Monday, February 05, 2007

The Great Amsterdam Puke of Winter 2007

The trip ended with me having puked my guts out all over the gent’s loo at The Pancake Bakery, leaving a merry mess, and then being barely able to make it back to London in one piece. Yeah…such were the delights of food poisoning. Let’s not speculate on what caused it. I've since recovered from vomitting hell, and through it, I was very glad to have been with five wonderful and supportive friends. Despite what happened, I was happy, in fact, to have spent the weekend in Amsterdam.

But what is it with Amsterdam? I was there almost a full three years ago, en route to Singapore after completing my posting in Washington. And I can recall so vividly how I had to hobble and shuffle around in great pain, for my back condition had deteriorated rapidly over the previous couple of weeks. I even bought myself a walking cane there. Amsterdam was – and remains – such a lovely city. But to suffer two consecutive bouts of ill health in the same place seems like utter carelessness.

The few of us in the hall had been talking for some time about making a trip there. And we each found our calendars free this past weekend. It was truly a rare opportunity for such a big group to be able to travel together. And the time spent was certainly enjoyable, with much of what we chatted about entirely unbloggable, although it did include quite a bit of toilet humour. Enuff said.

The setting made it conducive for a good time. Amsterdam’s a very welcoming, and stress-free city, even though the traffic – trams, cars and bikes – does seem to come at you from all directions. The inner core can be traversed on foot. The many canals present a pretty picture. Virtually everyone speaks English, to the extent that a Dutch classmate of mine remarked that when he was in Amsterdam once, he was exasperated at not being able to find anyone who speaks proper Dutch.

We arrived in the city late on Friday evening, spirits high, and reach our hotel without difficulty. Saturday saw an early start to the day, where we had a frightfully expensive breakfast at Leidseplein, followed by a nice long walk through the main streets in Centrum, the inner core of the city, including the Dam area, where the Nieuwe Kerk and the Koninklijk Paleis were situated. Then came lunch at the Brasserie de Poort, a nice historic establishment next to the Magna Plaza shopping arcade.

We spent much of the afternoon at the Van Gogh Museum. And for me, it was a delightful return after my first visit in 2004. Because I could barely walk on that occasion, at times, I was reduced to plonking myself onto the gallery benches, trying to take everything in. This time round, I had the chance to see up close many of his major masterpieces, including his self-portraits, his famous bedroom piece, and that haunting late work, "Wheat Field With Crows".

There was also a special exhibition titled Vincent Van Gogh and Expressionism – how Van Gogh and his rich, intense portrayals influenced the subsequent generation of Austrian and German expressionists early in the 20th century. It offered a revealing look into how artists in the Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke movements gained inspiration from their Post-Impressionist counterpart and then also applied their own interpretation to their individual renderings. My favourite Franz Marc was represented, unfortunately, but just a simple drawing. Perhaps less than others, he had a clearer artistic voice of his own.

After pre-meal waffles at the local Häagen-Dazs, we gathered over dinner at the Kantjil & de Tijger, a pretty well-known Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table) restaurant in Amsterdam. That’s one of the interesting features of Amsterdam. Owing to colonial ties, rijsttafel is considered a de facto Dutch national dish, similar to how curry is seen as part of the British national cuisine now. And we certainly didn’t leave dissatisfied.

But was this the meal that did me in? The fabulous servings of keropok, gado-gado, mutton rending, sayur lodeh, satay and more? Could they have been the culprit? All I know is that I woke up the following morning feeling like crap. Sunday passed by painfully for me. According to my friends, my face had turned green by the time we were heading back to London. Yet, despite the food scare, my abiding regret was not to have been able to try the pancakes, nor savour the proffertjes, supposedly a local delicacy. What a shame.

Nonetheless, it really was fun to have had the chance to gather with good friends over the weekend. We had a chance to relax and to get to know each other better. I shall remember these moments. I shall certainly recall them fondly. I shall try, however, not to return to Amsterdam too soon. It seems my body can’t function too well over there.

Travel Notes: Amsterdam’s perfect for a weekend break from London. We booked our flights on KLM with STA Travel. Accommodation was secured through Expedia at the Park Plaza Vondel Amsterdam, located at the southern edge of Vondel Park, just outside the city core.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope the next time will be a pleasant experience. DH

1:31 PM  
Anonymous sw said...

does rampant dare another time?

1:11 AM  
Anonymous Min_monster said...

my fave!!!

2:28 AM  

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