Deep in the remote mountains of northern Thailand, the peaceful retreat camping in Doi Angkhang, a world away from the bustling streets of Chiang Mai. The main attractions around this small town are the projects run by the Royal Agricultural Research Centre. Within the compound, colorful flower gardens showcase the technical expertise of scientists and gardeners. Further on, picturesque tea plantations and fruit farms welcome visitors to explore and buy the local produce.
Just a few decades ago, this region bordering Myanmar was lawless and inaccessible. Poppy plantations and opium factories dotted the landscape, as drug smugglers ran their business with impunity. In recent times, however, a determined drive by the Thai government to introduce agriculture reforms and improve infrastructure has driven the drug trade out of the area.Today, Doi Angkhang is popular with locals seeking refuge from the tropical humidity. With a temperate climate averaging between 20°c to 25°c, most visitors come here to hike, camp or just spend a night in the only resort for a short getaway.
It takes 3.5 hours to get here by car from Chiang Mai, with the last hour crawling up steep uphill slopes and navigating relentless hairpin turns. There is no public transport going up to Doi Angkhang, so you’ll need a private vehicle to make the trip up.
If you can find a group of travel companions, you can hire a private minivan or Songthaew for 2 days and share the cost. You can find plenty of tour operators in Chiang Mai, or take a bus to Fang and find a driver there for slightly less.
The Camping Experience
Accommodation in Doi Angkhang is very limited, with a single resort and several guesthouses in town. But the best way to spend the night here is in a tent, camping alongside locals in a forest clearing overlooking the valley below.
The Campsites in Doi Angkhang
While there are several campsites in the area, each with its own unique viewpoint. Occupying several strips of terraces directly facing east, the campsite managed by the National Parks is the prime spot for catching the sunrise. A tent here costs 200 Baht per night, which is affordable even for locals. In front of the rows of tents, the valley extends far into the distant mountain range.
On weekends and national holidays, there may be a lot more visitors to the campsite (I DID say that this was popular with locals!). Fret not, for just further down the road, to the left of the National Parks campsite, is another site run by the Thai army. A small army camp marks the entrance, and you can rent a tent and pay the pitching fees at a small booth nearby. Local families also rent out small plots of land around the area for overnight camping.
Camping Equipment Available
You don’t need to bring your own tent to pitch here. Everything can be rented at an affordable rate, and it’s all set up for you to crawl into. For security, you’ll just need a padlock to secure the tent while you’re out.If you’re renting from the National Park office, you may choose to rent a sleeping bag or a set consisting of a sleeping mat and a blanket. Temperatures may drop to single digits on the Celsius scale at night, so be prepared to tuck in for warmth.A row of shops across the road from the campsite sells other common camping equipment like gas stoves, bottled water, and toiletries. They stock pretty much everything you need for a comfortable outdoor camping experience, so you really need to lug them up the mountains.
Bathroom Facilities Available in Doi Angkhang
A short distance from the tents, shared bathrooms are available for all campers to use for free. Housed in two separate blocks for each gender, the bathrooms are relatively basic with no heated water and limited toilet paper. It’s cleaned daily before the bulk of campers congregate in the afternoon, but expect it to get progressively dirtier as night comes.
You can get hot water showers at the shops across the road for around 100 Baht each time. With the nice cool temperature though, most campers will just skip the shower for the night – it’s part of the outdoor experience after all!
Dining Available in Doi Angkhang
No camping trip is complete without cooking a meal over a campfire. In Doi Angkhang, locals do it with a twist, as the shops prepare a mookata feast to be delivered and cooked right in front of your tent. Mookata is a social dining experience, where food is either grilled on a metal plate or cooked in a broth that is collected in a shallow trough running along the side. In Doi Angkhang, 400 Baht will get you an earthen stove, the mookata hotplate, charcoal to last for 2 hours, and enough ingredients to make a meal for 2 people.
Choose a shop to purchase the set, and a shop assistant will carry everything down to your tent and prepare the fire. As the campsite gets dark at night, it’s best to prepare a headlamp to free your hands while cooking AND eating (remember to use separate pairs of chopsticks for handling raw and cooked food!). If all these sound too troublesome, the shops also sell cooked food at affordable prices. As these family-run establishments double up as their homes, you might even be invited to join them for a meal if you’re lucky!
Catching the Sunrise
One of the highlights of camping in Doi Angkhang is catching the sunrise from the front of your tent. All tents are pitched on a terrace with an unblocked view, so there’s really no excuse to miss it. At 6am, wake up and partially wiggle out of your sleeping bag to unzip the flap of the tent entrance.
From the comfortable confines of your tent, you can watch a magnificent sunrise without taking a single step out.If you’re feeling active or need a boost of energy to start the day, the cool air of Doi Angkhang is ideal for a morning jog or a short hike into the woods. Otherwise, roll back into your tent to catch a few more hours of sleep.
Packing and Moving On
Most campers pack up and head back down by 10am. Checking out is straightforward, as you return all your sleeping bags or mat to the office, and then collect your driver’s license or identity card from the park ranger.From the campsite, you can head towards the Royal Agricultural Research Centre to visit the gardens and plantations, and then further on to the army base at the Thai-Myanmar border.
Alternatively, head back down the mountain towards Fang, and return to Chiang Mai (3.5 hours) or Chiang Rai (2.5 hours).If you have an extra day to spare, do check out the Chinese village of Mae Salong (3 hours), which has picturesque tea plantations to visit and an interesting background story worthy of a Hollywood movie!
Guest Author:Gary is an avid backpacker and part-time geek. He started 2-Week Trips, a travel blog dedicated to independent backpacking vacations, as a resource for the gainfully employed to embark on exciting adventures around the world.
Although Edinburgh is smaller than most European cities, the history within this town is really just as jam-packed. It is quite touristy along the Royal Mile for good reason, but not all activities and venues are created equal. So here are my tips on What to See On The Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
The End of the Royal Mile at the Palace
There are several streets along the Royal Mile that each has their own unique treasure of history. The streets that make up the Royal Mile are Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canon-gate and Abbey Strand (which leads to the Holyrood Palace). These streets are an excellent example of what life in the 16th and 17th century would have been like. The side streets between houses or ‘closes‘ housed the livestock for those inhabitants in the skyscraper-like apartments.
Building Edinburgh & its History:
King David in 1124 was the first to recognize the hill as an ideal place for protection, he built a fort and named it the Burgh of Eiden. This later gave rise to Edinburgh Castle, I like to think it was someone who was dyslexic that just got the name mixed up somehow. In 1544 King Henry VIII burned much of the city because of Scotland’s refusal to allow him to marry Mary Queen of Scots, who was an infant at the time. King Henry VIII was historically a bit weird, so it is a good thing that did not happen.
Edinburgh Castle Sign Post
The year 1645 saw as many as 70,000 people living within the Royal Mile. Some of the housing units were 14 stories high, and up to 10 people sharing a single room! Renovations were initiated in 1865, with new housing built on Blackfriars street and St Mary’s street. Cockburn street also connected the Royal mile to the Train Station. Patrick Geddes then remodeled the Canongate and top of the mound to look more like the original Royal Mile 500 years earlier. Now that I have spouted off much of the data and dates associated with Edinburgh and Royal mile, hopefully, I haven’t lost all my readers 😉 It is important to know this backdrop of history, as it allows you to realize what a dark history of war this area has had over time.
St Margaret’s Chapel:
The tiny Norman chapel built in the 12th century is the oldest surviving part of Edinburgh Castle. Named St.Margaret’s chapel after the saintly wife of Malcolm III, it can still be used today by the castle guardians for weddings.
The Great Hall, with its ornate hammerbeam roofing, built by James IV in 1510 holds a fine collection of armor and weapons. Don’t ask me what hammerbeam means, because I really have no idea. I’m assuming it is the shark tooth like appearance of the arch itself.
The Stone of Destiny:
Not only was the castle of great importance during Scotland’s Wars of Independence but it was also the seat of the Scottish Kings. Be sure to take a gander at the Stone of Destiny, a tradition of the Scottish Kings that would sit on this stone during their coronation.
It is believed that this is the stone that Jacob (of the Bible) dreamed about Jacob’s ladder. Thus the stone is considered sacred, and likely why in 1296 Edward the I built it into his throne. Make sure to watch the movie associated with the stone, uniquely called, The Stone of Destiny. The Stone of Destiny can be found and viewed along with the Scottish Royal Crown and Jewels at Edinburgh Castle. A ticket is required to view these items, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Ancient Royal Apartments:
You can still see the little room in the Royal Apartments where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James who would eventually become James VI of Scotland and James I of England.
Vaults and Graves:
Among the other things to see at the castle are its eerie vaults. The Scottish United Services Museum is a humbling thing to witness. There is also a gallery in hospital square, the Witches Well (where women were burned for witchcraft), Mons Meg ( a 15th-century cannon ).
My favorite part was a little cemetery towards the summit of the castle where the regimental pet dogs are buried. This is the part where I knew I was truly Scottish, my love for dogs was evident in the honor they give their dogs. It made my heart burst knowing that these animals will forever hold a place in the history of Edinburgh Castle.
Tickets: £16.50 Adults with discount rates for seniors and children, free for children under 5 years of age. Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 9.30am – 6pm
The Royal Mile is home to the Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity and Library. John Knox will promptly greet you at the doors, as he did in his sermons of old. You will read more about John Knox in the St. Giles Cathedral section.
This School of Divinity is one of the most renowned universities for post-graduate theology studies with programs coming from 30 different countries. Established in May of 1843 after one-third of the ministers left the Church of Scotland. They left the church out of protest and striving for their spiritual independence. An assembly of the Free Church Representatives decided this college was to be used for the training of Free Church ministers. This University continues to be used to teach theologists of our day. An excellent example, of many you will see in Scotland, of the past meeting the present.
A Personal Moment at this University:
I didn’t know what this building was, and likely shouldn’t put this part in writing. A door was slightly open and I wandered inside to this courtyard. The statues I encountered appeared to be people of importance, but I didn’t know why. I have to admit that I did feel a sense of peace in this place. The need to explore more to find out why I felt so peaceful, won out my brain telling me it was wrong.
I tried to climb some of the stairs, but young adults with backpacks on were attempting to pass each other on the narrow stairs. This is when I realized I was actually in a school of some sort & left.
It was interesting researching what this building actually was after I came home as I felt such peace there. Scotland was the first place I had ever traveled alone. Ironically it was also 4 months after I had endured significant trauma. (See: When you try to keep it together, but some days you just can’t – post for more on that). I wandered into this building within the first two hours of arriving in Scotland
Saint Giles is actually the saint of cripples and beggars. You will find a few of the beggars on the Royal Mile, but they are not aggressive like in many of the cities in the USA. This church was built in 1126 but was destroyed by the English in 1385. The Scottish Reformation came about and so did the great minister John Knox who served here from 1559 to 1572.
There are several important Scottish people buried here including James Graham, Marquis of Montrose (who was incidentally hung at Mercat Cross).
If you head to the West side of the Cathedral you will find the Heart of Midlothian within the cobblestone street. This marks where Parliament was held in the 15th century until the 19th century. It was also the commonplace where executions took place. For some reason unknown to me, Scottish locals will spit on the heart as a way of obtaining good luck (so just be aware of the spitters).
Mercat Cross is actually just at the opposite end of where St Giles Cathedral is. People were often tied up and whipped, tortured, and killed due to their crimes. It did not matter if they were real, witchcraft or false claims.
Take a tour underground, visiting the bowels of Scotland underneath the towering buildings along the Royal Mile. You will descend into the dark depths of the city and be transported into the Real Mary King’s Close (or alleyway).
Tour the homes and the streets of the 17th century. Dive into your imagination as you learn of those who were afflicted with the plague. Learn what the centuries-old medical management of the Plague was like. The historical content of this tour is fantastic. The creepy factor for this tour, on a scale of 0 to 10, is only about a 3. I would hesitate to take young children on this tour. It is, however, a fantastic tour for all those who work in the medical field or are fascinated with ancient medicine.
This is truly one of the highlights of your self-guided tour of the Royal Mile in Scotland, a place where old meets new. Be delighted by the Royal Art Collection at Holyrood Palace, where I was able to see several Vermeer paintings. Here you will find special collections that are favorites of the royals. Take a tour of the many rooms of Holyrood Palace and the history that accompanies it.
This is the place where, in the 16th Century Mary, Queen of Scots had her official apartments. Both the Queen of Scots apartments and the State Apartments are open to the public year round. Keep in mind that the Queen of England comes to stay in Scotland at the first month of Summer every year (June to July) and holds ceremonies and banquets for her Holyrood Week with Garden Parties. This Palace and it’s grounds have been home to Scottish Royalty for over 500 years.
There are several options for tours of the Palace available so be sure you know which one you would like to participate in. You can visit just the State Apartments, or you can include the Queens Royal Art Collection and the Palace Grounds. I personally did the Royal Visit (includes State Apartments, Royal Collection which housed many Vermeer paintings, and the Garden tour).
Why Choosing the Royal Tour is the Best Idea:
While touring the palace you quickly realize you can only walk on the sidewalks. Walking on the grass at any time for any reason is prohibited unless accompanied by a Palace Warden. Do not test the Warden’s people, you may find yourself in hot water if you do.
The Royal Tour, which includes the gardens and palace grounds, will give you a unique view of the Palace. Walking on the pristine grass is allowed on the Royal Tour. You also hear the funny stories about why certain items are kept on the grounds. There is also a story of sibling rivalry that taught me that family feuds never change no matter the century, there is always one….you know who you are. 🙂
Other Travel Hacks for Edinburgh:
There are not a whole lot of public restrooms I found along the Royal Mile itself. I happened to be staying at the Castle Rock Hostel which is right at the base of Edinburgh Castle. You can go into a restaurant and use their facilities, but typically only if buying a meal. There is one public Toliet at the backside of the Castle in Old Town, but it only has 1.5 stars on google, so utilize this at your own risk. Here is a map of other public restrooms in Edinburgh.
Weather & What to bring:
During the day the cobblestone streets hold the heat really well. When the sun sets the temperatures drop quickly and with the water being so close to this area, it can get rather chilly, even with warm blankets. The restaurants will fill up quickly after the sun sets and will be difficult for you to get a table. There are some restaurants that allow reservations, but most are a ‘first come, first serve’ basis.
It will not matter what time of day it is, when the sun sets, most people head indoors because of the cold. Make sure to bring gloves, slouchy beanie, and a Winter Coat as it gets quite windy. I will typically layer my clothing with a Fleece sweater (that is breathable), then a rain jacket. I know many travelers want to look cute in their photos. When you start freezing you will wish you had the proper gear.
These are just a few of the things you can see along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I would give yourself at least two days to see everything on the Royal Mile properly as there is a lot of walking you are going to have to do.
Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world. I have ancestors who are from Scotland. Pedestrians have easy access to all the major sites within 20 minutes of walking. Making friends is incredibly easy in Scotland due to how helpful, kind and jovial most of them are. Basically, you need to go to Scotland right now or move it to the top of your bucket list. If you would like help planning your trip, please email email@example.com
Happy Travels, Happy Tales and see you on the Flip Side 😉
All you have to do is say a park is dog-friendly and I will be going to visit. Kodachrome has much more to offer than just being dog-friendly though. Kodachrome Basin State Park is unique because of the single monolithic spires that dot the park.
These rock formations seem to shoot up out of the ground into the air with no reasonable explanation as to why. Some of these spires can rise nearly 170 feet into the air, with different colorations striating the spire making for a unique natural structure. There was one spire that I could not figure out for the life of me if it was a petrified tree or just an odd rock. Arches in this park are, uniquely, on the tops of the mountain rather than closer to the ground like in Arches National Park. The Grosvenor Arch is one of these arches that is located about 11 miles from Kodachrome Basin that is the most well-known arch in this area. A white towering arch that is the perfect place for those epic Instagram photos.
There are 67 different monolithic stone spires identified in Kodachrome Basin State Park. Geologists are still baffled by their formation to this day. Several theories are circulating as to how, when and why these spires were formed. One of these theories is this area used to be covered in water and over time the area wore the stone down and the waters dried up leaving Kodachrome Basin as we know it today.
How to get there:
Here is a map I made for you on how to get to Kodachrome Basin State Park. There are two options for those flying in, one to the Salt Lake City International Airport and the other to the much smaller St George Airport. You have another option of flying into Las Vegas and driving three and a half hours to Kodachrome Basin State Park as well. The drive to this area is much prettier driving from Salt Lake rather than Vegas.
It is an easy drive, but I would not try and drive the route from Salt Lake City if it is snowing. The roads can be very dangerous with multiple slide-offs. If you are coming from Las Vega in the winter, that drive will have clearer roads without snow.
Where to Stay:
In the Summer
The easiest and cheapest place to stay is typically in the Basic Land Management areas, or the Camping Areas near Kodachrome Basin. Most of these camping areas are very safe to stay in but make sure to keep your dogs on a leash as there are bobcats and coyotes in the area. Basic Campgrounds can cost you up to $20.00 per night, and you will most likely need cash to pay for these as they are typically envelope drop places. Park rangers come by around 6-7am and check cars for the campsite tickets in the window. The Park Rangers compare it to their list of envelope drops and how much you paid. If they catch you staying without paying, you can get a large fine.
In the Winter:
I would stay in Cannonville at a hotel. Kodachrome Basin State Park can have unpredictable and harsh weather changes at all hours of the day. The temperatures drop dramatically at night and hypothermia can be a problem unless you are properly equipped. Many of the campsites are also closed in the Kodachrome Basin area without restroom facilities. The hotel that we stayed at was Ruby’s Inn in Cannonville Utah. This hotel is just outside Bryce Canyon National Park and allows dogs both inside the hotel rooms and inside the common areas, but not in the grocery store. If the weather is too harsh, they have loads of activities (both in the winter and in the summer). There is an indoor pool, grocery store, convenience store, shows, restrooms, even a fireplace with cozy chairs and couches that you can crack open a book and feel as if you are staying in a grandiose cabin. Their prices are reasonable, especially in the off-season & there are refrigerators, microwave, and warm showers to chase away the chill in every room.
What to do in Kodachrome Basin:
Kodachrome Basin State Park has loads of activities for you to do and experience. With hiking trails, horseback riding trails, mountain biking trails, ATV trails and with all the unique rock formations, is truly a photographers paradise. Bree (my roommate) and I had so much fun imagining what the rock formations looked like, just as you would imagine shapes in the clouds. There were a few of the rock formations that had us in stitches from laughing.
Angel’s Palace Trail:
The trailhead is across the street from where you park. In the winter there are no restrooms open, nor are there any garbage cans – so be prepared before you go. As you start this trail it is deceivingly marked with arrows that point to the right way. Maybe it was because we were hiking this trail in the winter, I don’t really know, but about 1/4 of the way into the trail the arrows started to point the wrong way, the posts had blown over, or there were two arrows pointing two different ways on the fork, but then no other signpost.
What you want to do is get over the hill onto the other side. There is a cliff with an unbelievable view of the valley below. Coming around the corner you are struck with a breathtaking view of a mountain face that begins in a reddish orange and bleeds into a white multi-point peak that without evening knowing the name of the trail, I named it, “Heaven’s Castle”.
We spent quite a bit of time here, taking pictures, enjoying the view and wishing we could pitch a tent in this spot and forget the world and let nature heal our souls. If you do not have time to do any other trail, this is the trail I would suggest doing. It is 1.6 miles and is fairly easy to hike. It is an exposed trail to the sun, so it is fantastic to hike in winter and will be quite hot in the winter.
This was the last trail that we were able to hike before having to head back to our real life and resume our adulting duties. I think I enjoyed hiking this trail more than actually reaching Shakespeare Arch. The trail had fun little areas that you could explore the riverbed and a beautiful view of a surrounding valley. This trail is not well marked and is a 2.6-mile loop. There is no water here for you or your dogs. Most trails in Kodachrome Basin are exposed to the sun, with very little shade.
When we arrived at the Arch, well…….it was disappointing. I almost said out loud, ‘That’s it?! Well…….that’s………cute’. Not exactly a reward for the 2.6-mile moderate hike in, but the views along the way, the dogs enjoying the sand and playing in it & the comedy of Bree getting lost on the trail and almost getting stuck on the edge of a cliff is what made this hike fun for me.
Kodachrome Basin is definitely a place I will return to, it is off the beaten path. It is unique and has locations that have not been over Instagrammed and feel special when you visit. The colors of this area are striking, and around every corner, you will have both shocking and spectacular surprises.
There is so much to explore in this Park. I would give yourself at least three days to explore all the corners of Kodachrome basin adequately. Bryce Canyon National Park, Dead Horse Point, Moab, Zion National Park are just a short ride away as well, although not as dog friendly. L
Happy Travels, Happy Trails, and see you on the Flip Side
I personally found this interview with Emma from Amsterdam to be compelling as My Heritage is largely Dutch. Emma is a receptionist at ClinkNoord, the Hostel I was staying at. She was a petite woman, tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
After looking at her, I felt as if I compared to my Scottish Ancestors more than the Dutch as I am 5’4″ tall. She had a sweet unassuming smile with an open countenance, but also a professionalism that would make you not want to challenge her in a duel of wits. Although she consented to my interview, she did not want to have any photos taken of her, so I apologize I cannot provide more of a visual for you. Read the full interview below:
The People of the Netherlands:
Me:How do the people in Amsterdam identify themselves? Stoic, Kind, helpful, funny, laid back? Emma: I believe that people here are open-minded, blunt, optimistic, and yet always in a rush. They are typically blonde with blue eyes and are very tall as well. Me: Do you feel that your culture and traditions have changed in any way in the last 10 years? Emma: The Dutch culture is fading away, the smaller villages still wear clogs, but it is very modernized and different than what it was.
Me: How can we as tourists help maintain your culture? Emma: Clean up after yourselves! Please do not throw garbage on the street, the Dutch people are a very clean people, even in the streets. Me: How many days off a year do people get in the Netherlands? Emma:20 days and if you work for a company you can get another 5 days, especially if you are a teacher. Me: If I moved to the Netherlands, how would you suggest I assimilate into the culture? Emma: Connect with people in the bigger cities as most of them speak English. You want to speak Dutch if you are planning to live in the smaller towns. Me: What languages are spoken here? Emma: Dutch, English for the younger people, and German for the older people.
Me: What is the best mode of Transportation here? Emma: (laughs and responds with a grin on her face) You must use a bike or a bus. You can trust Uber, but it takes awhile to drive through cities. Me:What are the major religions here? Emma:Catholic, Protestant, Muslim Me:Are people here devoted to their religion? Emma: Yes Me:What are the biggest Misconceptions people have about the Netherlands? Emma:That the people are arrogant with strong opinions. The thing is, is that people in the Netherlands know their shit and it comes across as arrogant, but it really isn’t true. Me: What are your favorite memories of this city and why? Emma:The beach for sure, and the flower fields, cows coming into my backyard. This was usually at my Grandparents house that the cows would come into the flower fields.
For the Tourist:
Me:What are some Festivals that you think are worthwhile for people to visit? Emma:Tomorrowland, Mystery land, and the Pinkpop Festivalis very very popular with a lot of big artists, Justin Beiber was there last time.
Me: What are the biggest tourist traps that you see here? Emma: The tourists come and get caught up with the drugs here. There is also an area that I would say to avoid called Bijlmer area, it is a homeless area and can be dangerous. Me: Where are the best places to eat Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and get a beer? Emma: For breakfast, I would say the Pancake Bakery which is here in the Netherlands about a 10 min walk from ClinkNoord. Then for lunch, we don’t really eat a lunch, just eat a snack or something. For Dinner, I would say Jordaan or Hannover streets you can find really great places to eat all along those streets. If you want a good beer, you can really go anywhere in Amsterdam but the type of beer is what will make the difference. So for the beers, I would suggest getting: Amstel, Heineken, Grolsch, Hertog Jan, or Bavaria. Me: How do you tip at restaurants? Emma:We don’t really expect a tip, but if the bill is 13.50 you might round up to 15 euro so that you don’t have change. We like the round numbers here, but I would say do not tip more than 5 euros for a meal for one person maximum. Me:I have noticed that they charge you for bottled water here, and tell you that you cannot have tap water. How would you as a local get around this, or is there a way around it? Emma:They tell you they can’t give you tap water, but it is not true. You can ask for tap water and they cannot refuse it, it is a way for the restaurant to make more money. So how I usually get around it, is to say, ‘Can I have tap water, to begin with’, and then you can bring a water bottle for in between meals.
Me: What is one of the best-hidden gems in the Netherlands? Emma:Haarlem, it gives you a really good local experience and it is right next to the beach where they have fairs and different experiences for the tourist and for the locals. Me: Are there places in the Netherlands that you would say are Romantic? Emma: Romantic in Holland? (She smiles a huge smile and stifles a laugh) Dutch people aren’t Romantic….we just light a candle and call it romantic. (Laughs again). Me:Where is the best place for nightlife in the Netherlands? Emma:The Sugar Factory is really nice, also Melkweg or Paradiso are great places for nightlife that aren’t super crazy. Me:Where are the best places to go for outdoor adventures and hiking? Emma: The Flatlands, the forest, they have caves here that are fun to explore and Veluwe. Me:If you were to get hurt doing these fun adventures, what number could you call for an emergency in the Netherlands? Emma:Call 112 for emergencies, or just ask someone to call the paramedics for you because they will know the area better and how to direct them to get to you.
Schooling in the Netherlands:
Me: What are the school systems like here? Emma:At 3 years old the parents decide if they want you to go to school, from 4-6 the kids go to Kindergarten, 6-11 reading and writing school, 11 years old and older is High School until 17-18 where you decide if you want to go to a higher education. We have here MBO, HBO, and the University. The MBO is a practical industry school, HBO is the economy school and you must be smart to go here, and then the University is where the smartest people go. Me: Does it cost anything to go to a lower level school? Emma:Yes, the parents have to pay to send you to school. The government can give you money for this, but you have to pay them back in 12 years. Me:How do they advance grades? Emma:You have to pass a test after each grade. If you do not pass you can take it again, but after you fail the second time then you go to a lower level. Me: What about higher education, how are people able to access that? Emma:it is much harder because you have to have money to do that….lots and lots of money.
The Family Unit in the Netherlands:
Me: How does the family unit work here? Emma:It depends on how close the family is. Young kids go to the city & leave their parents. Some stay and buy a house if they have a good job. Me: Who wears the pants in the family, or who is in charge? Emma: Mom definitely wears the pants in the family. Dad is the money. Dad typically goes to work, eats, sleeps, and repeats day after day after day. Me:Where do the elderly go when they can no longer walk? Who takes care of them? Emma: They go to the old folks home where their family can visit them. They do not move into your home because you have to work and then take care of them all the time and it just creates a bad situation. Me:What is the view on feminism, gay, or minorities here? Are they treated equally or do you notice a societal difference in how they are treated? Emma:It is an unusual thing to separate them, but I see that the younger generations are ok with it. The older generations are still traditionalists and have a hard time, but if you look at forms that people fill out there is options for man, woman, or other. We were actually the first country to approve gay marriage.
Me: Is having children common here? Emma: yes Me: Do people get Maternity leave here? Emma:Yes, you usually get 5-6 months of maternity leave. Me: What age do people here get married? Emma: Typically in their twenties. Me: Are their customs associated with marriage you would like to share? Emma:Not really, they just go to the church, they might have a reception and eat some cake. Then there is a party in the evening with a dinner and a DJ. The party typically lasts all day. Me: Is it common to live together prior to getting married? Emma:Yes Me: What is the classic place that people get married here? Emma:The city hall (laughs), there is no special place, you go, you get married and it’s done. If you go on Monday morning actually you can get married for free at City Hall.
Politics, Stereotypes, Citizen Rights:
Me:What are the common stereotypes that are encountered here? Emma:It is always the immigrant’s fault, and people feel it is always those from Serbia, Turkey, or Morocco. Me: What are the different political parties here? Emma:There are a lot of different parties that represent different things like the animals, religion, elderly, economy, immigrants and religion. Me: Can you vote? Emma:Yes, from the age of 18 you can vote. Me:Are the citizen’s allowed to do demonstrations? Who are the people that typically do this? Emma:There aren’t usually demonstrations here. There was a time where Kindergarteners were demonstrating because of the low salary for the teachers. Me: What are the Police and the Military system like here? Do you have confidence that they would protect its citizens in the event of a terrorist attack? Emma: You don’t want to call the police because they will want to do a ton of paperwork. The citizens take care of the problem themselves and just beat the people up because they don’t trust the police.
Me:How do you say thank you in Dutch? Emma:Dankjewel (sounds like Dunk-ya-vell) Me: Well a big Dankjewel to you Emma for taking the time out of your day to answer these questions I really appreciate it. Emma: No problem, they were interesting questions and some of them made me think a little bit.
Emma was so kind in answering my questions, and I was so grateful that she was willing to do so as it was so difficult to find someone to Interview in Amsterdam. I personally found the Dutch people to be a people motivated by duty. Duty to make their lives better for themselves, their family, and their country. There is a certain pride within them from being Dutch, but I felt that it was not as forthright as other places I have encountered like Texas. They are a quiet, clean, kind people as a generalization and humble enough to not want to be on camera or have photos taken.
I really enjoyed my time and all of the cities I was able to visit while in the Netherlands. Stay tuned for more posts on Edam, Haarlem, Zannse Schans, Den Hague, Delft, Jordaan, Kinderdijk, and Dordrecht. If you would like my full itinerary please email firstname.lastname@example.org Should you ever visit the Netherlands, make sure to stop by and say hello to her at ClinkNoord, she is a receptionist there and like most of the Dutch, is tall, blue-eyed with blonde hair and looks like she stepped out of a magazine.
Have you been to the Netherlands yet? What was your favorite place to visit?
My Great-Grandfather was born in Apeldoorn in what is now the Netherlands, so going to the Netherlands has always been a must. Other members of my family had already been several times, but for my Birthday I decided to go by myself. I arrived in Amsterdam and stayed at ClinkNoord Hostel, which was a perfect location as the Central Train station was about a 10-minute walk from my accommodation. Although I visited many cities in the Netherlands, Giethoorn was always on the top of my list.
Giethroon In The Off Season
Giethoorn is a small town, about a 3-hour train ride North of Amsterdam. I made sure to leave early in the morning and once I arrived off the bus, it looked like everything was closed up for the season. It was November, but I thought surely at least one store would be open……I had traveled so far. As I was here in the off-season, I was unsure if I would be able to take my coveted boat ride through the city with no roads.
I walked into the only open restaurant, ‘t Zwaantje (Little Swan), that morning to get some Hot Cocoa to warm myself up while I tried to come up with a plan. They happened to not only be a restaurant but were also a Boat tour of Giethoorn! You may know Giethroon as the city without roads, and to get from house to house you must travel by boat. In the springtime, it is filled with flowers, budding trees, birds, and is often the location that is sought after for a ‘Make a Wish’ Destination.
You may know Giethroon as the city without roads, and to get from house to house you must travel by boat. In the springtime, it is filled with flowers, budding trees, birds, and is often the location that is sought after for a ‘Make a Wish’ Destination. I climbed onto the boat with 4 other passengers, which I was told was quite unusual as the boats in the spring are overflowing with tourists & the canals of Geithoorn are crammed with boats. I am one who loves the quiet, uncrowded destinations so this was a perfect situation for me. There were blankets in the boat, and they allowed me to bring my Hot cocoa with me which was fantastic. It was unusually sunny and warm for being the end of November, so the young man driving us around allowed me to open the windows and take photos of this fairytale city.
The History Of Geithoorn
The name Geithoorn was derived from Geytenhoren. Geytenhoren is a term assigned to this city after the Peat farming diggers pulled up ancient goat horns from 1170 AD. It is believed that these goat horns are actually ones that may have drowned during that flood. After time the name was shortened and changed to Geithoorn.
Geithoorn was a peat moss farming town. With the Netherlands being so close to water sources wherever you go, peat moss was easy to grow, and very lucrative in the 13th century as peat moss was used as a source of fuel in the wetlands throughout the Netherlands. Peat moss is dug up from the bottom of lakes and is dead plants that accumulate over time, piling on top of each other.
The Peat moss is then created by drying it (typically on rooftops) and then pounding it down into easy to transport pieces. This fuel type was beneficial to those in the 13th century because it did not come with as much smoke as the local wood did, warmed the house nicely, and burned for an extended period of time comparatively. Those individuals tasked with digging out the peat moss were not paid that well, the turf makers or the ones who stamped out the water with their wooden shoes were paid much better and considered well to do in the 15th century.
Canals were dug in between houses to both help grown and drain out the water so that the peat moss could be farmed more efficiently. Houses were built on the dry land between these homes and thus Geithoorn was created. Over time coal took over for peat moss as a source of fuel and Peat Moss farms became a thing of the past.
Want To Live In Geithoorn?
Homes were sold to individuals who enjoyed the solitude that comes with living in a town like this. Now Geithoorn has been made so popular by different travel magazines that an 800 sqft house could cost you between € 195,000 to € 800,000 (per 2017 quotes). The individuals that live there are under strict community codes as well with no blinds being allowed so they use special plants and vines to give some form of privacy. If your thatched roof is in bad shape, well you have to replace it and it could cost you around 10 euro per square foot.
The People in Geithoorn:
Despite it being winter it was still so beautiful and peaceful. I met some lovely people on board who also happened to be in school studying Tourism. The boat operator was a young man who looked like he had turned into a human popsicle. He told me that after you are on the boat all day you go home and just can’t seem to get warm again because the cold seeps into your bones. It was chilly, but I was just glad it wasn’t raining as had been for the last several days.
He also told me that the boats are built so that children who wish to come and see Giethoorn but are unable to get out of the hospital bed or disconnect from their IV’s can be rolled onto the boats and taken on a tour as part of the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’. Being someone who works in the medical field this made my eyes a little misty and was so grateful for the kindness and accommodation that these people offered to children and their families.
Make Your Own Wish In Giethoorn
No matter what time of year you choose to go, Giethoorn is a beautiful place, with beautiful people. I cannot wait to go back and compare Spring to Winter touring of this place, but would not have had my own experience any other way for my first time there. The cottages on their peat moss mounds, the rolling clouds lazily floating by, the people that I met, and the feeling of gratitude for my heritage leaving this place was one of the best Birthday presents I could have asked for…..almost as if I fulfilled my own ‘Make a Wish’ dreams.
One of the most fascinating things for me while traveling, is to be able to interview locals from around the world. I grew up in a very sheltered community, and so hearing the stories about how the rest of the world works and lives has always interested me. One of the interviews I was able to do, was with Alexandra, a gal I met on the train from Prague to Berlin who was from Slovakia studying German.
For the Tourists:
Me: How would the people in Slovakia describe themselves?
Alexandra:I may be biased but on the whole, Slovakia people are very kind.
Me:Do you that your culture and traditions have changed in any way in the last 10 years?
Alexandra:The cities are more progressive, but Slovakia has changed quite a bit. It use to be a communist nation you know, now it is more westernized. It is still quite conservative in the way that they think because many are Christian.
Me: How can we as tourists and visitors help to maintain your culture?
Alexandra: Try the local things, tourists tend to buy things that are made in China. Try and buy things that are made by the people within the country because they are very unique and will support them.
Me:What are some festivals that you think are worthwhile for people to visit? What about the towns are not well known?
Alexandra: Every region has a special thing that they do. The fall season is a lot of wine festivals. There is a lot of folklore and dancing festivals, more of the cultural festivals where the people all come together to celebrate. There are not many people who can do the traditional dances anymore so this is very important to support.
Me:What are the biggest tourist traps in Slovakia?
Alexandra:People only visit Bratislava because it is so close to Vienna. I would say nature is better. You should visit the High Tatras in Slovakia, it used to be covered in Icebergs and now it is the most beautiful lakes and mountains.
Me: What is the best transportation method in Slovakia?
Alexandra: Train travel and bus, but a train is better I think.
Me: What would you pay for a cab from the airport to the city center?
Alexandra: 2.50 to 3.50 Euros around the whole city, it is a standard rate.
Me: Do you trust Uber in Slovakia?
Alexandra: No, but the buses are ok. They tend to come every 7 minutes.
Me:Do people commonly show affection for their significant other in public spaces?
Alexandra: The older generation still does not like it, and will give you a funny look. But the Younger generation does not care.
Me: What is a good beer?
Alexandra: I would say Saris, but it really depends on the region that you are in.
Me:Can you give me some useful words all the tourists or those recently moved there should know?
Thank You = Dakujem (sounds like – jakuwee-em with a soft D)
Please = Prosim (sounds like – Proseeem)
Hello = Ahoy
Me:What do people commonly eat for the different meals?
Alexandra: Breakfast we have some bread with ham and cheese. Lunch we eat our soup first and the second dish is meat with rice or potatoes and some salad. Dinner is typically a quick meal at home with your family.
Me: Can you buy alcohol from a store and how old do you have to be?
Alexandra: You have to be at least 18 years old, and you can buy it from any store.
Me: How do you tip?
Alexandra: There is typically a box for a tip, you can use that to tip as you like. If you do not tip, they do not get mad. At a restaurant, you just tip at the end.
Me: How do you know if the service at a restaurant is good?
Alexandra:If it takes more than 30 minutes to get your meal, it is too much. If they cook it fresh, then it is ok for it to take more than 30 minutes because it is going to taste better.
Me: Do they charge for the table at a restaurant to just sit down?
Alexandra:No do they do not charge to sit at a table.
Me:What is the common language that menus are in?
Alexandra: In Slovakian, but you can just ask for an English Menu. They have both.
Me: What are the numbers you should call if you are in trouble?
Alexandra: 112 for the emergency operator, 155 for an ambulance, 158 for Police, and 150 for a firefighter.
The School in Slovakia:
Me: What are the school systems like here?
Alexandra: It is a Grade system. You have to go from 6 to 16 years old. Primary school is first and covers the first 9 years and is focused on all subjects. Then you can decide to go to gymnasium a more theoretical preparation for college. You can also go to a specialized school like electro-technical. You can be more practical for going straight to work then go to University.
Me:Does it cost anything to go to lower level schooling?
Alexandra: State school does not cost anything, neither does private school.
Me: How do you advance grades?
Alexandra: You must take small tests throughout the year, but at the end of the year you take an exam that is graded from one to five. If you have a four or a five then you can pass to the next grade.
Me: Do you have access to higher education? What is required to enter into higher education?
Alexandra: To be able to go to a university, you have to pass a test to get into it, but this is not at all universities, only some of them. Some universities are paid for how many people study there and then they weed the students out of the university throughout the year.
The Family in Slovakia:
Me: How does the family unit function in Slovakia?
Alexandra:Family, in general, is very important for Slovakia. Dinner is typically eaten together, and then unless you are away on a weekend, lunch is often more important than dinner.
Me: Who is in charge of the family, or who wears the pants of the family?
Alexandra:Dad definitely wears the pants (laughs). The man is considered the head of the household, but the woman is the neck that turns the head (chuckles again).
Me:Where do the elderly go when they can no longer walk? Who takes care of them?
Alexandra:There are houses for old people. Nursing homes are very expensive. If they are healthy and you put them there it is considered bad. If they have limitations then it is ok to put them there. If your Grandma has a Stroke and your parents are working all the time, then she will just be laying in bed all the time.
Me: What is the view on feminism, gay or minorities here? Are they treated equally or do you notice a societal difference in how they are treated?
Alexandra: Gay people are considered ‘sick’ still, but minds are changing all the time & it is still quite discouraged. Black people and Muslims you just don’t see very often, we don’t treat them badly, but you will notice people staring at them because it is so unusual to see them in our country.
Me:Is having children common?
Alexandra: Two children is the average but it can go up to seven. Families here are very traditional Christians. I know one family who continued to have children until they had a son.
Me: What age do people here get married?
Alexandra:Usually after they finish their University studies around 25 or 26.
Me:Do you get Maternity leave? How long is it?
Alexandra:You get 3 years time off, for the first 6 months it is pain in full and then you get half pay for parental support. Your employer is not allowed to fire you either.
Customs and Traditions of Slovakia:
Me: Are there customs associated with marriages you would like to share?
Alexandra: They usually break a plate at the wedding, the pieces of the plate are brought to the couple and kept for good luck. The bride and groom feed each other. There is one dance, you have to dance in a circle. You give the couple money while dancing in the circle and then they give you candy in return. At midnight the bride will change into traditional clothes, covers her head at midnight because at midnight she is a married woman and will go on her honeymoon that night or the next day.
Me:Where is the classic place that people get married here?
Alexandra: A church or a state hall.
Me:What are common stereotypes that are encountered in Slovakia?
Alexandra:They think that Americans are stupid because they see the game shows they are playing on the television. Like one question they asked, “What is the capital of France” and they say, ‘Oh I thought France was the capital of Europe’. Tom Hanks was interviewed by someone from Slovakia, and the interviewer said, “Well your fans in Slovakia love you.” He then responded, “Well that’s wonderful, whatever Slovakia is.” It was really sad and embarrassing that this major actor did not even know that we were an actual country. I wish people would know that we are an actual country with many wonderful things to do and see here.
Me: How are refugee’s viewed here and why?
Alexandra:Slovakia is not accepting many refugees right now. It is difficult because they don’t want to stay in Slovakia, they want to go to Germany or Norway.
Politics in Slovakia:
Me:What are the two major political parties, and conversations going on right now?
Alexandra: There is the left side, and the right side and then the mixed coalition. Then you have the Hungarian party which represents the minorities, and the nationalistic party which is just a strange combination of people.
Me: Can people vote?
Alexandra: Everyone can vote in Slovakia.
Me: Are the citizens allowed to do demonstrations?
Alexandra: Yes, but you have to tell someone in charge that you are doing it first.
Me: Is it dangerous for tourists to be a part of these demonstrations?
Alexandra: Please do not participate.
Me: What is the police and military system like here? Do you have confidence that they would protect its citizens in the event of a terrorist attack?
Alexandra: We don’t have a lot of soldiers, there are quite a lot of soldiers in Kosovo though. Did you know that the car that collects the landmines was actually designed in Slovakia because of all the wars that use to be here? (I did not know that) The police here are just state police, they take care of the neighborhood if it’s too noisy and things like that. There are the special police for more serious things, and then the traffic police as well.
The Intricate Details of Slovakia:
Me:If I were to move to Slovakia, how would you suggest I assimilate into this culture? Are there Facebook/Instagram groups that I could use to integrate myself?
Alexandra: Younger people speak English here very well, look at us, we met each other at a train station. I would say that if you move to Slovakia, you should go to a pub, or sports event, even if you don’t like sports at least you can have good beer.
Me: Tell me about the history you know of Slovakia.
Alexandra:1993 was an independent state before that it was part of Czechoslovakia then it split.
Me: Is there a class system?
Alexandra:Yes, there are the very rich people, you can tell by their houses. There is a large gap between the poor and the rich and not many people who are in-between.
Me:Are people, in general, well educated? Can most people read?
Alexandra:Yes, and yes
Me:What type of calendar system do you use?
Alexandra: A regular calendar
Me: Do you have daylight savings or something similar?
Alexandra: Yes and I hate it.
Religion on Slovakia:
Me:What are the major religions in Slovakia?
Alexandra:Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Orthodox Christian Russian, there are not many Jewish people left in Slovakia.
Me:Are people generally open to talking about religion or do they not want to hear anything about it?
Alexandra: There are a lot of religious people, but every year the country is becoming more Atheist.
The Takeaway Message:
Me:What are the biggest misconceptions that people have about Slovakia?
Alexandra:The Hostel movie put a very bad view onto Slovakia. So people don’t have a very good view of it now, but really it had nothing to do with us.
Me:What do you want people to know about Slovakia?
Alexandra: People don’t know that it exists & so it would be nice for them to know we exist. There is a lot to see and do. The country is not just politicians that represent the country, it is much much more than that.
Thank you, Alexandra, for your time and efforts in answering my questions, for your help on the train. I hope you enjoyed this interview and found it as fascinating as I did.
Have you been to Slovakia? What city did you visit?