Arrival in Amsterdam: Jan-2-2014

I left for the airport last night at 9:00 and I was arrived no later than 9:30.  I strapped my wooden chairs on top of my bag and hoisted it over my shoulder.  It was a struggle to move about ~70 lbs on my back.  Before I was allowed to enter the airport a man was checking our passports and inquiring about our travels.  People who were not flying today were not allowed inside.  The moment I entered the doors into the aiport I had to have every piece of luggage/baggage I had sent through an x-ray  machine.  Beside the machine was a metal detector for me to pass through.  There was a sign that read, "no weapons beyond this point".  Below the sign was a picture of a small blade and a gun.  I had a single edged 4" locking blade as well as a double-edged 12" Seme (Maasai sword) so I was a bit nervous--but assumed I would be fine as they probably get alot of this type of thing.  I picked up my bag on the other side of the conveyor--no questions asked.  I hadn't emptied my pockets or taken off my shoes...a US policy that is such a hassle.

I waited in line to check-in--my back was breaking from the weight of my bags and I wanted nothing more than to unload my checked-in baggage.  I had about 70 lbs on my back and another 15 lbs on my chest.  When I finally checked in I found out that my chairs weighed more than 40lbs, while my backpacking bag was under 30lbs.  I would guess that at least 5 lbs of that weight was trinkets and paperwork.

I put a black garbage bag over my overnight bag and sent it on its way to Amsterdam.  Next I went to my gate which included the following:

  1. Showing one man my passport and my ticket
  2. Going through immigration and telling the women about my travel history and future plans.  She inquired about my occupation, etc.  She stamped me 'out' of Kenya
  3. Going into three seperate duty free shops and being turned down by each one because they all refused to change a $20 bill, despite the fact that they all took USD.
  4. Overpaying at a food stand for a diet coke and diary milk chocolate bar
  5. Going to gate #10 which was where my British Airways flight to London was
  6. Was told I couldn't take the diet coke with me so I chugged half of it and threw the rest away
  7. At the gate a women checked my passport and ticket and then let me the 'next stage'
  8. I passed my bag through an x-ray while I walked through a metal detector.
  9. Just as I was putting my things back in my pockets I had to go through another metal detector and send my bag through another x-ray machine.  I was 'screened' here and was told they needed to examine my bag.  Due to all the pockets and straps on my bag it took them a good 10 minutes to figure out how to access all the pockets of the bag.  While they were checking my bag they asked about where I was flying and about my trip thus far.  They asked to see my ticket stub and they recorded some type of ID number down on their clipboard.  I was finally sent through and was able to sit at the gate where I waited another hour to board the flight.

The flight went quickly--I slept on and off for 5 or so hours.  I ate two meals.  Once I got off the plane there were half a dozen agents checking everyone's passports.  They were pulling everyone aside and asking about onward travel and what our business was being in Kenya.  I told one about my tour and the countires I had visited.  The agent had asked for my previous plane tickets or tour voucher.  I told her that stuff was in my checked baggage.  She inquired about my occupation and finally let me through.

Next, I waited 1.5 hours in line to go through immigration.  When I finally got to an agent I told him I was in transit and that I had a flight out later today.  He was suspicious and told me my flight had arrived a while ago.  I told him the line was long and he had some doubt.  He asked for my occupation, I told him, he stamped my passport, I was in.  After this point I noticed my hat was missing and I was really upset becuase I loved that hat.  I wore it every day and had planed on using it quite a bit when I go hiking in the future.  I went to the baggage services department and they called the plane but it wasn't to be found.  I went to the lost and luck.  I'll check again when I go back to the airport, but I might just have to buy another one.  Damn!

I noticed that there was no formal customs.  I think it was closed?  The people who had checked baggage were just taking it through an empty "non-declaration" door and that was that.  I hope this is the case in Amsterdam, but I know it will not be the easy.  By the time I caught the underground it had been almost 3 hours since my flight had touched down.

I took the underground to Hyde Park Circle, walked around for an hour, and finally ended up eating breakfast at a place called "Garfunkel's" on Oxford Street.  I am not impressed with London.  I love the people and think the culture is great, but it doesn't seem like a place to 'visit'.  To me it's more of a place to live.

It's 10:15 now and I'm planning on heading back to the airport at 11:00 which should give me ample time to find an underground stop, take the neccassary transfers I need, and make my way to Terminal 5.  I don't have any bags to check but I imagine it can still take some time getting through.  When I started my trip just 4 weeks ago and I had left Heathrow it took me a few minutes to get through security and back to my gate.  No one checked my passport or ticket last was really weird.  I think since I had already checked in and my bag was being checked in to the final destination I somehow skipped a much needed step.

Anyways, I exchanged a few messages with Kim just a bit ago and she told me she will see me at the airport.  I told her not to rush since I will likely have a slight holdup at customs.  I'm excited to see Kim, but am actually nervous.  I really really really enjoyed spending my time traveling SE Asia with her, but it's been such a long time (~5 years) and we've only talked 1 time via skype and probably only half a dozen times through facebook.  I wanted to get her something as a gesture of kindess.  I ended up on brining her and Oliver a hand-carved figure and a set of 6 napkin rings.

I'm excited for Amsterdam, the weather should be 'good enough'.  I had Kelly check for me when I had talked to her during my wait at the Nairobi airport--mid to high 40s.  With my long sleeved shirt, and fleece I should be warm enough.  If not I have a long sleeved synthetic mock-turtleneck shirt.  I also have a pair of synthetic base layer long pants.

A SIDE NOTE ON MY CLOTHING:  I brought two pairs of pants, I wore 1 of them 85% of the time, the other 10% of the time, and a bathing suite 5%.  I never wore my pair of athletic shorts or my pair of technical shorts.  I brought two pairs of technical long sleeved shirts, I wore these %65 of the time.  I wore my Under Armor t-shirt 20% of the time, my Columbia 'cooling technology' long sleeve shirt 5% of the time (which is a bummer since the shirt retails for $60).  I wore all my 3 pairs of socks.  My thickest pair of merino wool socks that come up mid-calf are great!  I have worn them all day for the last 7-10 days and they have NEVER been washed.  Believe it or not they have almost no odor.  They keep my legs dry and warm.  But they breathe oh-so-well!  I am sold on merino wool.  I brought 3 pairs of underwear and I have washed each one 1 time--though only using water.  I have been wearing my current pair for 5 days, and the pair before that for about the same tome, maybe longer.  One pair is a low-priced 'no-name' synthetic pair and the other two, that I wore 90% of the time, are boxer briefs I bought on sale off of Amazon.  They retail for ~$30 apiece but I found a great deal via slickdeals and got two pairs for $24.  They are Exofficio, which is a very well known brand around the world.  The company specializes in high-quality travel clothing.  Their product tagline is, "17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of award-winning underwear. (Ok, maybe two.)"  Wearing these boxer briefs 5 straight days, including nights and the hot muggy days, still leaves these things odorless.  I can wear my Cole Hann loafers for only 30 minutes before my feet smell like a freshly opened bag of Fritos.  I wore my other tops a few times but probably didn't need to pack them.  I brought more clothing than I needed.  However I have been wearing the same pair of underwear, socks, long-sleeved tech shirt, and pants for the last 4 days?  Given that I just cycle my clothing, not having really washed any of them, I guess you can say I've warn the same thing for the last 4 weeks nonstop.  Take it from me, there is a reason technigal shirts are $50-$80, 100% thick merino socks are $25/pair, travel underwear is ~$30/apiece, and tech pants run almost $100.

Even though I have only been on my own for the last day, and not even, I really enjoy it.  I forgot how much more I enjoy traveling as an solo traveler.  I just wander with no one to hold me accountable or to be accountable for anyone else.  I rely on myself and myself alone.  It's easier to just 'get lost' in everything and approach strangers/locals/fellow passer-bys.

Ok, time to head to the nearest underground--that is, after I pay my bill of 8.40 GBP.

It took me a while to find the Piccadilli Line, but I finally got on and made one transfer to get to terminal 5.  I was through security in no time and had 1-2 hours until my flight.  Heathrow had wi-fi, which was free for 45 minutes.  I got an extra 45 minutes becuase I signed up for their loyalty program.  I also used my phone and tablet to double these times since I had used up my day's allowance earlier this morning.  I was reading online how I could get my Maasai sword into the Netherlands, but I was not finding anything useful.

The flight was a short one--45 minutes.  After landing I headed towards baggage claim.  I saw my overnight bag, still wrapped in the black garbage bag, and my self packed wooden chairs.  I loaded them onto a cart, which was free, and headed over to customs.  There was a green tab on the garbage bag that said "security checked" and I tried very hard to make this small sticker visable as I loaded my cart.  I re-read the customs notice on the wall which stated I did not have to claim gifts or souvenirs--well, that's only what I have so I walked through the 'green', nothing to claim, divider.  I went unstopped and left the baggage area.  Score!
Arriving in Netherlands

As I walked into the general airport, outside the baggage area, there were 4 attractive women, dressed in traditional dutch clothing, passing out some very sweet fried pastry--they were delicious.  I walked around the area for 5 minutes until I met up with Kim--we hugged and chatted during our short drive back to her house.  She lives just a 10 minute bikeride outside the city.

Kim's place is amazing--it must be 2-3 times larger than mine and 100s of times more fashionable.  In her bedroom she had used one of the photos she had taken at Ankor Wat, blown it up, and used it as a wallpaper behind her bed.  I met Oliver and we talked about my trip for a little.  He was preparring dinner, which we ate a bit later.  He eats similar foods that I eat.  Dinner consisted of cooked pumpkin and eggplant with a caper-oil dressing he had made, cubed grilled chicken, green beans, and some salad.  Lovely!

We talked for hours and Kim showed me the book she had made from her Asian trip.  It was so good to talk about time's past--the pictures she had taken looked very similar to mine.  We also discussed some potential plans for the following days.  I had wanted to go to the Ann Frank house, but the pre-paid tickets were sold out--we are planning on going there first thing in the day to try to beat the line (it's the morning of the 3rd right now).  Kim has to call a client around 9 this morning, which is in an hour so we'll probably be leaving in the next 90 minutes.  There is a Modern Art Museum, the Rikes Museum, and the Van Gohg Museum...I'm not sure which one we'll go to--may only one?  They have tours along the canals which are supposed to be fun.  Kim had pointed out a very pretty theater, but there was only one English movie playing--The Hobbit--which I can very happily miss.  She said going to the red-light district is best at night or else it's empty.  Although Kim has never been inside a cafe she told me she is happy to go with me.

She has an extra bike and we're planning on riding into the city around 9:30.  I'll keep you posted about my day.  Cheers!