After France and Belgium, the journey continues to Netherlands. It was part of my DIY honeymoon last year. We spent for another 4 nights in the Netherlands. We had the time of our lives. As opposed to my normal one city per entry, this time around i grouped our Netherlands experience into one entry.
Departing from Brussels using the Thalys train this time, not bus. For one thing it was because i wanted wifey to enjoy train ride (it is kinda different from the train ride Brussels-Bruges). The ticket was not that cheap. Paid EUR35 per person for it. The train ride took about 1 hour to Rotterdam where we had to change to the intercity train to The Hague, our stop for the next 5 days. The intercity train from Rotterdam to The Hague was an open ticket, so we just walk around the areas around Rotterdam Centraal for a while and had lunch there. Can't really walk around that much since we had our luggage with us and my friend waiting for us in Den Haag Centraal.
From Rotterdam to Den Haag Centraal it took about 20 mins or less. One thing i really like about the Netherlands' intercity train is that it comes with free wifi on board. I managed to whatsapp my friend while we were on the train and he arrive just in time when our train arrived in Den Haag. I top-up my transport card (which was issued to me when i attended a course in The Hague in 2012) for 5 days. It cost about EUR25 as opposed to daily ticket which cost about EUR7.50. One can also opted for the Touch n' Go style top up whereas the money inside the card is deducted according to the length of travel. Immediately we went to his apartment which was just a walking distance to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) (but he has since moved into a new apartment which i will visit perhaps in a few months time). The first night in The Hague, we just had a good rest and try to recoup from the previous part of the journey. Another friend of ours hosted dinner that night and we took the bus and tram to her place and went back home as the next day will be the start of our Netherlands experience.
Comes morning, off we went to the Factory Outlet in Roermond. The city borders with Germany and Belgium with its scenic architecture. Of course we were not there to indulge in the city but rather indulge in the shopping. Hahaha. Took about 2 hours train ride with one stop to change the train in either Eindhoven or Utrecht. We went via Eindhoven and came back via Utrecht. We were lucky as my friend's transport pass comes with 40% discount of all intercity train in Netherlands. Instead of EUR50 for the return ticket, we paid only EUR27. We were there the whole day. From sunrise to sundown. We went empty handed but return with no hands to spare. Hahaha. Not so backpacking after all. Yeah it was honeymoon after all and wifey enjoyed the experience tremendously.
The following day we went to Amsterdam. Spent the whole day in the city. We paid EUR12 for the return train ticket from The Hague, again thanks to the 40% discount. First thing first, once we reached Amsterdam Centraal, we bought the 24 hours transport pass for EUR7. It worth every euro spent as each spot that we had in mind involves either taking a tram or bus. First spot was the Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam to buy some stuffs that my friends requested. Owh yeah, in Netherlands, you can get a VAT refund with EUR50 spending in one receipt compared to France EUR176 and Belgium EUR100. From then on we took the must-do in Amsterdam, the 1 hour canal cruise ride. There is a specific reason why i choose the one near the HRC instead of the one near the Amsterdam Centraal. For one thing the route is a bit different (i experience the one in front of the Amsterdam Centraal before in 2009 trip), and the most important part was that the cruise has a deck at the back that allows those who felt suffocated inside the cruise to go out and had the fresh air. It cost us about EUR9 if i remember correctly.
Done that, off we went to the Rijksmuseum where it is another must do. To take pic in front of I AMSTERDAM. There is another one erected in front of Schiphol Airport which we also took pic on the day we depart to London. Our day is yet completed as we went to the Dam Square and walked to the famous red light district. We wanted to go to the Madame Tussauds but looking at the queue, we rather spent our days experiencing the city instead. It was a good call given the circumstances. When it comes to Halal foods, Amsterdam has plenty of that. No worries. We had our dinner in one of the restaurant near the Amsterdam Centraal then went back to The Hague.
The fourth day in Netherlands was spent walking around The Hague itself. First stop was to another friend's house as she hosted us lunch (i have at least 3 really good Malaysian friends in The Hague, one of them was my best man during my akad nikah, which is why i know i will go there again). Then we went off to the mini Netherlands, Madurodam. Cost about EUR10 per person, can't remember the exact price. Then we went to the city centre to meet up with my friend's wife who just got back from work and went for shopping spree in the town. That night we cooked Malaysian dishes (in Netherlands the raw materials are aplenty and there are even halal meats in the supermarket) and said our goodbyes for the final nite in the Netherlands.
As night turns into morning, we took the train from Den Haag Centraal to Schiphol to catch our flight to our next destination, London. Coincidentally, one of my friend just landed in Schiphol and we had coffee together while waiting for our connecting flight to London. It was delayed due to bad weather and it goes downhill from there for my London experience. Which i will elaborate more in my next entry.
Netherlands. An endless experience. It was the third time that i had been to Netherlands. All had been wonderful. Three different seasons as well. Been there during the interchange between spring to summer in 2009 (we went to Keukenhof back then), was sent for two weeks course in The Hague in the interchange between autumn to winter in 2012 and the winter experience with wifey in 2013. Since my friend will be there for another two years, i bet that i will bring my son there one of these days. I don't have to spend anything on lodging (which comes as a huge saving), we cooked our own meals and Netherlands have terrific transportation system and affordable too (given the fact that my friend will get 40% off on all intercity trains). As i said, it was the third time and i bet it won't be the final time as there are more to explore in the neverending Netherlands.