Monday, July 30, 2012

week two: Paris

Last day in Amsterdam, and I was feeling uneasy. Couldnt even sleep the night before despite feeling physically tired.


The morning of 2nd July was a nightmare.


Our train from Amsterdam to Paris was scheduled to depart at 6.30am.
So we checked out from our Amsterdam hostel at 5.30am, knowing that we would have sufficient time to get to the train station since it was just a 10 minute cab ride there. Whilst checking out, I looked to Xin Yi to double checked if we had all our documents.
Before the trip, I booked the hostels and flights, Lillian booked the busses and Xin Yi booked the train tickets, so I assumed that whoever booked whatever would print the necessary documents. Little did I realise that she had told us to print our own train tickets but I totally had no memory of that.
So quite plainly, I was ticketless.

All of us shot into thinking modes.

Quickly asked the hostel if they had a printer. Yes they did. Asked if they had a computer. Yes they did.
But, they didnt have internet connection hooked to the computer (assuming this means the LAN cable) because they did have wifi. So I couldnt access my email through his computer/laptop and print out my ticket. Quickly tried to open my email with my phone and searched for the email that had my train ticket because the taxi had arrived. Print screened it and dashed out the door hoping that the station had a solution.

Arrived at the station around 5.45am. Asked the train officers if it was sufficient to show my email saying that I did have a valid purchased ticket just that it wasnt printed, but no it wasnt valid according to her. The lady asked me to go to the information center that was open at 6am because they had printers. The minutes felt like forever and of course we had to start thinking of alternative solutions if all this didnt go our way.

Basically, I would have to buy another ticket and meet them in Paris. & who knows when was the next train to Paris. The option of possibly staying in that train station alone or even the slight possibility of overnighting made me want to cry (which i did).


Information center opened, but found out the same thing, no internet. Seriously Amsterdam?
We even asked if there were Internet cafes around and they've never heard of such things in their lives.

Wanted to ask about purchasing the next available ticket so Id at least get to strategies with Lillian & Xin Yi if it came down to me meeting them there, but there was a waiting line. By the time id reached the counter they would have missed the train which was not an option. Overheard the counter lady telling a couple that the trains were full but they could transit in Berlin.
Again, the thought of transiting in Berlin alone for who knows how many hours made me numb.
Even if I did reach Paris safely, how was I gonna contact Lillian and Xin Yi? None of us had European numbers, and they wouldnt even know what time I would arrive.

6.15am. They had to board their train. Told them to go to the train since I couldnt do anything more, it would be worse if all 3 of us was stranded there burning all 3 tickets. Was thinking that maybe I could beg my way into the train but also realise that it may not work since they've probably deal with these nonsense everyday and couldnt be bothered.
Saw the train and everyone started boarding. Quickly got on the train and sat in my allocated seat, praying so hard that the train would move because I mean, what could they possibly do right? Throw me out of a moving train? I wouldnt mind paying a penalty. By the time the train moved, I felt like I could breath again.

In the end, by the time the ticketing officer came, I calmly (as possible) showed him my phone with the print screen image of my ticket. He enlarged it and scan the square bar code and went on with other's tickets.
I was lucky that the ticket had those square bar codes you see nowadays, bar code readable on phones.
If say, that the ticket had those long rectangular bar codes, Id probably be in trouble.

Lucky, although I was also consider my luck to be pretty shitty throughout the entire trip.
This was only a portion of my lack of luck. But I shant complain, if any, I am beyond thankful that I managed to "live and tell the tale".


Arrived in Paris a few hours later, spirits rather low, from all that crazy.



Anyways, pictures of Paris at random:

Sacré Cœur, Montmartre



The Lourve


A bridge with loads of locks, mostly with names of couples chained to the bridge.





Notre Dame

Luxemborg



Our first hostel in Paris for 3 nights was at Friend's Hostel, probably the cheapest hostel you will ever find.
There was a double decker bed, and a triple decker bed.
When we checked in, the top of the double decker bed was already occupied but the tenant was out of the room. Lillian took the lower one of the double decker beds. Xin Yi took the second bed of the triple decker and I took the highest bed of the triple decker bed. The other two beds were occupied by two other guys who were travelling on their own.
One big hairy guy who never changed his clothes for 3 days, snored, and slept in his underwear and sometimes without a blanket and another southern american guy who was pretty decent.


Sink right in front of our beds


hallway outside our room.
More rooms, cubicle and showers further down.

They only had one shower, probably 4x4 big, shared with multiple rooms with multiple tenants.
Kitchen was also gross and you would meet the most random (sometimes weirdest) people around.

Those 3 nights at Friend's was both horrifying yet the most memorable ones of the trip.
The hostel was located opposite one of the metro stations, Barbes Rochechouart, in possibly one of the dodgiest areas. Whenever we came back, we'd have to hold on to our bags in front of us, and avoid eye contact with dodgy cigarette sellers chanting "Marlboro, Marlboro, Marlboro" while sticking them right in front of our faces.
3 young chinese girls was definitely something they dont see often so we stuck out like a sore thumb.

Eiffel








Lourve


Would definitely say that I enjoyed The Lourve with Lillian. The whole museum was huge, but we had a game plan, and we managed to cover 90% of the museum in 6 hours, and still loved everything.
I guess the trick was to quickly cover "touristy" attractions because huge crowds are not fun at all like the one below.

Mona Lisa

Other than that we had loads of fun admiring portraits and statues.


Reminiscing old Sejarah philosophers
Meet Platon, Aristote, and Socrate!
The exact heads you see photographed in Sejarah textbooks. *nerd beams.
or how about the Code of Hammurabi? :D






By the fourth night we could not have been happier to move in to our second hostel, Perfect Hostel.
A pricier place, but definitely worth the money if you'd asked me!
The area was substantially less dodgy, kitchen facilities were sooo much better and cleaner.
Food and necessities also much more accessible.

The only ones having dinner, in peace :)





Our beds were sepearted from the sink and toilet bowl by a wooden board.
We all promised each other to never use that toilet bowl  but use the ones outside, because it was too gross.

THE Moulin Rouge!
Pretty small.

Chess match with Lillian, at Shakespeare and Company while listening to young talented guys playing the piano and singing in the background.







I am at a lost for words for how I feel about Paris.
Probably not somewhere I would go for a second time but, no matter, no regrets :)
Definitely something I would never ever forget. :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

week two: Amsterdam







Our flight to Amsterdam was at 6.30am, but the previous day, we took a 10pm bus from Victoria Bus Station to Luton Airport. Had an overnight at the airport for about 6 hours for the sake of saving money because the 10pm bus was (super) cheap compared to other bus hours to the airport.


The sleepover was pretty painful. We were lucky enough to find benches. By lucky I meant that it was better than lying down on the cold hard floor. Still, the benches were still cold and hard.The two of them slept through it but I on the other hand couldnt even force myself to sleep. Not sure if it was the uncomfortable coldness or because I was too scared that people would just rob us in the midst of our sleep.
What did I do for 6 hours? Stare at other fellow overnighters & passer-bys, journal, listen to music and stone A LOT.







Finally reached and didnt want to waste any time resting. Had bagels, went to a market to buy some berries & chilled at the park overlooking Rijks Museum and Van Gogh Museum.










Checked in to Hans Brinker Budget Hostel. We initially booked a 5 shared mixed bedroom dorm but were super lucky to not only get a 4 shared bedroom dorm but also had only the three of us occupying it for two nights. Food and necessities were easily accessible, although located slightly deep inside this dodgy lane. But honestly, for a cheap budget hostel, I would definitely recommended it.


Our room was on the ground floor and directly opposite the pub (yes the hostel was also a pub). The fact that we managed to sleep extremely soundly despite the noise (people playing drinking games plus it was euro cup finals) was a testament to how dead tired we were from all that travelling. 




















The rest of our stay involved plenty of sightseeing. We walked from the morning till evening, not even taking a single form of transport the entire trip, for one: the sake of saving money, two: everything was so pretty and the weather was good so we took our time to breathe in Amsterdam and enjoy everything bit by bit.
Everyday we'd walk for hours and hours, till our feet hurt and until we got blisters. ah good times.


Two full days were enough for us to enjoy Amsterdam, so off we headed for Paris!

<3

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