbiased information there.
- Two of the plants
Next up was The Hash, Marihuana and Hemp museum. This museum includes The Hemp Gallery which is a few doors further up. It cost NINE euros to get in!!! Which is WAY to much for what it is. Well what is it? Basically it’s a gallery filled with pictures, sculptures and other items that all have to do with cannabis, weed, marijuana, hemp whatever you want to call it. At the entrance you can take a book, free of charge, thankfully after paying NINE euros to get in! The book quite thick and filled with text. Throughout the museum and the gallery, there are numbers, each number has an explanation in the book. But really you could read the book at home and learn the same stuff. The museum, similar to the sex museum, doesn’t really have an order or a story. It’s just as if it’s someone’s collection of things to do with cannabis and you can look at them. And if you want you can spend hours reading the texts in the book that support the items. No thanks! So I just quickly went through the museum and the gallery and decided I would read the book at home. I wouldn’t bother with this museum, especially for the price. It’s maybe worth about three euro’s, but only if you still get the book. Really though, just don’t go, it isn’t worth your time or money.
- This is pretty much what both the museum and the gallery looked like.
The same I will say about the Erotic Museum, which is SEVEN euros! And like I said the Sex Museum was bad, and this is just a bad rip off of the sex museum. Again just a jumble of pictures, sculptures and other items, this time to do with sex. There was a little corner where they had a tv-screen showing rude cartoons. But apart from that there was no story leading you through the museum, in fact I didn’t see any text anywhere explaining anything. One of the floors did have some pretty cool artwork, but that was about the only interesting thing there. Again, do not go. Do not even bother. It’s boring. Seriously. I was done in about ten minutes and the building has five floors.
- The Erotic Museum had a very similar set up as the Hash Museum
Leave both of the above out and leave the sex museum out and go to the good museums, which there are plenty of in Amsterdam. Two of which will follow later. For now it was time to go to the Buddhist Temple, the Guan Yin Shrine, which I have walked past many a time, but I never went inside before. It’s worth a little peek and it’s free which was nice after spending too much money in shitty museums :). It’s actually quite small and there’s just one room open to the public. For a small donation you can light a candle and they sell some books about Buddhism. Apart from that it’s quite beautiful in a kitsch kind of a way.
- The Guan Yin Buddhist Shrine
Now the belly started rumbling and one of the restaurants in the LP was across the street from the Buddhist temple, so I decided I would eat there. Both the temple and the restaurant are in the China Town part of Amsterdam. On the street Zeedijk, which is also mentioned in the LP. The restaurant is called Nam Kee and it’s not much to look at, both on the outside and in.
- The beautiful Nam Kee!
In fact when inside it has a bit of a depressing feeling about it.
- Inside Nam Kee
It’s a Chinese restaurant as you had probably already guessed. According to the LP “The most popular Chinese spot in town”. Now the people who work there are also not very friendly at all. I was doing my very best to be friendly and polite, but I think the waiter must have trained with the guards at Buckingham Palace because it was impossible to get a smile out of him. So at this point I was wondering why this was the most popular Chinese Restaurant in Amsterdam??? When I received my food I knew the answer. The food is absolutely perfect! Delicious! Really really really good! So THAT is why they are so popular, nothing more, nothing less, it’s the food that does it. I ordered a Tjap Tjoy (Mixed Vegetables) with Tofu.
- My meal in Nam Kee, yum!
The vegetables were so fresh it was like they were exploding in my mouth! I was really impressed. The taste combinations were just perfect. I would recommend if you like Chinese food you should definitely go there. In fact even if you don’t usually you’ll probably like this Chinese food. They wouldn’t get anywhere near even a six or a seven out of ten for service and design, but the food very much deserves a nine out of ten. Scrumptious!
My exploration of the Zeedijk and Red Light District area’s was over for now. It was time to move on to the area surrounding Nieuwmarkt, which is a big market square. On the square the building Waag takes up all the glory. It’s a beautiful fairy tale (to quote the LP) like building. It used to be the weigh house and it’s now a restaurant/café. I’d already eaten, but maybe some other time. It has a big terrace so on sunny days it’d be lovely to sit outside.
- The picturesque Waag
In a street going off the Nieuwmarkt was my next destination ‘Museum het Rembrandthuis’, finally some quality! It’s where Rembrandt both lived, worked and taught until he went bankrupt and had to sell the place.
It’s a gorgeous building, a very typical one to Amsterdam, but I just love the architecture in Amsterdam. The museum is similar to ‘Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder’ which I visited on my last Amsterdam trip, similar because you’re led through a house which is reconstructed to how it would have been ‘then’. The then now being when Rembrandt lived there.
- The gorgeous building
There was a listening tour, by now you will know, I LOVE LISTENING TOURS! <3 Listening tours are in my opinion the best way to be led around a museum. And this one was very good. You filled in the number you saw on the wall and it told you about the room you were in.
- I really like the beds people used to sleep in, it’s almost like a little hut, I would have loved a bed like this as a kid! This one is in the kitchen, so one (or maybe even more than one) of the servants would have slept here.
Once upstairs, where a lot of paintings where all over the walls (I mean we are in Rembrandts house so paintings were to be expected), each painting also had a number, so if you were interested in a painting, or in all of the paintings, you could hear stories about those too. Now I just listened to the paintings that I liked personally, if I’d have listened to them all I would have been there for hours. So the tour through the house is quite short when you do it that way. But when you’ve finished the tour there are a couple of temporary exhibitions. One of them was showing a lot of Rembrandts etchings. Which was quite interesting.
- An etching of himself
The exhibition I really liked didn’t really have much to do with Rembrandt at all. It was called ‘Langs Amsterdamse Grachten’ (which is ‘Along Amsterdam’s Canals’) and they were paintings/drawings of different places in Amsterdam that were painted or drawn a long time ago. Then under the paintings they had photographs of what that part of Amsterdam looks like now. I thought this was really cool. In the giftshop they had a book with all the paintings and photos, I almost bought it, but it was quite expensive, so took two postcards with me instead. I might still go back for the book though at some point, but for now I’ll be finding a place to hang the postcards up in the house. I also bought a magnet of one of Rembrandts etchings of a typical Amsterdam canalscape which has now joined the collection on the fridge.
- My favourite temporary exhibition
Next I had a little wander over the market on the Waterloopplein, which isn’t really anything special. A lot of touristy kind of market stalls and a couple of other things. The Waterloopplein is also home to one of the ugliest buildings in Amsterdam, the Stopera, which is home to the city hall and an opera/theatre. Close by was the ‘Joods Historisch Museum’ (Jewish Historical Museum) which was my next stop.
It was a short visit as it was four now and the museum closed at five. So I went through it quicker than I would have liked to. They also have a listening tour, so thumbs up for that. And the museum is split into the old synagogue and the new synagogue. The old synagogue covers the Jewish religion in general and the history of Jews in the Netherlands, going back to around the 15th century, if I recall rightly. Like I said, it was a bit of a rushed visit. The new synagogue was also about the history of Jews in the Netherlands but more modern, I think the last hundred years or so. Both parts are set up very well, especially the new synagogue, which was very modern and it makes use of lots of video material. There are two massive videos projected onto the walls which makes it look quite spectacular. I will certainly be going back to visit it properly.
- The exhibition in the new synagogue
I forgot to mention both the Rembrandt House and the Jewish Historical Museum are free if you have a museum card. If you don’t the Rembrandt House costs €12.50 for adults and the Jewish Historical Museum costs twelve euros. Both museums are well worth the price, but make sure you have enough time to wander round. Give yourself at least two hours for each museum.
The Jewish Museum also has a very good gift shop, lots of books! After a bit of a browse in there, I didn’t buy anything in the end though, I decided to do a bit of shopping. I walked to the centre via the Muntplein and took the opportunity to get a picture of the Munttoren, which is also featured in the LP.
- The Munttoren
And then I noticed a most amazing thing!
A wonderful thing.
Something that made me so happy that I almost did a dance in public.
There is a Marks & Spencer in Amsterdam!!!
For those who don’t know Marks & Spencer is a British chain department store. They mainly sell clothes and food. Anyway it meant one thing, British food!!! So of course I HAD to go inside. The one in Amsterdam has a tiny clothes part (but I wasn’t there for the clothes anyway) and the rest is pretty much like a small supermarket. I must have looked like a smiling idiot walking through those aisles. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. I ended up taking home a very nice extra mature cheddar, cheese and onion pasties, two ciders, sticky toffee pudding, and some pickled onion (for on sandwiches). They usually have CRUMPETS!!! But unfortunately they were having problems ordering them, but they will get them again. And they only cost €1.75 or something!! Save me going to the little English shop and paying five euros for them :D. I was very happy with my discovery and I will probably end up going to Amsterdam every week now just for Marks and Spencer.
I ended my shopping spree in Waterstones (YES another British shop that is in Amsterdam, bookshop) and ended up going home with three books, I just couldn’t resist!
Now while I was in Waterstones I saw they had the latest version of Lonely Planet the Netherlands. It just came out this month. So I had a quick flick through. I’ve not quite figured out whether I’m going to replace the one I have now, which is the last version. But one thing I noticed shocked me terribly, they have now added Madame Tussauds to the sights!!! :O Sorry if I offend anyone but I’ve been to Madame Tussauds once as a child, the one in Amsterdam and even then I thought it was really cheesy and terrible. So I am quite ashamed that it is in the new Lonely Planet for the Netherlands. Terrible, terrible. But then really, in my opinion, they also shouldn’t include the Sex Museum, the Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum/Gallery and the Erotic Museum.
It was a great day and it seems very packed, but really I kept the first few visits, especially the ones I didn’t like, very short. I’m already looking forward to my next visit, especially as I think I’ve pretty much had all the stuff I didn’t really want to do… Unless I buy the new version ;). Maybe I’ll go tomorrow… It’s very tempting… :)
For more information on anything I did today, you can use the following websites; Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com), Cannabis College (www.cannabiscollege.com), Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum (http://www.hashmuseum.com), Erotic Museum (www.erotisch-museum.nl), Guan Yin Shrine (www.ibps.nl), Nam Kee (www.namkee.net), Museum Het Rembrandthuis (www.rembrandthuis.nl), Jewish Historical Museum (www.jhm.nl).