Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 1: Den Bosch / 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

My wife shall be traveling to Den Bosch, Netherlands to work for 2 weeks, so it's a great opportunity for us to accelerate our travel queue to Europe (we usually clear up cheaper destinations first), and to experience why Europe is such an attractive travel destination.

Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam should be around 13 hours if it's a direct flight (Malaysia Airline seems to be the only airline with direct flight), and the rest seems to involve transit which easily increase the travel time to 15-18 hours. We flew by KLM Royal Dutch Airline with 4 hours transit in Singapore (Changi is a nice airport to easily kill time during the transit), where the flight time from Singapore to Amsterdam is around 12.5 hours. My round trip ticket (flew back from Rome) cost RM 4,500, where it could be RM 1000 cheaper if my travel schedule didn't eat into May.

The KLM flight is almost full, and it's  a big plane, where the boarding time took more than an hour. The 12.5 hours journey is still bearable for me, though we are in quite a "tight" spot, and KLM does serve many rounds of meal: snack, dinner, breakfast, and I probably miss a round of waffle because I had fallen asleep. The seat is pretty cool with a head rest, where both side could be folded up to hold your head in position so that it doesn't swing around; the leg space is not great, but not too bad either.

We reach Amsterdam around 8.00am (with 30 minutes delay). Though the immigration check out queue is long with little counters, but the processing is swift. We realize the filling up of the Arrival Card is not necessary. Schiphol airport is connected to the train station, which is great. The train ticket to Den Bosch cost around EURO 16 and take around 70 minutes; we bump into another group of people from my wife's company, where they store their luggage at the train station for EURO 9.50 per day and take a train ride to explore Amsterdam instead.

The train was pretty much empty on Sunday morning, and Netherlands seems quiet, flat and vast, with canals, bold trees (right after winter) and vast fields. Not much of the windmill, not much car either on the highway. We took a cab upon arrival to Golden Tulip Hotel Central (EURO 120/night), where it's quite centrally located; after getting our free buffet breakfast (juice, bread, cheese, salmon and meat slices, etc.), we began our walking tour of Den Bosch.

Den Bosch is not actually a touristy town, but it had just the right amount of cafes and a commercial square to feel comfortable with. It's Sunday, so 90% of the shops are closed. Everyone seems to be enjoying the outdoor cafe or just strolling around, and many more travel around with bicycle. It's a pretty walkable town, and the weather is great with a nice day time temperature of 15 Celsius. The architecture of buildings are very pleasant, systematic yet with some minor distinction, with their nicely done stone walkway, coupled with the nice feeling of water canals. The town is very walkable and cycle-able, where it feels nice and not stressful to move around, where people seems cheerful and more relaxed (sitting outdoor to enjoy the weather). It seems the people here are able to enjoy themselves more and be happy, more than Australian. The residential area is make up of cozy apartments or nice detached houses, with seems like quite comfy to stay. It would seems to me that Den Bosch is quite a liveable place. But since it's not much of a touristy town (except for some museums and cathedrals, which are not my thing), walking around the town area is pleasant enough for the first day.

The sky is still pretty bright from 7-8pm (April), where we found a nice cozy restaurant to enjoy our slow dinner which lasted for 2 hours. We dine at Het Strand, which seems like a decent western restaurant with not particular cuisine type. They offer a 3 course dinner for EURO 21.50, which I think is not bad. We have minestrone soup with bread, sea bass fish with salad and chocolate cake with cherry for dessert. The fish is fresh and nice, but the pork steak (EURO 16.50) is just average. Het Strand has a cozy interior with a beach theme, with 3 outdoor tables, facing a quiet and pleasant street.

It's a nice feeling to finally travel again, leaving behind baggages of work and commitment, and enjoy a short term freedom and adventure; I wish this could be my way of life, rather than a short term escape. The planning part could be quite tedious, and perhaps that's my motivation to start Travelopy: to make travel planning (where to go, what to do, restaurants, itinerary) easier and more enjoyable. With the entrance of and AirBnb, getting a place a stay seems much easier now. Bought a tablet to make travel planning on the go easier, and also a keyboard to keep travel journal in digital format. I did wrote a few travel journal before, but there is just no time to blog about my travel once I get back to the "real world". Everything should be done and completed while it's "hot".

What's up for tomorrow? Cycling the great outdoor.

No comments: