Fabric Shopping in Amsterdam – Albert Cupmarkt (Part 2 of 2) 

I did promise a part 2 of my fabric shopping experience. My lovely Airbnb host who also happened to enjoy sewing recommended a few shops in Albert Cupmarkt.

I didn’t have much time left, so on my last day I decided to spend the morning making my rounds just to check out the fabric collection since most of the shops open at 9.30am.

I got to Amsterdam Centraal, hopped on the tram and got here in no time.

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The first stall I stumbled on sold some batik, which I later also discovered at the other shops along the street.


A small shop selling fabrics that are great for interiors. There are some unique fabrics that I quite like.

I kept staring at this flamingo fabric wondering what I could do with it.

De Boerenbonthal

Most of the fabric stores along the market have a stall just outside of their shop with some fabrics on display so you won’t miss it when you are touring the market.

I found the same fabric that was sold at Lapjesmarkt (€20/m) and it cost so much cheaper here!

Here’s a section where there are nice cotton fabrics.

My daughter would love pressing on these green polka dots.


I didn’t venture into this shop. As the name suggest, I notice a good collection of gorgeous silk fabrics, and fabrics with lots of heavy embellishments. They seem more Middle Eastern than Oriental.

Nanucci Tessuti

This shop carries a lot of branded fabrics and you will see images of runway models stuck all over the shop. If you are a dressmaker, you can probably get fabrics from here and re-make your own runway piece.

What I really liked about this shop is the huge collection of Liberty Art Fabrics. They have it in the heavier material that you can turn into jackets (lowest rack pictured below).

Then there’s the cotton collection and also a sample book with fabrics for upholstery. The shop owner told me they probably have a more complete collection than London!

They also have pre-made bias tapes!

The prices in Euros here are cheaper than some online shops from the US.

Jefertti Stoffen

After my excitement with Nanucci, this store pales in comparison but I’m sure they have stuff you might need.

If you don’t have time for Lapjesmarkt or even wait for a Monday, it’s ok. The shops here have a better and bigger collection, are easily accessible and you don’t have to fight the crowds.

Some of the same fabrics sold at Albert Cupmarkt are cheaper than Lapjesmarkt although I wouldn’t dare say the same for all since there might be some available at Lapjesmarkt that isn’t available over here and some stalls at Lapjesmarkt do sell cheap fabrics as well.

My host didn’t recommend Lapjesmarkt to me, mostly because the fabrics are not so good and I have to agree.

Also I guess if you shop at Albert Cupmarkt, you can always take a break and find something to eat, buy flowers, food, fruit and even a new bike if you need. Or your partner can while you shop for fabrics. 😉

Going Amsterdam from Haarlam

Should I buy the iAmsterdam card? How do I get around in Amsterdam? Should I get an Airbnb in Amsterdam city or Haarlam or Utrecht? Those were just some of the questions I had before my trip. If you share the same queries, read on. 

I wasn’t based in Amsterdam, so I didn’t buy the iAmsterdam card, which does grant you free entry to many museums as well as free travel on their public transport. 
Personally I didn’t get it also because I didn’t think the iAmsterdam card was worthwhile unless you plan on breezing through the museums to make your money’s worth,  otherwise there just wouldn’t be enough time in a day to finish touring the museums since most open at 9 and closes at 5 or 6 (with the exception of Friday where some museums stay open till 10). Besides, I think the joy of going to the museum is being able to take my time to admire the work and understand the history of the art that I’m interested in. 

For me, while it felt like I was paying more per entrance ticket, when I worked out the time I had and the opening hours of the places I wanted to visit, it just didn’t make any financial sense. 

The card also does not cover the Rjiksmuseum (€17.50) and Anne Frank House (€9) which are the two major attractions of Amsterdam. Also, if you visit Zaanse Schans and want to be able to visit all the chargeable mills (€4 euros) and museum (€10) for free, it’s going to take you almost half a day or more. Then again maybe u want to have lunch, or ice cream and coffee, or take a ferry, which then means you can spend a whole day there. Which then leaves you with almost no time to visit the other museums in Amsterdam (unless maybe it’s a Thursday). So you work the sums.

So without the iAmsterdam card, what were my transport options? 

Walking, biking and taking the tram. 

While I biked everywhere in Haarlam, I didn’t want to bike in Amsterdam because there were just too many people, bikes and traffic was rather heavy in the city centre. I also didn’t want to have to worry about locking my bike at a proper place each time I want to venture into a shop or lane. So the next best option was  the GVB trams. I love them! There are designated tram tracks on the road so that means trams aren’t at the mercy of heavy traffic. In the tram, the stops are clearly indicated on a screen with announcements at every stop.  I found the 2-day ticket (€12.50) very worthwhile if you are planning on traveling within Amsterdam for 2 consecutive days. 

You can easily buy the ticket when you board the tram. Just note that the maximum note they take is €20. 

I also want to recommend this app to help ease all your traveling woes. 

Enable your location, select it, then type your destination (it can be the name of a restaurant or shop!) and the app will tell you which tram to take and from where. You can click on the “walk 2 minutes” to launch Google Maps which will show you how to get to the tram stop. If it’s the train you are taking, it will tell you which platform to go to. So all you really need is a data SIM card and mobile phone! 

The other thing I thought would be good to share is the fact that in Amsterdam, there are no public toilets. And if there are they always cost money. Even McDonald’s, unless you dine there of course. Typically toilet fees are €0.50-€0.70. For men, there is this round green metal phone booth-like structure at certain public areas where they can go in for free to ease themselves. I was told you can walk into any restaurant to ask and then pay to use their toilet too, but otherwise your best options are McDonald’s or the train station. 

Some toilets are located at the train platforms so you might want to go before you check out. If you are at Amsterdam Centraal, there is one at the platform (€0.50) and one really nice clean one (€0.70) at the back part of the station in the direction of the ferry dock. Personally for €0.20 more, I rather go to the cleaner one. 

I decided against staying in central Amsterdam because of a few reasons. Prices were more expensive and I read that it isn’t a real reflection of Dutch living. So I picked Haarlam which turned out to be a really nice, less busy neighbourhood. It takes about 15 minutes by train from Haarlam station to Amsterdam Centraal and a return ticket cost €9.50.

Speaking of trains, if you want to use the machine to buy your ticket, make sure you have enough coins, or have your credit card PIN number handy. The machines don’t take notes and some stations do not have a ticket counter or may be closed by the time you arrive. 

Market squares are very common in Europe. 

This is the Grote Markt in Haarlam. It is a market square that is empty on weekdays but comes alive with stalls on Saturday.

Cheese, fruit, flowers, bread and vegetables are available, and there’s also a stall selling Turkish crockery and lamps. It’s less massive than Albert Cupmarkt, and didn’t feel as touristy. 

Too bad tulips weren’t in season. But still the bouquets of peonies and hydrangeas were very lovely!

I didn’t regret staying in Haarlam because I doubt I would have made a special trip to Haarlam otherwise. The place has all you need —  you have the Corrie Ten Boom Museum (free entry) instead of Anne Frank Museum, and the Frans Hal Museum instead of Rjiksmuseum. You can cycle to the dunes and the beach (great during summer) instead of through the Waterlands in Amsterdam. It is a different kind of experience. 

There is a also direct bus 300 to and from the Schipol airport to Haarlam area (€5 one-way from the bus stop where I embarked to head to airport), which is nice because I didn’t have to battle with broken lifts, big platform gaps or standing with my luggage near the door of the trains because it’s too much work to haul it up or down steps within the train to get seats.

If you are looking to do a lot of shopping, then Amsterdam definitely has more to offer. The museums and landmarks are more renowned too. Although  you don’t necessarily need to stay in the central if you are looking for a more authentic Dutch experience (I didn’t like the rowdy behavior of the people in Amsterdam central).  I was told there are nice neighbourhoods near Vondelpark, so that could be an option if you don’t want to travel too far. 

Wherever you choose, there will definitely be enough activities and places to visit to occupy your time.  

Fabric Shopping in Amsterdam – Lapjesmarkt (Fabric Market) Part 1 of 2

The Lapjesmarkt (Fabric Market) takes place every Monday at Westerstraat in Amsterdam. So on this wet Monday morning, I decided to brave the rain and take a long walk from Amsterdam Centraal Station.

It says online that the market starts at 9am. I was there at 11am and it was rather crowded. 

There were many stalls selling clothes and stuff I wasn’t interested in. As for fabrics, the selection was not to my liking, except for one stall.

There were many choices for upholstery, and it will be good if you know what you are looking to make, otherwise if you are a novice like me, browsing can get quite difficult with the crowd. 

Stumbled on a stall that pre-sort the cotton fabrics by colours which is perfect for quilting.  But in terms of individual fabric designs, they are pretty average. I much prefer those sold in Japan. 

Leather is available too.

Here’s a stall that caught my attention. I stood there admiring the fabrics which I thought would be perfect for homes that need just a pop of colour. 

140cm wide and 20€ per metre.

So I’ve come to the end of the market. And if you ask me for my honest opinion, Lapjesmarkt is one of those markets you can give it a miss if you are pressed for time. 

You can definitely find many more fabric stores at Albert Cuypmarkt with better selection and prices. More of that in my next post. 

The Book Store – Volkswarenhuis in Amsterdam

I was buying some old-fashioned tops in a kite shop when I overheard an elderly couple asking for directions to an old bookshop. 

“Across the bridge on the left, a big, old bookshop,” the shopkeeper said. 

And so after I paid for my toys, I set out to look for this shop. Lo and behold, it wasn’t that difficult to find!

The first corner I went to was the children’s books section. There were many books in Dutch but I couldn’t find any with illustrations that I wanted to work with.

There were a few old typewriters on display. I’m not sure if they are still in working condition or for sale but this one was particular vintage looking for me.

Two boxes of old postcards and pictures, some of them with messages, addresses and stamps on them. There weren’t any from Holland, I saw some from Santiago and Germany.

Then I deposited my big bagpack in one of those self lock lockers on the first floor and ventured upstairs. 
The first thing that caught my eye were these dated Nat Geo periodicals.

And the old-fashioned ads on the last page.

I have to confess I started watching Mad Men on Netflix and so these ads are kind of fascinating to me.

These mini figurines were interesting. I wondered —  do you only read when you get old or do you read till you are old? 

Saw a magnet that echoed my exact thoughts.

When I get old, I want a small house with a big garden and lots of books. 

Let’s talk about 1965

The movie 1965  finally opens this weekend and as a fellow cast member, I am not going to shy away from the fact that people are probably more keen to watch Tom Cruise in his action-packed Mission Impossible franchise than me with pigtails serving coffee in Chinatown.

This is me during a rehearsal.

Really, what are the odds of a local film beating a Hollywood blockbuster at the box-office?    

Movie 1965 up against Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation.

Maybe I am stating the obvious but I am somewhat reminded of a line from our National Day song, “There was a time when people said that Singapore won’t make it, but we did.” What had been the odds of a small fishing village, with zero natural resources, and during a time where no other similar country has set a precedent, making it? 

In a strange way, the movie 1965 is facing a similar predicament as Singapore in 1965, albeit on a completely different scale. 

Tom Cruise in a scene from MI: Rouge Nation.

Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation is the 5th installment in the Mission Impossible series. They’ve been there and done that. This time perhaps with more stunts and action, wilder car/bike chases, crazier building jumps. But what about the movie 1965? No one has made a movie like that before until now. And like Singapore in 1965, no one knows for sure how it will turn out.

Some of you might have heard of this film many years ago and may also be aware of the time, effort and money spent to make it happen. But I know that probably isn’t the point. After all, if I lived in 1965, I wouldn’t have concerned myself with the difficulties our prime minister had to face in building a nation from scratch. I would have cared more about making a decent living so I can fend for myself and my family back in China. 

Me as Zhou Jun, writing to my family in China.

But for all our forefathers who have done so, they probably didn’t realize that, knowingly or unknowingly, they have made a choice to give Singapore a chance to be their home. 

Which is really what I urge Singaporeans to do. Give yourself a chance to experience the movie 1965 and share how you feel about it. 

James Seah as Seng. This is us in a Chinese New Year scene.

I watched the movie for the first time at the gala premiere on 28 July. To me, this is a movie with so many points of discussion that it makes for great conversations. The people whom I spoke to after the screening had different things to say and it made me realise that this movie has brought out what truly marks Singapore — a country where people with diverse backgrounds have different views and thoughts on the same thing. It couldn’t have shown up more clearly than after a shared experience of watching 1965. 

My husband Qi Yuwu and I at the gala premiere screening of 1965 at Capitol Theatre.

There will be expectations but whatever they may be, this is a movie that will definitely make you ponder — not just about history and politics, or nation-building and national day, but interestingly about art, love, kinship, story-telling and possibly even other subjects that hadn’t occurred to me. 

To me, watching a movie isn’t just about being entertained. It is being able to share and discuss how you feel about it with people who have had the same experience. Because sometimes, it’s what’s in your heart that matters. 

Here I am, first day in my coffee-shop. Movie 1965 opens in theatres islandwide.

A Good Love Story

When this picture popped up in my Instagram feed, I was nostalgically reminded of The Bridges of Madison County, a beautiful love story that starred two of my favorite actors. 

It has been a while since I watched a really good romantic movie that captured what I considered to be my idea of love — real, complex and raw, and without embellishments. 

These few years, we seemed to be so caught up with action, superheroes, and movies that push technology to a new frontier that I find myself thirsty for something with less pizzazz. Something that sets my heart fluttering not because of a good-looking male lead decked out in Tom Ford but because of “the way he looked at her”. The reason why I was so drawn to the chemistry between Meryl and Clint was because there were no fancy backdrops, no branded wardrobe, no latest make-up trends to distract. The focus was on the performance and every nuance of emotion was felt through the screen because of the way it was shot and edited. A forbidden love story, anchored by two very good actors and presented by a director who knew how to tell a story. 

Such is becoming a rarity. Telling a good story seemed to have taken a backseat now with the focus shifted on how to create impact. The emotional core of characters are often neglected, like how it was in the last movie I watched — Jurassic World. The story premise was weak and the romantic/sibling love just didn’t feel real. But one could argue that people were there to see dinosaurs, not watch a love story. 

I want to make a movie like The Bridges of Madison County. Even though it probably isn’t as cool as Ant Man, and even though I may be the only one who will watch such a movie or follow a drama that has real emotional stakes, I still think it’s something mankind needs. Sure, we need to be inspired by new trends but more importantly we need emotional fuel to keep us grounded. 

His Love Story

I was at a car wash at an off peak hour and while getting my car wiped down, one of the workers very politely came over to ask for a photo. I gladly obliged. He walked away and moments later he approached me and said, “Mam, can I ask you a question?” I replied, “Sure!” and looked at him expectantly.

He averted my gaze, lowered his head, licked his lips and looked like he was mustering the courage to ask what is now the question. He paused.

I grew increasingly curious about what it was he wanted to know that was making him so awkward.

“Mam, what does a woman look for in a man?”

I was stumped into silence. It was a simple question yet not so simple. I couldn’t answer straightaway because I knew it wasn’t about me. It was evident that he was probably hoping to find answers for himself. In other words, he must be having doubts or problems in his relationship.

Sure enough, after I blabbered something about the importance of communication, having someone who can understand me…he asked, “If you love somebody but always quarrel, does that mean it’s not the right person?”

Now it was my turn to pause. I didn’t want to respond because it wasn’t in my place to and more importantly I didn’t want to give him any (misleading) ideas.

He went on to share that he is going to get married to his ex in a month’s time, but they have been quarreling a lot. This morning before he left for work, they had a quarrel again. He is stressed up at work and he is stressed up at home. It appears that they fight over the smallest things.

I was moved by how truthful he was about his feelings and how he was hoping to improve the situation. I felt a warmth from this stranger, who was pouring his heart to me. He was reaching out to me in an effort to help himself.

I guess his wife-to-be might be feeling the same way on the other end. But he will never know and neither will she because they aren’t talking to each other about it. They probably can’t even broach the discussion without arguing about something else first.

Now is his marriage doomed before it even started? Is that why so many couples either don’t talk to each other anymore or end up in divorce?

“Do u remember what it was like when the two of you were dating?” I asked him.

He nodded, lips curved up in a faint smile, eyes searching the sky. It seemed like he was trying to recall moments, maybe specific incidents that made them both smile.

“When we are happy we laugh a lot, but now we just keep quarreling and I am so stressed. I love her, but if we always quarrel then maybe we should just be friends.”

My heart sighed.

Sometimes you just forget to be nice to each other; sometimes you become so used to being irritated with one another that even when one party tries to be nice, the other blindly reacts in a negative way; sometimes couples get caught up with daily tasks, to-do lists, family decisions, that they forget to love.

Everything in life becomes ruled by KPIs. We familiarise ourselves with “how to achieve”, “when to complete” in every aspect of our lives. But love has no must complete date. There is no end or finish to it. And because of that, it is easy to put it aside.

It’s like one morning you are in a rush and u didn’t kiss your partner goodbye. The next day your partner woke up late for work and didn’t kiss you goodbye. Each day pass with something that requires both your attention other than that kiss, then weeks, then months, and before you know it, a new habit has formed. What started off as seemingly  justifiable neglect becomes the beginning of the end of affection.

Love is not what needs to be done. It is not made up of acts. A kiss can be just as empty if there is no love. What I mean is when we focus on the practicalities of life, neglect sets in. We become careless with the way we speak, we become calculative, we become stingy with our affections. We find excuses like “it’s natural that the honeymoon period is over”, to justify the deterioration of relationships; we blame the other person for starting it.

It’s not easy for two people to get together, it is even harder to stay together. But like the saying goes, you can drag a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.  It takes both to cherish the rare union and make the effort to keep the romance alive.

When I told the stranger who asked, that I look for a man whom I can communicate with and understand me, I didn’t mean to be generic, I firmly believe that is the foundation to having a fulfilling relationship.

And it starts with listening.