At the KLIA, before boarding the intercontinental flight, my parents purchased some essential items like the Euros, worldwide travel adaptor, rewriteable Sony DVD and soon-to-be elusive Malaysian food such as coconut juice and curry mee. Regrettably, they discovered much too late that the Euros and Sony DVDRW are much cheaper @ KL Sentral than @ KLIA.
Papa also made a quick call to Opah who just got back from her nightly tarawikh to seek her restu, as always. He got a taste of his own medicine, so to speak, when Opah sounded him “Din jangan tinggal sembahyang tau, dan jangan bawa balik H1N1. Kirim salam Wan kat Zura. Itu saja pesanan. Selamat jalan”. The rest of the I amsterdam story is narrated by Papa, for obvious reasons.
The 12-hour flight was pleasant, with no discernible turbulence. There was a host of in-flight entertainment to while away the time. The movies on offer were diverse, and I opted for never-seen-before romantic comedies; Tim Bevan’s Wimbledon and The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and an unfamiliar lead actor. Wimbledon is a huge disappointment unlike Tim Bevan’s previous work such as Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Atonement. Without exception, it is littered with obscenities fashionably spewed by the Sloane set; wankers, bollocks et al. The Proposal is so-so. For the final movie, I went for the tried and tested formula and clicked Atonement – an Ian McEwan’s adaptation, a movie I enjoyed with relish when viewed for the first time in Hong Kong, nearly two years ago. The central character, a man fitnahed by a fanciful 13 year old budding author on the cusp of the "complications of love", was played so delicately by James McAvoy, in sharp contrast to his peripheral role in Wimbledon.
We landed at Schiphol airport in the wee hour of the morning. After freshening up, surfing the internet and loitering around, we joined the 2 1/2 hours Amsterdam tour organized by Holland Tours Schiphol B.V. to get a glimpse of the Golden Age of Holland. There were six other transfer passengers from Russia, Canada and other countries in our group, plus Paul, the local driver-cum-tour guide. I had difficulty in understanding the baffling English spoken by Paul, as he sounded "knotted and guttural" at times.
Paul reminded us that in the 17th century, Holland was one of the world’s richest countries, and the tour took us to serene suburbs dotted with tantalizing summer houses with roofs made of straw, overlooking a picturesque tree-lined river. These mansions were once occupied by the wealthy merchants during the heyday of the Dutch East India Company. Paul made a few brief stops at the Rotterman wooden shoes and cheese factory which is a perfect one stop place to buy Dutch souvenirs and gifts at attractive prices, a private windmill, the Skinny Bridge and last but not least the Museumplein. Museumplein has a vast square dotted with brightly tattoed miniature elephants in various cheeky acrobatic positions. A clutch of Amsterdam’s grand museums can be found here: Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and of course the Rijksmuseum with its enviable collections including the 17th century paintings by the Dutch Masters such as Vermeer’s The Milkmaid (1658), Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (1642) and Frans Hals’ The Wedding Portrait (1622). Alas, we didn’t have all the time in the world to ogle at these masterpieces.
At one point during the tour, Paul made a terse announcement “no photographs or video recording here please”. Immediately after he finished his sentence, the mini van veered into a magnificent district with attractive step/neck/bell/spout gabled shop houses along the canal displaying shapely ladies in luminous bikinis strutting their considerable stuff behind the large window. So savvy are the marketing gimmicks they unleashed to woo the predominantly non-Dutch customers, at barely 10 in the morning!. This is understandable as they have to cover the steep cost of renting the show rooms. From the window of the mini van, CREA CAFE in the vicinity of Amsterdam University looks inviting too as an extraordinarily perfect place to hang out and unwind.
To sum up, I amsterdam is an eccentrically beautiful city inhabited by generally tolerant and enlightened Amsterdammers with unorthodox mindsets who are always mindful to preserve their glorious past. Respect!
To be continued ...