The alarm went off at 4:55am and I sleepily reached out and turned it off. Being more of a night owl rather than a morning lark, I didn’t like waking up at such an early hour. But I had no choice, I had a flight to catch. Now that I would be travelling alone, I had lost all my enthusiasm for visiting Amsterdam. But everything was booked and paid for already. Like what KKH said, it made no sense not to go and try to enjoy myself.
The taxi arrived outside the hotel right on the dot at 5:30am. The hotel was dark and quiet with only a few lights switched on. I walked down the stairs trying to be as quiet as possible so that I would not wake the rest of the guests. Nobody was awake, not even the hotel staff.
I opened the door and was greeted by the cold morning air. After putting my luggage into the taxi, I returned back to the hotel and left my room keys on the counter. There was nobody around to make sure that I returned the keys. It really was an honor system and I felt oddly touched that the owner trusted me with such responsibility. I left the hotel and returned to the taxi after making sure that the front door and gates were locked.
Then I was on my way to the airport. The streets were empty of cars and I suddenly realized that I would arrived at the airport much earlier than expected. I forgot that there would be little traffic on the streets at this hour and had based my estimation of the travelling time on a normal day traffic. I silently cursed my stupidity. I could have slept for at least another 30 mins or even more.
I arrived at the airport so early that the KLM counter was not even open yet. So I found a seat in a corner and read my book until a queue had started to form in front of the counter. While I was waiting in the queue, one of the airport staff came by and asked me some questions.
“Where is your final destination?” he asked.
“Singapore,” I replied.
“Are you travelling alone?”
“Do you know anybody in Ecuador?”
He asked for my passport and gave me a suspicious look. I tried to look as harmless as possible. Then he returned my passport. I saw him conversed with another female staff and in the end they decided to pull me out from the queue to search my luggage. I had to unlock my luggage and let them looked through my stuff. The guy kept asking me questions but he spoke so softly that I had trouble hearing him. Finally they were satisfied that I was what I looked, just a harmless lonely traveler. They were nice enough to return me to my spot in the queue and thanked me for cooperating.
As I waited in the queue, they pulled another random person out for a luggage check. Although I was a bit comforted that I’m not the only one, I nonetheless felt that I seemed to be having more trouble with the customs on this trip. First Amsterdam and now in Quito. Maybe I had a suspicious face or something. When I told KKH about it, she thought that it sounded like I was not suitable to travel this year. Maybe I should shower with some flower water when I got home.
Thankfully the rest of the trip went without incident. I made it through the immigration and found myself in an area surrounded by shops. For a moment I was lost and did not know how to get to the departure lounge. I walked around the area and found the entrance to the departure lounge hidden in a corner. “Pretty clever design to make everybody walked through the shopping area to get to the departure lounge,” I thought. Since I was early, I walked around and looked at the shops. The prices were not cheap and I needed to keep some money for my stay in Amsterdam.
Finally I walked into a chocolate shop selling premium chocolate made from cacao beans grown in Ecuador. The chocolates were categorized into cacao beans grown from different regions. Depending on the region, the chocolate might have a tinge of nutty or flowery or fruity flavor. I bought a pack which cost around USD 12. It was more expensive than a bar because the chocolates were individually wrapped but it made it easier to distribute them to my colleagues. I also used this opportunity to get rid of all my coins, hee.
The flight went smoothly although I did not managed to get much sleep. We stopped in Bonaire again before continuing the journey to Amsterdam. I watched 3 movies on the flight – RED, The Fugitive and Unstoppable. RED was really fun to watch, The Fugitive was ok but the biggest surprise was Unstoppable. The synopsis for Unstoppable sounded pretty boring and I initially did not have high hopes for it. However it managed to keep me on the edge of my seat all the way until the end. I also tried watching Rango and Unknown but I stopped after a while because I felt really bored while watching them. I guess they were just not my kind of movies.
Landing in Amsterdam was a little bumpy and the passenger next to me clutched at the armrest. At least that’s what she thought. Instead, she clutched my arm which was next to the armrest. I was used to it. This wasn’t the first time I was treated like a furniture. Mao Mao used to rest her arm on my leg, treating it like an armrest. She would also grab my arm in the trains as if I was a support pole. Anyway, the passenger let go after the plane safely landed.
This time the immigration officer was nicer and wasn’t so stern. He still asked me a lot of answers and I had to show him the details of my hotel in Amsterdam.
“Hotel Ajax,” he read from the paper I passed to him. “Why did you choose this hotel?”
“Because it was cheap,” I replied.
He turned to his colleague and said something that sounded like “Blah blah blah blah cheap.” Both of them laughed and I wondered what the joke was all about. Then he turned back to me and asked, “Do you know what Ajax mean?”
“No,” I shook my head.
“It’s the name of the football team here,” he replied.
I was mortified. Did I just accidentally insulted the Amsterdam football team? I hoped he wasn’t offended. The immigration officer seemed to think that the whole thing was amusing and cheerfully waved me through.
So there I was. In Amsterdam. Alone.