A short trip to Den Haag’s Chinatown

This morning I realized that I needed to double check that my transit card was actually working, so I decides to take a short trip to Den Haag and see if I could pick up some specialized food that the Asian market near where I live didn’t have.
This started at the train station:

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And boarded the next train to Den Haag Centraal. The trip took about 15 minutes. Arriving in Den Haag, and remembering to actually check out before leaving the station, I walked into the city. There are these Huge signs now pointing the way, like this one.

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At most major crossings, there were also smaller signposts like this one, useful if you are looking for something more specific.

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So pretty much I ended up walking straight into the city center until I got to a plaza with a fountain.

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This showed that I was pretty much in the center of the city, and only had a short way farther to get to Chinatown.

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From the plaza, this area is just a little bit further, and you can tell that you’ve arrived by the red lanterns. This area is pretty small, so it is easy to explore. I found some good bakerys on this road as well as the store that I came here for, Oriental Market.

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This store was much better laid out and had a larger selection than the one closer to where I lived. I was able to get some Japanese noodles which were not stocked, as well as some better tea.

I ran into some 5 inch steaming baskets though! I want to try them in a rice cooker to see if that would work to steam different foods.

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At the end of it all, I was only in Den Haag for about an hour and a half, not long at all.  I plan on going on a major hunt for a good rice cooker tomorrow, which will take me to Rotterdam and Den Haag.

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Short Weekend Trips

Last night I made a list of all the cities I want to visit in Europe.  The list kept on getting longer and longer, and then I realized when I was finished that I could start with the cities which are close and not too expensive to travel to. This means, that besides traveling to cities within the Netherlands (Den Haag, Rotterdam, Amsterdam to start with), my next destinations will be as follows:

Germany

Düsseldorf

Belgium

Brussels

Antwerp

Ghent

Luxembourg

Luxembourg City

Followed later by cities in France, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Czech Republic, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Iceland… or until I run out of travel funds.

I also really want to hike the Santiago de Compostela, but that’s a long term goal for when I’m not stuck in class.

Transit Cards in the Netherlands

Once arriving in the Netherlands, I quickly realized that there are two good ways to get around; by bike and by public transit. Going by bike is much better for shorter distances, but the trains run both frequently and are relatively inexpensive.  There are three ways to buy tickets:

1. Paper Tickets (Point A -> B)

2. Paper Day Discount Tickets

3. OV-Chipkaart

-Starting off with a normal paper ticket, these will force you to pay full price for a ticket, no matter what.  On trains, this isn’t that much compared to the cost with a chipkaart, but on buses and trams you can quickly wrack up huge transit costs. These are good if you need to just go once or twice to another city, and not sustainable if you live in the Netherlands.  Great for short term visitors.

-The Day Discount tickets take the normal day ticket (around 45 euros) and makes it cost only 20 or 25, depending on the deal. These tickets are NOT bought at the train station. Blokker usually has these for sale, but only for limited times. These are good if you happen to have someone here who can get them, as they allow for unlimited travel for the entire day.  These are harder to get a hold on, but worth the wait.

-Finally the OV-Chipkaart, both the best, and sometimes the most frustrating one. There are two main types, anonymous and personal. The personal one can only be used by the person whos photo is on the card, and the anonymous one can be used by anyone, but only one person at a time. They are both valid for around 5 years and cost 7,50 Euros.

The anonymous card is good for visitors or for people who do not use public transit often.  The personalized one is really for people who live here and use transit fairly often, even for just a couple of times a month. The other positive for the personalized one is that it can be loaded directly from a Dutch bank account, so the balance never goes below 0. It can also hold discount cards, like the very popular NS Off peak discount.

This Off Peak discount comes from the NS directly, and if you don’t already have a OV-Chipkaart, I would advise that you get the card at the same time as the discount. The discount costs 50 euros for 40% discount during the off peak hours, and it includes a FREE Chipkaart. This is one of the best deals for international students, because you can also have up to 3 other people travel with the same discount, even if they buy paper tickets.  A great deal for people who will travel by train often, especially with visitors.

*One word of caution:  You can only find the NS discounts on the DUTCH side of the NS.nl website. Use Google Translate. Also, you must have a Dutch bank account with online banking to buy the card and discount.

My plan is to have my OV-Chipkaart from NS with the discount, have it top up automatically from my bank account, and just buy paper tickets under my same discount for visitors. This was decided after talking to many many other *non-Dutch* students.

*Note: Dutch Students have their own transit card… Non-Dutch students as of this time can NOT buy them, as it is part of their stipend from DUO, which only Dutch students receive.

Picking yourself up

Every once in a while, I encounter something which makes me really angry at myself. Take yesterday for example. I play Kendo, but had to take a year break because there was no place to practice.  I started up again last week, and training yesterday went terribly. I had lost so much skill and understanding that everything I did was slightly wrong, or I wasn’t able to keep up. The anger at myself rose and rose until it hit a breaking point where I almost cried.

But then I realized something.

The anger does NOTHING. absolutely nothing. I must pick myself up and move on. I can make resolutions for the future, and promise to work hard until I make it.

This is the mindset that I left training with. This is the mindset which will take me far, not one full of anger and self-hate. It has strengthened my resolve to move forward and not be weighted down by the past.

Travel and arrival

At the end of August, I  permanently left my  main home of 18 years to move to Delft for the next few years, in the Netherlands. I left with one backpack, and two medium sized pieces of luggage. This was probably the heaviest I’ve ever packed for a trip such as this one, but one piece of luggage contained only Kendo and other sports equipment, and my jackets.

The airline which I used was Icelandair, my favorite for moving to and from Europe, since I have two free checked luggage with any ticket I buy. I ended up taking the redeye from Washington to Iceland, which looking back on it, was not the best idea.  I expected there to be more food in the Iceland airport so I could buy breakfast, but that didn’t happen. Window seats are the best for sleeping through the entire flight, you can lean against the window or on the tray table etc.  I think I slept through both flights, arriving in Amsterdam at noon.

Skipping through the bus ride to Delft, I ended up picking up my keys at the TUDelft welcome center and had to wait a long time to get driven to my accommodation. I lived quite close to where the center was, but with my two suitcases, it was too much. Another example of why I don’t travel heavy. I live now in a decently large apartment with four other people.  We share a large kitchen/dining room area, and each have our own bedroom. The price is a bit steep, but can’t get much better in location or niceness for university housing.

Before this ends, a list of the most crucial things to buy when a student in the Netherlands:

-Bicycle

-Rain gear (if you didn’t bring any)

-Buienalarm (Phone app for rain, also a website)

-OV-Chipkaart (Transit Card) with the 40% off peak discount if that applies to your needs

-Bicycle (really, it will end up saving you so much time and money)