Amsterdam – Food & Stops – Love This City

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For the 2nd time visitng Amsterdam I wanted to make sure I get to expolore it as much as possible, and every time I like it even more and after this trip I do love this city. It has the unique capability to combine classic with modern design in their structures which I love.

These are the list of places that we enjoyed on this trip and every time we are surprised, some places stuffed in these smalls streets, and those places turn out to be huge, there is no way to tell.

Restaurants:

  • Momo
  • IZAKAYA – Sir Albert Hotel
  • Brasserie Harkema
  • The Butcher’s Den – Burger Bar
  • Burgermeester
  • Starbucks The Bank – A very unique Starbucks location

The Red Light District is a must visit, it is just such a unique piece of the history and just something different to see. People walk around there like it is a zoo, well it is sort of like a zoo. Watching the women behind the glass with lots of other people looking to as we all walk by. It is a unique piece of Amsterdam’s night life that isn’t in any other city, not in this way at least. It is really worth a visit because you see some bizarre things and so many people just walking about there and the women in their underwear behind the glass even when it’s near freezing outside. There are different zones which designate where women from different regions are in, and there are areas for transvestites which is very freaky. You have to see it at least once, and you will laugh, there are some hilarious sights.

This is city is full of charm and I love to walk around the city, we ended up walking at least 8 miles a day because of the conference then we keep walking around after that. It is a city built for walking. But when you walk around you have to watch for a lot of things to make sure you stay alive, the streets are a sort of organized chaos. There are car lanes and bike lanes, but scooters can use the bike lanes but not motorcycles, then there are the trams. You have to keep your eyes open for the Cars, Trams, Bicycles, Scooters, & Motorcycles. And there were some close calls because sometimes the sidewalk and bicycle lane sometimes looks similar and these guys fly.

The city has a certain charm with a lot of character and the people are genuinely nice, and it is one of those places that you have to explore in Europe.

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Frankfurt Airport – The German Experience

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It seems the most difficult Schengen Visa to get is from the German one, all the others were more routine and less difficult with the paper work. I can understand if they wanted to clarify paperwork, but they out right refuse any bookings from a local travel agency, the whole process was annoying and if you just want to make a one or two week stop they just give you a one month or two month visa. Previously they used to give 3 to 5 year visas without an issue. If you get it from Italy or Spain they still do that and 3 years from the French Embassy and the French used to take the longest. At least the British have a normal two week process or a 45 KD VIP process which takes 3 to 5 days.

I have my Visa and took off with a one day trip to Frankfurt and the rest of the week in Amsterdam. Unluckily for us there were probably two planes that landed from China because the lines were insanely long and these people do not know how to que. A new line opened up which one lady went to who wasn’t European and so I tried my luck and so did a friend. The lady immigrations officer was thinking of letting us pass on the European line since there were no Europeans but the guy next to her told her to send him back and he sent me back to the insanely long line. We understand rules but there was no one there and the lines for Europe remained empty.

We got back in line and waited, the Chinese were getting stamped without any questions and I would say at least 80% of them didn’t speak a word of English. They didn’t even bother looking at their paper work. We thought at least the line will move quickly.

When it came to our turn, instead of taking 2 mins it took 20 mins. The guy wanted my confirmation booking in Frankfurt and in Amsterdam, and he wanted to see my ticket back to Kuwait. I told him I have the printed booking from Lufthansa that I already gave to him and my confirmations are on my phone. He looked at my phone and then shrugged, he asked me why I didn’t have a ticket with me, I told him no airline issues a ticket one week before the flight. He went through my passport twice and kept typing on the computer, I was done to his annoyance and my friend was still going through questioning. The Chinese guy behind me walked out 30 seconds after me.

That was a very strange experience, and I’m surprised that Germany is turning into this, since when I spoke to people about it they told me it isn’t an isolated incident.

Now as for when we were leaving my cousin wanted to do the tax refund as he had one item from Frankfurt and one item from Amsterdam. In Amsterdam the Customs people told us he would have to exit the European Union to get the customs stamp so in his case he would get it done in Germany. When we went to Germany they stamped all the things of the Chinese guy in line in front of us without asking a question or asking to see the items.

When my cousin step up he just had to invoices with the details filled out but he refuse to stamp the one from Amsterdam and we explained to him what we were told and he simply said it wasn’t his problem. Then he refused to stamp the other invoice and said he would get it done after immigrations, but then when we went inside they told us it was only Jewelery at the inside customs not a Tumi bag.

This was the strangest experience I have had at Frankfurt Airport, it seems they are getting a bit aggressive with arabs from what I can tell. In Frankfurt itself it was easy and an enjoyable trip for me even though I was just there for 24 hrs but this treatment at the airport was not expected.

I AMSTERDAM

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Went to Amsterdam for about 5 days and 1 day in Frankfurt, had to go for a big technology conference called the IBC and its huge. We went from meeting to meeting over the five day period but still we made sure to enjoy the city when we can. We stayed at the Conservatorium Hotel and it was a beautiful hotel, a modern European hotel with a historic twist, and staff that were just amazing.

This is the second time I visit the city and I honestly fell in love with it. When crossing the road you have to watch out for people, bicycles, cars, scooters, motorcycles, and Trams. This city has an organized level of chaos going on but you can feel that there is a level of mutual respect that is why it works. I loved walking around the city, we would walk at least 10 to 15 km a day, and there are so many amazing restaurants to eat in. We had a lot of work to do so we didn’t have enough time to enjoy ourselves, so on my next European vacation this will be a spot I want to visit.

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Amsterdam – A Short Visit

Just before GulfRun I had a quick business trip that came up and had to take off to Amsterdam for 42 hours, two longs meetings and heading back to Kuwait. Luckily we had some time to spend sight seeing and walking around, and the first thing you notice is that everyone is on scooters and bicycles in Amsterdam, they even have their own roads.

I was surprised how much they speed but being neighbors with Germany I should have kept it in mind, they were flying down the highways and our taxi was flying which I honestly enjoyed, they knew how to drive. One thing to keep in mind, always use official taxis and not the mini-cabs which are random cars just to be safe. We checked into our hotel which was very nice and luxurious, the rooms were a bit small but the atmosphere was amazing. We went walking right away since our meeting was the next morning in The Hague which is about 25 to 45 minutes away depending on traffic.

We started walking from 3 pm until 12 am, you literally can’t help but enjoy walking in such a cozy city. We kept walking from alley to alley and walking around these canals. To my surprise a lot of shops close early in Amsterdam, most of them close by 7 pm which is rather early so after that we would go somewhere to eat and there were a lot of very nice places to check out.

The flower section was amazing, it was honestly beautiful seeing so many kinds of flowers and I know that a lot of flower shops in Kuwait import their flowers from Holland which have huge flower farms and it is a beautiful view. Then there is the cheese and they do love their cheese, lots of cheese shops all around. The one thing that surprised me is all these french fries shops and mayo, thats all they sell and their are people waiting in long lines for them.

What I found surprising are the Dutch themselves, I just had a mental image that they would be the same as the Germans, but I was very wrong. The first time me and my colleague held out a map someone came over and ask if we were lost or looking for something. They really wanted to help us when we were just looking at the map to get our bearing and to figure out where we are going next. The whole city is beautiful and I honestly really liked it and thought about coming back again to really check it out. There were so many bicycles and scoots around it was ridiculous, they rang their bicycles bells and honk their scooters, and they expect you to jump out of the way, it was hilarious.

I knew that illegal substances were legal in Amsterdam but it was very different knowing it and seeing it, specifically smelling it. You can smell the Marijuana a mile away, you get a whiff of it every once in a while and sometimes in front of cages that you don’t expect, you would think they would be dingy places but they turned out to be very nice cafes with people smiling and blood shot eyes which looked hilarious. Then there were the stores they were right on the main street, I thought it was a jewelry shop only into turned out to be designer store which sold drugs, it was hilarious they had so many different names and presented in nice lighting.

It reached a point where I had to double check if I was buying a normal muffin or if it was laced with something, maybe just a little bit too paranoid but I didn’t want to eat something I shouldn’t. Then of course there is the red light district that you could see a mile away. They are open about their rules and regulations about where these places are, and you can see people walking around. As expected the Dutch don’t care too much for these entertainment drugs as much as people would think, its mostly tourists who are smoked up and chilling in the cafes.

It is a very interesting city and there is a lot to it that I didn’t have a chance to see, and I really loved their highways, people were speeding normally and the police weren’t harrassing them. Turns out in Holland the policy is very anti police, so they aren’t as abusive as police officers in the US who have a lot of power so people seem to be more relaxed around them and speed a little. And I want to rent a scooter next time around and zip around town.

(Check Out The Pictures Below! There are ALOT)
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56 Hours Of Traveling

This has been one very hectic week with a lot going on with work, family, and other activities. Recently I had to take a quick trip to Amsterdam which is the first time for me. There was an urgent meeting that I had to attend and so we took off a few days later after confirming our meeting. I didn’t know what to expect from Holland but I was looking forward to it.

Traveling for work doesn’t always gives you the chance to look around much. But for a frist time visit I am sure I am going to repeat it as I have found the Dutch to be very nice and always helpful when I open a map and have no clue where I am. I haven’t seen so many scooters and bicycles in my life, it was -1 outside and everyone was on a bicycle or scooter, and I was wrapped up in as much clothing as I had but I loved walking outside in the cold. This city just felt so cozy walking around, we literally walked around for over 5 hours in every direction getting lost and find our way, I have a lot of posts coming up but when I sort out the pictures since I took a lot of pictures.

Production I.G. Studio – Anime Office

I always wonder what an Anime production company’s office looks like and this time there is a look into Production I.G. Thankfully Danny Choo has gone into this Anime Company and taken a look at their offices and how they work. Production I.G. have made some well known anime and one of my favorite being Sengoku Basra, and they are currently making Sengoku Basra 2 which I am very much looking forward to watching as soon as its out. I always thought that it would be very cool to work in an Anime Studio

They are also responsible for one of the greatest anime movies of all time, Ghost In the Shell! I even remember watching it on a Manga Video when I bought it from Tower Records in Whiteleyes in Bays Water, London. That used to be my main source for videos back in the early 90s, I would walk to the basement and pile up some videos from the anime section. They even have their own cafeteria so I’m assuming the company is doing pretty well. I wish they would sell some of those art cels, I would buy them in a heartbeat, they would be very cool on a wall, I have seen one restaurant with anime cels and I wish I could take them off the wall.

Link: Culture Japan


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Bouncing Around

The last few weeks have been insane! I just can’t believe how meetings I have been to and how long some of them take, and I had to fly to Dubai out of the blue for an urgent meeting, I took the night flight instead of the 7 am flight, it would cut too close to my meeting and any delays would have been a huge problem. I really didn’t feel like taking off since I had too much on my plate already, I wished I could have cloned myself to manage everything that I had to do. Sleeping isn’t an option these days and writing reports, visiting family and getting some personal work done, all before a Eid trip. I honestly felt like I have been running for the past few weeks with very little breathing room but I love when I get work done, and I know I keep saying this but there isn’t enough time in the day. And this weather is just amazing, I hope it continues to be this good until at least April but thats probably hoping for too much.

At one point in Dubai Airport I fell asleep at the Gate and the Wataniya Airways staff woke me up to board the plane back to Kuwait. I was one of the first people there but the last to board. I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I passed out. It was a choice between being hungry and being sleepy, I couldn’t even wait for food, I passed out before take off and I leaned my chair back not caring that we haven’t even moved from the gate yet. I’m hoping to catch up with some rest in the next few days!

One recommendation, if you have lots of work in Dubai and want to check out late I recommend that you stay at The Address Club Rooms or Suites. They have an excellent policy of your check out time being the same as your check in time. So I came in at night around 11 pm then my check out is 11 pm the next day. So I had meetings from 9 am until about 3:30 pm, I went back to my room and napped for about 30 minutes before taking my time to check out which is fantastic. The normal room is 114 KD but the Club Room was 154 KD, but I would have paid for half a day which would cost an extra 70 KD because they charge half the normal rack rate, so overall its much better to get the Club Room if you need to check out late. I for one don’t like packing up and leaving early from the hotel and going to meetings and dragging my carry on with me, even if I’m going to walk around the mall.

Dubai 48 Hours

Meetings nonstop for all these days, but luckily they were all bunched up in the morning. Surprisingly Dubai was pretty packed for Gitex, and I’m assuming that its going to be even more insanely packed during Eid holiday. The weather has been amazing while we are here, somewhat cool and warm at the same time. I tried watching a few movies in my free time but there wasn’t too much of that either, but we did walk a lot while we were here. The first day we got here we passed by Dubai Autodrome and saw a few entertaining things, I’m not a big fan of the Autodrome since the track is a bit on the small side with not enough straight aways to push the car into high speed corners.


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Amman Trip

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A quick trip came up for Amman, we had to go for a meeting out of the blue. I was trying to fly in the same day and leave at night but no flight times worked out and on that day only Jazeera and Royal Jordanian, but only Jazeera worked out with the timing. We went a day early and finished a lot of work and then went to grab a bite to eat. There is a traditional place called Reem Al Bawady that has food that will knock you out until the next day. The weather was perfect and we walked a hell of a lot while we there, it was nice and cool, loved sitting outside. Landed back in Kuwait at 2:00 am and got in the car and went straight to the shalaih to stay up until the sun came up, then passed out getting ready to jump in the water the next morning.