When your boss asks you to attend a meeting in Amsterdam on his behalf, how can you refuse? After briefly conferring with my husband, we decided it was in the best interest of our marriage if he accompany me. While about half of my 4 days in Amsterdam was spent in work-related meetings, we did have ample time to explore the city.
Amsterdam makes my home town of Las Vegas appear like an immature imposter. Sure soft drugs and sex work are legal, and live sex shows are a major tourist attraction, but the focus of Amsterdam is on human rights and personal liberties, rather than on “sin.” Plus the scenery in Amsterdam is far better than in Vegas (although I do love the mountains at home).
The best restaurant we ate at in Amsterdam was Aneka Rasa, an authentic Indonesian restaurant on Warmoesstraat.
Here we tried the Rijsttafel Vegetarisch, or Vegetarian Rice Table, which consisted of 14 small dishes accompanied by steamed rice. My favorite dishes were the fried spicy corn balls, spicy beans in a spicy coconut sauce, spiced & fried shredded coconut, and fried bananas. Although the food was really good, I didn’t find it to be overly spicy, as the dish names suggest. Meals were reasonably priced at 17 Euros per person.
Walking down Damrakstraat, one of the main streets in Central Amsterdam, we decided to visit the Sex Museum.
The Sex Museum was pretty cheesy and kind of made me want to be chaste. Some of the low points of the museum were old-school animated statues that came to life to perform sexual acts & plastic butts that flatulated on you when you walked down the stairs. However, if you want some good laughs admission is only 4 Euros.
Despite the shortcomings of the Sex Museum, I highly recommend the 2-hour walking tour of the Red Light District, which is fully worth its 22 Euro price. The tour can be booked from any “Tours & Tickets” office on Damrakstraat. The tour guide was excellent and provided us much background historical information on the red light district “De Wallen” (Dutch for Wall Street). A highlight of the tour was a visit to the Prostitution Information Center, where we had Heinekens and listened to a former sex worker openly share her story and experiences as a sex worker and answer our questions.
Sex workers in Amsterdam work as “independent contractors”; they rent spaces from landlords and sign up for shifts. There is no “pimping” and sex workers get to keep all of their profits after rent. Sex workers solicit clients as “window prostitutes” and typically have around 10 clients per shift. It is a completely legalized and legitimate profession throughout the Netherlands. Interestingly, since sex work and soft drugs are decriminalized in the Netherlands, Amsterdam has one of the lowest crime rates of any major city in the world. Decriminalized sex work also significantly cuts down on human trafficking and promotes the safety of those involved.
One of my favorite pictures on display at the Prostitution Information Center shows the oldest sex worker in Amsterdam, an 88-year-old woman. In the below picture she is seated with a local police office, which shows the legal respect of the sex worker profession and the support that local law enforcement has for the trade. The Red Light District is thus very safe to walk through.
Another highlight of the trip was a visit to the Artis Royal Zoo, the oldest and one of the largest zoos in Europe. Admission for “normal tourists” is 18.95 euros, but there is enough to see here to make the better part of a day of it. While some of the major draws of the zoo include the elephants, zebras, giraffes, gorillas, baboons and chimpanzees, I really enjoyed the small things, such as the wide range of tortoises from around the world and the smallish-jungle cats.
Reluctantly, my husband and I left Amsterdam yesterday morning, but we hope to return to the beautiful, relaxed city. To read more about our trip, visit my husband’s blog.