I had the fortune to visit Europe for 3 days along with my colleagues for a short company vacation. Visiting Europe has been something that I wanted to do since I was a kid but never got the chance.

Considering this is my first post about travel, which is quite unusual of me, I tried to give it more of a POV-style narration and aimed to give the reading audience a glimpse into what trip was like and sharing my experiences of my three-day trip to Europe.

So, hope you'll enjoy reading it! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Wednesday, November 30th 2022

Although, I had a half-day of work, I was filled with excitement and a bit sleepy because the previous night I was busy packing my bags and making sure that I have packed the necessary travel items and documents i.e. clothes, electronics, toiletries, passport and tickets.

Dubai โœˆ Amsterdam

It was around 14.35, my colleagues and I were united at the Transavia Airlines Check-In at Dubai International Airport Terminal 2. There was a lot of rush at the airport as it's the beginning of the four-day UAE National Day holidays, so I guess, a lot of people made plans for a short vacations.

Right after I checked in, we went through the security checkpoint and then, we had nothing else to do other than sitting at the benches or exploring at the Dubai Duty Free until we board the flight at 18.00.

It's my first time travelling from Dubai International Airport Terminal 2 and it's a small aiport mostly used for domestic and budget flights and I found it quite convienient because you get to walk less ๐Ÿคญ.

The flight was a medium-sized Boeing 737-800 and I love the engine sound of all Boeing airplanes. The duration of the flight was around 9 hours including 30 minute stopover at Budapest, Hungary for short fuel refuelling. Quite a long flight though.

During the flight, I was standing to avoid my legs from becoming numb, listening to my offline Spotify playlist, sleeping for a while, re-watching Top Gun: Maverick and began reading the infamous Masters of Doom book that was about John Carmack and the development of Doom.

Arriving at Schiphol airport

It was around 23.30 local time when we landed at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands via Transavia Airlines from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It was cold but I still didn't feel the cold temperature yet.

Ah, Amsterdam! The things that came to my mind when I landed there was the beautiful water canals, boathouses, windmills, tulips, the Red Light districts and yes, the legalization of marijuana. It's so legal that it's the first thing that struck my nose at the airport ๐Ÿ‘€.

The airport was pretty quiet as I was walking towards the Immigration Counter. The temperature was about 2°C and at this point, I wasn't able to feel the freezing temperature as the airport had their heaters on.

Since, it was during the less busy hours, the crowd at the immigration counter was less and it took about 10-15 minutes max to pass the checkpoint.

Over the immigration counter, the officer inquired me about my visit to Amsterdam:

Officer: So, what's your purpose of visit?

Me: Umm, first time to Europe and I'm here to explore Amsterdam.

Officer: Oh, there's a lot to discover at Amsterdam and you won't be able to cover it within three days.

Me: Haha, I guess so.

Officer: Welcome to Amsterdam and enjoy your stay!

Me: Thanks!

Yes, you can't explore Amsterdam in just three days as there's a lot of discover but hey, since it's my first time, I didn't really mind as I was curious to explore as much as I could.

Right after that, I went along with my team of 18 colleagues to claim my baggage and there was a slight delay on our arrival of baggage, so, we had to wait for about 20 minutes until our baggages arrived.

Collected our baggages and off we go towards the railway station that's well integrated in the airport, got our train passes and boarded the train to Amsterdam Centraal Sloterdijk Station.

Upon arriving to the station, we were confused on which way to go to the hotel and luckily, there was a local (who was also high on weed) who guided us towards the station exit.

It is, at this point, I started feel the really cold temperature of Amsterdam while walking to the hotel, I mean, I'm used to experiencing extreme heat conditions but not cold, so that was different for me.

Reached the hotel

We reached the hotel and the receptionist was high on cannabis and ended up mixing our room cards ๐Ÿ˜‚.

Once I reached the room, I got myself into my night-wear, cooked up some instant ramen with my colleague and went straight to bed.

Thursday, December 1st 2022

Woke up at 6.00 after a good rest and the skies were still dark because the sun rise was at 8.30. Along with my roommate, we took the elevator to the rooftop restaurant where breakfast was being served because the ramen we had last night wasn't really enough ๐Ÿ™ƒ.

Breakfast time!

As I entered the rooftop restaurant, the lovely smell of bread and waffles just made me more famished and I was ready to get myself some good breakfast!

At first, I was a bit skeptical on what would be served at the breakfast buffet as I was selective of what I could eat i.e. Halal foods or anything vegetarian but gladly, all of their menu items were informative enough to let the customer know if whether pork was used in their menu or not.

This is what the breakfast buffet consisted of:

  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Bacon & Sausages (Of course, not Halal)
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Pickles & Olives
  • Fruits
  • Cereals
  • Pastries (Muffins, tarts & danishes)
  • Smoothies
  • Juices

Although, the breakfast served at the restaurant was good, they never really changed their buffet menu. Not complaining, just saying, you know.

Off to exploring Amsterdam!

Right after the heavy breakfast, all of us assembled outside the hotel and began shooting some photos and videos and then we were off to Amsterdam Sloterdijk station to catch the train to Amsterdam Centraal Station.

The train stations at Amsterdam, Netherlands looked really different and for some reason, very photogenic, in comparison to the ones that I have used in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and I enjoyed taking some photographs of the station and along with my colleagues.

The waiting period for the train was about 5-7 minutes and as soon as it reached the platform, we boarded the train.

The train was warm, cozy and really quiet as many of the locals were busy getting ready for the day. I wasn't able to click many pictures inside the train as I was mesmerized by the beauty of the cityscapes of Amsterdam.

Got off the train, exited the station and boy, the combination of the temperature, weather and the people moving around clicking pictures gave it an electrifying vibe. I also did come to know that there are a lot of pick-pocketing cases around the corner at Amsterdam but thankfully, we were safe and didn't face any such incidents during our trip.

We began strolling around the streets, I was in awe of how good the transportation system was at Amsterdam. From my observation, the amount of vehicles I saw were less and I guess that's because the government encourages their citizens and residents to make use of the public transportation and cycles that are parked around. In fact, there's a dedicated cycle track for cyclists and I guess, you'll find more bicycles than the entire population of Amsterdam.

The city's Dutch Baroque architecture, the smell of well-brewed coffee and Holland fries and the sound of calming breeze while walking through the alleyways just like the locals was quite an experience, I'd say.

It was around 11.25 when the sunlight peaked which felt like the perfect time to walk past the canals and I was fortunate enough to not miss the opportunity of taking some breathtaking snaps of the serene-looking canals.

We tried to visit Anne Frank's Museum but unfortunately, there was a long queue and the officers were basically asking us to leave as the bookings were full. So, we were back to exploring the city vibes again.

Man, the water canals are just amazing. Can't get enough of them. On our way, we passed by the Rijksmuseum but none of us didn't plan on visiting it as many of them weren't interested.

As we were walking by the Rijksmuseum, I remember seeing a lady with a beautiful voice singing to a large audience outside the museum. I regret for not recording it.

Few meters away, we spotted an ice rink and a few food stalls, since we were hungry and parched, we decided to try out some of the local street food.

So, I went for large size hotdog and a large size fries, which costed me about 15 euros, which is quite expensive but I guess it should be fine for the locals and residents over there.

There were benches (filled with pigeons) near the eateries, so I took a seat and had my food. It was quite delicious and especially, I love the fries.

The famous Van Gogh Museum was a few metres away from the food stalls and we all took some photos outside it. I didn't go inside as I tagged along with the rest of the crowd but however, a colleague visited it and told me that it was quite an experience to visit.

From there, we went to visit the Heineken Beer Museum, which costed around 21 euros per person. I got two tokens to get myself some free drinks but I don't drink alcohol, so I gave one of it to my colleague and I used the remaining token to get myself an orange soda, which tasted like orange juice mixed with sparkling water.

Honestly, about the museum, I wasn't really interested in it, it could be maybe because that I never drink beer, let alone, alcohol but I did see the rest of the bunch did enjoy their time.

By now, the skies were getting darker and still the scene was quite beautiful. We decided to stroll around for food and some of them wanted to try out the menu at The Bulldog Cafe (which is known for serving cakes and coffee that's infused with cannabis). I went in along with them to give them some company but I really couldn't the handle the smell as it made me feel nauseous, so I decided to head outside and explore for some interesting eateries around the area until they were done.

I found a lot of restaurants serving cuisines such as Turkish, Argentine, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and so on. There was a really good restaurant that served steak but was quite expensive (and of course, didn't really meet my budget), most of my colleagues went in there for dinner and I and two of my other colleagues walked to Burger King that was closer to the steak restaurant.

At Burger king, I got myself a plant-based whopper burger and I was a bit confused if whether it was really plant-based because it really did taste like beef ๐Ÿ˜†.

Right after dinner, we passed by the Red Light district but it really wasn't for me (and hey, I'm married!). However, I did witness some of the tourists making perverted gestures at the sex workers and I really felt bad for them especially the fact that they've got to endure it almost everyday makes it even more sad.

At this point, my legs weren't able bear the pain of walking longer distances, so I decided to call it a day, went back to the hotel to get some good sleep and be prepared for the next adventure.

Friday, December 2nd 2022

Woke up at 6.30, got ready to have breakfast and assembled with my colleagues at the reception because it's quite a fun day as we were off to visiting the Christmas Market at Brussels, Belgium, which was around 2.5 hours of road trip from Amsterdam, Netherlands.

It was a Mercedes Benz Tourrider Coach Bus and given the really cold 2°C temperature, the bus was quite comfy and warming.

The long windmills, the green landscapes, the withered-out trees, the well-organized road signs along with the really cold weather really did give that "Wintery-European" feel while driving in the highway.

In between, we stopped by a truck-stop for a short break, got myself some a nice large hot coffee (Not from Starbucks but from a supermarket that next to it ๐Ÿ˜›) and resumed our travel to Brussels, Belgium.

Hallo, Belgiรซ!

Finally, at around 10.30, we reached the Centraal Bus Station at Brussels, Belgium and the driver had instructed us to get back to the station by 17.30.

We decided to march towards the Christmas Market and boy, this place is just so photogenic. So, I was practicing my photography skills by taking some nice photos.

Comparatively, the vibes at Brussels were much more livelier than at Amsterdam as there was a lot of tourists from various countries such as India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and so on. In fact, I even met a nice old lady from Palestine who gave me a nice rose and I was delighted until she asked me to give her something in return, so I gave her around 5 euros but she was a sweet lady.

We strolled around La Grand Place and to our surprise, there was a couple getting married when we got there and it was nice seeing the couple waving at the the crowd while they were on top.

As I had mentioned above, the city quite lively like there so many things going on at the same time. Belgium is quite famous for Waffles and Fries and my aim was to try them at least once before I leave.

The Christmas Market

At last, we reached the Christmas Market and for some reason, I had the same feeling when I watched Home Alone 2 when I was a kid. I mean, I don't celebrate Christmas but I can feel those vibes around and I really enjoyed that joyful atmosphere.

At the market, I tried some really Belgian Waffles made by a nice French lady at a small stall. I tried without any syrup or whipped cream and it was absolutely scrumptious. The texture, the smell and the softness of it was quite amazing. Hands down to one of the best waffles I have ever tried.

Unfortunately, I regret not being able to take photos of the food that I tried like:

  • A delicious potato dish named "Gratin Aux Truffes" filled with some sort of thick cheese sauce and topped with caramelized onions and lots of mushrooms.
  • Belgian fries with samuraisauce which felt like a mix of ketchup, mayonnaise and hot sauce.
  • Fried anchovies with sour cream. Oh, this was really soothing.
  • Caramelized pecan nuts. I got myself three packets as they were quite cheap and tasted really good.

At this point, the temperature started to lower down and touched 1°C and got windy too. It was super cold that I couldn't even feel my hands and decided to wear gloves on full-time.

We decided to visit a beer tasting shop which about a kilometre by walking. I was busy taking photos while walking to the beer shop but don't worry, I don't drink, I just gave them some company and thought of browsing the internet for a while until they were done with it. But the vibe inside the shop was quite nice and warming.

All of us got hungry and we found a really nice shop named FritLand that sold really good chicken hotdogs and fries. So, we topped them off with some of that Samurai sauce and caramelized onions. The taste of those sandwiches were so addictive that I ended up gobbling like two of 'em ๐Ÿ˜‚.

I was hunting for a souvenir shop where I could some nice Belgian chocolates and I successfully purchased a bundle of six chocolate bars for about 15 euros.

By then, the time was around 17.00 and all of us decided to reach the bus. It was dark and cold but more colorful at night. I just had to take photos despite my hand becoming numb.

Around 17.35, we reached the bus, I was relieved as the heaters were on and I felt like a frozen chicken being thawed out in hot water.

At around 21.00, we reached the hotel, some of them decided to hang around by the pubs and I decided to head back to the room as my legs were exhausted by thankfully, unlike the previous day, which was like 3x times the distance covered, I covered around 6.5KM of walking distance.

That night, I decided to try some doner kebab and sharwarma via Uber Eats and watched a little bit of Godzilla (1992) which was dubbed in Dutch ๐Ÿ˜‚ and right after that, I called it a day and went to sleep like a baby ๐Ÿ˜ด.

Saturday, December 3rd 2022

In the early eerie dark hours around 5.30, I was awake and I thought of making some calls to my parents and wife to catch up on things and keep them updated about my trip.

I went to have some breakfast in the hotel but turns out most of them weren't even awake yet as they were all exhausted with their late night hangouts.

On this day, we planned to visit a place named Zaanse Schans, which is about 45 minute ride by the public bus. Honestly, I never knew what this place was about until I looked it up on the internet and it was seemed quite interesting.

Initially, our plan was to take the train from Amsterdam Sloterdijk to a station that was closest to the village and from there, we would rent and ride bicycles to the village but unfortunately, the weather was too cold (0°C) and windy that we could barely feel our hands and ears, thus we opted for Plan B i.e. to take a public bus from the Amsterdam Centraal that would take us directly to the spot.

The public buses seemed quite familiar to the buses I have travelled in Dubai and as mentioned above, the trip was about 45 minutes with 10 to 12 stops in between. The bus was quite warm and the people were quite friendly and often greeted us in Dutch, English or French with a smile on their faces.

Discovering Zaanse Schans

Alas, we reached the spot and wow, it looks really serene and calming. Leafless trees, golden maple leaves, Siberian ducks and huge windmills are what made the spot really unique.

There were a few coffee shops, souvenir shops and museums built into a small cottages, which was quite nice. There was a shop that sold warm hot chocolate and stroopwaffels, I bought myself a hot chocolate and some stroopwaffels. The hot chocolate was really needed to warm myself up for that cold weather.

As we were touring around, we spotted a cheese factory that was not selling different types of cheeses but you can also try samples of them. Again, really warm inside and I mean, unless you're lactose intolerant, who doesn't love cheese? Huh?

Right after that, we walked towards the windmills and it started to get really windy and I could feel my lips and ears getting numb due to cold wind. There was a souvenir shop underneath one of those windmills and I just went inside to explore and take some heat until I could move on again ๐Ÿ˜.

Some of us split up into groups of 4 and began exploring some parts of the village and I spotted this Wooden Shoe Museum and of course, it was free entry, so I went in to take some nice photos and learnt a lot about their history and gained an insight about their culture too.

Right after that, it was around 13.30 and I was super hungry and needed to eat something warm. I went inside a nice cafe that served really good crepes with different toppings. I opted for the one that was topped with pineapples and goat cheese. It was hot and boy, it was really delicious. I wish could have more of that but it was quite expensive costing around 12 euros.

We toured around for a bit, took some photos and then decided to head back to the Amsterdam Centraal Station by bus.

Back to Amsterdam Centraal

Once we reached the station, some of us decided to split up for shopping, visiting a few museums and some decided to head back to the hotel to take some rest. I mean, it was a lot walking for the day, anyways.

I opted to head back to the hotel to take some rest but a few of my colleagues asked me join them as they were going to shop for some souvenirs in the central city. So, I changed my minds and decided to tag along with them.

It was around 16.30 and it looked like as if it was night time already but in my opinion, Amsterdam looks really beautiful at night and I decided some more photos as we were walking and hunting for good souvenir shops.

I passed by a shop named "Manneken Pis", which claimed to serve the No.1 fries in Holland and I decided to try it out as my colleagues were busy looking for souvenirs. It's a weekend and there was such a long queue outside the shop but fast moving, so I bought a large sized fries topped with cheese and samuraisauce. It was delicious and one of the best fries I have ever had till date. I guess it did live up to it's name.

Then, some of my colleagues suggested if we could go on a canal ride and asked if anyone was interested to join them and I decided to join them. It was about 25 minute walk from the food stall and as we were walking by, I decided to shoot some more photos of the bustling city.

By the time, we reached the canal station, the reservations were full and learnt that we should have booked it in advance of a week. Kind of disappointed, we decided to head back to the hotel by taking a local taxi back to Amsterdam Centraal Station.

Upon reaching the station, it looked really nice and decided to take some photos before boarding the train to Sloterdijk. It was around 21.35 and I was hungry, so I stopped by the nearest grocery store and bought myself some instant ramen.

I reached the hotel, got myself dressed up in my nightwear and warmed up the instant ramen and after sometime, I went to sleep for a few hours as we all have to catch our flight to Dubai that departs at 6.00.

Sunday, December 4th 2022

Woke up at 1.00, got myself dressed up and all of us assembled at the reception to check-out our rooms and waited for our Uber ride to take us to Schiphol airport. On this day, The weather was -1°C but luckily, we couldn't really feel it much as we were indoors most of the time.

Amsterdam โœˆ Dubai

We reached the airport at around 1.45 and waited for some of our colleagues to join us and the gates opened up at 2.00 and all of us checked in our luggages, went through the immigration and security checks and then all of us headed towards the waiting area until the gates opened up.

I decided to sit down and re-watch my all-time favorite Michael Mann's Heat (1995) and I still get goosebumps by watching the electrifying performances of both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. You should watch this classic if you still haven't.

The gates opened up at around 5.20 and all of us waited in the long queue and boarded the plane at around 6.00.

Goodbye, Amsterdam!

Albeit being tired, I was quite awake and decided to take some photos while taking-off and mid-air of the journey.

After eating some stroopwaffels and instant ramen on the flight, I continued to take some rest until we touch down at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Back to Dubai

The ending scene from Chris Nolan's Inception was running in my mind and that's when I realized that our trip has come to an end.

Honestly, what really made this trip really special were the colleagues and the fun memories we had while exploring with each other at Amsterdam, Netherlands and Brussels, Belgium.

At the airport, I was stopped by the Dubai Customs officials as they were suspicious if whether I was carrying food items that contained or were infused with marijuana. But thankfully, I didn't have any such items in my possession and they cleared me off immediately.

Later, we picked up our baggages, said our goodbyes and parted ways to home. Once I reached home, I was happy and committed to myself that I should blog my experiences about this trip or else, I might forget about it ๐Ÿ˜‚.

If you've come this far, thank you so much for reading this post and hopefully, you've enjoyed reading and had a glimpse of Europe through my POV-style narration.

Vaarwel mijn vriend! ๐Ÿ‘‹