Let’s Go Exploring! Amsterdam: Sex, Drugs…and Roving Bicycle Gangs?

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FIRECracker is a computer engineer/children’s author, who used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. But instead of drowning in debt to buy a house, she saved and invested instead. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her to retire at 31 and travel the world.
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This is part of a Travel Series called “Let’s go Exploring!” Click here for Part 1, Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5


“Don’t worry! When you’re on a bike, if a driver hits you, he loses his house! If you hit person, they pay for your bike!” Luca, the bike mechanic, was telling us as we headed onto the bike path for the first time.

In Amsterdam, bikes are King.

But despite his assurances, I was still nervous. Keeping as close to the sidewalk as possible, I wobbled my way through the streets, nervously eyeing the cars on my left.

“Don’t let them pass you! This is Amsterdam. Remember! Bikes are king!” Luca yelled, motioning for me to cut across 4 lanes of traffic.

Shockingly, he was right. Cars slowed down to a halt, pedestrians darted out of the way, apologizing profusely, and other cyclists nodded, welcoming me as one of their own.

We’d been in Amsterdam for less than 24 hours and already we could see this truly was a city of the bike gangs. In fact, in a city of 700,000, bikes outnumbered people by 3 to 1. It didn’t matter if you were young, old, or a businessman dressed to the nines, the best and safest way to get around was by bike.

Bikes, bikes, bikes. Did I mention there are a shit ton of bikes?

So not only was the biking good for our wallet, it was good for our egos.

Suffice to say, it was easy to see why Luca loved living there. As a bike mechanic, Luca’s business was booming, netting him a sweet $70,000 Euros/year (or $100,000 CAD dollars).

Every morning, Luca would leap to his feet, face the rising sun and bow reverently, saying “Thank you, dealers! Thank you, junkies!” Because by the end of the week, junkies would’ve stolen all the bikes he just sold, and his last-week customers would be pounding his door to buy another.

“This is why only idiots buy new bikes in Amsterdam!”

Did I mention there are bikes? Seriously, there are SO many bikes.

After we got the hang of biking, we rode our way to Centraal station to check out Amsterdam’s main attraction: The “coffee” shops.

If you’ve never eaten a space cake (or pot brownie), do not idiotically ignore the instructions and eat the entire thing at once. What you’re SUPPOSED to do is eat half, wait an hour, and only eat the rest if you don’t feel anything.

Unfortunately, we’re not good with instructions.

Two hours and WAY too much space cake later, I was asking in a panicked voice “Where are we going? What is that?” while pointing to the giant clock prominently displayed on the Centraal station building.

“It’s Centraal station! Duh.”

I cocked my head, squinting at it. “WHAT? Nooo. It’s looks different from this side.”

“You mean, the outside?” Wanderer said.

“Oh yeah.” And we immediately burst into giggles.

“SHHHHHHH” Wanderer said, as an old granny glared at us suspiciously. “Be. Quiet. People. Are. Going To. Know. We’re…High!”

The rest of the evening was pretty fuzzy…somehow we managed to get off the ferry in tact with our bikes. But we were way too stoned out of our minds to walk, let alone peddle a bike, so instead, we found our way into a deserted parking lot. This is when things started to go downhill.

“WHAT’S THAT?” Wander asked, his eyes darting around the empty parking lot.

I followed his gaze.“What? There’s nothing there.”

“WHO’S THERE?!” Wanderer yelled,

By this time, the effect had worn off on me, so luckily, at least one of us was somewhat lucid. “Calm down! There’s no one there.”

“Meep!” Wanderer said, clinging to my neck. “I’m scared.”

I rolled my eyes. “Relax, there’s nothing to be scared—“

*insert leaf blowing, people coughing, or cat meowing noises*

“GAH!” Wanderer yelled, leaping into my lap.

I rolled my eyes so hard I almost passed out. For the next hour, I simultaneously tried (and failed) to calm Wanderer down, while keeping us from getting robbed by random dudes hanging around the parking lot.

Somehow we managed to walk our bikes home, through sheer determination on my part, while Wanderer kept muttering over and over again, “we’re never going to get home. We’re never going to get home. All is lost. Everything is lost…”

Needless to say, if we ever try space cakes again, we are definetly going to pay attention to the order of operations. Get Home, THEN eat the space cake. NOT the other way around. *sigh*

Cost breakdown (per couple)

  • Accomodations: $80/night
    • A bit far from the city center but luckily Luca lent us 2 bikes. Also there was a free ferry. Sweet!
  • Food: $30/day.
    • I have no idea how he did it, but Luca somehow found the best Sichuan restaurant outside of China…in Amsterdam of all places. Nom nom.
    • If you’re ever in Amsterdam, try the herring (3-4 Euros). It’s delicious and tastes WAY better than it looks. If you like sashimi, you will love it.



    • Amsterdam actually had quite a few options for cheap food…except most of it is stoner food (obtained from the Febo machines littering the city for 2 Euros). Not the healthiest, but we had our fill of Croquettes (think deep-fried, breaded gravy) and dutch fries (fatty and juicier than regular fries, topped with various condiments like mayonnaise or curry ketchup). Super addicting and cheap (2-5 Euros).
    • Also, make sure you try a “Stroopwafel”. Think deliciously gooey caramel, sandwiched by two thin wafers (ridiculously cheap at $1.50 Euros for a bag of 6!)
    • Stroopwafels_01
      photo credit: Takeaway@wikipedia
  • Attractions: $20/day
    • The Anne Frank House made me cry a lot. First from the insane line-up, then from her actual diary. This is a “5-tissue minimum” attraction (9 Euros/person).
    • Vondelpark (think Central Park in Amsterdam) was absolutely beautiful and completely free! It’s also sprawling so I recommend renting a bike.
    • “Coffee shops” were surprising reasonable (4 Euros for a space cake, 3-5 Euros for a joint). For the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee, you could come away with something way better than caffeine. Just make sure you get back to your hotel/airBnB first. The effect takes a LONG time to wear off.IMG_0857
    • If you decide to check out the Red Light district, be prepared for a very touristy attraction. A ton of tour groups come through there, and most of the girls overcharge for shitty services (or so I’ve heard. *Ahem*) so it’s totally not worth it (hey, those glass booth rentals ain’t cheap!). You’re better off going to Pascha (think entire skyscraper full of whores…or “whorescrapper” if you will) in Cologne Germany….which I’ll be saving for a future post. Teehee.
  • Transportation: $20/day
    • The flight from Copenhagen to Amsterdam was $142CAD/couple, and since we stayed in Amsterdam for a week, that works out to be $20/day.
    • Transportation was free for the rest of the week because of the bikes our host lent us.
    • Getting around Amsterdam was ridiculously easy on bikes and super fun too. I’d say the biking is an attraction in of itself. And you will feel like the King of the road.
  • Total Cost: $150/day/couple
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 Space Cakes.

What can I say? There’s very little to not love about Amsterdam. It’s one of these special places where you feel like you can be yourself…regardless of how horrible a person you are. You will not be judged. And even with rampant prostitution and soft drugs being consumed in the open, everything’s so regulated you’ll feel 100% safe. I think I saw a camera at almost every street corner in the Red Light district. And even though we were high as kites and sitting in a dark parking lot at 2am in the morning, no one tried to rob us. And now that I’ve had that experience, I finally know the true meaning of the lyrics: “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you”. YAY?

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5 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! Amsterdam: Sex, Drugs…and Roving Bicycle Gangs?”

  1. Sounds like we had very similar Amsterdam experiences. We loved the herring, the stroopwaffles, the space cakes, dodging bikes…all of it was great. And the visit to the Anne Frank museum is something we won’t forget. I could have left the Red Light district. It was creepy.

  2. Really enjoying these posts. Thanks for sharing information about your travel adventures.

    One question that popped into mind today:

    What sort of health insurance were you carrying as you travelled? I’ve never seen this included in any of your cost breakdowns, but I assume you must have had some for your world tour.

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