First Stop, Brussels. Ok, you must be scratching your head now, and asking "Brussels? Like did you read your maps upside-down and got lost?" Well, the truth can't be any simpler: it is cheaper if I fly into Charleroi and drove to Amsterdam! Seeing two cities for the price of one, nice!
That's the town centre of Brussels, gorgeous!
In one part of the city, there's a wall with the mural of Tin Tin. There's quite a bit of Tin Tin stuffs here, no surprises, given this the birthplace of its author, Herge.
Belgium waffles! Quite delectable, I had the one covered with strawberries and laced with chocolate, mmmmh! And it was free! Not from the shop, but from a new friend of mine that I've met while travelling out from Dublin airport, a fellow Singaporean traveller, which is as rare as hen's teeth! Surprisingly, he was from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and remarked that I'm quite possibly the only Singaporean living here! I feel so special already! :)
The architecture in the town centre is just incredible. Look at all the life-like statutes that are part of the walls of the buildings. For the lack of time, since I had a long drive ahead, that's all from Brussels. After which I had to take off and drive down to my newest favourite city, Amsterdam!
My new friend had actually spent a few days in Amsterdam already, so essentially I've gotten a free guide to show me around, which was really cool. It's really a quirk of fate, given that most Singaporeans may gladly give Ireland a pass, but not him - being an avid reader, and a fan of James Joyce, which was the main reason why we got to cross paths.
Weed! You can now understand why I find this place so charming - not the soft drugs if that's what you're thinking about! It's the liberalism, dammit! People are free to do whatever they want here, but take the responsibility for their actions, of course. Still can't believe that I'm travelling with a ranked civil servant here - hopefully he picks up a few lessons and report to his political masters that it is fine to have more liberalism! There aren't any major law and order problems here just because soft drugs are available - proves that we certainly don't need to hang people just because they have a bit of grass in their pockets. Well, even Barack Obama has inhaled it ... had he been living in Singapore rather than America, they would have snuffed the life out of him before he can ever live up his potential to become the 44th President of the United States.
Sorry guys, if you are looking for NSFW pictures - for consolation, you can see that I'm in the 'red light district' of Amsterdam. There's an Erotic Museum where I was told you'll be able to learn all you need to know about the history of sex. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Amsterdam has cleaned up quite a fair bit the last couple of years - I was told that half the city centre used to be areas where you can see skimpily dressed women behind glass boxes. Today, it's reduced to a only small section within one alley - and there isn't much to see as well. Hell, there's probably more naked bodies lying on Bondi Beach (NSFW!) any given summer day than in Amsterdam!
The only nakedness I've witnessed was from a drunken Englishman who had decided that his penis was probably a better show than all the ladies there. The crowd were wild, clapping, cheering and cat-whistling while he's twirling his thing out of his pants and flashing it to the crowd. On a related note, the booth you see up there is a peeing booth - yes, you go in and pee on the side of the streets, pretty visible to everybody else. No prizes for guessing what that dark patch on the floor is. ;)
Amsterdam is full of canals and quaint little houses, some tilted with age, as you can see up there. Quite charming, although I wouldn't want to be living in there if there's a serious risk of it toppling over.
That's how beautiful Amsterdam is. Oh, yeah you can see that it's devoid of people in the picture, which is kind of cool - that's because I woke up at 5am on a Sunday morning to take a wander about. The only people left on the streets were the few revellers who were probably too drunk to know how to go home.
I'll leave you with a final picture of one of the canals of Amsterdam. It's absolutely gorgeous for a place, and certainly one of the best cities I've been to in my life, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit it, go - I assure you won't regret it!