Continuing from where we left off at Trip to Europe 1995... The story begins... is a piece on what happened in Holland, particularly in Amsterdam. The editted piece was published in The News Straits but soon enough came a letter to the editorial made by Dutchman who was not happy with the story. The letter which was published in the NST's centrepage blasted my story for potraying Amsterdam as a place of thieves. I guess it's my mistake for highlighting the city's negative side. Then again many Europeans have told me how dangerous Amsterdam really is. Anyway, read the story and judge for yourself... :]
What’s the big deal? Well, for a start it was an Ovation! (the famous Malay rock band Search used it for their concerts, mind you).
Just when I thought I could have my own "Live in Amsterdam concert" – busking was part of my travel agenda – the guitar was snatched right under my nose. Worse comes to worse, I could have sold it for some bread.
It was partially my fault really. I had been warned about this. I was told about Amsterdam’s reputation as the city with the highest crime rate in Europe. But no… I still treat things as if I was in Kuala Lumpur.
I was sleeping on a table in Niumarket, a market square east of the infamous red-light district after the long bus trip from London. It felt like a king-sized Dunlopillo at the time as I snuggled inside my sleeping bed ignoring the mid-noon heat, and a gruffy Dutchman lying torso bared with red-eyes beside me.
He was mumbling all sorts of rubbish about living on the street as a thief. Maybe he was striking conversation to relieve his angst.
I didn’t care as I dozed off with my rucksack under my head as my pillow and the guitar-strap tied to my body. I was out for the count.
Suddenly, a loud voice shocked me from my slumber. "Wake up, someone stole your guitar!!!"
There was an old guy thugging at my arms. The rucksack was there, so’s the straps. I can’t believe it, where’s the guitar?
I waited for a few minutes. There was a time in London where a homeless guy went off with my guitar and came back to return it. But then this was not London. The Dutchman never came back.
Much later at a police station where I made the report, I was told not to raise my hopes. In Amsterdam, once something is gone, it stays gone…
Anyway, it’s time to move on. I decided to check a coffee shop filled witg gigly funny-looking people (there were plenty of them around). It looked like any normal pub. But the music, an endless mix of rave with its repertoire of electronic sounds was hypnotic, almost pscychedelic.
A waiter handed me a menu. On it was a list of items. Jamaican, Turkish, mixed, weed, black plus some other exotic names. Hmm… Interesting blend of coffees, one might think.
Surprise! Surprise! No one’s talking about coffee but different blends of cannabis!
The bartender looked at me and the rucksack, rolled his joint, and bluntly said: "Keep a watch on your things buddie. This is Amsterdam,"
Yeah… Keep a watch of my things.. I will always remember that. And my guitar was probably somewhere on a boat to Colombia as an exchange for some cannabis!
That night, I walked around the famed red-light district. Several shops with the sign "adults only" greeted me.
Flanking a canal were old shophouses with glass windows and pink night-lights radiating a kind of sexy tinge in the air.
Inside the windows were every schoolboys’ wet dream come true. Girls, lots of girls… Chinese, Siamese, African, European, all clad in their undies dancing along to sexy music like some magic mannequin waiting for prince charming to pay their bread and butter.
They would dance non-stop until it’s time to rest or a customer calls. But that night, they’re just for show…
Sleep was in a sampan moored on one of the canals. No one seemed to mind. I did it for two nights (the sampan I mean).
Touring around Amsterdam on foot, I came across a fountain in the middle of a small round-about near Central Station. The surrounding pavement was filled by people watching street entertainers perform and pigeons scrurrying around for food.
But the main focus was the Damrak, the main street of Amsterdam extending southwards flanked by shopping malls and restaurants. Museums graced the other end including Van Gogh’s in honour of the eccentric painter who puts Holland on the arts map and his ear in an envelope.
I walked along it, sight-seeing and window shopping. Indonesian restaurants seems to appear at every visible corner. Locals cycling on big bulky bikes reminding me of cyclists in Muar, my hometown filled the gap between the cars and the people.
Then there’s the VondelPark, the local Taman Tasik Perdana with its beautiful landscape and twelve statues of Buddha sitting in the familiar lotus position in the middle of a lake.
However unlike Taman Tasik Perdana, the park was full of people high on booze and spliffs and joints enjoying a cool acid jazz concert, certainly a rare sight in Malaysia.
Despite all the attractions, it was time to start my hitchiking journey. But I still hadn’t summoned the guts to flag down any cars or lorries.
Instead I took the coward’s way out. A train to Schipol airport, another to Leiden and then a bus to Den Haag or The Hague. But I still got the best deal – I didn’t pay.
At Den Haag I spent two nights at a friend’s place facing the English Channel. The beach constantly filled with tanned Dutch, men and women, some topless, some as nature intended literally spelled sumer-time Dutch style.
On August 22th, I was finally ready for my first hike. The friend dropped me beside a highway, an ideal place to get a ride. My target was to reach Germany before midnight.
So there I was holding a cardboard marked "To Germany or East?" waving my thumb at every passing motorist.
Two hours later, I was still there with arms getting sore from the exercise. I walked heading east with the cardboard plastered on my rucksack, while waving to all the vehicles along the way.
Five kilometres later, I got my first hike from an Arab in a van all the way to Rotterdam. A good sign, I thought.
The rest of the hike saw me throught the towns of Delft, Dordretch and later Venlo near the border of Germany, before midnight.
As planned, I arrived in Germany, before midnight.
As I closed my eyes, body tucked inside the sleeping bag on a cosy spot in the woods beside the highway, I thought again about my beloved guitar.
Well goodbye guitar, welcome Germany.