The CuriousPages Sketchbook

14 hours in Amsterdam

I’m currently awaiting my departure at Amsterdam airport. I should have departed last night at about 8pm, but the flight was cancelled due to the snow at Bristol airport, and I’m now booked on a flight to Bristol which is due to leave at 10.30am today.

I might be coming down with a cold. After the ten hour flight from Beijing yesterday, KLM offered me a hotel for the night, including meals, which was a nice surprise. But the hotel shuttle service was out of service due to the snow in Amsterdam. A group of us stood outside in the snow awaiting the imminent arrival of their shuttle bus. After about half an hour of standing in freezing wind and snow, a group of us decided to cut our loses and hire our own taxi to get to the hotel (the shuttle bus is complimentary, and the taxi was going to cost us around 10 euros each, but we’d had enough). There was six of us in the group and we found a minibus waiting at the taxi rank. But the adventure did not end there. The bus driver did a detour to drop someone else off, and then another detour to drop his colleague off, before heading for the Holiday Inn. There was a Polish guy whom I’d started to talk to while waiting in the snow, and it was him who masterminded the taxi venture. He was sat next to me in the minibus and I mentioned that I hoped the driver hadn’t forgotten about us and was on his way home.

The Polish guy said, “Don’t joke about that. It happened to me once.”

He proceeded to relate the incident. There was a coach full of passengers that he was on and the driver did a detour, drove to his own home and told the passengers that he was tired and he was going home to sleep. He left the coach standing there with all its stunned passengers still seated, and it wasn’t until a child had started playing in the driver’s seat and had managed to start the coach, that the driver came rushing back out, wrestling to dress himself while he ran, shouting to them, “You are trying to steal my bus,” and then resumed his duty and took them to their destination.

It seemed that whatever mishap I mentioned, or speculated about, the Polish guy said, “Ah yes, that happened to me in Brazil…” or wherever.

And to add to my perturbation, once we had finally arrived at the hotel and I was climbing down from the minibus, our driver held my arm and assisted me down, as though I were seventy years of age. This was the first time in my life that I’d been treated like a frail elderly person. I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or simply slap the driver in the face.
I have to admit that the sight of the Holiday Inn was a welcome one. I wanted to be alone and to not have to listen to any more of the Polish guy’s adventures. I felt like a walking corpse; after a ten hour flight from Beijing (in which I had travelled from hot summer weather to the worse deep freeze that Europe had experienced for several decades), my body clock was still seven hours ahead, and I’d been standing outside in the cold wind and light snow for half an hour, and I just needed to sleep. But not before eating, even though I was not particularly hungry; after all, the food was included and I was going to get some; KLM owed me that. No, it wasn’t that; it was just that it was a free meal and I did not want to miss out. So I ate all I could and was on my way out of the dinning room when I noticed the temping desert. I looked more closely, considering it, but I was too full and too tired; no, I simply had to sleep; so I walked on past the temptation.

The relative safety of the Philippines

In the Beijing hotel, I was watching the news of all the snow and airport closures, and hoped that Bristol airport was not going to be affected. It seemed to me, at that moment, having just departed from the sunny and welcoming Philippines, that Europe and the USA seemed like hazardous places to go to. I was struck by the irony. A few people had cautioned me of the dangers of visiting a third world country, but my trip had been a wonderful experience and relatively problem free (excluding lost luggage and so on, which can happen anywhere) and I was sat in that hotel room filled with trepidation about heading back to Europe, which, at that moment, seemed like a dangerous place to visit.
Also, while standing outside in the snow in Amsterdam, I was struck by the fact that our misfortune (being the victims of bad organization on the part of the hotel shuttle service, and the mishap of a cancelled flight due to bad weather) seemed greater than any misfortune that I’d experienced in the Philippines. In fact, compared to this European chaos, the Philippines infrastructure had performed far better. My trip was turning into irony after irony.

Though, once I heard that KLM were going to put us up in a hotel for the night, I have to admit to being secretly pleased about this delay. I’d very much enjoyed my night at Terminal 3 in Beijing Airport, and now I had another night in a hotel, but this time complimentary, which seemed to make the experience even sweeter, which experience was indeed, a sweet one (even without the aid of that tempting desert). I very much enjoyed it. I was surprised at how plush the hotel room was and the hotel in general. And the food was excellent and I ate all I could, and even made myself some ham rolls and secreted them into my bag to continue my indulgence on the flight home.




And to add to the theme of Europe’s “third-world” performance, the day after I arrived home, my holiday money was delivered. I had ordered it from Sainsbury’s and they had posted it by Royal Mail 24 hour Special Delivery. Royal Mail (with no apologies, nor even an acknowledgement of their monumental failing) delivered it almost one month late. Call me over-critical, but I don’t call that very “special”. If that’s an example of their “Special” delivery, how on earth does a normal letter ever arrive at all?


7 January 2010


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