Observing Europe – Part III (Amsterdam)

March 11, 2012 § 5 Comments

Going to Amsterdam was a spontaneous decision. The Netherlands wasn’t part of my (poorly planned) Europe itinerary and now that I think back on it, I’m not sure why.

It was a freezing cold Saturday and my dad was  already in hibernation mode and firmly entrenched on the sofa. I could barely see his face as he was submerged under a rather impressive  mound of blankets.  Trying to coax him to get out of his nest and to drive us 2+ hours to Amsterdam was like trying to separate a fat kid from his half-eaten chocolate cake. Fortunately for me, I mastered the puppy eyes as a young child and my mom perfected the “she’s-only-here-for-two-weeks” speech. Between the two of us, we managed to guilt trip my dad to abandon his blanket cocoon and into the driver’s seat.

the beautiful canals

During the drive up, my eyes eagerly embraced the lush green pastures, a variety of farm animals, and quaint countryside. Once we left the border of Belgium, windmills began to slowly emerge into the view. The numerous pictures and travel shows I’ve seen all my life slowly developed into something real and tangible, as those same images began to unfold in front of my eyes. It was exhilarating.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Amsterdam. Friends who have visited before, bring back stories of getting high, tripping out on shrooms and watching tons of (unforgettable) sex shows. I have a great relationship with my parents, but I have no desire to watch any sex shows or do any form of drugs with my parents. It’s bad enough when nudity comes up when you watch a movie with your parents, I can’t imagine how awkward it would be to watch a sex show in Amsterdam. No doubt it was going to be a rated PG trip.

One of my marketing projects during college was to write a marketing business plan. My group somehow decided that we wanted to sell bicycles in the Netherlands since apparently everyone owned a bike. Turns out we picked a severely competitive and mature market to try and enter (hence the low marks) but I was attracted by the idea of a bike-friendly environment. I never lived in a city where bikes were the primary form of transportation, so I was pretty intrigued to see how the city would look.

i have never seen so many people on bicycles in my life

Tempted to buy a bike myself!

i love how bike-friendly this city is!

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Observing Europe – Part II (Luxembourg)

February 28, 2012 § 102 Comments

Luxembourg is often considered the stuff from fairy tales, with the abundant castles, the picturesque valleys and the romantic atmosphere infecting everyone that steps foot into the tiny country. I almost cried when my dad causally brought up that we should just skip Luxembourg and head straight to Germany.

it was love at the first sight

Sunday is probably the worst days to travel in Europe since everything is closed. I was disappointed that nothing in Luxembourg city was open that day. Not only was nothing opened, it was freezing and no one was in sight – a hint of resemblance to a ghost town. The only perk was not having to deal with hoards of tourists squawking about. After a while I became used to the stillness and I refocused my attention to the elegant architecture and stunning scenery. Luxembourg sits on precipitous cliffs, which suddenly drops into deep valleys and circled by two rivers. It was clear that the city was built at a place of strategic military significance. The old walls and towers still surround the city, making it almost too easy to imagine the bustling city life during the middle ages. It’s so different from Asia where everything was built in the last century or so.

I would love to live in one of these houses 🙂

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Observing Europe – Part I (Belgium)

February 12, 2012 § 7 Comments

 

I forgot what it’s like being in a place where I have difficulty reading the menus
Giving long blank stares to anyone that attempts to speak to me
And that feeling of hearing something but not being able to process it at all

That almost sums up my whole trip to Europe.

Confused, lost, bewildered but also unbelievably giddy, happy and being in constant awe.

Taking advantage of the 9-day Chinese New Year break, I took this rare opportunity to finally pay a visit to my parents. My parents moved to Brussels about half a year ago and I’ve been dying to go explore and frolick around the old world. The fast-paced and stressful lifestyle of Asia made me crave for the laid-back European lifestyle. It sounded like heaven; a place where people take the time to taste their food and enjoy the company of others. When getting off at five and having dinner with family is the norm and not a rare occasion. Well dressed and groomed gentlemen.

And don’t even get me started on the food.

I fell in love with macarons (Pierre Marcolini macarons!)

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