Saturday, June 13, 2015

Old Holland, Amsterdam

Sat, 30/5/15

I've always wanted to visit Italy, being an Italian-wannabe circa 2006 (big fan of Franceso Totti back then :-p). Erm wait, this post is about Amsterdam isn't it? Well, since there is no direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to any of the cities in Italy, we opted to visit Italy via Amsterdam since both of us have never been there before. And, since we missed our connecting flight to Marrakech via Paris last year, we are not going to take the risk of same day flight connection. We decided to fly in to Amsterdam, stay a night, then proceeded to Milan, Venice and Rome, then returning to Amsterdam and spending another night before flying back to Kuala Lumpur.

Ah, thanks to Partner In Crime's stint in the beloved land of Mauritania and due to the impending miles expiry, we were able to redeem 2 return MH flight to Amsterdam (total Enrich miles redeemed 110500 and tax paid RM 1752 for 2 persons). For the flight to Milan and from Rome back to Amsterdam, I was contemplating to take the budget airline Easyjet. But then while checking for possible flights to Italy, I saw that KLM was one of the options. Since Partner In Crime also have some Flying Blue miles, we decided to redeem that as well. For the AMS-LIN and FCO-AMS multi city KLM flight, we redeemed 56240 miles and paid tax of EUR 113.8 (around RM487) for 2 persons.

Now back to Amsterdam. Our KUL-AMS flight MH16 (renamed after the incident) original flight time was 2350 hrs on Fri 29/5/15. About 3 weeks before the flight, we received a notification via email and SMS that our flight was retimed earlier to 2310 (this time around MAS did notify us on the flight change, unlike last year). Then, just 1 day before the flight, we received an SMS notifying that the flight has been retimed yet again, now delayed to 0050 Sat 30/5/15. Wow, what a rollercoaster! It maintained that way until the actual departure.

Alhamdulillah, we arrived in Schipol at 7.30am local time (Amsterdam is 6 hours behind KL). Passport clearance was smooth and we collected our backpacks intact without any inspections (we brought tempe/soya cakes, sambal ikan bilis/anchovies fried in chilli, ketupat mini/mini rice cakes, and Brahims instant Nasi Lemak and Nasi Briyani - thanks to Mas for this idea to sustain our longings for Malaysian food)

Amsterdam landscape

Welcome to Amsterdam!

Since it was still early, we could not check in to our Hotel Ibis Amsterdam Airport (EUR 77.43/night or RM309/night plus 6% city tax EUR 4.65 with total charged around RM328) which is just 15 minutes from Schipol. We took the free hotel shuttle to deposit our bags first at the luggage holding room (free of charge) before going for sightseeing. We stayed nearby to the airport for 2 reasons: we have an early flight to catch to Milan at 8.30am and also because we booked for accommodation quite late (about a month before the trip), so we couldn't get good deals for hotels in Amsterdam central.

Hotel shuttle stop outside the airport

Ibis hotel shuttle bus

basic room, but cost EUR 82 (RM328)/ night

Ibis Amsterdam Airport hotel
garden at the hotel

For our sightseeing today, we would be covering Old Holland at the outskirts of Amsterdam, i.e. quaint harbour city of Edam and Volendam; and the windmills of Zaans Schans. For this, we bought the Amsterdam and Region Day Ticket which entitles you to unlimited travel in Amsterdam and its whole region - day and night - on bus, tram and metro, for 24 hours. The day ticket is valid for rides on the tram,bus, and metro and is priced at EUR13.50. We bought our ticket at Schipol Airport Arrival 2 Tourist Information Centre. For more information on the ticket and the map, go here

walk further up to Arrival Hall 2 to buy the Amsterdam and Region Day ticket at tourist info centre

Amsterdam and Region Day Ticket
Amsterdam and Region Day Ticket Map

After refreshing ourselves a bit, we took the hotel shuttle back to the airport to take the 197 bus to Leidseplein, then take Tram 1 to Central Station. It was tricky to find the bus stop as it is located behind the Central Station. You have to go inside the building and pass through the gate for train passage, but you don't have to tap your Day ticket.

Amsterdam Centraal Station
the bus stop at Amsterdam Centraal

One thing I noticed at Amsterdam is that it is very bicycle friendly. Young or old, casual or in formal attire, rain or shine, Dutch people go about their daily business by cycling. I've never seen a parking space for bicycles with a huge amount of them!

bicycles everywhere

We then took the 316 bus to Edam / Volendam for the tour of Old Holland small town harbours, passing through green fields of cattle farms. We alighted at the final stop at Edam, then took pictures of the beautiful houses by the canals. You should also stop at Julianaweg to take more pictures of the pretty houses, canals and a traditional windmill.

pretty houses by the canal at Edam
a small dam at one of the canals in Edam

pretty houses by the canal at Volendam

pretty Volendam town

the lone windmill at Volendam

On the way back to Central Station via the same bus 197, we stopped by at Broek in Waterland to take more pictures of the quaint villages and a closeup of the farms. If I were to visit Amsterdam again, I would love to stay at one of these villages.

cycling by the farm
cattle grazing by the canal. what a good life

pretty houses at Broek in Waterland

Broek in Waterland

strawberry happy at Broek in Waterland (happier if can kayak and cycle)

Back at the Central Station, we then caught the 391 bus headed to Zaanse Schans.  This is where you could re-live 17th and 18th century Holland with its traditional windmills, Dutch wooden houses and cheese making factory. The Zaanse museum is also located here. Entrance to the Zaanse Schans is free, but you have to pay for a minimal fee to enter the windmills.

I found out later from a friend of mine, Sarah that there's an even prettier Dutch windmills place at Kinderdijk, but it is further south to Amsterdam, about 90km away from Amsterdam Central. This place is also a Unesco Heritage site, but it is not covered under the Amsterdam and Region Day Ticket. Perhaps next time.

Windmills of Zaanse Schans

traditional Dutch wooden houses at Zaanse Schans

you can take a boat cruise to view the windmills and houses by the Zaan river

houses across the Zaan river

sheep farm

We were already hungry by then, so we went back to the Central Station via the same bus 391, then took the tram to Dam. We saw a halal restaurant, so we alighted there to have our early dinner of quarter chicken with rice. A Malaysian couple on a group tour was also eating here.

halal cafe at Dam

Dam square

historic buildings, shops and cafe line up Dam

After dinner, we strolled by Vondelpark before waiting for our bus back to Schipol at Museumplein stop. It was time to go back to check in our hotel and have a good rest after a long haul flight from KL and the whole day outside. We would be starting early tomorrow to catch our 8.30am flight to Milan via KLM.




Post a Comment

<< Home