The red light district
Amsterdam’s famed red-light
district is a long street with many small alleys all lined up with houses with
glass walls on the first floor – behind the glass are bikini or lingerie clad
women posing, looking enticingly at all the men passing by. This pattern is
broken by peep houses and small pizza or falafel joints. Surprisingly, the area
still has a very classy feel to it. Even at 3 or 4am,
there are lots of tourists walking around – even couples or entire families!
The girls and the peep-house shows’ promoters standing on the streets really
mean business– try talking about rates, and if they sense you are haggling
about price without being serious, they can get nasty with you. I tried that
with a show promoter, and as I left after the price negotiation, feigning dissatisfaction, he yelled behind me: "You Americans talk so much about
how you are doing good to the world, but can’t spend a little money for the
girls?". I did not know how to respond, besides I am not American, so I
didn’t feel it my responsibility to respond. Instead, I hurried away without
Clubs, Bars, and well.. uhh.. Sex bars!
I decided to move on to something
more familiar. I ventured to a more popular night-life area, and entered what
from outside seemed like a typical Dutch brown bar with. I was surprised
(pleasantly, I think) to notice myself to be the only guy there, and was only
beginning to get comfortable with this observation when a dressed-in-all-black
girl walked towards me and said, "Will you like to buy me a drink?"
"Err….", I was fumbling for answer when she added, "Only 55
"What? 55 euros for a
"And sex", she added,
"or if you want to sleep with me, its 300 euros".
"But I am here just to buy
"Then you are the wrong
place", she reprimanded me, pointing to the door.
It was clear I should leave. As I
opened the door, the guard rebuked me for wasting their time, giving me a
reason to start a mini-argument and get the satisfaction of wasting more of his
time. Walking away, I noticed the sign "Paradise Sex Bar" in red
Next, I landed in a real club.
The familiarity encouraged me to try things I haven’t even done in Boston. I
approached an attractive looking Dutch girl if she wanted to dance with me.
"I have this luggage",
she said pointing to the suitcase she had.
After some talk about her travel
plans and my own, I suggested leaving the suitcase in the cloak room and
hitting the dance floor.
"I don’t have the
money", she replied.
Anyone with "How to approach
girls in bars 101" knowledge would have known it best to move on. I
didn’t, and few minutes later, I was sneaking out of the club alone having lost
about 10 euros and whatever remained of my self-respect. I decided to call it
In the evening, I went to a Dutch
coffee house– it was to be my first time trying out weed. The coffee house had
a separate table manned by a police officer (not in uniform) for these
substances. As a starter, I got something light. I left the place feeling
pretty sane and in control, though what happened immediately after suggests I
may have been wrong.
On my way somewhere later, I
inspected my pouch and didn’t see my passport. I remembered using it earlier in
the day, so it had to be on me somewhere. I searched my backpack – no, not
there either. I was beginning to get worried – without the passport, I was
screwed. I probably dropped or forgot it somewhere – perhaps, at the museum
when using my credit card to pay for the ticket, or the coffee house when using
it as my ID. I went to the coffee house and asked the guard if he asked me for
my ID before entering. "You look
older than 18, so I don’t think I did", he replied. I searched inside, and some other places I
had been that day, but didn’t find it. Tense and upset, I went to bed early.
Next day, in between my trips to
the museums and police station, the tired hungry and unhappy me waiting for my
food order in a restaurant remembered about the bike rental – I looked them up
in the yellow book, called them, and realized I had deposited it there.
Born and brought up in India, Arvind is currently a graduate student in
Boston, MA, USA. Even though his study area (Computer science) doesn’t really
have much to do with travel (except for conferences),
he likes to travel and
write about his travels — usually packing his trips with as much event and
adventure as he can. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Illustration by the author