Photo by Isabella Jusková
As the world gets smaller, more flight routes are opening up between Hong Kong and Europe, which means competitive prices! One slow afternoon in work I found myself searching for flights to Amsterdam out of curiosity and almost fell off my chair when I saw how cheap they were. Despite just being back from Tokyo and Chiang Mai, I took a risk and messaged Dustin to see if we should take a spontaneous trip. He replied “why not”.
We flew KLM, which is actually one of my favourite airlines and haven’t had a bad flight with them to date – touch wood. We landed early morning so after finding our AirBnB in Oosterpark, we set off on bikes to the city centre, ready to explore.
Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, especially in spring/summer. Stalls along the canals are bursting to the seams with flowers, there’s quaint boutiques in almost every direction you look, and the city has a strong focus on art. Whether it’s huge murals of graffiti on the sides of buildings or beautifully designed posters advertising a local band.
We visited Foam, a photography museum in the heart of the city and looked a local, as well as international photographers work one gloomy afternoon. With the spring weather’s unpredictability, it was also a good chance to check out the famous Rijksmuseum, the museum of the Netherlands, packed with Dutch art and history from the middle ages.
On the lighter days, we checked out the local markets to see what they had to offer. A lot of it was second hand or bric-a-brac style, but still made for an interesting morning stroll with a cup of locally made hot chocolate. There are also very sweet cafes dotted all around the outskirts of the city centre, including one specialising in cakes. Dustin surprised me and took me there one afternoon and we sat above the counter, overlooking the rest of the cafe.
The food scene is also pretty hot in Amsterdam and Dustin arranged a date night Mama Kelly, a beautiful upmarket restaurant located in the olympic stadium. The entire interior is light pink and even the cocktails were pink. Another favourite was a bar and restaurant near our AirBnB called Bar Bukowski, which served an array of local craft beer and delicious food. On our last morning before heading to Brussels, we had breakfast there.
After finishing up breakfast, we headed to the train station to pick up our pre-booked tickets that would take us to Brussels. We took silly selfies with filters on the train, so won’t post those here, but the train was an older one with dark red interior and a traditional bathroom with old fixtures. It was a novelty for us and something we hadn’t experienced in our hometowns or Asia.
Same as Amsterdam, as soon as we arrived in Brussels, we headed straight to our AirBnB. We stayed north of the city, which meant it took some time to get used to after being south in Amsterdam. We unpacked a little then set back out to explore. Cities in Europe are packed full of history with traditional buildings, cathedrals, little curious lanes.
Directly behind where we were staying was a kind of square with rows of restaurants and a water fountain in the middle. The weather was also warmer and the sun was out, so we happily sat in deck chairs by the fountain and enjoyed a classic Belgium beer.
The second night, we went to visit an old friend of Dustin’s from South Africa. He’d studied to become a chef and opened his own place with his girlfriend outside of the city. We took a visit to have dinner at Le 203 and the place was stunning with an open plan design so we could eat and chat to Rich (Dustin’s friend and the chef). We caught up over wine and delicious food, then went to a nearby bar much later after Rich had closed up.
Belgium is known for it’s chocolate and beer, and boy does it do it well. While we are always on the hunt for local craft beer wherever we travel, we were spoiled for choice during our time in Brussels. We also didn’t leave without picking up a solid bar of dark Belgium chocolate from a local chocolatier. I’m hoping this isn’t our only visit to this beautiful city, and we’ll have a chance to catch up with Rich again soon.