The ancient Buddhist concept of Sparma


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July 17th 2008
Published: September 30th 2017
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The cool, airy space that is Bazar.
Geo: 52.3738, 4.89095

I woke up at 5:00 AM and glanced over at Rolf's bunk - he was gone! Too bad, he was a nice guy and I would've like to have said goodbye. But then I noticed his mattress was also gone ... he must have taken it and slept out in the hallway!

I fell back asleep, and later awakened to the sound of Beethoven's "Furelise" - was I hearings things? Nope, turns out the guy above me used this tune as the alarm on his cell phone. It was still early, but I just decide to get out of bed because it wasn't a restful sleep, anyway.

Rolf came back into the room - turns out that me and this Belgian guy were snoring, and though I stopped after a short while, the Belgian guy kept on going and going ... the bad thing was that the Belgian guy was pretty big and was on the bunk above Rolf, so the whole bunk shook when he snored. Poor Rolf - sleeping outside was no better because there were motion detectors in the hall, so the lights came on any time he stirred.

Grabbed breakfast again with Rolf, then off to
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I started with a Cassis (blackcurrant) soda - it tasted like those blackcurrant jelly candies that you used to be able to buy! Mmm ...
Het Horntje to catch the ferry back to the mainland. I asked the bus driver how long it would take to the get to the port - "I don't know". Uhh ... don't buses run on schedules here, and shouldn't the driver know about them? Typical for the buses around here, I guess!

Caught the ferry to Den Helder and from there, a train to Amsterdam. There was chocolate cake smeared all over the floor, and a few seats. At least, I HOPED that it was chocolate cake ... I finally arrived in Amsterdam - I absolutely LOVED this place the first time I visited it, and vowed to one day return. If you want to read about the highlights of Amsterdam, this blog probably won't do it for you - this return trip is about doing the things I missed last time, and perhaps doing some things again that I loved the previous time (such as dinner in the Jordaan). Amsterdam truly is wonderful - you can check out this blog if you want to see the highlights: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/pwong/belgium_2007/tpod.html

I hopped on a tram to get to the hostel - I happened to sit next to a group of three Spanish
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I opted for the veal ribs, served with a cabbage salad (almost like coleslaw), and fried potato wedges. Déjà vu! I considered getting something else because it was so similar to the rib dinner the other night in Den Burg, but also wanted to get it because those wicked ribs made me crave more! The wedges were great with this spicy BBQ sauce, ketchup, or whatever it was - it was a bit chunky, and resembled a coulis. The ribs were a bit tough but had a great, smoky, grilled flavour. They were basted in some unknown sauce. Another good guidebook restaurant recommendation. The lady next to me was so impressed with the look of my lunch that she asked me what it was, and ended up ordering it, too. Chowing down on these veal ribs, I thought of a Tri story - one time, a bunch of us went out for dinner and he lectured us about how he feels bad for eating veal, because they are raised in a very cruel manner. Apparently, they are kept in cages where they can barely move, in order to maintain their tenderness. So what happened when the waiter asked Tri what he wanted? "I'll have the veal." What the heck!
senoritas (what a coincidence?). Listening to them talk about how to get to their hostel, I imagined that the sound of them talking is probably what doves or angels singing, sounds like ...

They obviously didn't speak any English, and were quite concerned about not knowing where they were going, so of course I helped, being the gentleman that I am ... I secretly hoped that they would be staying at my hostel, but nope! Their hotel wasn't on my map, and I couldn't locate the street, either. But I did know that they would also need to get off at the Leidseplein stop.

We hopped off the tram, and I pointed out a large map that was posted nearby. To be a true gentleman I could have, and should have, found the hotel for them and walked them there - but I had to pee, so rushed off to the hostel! But still, hopefully my good deed will one day be rewarded - we all know about the Buddhist concept of Karma, but over my years of backpacking, I have refined this into a new concept I call "Sparma".

What exactly is Sparma? It's Spanish Karma, where I hope that
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Cute sign on the men's room door.
if I do good deeds for Spanish senoritas, perhaps one day, some will take care of me. And if I do some really good deeds for Spanish senoritas, perhaps one day some will do a REALLY GOOD job of taking care of me 😊

Or perhaps one day, I'll do a good deed for a Spanish Princess, who has disguised herself, looking for a man who will love her for who she is, and not for title. It'd be like a fairytale! It could happen, right? Right??? RIGHT??!!??

I got to the hostel at about 13:00, but couldn't check in until 14:00 - I thought about ditching my bag in a locker and coming back later, but since I arrived in Amsterdam earlier than expected, I decided to use some expensive internet for a bit at the hostel, chill out for a bit, check in, then head out.

Ended up sitting outside with a Brazilian lady from Pipa (apparently, quite a famous beach resort). I offered her some of my disgusting sugary chocolate biscuits, and she commented that they were quite strange, with the big sugar granules.

We chatted outside since it was a beautiful sunny day -
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The busy, bustling Albert Cuypmarkt. Fish, fruit, clothing, electronics ... there was no real organization to it, with everything stalls of various types seemingly randomly-placed, side-by-side. I should've bought my undies here, they were cheaper and probably wouldn't compromise my ability to have kids!
the receptionist mentioned that it would be rainy they next few days, so we wanted to take advantage of it now. She's a homeopath, and practices Reiki and another holistic-type activities.

I told her that I used to be very skeptical about this things, but am willing to at least try them. Guess it all started when I wrecked my ankle, and my physiotherapist suggested acupuncture - I figured what the hell, it's covered under my benefits. And it seemed to work, so why couldn't other things?

She's living on the coast of Holland, in Zieland, I believe. She's got a one year work visa and is traveling all over Europe, working at various festivals. From what I could gather, she's doing this to get help move on from a failed marriage. It's a funny thing - most travelers I meet, and I'm not talking about vacationers that want to just get away for a week and lie on a beach getting wasted, are either running away from something, searching for something, or more often than not, both. No matter how different we all might be, it's something that we all have in common.

I finally checked in,
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In the Albert Cuypmarkt - statue of Mike Tyson, it looked more like Drederick Tatum, the Mike Tyson-like character from "The Simpsons".
and ended up in the newer building in the complex. Then I was off in search of food, to the Albert Cuypmarkt, a place recommended to me by a waitress when I was here last year. It's located in a great ethnic neighbourhood, De Pijp, with almost any type of food you could want.

The guidebook recommended a Cambodian place in the area - it was closed. It also recommended a Javanese/Surinamese restaurant - packed full! I tried a third recommended restaurant called Bazaar - finally! A very cool place, inside of an old church, that served Lebanese, North African, and Turkish food.

Normally, lunch for me would a quick thing, but I decided to splurge here when I planned the trip, because I knew there were good restaurants in town. Starving myself in Scandinavia for almost 20 days made me want to splurge even more! Lunch was great and came in the nick of time, because it was almost 15:00 and I was starving. It's a good thing that I had a big breakfast, and munched on those crappy biscuits.

I wanted to check out the "Heineken Experience", but it's closed until September, for renovations. Instead,
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At the hostel, I scanned the room - my finely-honed backpacker senses let me deduce exactly who else was staying in the room, despite none of them being there. The first thing I noticed was the feminine-looking clothing hanging to dry, and feminine shower sandals. So we have a group of females ... the clothing also looked like something Asians might wear ...
I did some shopping along Kalverstraat - two hoodies for 20 Euros! Regular price, they're probably 35 Euros each - apparently it's big sales of the year. I'd buy more clothing, but I don't have much room in my backpack.

I walked back to the hostel through Leidseplein, secretly hoping that I would run into the three senoritas from earlier (Ok, so not so secretly ...) I unpacked, relaxed, then went in search of dinner. Off to the Jordaan - it's splurge time, and there's no better place for that than in my favourite Amsterdam neighbourhood! I was torn tonight as to where to go, because I found the food last year at Café de Regier a little bit better, but it just doesn't have the great location overlooking a canal, like Lutwe does.

Since it's supposed to be rainy the next few days, I decided that tonight was the night to dine al fresco, and went to Lutwe. And though Cafe de Regier was better, I still had a great meal here last time, and it was the waitress here that gave me great recommendations, such as visiting the Foam Museum of photography, and also The Albert
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More feminine clothing ...
Cuypmarkt in De Pijp.

It was a bit chilly tonight ... the weather was much nicer last April (25-27 degrees); I'm pretty sure that was an aberration, as Holland isn't exactly renowned for having great weather. The waitress was different this time, but still cute! I'm not a big fan of Virginia Madsen, but the waitress bore a striking resemblance to her, and the look worked quite nicely, in this case. I had hoped to try their incredible white asparagus soup again, but sadly, it's now out of season 😞

I opted for the set menu, for 31.50 Euros - I said it's splurge time, right? I guess I'm here trying to recapture a moment I had the first time in Amsterdam - it was my first meal here where I fell in love with Amsterdam (see blog entry entitled "Happy in Haarlem" http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/pwong/belgium_2007/1177407720/tpod.html?tweb_UID=pwong ) The moment wasn't the same this time, but still beautiful, nonetheless. It was simply too loud ... but still worth a try!

The bread's crust was too crisp, and seemed to shatter in my mouth. This is the first time that I can describe bread as being something that could do that! The flavour
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... and then I noticed some pillows stolen from a train. This is typically something an Asian person would do - mystery solved! It's a group of Asians females! The other bunkmates returned soon after I deduced who they were, and I was right! Well ... 50% right ... they were Korean, but they were guys! So much for my finely-honed backpacker senses ... but seriously, why do some Asian guys dress and act so feminine? They give the rest of us a bad name, and are probably the reason that only men suffer from Yellow Fever, and not women! Men love Asian women because they are tiny and exotic, but women probably think Asian guys are simply too girly. I need to correct this by continuing to travel to Spain, and hopefully causing the women there to catch Yellow Fever as badly as I have the Spanish flu!
was still great, and especially good with butter. Somehow, the bread maintained a soft and chewy texture on the inside.

Some workers from a restaurant or shop next door came by to order some food, and the restaurant actually hand-delivered plates of food over to them. A nice service I thought - it's too bad my service wasn't so great, because the wait staff would disappear for long stretches at a time, and only pop by to drop off food occasionally.

Off for a walk in the RLD (red light district) - on the previous trip, I had actually walked through there only during the day. The night time atmosphere is supposed to be quite different, so I thought I'd check it out.

At night, it feels like a carnival, with the women being treated like animals in a cage. It's shocking to see how so many so-called "adults" can behave like little kids. It's one thing to laugh at the bizarre nature of the whole scene, but there is no need to taunt the women directly. Shouting insults and using derogatory language is uncalled for - if you want to go down there and take in the
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As I left for dinner, I noticed that the hostel's bar no longer had a patio - it's too bad, because it's a great place to chill out, overlooking the Vondelpark. I hope that it's only a temporary renovation.
whole spectacle, you should know better and act with some shred of decency and maturity.

Whatever you may think of their chosen profession, whether you approve of it or not, you need to respect the fact that a lot of these women come from poorer Eastern European countries. I would guess that many of them come here to earn money to take care of family back home. People need to remember that these are human beings, not animals, and treat them accordingly. You can look down on these women if you want, but what does that make you? You can mock and jeer all you want, but the fact is, if you came down to the RLD only to taunt someone else only in order to feel better about yourself, you're no better than the scum floating on the surface of the canal.

I left the RLD, feeling a little sick to my stomach, and headed back to the hostel. Seeing how some people behave kind of ruined the night - but back at the room were a couple of really nice students from London, Laurence and Harvey. They're doing a 30 day-long highlights tour of Europe, with
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I'm not normally big on trinkets, but I'd be proud to own this fine piece of art! Perhaps instead of flipping the bird while driving, I can instead place this figurine on my dashboard.
everything pre-planned and booked by Harvey. I chuckled, because he reminds me of myself, an obsessive planner.

They started asking for travel tips, and I went into my usual travel babble. They were young and naïve, in a good way - it's nice to meet travelers that aren't jaded or cynical. Good kids, and we had a good chat - it made me forget about the bad taste left in my mouth after tonight's walk through the RLD.

Instead, I thought about the rest of the day - back in one of my favourite cities, seeing some of my favourite tourists (i.e. - Spanish senoritas), eating good food in one of my favourite neighbourhoods, having a nice chat with nice bunkmates ... it was almost a perfect day.


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The beautiful canal-side location of Restaurant Lutwe.
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The starter was goat cheese, stuffed in a roasted pepper, the creamy richness of the cheese perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the pepper. A few crimini mushrooms stuffed with something unknown, also adorned the plate. The hominy croutons didn't seem to fit with the dish - they seemed like soft and salty corn bread. More conventional croutons probably would have made a better accompaniment. Also on the plate were some mixed greens, sliced roasted eggplant, and a drizzle of what I think was basil-infused olive oil. There was too much happening on the plate ... but it seemed to all work, very nicely.
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Main course - I chose the Guinea fowl wrapped in bacon. I've had it once before, but it always tempts me because the first time I had ever heard of it was while watching an episode of Food TV's "Iron Chef" - it sounded so exotic! It was also on the menu when I was here last April and I didn't get it, so it was a must this time. Served with asparagus, green beans, and flavourless roasted potatoes, the foul was juicy and tender. There was also a crappy roasted artichoke heart on the plate. Mmm ... there's nothing like meat wrapped in bacon. I wondered if it would be possible to have bacon wrapped in bacon - yes! A piece of regular bacon wrapped inside of a piece of Italian pancetta ... imagine what a paradise of pork that would be!
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As I mentioned, the service wasn't great tonight, but the waitress scored some extra points for dessert - I had trouble deciding between the chocolate or lemon pie, so she told me that she might be able to give me a little bit of both. How could I refuse such an offer, especially when it was proposed with such a cute Dutch accent? The chocolate pie used a very rich dark chocolate, and had a great, crunch crust. It was good, but a little too intense. The chocolate mousse was only OK, but the chocolate ice cream was incredible! It had a complexity and richness that is difficult to describe. I'm glad that I also had a sliver of lemon pie, because its slight sour tang was a nice counterpoint to the depth that the chocolate pie provided. The shortbread crust was tasty. The berries on the side were pretty crappy.
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Typical beautiful canal in Amsterdam.


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