28 April 2009

Flourescent Lights and Coffee Shops

You cant miss the Red Light District in Amsterdam. It is one of the biggest tourist attraction and sits proudly in the centre of the city, 10 minutes walk from the Amsterdam Centraal Station. As we traipsed along the district, the sun was starting to set, and the darker it got, the street started to glow... in red. You will find a looooong street lined with sex shops, brothels, weed museum, erotic musuem, cinemas showing live-sex shows, and windows and windows of women dressed close to nothing, of all ages and sizes!
Despite the sleazy nature of this area, the buildings are actually gorgeous. I just cant get enough of the buildings in Amsterdam that are like unique dollhouses. The entire Red Light District surrounds Amsterdam's oldest church, and is spread along Amsterdam's first canal. It's almost impossible to believe that some of the buildings are 300 years old, expensive, and houses doctors, lawyers and families who have, for centuries, co-existed with the world of prostitutes and drug addicts.

On our 1st night in Amsterdam, we didnt see much action, i.e. we hardly saw any women displays on the main street. So we thought maybe the prostitution scene had died down. Only when we took another tour on our last night did we find the secret passageway. What Boon2 had initially brushed off as an aisle to toilets is actually an alley leading to a sensational window shopping experience. There were rows after rows of glass-fronted cubicles so small it fits one single bed with just enough room for a basin. In these tiny rooms, the prostitutes lounged, primped, danced and gestured after customers. However intriguing the experience is, it's not an easy walk for a woman to see other women patronizing themselves. Or are we even in a position to judge?

It is said that very rarely will you find an Amsterdam woman working as a prostitute in the Red Light District. Most of them come from abroad and even a good percentage of them are illegal immigrants.

Caryn told me that we're not allowed to take pictures in the Red Light District, but i couldnt resist. We resorted to so many silly behaviors to take a few shots. When we saw this empty room, our thoughts instantly clicked, Boon went "bah quick..!" and i fumbled for the camera, and prayed we were fast enough. JUST when i attempted another shot in case the first one didnt turn out right, a monstrous voice towered over us. "YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TAKE PICTURES OF THE BROTHEL! YOU 'blablabalbala' ". At this point, i screamed 'sorry sorry' and we took off as fast as our feet can take us gracefully without sprinting. I was soooo afraid some hulk hogan lookalike would come and smash our camera. But there were no one around us.
So ya, they have cameras everywhere.. if you try something funny like taking pictures of their girls, or even their empty rooms, they will press a button and send their message across hidden speakers SO LOUD that people around you will stare like you're some kind of sick pervert.

The girls here are mostly dressed in bikinis, some uniforms and killer heels. We even spotted some who are obviously "he-she". Boon2 overheard a bargaining conversation; 50euro for a session. Men who were successful in their bargains, walked in, and the curtains are drawn.

I, once saw on America's or Australian's next top model a "Go-See" in the Red Light District. And indeed, there is Red Light Fashion in this district. Sex on ground floor, fashion on 1st floor. Amazing. It is one of the council's clean-up program to eradicate brothels or drug stores that are suspected to be fronts for money laundering. Licenses are revoked if they are suspected to have criminal ties, and some of the brothel-owners have been bought out by the city council and their cubicles are in turn handed over to fashion designers. Some of their clothes on display will make you drool.

So apart from prostitution, drugs are also legal. Boon2 told me that in Amsterdam, there is a difference between "cafes" and "coffeeshops". Cafe is where you sit down to have a real cuppa coffee or tea. Coffeeshop is a place where marijuana is sold over the counter and smoked openly. They even have a menu to choose your "weed" and "hash".

Late at night, on the streets, you will see people who are spaced-out, in their own psychedelic world which can in fact be quite dangerous.

Amsterdam is really a sin-city. You will not find or come across so many "Sex" and "Cannabis" signs anywhere else in the world.


Steven Goh on May 1, 2009 at 4:22 AM said...

Very Interesting Article!! Now I know what Cannabis looked like!!

Anonymous said...

very informative. lovely pics. i like how the river separates the buildings


Jeff on June 27, 2009 at 5:51 AM said...

Wow... now i know so much more about Amst.

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