Den Haag…another day with no joke

Sunday August 11 – Den Haag

I slept in again today – my back was hunting again – but I had looked yesterday and almost everything was closed until noon today, so there was no reason to rush out of the house. I love taking walking tours and recommend them to anyone traveling. Usually it gives you an opportunity to explore the city center – including many places you may not have checked out on your own while giving you historical and cultural information. Many of them end with a trip to a pub or a coffee (depending upon the time of day).

I got ready and walked over to the meeting point – Im sure I would make most others nervous or anxious with the lack of planning I do – but it said it was going to meet in this square and the email didn’t necessarily tell you where.  I had a feeling it was near this cartoon statue – so I checked the website and I was right. There were 14 people on the tour, great size group – we had Russians, Texans, Germans, and some Asians – all different points of views on the world. Makes for great conversation when you find out how everyone learns a different history about many parts of history.

Our guide was Denny – he normally does architectural tours but he was filling in for his friend while she was on holiday with her family. He had a lot of insight on the architecture of the buildings so we got to see a lot of little details most people don’t notice – or if they do itll take years (according to Denny). He took us through parks, gardens and we walked all over the city center. For me the highlights were realizing how old the city and the fact that they are still ruled by a king! They vote here for the people who keep the government in check, not the actual government since the king appoints them. They also have like 25+ parties – so they are forced to work together and it is hard to bribe them since the group changes so frequently.

We also learned about the canals throughout Holland – basically they are all locks and dams meant to assist with water problems (rising and lowering due to weather) most of Holland is below sea level. They aren’t afraid of rising sea level because they are prepared for it – they worry about the world, but not themselves.

At the end of free tours they say “now is judgement time.” This is when you get to place value on the tour, since many people who come on these are backpackers or who don’t want large expensive tours, often times $10-15/person is a reasonable rate. I usually give $10 – if they do really good $15 – those are the ones who can answer all my crazy questions. After the tour I walked over to the city volunteers (they have these people with maps and candy to help tourists) and got a map because I want to take the tram to the beach, but first – LUNCH!

I ended up finding another pizza place but opted for pasta and soup this time. I really want some fries!! I haven’t found a stand open when I am actually hungry for them though.  I sat and wrote up to this point in the blog, read some of my book and enjoyed the food for a while. After lunch I walked around for a bit, then went to figure out the tram system so I could check out the beach. Luckily you can buy tickets with a card on the trams themselves – the signage and information at the stops is actually very good here. I rode line #1 from the city center to the beach area. It was about a 25 minute ride. The tram went down tree lined streets – everything so lush and green – make the outskirts of the city seem farther away than it really was.

I got to the beach stop, opened Google maps and headed towards the water. On the way over I ran into a bunch of kids teaching each other parkour. It was a pretty cool site to see – looked like a legitimate club – they had shirts and leaders and stuff. Getting to the beach from the tram line was a quick 10 minute walk. It smelled like fish the closer I got to the water – but the beach views were gorgeous. It was (and usually is) very window, so there were many windsurfers out on the water. I didn’t see many people camped out on the beach – but it was pretty cool  out (all of 64*).

After I checked out the beach I went back to the tram, I really wanted to get some digestives (ya know fiber full crackers, with chocolate!) and chocolate for my adventures tomorrow – luckily there was a shop just at the tram stop. I gathered my snacks and got on the tram back to the city center. I stopped at the Peach Palace as my guide recommended it. However, you can you cant actually go in and they only have a small visitor center to check out. I took some pictures and headed back to the tram. The Peace Palace is an international group of people appointed by each country that handles international arbitration. In order to participate each side must agree to the final settlement.

Once back at the city center I decided it was time to head back to my Airbnb and relax for a bit before the concert and also change, it was already cooling off and it was only 5pm. I got back to my room and no one else was home (woohoo) but I just went to my room to watch some Friends and take a nap before my super wild night ahead. I full expected to be out late (and I was!)

The concert started at 7pm – but tickets said P!NK had two openers – so I didn’t leave the house until after 7pm since the park was only about a 15 minute walk. People were filing in from the trams, buses and trains – all so orderly and excited. I followed the wave of people into the park. There was a bike parking lot at the venue (and many people didn’t even lock their bikes up) and a locker facility in case you wanted to leave stuff outside of the park.

I decided I had come all this way I should buy a shirt with the concert dates and places on it, so I waited in the long line and got a shirt. After that I headed to ticket check in. I paid for the closest area (the Golden Circle) which meant my line to get in was super short. They scanned your ticket, put on a wristband and made you throw away your ticket. You then have your bags looked at, but no metal detector or pat down. Europe (ok maybe just this area) has concert venues figured out. No cash at the food or beverage lines. You instead buy tokens – plastic round coin like pieces that can be split in half to pay for food or beverages. The minimum you could buy was 5 tokens – for $15. So I went with the 5 tokens because they had FRIES!! The friends were 1.5 tokens and the drinks (non-alcoholic) were 1 token a piece. I got fries, fanta and a water. They even had water refill stations around the site – its super nice!!

Singa-poor

Today I learned how expensive it is to live in Singapore. That list you can find at the bottom of this entry. Makes me think I make Really, really good money and that I should stop complaining how expensive it is to buy in California. Anyway….back to my day.

Had a nice slow morning, it is Saturday after all. Had some breakfast and headed out to find the BattleBox. The BattleBox is a bunker from WWII and the Allied troops. Google said it was about a 25 minute walk away, and Google is good. Like it wasn’t 25 minutes of walking, it was about 15, The rest of the time was waiting for the damn walk sign to light up. And man do people give you a look if you cross with no cars coming. But since I have yet to see a police officer I figured I’d take the looks.

I Took the 50 or so steps up to the road that led to the bunker. I didn’t know much about it other than this is where the Allies made the decision to surrender to the Japanese.

You couldn’t take pictures inside (for the life of me I can’t figure out why, nothing is original) so I’ll do my best to make this the least boring explanation.

The bunker had 29 rooms all about 9 meters underground (~27 feet). The Allies cut the top of the hill off to build the bunker then put the top back on. They also had an office building and barracks on the site. The walls were about 3 feet thick with big steal doors in between each room. They even had air purification systems down there. It was designed for 90 days of bunker time and designed to withstand and air raid or a gas attack. Ok least boring!! Or so I hope.

Anyway, I ate the tour up. I learned so much!! So did this like 9 year old German kid. We were always the first two to each room and to ask questions. Our guide was great. She had more knowledge than just the tour, She was able to ask every question we threw at her.

After the bunker I decided to take a hop on hop off your again. They have a 7 route option. They do whatever it takes to upsell you. The last two routes take you to the zoo….on a shuttle. But whatever. I took the longest route and it took about 2 hours. This is where I learned all the fascinating facts about how expensive Singapore is.

The tour was great. They provided facts and historical information. I really enjoyed it. It started raining at one point but it was so sunny out I couldn’t figure out where the rain was coming from.

Anyway after the tour ended I was hot I headed back to the hotel.  It was about 4 by the time I got back. I cooled down and headed to dinner around 6. I realized this is my last night in Asia and so I opted for some Thai. I love Thai food. Hasn’t gotten old yet. But I did want olive garden and that’s not the same haha!!

After dinner I was walking back to the hotel when I saw the famous foot massage chairs through a window. I got so excited. I inquired on pricing and almost balked, but decided $60 for a 40 minute foot massage and 20 minute neck massage was worth it. And it was fabulous. So great I’m going back tomorrow for an extra long (40 minute) neck massage. You sit in the chairs and to me that’s almost more comfortable than the table because my back doesn’t have to be flat on a surface.

Headed back to the hotel, face timed with Cali and did some packing. Gonna do my massage in the morning, meet the Jungle Boys for lunch then head to the airport to go home….if I did my math right (and I’m sure I didnt) the 29th of April will be 41 hour extravaganza!! I’m looking forward to being served cold water, no humidity and my dog!!

Things I learned about owning a car:

1. Every 4 days certificates are released based on the number of cars de-certified. You have to bid for this certificate. It is not unusual for it to cost in excess of $40,000 USD, this price DOES NOT include the car.

2. Singapore has an import tarriff of 100% on every car imported.

3. They have electronic rate sections of the city. As in you have to pay a fee to drive on certain roads.

4. Singapore is the number 2 exporter of used cars, second only to Japan.

5. Reason? That certificate is only good for 10 years, then you lose it and the car must go.

6. There are no old cars in Singapore.

Things I learned about property:

1. 25% of Singapore is reclaimed land. As in they imported sand to make new land (reclaimed from the water??) This new land is what the new financial district is being built on currently. Buildings are tall, sparkly and new.

2. Because of all this importing of sand, property prices are even more expensive.

3. The government subsidized housing. Almost 85% of the population of singapore lives in government subsidized housing.

4. Airbnb is banned in Singapore. As is any less than 6 month rental.