I'd gone to historic Nijmegen for The 2005 Open European Mahjong Championship, and had also been invited to play in a friendship game in Amsterdam on the Monday evening following the tournament. I'd never been to the Netherlands at all, and Amsterdam seemed a place worthy of some sightseeing. I probably did it all wrong, but hey, I enjoyed it immensely.

I didn't see the famous red light district, I didn't go to any Van Gogh or Beethoven museums, I didn't go on a boat ride. But I did (by accident, I swear) visit a coffeehouse where they sell marijuana, visited the Anne Frank house, and I walked, rode the public transportation, ate the famous cheese, and took lots of pictures. Hope these don't bore you too much...

June 26, 2005. Immediately after the closing of the ceremonies of the mah-jongg championship, I went by train from Nijmegen to Amsterdam. Exiting the central train station on my way to find the #2 tram, I looked back at the station.

Sohana, my host in Nijmegen, knew someone in Amsterdam who could rent me a room for two nights. My lodgings were near this canal.

June 27, 2005. In the neighborhood where I was staying, I noticed two Chinese restaurants. This one's name intrigued me. In Holland, a J is promounced like a Y. "Mah-jongg" is pronounced "mayong." So it shouldn't have surprised me to learn that "jade" is pronounced "yade."

But it did! (^_^)

And because when I'd designed and produced Shanghai Great Moments for Activision, I'd hired one of the actresses of JOY LUCK CLUB, Rosalind Chao, to appear in the game, this restaurant's name also got my attention.

They probably should have called it "Yoy Luck" ... (^_~)

My life seems to be centered about my work. My current project involves a licensed property from Viacom, so I noticed all the Viacom signs peppered throughout Amsterdam.

My first morning in Amsterdam, I had only a few things I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to get a souvenir for my mom, I needed to get a T-shirt (since it had been way hot in Nijmegen and I'd used more than my allotment of apparel), and I wanted to check my email. Once those things were out of the way, I could go sightseeing.

Getting back on the #2 tram, I made my way back to Leidseplein, a place I'd noticed on the ride the previous evening. I'd seen a pleasant place to view some Dutch architecture and enjoy a meal and a drink there. Lots of patio tables and chairs under shady trees...

... So in Leidseplein I got my souvenirs and inquired of the souvenir vendor where I might find an internet cafe.

She said that if I didn't mind a coffeeshop, I could go into the basement of the Bulldog, around the corner. I thought it odd. I mean, why should anybody mind a coffeeshop?

I found out when I went down the Bulldog stairs. First thing I see is a couple of young guys buying a baggie of marijuana. I asked the man behind the counter about going on the internet. He pointed at the computers and told me they were coin-operated. So I checked my email as marijuana smoke drifted by...

Emails all done, I went looking for food. (The secondhand smoke must have given me "the munchies.") I went next door to the Pancake Corner.

The view from the Pancake Corner Sports Cafe, where I enjoyed "bitter balls." I was told they were a traditional Dutch food (I'd already had French Fries with mayonnaise on the train from Nijmegen). In my opinion, bitter balls tasted kind of like Hawaiian poi (deep-fried). And I washed it down with Dutch beer, of course. Just watched the tourists for a while (although I suppose at least some of them must have been locals).

Looking back at the Pancake Corner and the Bulldog. I later learned that the Bulldog is probably the single most famous "coffeeshop" in all of Amsterdam.

Silly me - thinking that you'd get coffee in a "coffeeshop"! (^_^)

A few days later when I arrived back home in Los Angeles, I found that my luggage had been opened and inspected. I think a dog must have smelled the smoke, prompting a search for drugs in my bags.

Time to continue my walking tour of Amsterdam. I'd been advised to go walking in De Jordaan, a quaint district of canals and narrow streets. So I rode the #2 tram to the Dam stop and started walking towards the west.

It was very nice indeed. One thing I noticed was that the buildings all had a beam extending out over the street, with a steel hook on the end. Puzzling on it a while, I figured that these were for the purpose of moving furniture and belongings in and out of the apartments. The stairs are very steep and narrow, but with ropes one could move large heavy objects in and out safely.

This part of Amsterdam is very pretty. So many canals, with little bridges crossing them. Most people move about on bicycles. And in the early summer the leaves are bright and green.

Not everyone moves by bicycle all the time. There's a lot of boat traffic on the canals as well.

You can see that I was entranced by the canals and the architecture...

Funny story. As much as I enjoyed my walk, after I went back to the Dam, I finally figured out that I hadn't been in De Jordaan after all! I'd been in Oude Stad. So I went walking some more. I wanted to find the Anne Frank house, at the very least.

I did find De Jordaan, and it was pretty much as enjoyable as Oude Stad had been.

In my explorations, I found some oddities here and there. This shop devoted to stamp collecting had a punny name.

I fancy myself quite the Japanophile, but I'd never heard of "Miso Pretty" before. I just love multilingual puns (when I understand them).

I visited the Anne Frank house. That's it there behind me, across the canal (directly behind the tree behind me). The Frank family had moved to Amsterdam to escape the Nazi persecution in Germany, and were in hiding in the building above a business. The building still stands, and is now a testament to the experience of Anne and her family. The building isn't much to look at, and you can't see much of it in this picture, but it's a powerful history lesson nonetheless.

Two young women just hanging out on the small stoop of their building.

This window display amused me. The Last Supper, with Ferrari. Boy, if somebody put that in a window here in the U.S., the picket signs would be marched in front of the store, the bullhorns would be blaring protests, and the news cameras would show up... Is Holland a great country or what?

And just in case you don't know where your "hound" should, um, "in"... why, "the gutter," of course!

After so much walking, I didn't really have time to visit any museums or ride a boat before going to Amstelveen for the mah-jongg friendship game. You can see the photos of the friendship game on the same page where the OEMC photos are (it just made sense to put all the mah-jongg photos together).

And the next morning after the friendship game, I got up early to catch a plane to Berlin for a business trip.

On this trip I also visited Nijmegen, Szczecin, and Berlin...

Business in Poland
A brief walk in Berlin
A previous visit to Germany
The 2005 Open European Mahjong Championship

Copyright 2005 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.