The Hague (“Den Haag“) is only a 30-minute train ride away from Amsterdam. But tourists don’t go there. It is grey, metallic and a straightforward, all business city where big modern buildings prod the sky, and roads stretch so far and wide one is afraid to laugh too loud or even suggest some play time. At least that was how I felt when I stepped down from the train. Street signs contained names that were not pronounceable. Men and women were tall unyielding strangers. In the business district, Beatrixkwartier, a futuristic tubular frame ran pass a few blocks and form an eye-catching urban art. “It’s a flyover for the tram, it’s the Fishnet Stocking, We call it the Netkous,” the hotel receptionist explained. His English was fluent and clear, like most of the others in the Netherlands. The Dutch speak particularly good English compared to their European counterparts. Children learn the language since elementary schools and many English-speaking TV channels are available in the country. So, they maintain good trading relationships with the world and tourists can meander through the Netherlands with much ease.
It’s almost an instinctive move that I searched for Where to Shop when in Den Haag. Many websites directed me to The Passage, a covered shopping arcade popular and built in the 19th century. Beautiful descriptions from many sources heightened my expectations but the reality didn’t deliver the goods. Choices were scarce and some shops were over-touristy and thus over-priced. But on the bright side, I enjoyed the architecture. And the free Wi-fi.
My spirits were lifted when I came to Prinsestraat and its surrounding areas. The steely façade of Den Haag was striped off and emerged in front of my eyes were colours and speciality shops, galleries and fun characters. There I saw the tourists. No businessmen and women in suits. Things took a sharp turn and I started to enjoy the city. I came across both pretty and quirky vintage shops, century-old butchery, numerous vespas, designer boutiques and a mysterious-looking pharmacy that had the head of a jester at its front door.
For the entire week, I was a regular at Luciano, a local ice-cream shop. Also popped in almost all the ice-cream shops that I saw like the temperature was just a number. And the weighing scale showed an unchanged digit like I had not dropped a sweat in the gym at all. But it was all worth it, and acceptable, because I was on holiday. And holiday is always the token of happiness we insert into the life machine.
I also indulged in a copious amount of Indonesian food – the slurping of peanut sauce and the crackling sound of keropok – like they were the most wonderful thing in the world. Oh and the beer. [You can read about my dinner at the Michelin-starred Han Ting here and What I Really Eat through the week here]
But the most joyful thing of all was rambling the neighbourhoods and smelling the flowers and peeking into the windows every time I spotted a curtain half-drawn. The arrangement of the furniture, the people inside, they are like Dutch story books came to life.
I wouldn’t go back to Den Haag again. The Palaces in the city are not open for visitors because they are working palaces. The city has no romance and is marginally beautiful. But there you go, I thought all these gargantuan amount of photos below will show you yet another side of the world.
With love x