No, they don’t say gracias here.

No, they don’t say gracias here.

I hate Portugal. Both Lisbon and Porto has insufferable slopes to climb, uneven cobble pavements and narrow alleys that just killed my legs, butt and lower back.

However, this actually adds to the magic of the cities because once my muscle pain wears out (soon I hope), what’s left in my memory would be the breathtaking viewpoints from the mountains, the hospitable locals who actually speaks English, the affordable and extremely delicious food with variety, the culture and literature that nurtured the cities (Jose Saramango guys!!) and the charming yet safe neighborhoods.

I had high expectation coming here, and unlike Paris (which was voted most disappointing city), both Lisbon and Porto still managed to exceed my imagination somehow and I didn’t even visit during its best season (summer)! So here I present to you the 8 reasons why I fell in love with the underrated country of Portugal! And no, Christiano Ronaldo, you’re not making the list.


1)Charm: Quick historical fact, it may be obvious that Athens is the oldest capital in Europe, but did you know which city comes second? If you’re following my logic here, you’re right, it’s Lisbon!

The reason why Lisbon is so well maintained throughout the years, is because they sold their tungsten (some metal for making weapons) very smartly during WWI. They declared neutrality and worked with both the Allies and Axis in supplying metals to make weapons. Or rather, they get paid for “not supplying” metals to one side of the war and get money as well for still selling it under the table. Portugal and Switzerland were the only two countries that came out of the war richer than before. Not to mention they got a lot of gold from Brazil back in the colonial days!


Lisbon and Porto held quite different personalities in my opinion though nonetheless equally captivating. Lisbon is more colorful, slightly posh and with shinier tiles; really got this presence of a capital city while still keeping that quaint little Tram 28. Porto on the other hand is more of a rugged and unpolished city with authenticity carved on the stone walls and bricks.

A bit more about my tram28 experience. I was told it gets so crowded and touristy during the day you can never get a seat. Since I was jet lagged anyways, I ventured out at 7am before the sunrise to make sure I get on the empty tram and I succeeded. I held on to my day pass and waited at the first stop bubbling with excitements. When I boarded, there was an old man behind me who’s apparently local as the driver knew him. As we ride up and down the narrow slopes of Lisbon, couples that looked probably as old as the tram came on and off the tram, sharing small chats with one another.

It was a completely different experience than what I’ve expected and even though I am clearly the outsider, the local passengers attempted to include me into their daily routines by nodding and smiling at me. No other gesture or physical movement is as universally kind as a genuine smile. As I stood at the back of the tram watching objects fade out backwards outside the windows, I realized everything I saw was what I have already passed by. The thing about trams is that once started, it can only go forward and such is life as well. Nonetheless, it is always tempting and reassuring to look back once in awhile at that beautiful scenery that you’ve passed by at some point in time. May be it’s a scene so far gone that you can’t be sure if it was real or an illusion anymore, but at the end of the day, does that even matter?

2)The weather: Even though I came in their coldest months, it was still a bearable and even comfortable 5-15 degrees, at least when the wind is not blowing. My friend used to tell me, just follow where grapes flourish, and you’ll get good weather. So no surprise, Portugal made the cut as they’re well known for their Port! Fun fact: The reason why 1)Port is so sweet 2)stronger in alcohol % and 3)different from red wine is that brandy is added to kill the yeasts and stop the leftover sugar from turning into alcohol. Basically putting a halt to the fermentation process, therefore, it is the spirit that spiked up alcohol content, and the leftover sugar gives it that lovely sweetness.

3)The people: I guess it’s not politically correct to stereotype, but I think I can be forgiven for generalizing in the positive direction right? Almost everyone I’ve met here in Portugal are really polite and friendly who love their city and are open to foreigners. I was told that is because they have a history of embracing different religions and people, namely the Moors and the Jews even during the Spanish inquisition. Instead of banishing the jews, they asked them to convert to Catholicism. At least that’s the case until crisis came. That’s why you see Arabian themed rooms in the Bolsa Palace, and also the style to build tiles on houses!

4) Architecture: Need I stay more? Apparently most tiles are traditionally painted blue and white to honor their royal colors (back in the days it wasn’t Red and Green) and they are used everywhere from residential buildings to churches and the vibrant paints just make Portugal that much more special 🙂

So here’s my elevator pitch on Portugal that I’ve practiced with my fluffy friend over breakfast on a warm sunny morning:

Unlike it’s neighboring country that is notorious for theft ahem *Barcelona* ahem, I felt perfectly comfortable roaming the streets at night by myself or venturing out early in the morning just to see the streets at dawn. It is a perfect mesh of old town and urban life. Unlike other ancient cities such as in Central Europe where they have super old metro and escalators, here the airport and public transport are all so modern and well maintained. Points of interests are well within reach, typically 15-30 mins walking distance which makes it the ideal weekend getaway. But let me warn you, Portugal will definitely sneak into a special place in your heart, leaving you wanting for more 🙂

Part 2 is coming soon. 


Hola Barcelona Part 1 – IESE MBA Summer School

(yes, the title rhymes on purpose :P)



After a rather dreadful long haul flight (which I normally enjoy; the undisturbed self selected movies watching and books reading, but Air China didn’t have that luxury and I forgot to bring a book -_-), I landed into Barcelona again after 3.5 years under the blazing Catalunya heat! I promised to be back but indeed it has been too long… I barely remember the places I have been to but Barcelona’s food and culture has yet again imprinted a flavorful and charming impression in my heart. It was and still is one of my favorite Europe cities 🙂


Thieves, thieves everywhere 

Nonetheless, a city with thieves…sometimes I just ponder, what life scenario must they go through, to convince and justify themselves to cheat and steal? Lucky enough, we only ALMOST got picked pocket. It wasn’t a pleasant experience of course, considering we were at that time walking in a rather wide street with passerbys at merely 10pm or so. However, I think it is worth recalling the details to learn their stealing patterns to be more alert next time round.

First he asked if we have fire for his cigarettes, then he quickly came close and asked if we’re Koreans. We tried to ignore him and walk quicker but he just leaned in and started doing random soccer kicks…and there it was, the moment of truth.

I saw the guy’s hand was on the wallet already! Then I shouted and he just laughed and said he was joking…at the moment it was hard to react because we were both shocked. Anyways, note to self: STAY ALERT when in Europe! Or basically just anywhere you go unless it’s Taiwan 😛

IESE MBA Summer School

More updates are coming up now that I have completed the primary reason on why I am in Spain: IESE MBA summer school! Sadly, the 5 days course flew by quickly, but the great thing is I have met new people, made new bonds and germinated new thoughtsIMG_8324.JPG 🙂

It was also a long 2 years since I was in a classroom again so I really treasure the time I had in class: learning new thoughts from Professor (like the implications of Brexit from Econ and ethical motivation from management prof etc.); spending hours and hours on discussions that are otherwise meaningless if not for the case presentation (but I really enjoyed the collision of ideas with my team from different backgrounds). All these are luxuries that I simply do not have anymore now that I started working. So this week-long experience together with the career advisor of IESE go me thinking about “career”. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but aside from that, there isn’t really anything else going on in my life.

I always knew that your 13730655_10155030589992785_1428188748_olife only really begin after you go through the set path of academics: Kindergarten to Primary School, to Secondary School and higher education. Because once you really graduated from your basic “teachings” and enter the real world, you are solely responsible for yourself. You are basically free to choose from anything and there is no one for you to follow behind anymore. I used to think that the hardest part is getting a job, then I know the toughest thing is finding a job you love. But now I realized, THE million dollar question is: what else are you gonna do for THE REST of your life? Because a job is only a part of it. I am thankful for this week of learning because now, I am beginning to have some idea and will continue to work towards it.

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What I remember of Paris

What I remember of Paris


I couldn’t possibly delay this any longer; despite how occupied my days were, there was a teeny part of me that kept reminding myself I have got to finish this. Of course it cannot be that I couldn’t squeeze an hour out to write this piece, perhaps a bigger, more emotional part of me did not want this to end.


It is like if this whole documentary never ended, my memories in Europe would linger forever. In 3 weeks time, another new chapter will begin but nothing can overwrite what happened in Europe.


I could never forget the beautiful evening on the top of Arc de Triomphe. As I moved along the rectangular roof, my eyes were drawn towards different streets and views, Avenue de Champ Elysees, Montmartre, Eiffel, La Defense etc. The wind was blowing and the sunset shadowing on us.


Of course this gorgeous view came with a price : climbing 284 stairs was not a joke.


I could never forget Versailles. It was so posh and huge. (Or perhaps chic is more suitable 😉


I could never forget the confusing and overcrowded Hall of Mirrors.


Or One of the few cleared sky rain free day in Paris


Or the perfectly symmetrical french garden.


Or the wide and long hallways with gigantic paintings hung up proudly on both sides.


Oh and that Delicious lunch (oh so small portion) and the sauce! The sauce was the heart and soul of the dish.


As I was queuing to get in, I turned around and stared at the far end of the palace.  I tried to imagine what is must be like 300 years ago when there was nothing BUT this gigantic, lavish palace.


Where the King purposely took the imperial power away from the people (Paris); where only the selected few nobles can “watch the king rise from bed”. Where horses and carriages were used instead of automobiles. What the world must be like back then! (Almost forgot there was no flush either!)


I could never forget the concentrated faces in Musee de Orsay, sketching famous sculptures. I mean will you ever see that in Hong Kong? I doubt it.

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The very last time I walked these symmetrical gardens. Trimmed trees and no grass.


Then of course there was Disneyland. I thought I would be ecstatic but I wasn’t. Is it because I am old now? I mean after all it is special, the 20th anniversary of Disneyland Paris (what a coincident there).


I had fun of course, the Hollywood Tower Hotel ride was such a huge surprise. I could still see how freaked out my friend and I were in the “haunted elevator”.

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But honestly, it was not that great. I remembered Hong Kong Disneyland and Florida to be so much more fun. Or was it because I was younger?


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Well, at least I learnt something new: This is Duffy, I first met him in Florida. He is a special bear Minnie made for Mickey to bring along to his sailing journeys. Mickey’s very own travel buddy. So “he would never be lonely.”

“ne se sente jamais seul”


Secret Wallet.

Gums and Ricola. Think again.



Good idea to outsmart thieves I think 😉

Final Chapter – Paris, Part 1.


The final trip of my first exchange to Europe. Paris. In all honesty, I loved the French Riviera more. But how can I skip Paris while visiting Europe? It just cannot be. So this is me and Paris in a week.

1) Montmartre

Looks familiar? The carousel must remind you of Amelie, fascinating movie. We went to the Cafe where she worked in and had tea there. P1120898


The girl who loves the sound of tapping spoon on creme brulee crust. Super touristy I know, but I just couldn’t resist 😉


After climbing what seemed like never ending stairs, we arrived the gigantic Basilica. It was filled with people on a warm Sunday afternoon. It felt so local to be lying on the grass slope sunbathing and sitting on the staircase watching impossible performances.



Within this green district, time paused. No one cared how long they have spent doing nothing . Everything else was secondary and we were all there for one glorious purpose – chill.


This performer climbed up the lamp post with his football, spinning and flying like he was spiderman or something. His performance was so good that I actually gave him money at the end.  Coming from a poor student, this must mean something.

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Montmartre is also famous for its artists. We saw numerous painters in the square and I was so close to actually getting a portrait of myself, but then I thought, what if it turned out to be really ugly? Or what if it turned out to be so pretty that isn’t like me? Or perhaps, I was just too stingy after all 😛


Over 100 euros for a show in Moulin Rouge. Sigh. I will definitely watch it when I start earning my own money.


2) La Defense

This slick architecture is the icon of La Defense. Central Business District with Shopping malls and everything. You can actually see it from the Arc de Triomphe at the end of Champs Elysees. I watched Iron Man 3 here!


3) The Louvre

Speaking of this world-renowned museum, we were kind of ashamed because after merely an hour, we fell asleep while resting on the indoor bench. I blame the heating. But seriously, Mona Lisa was just so small with so many people pushing to get closer (which is still like a meter away). The most fun part was taking photos of ourselves 😛


The sign on the pyramid is the Trinity sign. Kind of like two infinity signs blended together.

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Even after a few months in France, I still couldn’t locate my love for Western Arts. I am just so not an Art-museum lover after all. These interactive exhibitions, however, were much more entertaining.

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4) Avenue des Champs Elysees

They say it’s the most beautiful avenue on earth. Well may be it is. Even the A&F store there was super glamourous.

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Who knew Benz produces perfume?! While we were strolling along the street after dinner, I commented that people who live on this street must be extremely wealthy.


Then my friend added, “either that or they are hobos.” Haha. Very true. We did see homeless people sitting outside of branded stores that were already closed. What a striking contrast.


5) Eiffel Tower

Unfortunately we didn’t see it light up at night because everyday the sun set at 10pm and we live an hour away from city, which means we have to go home by 9pm latest 😦

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During our free tour, the guide told us a touching story about the Eiffel Tower. Before Hitler arrived Paris, the French cut down the elevator chord to the top of Eiffel Tower. Thus, Hitler could only look up from the ground during the 4 years occupation and never actually stepped foot the tower. Even when the world was crumbling down, falling into the wrong hands and covered with blood stains, Eiffel Tower was always free. I hope it will always remain free.

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The famous Notre Dame de Paris where the “Hunchback” lived. It was the last Cathedral I visited in Europe. Coincidentally, it reminded me a lot of the church I first saw in Monaco. Where have the time gone?

6) Seine River

Along the banks, I saw so many stalls selling paintings and mini Eiffel Towers. Highly recommend buying from these stores instead of hawkers on the street. (Because we saw a hawker pissed on the street and touched his merchandize without washing his hands.)

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From afar, I thought the bridge had golden fences. On a closer look, however, all the golden were locks! Love locks, where lovers throw the key into the river after securing it on the bridge.  So that their love/promise whatever will stay forever.


I wonder who started it. The whole thing doesn’t make much sense. I guess it’s supposed to be romantic. My dad suggested that I should sell these locks and copy a million keys so every time after the couples left, I can unlock it and resell it again 😉


7) Place de la Concorde and Tuileries Garden

This pointy thing is  an Obelisk (yes I wiki-ed it). Turns out the French not only robbed artifacts from around the world, claimed ownership over them and placed them in the Louvre; they actually helped decrypt the Ancient Egyptian language! That’s why their Government thanked them with this “stairway to heaven.”


This is just me resting (second thing I did most in Paris, after tea-ing) next to the big fountain in the Tuileries Garden. Interestingly, all gardens in France are highly symmetrical. This is because they think symmetry is the most beautiful form. The tour guide also told us that’s why you don’t see much grass in French gardens… grass were very difficult to maintain back in the days, so you see a lot of sand instead. They are more “manipulatable” (Control Freaks!)


8) Food. Along this road with purple trees, we had a “reunion dinner” sort of.

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Yes, Laduree is in Hong Kong now ! But they don’t have the ice cream with half a macaron on top… I handled some bank issues at BNP while eating the Coffee flavored ice cream. I almost left my bank card on the table but most certainly remembered my cup of ice cream.


9) Glass ceiling of Galeries Lafayette


This is where we saw high tech and extremely chic kitchen tools. This is also where we fantasized being future housewives/great cooks/ mothers. Brunch on Sundays and our kids playing together! Oh, I hope that day will come soon when I get that auto pepper grinder with light as housewarming gift 😉

End of Part 1

Netherlands – part 2 (Maastricht, Eindhoven)


Definitely the longest time I have put my blog on hold as I have finally returned to reality; back to GMT +8. Now finally, a break from meeting family and friends, time for some self indulgent me-time.


I know I know, a Church in Europe, no big deal. But hey, guess what’s actually inside?

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Wait a minute, doesn’t that look kind of like a bookstore? Well because it IS a bookstore! For once, 9gag posts aren’t myths! Of course there is big Miffy at child section 🙂


On a side note, highly recommend this funny and enlightening book from Sweden “The hundred- year -old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared.” It made me laughed a few times on my flight back.


Haven’t had any good waffles after my visit to Belgium in late Feb…until I met this pink store! They actually put chocolate sticks INTO hot waffles so by the time you bite till the middle, it melts in your mouth. hmm delicious.


I have seen many tourist trains, but solar paneled ones? Definitely the first time!


Somehow everyday was bright sun white cloud blue sky in Netherlands. Chilling by the river under the swaying shadows of slender trees; resting alongside people smoking weed, ahem, I mean enjoying themselves under the sun; watching mean black ducks chasing kinder ones  on the water surface… I can picture myself doing this for another few months.


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Perks of being young: seemingly infinite time we’ve got. Seconds, minutes, hours that make up lives. Yet, the last 5 months flew by so quickly and before I can fully process it, I am into my last year in college. Time is so precious, do what you want to do and meet who you want to meet. Tomorrow might sound like a big promise but it really is no guarantee.


I was told the Treaty that created a common currency – Euro was signed right here at Maastricht 😉 To be honest, politicians should be more creative than naming their treaties after where they signed it…


Young adults playing saxophone next to the river, and I assume that’s what they do every weekend!

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Then a nice long reading break with…unknown drink, well we ordered lemonade but as long as it’s cold I am happy.


Roads are paved completely in old tiles making it extremely difficult to ride a bike.


It felt like Spring, everything blooming and you never know what to expect around the next corner 🙂 So many things are just waiting to happen.


Banks in Eindhoven somehow looked like big mansions…


And that’s a store inside an egg. Why is every building so unexpected?


Lastly, the first time I live in a room all by myself. The door number was not the luckiest but it was such a lovely single room. I actually had to buy an old school clock as my phone was lost :/ thank god I did not miss my flight. NOT even once. 😉

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Rotterdam, where every police I met was a woman~


First off, why on earth have I met 4 police woman in the politie station? Well, just a few weeks before going back to Hong Kong, I have accidentally (?) dropped my phone 😦 in somewhere that I wasn’t 100% sure. But well that matter had been settled, what was REALLY strange was every police I encountered was a middle aged woman :O. Completely opposite to the stereotypical masculine police figure. Anyway they have been so nice to me and based on my “rather” limited encounter with police, I think they are all really kind people who tend to swear a lot.


Now back to Rotterdam, it seemed like a decent city, but there really was just one touristic place: Kinderdijk. There are 19 windmills that have been there forever; long enough to be listed a UNESCO. Most importantly, it was completely free!


We rented a bike (haha, another funny story) for a few euros and got to enjoy the postcard views along the rivers of those tall old windmills.


That above is obviously too big to be my bike. I am not good at cycling at all given that this is merely my third time riding one, but turned out I was not the worst! I managed the entire journey back and worth without falling.


Indeed there were some occasional sudden breaks, brushing against pedestrians, screaming and shouting. But but but, I still managed. Once when I stopped suddenly, a man walked by and said to me “I am Dutch, do you need me to teach you some lessons?” hahaha embarrassing.


Of course biking is no big deal, but for me it is. I figured out that it wasn’t the balancing that really frightens me. It was the being out of control. Instead of trusting my legs, I have to rely on 2 wheels that don’t even attach directly on me!


But I was still able to enjoy the view flying by me on both sides (yes, flying because I know the faster I go, the more steady it would be) of the bike despite my constant murmur to myself that I will not fall.


What made it even harder was the pedestrians who always move out of my way too slow, and the rather “narrow” road surrounded by water, another fear of mine. At the end I bruised my little right finger perhaps from brushing against the pedestrians too often 😛


I stopped occasionally when there were more things to see. I ran into 2 duckling families running some errands together. It was definitely one of the CUTEST scenes I have EVER seen in my exchange so far!


A big and a small family 🙂 With mommy and daddy protecting them from back and front!


Couples with the same pace in life.


Then of course we should never forget about the tea part!



And yet another day of TEAAaaaa. Now I am starting to have a rough idea where my extra weight might have came from 😉


There was then these strangely tilted dices they made into a HOUSE. It was cheap to go in, but it made us all very dizzy. I guess we human are too used to the normal straight line boxes.


AND of course the pancake boat. It wasn’t that special really, what was SUPER surprising…was the playroom they have under the boat!


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One last special thing, THE largest “vending machine” I HAVE EVER SEEN in my life 🙂


I-Amsterdam (A phrase I never quite understood)


Apr 30th.  Trip to Amsterdam on “drumrollll” QUEEN’s DAY! And it wasn’t even a deliberate decision. That’s why things are sometimes best when they are unintentional 🙂 Those days at Netherlands had some of the best weather I have ever seen in Europe. Everyday infinite blue sky and huge white clouds no matter where you look. 🙂


Queen’s day is the biggest thing for the Dutch every year and we had the luck to witness the parties, the wastes on the floor, the orange, and the horrifying smell of piss -_- (because they love Beer, Heineken, and after beer -> they go to the “public toilets” which are practically just mailbox size pissing stands with no doors -_-)



We had these tiny pancakes which were just super cute. Also based on inductive logic we thought this stall must have the best ones 😉


The weather was so great along with the Queen’s day vibe. A couple even moved their sofa OUT on their foyer for a sunbath!


Spring finally came along and flowers were blooming everywhere. Although it was really dirty during Queen’s day, the next morning the roads were swept clean again like nothing has happened!


This is Anne Frank’s house. I never thought I would be able to get behind the ACTUAL bookshelf secret chamber. This exchange to Europe has fulfilled way beyond my dreams, and I’m not even 20 yet! 🙂


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We also went to this slick library in Amsterdam which really made the Central Library in Hong Kong a midget. The Netherlands is so homo friendly that there are dedicated bookshelves of books related to homosexual topics 🙂 and they are in pink.


There were too many fluffy sofas and comfy chairs everywhere.



And this, the adorable child section. Everyone shrunk back to a kid in this zone.

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Imagine studying in this library, I would never want to leave.


Who can miss the beautiful Tulips when visiting Holland! Keukenhof was the flower “Theme park.”


Name any color and you probably can see it there.

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I never knew Miffy was from the Netherlands. Within Keukenhof, there was a cutie miffy playground and there was this little girl stuck, yelling “MOM I can’t get out of here” in English, probably a tourist. I was going to help her but I was afraid she might scream” Mom someone’s kidnapping me”.

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After the flowers, the red light district come into mind! And oh my, of course the red light district is huge. Out of respect, and also fear of being spilled pee, I dare not take any photos of the workers. It was kind of eye-opening for me because I actually saw people asking for prices and going in. 50 euros for 15 mins. Imagine that.



Wonderful mornings mean magical evenings. This was a super decadent trip. But the food in Netherlands was not particularly remarkable. The coffee was better in Italy, apple strudel better in Vienna, and well the waffles was just as good as Belgian ones.


But I would still think it is the best Europe country for me to live in if I ever have to pick one. It’s food is decent, living standard normal (better than Swiss and UK) but people can speak English so well! (better than Spain,France,Italy) and the weather seemed great. (If it was just trying to fool me, it succeeded)


WE did climb up the statue! Risking our lives, no exaggeration. But the only photo with the whole word was without us :/


That on the left is an anti-pee device. Apparently it will splash right back at you when you pee at that corner xD (obviously I didn’t/couldn’t try) They said back in the days it was hooked to electricity :O.


Another outstanding observation: the houses in Amsterdam looked awfully tilted and when I thought I was either hallucinating (not that I did any weed 😉 or the architects were drunk; it’s neither of those reasons! You see pulleys at the top of the buildings and buildings are usually tilted outwards so when things gets moved up back in the days (no elevators, and stairs too narrow), it won’t bang into the window!


As an ending to Amsterdam, we visited this hmm, I’m not sure what these are called. Let’s say it’s a dormitory for single woman over 30. Seems like a legit place to stay really, safe and sound.