(Is) Life is the Heart of a Rainbow (?)

So yesterday after class I went to the National Gallery Singapore to visit Yayoi Kusama's exhibition, LIFE IS THE HEART OF A RAINBOW. I actually only found out about this exhibition by chance. One morning when I was going to class, I saw the ad banners in Orchard. I was like, why didn't I know about this?!? I have never seen any of Yayoi Kusama's works before and I actually only heard of her when one day her exhibition was featured on the news. It was the one in USA I think and the news was mentioning that it's so popular that it's hard to get tickets. So I was really interested on seeing her exhibition here. The National Gallery Singapore website recommend getting the ticket online, in which you have to choose a time slot. When I went to the website, the time slot is never sold out. That coupled with I don't think Singaporeans are into arts, I decided to just get the ticket on site. I was quite wrong. Yesterday the queue was very very long. This is my third time visiting the National Gallery and yesterday was the first time I saw there's a queue whatsoever. Sadly that's not the only queue I had to do. There were so many queues inside the exhibition that overall I didn't have a good visit. For the ticket, I think it's like half an hour or so waiting in line to get it. Singaporeans and permanent residents actually get free entry to visit the permanent exhibitions, but for special one like this, we do have to pay for entry. Not that expensive though, it costs SGD 15. After I got my ticket, I went straight to the gallery. Again there's a queue to get in and it's quite long :( I think even when you buy the ticket online, you only avoid the queue for getting the ticket, you can't avoid the queue for entering the galleries so I don't know if it gives you a lot of advantage. First gallery is Gallery A, where the first few paintings of her I saw are actually quite small. Then it proceeded to show bigger works of hers. The works are abstract and look like a pattern. At this point, they're not really dots yet which she is famous for, but it's called nets. Towards the end of Gallery A, the works are about her pumpkin collection. If I'm not mistaken her family had some sort of pumpkin farm and she ate a lot of pumpkins growing up, so I guess it inspired her. There's a queue here is to enter what I call the pumpkin room.

Inside the room, there's an installation art where you peek inside a smaller space where with mirrors and all you see infinite pumpkins. There's a queue to enter the room and there's a queue to peek into the space and being that you have to be considerate of others, you kinda couldn't just stand for awhile and absorb what is going on. Basically you didn't have time to just experience. Everyone was just focused on taking photos which I don't think what arts is only about, though I am guilty of that as well as evidenced by the photos here. Anyways, I didn't have time to process what's inside the smaller space. Definitely there are mirrors and it seems there's also many smaller sculpture of pumpkins. You can go here to see what I mean. After Gallery A, it's off to Gallery B where the queue was even longer :( I took some pictures of the floating dot balloons while waiting.

Inside Gallery B, there's another queue for the Infinity Mirrored Room - Gleaming Lights of the Souls. I almost missed this one because I was so eager on just leaving the crowd behind. This mirrored room is another small space where the number of people going in and time spent was limited. The recommended number of people is 3, but I think they tried to put more people in. My group happened to be 3. The time we could spend in there was only 20 seconds. There were mirrors and light bulbs inside and the light bulbs changed colors and it did feel rather magical and wonderful, just plain extraordinary. I hate having to be rushed though and not having to again as I say, just experience and breathe :(

Then it's Gallery C, which I'm sure had a queue of its own too. Here there were more bigger paintings of hers, starting with a black and white done with marker pens. There's many eyes and faces in the paintings. It's quite detailed and perhaps calming when doing it.

There's also installation arts with similar mirrors effect and a space for you to peek through. There's a queue, but it's shorter and not manned by any staff. Perhaps because in this one there were more places to peek in. However again with people waiting, people just quickly took their pictures and couldn't really linger.

Then there's the tulip room. The art work is called With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever. There are big sculptures of tulips dotted with colourful dots inside a white room dotted with colorful dots as well.

Then it's a room with also big paintings but these ones are colourful. The details are quite interesting. I have no knowledge of Australian arts, but I wonder if some would feel like me that the works feel aboriginal. Inside this room there are some sculptures as well.

After that I entered the City Hall Chamber where there were many metal balls on the floor. This is the only place where there's almost no queue. The art work is called Narcissus Garden. I was relieved upon reaching this. There's only 2 more art works left to see. One is Dots Obsession which is the floating dotted yellow balloons I already saw while waiting in the queue and the other is The Obliteration Room. So I proceeded to make my way there. The National Gallery is also having a Children Biennale, but with the queue I had to endure, I wasn't keen on exploring the exhibitions. I did pass this one room where children are encouraged to write wishes on ribbons and tie them. I actually love how this kinda arts get children to participate.

Before I made it to The Obliteration Room, I did another queue for Homogenizing and Transforming World installation art. This is a room where there are many balloons / balls that changed colours when you touch them. You entered in a group and were given like 5 minutes to have fun. The room is not so big, but it really was quite fun. My camera couldn't really focus though and I didn't have many pictures.

I got confused on where The Obliteration Room is, but I found it. Before I entered, I made another queue to walk on the Firewalk: A Bridge Of Embers just opposite the room. This art work is really cool. It's a glass platform that look deep underground in which there are many objects inside it, like books or drawers with I can only call memories (there are keys, envelope, etc). I don't know how it's done, it looked so real that I actually wondered if they did indeed dig in to make this artwork. I wanted to just spend some time looking at the details, but I was told to move along by the staff. Again, I hate how with the crowd, we just didn't have time to marvel and experience :( Okay, finally The Obliteration Room. Of course there's a queue. This is a room with some furniture inside where you can paste dotted colourful stickers anywhere you like. Initially the room and the furniture were all white. I didn't know where to get the stickers so I didn't stick any :( Maybe you could ask the staff. Honestly before entering, I didn't think much of this room aside for it to be something that invite audience's participation. However inside it, I realized how brilliant it really is. You see, the many colourful dots obscure your perspective. It's even more so when you see the pictures you take because camera take 2D pictures. The more dots being pasted, the more they obscure the whole thing. There's no more dimension, depth of field, planes of existence, all become just one. In other word, it's really obliterating everything. It's really really brilliant. As I looked at the pictures I took, I wonder how it felt like when you entered the room when it's first staged where it's all white and you just started pasting dots. I wonder if you get a sense if what you're doing is equal to obliteration. I also wonder that when the exhibition first opened, if it's really a white room or the staff actually already pasted some dots.

After that, I quickly made my way out. Due to the queue I spent longer time than I anticipated and I just wanted to get away from people. If the National Gallery has some kind of number of visits that they want to hit in a year, this kind of exhibition really helps that. For pictures, you can go here. Okay, how's life people? Mine is so so. I still have anxiety as usual :( Yesterday was the first class of my new level in Japanese class. I'm not going to tell you what level that is because I'm so bad at it. Last week we had end of level test and I only score 19 out of 31. One of the classmate said, you passed! Indeed I did, but I wasn't satisfied :( I made an effort to study and I just got 60 out of 100 :( I mentioned it to mom when I called her last week and she said, it's okay, right? Not bad. I was like, wait what?!?! 20 - 25 years ago, I would have gotten some kind of scolding or lecturing if I had scored 60 out of 100. How time changes. It made me think that as parents you should really be more vigilant / harder on your kids when they're younger. Discipline and expectations are important because life is just gonna get harder. If kids don't do have good work ethics when they're young, their ability to face real world as adults may be insufficient. Maybe when the kids turn to adults, then the parents can somehow also turn into the ones who say, relax and don't stress too much. It's a contradiction, but perhaps that's what they should do. Anyways Japanese class is getting tougher. A classmate asked how was it after class ended yesterday and I just said, overwhelmed. This felt like when I entered Mr. C's class for the first time during french class. Everyone is just so good and you get demoralized. I have to try harder and I have to say I haven't really been doing this. I haven't done any Kanji practice for months now and yesterday I couldn't fill in blanks because I didn't understand what the Kanji says :( It's really like being blind. Seeing a kanji character, I don't even know how to say it so the only way I can ask is to point at it, which I have to admit I get embarrassed to do many times :( I really really need to work harder :(

I haven't talked about movies in awhile. It's because I haven't been going to the cinema much. Recently I did watch Dunkirk and Baby Driver. Both are pretty good. I read the suggestion to watch Dunkirk in IMAX, but I didn't because the timing didn't fit me. I like the storytelling structure and the little dialogues feel good too. Honestly when you're tired, anxious, frustrated, and scared, you wouldn't be chatty too. It's a true story and it's really remarkable. Baby Driver was cool though I was expecting it to be much cooler. It's still really good though. I was thinking that 25 years from now, a remake might be made and my kids (here to believing I'll have kids!) would think the remake is cool and me being the older parent would think the remake isn't as good :D

Lastly before I end this, I just would like to talk about how sad it was finding out Chester Bennington of Linkin Park killed himself. It's sad enough reading in CNN he died. Finding out it's by suicide just broke your heart. I called Linkin Park my therapy music. I started listening to them in really loud volume in one of the darkest and toughest period of my life. When I wanted to cry or scream, it was Linkin Park who helped to drown everything and especially it's Chester Bennington who screamed on my behalf. From then on, this is the music that I put on when I'm super pissed at people or life and when people annoyed me so much that I want to punch, kick, or throw things at them and I need to calm down from all that. It's also the music I put on when I really need to focus on something (like coding) because it drowns everything else or simply to just wake up and get pumped. The first concert and only actually that I had ever gone to in Singapore is a Linkin Park's concert. It was perhaps more than a decade ago. They really mean a lot to me. I guess like many others, after news of the deaths we quickly put their music on and it's sad hearing Chester in them. I know they had a new album out, One More Light, but I only listened to it after his death. Some people may not like it and says it's so not Linkin Park, but I really love it. I called it Linkin Park lite :) It's definitely different. I've been listening to it everyday. It's definitely one of my favorite album or theirs. There's a song in there, Sorry For Now. Mike Shinoda did most of the singing. I know they must be thinking of other things when writing it, but the lyric just felt so apt.

watching the wings cut through the clouds, watching the raindrops blinking red and white
thinking of you back on the ground there with a fire burning in your eyes
I only halfway apologized

and I'll be sorry for now that I couldn't be around
sometimes things refuse to go the way we planned
oh I'll be sorry for now that I couldn't be around
there will be a day that you will understand
you will understand

after a while you may forget, but just in case the memories cross your mind
you couldn't know this when I left
under the fire of your angry eyes, I never wanted to say goodbye

Thinking of his kids, I don't know if they'll ever understand. If they do understand, will it be a case for concerns? What if they think it makes sense that dad killed himself and since he did it, it's alright for me to do the same? Depression is hard and unless you have experienced it, it might be hard to understand how dark it can get. As someone who has my own dark restless nights and days, I know how it feels to be in the darkness *sigh* We're just trying to keep it together. We may look so normal on the outside, but inside it's raging dark shadows. It's a really sad thing, but I do feel a bit of comfort knowing that even the richest, (look) happiest, most successful of us could also have the same struggle. We're not weak, it's just what we have. We're all just trying to stay afloat.

:) eKa @ 9:17:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 13 - Rijksmuseum

just a young gun with a quick fuse
I was uptight, wanna let loose
I was dreaming of bigger things
and wanna leave my own life behind
not a yes sir, not a follower
fit the box, fit the mold
have a seat in the foyer, take a number
I was lightning before the thunder

Thunder - Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons's Thunder was the last song that I added into my playlist. I also found it by chance in YouTube. I think the video was released a few days before I went for my trip. For a song that talks about being a lightning instead of thunder, the thunder part is actually emphasized more. I don't know if I am what the song says completely. I do feel like sometime I don't fit the box or the mold. I often feel like I'm never part of the "in" crowd. Never when I was growing up, never now. If I am with any crowd, I often feel like I'm at the side, not really in the center of thing. I like to describe myself as on the fringe of mainstream. I want to say I'm not a follower, but life needs you to be a follower sometime or often times. Basically what I want to say is, I feel the song, but I don't know if I'm as cool as that lightning before the thunder.

Day 13 was the last day of my trip. Phew, I can stop writing in this blog :) Sorry guys, this just takes too much effort for the lazy me, but I promise I'll write at least once a month. Day 13 was a Tuesday, I took it easy that morning. I was to leave that night so I made sure that I allowed myself to wake up later that day and take as much time as I need to pack my luggage and check out from my room. All in all, I think I only set out after 10:30 AM. The last thing on the list was to visit Rijksmuseum. I had bought the ticket online, so I didn't have to queue. The ticket also didn't specify a time slot, so I didn't have to rush. Getting there was easy peasy since I had googled about the tram. I didn't get the audio guide because you can download the guide app and the museum has wifi. The app is free so do this peeps instead of paying 5 euro in the museum.

My expectation of Rijksmuseum before going there was that it would be like The Louvre or New York's Met, in which it houses many different objects, not just paintings. It indeed does, but the good news is it's not as massive as those museums. This is good news for you guys who have short attention span, don't like walking too much, and get bored easily in an art museum. I always say smaller museums have their merits too, for one you don't get overwhelmed. By the way the museum's layout can be quite confusing. When I first arrived I got so confused that I made a turn that led me to the male toilet *yikes!!!* You need to have your ticket with you at all times because at many parts, there are staff who will need to scan them. You need to store your backpack if you bring any, but photography is allowed. Unfortunately my bad photography skill (can I even call it a skill actually) didn't manage to capture the many interesting things well. I'm going to post some here.

I was expecting some art works regarding Indonesia or about the Dutch colonization time in Indonesia. There were a few items, but honestly I was expecting more. Well perhaps they're in other museums like the Tropenmuseum that I didn't visit. Some of the Indonesians related items there include a portrait of Raden Saleh painted by another painter, the portraits of the governor generals of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), some keris, and replica of VOC ships. Below are paintings of five Javanese Court Officials.

The museum's collections cover many things like ceramic, musical instruments, sculptures, coins, modern arts, and many more. Of course there are paintings and of course most of them are by Dutch artists. There's one self-portrait by Van Gogh and in the same room there's this painting The Singel Bridge at the Paleisstraat in Amsterdam by George Hendrik Breitner.

The main attraction of the museum is of course Rembrandt's The Night Watch. Recently I completed Sense8 season 2 and this painting and the museum were featured in it. It made me think if they closed the museum for awhile to shoot the scenes because there's no way on earth The Night Watch gallery is that quiet that you can get a somewhat exclusive look of it. I love the scenes though because they brought memories of my visit there. I also learned something new from Sense8 regarding this painting, in which it was not well received initially and some part of it was actually cut off. This photo below is not all of it. I cannot take all of it because there were just too many people around it.

The gallery that houses this painting opens up to a hall that houses many other beautiful paintings, including Rembrandt's The Jewish Bride which I heard Van Gogh really liked. This area of the museum is definitely the most crowded one. If you're like me, you just want to get away to a quiet place which I did by retreating to the sculpture gallery behind The Night Watch. When I entered, there's only 1 person sketching inside it. Another quiet place is the Cuypers Library. Well it's quiet because it's a library. It looks quite beautiful with its staircase. I don't know how to get to the bottom floor and I also don't know if it's open for tourists.

One of the nice thing about going to museums is finding unexpected things. For example, Rijksmuseum has doll houses and this picture below is from one of the room in a doll's house. The doll's houses are super interesting. I love the details that people put into this. The thing is I have never seen the little dolls that supposed to be in these houses. So whenever I see these kind of old antique doll houses, they're always well furnished, but empty :(

By the way talking about quiet spaces in the museum, well the top floor was only visited by a few people when I went up. The top floor has a more modern art kind of works. There's even a plane here. You can see the picture in my Flickr album.

After I was done exploring the top floor, I thought I was done with the museum but then I saw in the map that they have an Asian wing. So I made my way there. What are Asian arts? Somehow when you go to these kind of museums in the western world, the collections are mostly of Buddha statues and such. So that's pretty much what I found. The Asian wing is not very big and it also had few visitors when I was there.

Overall I think I might have spent less time there than I was in Van Gogh museum. For pictures of some of the collections you can go here. It took me some time to google all the titles and artists. The museum web itself put up their collection online just like Van Gogh museum and many other museums. I love that museums are doing this. You can learn more about the works and download the pictures if you like. Anyways, outside the museum, you find the I Amsterdam lettering that people like to pose with. It's super crowded that I don't know how you can get a nice picture with the full lettering.

When I finished, I think it's 3 PM something. My first priority was getting lunch. I did have another plan to visit one of the canal house museum, Willet-Holthuysen, but with the timing I had I decided not to. To be safe, I felt like I needed to leave Amsterdam for the airport by around 6 PM. That canal house museum is not free and if I was going to be rushed when visiting it, I just didn't think it's worth it. I opted to visit Amsterdam Begijnhof instead since it's free. Remember I wrote about Begijnhof when I visited Bruges. Anyways I didn't know exactly where the Amsterdam Begijnhof entrance is, but somehow I found it without any difficulty. As far as I know there are 2 entrances to the compound. It's a small entrance so look carefully, you may miss it. Unlike Bruges Begijnhof, the Amsterdam Begijnhof is now a housing compound. People actually live in them and there's barriers to stop you from entering if you're not a resident and there's also signs to not take photographs, but I took anyway. I just made sure not to take one of the residents, like there was one lady who was sitting in her garden. Again as I wrote before, living in this kind of place where tourists will just walk around will be a horror for me. The compound is nice, but I definitely like Bruges Begijnhof more than Amsterdam Begijnhof.

After that, I made my way to Central Station. I still had some time, so I walked around the canals near to where my hotel was located. I didn't walk too far because it may take too long to go back. Took some pictures, though perhaps these are not the most beautiful canal areas in Amsterdam.

I also walked around the blocks to my hotel and found a shop that I think sells weed. It's not something that I looked for when I was in Amsterdam and I was quite surprised there's one near where I was staying. By right these shops should be everywhere, but since I wasn't looking I guess that's why I haven't been spotting them. It's nice to finally spot one. It's kinda funny too to see these kids crowding it. I didn't go inside though, so I didn't know what it's like and with the kids around looking at the display, I also didn't go to the window and see what's on display.

Then I collected my bag and went to Central Station to get on the train to the airport. The last picture of Amsterdam that I took is of Central Station. You can find it and many other pictures from Amsterdam here. In Central Station, I was confused on finding the platform from the board that I ended up asking the staff in Information. Upon reaching the platform, there's still uneasiness if it's the correct train. It's not just me, many other tourists were like wondering too and asking each others. We just hoped for the best I guess, luckily we're all right. The train ride to the airport is not very comfortable because there's a lot of people and luggages. Luckily I was among the first to enter the train when it was still quite empty and I got to sit by the door. As the train waited to depart, more people came in and it became harder to navigate between people and luggages. So I suggest just make sure you're one of the first people to enter the train when it arrives. If not and if you have the time, just wait for the next train. Did I already tell you about my flight back? It was good because in my side row there's only me. So I got the whole 3 seats for myself and I could get some sleep. Some last words to end this post, there's a lot of things that I didn't see or do in Amsterdam, like visiting Anne Frank House for example. However I have to say that my curiosity of the city was satisfied and I got to visit 2 places which I really wanted, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. So I'm all good :) At the end, really I'm just thankful (still am) that God (yet again) helped me through another adventure. I really couldn't do it without Him :)

:) eKa @ 8:25:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 12: Van Gogh Museum and Cycling in the Parks

you're something out of a dream, messing with my head
and I've been looking for you ... are you hiding?
'cause I like the way you're calling to me, your spell upon me
you're something out of a dream and I like it, though I fight it

Celeste - Ezra vine

Before we begin, let me just introduce you to this nice song and a really nice video from Ezra Vine. You know how I like it when I found some really nice unknown songs and put them into my playlist. No? I think I wrote about that in a post before. You didn't read, well ... okay ... so anyway, somehow I found this song in YouTube and it's so catchy and the video is just so really nice. I like it a lot a lot, a whole lot. I like the graphics in the video and what do you know, it shows a character travelling. I googled Ezra Vine and couldn't find much about him. It seems he's from New Zealand. I'm not sure why he doesn't have more success. So anyway before we begin, please look at this first. You may end up playing it on repeat :)

Okay so day 12 didn't start so well. Actually on day 11, I was already having problem with my body that made me quite demoralized and sad. On day 12, I was awoken at around 4 AM because of a sore throat. Usually drinking help because sometime my throat just gets dry, but it didn't. I had a throat lozenge to help me get back to sleep. By the way, let's back up a bit. There's a day tour from Amsterdam that would take you to Antwerp and Brussels. In the earlier stage of planning, I was on the fence about doing it, because again I wasn't sure I want to be in a full bus on long drives and visiting cities don't really appeal much to me, but I just put it in on the plan anyway. However when it's time to book things, the date wasn't available. It's weird that you can still get disappointed about not getting to do things that you're not so enthusiastic about in the first place, but that's what happened to me. I told myself it's a sign from God. You did ask Him to help you make good decisions. My earlier plan was to take that day tour and that would leave me my last day to explore both Van Gogh Museum and Rijkmuseum. A plan that even then I knew would be hard on the feet due to all the walking that I would have had done (--> what kind of grammar is this? It somehow sounds correct to me even though it's quite unnecessary to add had). So anyways, without the day trip, I was able to do Van Gogh Museum and Rijkmuseum on different days and that way I didn't have to rush so much and I had more time to rest and to wake up late. God knows better and it really worked out well for me. As it turned out a less ambitious plan is necessary since my body was showing signs of breaking down that last few days.

I chose to do Van Gogh museum on day 12 because googling told me it's better to book the ticket online since the queue can be long. It's so in demand that when you book online, you have to choose a time slot. I chose 10:30 AM. This is why I chose to do it on day 12 and not the last day because I was thinking that I would just take my time to wake up on my last day (in anticipation of not being able to sleep in the night flight) and also to pack my things properly. With a scheduled entrance, you kinda still have to make sure you wake up on time and manage to get there on time. Getting there wasn't so problematic. I got the 2-day travel ticket. I think it took me awhile to find the machine, but I got it done. I had googled on the tram so I didn't have difficulty on that too. When I arrived there was a queue for tickets, but not very long. I don't know if it's because it's still early. Since I had my ticket, I could go in straight. The staff really checked your time slot. I needed to put my backpack in the cloakroom and you can't take pictures in the museum. So I was basically hands free that I decided to get the audio guide. You can book this while buying your ticket online. I don't know if you get a discount when you do so. I didn't because I wanted to save cost, but when I was there I thought okay why not. The audio guide is pretty good because it has a screen so you get additional multimedia explanation. Let me tell you something weird, or perhaps me being weird. One time the local TV here showed a TV programme about the life of Vincent Van Gogh. It's not really a drama, but it has Benedict Cumberbatch portraying Van Gogh on some parts of the programme. In my audio guide, I chose English (obviously) and the more I listened to it, I wonder if Benedict Cumberbatch was doing the voices for Van Gogh. It sounded like him, but I could be so wrong.

The museum is quite informative because it tells the progression of Van Gogh's arts from when he began to the last year of his life and of course we learned about his personal struggle with mental health too towards the end. I couldn't take pictures, but the museum web has all his collections so the ones I put here are from there. This is not the first time I saw Van Gogh's works. However in other museums where I have seen his works, it's always been works from his later years so to see his early works like this one below, The Potato Eaters, is quite interesting. The dark colours remind me of old masters works like Rembrandt, which Van Gogh did admire. He didn't get good reviews for this one. It is indeed perhaps not that ... hmm, how do I put it, when you see the people faces and such it's perhaps not an accurate drawing of the people. I think someone told him, it looked like caricatures. That being said, the way the people were featured in the painting do represent the hardship and simple lives of the farmers, something that he wanted to achieve. Gosh, I am so not knowledgeable to become an art critic. I feel rather embarrassed putting my thoughts there.

As you progressed through the years, you'll see that his style was changing too. I particularly like this set of paintings. They are being put side by side. Since I didn't have any pictures, I forget if these 3 make the set, but I think they do. They are paintings of flowering trees and all were done in Arles. Comparing this to the The Potato Eaters, you can see his style were changing, especially in the colours and this happened in the span of 3 years. The titles are: The Pink Orchard, The Pink Peach Tree , and The White Orchard.

Van Gogh was very close with his brother who's like his patron. His brother died not long after him and in fact it was his brother's widow and son who rallied and worked hard to make sure Van Gogh's works get to be well known and he be as famous as he is today. He actually didn't get that much fame and fortune when he was alive. The last years of his life is kinda sad. The audio guide told us it's not the mental problems that made Van Gogh a brilliant artist and managed to come up with such imaginative works. It's despite of that struggle. That time being in the previous century, the treatment for this was quite hard. It included things like really cold bath. At that time, he could only paint when he felt good enough to paint. I did feel sad hearing the Van Gogh in the audio guide talked about the sadness and depression. I really like my visit there. It gives you a complete understanding of who Van Gogh was and the process and progression of his works. One of the first area I entered was this collection of his self portraits. The audio guide told us how he looks kinda different in each painting, with different eye colours and such. It's really interesting, it's like he's seeing himself differently each time or perhaps he tried to portray himself differently each time. Do get the audio guide when you go there, it will enrich your visit. I have to say though, you may have certain idea of what the famous works of Van Gogh are and you may be somewhat disappointed on not seeing them here because they're actually in other museums, but here you'll get to see so much more and perhaps fall in love with new things :)

After that, I wasn't finished yet. The Van Gogh museum also has temporary exhibition and when I was there it's about print works which is also very interesting. It covered quite a few things like how back in the days people actually collected books with just prints in them. Back then when entertainment was not like what it is now with TV and Internet, rich people liked to just go to their study in the evening and relax by seeing the artworks in their print books which were quite fancy by the way that they're leather bound. There's also posters which featured ads or things like cabaret show. The ads perhaps as it is now, often didn't feature the product prominently but instead striking images with attractive girls. The posters for the shows also featured works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The audio guide taught me a bit about him, how he's actually from a rich and respectable family and how his family didn't really approve of his close relationships with the cabaret world and prostitutes. Well you can understand that because of how he looked, he didn't have an easy life.

I spent a long time in the museum. I think I left at 3 PM something so I had a late lunch. I still had things planned for that day. One was to cycle around Vondelpark and if I could make it, to Rembrandtpark too. I was nervous about it because cycling in Amsterdam is quite intimidating for people who don't cycle much like me. Seriously the last time I cycled was last year in Hyde Park. Dedicated cycling lane is great but dedicated cycling lane with roads next to it with cars still make me nervous. I always think I shouldn't give in to fear so off I went to the nearest bicycle rental to Vondelpark. The guy there was quite friendly, but that being Europe, they closed shop at around 6 - 6:30 PM. It's fine actually because I still had like enough time to cycle around the park. I opted for 2 hours if I'm not mistaken and you needed to give them your passport. Even the short distance between the bicycle rental place and Vondelpark made me nervous but luckily there were other cyclists (there always are) so I just followed them and made it to the park. Inside the park, I felt less stressed because there's no cars. The park was full with people. It's quite a warm day and I think there's just many people enjoying the sun. There's a pond and fountain, usual stuff in the park. The thing about cycling, I actually didn't stop much to take pictures, I just went along my way.

I made it to the gate at one end of the park. I had googled the route to Rembrandtpark and since I was good on time, I thought I should really do it. Going there made me really nervous because we're really going through streets with cars. Thank God for dedicated cycling lane and other cyclists. If I had been alone, I would have felt so self-conscious and I would have questioned myself a lot, if I had been doing this right. I think the thing that made me nervous the most about cycling on the streets is crossing the street when the light is green. As the light approached red, I got nervous because I was thinking if I was stopping too early and blocking people who wanted to hurry and then when the light went green, I wondered if I was going too slow and again blocking people behind me and I was also nervous that I was not going to make it before the light turned red again. Luckily though, I think I did alright. It was quite a long ride before entering Rembrandtpark but I made it. Rembrandtpark also has ponds. It felt to me like it has more greeneries and with less people, it's definitely more peaceful there.

There are some art works in the park and I was looking for a a particular statue that I wanted to see, but I just couldn't find it. I saw it in google, it's a statue version of this painting, but tried as I may, I just couldn't find it :( One of the statues that I found was this big dog statue. I didn't try to get up there. Maybe if I had been walking it would have been different.

Like in Vondelpark, I didn't stop much to take pictures, I just went around and around. Then I made my way back to Vondelpark, cycled the parts that I didn't cycle before and I went back to the bicycle rental place. I did spend close to 2 hours. It was really fun and I'm proud that I completed a challenge that really made me nervous. The day was still not over yet. With the day tour to Bruges, I got a free canal cruise tour, so I made my way to the dock which was near Central Station. Luckily I didn't have to wait long. The boat was quite full and there's a group of Chinese tourists too. Earphones were given so that you can listen to the audio guides. Maybe I was already quite tired from the day, but I didn't find it to be particularly interesting. It supposed to be 1 hour, but in reality it was around half an hour. I didn't mind it because I didn't pay for it, but for people who actually bought tickets, I don't know if they found it worth doing.

One thing which was interesting and I had heard this as well from the day trip the day before is the fact that the canal houses have pulley on the top of their houses. First of all, land in the city was (and still is) expensive so they couldn't really built big houses back then by the canals. So their houses were quite narrow and they had to built up. Back then being the olden days, they only had staircases, no lift. There's also the danger of flooding so the houses are raised, like my house in Jakarta. To bring heavy stuff into the house, especially to the upper floors, each of these houses have a pulley at the facade of the house, right at the top and the houses also have big windows. So they used (use, still do I think) these pulley to transport things in. I thought that was ingenious and I was like why have I never heard of this before. This is what my house in Jakarta needs because hauling things up the stairs is just insane. I've experienced that. If ever I get to build my own house in Jakarta, I want to have this. I'm curious about the physics of this, how did they construct this and make sure heavy objects can be lifted safely without dragging down the top front of your house and how do you attach the rope. Curious! :D

:) eKa @ 9:48:00 PM • 0 comments

Day 11 - Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans, Delft, The Hague, and Madurodam

this world is strange, so strange it is
you know it really hurts inside, yeah ... sometimes
no matter how good you are to people you know
they'll make you cry sometimes ... sometimes

Sometimes - Raphael Saadiq

Day 11 is quite a full day in the number of places I visited. The day is divided into 2 half-day trips. I booked them together and I got some discount. The first half-day trip took me to Volendam, Marken, and Zaanse Schans. We started in Volendam which is this town by a body of water. Now that I think of it, I don't know if it's fresh water. Anyways, first stop was to this cheese shop where they also make the cheeses there. There's a demonstration on how the cheese was made and we got to sample a few. I wouldn't say I'm like crazy about cheese, but it is kinda nice to see so many different kinds of cheese. I didn't get any though. I only got cheese biscuits to snack on. I was kinda hoping I'll get to see some kaasstengels in the shop or my cheese biscuits will be like that, unfortunately it's not and there's no Kaasstengels in the shop.

After that it seemed our timing was good that the guide herded us all to a stroopwafel shop. We went to the basement where the demonstration kitchen is and watched this lovely old chef made Stroopwafel. He asked for a volunteer to help him and a Japanese girl in our group was chosen. I would have liked to do it, but being alone, I really didn't want to put myself on the spot. If you're not going to click the link there, I can only describe stroopwafel as a biscuit with a waffle shape and pattern. It's thin but it's composed of two layers in which the middle of it can be filled by caramel, chocolate, or honey. Ingredients wise, it's quite simple. The chef even told us to take picture of the recipes if we wanted to. You kinda need the specialized iron to make it though.

Of course we got to taste some samples, but I think to really enjoy this is to do it as what the chef said. First put the stroopwafel on top of your hot cup of tea or coffee. The steam from your drink will kinda melt the filling and make the biscuit softer. I didn't buy any because I didn't feel like it. The guide told us we're breaking for lunch there, but it's too early to eat. I don't think it's even 11 AM at that time. So I opted for actual waffle from that stroopwafel shop. It's quite a big waffle and I chose to have it with nutella, cream, and peaches. It's glorious! I had difficulty finishing it though because the portion was rather too much for me. I made it to the end, but after that I was like, I need to walk this off. So I walked around a bit seeing the water.

Then we took a boat to reach the village of Marken. It was a calm ride, so I didn't feel sick. Two Italian boys went to sit in front of me. One of their mother sat with me in the full bus. They're kinda cute and I decided to bust out my Italian. I asked if they're brothers or cousins. They said they're friends and one of them spoke rather fast for my very rusty Italian, but I think their moms are teachers and teach in the same school. I could be so wrong. When I wanted to ask their age, even that simple thing tripped me. Certain phrase just stick with you without you have to think about it. For example: to ask what is your age in Italian is, Quanti anni hai?, but there's two of them and I reached Quanti anni ... and my brain said you need to conjugate. My Italian is getting bad now that it took me some time to confirm it's avete. The boys knew what I meant though and didn't wait for me to finish my sentence. If I remembered correctly they're like 7 and 10. One of them is Luca and the other if I'm mistaken it's Marco. I watched them play their games. Kinda nice that they got along. One curious thing is that when they're playing scissors, paper, stone, they're saying pikachu, pikachu. I don't know what's up with that. So anyway, we docked in Marken. I think many people in the village there have their own boats to get around. The docks are not very big, but they have quite a lot of small boats. The village is kinda cute with their houses and quaint gardens. I always wonder how people whose place of living is a tourist place cope with having tourists walk up their streets and taking pictures of their houses and gardens. I really don't think I can do that. I can have a nice garden, but I may not be able to sit in it lest some random tourists walk by and take pictures of my house and garden with me in it :(

The other purpose of visiting this little village is to go see how that famous Dutch clogs are made. The shop / workshop was rather cute and outside on the walls of the shop, there were old clogs being used as planters for flowers.

The clog maker demonstrating the process was full of energy and kinda funny. Basically the clogs are made using machines but some manual works using hands are required, for example: to cut certain parts. The wood used are poplars. I think they can use other types of wood, but I forget which one. I also forget if the wood must be freshly cut or dried first before being processed. I think they have to be somewhat fresh or damp when they're made into clogs because perhaps dry wood will crack and such? I don't know, I really can't remember. I did try some clogs in the shop. I had difficulty estimating the size because they look big as a whole, but the space where you put your feet in can be smaller than you expect.

After that, we took the bus to go Zaanse Schans. This is a village where there are still many old working windmills, as such it's quite a touristy place. I think it's crowded even on a normal day, but that day being Sunday, there's some sort of festival going on. So I think there's even more crowd than usual. I don't know what the festival is about. I think even the guides didn't know what they're for because they're also rather surprised. Anyways, there's many people, stalls, and activities.

We got to the windmills area. There are quite a few of them. Our guide took us into one which since I didn't write on a journal during this trip, I kinda forget which windmill it was. Okay, if I'm not mistaken, it's called The Cat and it produces paint. Inside it's rather dark and not very spacious. There's a miller explaining how the whole thing works. There's this big stone and it's very old maybe hundred of years. I can believe it's old because it's so big and looks so heavy that I don't think it's easy to shape a stone like that and put it in. The wind will cause the stone to move and grind whatever thing the miller puts in the track. It was moving rather slowly when we're there, but even so I can see that if you accidentally put your hand in the track, then it's going to be one scary accident. So the stone will grind whatever ingredient put there into a paste which the miller would later collect and these paste go through other processes. Right now I can't remember much about what they are. After the explanation, I opted to go up to the balcony. That being an old windmill, the ladders are quite old and basic. Luckily it's not a very high climb that going down wasn't that scary. Since we didn't have much time, I didn't go to the shop so I didn't see what souvenirs they have. Instead I used my little time to take pictures of the windmills from the outside.

That was the end of my morning trip. For pictures, you can go here. We made our way back to Amsterdam in which I changed to another bus for my afternoon trip. This afternoon group had less people and I got to sit on my own which was great for me. The afternoon trip took us to Delft, then a drive through The Hague, and it ended in Madurodam. First stop was Delft. Delft is famous for its ceramics which are often in blue colour, known as Delft blue. The KLM flights that I was on had its safety video feature animation done on Delft tiles. I thought it's digitally made, but at the end of the video the stewardess stood among the many many tiles used to do the animation. In Delft, the first stop was the Royal Delft workshop / museum / factory / shop. There's a guide bringing us through the different rooms and explaining things to us. This is not my first time in a ceramic factory / shop. My first time was in Cappadocia Turkey where I saw several artists doing delicate works on the ceramics. This time around in Delft we just saw one artist. The most interesting and curious thing is that when the artist first painted on the ware, it actually came out black. The guide told us that only after it's fired, then the Delft blue colour will appear. Very interesting. The guide also taught us how to read the marking on the ware to know that it's a real Delft ceramic and if it's hand painted. We walked through several rooms that show the different works that the factory / shop has produced. Not all of them are actually in blue. We also saw the place where they have their kilns and the guide showed us how a mould works. The whole visit is quite interesting, but unfortunately this visit is guided so we didn't have much time to explore on our own. Leave it to me, I may need more time to see everything. One of the most prized possession is perhaps a recreation of Rembrandt's The Night Watch. It is composed of individual tiles and done by 2 master artists. You can go see it my Flickr album.

After that visit, we went to the town center and we were given time to explore the town center with its square and church. I didn't find it particularly interesting. I haven't seen all of The Netherlands, but I wonder if many of their towns and cities are similar to each other in a way that they just have a lot of canals. One thing that was kinda enforced many times in this trip is the fact that The Netherlands is a low laying country. So water control to avoid flooding is of the utmost importance. Much has been said about its effort to design Jakarta (then Batavia) during its colonization of Indonesia with canals being built too, but unfortunately years of mismanagement causes Jakarta to just keep on drowning in flood. We have some good progress with Pak. Ahok, but I don't think such progress will continue with the incoming incompetent governor. We may even slip back to disarray. Okay I digress. I still get work up thinking about what happened in the last Jakarta gubernatorial election. So anyway, Delft with its canals remind me of Amsterdam. It doesn't have as much canals as Amsterdam and by comparison that day when I was there, it's quieter, but overall I didn't think the town to be particularly special or anything.

Leaving Delft, we had a drive through The Hague. It's quite quiet driving through it. Maybe because it's Sunday and people didn't work? I don't know. We passed several important buildings, but only stopped at one, in front of The Peace Palace. Honestly I don't know anything about the significance of this place until I went to that Wikipedia link. In front of the palace there's this eternal flame and surrounding it are different rocks representing different countries. I don't know how the rocks were chosen, but some look more artistic than others.

Last stop was Madurodam which is this tourist attraction in which you can see many important and famous Netherlands's buildings and architectures in miniature. It's not very big, but it's quite interesting. It's quite interactive too. You can make certain things move, like the ship and such. If you're a kid or a grown up who still get amused by these things (like me), this can be quite interesting and fun. One thing though, I don't know these buildings and architectures so I didn't get very excited seeing them. It didn't stir a lot of wonder I guess. I saw them and I think they're pretty, that's all.

For pictures from the afternoon trip, you can go here. Perhaps I should have included more pictures from Delft in that Flickr album, but the ones I have are really not very good at all and kinda boring. Well it's not like all the pictures I put in Flickr are super interesting or anything. I also don't have many pictures from The Hague because it's just a drive through and even the ones I have are not very good because as you know I kinda sucked. So, sorry if the album doesn't give you much insight of what Delft or The Hague are like. The afternoon trip may not be as interesting as the morning one, but I feel that the whole day did give me a somewhat more complete look and understanding of the things that The Netherlands make and its culture :)

:) eKa @ 9:09:00 PM • 0 comments