Video: Amsterdam Nightlife

The Red Light District

No trip would be complete without at the very least a stroll through the Red Light District.  Before I begin, I’m going to say up front that I didn’t pay for any prostitutes.  Thought about it.  But didn’t.

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The Red Light District was relatively difficult to find at first because we weren’t totally clear on the “area” that all the guidebooks were telling us.  So when we arrived at a side street with only 4 or 5 windows, I was at first not all impressed and thinking to myself, “THIS is it?”  Then we turned the corner.

Up and down the canal were dozens and dozens of women in glowing red windows.  Interspersed with the actual prostitutes were several theaters showing weird sex shows.  The prices from what I understand are about 50 euros for 15 minutes, 100 euros for 30 minutes, and so on and so forth.  The price is however negotiated beforehand and varies based on the race, age, etc. of the prostitute.  Obviously taking pictures is a huge risk so I really couldn’t get that many photos in.

My biggest overall reactions/takeaways from the stroll through the Red Light District were this:

1) I was surprised at how clean it was.  Don’t get me wrong, plenty of dirty shit was going down on that street behind the curtains.  But in terms of walking around, I absolutely thought it was going to be like Bourbon Street in New Orleans — dirty, smell of vomit and beer, drunk people sloppily all over the place, lots of noise.   It was quite the opposite; it was clean, everyone was pretty reserved, and there was a general understanding of “don’t be that douche” atmosphere in the air.

2) The prostitutes were actually not that unattractive.  I’m not sure why I was picturing that they would all be relatively gross, but in general, these women were all pretty good looking.

Club Escape

For a more traditional night out, I would highly recommend Club Escape in Rembrandt Square.  Again, this was a suggestion from the bartenders at NJOY and it didn’t disappoint (though amusingly our first impression was one of “What the fuck?” because there was security guard putting a headlock on a clubber immediately as we walked through the metal detector).  The night we were there it was a 16 euro cover and the party really got going around 12:30 AM.

I’m not a huge clubbing guy, but this place makes it almost impossible not to have a good time.  The main electronic dance music hall (EDM) featured a phenomenally good female vocalist and saxophonist (be sure to scroll down to watch more video of those two) who performed center stage in the middle of the club.  It was awesome.  The music was a great mix of classic 90’s dance tunes, modern EDM, and a bit of 80’s hip hop thrown in.  There’s also a side, smaller room upstairs that’s dedicated purely to hip hop. (Note: depending on what’s on the line-up each particular evening these types of music are subject to change obviously).  And aside from the dude who got thrown out when we first came in, the crowd was the right amount of enthusiastic, but not out of control.  Club Escape’s a great place to go until the wee hours of the morning.

New Orleans: Quick Hits – Food

I’ve just recently returned from a work trip to New Orleans, LA and needless to say it was quite a week.  New Orleans is everything you’d expect from the Mardi Gras capital of the world.  With the open alcohol beverage laws in the city, New Orleans can easily cause a few rough mornings.  Bourbon Street in particular is as wild as its reputation and I’ll say this right off the bat: It’s not for everyone.  Bourbon Street on a weekend night is probably as filthy drunk of an area that I’ve ever seen – it’s neither a compliment nor an insult; it’s the truth.  Unless you’re in you’re early-twenties with a fondness for frozen drinks that are really sweet and loaded with the shittiest alcohol, I doubt that you’ll want to spend too much time there.  But I do recommend you walk down it at least once to experience the chaos (and the smell you’ll quickly want to forget).

Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street

Since this was a work trip, most everything was taken care of by the company, so I can’t give you too many specifics on pricing.  But I’ll give you my quick thoughts on a several restaurants and activities in the next few posts.  We’ll start with food in this post.

Cafe Du Monde 

The signature cafe of New Orleans, this eatery is open 24 hours a day and tourists and locals flock there for their coffee and signature beignets.  For me personally, I think it’s “eh”.  You kind of HAVE to go there because it’s such a historical place.  But at the end of the day to me it was just a too doughy fried dough and coffee.  It’s not bad, it’s just not worth the hype.  It also doesnt’t help that it’s usually muggy and hot in New Orleans, which isn’t exactly the climate conducive to me wanting to eat a hot donut and coffee.

Wanted to love it, but only liked it.
Wanted to love it, but only liked it.

Cafe Amelie

This is a weird review because we didn’t eat there.  Why didn’t we eat there?  Because it was closed when we arrived.  Why did we go when it was closed?  Oh, it’s because we had a confirmed reservation.  So yeah, we were a little shocked/pissed/amused/confused when we saw the place empty and a sign saying that it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.  A useful bit of knowledge that they probably could have told us when we made the reservation AND when we called again to confirm we were good to go.  The patio from outside the gates looked nice though.

Three Muses

Probably my favorite of all the places we ate, Three Muses is located on Frenchman Street just east of the French Quarter.  I would highly recommend going out there if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street.  Frenchman Street is still pretty crazy, but it’s a bit more of an older crowd (late-20s, early-30’s) with more venues that lean toward hipster with live jazz music than fratty dance party.  On a weekend night, it’s best to make a reservation at Three Muses (and at any Frenchman Street restaurant in fact) because the place is not very large.  Our group of 6 just happened to be lucky enough to show up when another party of 6 who had a reservation was late.  The hostess ended up seating us because the other group wasn’t on time (they’ll give you a 15-minute grace period).  When we were there, a female jazz singer and her trio of instrumentalists were performing music that sounded like it was out of the Roaring 20s; it was a fun, lively atmosphere.  The food comes in small sharing portions so it’s best to get a few.  My personal recommendations are the Mac and Cheese, Bulgogi, and Tempura Shrimp.  My co-worker also said the lamb sliders that I never got around to tasting were excellent.  As far as their cocktails, you should have a cool, refreshing “Earl Grey Gardens” with dinner and a “The Other Redhead” as an after-dinner libation.

Oceana

Works as a good lunch place on Bourbon Street to get a real good shrimp po’ boy or seafood dish.  It felt kind of like a chain, though it wasn’t, so don’t expect anything here to blow you away.  Keep it as a lunch option and not dinner because it’s solid, not spectacular.  The french fries there randomly were really good though.

Domenica Restaurant

Domenica was the restaurant our work group went to for our first dinner and I very much enjoyed it.   I wouldn’t say you should put this at the top of your least or even to make it a target to rush to, but if you do end up there I think you’ll enjoy it as well.  I had the Tagliatelle made up of slow cooked rabbit & porcini mushroom ragu (much to the chagrin of my co-worker who couldn’t stop picturing me eating a bunny) and it was delicious.  The Salumi & Formaggi platter they put together for us was spot on and I sampled the Red Snapper which was a popular choice amongst my co-workers.  The surprise favorite dish though was the Roasted Cauliflower w/ seas salt and whipped feta.  Definitely get that as an appetizer.

Evangeline

If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said Evangeline was a must-do.  But after going there this second time around, I would say not a must-do, but a recommend.  I want to say that the restaurant was having a bit of an off day, but that’s still not an excuse.  Anyone who ordered beer got beer that was pretty warm (not very welcome in the heat of summer), and our waitress while very nice, seemed a bit stoned.  At one point, my co-worker asked simply for yellow mustard and the waitress returned empty handed apologetically saying “We’ve run out”.   What restaurant runs out of yellow mustard??  The food was fine though, and the patio is really nice with the Christmas tree lights strung up.

The patio is nice, but if it's really muggy, stick with the A/C inside.
The patio is nice, but if it’s really muggy, stick with the A/C inside.

The Ruby Slipper Cafe

We came here for brunch, and I’ll say off the bat that they did not leave a good first impression.  I was running late, so I didn’t see it, but apparently my friends who put our name down on the wait list were treated pretty rudely.  That being said, we still stayed and personally, I’m kinda glad we did despite the bitchiness people encountered.  I tried their Eggs Cochon, which is their signature dish, and it was awesome.  I’m not sure why I was skeptical of a dish that had pulled pork, poached eggs, and hollandaise and cheese over a buttermilk biscuit, but it was really good.

Eggs Cochon
Eggs Cochon

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Going back to a more industrialized, urban country was a bit jarring coming from the serenity of Laos.  After our exhausting delay, and relatively frightening flight, we landed in Cambodia for the final leg of our trip.  Again, when you get to Cambodia, you’ll need to have cash on hand for the $35 visa.

Our hotel was The Golden Temple Hotel, which arranged for a tuk tuk to pick us up and bring us there.  The Golden Temple Hotel’s staff welcomed us with tea and a snack when we arrived. The folks there are incredibly helpful and accommodating.  The place itself is brand new, and only has 30 rooms so the staff does their best to get to know their individual guests.  The rooms are equipped with all the amenities to make a comfortable stay (HD TV, free WiFi, A/C, nice clean and new furniture).  The hotel also provides a cell phone for you to use (which is HUGE for those of you without an international plan), a free wine happy hour, a very generous complimentary breakfast every morning with a box breakfast for those who leave early for Angkor Wat, and when you leave they give their departing guests a free T-shirt and scarf as a thank you gift.  The deal we got through Expedia also included for each of us a free massage at the hotel spa and a free Khmer dinner cooked and delivered to your room.  What did we pay?  $80 a night.

So, yeah, that hotel might be the best value I’ve ever gotten at a place I’ve stayed traveling.  There’s only two things that they could improve on.  One, they need a few more lounge chairs by the pool.  And two, while the staff was great (and I really want to make sure that’s clear, they were GREAT), they were a bit overbearing in their attempts to accommodate every need.   While I do feel kind of like a dick for saying that a negative is that people were too nice, I do wish they scaled it back just a notch.

The location of the Golden Temple Hotel is also a huge plus.  It’s within walking distance of the Siem Reap Night Market as well as Pub Alley.  My first impression of these places was this: I hope that Luang Prabang doesn’t turn into it.  The Night Market in Siem Reap is the exact opposite of what was in Luang Prabang.  It was loud and seedy, with tuk tuk drivers and whores coming up to you constantly.  I almost punched a guy in the face because he grabbed by arm and spun me around so that he could get my attention.  Despite that, knowing that it is what it is, it is a rather fun place to go out if you’re looking to have drinks and a crowd.  Pub Alley is essentially trying to be the Bourbon Street of SE Asia, so there are plenty of different types of bars with large quantities of cheap drinks to be had.  Most of the bars have outdoor seating for people watching.  Our experience was even cooler because there was a power outage (not uncommon for SE Asia apparently), so half the street had no electricity and people were using candles for lighting giving the street a really cool, rustic, exotic look.

One place in particular that I’d recommend for drinks is Beer Battle, which has a bit of a calmer vibe surrounded by all the madness.   I would also recommend walking to the Night Market from there and grabbing dinner at Genevieve’s Restaurant.   This restaurant was the closest thing to a Mom & Pop place we went to all trip.  We honestly weren’t expecting much, but it ended up being a surprisingly good meal.  The owner is an Australian who opened up the place, named after his wife, and sends a portion of his proceeds to charity.  The staff he hires are all local Cambodians whom he hopes will one day take over the restaurant and make it their own.   He came by our table at one point, and it was had not to feel good about eating there after speaking with the kind, grandfatherly figure.  One thing to note – if you ask for spicy, they will give you spicy.  My buddy on the trip is Indian, and he had been noticing that there wasn’t any really spicy food so far on the trip, so he specifically asked our waitress to make our beef salad spicy, spicy.  I lasted one bite; literally one bite.  He on the other hand impressively finished the dish, but at the cost of practically not being able to eat the next day!

Coming up: The signature attraction of Cambodia — Angkor Wat.