Category Archives: Travel 旅游


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. 

Gloomy economy = Poor dress sense

There is no lack of Japanese inspired fashion in Singapore and there’s no better place to witness that than at Far East Plaza. Nothing really caught my eye, maybe because there were too many of the same things.

When I got to Tokyo, I was appalled at the fashion display on the streets and in the shops. It felt like the gloomy Japanese economy has taken a toll on its fashion and people’s taste in clothes.

Summer is typically about light-weight fabrics, bright colours, sundresses, floral patterns, shorts, swimwear, straw hats, slippers, espadrilles etc. Somehow, the way the Japanese put it together just wasn’t aesthetically appealing.

The Bad…

Everything looks like some part of the fabric has been chewn off.

I don't get the whole T-shirt in a dress look. It's everywhere in Tokyo and hardly fashionable!

T-shirt, tube floral dress, tights and a printed bag just doesn't go!

There's something interesting about pairing shoes with floral dress, but this combination just doesn't look sharp or sweet.


This looks sloppy.

Maybe if they switch tops, it might work better?

These sundresses look like sleeping gowns.

The sales girls tend to wear the outfits sold in the stores. Floral jumpers is one of those outfits that is unflattering for most. It looks frumpy because you don't see the waist nor the hips!

All is not lost, it is a matter of finding the right cut and knowing if your body type is suitable. Much of  Japanese fashion is borrowed from Hollywood celebrities, modified with a twist of their own style. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Nonetheless, here’s what I found in the August issue of Japanese magazine “Gisele”.

A jumper can look flattering if the proportions are right.

Long sun dresses - without a T shirt inside.

If tube and spaghetti styles are too revealing, choose sundresses with sleeves.

The Good..

If it's too revealing, throw on a cardigan.

Or cover up with a loose fitting shirt.

Or just make sure you style your hair, put on make-up and go really cute with it!

I think this is nice, but I do wonder if having a belt might give her a bit more shape.

The Quirky…

There's something very pretty in this conservative get-up. Her hairstyle complements the look!

I like the way she is able to multi-task with ease and still look so stylish.

I think young girls look very good when they dress like that.

The blue patch of hair sets her apart from the rest!

We have a lot of fashion options here, and I’ve seen girls wear clothes better than some of the examples shown here.

What do you think? Can Singaporeans do better?

“Mad Hatter” Jo

Everything else about Tokyo Disneyland and me, modelling hat pieces.

Map of the theme park

My first time taking this ride!

I'm happy already!!

The ride inside is very colourful and very cheery, and you get to see different countries, different costumes!



I’m not going to show you too much! It’s quite a long ride and there’s a lot to see, so I would say take it twice if the queue isn’t that long!

The window display do not give you a fraction of an idea of what is being sold in the shops!

She is so adorable!

This is battery operated and would actually light up!

Adding a few inches to my height.

Mardi Gras Mickey Hat

I also like The Monsters' Inc Ride!

You shine the torchlight that is attached to the car at specific points for a surprise!! Very kiddish but fun!

Monster's Inc Helmet

Sully's my favourite cartoon character!

I regretted not buying this toy. His shy expression sort of works in this picture!

Life-sized Sully!! The queue to take a photo with him was cut off by the park ranger, so I couldn't pose with him.

Totally mismatching!

Aww...I thought this pair was really cute!!


I forgot his name, does anyone remember?


This was the restaurant where we had our lunch. The portion sizes are pretty decent. I had the rotisserie chicken.

Cinderella's Castle

This was a gift shop inside the Cinderella Castle. I love the frescos on the wall, they are so incredible detailed!

A craftsman at work

Art pieces for sale

I've been to Tokyo Disneyland 3 times, and not once did I manage to watch the fireworks. That night it was canceled because of bad weather.

Disney Overload

I went to Anaheim Disneyland, Los Angeles, a year ago, and somehow Tokyo Disneyland still excites me more. I think it’s got to do with the Japanese and their “kawaii” spirit. Unlike the American Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland seemed to have more toys, accessories, apparels and cute collectibles; snacks and food are made in the likes of Disney characters; the containers/tubs in which they come in are designed for keepsake; almost everyone in Tokyo Disneyland, adults and children alike, has at least one Disney item on them.

I truly felt like I was on the happiest place on earth, because everyone was loving Disneyland, albeit in an overt fashion.

This was from the Winnie the Pooh popcorn pushcart. Honey flavoured popcorn! There are different popcorn flavours that come in different collectible tubs at different pushcarts.

Another variation of popcorn tub

Hairbands like this are very common.

Another variation of hairband...Dumbo-inspired.

You also have hair clips like that...

Even the guys have fun with accessories!

These masks are sold in the shops too!

I lost count of the number of Mickey Mouse heads on this lady who was in front of me in a queue for a ride. I love her backpack!

Close up of her T-shirt.

Close up of her companion's bag strap.

Minnie tee!

Mickey printed on an umbrella.

Or, you can get a Mickey Mouse raincoat from the shops!

And here's the Minnie Mouse raincoat to match.

Sorry you can't see this clearly, but even the traditional costumes they are wearing is printed with Disney!

It wasn't unusual to see many young people wearing traditional costumes during this season.

Mickey and Minnie are dressed in the traditional costumes as well! We tried looking for memorabilia of the Disney bear in the middle, but could not find it. I remembered from my last experience that there is an entire shop devoted to Disney bear in Tokyo Disneysea, so that's probably where this came from.

Not one, not two, but a whole family of toys, that I can't tell which is hung from where!

Looked to me like there was some beauty contest going on, because I saw several little girls dressed in princess costumes around the park.

Doesn’t this look like it’s a lot of fun?

Pigging out in Disneyland

I managed to squeeze an extra day or two after filming in Tokyo Japan to go to Disneyland. Because it was my third time, there weren’t as many surprises. I did however notice that I was eating the whole day!

I can't remember what the exact theme was. It was some festival where you can write your message on this little piece of paper and hang it up.

I love wafer ice-cream!

Chewing Mickey's ears

In popsicle form

In popsicle form

These buns are so funny!

I never tried these, but I wonder if they taste as good as they look.

I think you can never go wrong with peach danish. I remembered having this the last time. Love the peach, but not so crazy about the crust.

Another flavour.

I eventually settled for a chocolate cheesecake.

I must always accompany my sweet treat with black coffee. The cake wasn't fantastic, I was hoping it would melt in my mouth like how some Japanese cheesecakes do, but it didn't.

The whiff of waffles warmed us on that cold rainy day in Disneyland.

I was looking for the pushcart that sold Smoked Turkey Leg but found the Teriyaki Chicken Leg instead. It was too salty for me.

What a happy place Disneyland is, with every wrapper saying this!

I love maple churros!! They really make my day!

Found this at Queen of Hearts restaurant during lunch. I've never heard of "Unbirthday"!

This was dinner, not very inspiring in terms of the way it looks, but taste pretty good. Beef, vegetable and rice.

Next up, all the lovable things in Disneyland!

Visiting the Taj Mahal

I was pretty excited to have time to visit Taj Mahal because to be honest, India was never one of my desired travel destinations. At least not till now.

It was a bonus when we managed to find time to drive out to Agra, which is an hour’s drive away from Vrindavan.

Due to the pollution problem, cars are not allowed near the Taj, so our taxi had to wait for us at this large parking area, where we can choose to reach the entrance of Taj by electric scooter, horse carriage or camel carriage.

There were several kids hustling us to buy souvenirs and they even gave themselves English names so we would remember them. My advice is: Ask how much, if you are interested, and say you will come back (because you have to anyway). Then compare prices outside Taj Mahal and decide later.

We chose the horse carriage and off we went to purchase the tickets. The ticket office is located near the parking area and it costs 750 rupees per person for foreigners and with that you get a free bottle of water and shoe cover which you will need when you visit the mausoleum.

This young man who jumped onto the horse carriage with us very kindly brought us to the ticketing office. We needed to produce our passports to purchase tickets. This guy turned out to be a guide who asked if we wanted his service. He promised he would answer all our questions, tell us the background story of Taj Mahal and ensure that we do not get pushed around or have to queue for a long time to get in. His fee was 950 rupees.

We entered by the East gate and ladies and men have separate lines because we have to go through security screening. There wasn’t really a line so I felt the guide over-exaggerated. The lady guard felt my pockets and checked my bags. Apparently we are not allowed to bring any food, candies, biscuits, electronic devices, other than mobile phone and camera or odd, unfamiliar objects. I was told my snack bar and mini torchlight was not allowed and thankfully the guide was there, so he deposited them somewhere outside. At that point I guess he could have also been right about the line because with such security checks in place, a line can form quite quickly if someone gets held up in front.

Syed, the guide, then brought us on a specific route of the grounds and offered to take pictures for us at specific scenic spots. He was very knowledgeable and I can say he did his job quite well. It isn’t too much to ask considering that despite the expansive courtyard, the main monument is quite small.

This is the main gate, which is the North Gate. Each of the small white domes signify a year it took to complete the construction of the Taj Mahal.

These are scriptures from the Quran.

There are 4 towers surrounding the Taj Mahal and without these 4 towers, the Taj will otherwise look like a mosque. They were also constructed in such a way that should there be an earthquake, the towers will collapse outwards and not onto the main building.

This used to be a guest house located at the side of the main monument. All the monuments were constructed in perfect symmetry.

Close up of the artwork adorning the walls of the Taj Mahal. The various precious gems used to adorn the Taj is perhaps the most painstaking and detailed form of art. The guide took a torchlight and showed us how it will look under light. From a distance, the artwork looks like it is painted on, but upon closer inspection, they are various gemstones ground and entrenched in the marble. You have to see it to believe!

We are not allowed to take photos inside the Taj Mahal. In it lies the replicated tomb of the emperor and his wife. Their real tombs are directly underneath and have been closed off to the public because there was no oxygen.

After showing us this optical illusion and touring the guest block, our tour came to an end. He then brought us to this supposedly government approved genuine marble shop, where the locals use the same technique to create the artwork in the Taj, to make marble products. He claimed that some independent shops also sell similar products but they use softer marble.

Two young men were outside the shop working on the products. It is a highly skilled and tedious process and so the products are all priced above 1000 rupees. Price tags are attached on every item and the good thing is, no two items will be exactly the same.

We hung around for a while and another man invited me to the back of the shop to look at scarves and saris. He said the scarves were made from bamboo using hand looms, by some prisoners. I bought a few and paid about 470 rupees each. On hindsight, I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth but if he was, I’m glad that it was for a good cause.

This shop was also where the guide left my snack bar and mini torch. Obviously him bringing us to this store is not purely coincidental. And I did notice earlier on that the moment we came out from the East gate, he took his mobile phone out, so I am presuming he might have informed them that we were coming so they could put up a show? Despite that, I didn’t think he was being dishonest, or at least I wasn’t unhappy with the experience. Everyone works very hard for a living here and while I do not like the hustling, I can put up with it as long as they don’t get pushy.

I did get ripped off buying magnets. In a moment of fluster, I forgot to do the math and ended up paying 500 rupees (almost S$15) for 2 magnets! And they aren’t even of good quality. And the same kid I bought the magnets from can hustle my friend and offer 500 rupees for 3!

Getting ripped off is part of the experience.

Night out in Delhi

It gets really colorful at night!

We had pizza for dinner at M Market, which is a bustling area where rows of individual shops lined the sides. It wasn’t easy finding restaurants and cafes here. There were mostly retail shops.

You find some familiar brand names here but the retail space was very limited. We saw Coffee Bean on the second floor but had no idea how to access the cafe!

I love saris, they are very versatile and always feminine. I considered getting one, but there was no occasion to put it on. I am always curious how a wardrobe full of saris would look. Imagine a walk in closet with sandals, jewellery and long flowy saris, it would look like a treasure cove!

I have a penchant for jewellery but I just wasn’t in the mood to shop that night so I merely gawked from outside. There were just too many designs and all of them were unique!

I noticed these smaller stalls had more customers than the air-conditioned shops. Does it provide a more personable experience or simply because things are cheaper?

By about 8.30pm, some shops have closed while others wrapped up business for the day.

More girls’ accessories for sale.

A grocery store where we bought water from.

This was a glimpse of what a part of New Delhi looks like at night. I’m not sure if they’ve got big nightspots around though. I welcome anyone who’s got any idea to share their experiences.