Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thailand to Amsterdam

I left Thailand yesterday and after a long but very comfortable flight, I've landed in chilly, overcast Amsterdam. It's spring here and things are greening up nicely but after 7 months in the tropics my blood's gotten thin and I'm cold. My hands and feet are cold despite the fact that I'm indoors and wearing both a wool shirt and a polar fleece jacket as I write.  

Yes I said very comfortable. Somehow by the strangest quirk of fate, I got to sit in Dynasty Class on my China Airlines flight from Bangkok. Dynasty Class must be CAL's name for its business class seating because it was wide open spaces up there. You could move around, stretch out.

Here's a comparison I put together (thanks to SeatGuru!) from diagrams of both compartments in the 747-400 I flew. When I first checked my boarding pass I moaned -- how did I end up in a window seat? I was going to be terribly cramped and would need to crawl over two people to get out to stretch my legs or pee. I didn't pick a window seat when I bought the tickets, that's for sure. I would never willingly choose a window seat. But my boarding pass said clearly on it, Seat 10A. But  what a pleasant surprise awaited me there, upstairs in the Upper Deck penthouse. Not only were the seats super sized but 10A was an exit row seat that gave me probably 8 feet of legroom. Plus, it was a recliner. Almost as good as my old Lazyboy at home! How I got that seat is a mystery to me. So be it. I was glad to have it.

Upper deck left, Economy section right
China Airlines Boeing 747-400

I got off the plane feeling fresh and relaxed. My bag was one of the first ones out of the chute so I grabbed it and headed for the ticket counter to buy a ticket to Amsterdam Centraal. I plunked down a 5 euro note and got 70 cents change.  That's  $5 and a half bucks for a short ride into town on a packed commuter train. Another 2.70 euro got me to my hotel. I had picked this one online because at it was relatively cheap and near the Leidseplein and Vondelpark, two beautiful places I recalled from the last time I was here. Then again, it's plain that I should have paid more attention to the comments in those reviews I read. The Europa-92 was not perfect.  But it did have some good features.

Here are two views of the garden at the back of the Hotel Europa 92:

While the garden is pretty my room here is the smallest I've ever had. I'm jammed into a space not much larger than the tent I had at Maasai Mara except the ceiling is higher and it has a full private bath, something not many hotels here offer unless you're willing to spend over $100 a night. However, the room was spotless, the hosts friendly and accommodating. Amsterdam's a beautiful city and I love being here but everything is insanely expensive compared to Thailand.

The room wasn't ready when I first arrived so I ducked out for a quick lunch. I had a BLT because I love them and you just cannot get a good BLT in Thailand.The damn thing cost almost $10, which gave me sticker shock after being in Thailand so long. On the way back from lunch I stopped at one of Amsterdam's many bike shops to set up a rental. I'll be spend my time biking around both full days I'm here. Biking in this town is wonderful -- the streets and parks are crowded with bikers, polite, rule following bikers, polar opposites to the crazies you run into elsewhere.

Oh, and I noticed this sign in the window of a nearby Thai restaurant. Almost $15 bucks for a bowl of tom yum? I don't think so....

I think I'll pass on this soup "special"