Amsterdam Walking Tour

Whenever I visit a new city or new place I like to orient myself about the place and what better way than to take a walk around town?  By walking you get to see the city, observe the people, see the life that makes up a city.  It’s really a lovely way to just learn about a new place.  As a tourist without a car, you become free of the burden of having to find parking and driving.  It’s wonderful.

Before you start walking I suggest you ask your hotel for a map. It’s free and the staff are always more than willing to give you directions.   (Elsewhere in Amsterdam they charge you for a map even the tourist office)

I started my walking tour from my hotel on Vondelstraat which I think is a great neighbourhood for anyone visiting Amsterdam.  I haven’t stayed at hotels in other areas but from my experience at Vondelstraat I have fallen in love with it.  It is a safe neighbourhood without any dodgy characters hanging around and it is only a few minutes walk to the Leidseplein which is a lively square that fills up with activity late at night.  It is also near to the Vondel Park (which is like Amsterdam’s Central Park) and most importantly to the museum quarter and posh shopping road called Hoofstraat.(There are several hotels on that street)

I start my walk and head towards Leidseplein.  I cross my first canal and stop to take it all in.  The beautiful canal where several boats are parked and alongside which are trees whose leaves have just emerged from their winter rest.  Light green leaves glow in the canal. Bicycles are also everywhere so becareful when crossing the street as they come from all directions.

At Leidesplein I stop by the tourist office were I ask for information regarding the public transport pass and about Keukenhof (tulip garden)  You can buy tickets and excursions here, but some passes like the 7 day public transport card have to be bought at the office by Central Station.

I continue on my walk on Leidestraat which is a pedestrain street.  Cars are not allowed, but several tram lines run along it.  Along the street you’ll find shops, bakeries and drugstores.  There’s a cute bakery that sells XXL muffins that just look absolutely delicious and Starbucks is also on this street where you can stop, buy a drink and use some free wifi.

I cross several canals walking along the street and find myself at Koningsplein where I turn right and walk along the canal.  This is Amsterdam’s flower market.  There you can find bulbs as well as fresh flowers for sale.  Tulips, Amarylis , Daffodils and many others. Pricewise I thought they were quite reasonable though I am sure you can find them cheaper elsewhere.  There are also a lot of souvenir stores along the flower market which I discovered later to be selling postcards and other knicknacks cheaper than those in other areas.

At the end of the flowermarket is a beautiful tower where Amsterdam Museum is located next to the canal.  It’s beautiful here and a great photo opportunity.

I turn along and walk on Kalverstraat where there are more shops and boutiques taking me straight to Dam Square.  This is the main historical square in Amsterdam which dates back to 1270 when the dam on the Amstel river was first built and around which they city of Amsterdam eventually developed. The palace where the Royal family reside is also located on this square.

It’s a huge square and it is indeed the centre of activity.  Several people are in a corner playing music, in the middle I spot a man giving a speech (in Dutch) and around him is a large crowd. Another crowd surrounds a group of youngsters performing a hip hop dance.

Madame Tussaud’s, Peek and Cloppenburg, a huge souvenir shop and several shops occupy the buildings around the square.  To escape the cold I spot a few people entering what seems to be a mall and enter De Bijenkorf which turns out to be a luxury shopping mall with brands like Louis vuitton and Gucci.  I walk through and exit on the back.

I walk on Warmoestraat which is part of the Red Light district and get a sense of what it is like.  It’s daytime and quiet and it doesn’t look so safe.  I walk over to Nieuwendijk and stop by Beurs van Berlage which is an art nouveau building now a concerthall.   I go inside but can only peak through the doors to see the architecture.

A few minutes later I find myself at Central Station.  It’s a huge building that reminds you of times past.  Amsterdam in its hey day.  People stream in and out of the station and make their way to the tram stops which all see to start or end here.

I go to the pubic transport ticket office across the station, buy my pass and make my way to the trams.  After two hours of walking, I take Tram 2 back to the hotel.

I’ve seen most of Amsterdam. Not all, but I think the major sites that make the city what it is.  It’s beautiful, lively and  a city definitely worth exploring. 🙂  Wear comfortable shoes though! It’s all cobblestone!




iPad 2 vs. iPad 1

I have a love for gadgets.  It’s something that I think many of us share is this day and age when technology is just at your fingertips.  Everything can be ordered and viewed online.  Since the iPad’s 2 launch exactly a week ago I have been drooling over it.   I’m tempted, very tempted.  I keep watching the adverts on youtube.  But now that the iPad 1 is almost a hundred dollars cheaper, which would make the more practical buy?  Do I really need one considering the lifestyle I have now?

This past week, in order not to have an “impulse buy” I’ve been thinking about it.  (Actually, I’ve been thinking about it since the launch of iPad, but could not reason getting one considering it seems like a bigger version of my iPhone.)  Now with iPad 2, my desire for one gets stronger.  It’s just a matter of time.  

As technology evolves, so does our future.  In the future I envision many households having at least one iPad and one e-book like the Kindle.  Everything is online and everything is downloadable.  We’ll be using less paper, but we’ll be using other forms of energy to fuel our gadgets. I can’t quite figure which one is the more eco-friendly one.  If you know, please share your thoughts!

And so my desire for iPad  has gotten my brain searching for justification of the purchase.  It switches back and forth between decisions for an against. 

Reasons for getting iPad 2 goes likes this:  “Hmm..I know the price tag is a bit high, but it is the same as it was for the iPad 1, so it isn’t really that much.  It has a dual core processor which makes it faster, its now 30% thinner and 15% lighter.  My arms will feel better holding it up for reading. I can order magazines online and not have a house full of magazines that have to later be sorted out and cleaned.  I can load pictures, play games (not that I really do) and surf the internet.  I can sit on the sofa and play around. (which I already do with the iPhone and my not so big netbook)

After all this, I think my main temptation are the magazines that can be loaded in colour.  I can keep back issues and have them all at my finger tips when I want to browse through them. Hmm.. tempting.

Now reasons for getting the iPad 1 versus iPad 2.  First of all, iPad 1 is now almost a hundred dollars cheaper.  It’s not too much of a saving, but if I did every purchase $100 cheaper, I’d have saved enough for a short weekend trip somewhere.  Now I always value traveling.  One learns so much through travel.  Secondly, I don’t really need the fast dual core processor which of course would be most beneficial if I played games (which I don’t).  There’s only so much so and so speed I need to browse the web, read magazines and look at my pictures.  Third, thinner though lighter, could also mean its more fragile.  Being the clumsy person I am, I’m bound to drop it one day sooner or later.  So which one would be more durable?  Lighter may be fragile, but has less weight on impact.? (Okay I’m lost now)  And lastly,  I think magazines work equally well on iPad 1 as they do on iPad 2.   As for buying it here in Bangkok or elsewhere? Price is roughly the same. 

I probably won’t be using the huge iPad 2 to take any pictures or videos either.  I have my Nikon SLR and a small camcorder already.  So after all this debate what would you buy?  (Not considering resale value.)   I suppose one has to look at how you will use it.  If you look at the “logical” purchase for me, you would say I should get the iPad 1.  My brain says “iPad 1”, but the “little me” inside is telling me “iPad 2.”  I mean it’s simple,  iPad 2 has the magnetic cover in such lovely colours! Love it.

Which one should I follow?  Logical me or little me? Which one would you?  To tempt you, check out their website…

iPad: Singapore or Bangkok?

When traveling, everyone always tries to buy goods that are cheaper than what they can get back home.  Being in Singapore, where a lot of people come to buy electronics I had to go check out the prices.  My mission was to find out if electronic products (especially the iPad) are cheaper here or in Bangkok.

Singapore has a mall that specializes in electronics called Funan. It’s easily accessible by MRT (undergound), just get off at City Hall and exit on North Ridge Road.  Funan is just down the street.  It’s like Fortune and Panthip Plaza in Bangkok, but its more quiet and more orderly.

There are a zillion shops selling laptops and computers.  I walk around and just enjoy browsing through all the gadgets and gizmos.  I always had a particular fondness for electronics and the techonology always fascinates me.  Its actually more fun than looking for clothes… 

I check out the price of the ILuv clock radio for iPod and iPhone dual charge. It’s S$399.  With exchange rate of 23.1 thb to 1 SGD, it’s consderably more expensive than the 6,100 THB price tag in Bangkok.   Then I spy beautiful cases for the iPhone and want to get some for my lovely iPhone, but sadly the same brands and design too convert to be slightly more expensive than in Bangkok. 

Not significantly different, but why pay more if you can pay less right?

Anyways, I make my way to the Mac Shop and check the iPad price.

16GB Wifi it S$728,
32 GB Wifi S$878
64 GB Wifi S$1028

Converted to THB, Thailand still remains slightly cheaper.    As I walk around Orchard, I check out the iPad at all the shops I spy..There is practically one at every mall. There is a Mac shop at 313Somerset which is packed with people, but if you want personal time to play around the iPad without interruption, head to the neighboring mall which is opposite Robinsons. Its so quiet there and you can spend a good ten or fifteen minutes playing with the iPad.

What about the iPhone 4? I check out the price and that too is equivalent to the iPhone 4 in Bangkok.

I am tempted, very tempted but I still have time to decide… if I want I can also go buy it in Bangkok.   So in conclusion,  if you want any apple product, between Singapore and Bangkok, it is now currently cheaper in Bangkok. (Exchange rate of 23.1THB to 1SGD)  🙂

Fitness Tip: Eat First then Shop

With the holiday season knocking at the door, it is always a challenge to keep fit and healthy.  To maintain one’s weight during the year is not so easy for most of us, let alone maintaining one’s weight during the holiday season! All that turkey and holiday parties are extremely deterimental to one’s waistline. So today I want to share with you a little secret on how to stay active and burn away a little of that holiday eating.  I realized this was something I had only begun doing recently since I began my weightloss journey over a year ago.  Now it has become a part of my routine.  What do I do?  It’s easy.  I eat first then I shop.

Didn’t I say it was easy?  Now the important part is implementing it.  Before in my much much chubbier days, which I am happy to say is now behind me,  I didn’t give a slight thought as to what I’ll eat and when I’ll eat it.  I’ll eat when I’m hungry and then I’d shop or go hang out with friends when the time suited.  Oftentimes, if I am out shopping I’d lose track of time, find myself shopping until late in the evening, discover I’m starving and then fill my stomach with whatever I was craving. Being dehydrated and starving, the choice would often be unhealthy alternatives.  I’d come home exhausted, sit on the couch and then sleep.

That was the old me.  I ate before I slept.  I ate then sat down.  I ate then watched TV.  I ate then ate again.

Nowadays, I avoid doing it as much as possible.  When I go shopping or go hang out with friends, I try to schedule it so that I always eat first and the go shopping or go do my errands.  This way, I am sure to have eaten my lunch/dinner on time and then burn it off with the walking.   I don’t crave unhealthy foods and I don’t slow down my metabolism by putting it into starvation mode.

You might wonder if just simply eating then walking helps?  Believe me it does.  Every little action counts if you want to stay healthy and keep the weight off.   Walking actually burns quite a bit of calories. According to  (  if you are leisurely walking like when you are shopping, you burn roughly 220 calories an hour!  Now that’s equivalent to burning off a cup of starbucks latte coffee, almost two cans of of coca cola or perhaps that piece of chocolate cake you had previously. 

If you take the stairs or you are carrying shopping bags, you will be burning even more calories.  Every little calorie counts especially if you want to continue eating all the Christmas and New Year goodies!  I certainly enjoy eating and don’t want to forgo eating the delicious goodies.   I also don’t want the weight gain. 

So my tip to you is to plan out your day in advance.  Plan to eat healthy foods first and then do an activity that burns it off.  If you need to go shopping for presents and gifts, make sure you have had something to eat.  You’d spend a couple hours shopping so why not make use of it to burn off all that food?  You won’t find yourself starving and be tempted to eat unhealthy food.  Drink water when you feel tired, most likely you are dehydrated. 

Stay active and stay healthy!  Every little action counts 🙂 Remeber:  Eat First then Shop 🙂  Happy Shopping!!

Jordi at the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar


After digressing from my travels to my micro marathon, today I write about an activity almost every girl cannot resist: shopping.  This time though, it’s about shopping in Cairo.  If you are anything like me, whenever I travel abroad I always want to take a piece of it back with me for “memories” sake.   So where do people go to shop in Cairo?  You go to the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar which also happens to be one of the oldest and biggest bazaars in the middle east.

This bazaar is not only a place for tourists to go shopping, but it is itself a great place to get lost in and discover a part of ancient life in Egypt.  Since 1382, this had been a place where merchants from afar came to sell their goods, have coffee, smoke a sheesha and perhaps spend a night in one of the travel lodges.  It’s filled with small alleyways and crammed with shops selling anything they can.

As you walk by, merchants call out to grab your attention in a number of international languages.  To my surprise a lot of them speak Thai.  You squeeze pass strangers in small alleyways and then suddenly find yourself standing before huge medieval gates carved in beautiful stone.  They are breath taking.  I walk around some more, peer into a dark shop and upon entering discover how beautiful its ancient ceilings are.  The owners quickly turn on the lights and show us the beauty of their shop.  They have exquisite but expensive Egyptian decorations. I like it.

Outside, the smaller shops sell egyptian lamps, brass, leather goods, and other hand made products.  I see beautiful boxes with inlaid mother of pearl, silverware with beautiful motifs, leather seats, copper trays, bracelets and even papyrus pictures.  There are egyptian cotton scarves and jewelry shops with beautiful exotic designs. 

Now almost all the shops require you to do a lot of haggling before finally getting the desired price, but there is this one shop that I was taken to called “Jordi.”  The owner I believe is Spanish (well he spoke spanish anyways) and its great in that everything here has a price tag.  No haggling required.  Everything is at very reasonable price and so you are able to do your souvenir shopping in peace of mind.

You have to go up a steep flight of steps before you find the place, but I think if you ask around you will find someone to direct you to it.  Up the stairs, you find yourself on a balcony with several rooms looking over a courtyard.  Jordi occupies around 3 rooms each selling different varieties of products.  One sells scarves, clothing while others sell wooden inlaid boxes, papyrus bookmarks, magnets and other souvenirs. They even have silver earrings and jewelry, but they are all piled into plastic boxes and you have to find your own pair.  It’s fun.   I buy some gifts for friends and family before once again wandering out into the chaotic bazaar.

On some cobblestoned street I spot someone with a large tray of the traditional Aish bread on their head walking around looking for customers.  It’s amazing how he can carry such a large tray like that.  As evening arrives the lights from the colourful egyptian lamps shine out and the belly dancing costumes glitter.  I love the colours that fills up this bazaar.  It’s full of colour and excitement.  As I find my way back to my ride home, I look back and wonder what it was like thousands of years ago when camels probably brought all these goods along.  What did people sell back then?