Tag Archives: Museum

Amsterdam, Netherlands – Impressions

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and is one of the most important ports in Europe. It is also considered the sixth safest city in the world, which seems odd considering the legal prostitution and profusion of marijuana in the city centre.

amterdam-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

To celebrate two of my housemate’s birthdays, I took three days out from my work schedule and flew into Amsterdam. Barely an hour’s flight from London, we were there before we knew it. I knew precious little of the city before I arrived, hoping to learn as I went and to follow the desires of my housemates.

img_5333-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

The city itself is clean, and some of the architecture is amazing, as you expect from a European city, although once you leave Old Town, many of the buildings become rather plain and boxlike. The streets themselves are fairly wide, and there are many canals throughout with regular boat tours.

img_5295-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

Bicycles
Amsterdam is a flat city, and while there are plenty of vehicles on the road, the culture has grown around cycling everywhere. Indeed, the most common sight in the city is the old ‘grand-dad’ style bicycles. Most roads have very defined cycleways, either marked or built in. This can make it a little confusing as to where walkers are supposed to walk. There are also many lockup locations for these bikes.

img_5281-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

Bicycles almost half the fun on Amsterdam, and it can be fun trying not to get hit by one of the city’s nearly eight hundred thousand bicycles, which are everywhere in every form. If you hear a bike bell ringing ahead, it is best to step aside of wherever you are walking, because the cyclists generally won’t stop for you. There are also plenty of scooters, as seems to be appearing in most European cities. These follow the same rules as the bicycles, so best to just get out of the way.

Coffee Shops
While marijuana is illegal in the Netherlands, in the Old Town at the centre of Amsterdam, the law tends to ignore it due to it being a major draw for tourism. It is one of the more renown things in the city, and the general expectation of people is that by going to the city much smoking will be done. As such, it is easy to get, and there is paraphernalia in many shop windows.

img_5272-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

This is also where the popularity of ’coffee shops’ grew from. Not to be confused with normal cafes, these ‘coffee shops’ are places where marijuana can be purchased and consumed. Out of curiosity, I visited one of these shops to determine how it worked. At the counter, there was a price list for everything sold including variety, pre-rolled or bagged, mixed with tobacco or straight, and a variety of other options. It is almost too easy to get. They also sell ‘Space Cookies’, as do many other places around the city. But, smoking is not only confined to these locations, but it can also be found everywhere.

Red Light District
As prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, an entire section of Old Town has been set aside for it. Through the back alleys, there are tiny booths lit by red lights, where women wait wearing all manner of next to nothing, offering the goods, so to speak. While it is not my thing, from my understanding, if a guy is willing, he goes into the small room with her, the curtains are closed, and the business is done. There are so many girls in the windows that many are bored and seem more interested in their phones than anything else, letting the ‘goods’ sell themselves. There is a no photos policy around this district, so none were taken.

Cheese Glorious Cheese
The Dutch have a distinct love of cheese, but unlike the French with their soft cheeses, and the British with their hard cheeses, Dutch cheese is semi-soft, with varieties such as Gouda and Edam. In the centre of Amsterdam, there are so many Cheese shops it is almost obscene. And each of the stores has a sample plate for each of the varieties, refilled regularly. On our first day in the city, we must have passed 15 such cheese stores and ate samples from all of them. Most of the stores are from one manufacturer, Henry Wiig, but there were a couple of others too.

img_5326-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

Edam and Volendam
As a side tour one day, the three of us caught a bus north to the small townships of Edam and Volendam, where we hired bikes. We rode around the streets, and near the dykes while looking out to the sea and along the way we found the occasional windmill. It was nice to get away from the bustle of the larger city, but it was still filled with tourists.

img_5308-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

Duck Shops
Both Amsterdam and one of my housemates are Rubber Duck mad. Everywhere we went there were rubber ducks of different varieties, and we even discovered two entire stores dedicated entirely to them, much to the enjoyment of said housemate. There are so many different kinds of duck, from Trump ducks to cat ducks, from horror ducks to birthday ducks, ducks based around most celebrities and of course just plain rubber ducks. These ducks can come in all manner of sizes, from the size of your thumbnail to twice the size of your head.

44933490_1800160720081496_7713554744408539136_n-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

Anne Frank House
There are many famous museums in Amsterdam, including the Van Gogh and the Rembrandt House, but the one we decided to invest some time into was Anne Frank House. Anne Frank’s Diary is an account of two years of Anne’s life as a Jew in hiding during WW2. The museum is the actual workplace of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, and the location where three families hid from the Nazi’s before finally being captured near the end of the war.

anne-frank-house-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

The museum is an audio tour through the house, explain different parts of their time in hiding, and an in-depth account into the writing of the diary, along with the thoughts and feelings of those in the house. It is interesting to walk around in the actual location of the hideout, listening to the biographical audio. While it was not an overly sad experience, it was educational, and we all enjoyed our visit.

img_5280-2018-10-25-14-17.jpg

Overall,
Amsterdam is a fun place to visit for a few days. While it has its share of quirks, like most cities, the three of us enjoyed our visit, and I would recommend going.

The World Wanderer.

Advertisements

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Impressions

Once known as the Pearl of Asia, Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s largest city and capital. While it may once have been the loveliest French built city in Indochina, it’s now one of the dirtiest cities I’ve been to in South East Asia.

wpid-camdobia-phnompenh-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

By 1975 the city had a population of between 2 and 3 million, including many refugees from Vietnam. A year later, the city was shelled relentlessly by the Khmer Rouge, killing and mutilating millions. The extremist communist regime then evacuated the city leaving it a virtual ghost town, claiming cities were havens of evil.

wpid-dscf7355-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

Choeung Ek – The Killing Fields
The Khmer Rouge, led by paranoid leader Pol Pot, accused Cambodians of petty crimes, tortured them until they admitted to spying then shipping them to one of 320 execution camps.

wpid-dscf7304-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

Over the course of 4 years the regime murdered nearly 3 million people in this manner before being run out by the Vietnamese army. Fifteen kilometres from Phnom Penh is the township of Choeung Ek. It is the location of the most famous of the murder camps, now simply called the Killing Fields. The site has 129 mass graves where over 20,000 people were executed.

wpid-dscf7291-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

A buddhist memorial has now been built as a way to show respect to the victims. There is also an audio tour which takes about 2 hours. I’ve never seem such sad faces as I moved around the site.

wpid-dscf7283-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

Because ammunition was expensive, executions were committed with hand weapons while music was played to mask the deaths. There’s even a tree against which children were smashed before being thrown into a pit. This was to stop them growing up and taking revenge on the Khmer Rouge.

wpid-dscf7299-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

Overall, the experience was very sobering.

Tuoi Slang Genocide Museum
During the 4 year Khmer Rouge regime, schools, temples and other institutions were considered evil and abandoned. One abandoned school in Phnom Penh was converted to a prison and torture facility.

wpid-dscf7314-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

It’s now a museum and many of the rooms have their original metal beds and photos depicting prisoners in various states of torture.

wpid-dscf7308-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

Wat Phnom
The highest religious structure in the city. Legend tells of a woman named Penh who found four buddha statues in a tree and built a shrine on this hill to protect them, thus founding the city. Phnom mean Hill and Phnom Penh literally means Penh’s Hill.

wpid-dscf7358-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

The Royal Palace
A popular tourist site, the palace has a view out across the river. The sections where the King lives is closed to the public.

wpid-dscf7339-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

Wat Preah Keo
Also known as the Silver Pagoda, it is located on the grounds of the Royal Palace. Its formal name, Preach Vihear Keo Morakot, means Temple of the Emerald-Crystal Buddha. It houses the Cambodian Emerald Buddha statue as well as a life-sized gold statue decorated with 9584 diamonds.

wpid-dscf7341-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

Independence Monument
The monument is a stupa dedicated to Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. It’s also printed on the 100 Riel bill, a note worth about 2.5 US cents.

wpid-dscf7316-2015-02-26-19-28.jpg

Next, I head to the beach for a few days of sun and sand.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Impressions

In 1976, to mark the reunification of North and South following the American War, the city known as Saigon officially became Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon is still used in the south although if used by locals it can suggest their political leanings.

wpid-vietnam-hochiminhcity-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

With 9 million people Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. While it’s half again as large as Hanoi, the roads system in Ho Chi Minh City is far superior.

wpid-dscf7265-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

At the end of my 23 day scooter trip from the capital, I chose to stay 4 nights in Ho Chi Minh City in hope of selling my scooter, exploring the city and to take a rest.

Pagodas

Compared to many places in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is packed with pagodas in its central city.

Giam Lam Pagoda
One of the oldest pagodas in the city.

wpid-dscf7248-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

Giac Pagoda
Simply called the Great Ancient Large Buddhist Temple, although it’s dwarfed by the skyscrapers on all sides.

wpid-dscf7249-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

Minh Dang Quang Pagoda
A cluster of pagodas with more under construction just outside of the central city.

wpid-dscf7250-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

Notre-Dame Cathedral
In turn, unlike many places in Vietnam, the city has few churches. This one was built in 1863 in the french style similar to the Basilica of Notre-Dame. The statue of the Virgin Mary in front of the cathedral was said to have shed a tear in 2005 attracting crowds of thousands. Whether it actually did is yet to be proven.

wpid-dscf7261-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

City Hall
Built in 1902 the city hall began as a hotel, but in 1976 it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee head office.

wpid-dscf7260-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

Suoi Tien Amusement Park

On the north side of the city is a large amusement park designed to illustrate Vietnam’s past. The park includes a large manmade beach and a massive waterfall sculpted in the likeness of one of the former emperors. The face is large enough that it can be seen from the highway going past.

wpid-dscf7252-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

War Remnants Museum

Unlike the war museum in Hanoi, the War Remnants Museum showcases some of the atrocities inflicted upon the Vietnamese people during the American War. While the museum is illuminating and a tad macabre, it comes across as anti-American and full of communist propaganda.

wpid-dscf7267-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

Vietnamese New Years

The roads of District 1 in the central city get quite busy as darkness descends. Nighttime denotes dinnertime and people emerged to bustle around the bars and restaurants. On Vietnamese New Years Eve, also known as Chinese New Years and Luna New Years, the street is much the same except for an added expectation for midnight. There are fireworks at the witching hour but nothing spectacular and before long it’s over. It certainly nothing like traditional Western New Year’s Eve celebrations.

wpid-dscf7272-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

Cu Chi Tunnels
There’s an extensive tunnel system running under much of Vietnam. The Cu Chi section is famous for being the site of several offensives. When I visited site, I joined a group and we were led through some of the tunnels. Our first stop was to a gun bunker where some of the entrance holes were too small for many of us.

wpid-dscf7279-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

The tunnels themselves are short and thin, with many at Cu Chi having been enlarged for tourism. Even so, I still had to crawl through most of them. Being tall in Asia is not always fun.

wpid-img_2395-2015-02-25-17-44.jpg

After a month in Vietnam, it’s time to move on. Next stop, Cambodia.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Hanoi, Vietnam – Impressions

First established as a city in 1010, only half a century after Vietnam’s independence from a millennium of Imperial Chinese rule.

wpid-dscf6703-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Sleeper Bus
There are two ways to get from Luang Prabang, Laos, to Hanoi. I chose to take a sleeper bus instead of flying, as it was far cheaper in comparison, although the bus takes just over 24 hours. I’ve been on overnight buses before, although they’re more comfortable in South America.

wpid-img_2358-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

The seats of our bus are set in a ‘sleeper’ position and that’s how the stay, the roof isn’t high enough for them to sit up straight. With the seats only providing a total of 1.5 metres of room my legs had to be extended into the padded aisle. I was luckier than those on the upper level.

wpid-img_2360-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

About eight hours into the journey the tooting began. The chain-smoking drivers used the horn perhaps 30 times a minute for the entire rest of the journey. This meant the young children onboard could not sleep, and tired young children tend to cry. A lot. In the end it was a rather noisy ride, but they do call this the ‘bus from hell’, so I wasn’t expecting anything less. Even so, when we arrived in Hanoi after 26 hours I had a cracking headache.

Old Quarter
Arriving late in the evening my initial impressions of Hanoi were not pleasant. The thin dirty streets clogged with motorbikes going every which way, seemingly without order, and all tooting their horns with obscene regularity. The headache didn’t help either.

wpid-dscf6708-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Initial daylight impressions weren’t much better, the thin dirty streets were still crazy with tooting motorcycles, but markets had been erected and people were crowded everywhere. To add to that, the city was draped in a heavy layer of smog. But first impressions are just that, first impressions, and they often change if you get to know a place.

Buying a Bike
Instead of catching tourist buses/trains through Vietnam, I decided to buy a motorbike and ride the 1,750km south to Ho Chi Minh City. This is becoming a more popular way of seeing the country. With the help of my hostel manager, I was picked up and taken across the city to a 2nd hand motorcycle sales yard with many dozens of used bikes available.

wpid-img_2370-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

An hour later, I’d tried 5 different bikes and had selected a favourite. I tossed down 6 million Dong (US$280) and rode away.

For the next couple of days, I put the scooter to good use as I toured the city.

Hanoi Opera House
Modelled after Palais Garnier, the older of Paris’s two opera houses, the building was built in the early 1900s.

wpid-dscf6712-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Trán Quóc Pagoda
The oldest pagoda in Hanoi at approximately 1,400 years old. It sits on a small islet on West Lake and is connected to the mainland by a causeway.

wpid-dscf6725-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Cua Bac Catholic Church
Built in the 1930s in Art Deco style, Cua Bac is one of three major churches in the city and is famous for having been attended by President George W. Bush during an official visit.

wpid-dscf6726-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

St. Joseph’s Cathedral
The oldest church in Hanoi, it was one of the first buildings built by the french colonial government.

wpid-dscf6792-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Presidential Palace
Built to house the French Governor-General, it was built in a french design with Italian Renaissance elements. The palace is guarded outside the gates and I was lucky to get a distant photo as attempts to get closer caused the guards to angrily blow whistles at me.

wpid-dscf6737-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow, the Mausoleum is the home of the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Communist Party between 1951 and 1969. Armed guards protect the site and public viewings occur most mornings, although very strict rules must be abided by during the visit.

wpid-dscf6741-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Ho Chi Minh Museum
Near the Mausoleum, the museum steps visitors thoroughly through Ho Chi Minh’s life and Vietnam’s revolutionary struggles. Unfortunately, most of the exhibits are in Vietnamese and French.

wpid-dscf6750-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

One Pillar Pagoda
Standing between Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Ho Chi Minh Museum, the pagoda is one of the most iconic temples in Vietnam. It was ordered to be built nearly 1,000 years ago after a childless emperor had dreamed of the buddha sitting on a lotus leaf and handing him a son. Unfortunately the area around the pagoda is being redone, so closer viewing was not possible.

wpid-dscf6749-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Historical Military Museum
No visit to Hanoi would be complete without a visit to the war museum. The exhibits step through the conflicts during the past century, including the Indochina war, with France, and then on into the American War (the war we know as the Vietnam War). Many old relics are staged around the museum, from tanks to bombers.

wpid-dscf6769-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

Hanoi Citadel and Flag Tower
The Imperial Citadel was the former home of Vietnamese royalty between the years 1010AD and 1810AD. Most of the buildings were destroyed during the French colonisation. Some of the buildings that remained intact were the Flag Tower…

wpid-dscf6760-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

…and the citadel’s Ladies Quarters.

wpid-dscf6789-2015-01-24-18-27.jpg

The hustle and bustle of Hanoi did grow on me over 4 days, although the constant beeping is enough to drive anyone insane in a week.

Next I begin a three-week quest to ride the length of Vietnam, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City on a scooter.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Bandung, West Java, Indonesia – Impressions

Our trip to Java’s third largest city by train provided us amazing views over vast valleys of volcanoes and rice patties. The beauty of inland Java is unbelievable and the locals on the train seemed to agree.

wpid-indonesia-bandung-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

Bandung, however, didn’t live up to this beauty. Like the other cities of Java, we knew little of the area before we arrived and were determined to see what it had to offer.

A City of Two Halves.
Bandung is loosely split in half by the railway lines.

The area south of the train lines is a mass of street vendors and crowded dirty streets. We were warned about pickpockets and narrowly avoided a group of smug youths and their attempt on the busy street. There was a sense of being crowded with a little bit of danger. There are large areas of construction and so many cars and motorbikes it was difficult to simply cross the road.

wpid-bandung-indonesia-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

But crossing to the north side it’s like you’ve just stepped out of the 3rd world into the West. On the north side there are malls, higher class shops and restaurants, prominent architecture and more importantly, a relative sense of safety. This is where the few tourist spots are and many of the city’s prominent buildings.

wpid-dscf5406-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

Finding an Information Centre in the city is next to impossible. With the vague tourist map we had and absolutely no help from online maps, we walked around dirty, hot streets trying to find a hidden shop that turned out to be inside a mosque. When we found it, we were given little information beyond another copy of the map. We headed off determined to find something about the city that we liked.

Jalan Braga
Near the Information Centre we went to check out the south side’s only tourist spot, Braga Street. Called the Paris of Java, the street was made famous in the 1920s as a promenade street, lined with cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Now, apparently, it’s the top place locals come to party. When we arrived on Jalan Braga we discovered that it had largely been dug up with dirt and the stink of sewage in many places. And adding to it was the stream of vehicles along what was left of the road.

Frustrated at our day’s efforts, we spied a bar and settled in for a beer before heading back to the hostel.

The next day, determined to find something to like about the Bandung, we set out across the north side with more of a plan.

Angkots
As you travel further west across Indonesia, the Bemos we’d first encountered in Surabaya are called Angkutan Kota meaning ‘city transport’ or Angkot for short. Similar to those in Surabaya the Angkots travel predetermined routes across the city for between Rp2,000 to Rp5,000 depending on how far you’re going. The problems are still the same… if you don’t know the routes, you could end up anywhere. Best to ask the driver just to be sure.

Jalan Cihampelas
Cihampelas Street is a famous shopping area in Bandung which also called ‘Jeans Street’ because of the number of denim clothing stores that opened in the 1990s. The street has many malls and shops for bargain hunters. The area is very popular with Singaporean and Malaysian tourists, who flock here for the good prices. While in the street we stopped by Cihampelas Walk for lunch, a Western mall containing many Western-style stores and every American fast food chain possible.

wpid-dscf5408-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

Museum Geologi
While generally not a great fan of museums, we stopped off at the Geology Museum for an hour as it began to rain. The first signs of the approaching rainy season. While most of the displays were in Indonesian, some were in English discussing the volcanos of Indonesia and the different time periods of the early earth.

wpid-dscf5410-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

The museum is popular with local school trips and during our visit the museum was under sustained attack by three separate hordes of school children. Even so, it was still an informative stop off during a brief rain storm.

Saung Angklung Udjo
30 minutes by Angkot from the Museum Geologi is a school dedicated to the Angklung. The Angklung is an instrument made from bamboo tubes strung together that makes a dull chiming noise when rattled. On most days the school hosts tourists for an ‘Afternoon Show’. Listed as the most popular attraction in Bandung, we attended the show, which was made up of small acts and tunes played on the Angklung.

wpid-dscf5427-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

The show had some dancing and towards the end the children handed out Angklungs to everyone in the audience and we were taught to play as an orchestra through many songs. The show lasted two hours and was perhaps the best part of our visit to Bandung.

Tangkuban Prahu Crater and Kiawah Putih Lake
Bandung is in a valley between volcanoes and as in many volcano towns, tours up the slopes are common. But after climbing Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta only days before, we felt that paying twice as much to be driven up a volcano wasn’t worth it this time.

Next we continue our travels to the west to the nation’s capital, Jakarta.

The Trail Wanderers

Manchester, England – Impressions

Manchester is an industrial city in northern England. The Greater Manchester region boasts the second largest population for an urban area in the United Kingdom.

wpid-england2-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

With the city’s recorded history beginning in 79AD by the Roman Empire, the city is famous for being the first industrialised city in the world. The term Manchester is used by many countries in the southern hemisphere to refer to the textiles manufactures in the city during the industrial revolution. Manchester is also famous for having the world’s first railway station and the oldest public library. It is also the location where the atom was first split and where the concepts of both communism and capitalism were created.

During the two months I spent in Manchester waiting for a work permit, I made the most of my time getting to know the city without spending too much money. Over the course of several days, I explored the central city and enjoyed some of the architecture I found there.

wpid-dscf4679-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

During my wanderings I located one of the city’s original roman sites, a the roman granary near the site of the roman fort Castlefield, which is now little more than a plot of land.

wpid-dscf4703-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

Like London, Manchester has embraced a more modern style of building, including the One Angel Square building completed this year.

wpid-dscf4673-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

Culturally, Manchester has plenty to offer such as the National Football Museum…

wpid-dscf4671-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

…or Manchester United Stadium, if soccer is your thing…

wpid-dscf4802-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

There this is the Museum of Science and Industry, which is spread over several huge warehouses.

wpid-dscf4707-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

Then there is the neo-Gothic Central Library.

wpid-dscf4748-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

One cannot come to Manchester without at least acknowledging it as the home of Coronation Street. The street itself is fictitious and is housed inside ITV studios.

wpid-dscf4662-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

Going a little further afield I found a local collector showing off his cars. With vehicles from the past fifty years on show…

wpid-dscf4716-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

Air shows are plentiful around the United Kingdom and I had the pleasure to see one of them at a local air field, featuring displays from many different aircraft including many ageing airplanes and helicopters.

wpid-dscf4755-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

Lastly, I took in a canal cruise for a day, travelling along the extensive canals of northwest England out to the sea.

wpid-dscf4801-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

The canal system was very important to the shipping of goods in the industrial era and is still put to good use. There are many bridges over the river canal, most swinging to the side to let the ship through, while others lift high into the air. The cruise finished in Liverpool, 53 kilometres away.

wpid-dscf4887-2014-07-27-14-03.jpg

Overall, Manchester was a relaxed place to spend time a couple of months and far cheaper than the more multi-cultural London. Although with the vast numbers of pregnant women and newborn children, I began to wonder if there was something in the water. Because of that I’ve labeled Manchester the breeding capital of England.

The World Wanderer