Friday, September 30, 2005

Netherlands - Part 3

Continuing from Part1 and Part 2.

After a tiring first two days, the third day started a bit late, as expected. The first thing on the list was the Anne Frank Huis. This is the Huis, or House where Franks were hiding for about 2 years against the Nazi persecution.

I have read Anne Frank’s Diary before, so it was very much possible to associate her favourite tree or the scribbling on the wall to what she would have felt. It is definitely a place to go, to feel how cruel human mind can grow and what fear can do..

It was abt noon and we had abt 7 hrs left for the end of the trip. The options available to spend were to walk around the city again or go to any of the art museums. While we were trying to arrive at a consensus among the 12 member army, another idea of going to a rural side and visiting a wind mill came up and most of us agreed on that. [mebbe due to lack of options, since none of us were big Kalai Aarvalars.].

We took the train to Zaanse Schans. As per the ZS page, The Zaanse Schans is a delightful old hamlet on the banks of the river Zaan with characteristic green wooden houses, charming styalised gardens, small hump-backed bridges, tradesmen's workshops, historic windmills and engaging little shops. This enchanting hamlet gives an excellent impression of how a typical Zaanse village must have looked like in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Apart from the cluster of windmills and houses there are also several museums, restaurants and a visitors' centre to be found as well as the possibility of taking a boat trip on the river. The Zaanse Schans has become one of the top tourist destinations in the Netherlands.

Find an excellent view of ZS.

We then moved on to the DeKat Windmill.

The mill is huge. Two stone of 3 Tonnes, like our Thaer Chakkaram are constantly rotating on a stone base. This set up is used to crush the clay and lime required to make paints and pigments.

This is powered by the Wind. The transmission of energy is full by wooden shafts and gears. They are located in different floors of the mill.

The ground floor consists of the Rolling Stones.

The next floor is for the Gears,

The second is for the Shaft. The third is again for gears.

When you come out of the first floor, the huge fans gush around with enormous speed. It appears as though it is rotating slowly and feebly. But the experience when they pass very close to the ears is highly blood freezing.

That is really something which needs to be experienced.

Nearby was a Cheese making factory, producing the famous Holland Cheese in its ancient way. This factory is just a minute walk from the windmills. Both these are surrounded by lush green fields. It was an excellent rural place to stay and enjoy.

But we just had few hours more in that excellent country. Just took a train to amsterdam. Again did some shopping for souvenirs and took the bus/ferry back to London.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Just got the 10000th Hit last night!!
I put the counter on July 4th this year and in abt 85 days, and 47 post, the 10000 mark is reached!!
Didnt have the count of it at all. Juz casually went to check if BlogPatrol, which was giving problems last week has got okay, and found this!!

Though the number doesnt mean anything, all your comments mean a lot!!
Cheers maite :)

Also, happend to move from the 21st floor window where i was there for more than an year, to un interesting second floor center table at work.. :( Will have to copy past the blogs into a text pad or word doc and read ;) for most of the time, or have the browser minimized to the size of a popup.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Coutrallam Part 2

Continuing from here,even though the coutrallam season is over and even purattasi is almost half way through.

The description and the trivia of the falls are best when it is from the local folks. Krishna, waiting to hear from the horse’s mouth.

Now, let us continue from the halwa shop towards the Main falls. The sannadhi veedhi is lined on both the sides by seasonal shops selling everything from hair bands to jaadikai oorugai and masala to freshly made banana chips. The banana chips making process needs to be described. The chips master picks up about ten peeled raw bananas and puts it in the hand slicer and slices it into a huge pan of boiling coconut oil. Once he has started, he keeps moving the peeler higher and farther from the pan, to a level where it is an artistic skill. The angle in which the slicer is held, and the pressure on the bananas are so accurate that, the slices fly from abt 5 feet distance into the pan forming a nice trajectory. :)

Further towards the falls, on the left is a small pillayar in an arasa marathadi. He is truly in a Maniratnam like surrounding, with the shrill of the falls encompassing him. After a hello to him, and proceeding further, is when the first view of the falls opens widely. The cataract reveals so beautifully with a rhythm that kick starts fresh blood into the arteries.
A nice gingili oil massage to the head is imperative before trying the waters. The smell of freshly ground oil, hmm.. I love it.!!

Then it is time to bid bye to our women folks as they tread towards their side of the falls, which is on the other bank of the stream. Invariably the side of the falls where water force is lesser is made the women’s section, amidst lots of cries of foul play from them. :)

If it happens to be a weekend, there is a queue for entering the falls. The queue takes from 5 mins to even 30 mins. The closer you go, the more exciting it becomes. At the first drizzle of water kissing the body, a shiver is sent through the spine. The chillness is scary, initially. Just over come this and walk into the falls, and that is where words and adjectives stop.

In crowded days, there might be some pushing and pulling on the periphery of the water flow, mostly by the hydro starved chennaites who would take a mug and bathe with it in Coutrallam. Manage to penetrate and move in, and its you you you and only you, along with some other seasoned folks who enjoy just standing, without the push pull, shouting that happens on the periphery.

Stand there, facing the Vimanam of Kutraleeswarar a.k.a. Tirukutralanathar. Recite Sivapuranam, Rudram, Chamakarm, Purushasooktham, Shiva manasa stotram, shiva panchakshara stotram, lingasthakam, bilvashtakam, all while being pounded by gallons and gallons of water at incredible speed. Liberation Happens!!. The experience is heavenly.

Walk out of the waters, when contentment is attained. No police man or crowd controller will bother to hurry us up, as long as we move into the waters, and not do Kaka kuliyal, where the crowd is! All the oil applied on the head is gone!! Not even a drop of shampoo or seeyakkai podi.

After floating out, 2 things need to be done, first is to check the money that was secured in 10 Padma Coffee plastic bags, pinned to the inside of the shorts or tied to the veshti is intact, and second is to maintain a safe distance from all those folks moving towards the falls, else there is a high probability that we would again end up with oil all over the body.

The waters from the falls are supposed to be herbal nature, since they run through the herb rich podigai malai, and do not cause cold or other general complaints that arise due to prolonged indulgence in water.

No changing of dress or anything, jus keep walking with the wet clothes on! Even otherwise it is bound to get wet, because of the constant drizzle [malai chaaral]. Head straight towards the restaurant, for what would be an excellent meal.

One the way, hot hot molagai bajji and masala vadai, from the nadar kadai server as the much needed starters, in the chilly weather.The limited vegetarian meal served at the xyz Vilas Brahmanaall hotel, is really tasty and will be doubled by the appetite generated by the Falls bath. It is again time for dessert, the Velu kadai tirunelveli halwa. Go to the hotel room, change to dry dresses and fall sleep for the afternoon.[The only place where I sleep in afternoons is coutrallam, couldn’t control that mate :P]

The evening starts with visit to the Shree VenuVaakVaadhini sametha Shree Kutralanatha Swamy darshan. VVV is known as Kuzhal Vaai Mozhi amman in Tamil. The temple is of the nayakar architecture and has an excellent ambience. Lots of small stories involved with the temple.

FYI, during the floods in early 90s, whole of coutrallam was devastated, the temple was in 10 feet water. The boulders rolling over had destroyed the falls.

The temple trip is followed by another round of bathing-eating-sleeping cycle, with the addition of hot Masala milk for the night. :)

This routine is repeated for the next 2 days with the name of the falls are find-and-replace by Five Falls, Old Falls, Sitraruvi, Pazha thotta aruvi etc…

Visiting Coutrallam is one, which I would recommend people to have it in the plan-to-do-before-I-die list.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dharmo Rakhshati Rakshitaha!!

"Dharma protects those who protect it"

In the latest 7 tag spree, it was heartening to note, that a lot of people put in '7 things you plan to do before you die' as 'Starting Vedic school', 'donating money to vedic cause', 'contributing to veda patashalas', 'learning bhakti composition', 'spread the vedantam philosophy' and similiar sounding phrases.

The Dharma in based on Vedams, and protecting Vedams is what is meant by protecting the Dharma.

Very unfortunately, the current political set up in India, doesnot recognize the Dharmam and the Vedam. Hence protecting them and inturn getting protect has fallen into the responsibility of the Private.

I have argued with lot of my friends on the priority of Dharam Raksha, over the needs of a general welfare state, for a lot of reasons like this, and more.

A friend of mine had forwarded a request for a Tamil Vadhiyar, and asked joked abt me taking up that profession. The following is my reply to her.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: Need reference to a tamil brahmin priest
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2004 09:55:52 -0000
From: Swaminathan T J

Super! definitely.
That is the service which would give me atmost satisfaction.

I donot need any money or remuneration, but I want people there to appreciate and value what they are doing.
There is not point if the function they have at home is just for the sake of the ritual :(

Brahmans protect and preserve the Vedas and Culture, The Vedas are belived to protect the Whole of the society, and the society in turn protects and takes care of the needs of the brahmans.

Rest of Society ----> Brahmins ---> Vedas
With increase in atheism, and loss of values, the society's belief that, the vedas will protect them is gone.[this is what is called as Kali kaalam].

So, once this belief is gone, they no more protect the brahmans, who incidentally are directed by their Dharma, not to have any thing for the personal desires and are supposed to be thinking ONLY of the society.

This loss of belief transltes into Brahmin taking care of his ownself.[like what I am doing today, the society is not taking care of me, so I need to work and earn and live for myself]. In such a situation, the Brahmin is growing selfish, and he no longer confirms to what has been said as his way of life. So he no longer devotes time to protect the largest knowledge trove the Vedas.

This results in the most painful course, of loosing the vedas, since the protector of vedas, the brahmin, is busy feeding himself. But there are some brahmins left in the world, who still have, protecting vedas as their foremost duty, ahead of feeding themselves[or feeding themselves using vedas, sometimes]. They are great people and mahathmas. Selfless, Made of sacrifice and powerful.

Thus the above cycle becomes

Brahmins[like me] &
the Dharama accepting-->Real Brahmins[who protect vedas]-->Vedas
Non-Brahmin minority.
--------------<-------------------------------<---------------------------------- I always want to be tending to the real brahmin [selfless, not cared even about the next meal, leading the simplest way of life, no desires, no wants, just thinking about the good of the world, peace for everybody around]. But I cannot be the perfect brahmin because of social compulsions, and so I am bent on encouraging every individual who would want to be the real brahmin. All the above derivations, are built on the one and only conviction that the vedic form of life is the best way, and the vedas are the ultimate knowledge resource for self realization in this world. I will try and write to you on how I got convinced on the above truth and will pass on the convictions to u, sometime later.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

UK Desiya Murpokku Blogger Kazhaga[DMBK] SeyarKuzhu koottam.

After the earlier UK bloggers maanadu[conference], the seyarkuzhu[working commitee] of the UK bloggers met under Captain with the able guidance of UK Hrithik Dr. Ayya along with yours truly.[right right..]. Yes i had the privilege to be in the meeting between Captain and Dr.Ayya.

Me joined Dr.Ayya, at preston road, and ran through his precious collection of fotos videos. They include his A,N and the photos where Dr.Ayya and his Asin are together. [indha kalyana foto album la ellam vidha vidhama iruppangale andha madhiri :P]. And the countless episodes of Sapthaswarangal recorded where one of his darlings were singing :).

After the hectic KT session, we set foot towards Chesham, in Zone D, the outermost in the london underground zones. Chesham, Chiltern hills, which by itself is like a proper holiday resorting place, and our Captain has set the headquarters there.
Reached there on dot 15.33 BST, as planned. Captain was full of praise for the punctuality displayed by his fellow cadres. Reached the headquarters took the delicious Chakra Tea, and sat for the discussion at abt 16.00 hrs. The marathon session continued till 20:00 hrs, when Dr.Ayya intervened and proposed a dinner break.
You wont believe, we dint move from the locations for 4 hrs, no water, no bathroom breaks. [even though we dint have to send a note and ask permission from our secretary of state.]

All podhu vaazhkai topics, and arasiyal were alasifiyed.[Highly classified information] Did a perani on the high street of chesham and back to the headquarters to finalize resolutions on the dinner table.
We had to finally leave by abt 11.00pm taking the last train, me needing to travel to the zone 4 in east from zone d in north west.. taking me abt 2.5 hrs.. uff.. and the loong day came to an end and it was an evening to relish.

Dr.Ayya was also taking lotsa fotos, asking people to pose and pose and pose, and took a lot of fotos of himself as well. They are available here, but Dr.Ayya has censored most of his photos, in an effort to spare the jealousy of guys.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005


Today is Onam, also Vamana Jayanthi.
Let us remember the humility of Mahabalichakravarthy, and his devotion to MahaVishnu, like Prahaladha, his grandfather.

Vamana Avathara is probably the shortest of the avatharas, [both in physical and in the duration terms.]

Brahmachari Vamana is supposed to have done the Samithadhanam before going to Mahabalichakravarthy's yagnya. It is because of the samithadhanam that he got what he is entitled to even when sukracharya tried to prevent it.

Samithadhanam reads,
'Yomagne bhaginaghum santham
Atha bhagam chikeerishathu
abhagham agne thamkuru,
mam agne bhaginam kuru, swaha'
Which means,

Hey Agni, when somebody tries to snatch away, what i am rightfully entitled to, [based on my karma], please deny the snatchers, and get me what i am entitled to.

Let me put a seperate post on samithadhanam, which i had been doing twice a day daily for 13 years, sometime later.

Onam is known for the pookkolam, the onakkodi [new dress], and ofcourse the multi course feast, OnaSadhya. Enjoy it in webindia.

Wishing you a happy onam, and a prosperous year ahead.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Straight from Trafalgar Square!

Took an hour off during lunch and caught all the action along Strand and in the Trafalgar square!
The Barmy army in full strength singing Jerusalem and Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen.

A great experience indeed!

From behind the stage. [click on the foto and find the sea of heads..]

From the crowd.

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Monday, September 12, 2005


On 25th of July i had put up this Post. Little did anybody had in the wildest of dreams that exactly 7 weeks later, the English will have the Ashes.

I had earlier said "all of us were expecting a nail-biting Ashes. After all, monopolies have been destroyed this year from Schumi to Arsenal/ManU, with the exception of Federer. We thot it is Australia’s turn. That too after their initial losses in the series, infact once to Bangladesh, it appeared obvious that the time has come for the wheel to rotate."
And Yes, indeed the wheels have turned and today both the things i said have gone correct, one being the raise of new kings, and the other is the exception of Federer from this trend. :)

McGrath said before the tour that, he expects a 3-0 or 4-0 and not a white wash, coz he expected rains to play havoc in one or two matches. And the rains did spoil two of them. But on the contrary, the rain seemed to have saved the Oz from a 4-1 loss.

Flintoff and Pieterson have done brilliantly in the series. Sure chaps for the future. I would definitely consider the Poms a lot before putting my money for the 2007 world cup champs.

While i am writing this, the match is not yet over, and we have abt 20 overs left in the day. Let me pack my day now and slip in to the sports pub and party. Tomorrow, there is a huge celebration planned in trafalgar square. FYI, the square was booked last week itself, anticipting the victory.

Uff.. atlast cricket has also got its monotony broken. No, neither i am a terrific English Cricket fan, nor an Aussie cricket trasher, just a fan of Cricket. And this test series result is definite incentive towards healthy competition.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Video on Kanchi case

I happend to get a forward, which contained the speech of Dr.Subramaniam Swamy, made in New Jersey on July 23rd, 2005.

It gives a stronger defence case.
Some parts might sound strange, but as he says, Truth is Stranger than Fiction.

Listen to the following and fyi, i donot have any political affiliations :)

Part 1 - Dr. Subramanian Swamy deals in the First Part as to how the case was foisted on the Kanchi Acharyas and Kanchi Mutt

Part 2 - Dr. Subramanian Swamy deals in the Second Part as to why this was foisted on the Swamijis and who are all behind the conspiracy

Part 3 - Dr. Subramanian Swamy deals in the third part as to how this present issue can be solved and how any future occurrence of this sort can be prevented

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

UnTagging myself

ufff. managed to complete it, after being tagged by Vatsan and Arjuna.

Though it is tiring, it is one nice way to get to know of fellow bloggers.

Seven things you plan to do before you die:

1. Gain proficiency in Samskritam
2. Gather enough cases to proove 'Sacrifice and Self Control are the keys to success.'
3. Study the history of human civilizations
4. Tour around every possible landscape on earth
5. Set up a vedic and sanskrit school
6. Start counting properly

Seven things you can do:

1. Listen to any music
2. kill time before the computer
3. convince with objectivity
4. Enjoy healthy fun
5. Excercise restraint and stick to decisions
6. Early to Rise and Early to Bed
7. Tag 7 more bloggers

Seven things you say most
1. Narayana! Namashivayaa!!
2. Pozhachu kidandha
3. ogay ogay
4. ENIS [E Nalla irundha sari, where E in {edho, epdioyo, engayo, ennavo..}]
5. Arasiyalla...['idhellam sagajamappa' is understood]
6. aha. kilambitanyaa kilambittan
7. 4000 much [The numerical value changes based on how awesome the object is]

Seven things you can't do
1. Cook
2. Watch TV serials
3. Keep the ear plug out when the mosque nearby cries.
4. eat pasta
5. let my team mates know that i have a mobile.
6. not visit a temple atleast once a week.
7. Complete another Tag

Seven things that attract you to the opposite sex !!!
1. Smile
2. NAK
3. Aathu baashai
4. Taste for Carnatic music
5. Appreciating bharathiyar/Kural/bhakti movement compositions
6. Chella thoppai
7. ditching the 'cho chweeet' baashai

Celebrity crushes
1. Julia Roberts
2. Kate winslet
3. Harini
4. Gabriella Sabatini
5. Tabu
6. Roshini [Guna]
7. Samyukta Varma

I Tag
1. Vinod
2. Vinayak
3. Kasturi
4. Priya
5. Ramya
6. Siddharth
7. Lavanya

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

MahaGanesha! Mangala Moorthae!!

Mangala Vinayakar, aka Uchipillayar, the Hero of Trichy. Happy Birthday Darling!!

The following are the 12 Pillayars in the Tiruchirappalli kshetram.

1. Uchipillayar at the top of the rockfort,
2. Sevvandhi vinayakar at Kalyaana Maathrubootheshwara sannidhi,
3. Manicka vinayakar at Malaivasal
4. Vazhaipazha pillayar at SouthWest corner of the Giri pradakshinam
5. Nandikoil vinayakar at Mid of the Southern pradakshinam [nandikoil street]
6. Arasamara pillayar at North West corner [andar veedhi mukku]
7. Bhajanai pillayar aka pandian pillai sandhu mukku pillayar at West quarter of Andar street [North pradakshinam]
8. Ratna pillayar aka Ezhai pillayar aka Pandadimal sandhu mukku pillayar at the mid of andar street
9. Sidhi vinayakar aka ration kadai pillayar at East quarter of andar street
10. Kezha veedhi pillayar at East and North Andarstree junction
11. Sarukku parai pillyar at mid of East Andar street
12. Karupanna sami koil pillayar at Juction of East Andar street and South pradakshinam[chinna kadai theru]

It is customary to have darshan of 108 pillayars on this day. Thanks to eprarthana, have the darshan here.

The following are the ganapathi stotrams which i chant daily in the morning immediately after waking up.

Gajananam Bhootha Ganadhi sevitham
Kavitha jamboo palasara bakshitham
Umasutham shoka vinayasha karanam
Namami vigneshwara pada pankajam

Mooshika vahana modhaka hastha
Shyamala karna vilambitha soothra
Vaamana roopa maheshwara putra
vigna vinayaka pada namasthe

Agajanana padmarkam gajananam akarnisham
aneka dantham bhaktanam eka dantam upasmahe

Vakra thunda mahakaya suryakoti samaprabha
nirvigram kurme deva sarva karyashu sarvatha

shuklam baratharam vishnum
shashi varnam chatur bhujam
prasanna vadanam dhyayet
sarva vigna upashanthaye

Aindhu karathanai aanai mugaththanai
indhi ilampirai polum aeyitranai
nandi magandanai nyana kozhndhinai
pundhiyil vaithu adi potrugindrome

paalum theli thenum paagum paruppum
ivai naangum kalandhunakku naan tharuvein
kolam sei thunga karimugathu thoomaniye
nee enakku sangathamizh moondrum thaa

Theeyiyum veyyon punalinum thaniyon
aayinum eesan arul arivar illai
seyinum nallon aniya nall anbarkku
thayinum nallon thazh sadayone

Thiruvaarkkum sei karumam kai koottum - senjol
peruvarkkum peedum perukkum uruvakkum adhalal
vaanorum aanai mugathonai kaadhalal
kooppuvar tham kai.
Prayers to Mahaganapathi as he showers his blessings on all of us.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Netherlands - Part 2

The Second day’s plan was a package tour across Holland. Now what is the difference between Holland and TheNetherlands? [I asked this to the tour guide], since lot of websites say they are as related as England and Britain. The tour guide told, Holland is now being used as a colloquial name not only for the two provinces but to the whole of the Kingdom.

The tour started by abt 10.00 am from Central Amsterdam. Thankfully, the group was just English speaking and Spanish speaking, so we happened to hear the commentaries only twice.
As we moved out of the city limits, the flat, green, country side was more than welcoming. The odd windmill on the way, the bicycle track running alongside, all were typical of Holland.

Our plan was to drop in at Aalsmeer Flower Auction to visit the world’s largest flower auction. But since it was a Sunday we just had to pass through the looooong glass houses of the auction centre. This place is just bordering the Schipol airport and hence it is possible to ensure that, the flower auctioned today reaches the end customer anywhere in the world within 24 hours!! The Tulip gardens could be visited only from March to June, so we had visited off season, no ‘oh! Sukkumari oh Sukkumari’. :(

A visit to the Wooden Shoe factory was next. Since I had not heard about that, I thought it would be something like the Paadarakshai worn by the swamijis of our land. On visiting, I found these were not just footwear, but Shoes.

I wanted to try one, but dint want to risk my feet, recovering from metatarsal multiple fracture, into the rigid shoe. The chap there produced a shoe in less than 3 minutes. It is just the key cutting technology, A golden source is replicated to mass carve the wood into shoes. These are still widely used in rural Holland, to protect the feet against ever-damp soil. But most of the produce nowadays go in for souvenir markets. The below is a picture of the shoe factory and all the wooden shoes

It was again time for urban landscape. We had a in-coach drive through Rotterdam. This city had the largest port in the world, till 6 months back, before Shanghai’s new port over took it. With a nice skyline and aesthetic architecture, the city reflects a typical 20th century creation, except the couple of buildings which stood the blitz.

The next destination - the city of Delft. This place is famous for Delftware, or hand painted porcelain ware, and the ancient churches. Peacock is one of the two factories producing these. The demo of end to end process was interesting. The demonstrator said “This art was brought to Holland from China by the Merchants. This is just one of the two factories producing original hand painted Delftware. There might be a lot of Chinese duplicates in the souvenir shops. Please check the trade mark and buy.” Nice completion of a cycle!!

It was time for lunch and it was time to taste the best Dutch Pan Cakes. I had a pan cake, topped with pineapples, ice cream, honey and …. :)

Again travelling through the Country side, we reached The Hague. [The Political capital of The Netherlands]. Lovely city with an ancient and modern mix. The International Court of Justice is the UN wing for international dispute resolution. This lost the respect after USA withdrew recognition after ICJ delivered a judgement against the US. The following are the International Court of Justice and the World Peace Flame lit outside that.

The Hague has a nice long beach. It was sunny and we had some fun there. The next stop was Madurodam. This is the miniature Holland, reduced by 25 times. All the other spots of Holland, like the Delta Works, Schipol airport were all available here for view.

Schipol Airport at Madurodam

Hans of Holland at Madurodam

It was evening by then, and we returned to Amsterdam. Took a canal cruise through the highly networked canals of the city. Again walks through central Amsterdam, dinner at a Desi restaurant, before hitting the bed.

To be contd….[The concluding part will have the visits to Anne Frank house, exploring the country side on our own, visits to working Windmill and Dutch cheese factory.]

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Netherlands - Part 1

Had a bit of slogging to do at office. Hence couldn’t put this post earlier. Even now, just managed to squeeze some time for this, to have it in the web before the American long weekend stories hit the stands. ;)

I never thought that a holiday visit with a gang of 12 desi friends would stir so much of thoughts within.

Netherlands, I know is a unique country with
1. Prostitution legally allowed
2. Brown café selling weeds legally
3. A flat Pan Cake country [lowest is -7m below mean sea level, highest is 380m above mean sea level].
4. 42% of the country is below sea level and is protected by dykes and dams build across the sea.
5. 20% of the total land area is reclaimed from sea.

Little did I know that, I will end up travelling through the country side visiting 4 cities in 3 days, getting enough time in between to think on what I had seen.

Since this was an off the fly trip, flights were either fully booked or very costly. The choice was either to cross the North Sea or the English Channel. While we were deciding, the North Sea route also got fully booked. The only option was to take the Coach-Ferry-Coach through France and Belgium into Netherlands.

On reaching there, and after checking in and refreshing, I had been to the tourist info centre to look out for and book for package deals. There was a queue and it took me abt 30 mins. As I came out, my pals had already started their Amsterdam tour. Yes, some of them went to the café and initiated themselves into the grass root level. [and later some of them got sick, felt blown out and headed for the hostel in the afternoon. that is a different story in itself. ]

After some roaming around in the central parts of the city, it was time for lunch.
There are a lot of Indonesian cuisines, as a mark of the Dutch East India company’s exploits. As it happens always with a large group, we had to split into smaller sub groups based on preferences. I belonged to the one which just had Margaritta pizza.

The plan for the afternoon was just to roam around the city following the various Amsterdam Walks and to visit the Heineken brewery. Got to know the ins and outs of the Brewing process, and was offered a complimentary coupon for 3 pints, which I exchanged for cola, and a souvenir beer glass.

Next stop was the hyped Sex Museum. This did not turn out to be interesting for me. Just ran through it fast and came out asap.

While waiting on the streets I found the lamp posts modeled to show ‘XXX’. Fyi, the flag of Amsterdam has them.

This foto has the following identities of Amsterdam
1. The XXX lamp post
2. Distinct bicycle lane
3. The tram line
4. The indonesian connection. [The man in the bicycle]
5. The teasers bar, famous for it body shot.

It was time for the sunset and the default pilgrimage to the world famous Red Light district began. Though I had read about this place earlier, it was a huge shock for me initially, with all the scantily clad women peeping out of the red lighted door sized glass windows lining the streets. I was initially very uncomfortable and developed a pitiable reaction to them. But in sometime, I happened to understand the professionalism there.

I could see tourists, families, with children, even desi families with children strolling in the core of the district!. As I read somewhere, the two questions raised by somebody before visiting the place is, 'Is it Safe? Will it be a shock?' and the answer for both are a 'Yes'.

It was just business, as much as an accountants office. I happened to come across this article which has approached the business academically. The following lines from that seemed to be very true.

In Amsterdam, the commodification of bodies has been perfected
to the level of an art form. The red-light district resembles the
modern open-air shopping mall in the United States. Relatively
clean streets, little crime, a neon atmosphere, and windows and
windows of women to choose from--every size, shape, and color
(though not in equal amounts).

As one half of the gang decided to watch a live show, the other half of us found our way to a Thai restaurant and then to the hostel to retire after the long day.

To be Contd...

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