Hello from KL! Once again, sorry for the absence! But also, a huge thank you for staying with the blog and coming back despite that short hiatus. It still feels weird getting views from all over the world even though I wasn’t posting much – only 1 post in 3 weeks!
I thought only the people who actually know me in person (Shout out to Philippines, Malaysia, and Europe!) take time to read my ramblings but apparently, some people in Mexico, Germany (where I don’t have any relatives, I think!), all the way down to New Zealand (and a lot more countries) find these entries interesting. And for that, a big, virtual hug for you guys! Thank you so much for supporting this blog. :-*
I guess the hardest part about having to write about your long vacation is not really knowing where to start. So let’s just back track all the way to day 1.
We left Kuala Lumpur on the 8th of August for a 3-week trip to Europe to visit family and friends while going sightseeing along the way. It was my husband’s first time in Europe so it was actually fun going back to some of the places I’ve already been to and acting like a tour guide while discovering new places with him.
We flew via Emirates and it was a pretty great experience with them. Is it better than my favourite KLM? You’ll have to wait for the separate post on that. Though I must say that Emirates really made the looong journey bearable for someone like me who has been flying a lot for years but absolutely hates it. (Dries out my skin and hair, stress, boredom, anxiety during take off/ landing – I can go on all day)
As soon as we arrived, tragedy struck. I got corneal abrasion from my persistence to put on my contact lenses despite my dry eyes. That doomed me into wearing my glasses for a week. Not that I’m entirely complaining. I love my glasses with its vintage vibe and all but I hate not being able to wear sunglasses unless I go for them and decide to be almost-blind for a day. Pfft.
My mom and her boyfriend (who’s a tour guide) picked us up in Schiphol. Since we only had a few days in Amsterdam before moving on to our next stop on this Europe trip, they decided to take us to Zaanse Schans right away so the husband can see the ever famous windmills. Off we go without freshening up! (I was totally dying to change into something more comfy but I didn’t want to be a wet blanket! And Alvin looked pretty game for it.)
Luggage lockers and getting to Zaanse Schans
We took a train from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal where we made use of the luggage lockers (bagagekluizen) there. Found in the station’s East Wing (near the Albert Heijn) you may rent them for a few euros per day and since we didn’t want to drag our (heavy) suitcases through the city then to the quaint neighbourhood we were going to, it was smarter to use this service. You can find the rates and a bit more info on this here.
From Amsterdam Centraal, there are two ways to get to Zaanse Schans. One is by taking the train to the Koog-Zaandijk station (takes less than 20 minutes) followed by a 10 to 15-minute walk. It’s a pretty fun way of seeing the area and you’ll be passing by a chocolate factory that makes sure the air smells of cocoa. Yum! Do take this route if you’re going in the summer. I tried it in 2013 during winter and I don’t recommend it on a windy, winter day. The part where you have to walk over a bridge to get to the actual area of Zaanse Schans can be quite chilly.
The other route going to Zaanse Schans is by taking the Connexxion bus 391 from Amsterdam Centraal. It comes every 15 minutes and the journey takes around 40. It’s kinda like sightseeing on a tour bus so this route is also fun. Though the main advantage of this is that you get dropped off right at Zaanse Schans and there would be no need for you to take a long walk to get there. For this trip, we took the bus going there then took the train back to Amsterdam Centraal. 😉
It’s a “living and working” community that dates back to the 18th century and is one of Europe’s oldest industrial areas. For most people travelling to the Netherlands, it’s a must see as it’s like taking a step back in time.
Our visit was right smack in the middle of the summer holidays so it was no surprise that Zaanse Schans was packed. The sun shining (way too) bright that day was practically a call for all the tourists in Holland to flock to this area.
Entrance to the park itself is free but there are some shops/attractions where you may need to pay for admission, like going inside the windmills. They’ve got a cheese shop and a wooden shoe shop and places where you can eat, shops for souvenirs and diamonds, and take photos. If I remember correctly, there are also demos on how to make cheese or a wooden shoe in their respective shops.
TIP: If you plan to also visit Volendam, another old Dutch town (more of a fishing village so not a lot of windmills here but it has its own charm) near Amsterdam, then get your souvenirs there instead of Zaanse Schans. They are cheaper there but of same quality. 😉 I’ll also be talking about that place in a different entry.
Obligatory touristy photos. 😉 Noticed how tired we both looked! Flying for 13 hours with a 3 hour layover in between is no joke. Ugh. Of course I look haggard.
If you want to stay away from the crowd, I suggest you leave the shops behind and walk towards where the small houses are. These areas are a lot more quiet and in between houses are usually tiny paths sprinkled with flowers. There are also small streams and even the shortest (cutest) bridges over them.
Note that you are not supposed to go inside the small houses or invade their private gardens. People actually live here so do respect their privacy! They usually allow people to take photos or pass by the small pathways in between houses but seriously – don’t push their hospitality by being too nosey.
During high season, the best times to go to Zaanse Schans are before 10 am or between 4 to 6 pm. We were there around 2-3pm and the sun was shining really bright – too bright that it was kinda hard to take photos and there were just too much people. I think I like Zaanse Schans better during the winter. It might be cold but it’s not as crowded! Though the flowers during spring and summer do look lovely.
We’re pretty lucky that my mom’s boyfriend is actually the best tour guide in The Netherlands. 😉 I am not kidding or fluffing this up. He’s highly requested by tour groups as he knows his art, history, and his country too well. 😉 How do you think I knew about the tiny pathways, eh? 😉 Go to Lowlands Tours if you wanna book him! And do it fast cos from what I hear, he’s getting too bookings for the coming seasons already. 😉
Did you know that windmills have different functions? Some are used to pump water, some are for milling grain, and I swear I’ve been inside a windmill before (I think in 2013?) which they were using to cut up big logs for firewood.
Gable stones are common in Amsterdam and a few other cities in Europe. Back in the day, Dutch houses and buildings have these beautiful and often colourful gable stones by their door. It is used to identify who lives in the house or what the building is for.
Back then, when you wanted to tell someone where you lived, all you have to do is tell them the street and what’s on your gable stone – a lion, some flowers? Later on, the Dutch started using house numbers but most of the buildings there (and even outside Amsterdam like here in Zaanse Schans) still have their gable stones.
After a 15-minute walk outside Zaanse Schans, we reached the train station and from there, went back to Amsterdam Centraal. Had dinner at my Mom and Roland’s favourite Thai restaurant (another post on this!) and took the tram home from there.
Lucky that Mom and Roland live downtown so we save on hotels. 😉 Yay! Cheapskate win! I should do a post on travelling in Europe while on a budget. I shall do that. But right now, I am really drowning in debt when it comes to blog posts! So bear with me loves!
*Trip is not sponsored by any country’s tourism department, company, or brand but by my side of the family living in Europe. 😊