Amsterdam is a city most people visit for just a few days. For some people visiting Amsterdam is a spur of the moment decision, for others a trip they’ve been planning for a long time. Whatever kind of traveler you are, it can be hard to find your way around Amsterdam. There is so much going on: bikes everywhere, all those canals and don’t get me started on the language.
One thing we missed when we were traveling, was really knowing where to find the best brunch, bites or beers in the cities we visited. If you ever felt this way and you’re visiting Amsterdam any time soon, this one is for you. We made you an Amsterdam eatinerary. This eatinerary takes you out of the city center and into parts of Amsterdam that are not to be missed.
This place is very cool. It has an amazing breakfast/brunch menu, the service is outstanding and the food is beautiful. There is a queue outside and they don’t take reservations. We only had to wait ten minutes before we were seated but if you have to wait longer, do it. It’s totally worth the wait.
Biertuin means beer garden. Which is exactly what this is: a garden filled with tables where they serve beer and good food. This is a spot where you’ll want to stay all evening so don’t make any other plans.
If you’re ever coming to Amsterdam and have any questions on where to stay, what to do and where/what to eat, don’t hestitate to send me a message!
[disclaimer: This piece is part of the momondo experiences series. Momondo asked us to find a unique local experience and to write about it. All opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that make Sparrow in Space possible]
The last few days I have been getting a lot of love for a Mongolia post I posted almost a year ago. This made me revisit my Mongolia pictures and I realised there where still a lot of gems left there. So here it is, some nature porn. Endless Mongolia, full of pictures of Mongolia.
When we tell people where we’ve been and what we’ve done, we sort of forget about Mongolia. We mention it and people are intrigued but that’s it. To us, Mongolia was kind. It’s like a little blanket you wrap around. It’s comfortable, it’s insanely pretty and it makes you feel at home.
It’s been almost a year since we were in Mongolia. There are a few things I will never forget.
I saw my first falling star in Mongolia
We saved a man’s life. He was sleeping in a ger that caught on fire. I was shouting at him to get out and Nick got help to put out the fire.
Because of the enormous growth of the Mongolian economy (due to the recent finding of rare metals), there is a small group of insanely rich people. The rest of the people aren’t. There is no middle class.
This translates into: there are ger camps next to skyscrapers
Nick held a gigantic Golden Eagle in Mongolia
We hired a driver to take us to a ger camp and he didn’t speak a single word of English, except for ‘yes’. He kept repeating it, then laughing hysterically the entire drive. Funniest laugh I have ever heard.
Mongolia is beautiful, it’s a little quirky and it has amazingly friendly and inviting people, even though you will not say so at first sight. We loved it there, even though we were only there for ten days. We are surely going back for an in-depth visit soon. What about you? Have you visited Mongolia? If not, you should. Really.
In 4 days it will be a year since we left home. I remember the excitement of the long weeks before departure. All of the goodbyes. All of the nerves. But we made it. And it wasn’t scary at all. It was spectacular. Amazing. Mind blowing.
I know you have been looking forward to this, these awesome facts about our last year. Well, here they are!
I missed being cold (just a little). Now that I’m cold all the time (Dutch summers are pretty terrible) I miss being hot.
I accidentally deleted all pictures we took of the Terracotta Army. And later recovered them.
Rice is the food we ate most. Or noodles. Or fresh mango. But I’m pretty sure it’s rice.
In the middle of a busy street in Xi’an, China I broke down and starting crying because China is so overwhelming. Nick comforted me with some awesome street food.
Coincidentally, we will definitely revisit Xi’an, just for the food of the Muslim Quarter.
On two separate occasions we had Chinese schoolboys audibly pleasing themselves in our dorm room. After the second time we decided to skip on dorms for a while.
In Cambodia we ended up in a “love hotel”. Everything was wrapped in plastic and there was a used condom behind the bed. Later, we figured out our tuktuk-driver tried to warn us, but we just didn’t get his “that is where the boy and the girl go when they are not married”.
I really wanted to write down everything that happened. I was constantly a month behind, hence completely missing the point of keeping a diary.
We wrote down all of our expenses every day, our daily budget was around $40/€30, we did not always stick to our budget. Or at all. But we did try.
From St. Petersburg, Russia all the way to Singapore, we didn’t fly. We used trains as much as possible, but also took some buses in Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.
I saw my first shooting star in Mongolia.
We have almost no pictures of us together around the world. Meaning we have to do this all again with someone to take our picture constantly. Who’s coming?
There are a million pictures of Nick around the world. Also a surprising amount of pictures that have Nick peeing in bushes.
One of the things we missed most was wearing socks.
I think my favorite country in the world is Mexico, I just haven’t been there yet. So for now it’s Indonesia.
Nick is a pretty awesome travel buddy. And boyfriend. And love of my life.
No, I’m not pregnant. I’M NOT PREGNANT. People asked us a million times since we got back. Nope.
Also, no we did not eat any bugs on a stick. Or any bugs for that matter. I did get an ant in my food once. Did not eat it though.
We did not go snorkeling until our second last day in Asia. I guess we’re really stubborn and don’t want to do what ‘everyone is doing’. Which makes no sense. We learned this now, another valuable lesson learned on the road.
There wasn’t a lot of puking and pooping. Nick was sick once, after eating a funky looking dinner in a Chinese train. And that’s it. We ate everything we could get our hands on and we drank all of our drinks with water, ate salads and fruit peeled by someone else. According to most travel guides we should have been dead by now.
We learned a lot. About ourselves, about us, about the world, about people.
There were days where I would have gladly sold my shoes for some good bread and cheese.
Traveling is tough. Some days suck. But at the end, it’s all more than worth it.
We don’t know what our next year will bring. We don’t even know what next week will bring. But we’re sure it will be as amazing as this one. We’ll make it as amazing as this one.
You know the moments, those small moments. The moments you’d forget if you didn’t take a picture. Those moments that leave you grinning for a moment, but not for days. They are transient but essential. We had a few of them in Singapore. I forgot about them until I was sorting through our pictures. I wanted to share a few of them with you, because remembering them made me smile.
Midnight inline skate lesson – We were out at night, walking around Singapore’s city center. We found an empty box on the ground and a Singaporean man next to it, struggling on the inline skates he just bought. He had no idea how to skate but he was trying all the same. Nick inline skated when he was younger so he grabbed the man by the hands and showed him some moves. It was so spontaneous and Nick was so sincere in trying to help this man become a better skater. I hope this man is now rocking his inline skates all over Singapore.
Snake scare – Jungle hikes are the most horrible thing there is, yet we found ourselves once again walking around a jungle. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve tortured us with its tropical heat. In the middle of the jungle we stumbled upon a cave. Fenced shut, but fascinating nonetheless. At the entrance of the cave we found a shed snake-skin on the ground, or so we thought. Nick’s sister was up close taking pictures, we kept reassuring her it was only skin. No snake looks like that. Of course I also wanted to take some pictures. I was 5 cm away from the snake, trying to get a good close up when it blinked. IT BLINKED! I screamed, jumped up and ran away, like anyone would have done. Right?
Three million men – There’s a lot of Indian people in Little India, which kind of makes sense. Most of them are men. These men are often poor men from India, moving to Singapore for a couple of years to do construction work to make some money to support the family they left at home.
We were warned: avoid Little India on sundays. Forgetting which day it was and not really listening to other people’s advice (there is a lesson here), we unknowingly walked into the biggest gathering of men I have ever seen. The streets were crawling with Indian men. Just men. Nick’s sister and I were the only two girls and to make matters worse, tiny blond girls. We stood out like two dots of white in a sea of black. If I have to guess, there were about three million men walking on the streets of Little India that Sunday. I kid you not, there were no roads or sidewalks to be seen anymore. I have never seen anything like it, it was insane.
What are some of the small adventures you can remember?
If you are one of the lucky few who has been to Austria, you know. You know how incredibly awesome Austria is. Lots of people don’t even consider Austria while traveling around Europe, because what is there to do except The Sound of Music and skiing? Well, there are cows and sheep and a whole lot of pretty things to be seen.
Austria surprised us. When we first arrived, after eleven months in Asia and 15 hours on a plane, our first impression was terrible. Nobody was paying attention to us, nothing was going on and where was all the noise? After a day or two, we started to see the beauty in the boring. There was nobody that wanted our money or tried to hustle us, no fear of getting run over by a scooter constantly and oh my, the quietness while walking around the city was magnificent. I couldn’t get over how fresh the air is. I think I missed that most, fresh air and cool nights. I never appreciated that as much as I do now.
We traveled around a bit in Austria. We stayed in Vienna for two weeks. Vienna is a very vibrant city, especially in summer time. Everyone is sitting in the parks, drinking g’spritzter (best summer drink ever) and the days just don’t seem to end.
From Vienna we took a train to Salzburg. The train network in Austria is really good and not too expensive, which makes traveling around Austria very easy and equally relaxing. The trains are comfortable and the views from the windows are stunning. Salzburg is a boring little town, not too much going on there. Its economy is based on The Sound of Music-tourism and for us, it lacked personality. We did find a little coffee shop that served one of the best coffees we ever tasted.
In Salzburg, Nick’s dad picked us up and we spent 10 more days in a little bungalow in Wagrain. Here we spent most of our time hiking up mountains, drinking g’spritzter, radler and having a great time sharing our adventures with family. I also climbed my first real mountain there!
However much we love being back in Europe, we miss Asia daily and dearly. We’ve grown to love it, and we can’t wait to revisit pieces we’ve seen and all we haven’t in the future. We’re going to explore the nooks and crannies of our home continent, Europe, now, and we haven’t decided what’s next, but who knows. Sparrow in Space might be coming to a place near you. Stay posted.
A lot of people have asked us why we fell in love with Indonesia. Well, you know those moments when you are where you are supposed to be and everything feels just right? We had that feeling for the whole four weeks we were in Indonesia and for the first time in eleven months, we felt not just great, but truly at home. The moment we arrived in Jakarta we knew. Even though Jakarta is a raw, dirty and grey city, we knew this country was magic.
We left Jakarta as soon as we could, this is not a city where you want to spend too many days. We took a train to Yogyakarta, where we planned to stay for five days, before flying to Bali. Traveling in Indonesia is easy. Everyone speaks a little bit of English and if they don’t, someone else will. And like everywhere, everyone appreciates it if you try to speak at least a little of the local language (I can say hello, thank you and milk (which is the cutest word: susu).
We didn’t know much about Yogyakarta, just that everyone we met told us to go there. Yogyakarta did not disappoint at all. What a great city. We stayed at the city center, close to the main street. This made it easy for us to explore the city on foot but because of the insane heat, we opted to take a becak (a sort of tuktuk) most of the time.
From Yogyakarta we took a plane to Bali. The promised land. Shangri-La. This is where the magic happens. More clichés. And they’re true. Bali and Lembongan Island are amazing places. We spent some time in Ubud, where we drank a lot of healthy juices. In Padangbai we went snorkeling for the first time and loved it. Why didn’t anyone tell us it was this great? We would have done it months ago. In Canggu we spent some time with friends from Holland who live on Bali now, and have an amazing homestay, with the best breakfast in Asia.
We felt sad leaving Indonesia. But not too sad because we know we will be coming back here. As soon as we can.
Someone suggested I should write a mini-guide of Lembongan but I can’t. There is a lot to do on Lembongan Island. I just didn’t do any of it. I didn’t go cliff jumping, diving, snorkeling, fishing, stand up paddling, surfing, sailing, manta ray hugging or whatever else there is to do. We did scooter around the island one day, but that’s it. And that is very unlike me.
You see, I was never the type of girl to do nothing. It wasn’t that I couldn’t sit still, I just didn’t want to. I felt there was so much to explore, discover, see and do. So you would always find me walking around, planning adventures or when I still lived at my mum’s house, I would redecorate my room at least once every two weeks (which makes me the most creative person ever considering my room was just 4m x 2m).
When I moved to my first apartment, I was always busy making stuff for art school, longboarding, going out or wreaking havoc with my friend who lived across the hall. This one time, we sort of stole a bike. There was a bike outside of our apartment complex. It was locked and she needed a new bike. It didn’t seem to belong to someone, so we took it in the elevator up to our floor, bought a saw and made our neighbor saw the lock. Voila, new bike.
Right about the time my friend and I grew apart, I met Nick. Three weeks later Nick and I got a dog. Not long after that, I quit art school for reasons that are now unknown to me. I got a full-time job managing a health food store, working 40+ hours a week. During this time I also decided I wanted to be a hairdresser. Oh yeah and I tried having a social life. I’m amazed I didn’t have a burn out.
After quitting the health food store and getting a job as a hairdresser, we moved to a new city. And I got really busy exploring this new city. Are you still with me? My point is, I don’t do nothing. I like doing new things. I’ve always been an explorer. Doing nothing to me seems meaningless. Why sit still when I could be out doing stuff? You probably think I’m this super high energy person, which I’m not, at least not all the time. Trust me, my favorite thing to do is sleep. I just like doing something, anything.
Sitting at a beach doing nothing never seemed like my ideal holiday. The first time Nick made me do this was at Koh Phayam. The first day I couldn’t relax at all and constantly got up to walk, talk or look around. It took me more than a week to relax completely and accept that it was totally okay to spend a whole day doing nothing more than laying in the sun while reading, eating and swimming.
Unknowingly and unintentionally, Nick has created a monster. All I want to do now is hang around at the beach and read. It is one of my favorite things to do. The ten days we spent at Lembongan Island were filled with doing not much more than this. It’s amazing how incredibly fulfilling life can be when you take some time to read all the books you’ve wanted to read for ages.
What do you like to do? Anyone who shares my passion for sleep?
When you’re traveling, you get so many stimuli, you are influenced by everything that you see, think, do, smell and hear. All of these things can help you grow immensely as a person, but you really need to take some time to reflect upon all of these things, or you’ll just get stuck. Taking some time off the road every once in awhile is important to me, to us. Because it helps me grow as an individual. And as a couple, by giving us time and space to reflect on and process everything we’ve experienced together.
It also gives us the chance to really get to know a place, and love it even more than you would during a usual encounter of a couple of days. Chiang Mai is one of the place where we grew some roots. We had an apartment for a month, just outside of the city near the mountains. It was quiet, sunny and homely, just what we needed for a while. We had such a great time here, there were amazing late night conversations and we learned so much. Chiang Mai is a city forever in our hearts (yes this is a cliché).
We had such a great time in Cameron Highlands. We needed to refuel our energy, breathe in some fresh air and get a good fix of nature before committing to Kuala Lumpur for a month and a half. Plus Cameron Highlands has relatively low temperatures which is great after half a year of Asia’s humid hotness.
There is so much to see and do in Cameron Highlands, our highlights were visiting tea plantations, strawberry fields, cacti, bee farms, millipedes (they are my worst fear together with caterpillars), frogs, turtles, butterflies, spiders and a lot of jungle.
Tea and me are best friends and we have been so for years now. It’s the first thing I drink when I wake up and the last thing before I go to sleep. Seeing how tea is grown and processed was great. The tea factory filled the air of the surrounding area with a scent of a flowery black tea, it’s the only thing you smell when arriving at the plantation. I stole a tea leave and I’m drying it between some books so I can hang it on the wall of the house we one day hope to live in.
Not before long we had seen all we wanted to see in Cameron Highlands and we made our way to Kuala Lumpur where we still are now.
So far Kuala Lumpur has been great, our creative juices are flowing. We are creating, inventing, thinking, discussing and dreaming all day long. Work has never been this good. We are finishing up projects and starting new ones and we are doing what we love. Everything has been so well. Until yesterday.
We like to think we are positive and happy people and nothing will get us down. Until something happens. We go from ‘don’t worry be happy’ to ‘when life gives you lemons, you sit and sulk at the bus-stop’. We had just found out Nick’s MacBook needed to be repaired and he won’t be able to use it for about a week. A week! In the busiest month of our lives. We have clients piling up, projects to finish, projects to start
We left the shop quite upset and sat down at the bus-stop. There was an old man waiting. Not wanting to talk because we were to busy feeling sorry for ourselves, we didn’t say anything to him. He didn’t care and started to talk to us about where we wanted to go and which buses we had to take, what was the best place to exchange Euro’s, and where to go for shopping.
He stopped every bus and asked if it was going to our destination anyway, even though he could tell us exactly which bus we had to take. When our bus arrived he got on the bus with us and paid our bus-tickets before we could politely refuse. We were in shock. This is the greatest random act of kindness we have ever experienced and even though it was only 1RM (about €0,25) bus-tickets it meant the world to us.
Has it ever felt like a stranger knew exactly how you were feeling and went out of their way to make you happy again?
Living on the beach is something I could get used to. Filling my days with eating, reading, swimming and taking strolls along the beach. Wearing nothing but a bikini and a sarong. Having elaborate lunches on the beach with smoothies, fresh fruit and noodles (it’s still Thailand).
Our home on Koh Phayam was a tiny wooden cabin with an outdoor shower and toilet. I never thought I would shower among rainbows one day, but I did and it was every bit as wonderful as you would think. The floorboards of our little house were creaking and had massive holes in them, there was always at least one gecko running around the ceiling and at night our only light was a candle.
It felt like going back to the basics. There was internet, but only barely fast enough to check your email. This meant we could not work. The weeks before coming to Koh Phayam we had plunged into work like a deep-sea diver, we had spent every free minute on our laptops. And now here on Koh Phayam, we couldn’t. There was no escaping ourselves. Nick has no problem relaxing, he was made for reading books all day. I always find it difficult to switch from work mode to relax mode. It took me a few days to completely relax and not worry about emails, clients, blogging and Facebook. Even when you absolutely love what you do, it can get overwhelming and sometimes you need some distance.
Feeling free on Koh Phayam like I haven’t felt free in forever. Nowhere to go, nothing to do except for reading or swimming. Reading always clears my head and makes room for new inspiration, thoughts and ideas. I had so many books I still wanted to read and I have to say, I read quite a few of them while basking in the glorious Thai sun. One of the best ones, Looking for Alaska, is actually a Young Adults book.
The patterns the sea left in the sand every morning and the glorious sunshine revived us. We have talked before about living close to the beach and being here made this idea even more idyllic. But, after spending last week in the mountains of Cameron Highlands, living in the mountains, near the woods has also really taken our fancy. A mountainy beach front house with a garden adjacent to the woods, with deers (or alternatively these guys) running around in the early mornings when I get back from my morning walk along the shore line… does anyone know where I might find this?