» Amsterdam.
  • Amsterdam.

    Jun 11th • Posted in love, personal, travel, writing


    I’ve been taking awhile to write this post, mainly because I was going to save it and push it aside. However, I wrote about travelling, falling in love with everyone and everything, and my failed big romantic gesture in this post— and I thought, why not write one about the other experience I had? I certainly learned a shit ton from that one too. In any case, I also watched the wonderful adaptation of one of my favourite books, The Fault in Our Stars (by John Green) and felt that this post was necessary. Not that TFiOS really has much to do with my experience in Amsterdam, but watching it recently reminded me of the experience, and I wanted to write about it.

    Warning:  This may be one of the longest blog posts you’ll ever read on my blog. It’s worth it though, if you want to read about ~cute shet~ but yeah, this is essentially a retelling of the cutest experience I had in Europe.

    For those of you who haven’t already read or even heard of The Fault in Our Stars, the two main characters (Hazel and Augustus) spend some time in Amsterdam. They filmed all of the exterior shots in Amsterdam, which helped me relive my (albeit brief) pleasant stay there. Unfortunately, I booked my stay last-minute, so I wasn’t able to stay in the city centre. (First piece of advice for those planning to travel to Amsterdam: Book your accommodation at least a month in advance. Unlike most places, booking ahead of time will save you on the price, and honestly– accommodation fills up fast in Amsterdam. In any case, this resulted in the unpleasant experience of having to take a train in and out of the city everytime I wanted to go back to my hostel/hotel.) But watching the movie hurt my heart a bit: watching these two young lovers traipse around Amsterdam was like reliving my experience all over again.

    Not sure if I blogged about it before, but shortly after my Parisian heartbreak, I met someone in Amsterdam. Earlier in my trip, a fellow traveller in Prague offhandedly mentioned that it’s easy to meet people you connect with– so don’t take it personally when you feel like your heart is broken. There will always be someone else you’ll meet to take your mind off the heartache. It’s much easier with an OkCupid account. For those of you who didn’t already know, I had one. I occasionally used aforementioned website in the different cities that I travelled through in order to meet locals, whether it was for hooking up (sorry, I’m a woman. I like to have sex. No duh.) or friendship/touring around the city. I’ll take time to write about my OkCupid (and Tinder, lulz) adventures– but needless to say, it surprised me when I actually met up with this guy because I was absolutely blazed and tired from the night before, and I had to catch an early afternoon flight the next day (to Berlin.)

    Before I get to the romance, I want to mention that my time in Amsterdam was planned last minute. I did it off the cuff, and didn’t even realise I was going until I got the balls to book my train and accommodation. As the cheapest train was earlier in the afternoon, I got there around dinner time, and was too exhausted to sightsee. I trudged into my booked hostel/hotel, located off the Sloterdijk train station, and settled into my lonely, single bed/glorified coffin. However, I realised my friend, Joe, from the hostel that I stayed in Prague, was also in the city and we made plans to meet later in the evening for drinking and to peruse coffee shops. Needless to say, we both definitely found a couple coffee shops (and some late night eats to boot! Including a weird fried hot dog with bitterballen…) but we also found the Red Light District, so hookers and “coffee” abound! And that was literally the extent of my Amsterdam sightseeing…. until, you know– the next day, I woke up in the late afternoon and realised it was much too late to head out for active sightseeing. So, I did some chores, got clean, and checked my OkCupid account. Lo and behold, I realised I matched with someone, and then messaged him. He was online, and somehow we ended up agreeing to meet up, off-the-cuff, so he could show me around, get dinner and drinks. (And who knows? Maybe more.) Obviously, as a short-term visitor to his city, this really meant that we were probably going to hook up, and I steeled myself for the most casual of encounters.

    Boy, how fucking wrong I was.

    He punctually met me underneath the Burger King, and instantly made fun of me for being late (as I warned him I would be) in his unfamiliar Dutch lilt. His blurry, out-of-focus, dimly-lit profile pictures bloomed into reality with a sigh of relief: he definitely didn’t catfish me and (probably) wasn’t an axe-murderer! His face was more youthful-looking than anticipated, perhaps because he shaved off his scruff and his aquamarine eyes shone under better lighting. He greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and a hug, and we made our introductions as he whisked us out of the train station. Personally, I find it incredibly awkward when meeting someone to hook up with them because there’s all this small talk that happens. And normally, I’m able to gauge if I have instantaneous chemistry with someone, but I didn’t really feel it until later. Perhaps it was because we jumped into meeting each other, instead of chatting for a bit first to be comfortable. No matter… we slowly eased into familiarity, and before I knew it, he was leading me around Amsterdam as the sun went down. Now, I am not endorsing meeting random dudes off the internet and having them lead you around Amsterdam over cute bridges into neighbourhoods with little to no foot traffic– but I encourage you to make your own judgments and meet people. In fact, it took me around twenty minutes to finally get comfortable with him. Perhaps it was because of the mixed expectations that there actually was chemistry there, but not enough familiarity to want to hold each other’s hands, or get closer to each other. (Not yet, anyway.) In the meantime, he led me across the bridges and pointed out certain neighbourhoods as we  got to know each other. I slowly got accquainted with his haunts, his habits, and his hopes. He explained some of the history of the places, and pointed out architecture as he also explained where he spent his time, and where he liked to go on his time off. At this point, he also kept pointing out various restaurants to me, in hopes that I would be decisive (hahahahahaha, not happening) and picked a place for us to eat.

    “Is there anything in particular that you want to eat?”  he asked, as we stumbled upon yet another Thai restaurant.

    “I’m not that hungry,” I insisted.

    “But you will be soon. Come on, let’s find another restaurant,” he said, trodding onward.

    The sun slowly set as we realised that we still had not found a place to eat. We had already passed many restaurants and hadn’t stopped in any of them because 1) I wasn’t “that hungry” at the time,  2) The restaurant was too crowded, 3) The restaurant wasn’t a cuisine either of us were in the mood for and 4) We were having such a good time getting to know each other, sightseeing and talking that we just didn’t figure out a place to eat. Eventually, we got to a less-packed part of Amsterdam and had settled for the first restaurant we saw: a Burgermeester. My companion had insisted that the local chain had tasty burgers, and we finally decided to eat there because my stomach was growling, and I could tell he was becoming visibly impatient and annoyed that we hadn’t yet decided on a place to eat. We shuffled in, and immediately took a seat in the large booth. We grabbed menus, and started sharing our choices. Unfortunately, the menu I grabbed was in Dutch– so I attempted to translate the best I could. Luckily for me, some words are very similar in English, so I was familiar with some of the food items, but I could barely translate it. I showed my companion the menu, and he prompty laughed as he showed me his menu: he grabbed the English menu on the table, and I grabbed the Dutch. We switched and then discussed what we wanted to eat. I couldn’t decide on what burger I wanted, and there was a slider sampler, so I got that. My companion itched for something more unique, and asked about the burger of the month: “The Kraken,” a monstrosity involving an octopus patty with aioli and greens. Not sure how we got to it– but we ended up deciding to share both. He paid for our dinner, by the way. I was not expecting that, and I even offered to split it. (“Are you sure you want to pay? I got a lot too, I can pay.” “No, no. I insist.” “…Well, okay. Thank you so much.”) Guys, I’m not going to turn down free food. Especially not from a handsome, 32-year old Dutch man who obviously knows what he wants and would have done it regardless of whatever I said. After we put in our order, we sat back down in the booth. I could feel the distance between us.

    “You can scoot over if you want, I don’t bite.”

    He scooched closer to me, close enough that I could feel our legs pressed flush against each other. Palpable electricity. Or maybe the feeling was hunger pangs, I couldn’t tell. We shared our meal over water and a pear juice, and talked about our lives: his work, my travels, his lack of travelling, his family, how I got to Amsterdam, did I still want to see anything, how excited for alcohol I was, where he was taking me after, how delicious was this burger, he preferred the Kraken, I preferred the manchego burger, etc. I was more at ease with him after sharing a couple burgers with him. As we exited the restaurant, we immediately noticed that night had fallen and that the streets were now lit by the warm glow of the vintage streetlamps and the bridges were draped by twinkling christmas lights.

    “We actually passed where I want to take you. It’s a local bar with 200 different types of brews. I think you’ll really enjoy it if you like beer as much as you say you do,” he said as we walked along the streets of Jordaan. During this stroll, he pointed out more of the architecture, noting that there were all these different styles, and pointed out some neighborhood landmarks. After 20 minutes, we finally reached a tiny bar, with red awning sporting a cartoon eagle and the text “Arendsnest” underneath. (“It means ‘Eagle’s Nest.'” he explained.) Inside, the bar was surprisingly well-lit, but intimate and cozy. Bodies hugged up against the wall as we wedged ourselves in between the tiny crack that led to the stools at the end of the bar. At this point in the night, we were already comfortable with each other– so I told him that I could probably keep up with him, but he’d have to order for me. We looked at all the suggestions on tap scrawled on various chalkboards around the bar, but also flipped through a menu that held over 150 more types of beer or alcoholic libations. We sat close to each other as we started drinking, and our inhibitions started to lower. Low enough to discuss the craziest things that have happened to me on my trip thus far, and for him to respond with something equally as crazy. But apparently not low enough for him to make a move physically. He had already asked me enough questions that had hinted that probably, yes, something was going to happen tonight. (Ladies, if a man asks you what time your last train is and what time you have to catch your flight– you’re probably going to end up going home with him. Just saying.)  It got bad enough that I called him out on it, and we ended up flirting some more. By this point in time, I had realised that he was quite the romantic. He didn’t seem like a one-night stand kind of guy, though he certainly was flirtatious and knew what he wanted. He paid for all our drinks, by the way. What a fucking gentleman. At the end of the night, I wasn’t hammered, but drunk enough to want to cuddle and pull him close. Which is basically what happened as soon as we stepped out of the bar because it was onesomething in the morning, and he walked me back to the train station under the guise that he “wanted me to catch my last train.”

    On our walk back, I shivered a little bit and he noticed– so he pulled me into his arms and held me tight. I followed suit and wrapped my arms around him. Finally, we were getting somewhere. When we finally reached the train station, we lingered a bit by the taxis.

    “Seriously?”

    “What?”

    “Are you seriously going to let me go home without making a move?”

    Called out on his bullshit.

    “Alright, hold on. Sit down.”

    I sat down on a ledge outside of Amsterdam Centraal, and he leaned over, propped my chin up and finally kissed me. And shiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeet, that was worth it.

    “There you go. Was it worth the wait?”

    I stood up and kissed him again, and we ended up making out for awhile in front of the taxi station. He stopped, pausing for a second and asked, “Wait, what time is it? What about the last train?” At that point, it was probably past the time I could catch the last train, so I responded, “Does it really matter?” He shook his head, and we called a taxi over to take us to where I was staying. Obviously, from this point on, you can extrapolate and guess what happened next. I’m not going to provide the gory details, because honestly– that night was one that was shared between us, and it should remain that way. I fell a little bit in love with him that night. While I had other hookups throughout the trip, this was one that stood out simply because it was not fueled by a carnal desire. In fact, his actions throughout the entire night peg him as quite the romantic. He did not strike me as the “one night stand” type. It was all in his mannerisms: the way he looked at me, the way he kissed me, the way he held me in his arms. Needless to say, we both didn’t get a lot of sleep– though not for a lack of trying. At around five in the morning, we laughed as we tried to squeeze both of our bodies onto a single bed. Funny thing about single beds: you’d be surprised at how much flesh you can fit onto one if you try really hard. I haven’t had to do that since I had stopped dating Alex. The sight would have been hilarious, had it not had sexual or romantic undertones: an overweight, 5’3″ Asian girl trying to fit onto a tiny, single bed with a 6’something lanky Dutch man.

    There’s something to be said about romances with deadlines. Oddly enough, I find them to be more comforting than that linger in the abyss. (But maybe that’s just the control freak in me.) Admittedly, maybe we are no Gus and Hazel. Maybe we are not some characters in a grand, epic love story that will last forever. Nothing lasts forever, and nothing gold can stay. I knew it wasn’t going to last, but just like Hazel Grace says in the book, I will forever be thankful for our little infinity– even though it was one night in a series of a lifetime of nights I will spend with others, or some nights I will spend alone. I will always retain a sense of fondness for the Dutch man who cocooned his arms around me and rocked me to sleep, while peppering my forehead with soft kisses. Many of the men who came before him were all about the rough edges– I guess it was finally nice to have someone be gentle with me for once. And for once, it was nice to have a man who was considerate enough to treat me with the respect that I deserve. Instead of being fixated on a man who didn’t give a shit about me, it felt good to have a relative stranger take me out and shower me  with affection. When people talk about gentlemen, they are referring to the Dutch man.

    The next morning, I walked him back to the train station.We held hands and tried to stall the inevitable goodbye. The way he held me, kissed my forehead, and the way his eyes bore into me made my heart ache. I didn’t want to go. Neither did he. But, we kissed each other and wished each other well.

    I am forever grateful to the Dutch man for our one night together. I am also thankful for his friendship. (Yes, I know! We’re friends! We still talk!)

    There are an infinite amount of maybes and hypotheticals when it relates back to the Dutch man,

    but I’m just thankful for his slice of Amsterdam,

    and he’ll always be my Amsterdam.