Amsterdam, Brussels and travelling with millennial sister

On the 3rd day of the trip, I told my millennial sister that I am going to write a post titled What is it to travel with a millennial?

She jumped furiously in disagreement,
“I am just who I am.”

Great! Then I should change the title to - What is to travel with a millennial who firmly believes in ‘I am just who I am’

We all know squabbles, quarrels, fights between/among siblings are part and parcel of lives. Thus, we decided to take this up as a challenge during our trip to Amsterdam and Brussels. Other than planning an itinerary which didn’t really happen, as millennials strongly believe in unexpected discoveries than a concrete plan, we decided to come up with a list of pet peeves. The list below was created by me the day before the trip when we went for last-minute shopping.

 Even though this list was not too general. It was indeed, the truth. I told her to write a list based on my unreasonable attitude and eccentric behavior if any. I have yet to get any written list from her. Procrastination. Millennial. You know what I mean right?

Amsterdam City
After travelling for 14 hours of which 12.5-hour-journey from Singapore to London, was spent trying to ‘educate’ a 5-year-old child seated behind with his other younger siblings. He was kicking my seat throughout the journey.

Soft approach- turning around and flashing a mirthless smile, didn’t work.
Hard approach- turning around, giving a death stare and warning that 5-year-old brat to stop kicking, didn’t work.
The last strategy- which was to have a meet-the-parent session with his parents who were seated 2 rows behind him could have been possible but British Airways landed on time at the Heathrow Airport runway.

One biggest plus points of travelling with a millennial, particularly with a miser sister was that she knew all ways to save money. She had already booked a shuttle service to the hotel. If it was planned by me, I would have spent money to take the taxi, which would have cost a fortune. When you reach 30, comfort and convenience are something that you always desire to have.

What I created for myself

Millennial Planning

On the other hand, travelling with an adventure-seeking millennial, made me discover the love for excelsheet I have. Maybe it is an occupational hazard that I have to see everything in black and white and that too in table format. Me: So where are we going first?
She: I have listed on the index card.
Me: What is this? I don’t understand.
She: Which one u don’t understand?
Me: Why can’t you write in table form?

EyeFilm Museum

This was the first place we visited and probably the best museum I have been to. For people who love films and film-making, this is heaven on earth. A free ferry ride from the Amsterdam Central Station to the Eyefilm museum was available. EYE acts as a national archive of film, representing the entire history of cinema. What’s more, in special digital booths, one can quietly sit down and pick out classic movies to watch. The dedicated museum spaces host temporary exhibitions of film memorabilia, art and other unique items.

My favourite part of the museum was the green mat booth where one could be featured in a one-minute time travel film. We stood on the green mat, did some simple actions by following the film scenes on a screen in front of us and the projector captured our movements and our film was ready with template-made graphics. It was truly an exhilarating experience.  

Not just an architecturally exciting film spot, there were many cafes at the beautiful waterside location. One such cafe was the butcher. where patrons ate, played billiards, table tennis, and there was a foosball table as well.

After a visual treat at the eyefilm museum and a food feast at the butcher, a new-found respect for my millennial sister was developed instantly who chose to visit this ravishingly stunning place!

Scavenger Hunt

Anyone who has travelled with siblings especially with sisters, have to fight these mandatory battles: bed-choosing fights, showering-schedule fights a.k.a who gets to sleep in late or get up early to be the first one to shower. Millennial sister already warned me that one thing that might infuriate her would be me nagging at her to get up early. Hence, I took a very conscious effort not to nag at her. Therefore, a typical day for us started at 11am. But the most unreasonably annoying demand to hear after realising that we, or rather she, have/has wasted half a day getting ready- “Hey akka, can you drink your latte faster? We are very late.” 

An ardent fan of Amazing Race Series, millennial sister signed up for a scavenger hunt. Although, we had no cameramen running with us or Phil Keoghan waiting for us at each pitstop, we imagined ourselves to be part of the race by giving hi-5s and cheering whenever we made it to a pitstop with the help of the city map. At times, I played the background music of Amazing Race, in my mind to give that extra boost and thrill that every episode had.

The tour took us through the old town. Along the way we stopped at various points, we received information on the sights and answered a question. By correctly answering the questions we collected letters. Most of the info boards were in Dutch or French. Thus, it was quite a challenge. In addition, muscle cramps were killing every body cell of mine and I felt exhausted by the time we finished finding 4 out of 6 spots. We worked along pretty well without killing each other.

CoffeeShop was not actually an coffee shop: During this amazing race of ours, I urgently had to use the toilet. While walking along the streets, I spotted a board that read ‘Coffeeshop’. We entered. I saw 2 people at the corner of the shop, looking very dazed. The owner came out, looked at me and frowned.

Me: Sir, May I use the toilet?
He: *scanned me from head to bottom*
He: *with a thick accent* You 'ave to buy drugs first zen you can use ze toilet.

My urgent need to use the toilet came to a screeching halt after that shocking reply and finally understood that coffeshop in Amsterdam meant drug store.
Public Toilet fee ranges from 50 euro cent-70 euro cent.
As a frequent toilet-visitor, I contributed to that 31% of the
total expenditure.
‘Relief’ Amsterdam Mayor and Marathon-Walking

Every morning( almost noon time), during breakfast, millennial sister takes out the city map and meticulously draws an imaginary line with her forefinger. No matter how much she had memorized the streets, lakes and rivers of the city, we always ended up spending more time navigating the city than actually spending time at the intended destination. This daily morning Map-viewing ritual by her could have won her a seat to be the Mayor of the city.

“According to our American Millennials study, 69 percent of millennials consider themselves to be adventurous. Whether it is in their own backyards or across the pond, millennials are constantly looking for more opportunities to diversify their lives and experience new cultures.”

Usually people gain weight during a trip. I lost weight and became shorter because 2-inches of my skin were peeled and grated off from my feet after walking almost 2 marathons in a day. Diversifying her life happened at the expense of dissecting my feet. And experiencing new culture or places meant walking to mostly the Athipathi** areas.
(Athipathi** village is a place in southern India, wiped away from the face of the official gazette maps)

There was once, in Bruge Central, we spent hours walking to a hidden gem. When we reached the place, all we saw, was an abandoned place with potted plants and flowers.

Mind voice: this one, I go hdb corridor. I can see more potted plants.

Nonetheless, Brugge is a great place to walk around and explore. We could have enjoyed more if the weather were more comforting and if I wasn’t suffering from lightheartedness and giddiness.

 Red-Light District and Jalapulajengz**

Jalapulajenz** is a term that I have coined to refer to any matters that one can’t openly discuss in a conservative Indian family setup. It can be used as a verb, noun or adjective.

My jalapulajengz dreams came true. We got a local guide who brought us to the famous red-light district area. He explained the history behind the sex industry- how the sailors several hundred years ago, who came here were looking for love and the women wanted money for survival. Thus, this whole industry blossomed. Since sex work has been legalized, the workers do get protection. For instance, there is a panic button in their small-store-sized room which is connected to the police station nearby. If the man gets aggressive or poses any danger, the police would be here to take him out.

In fact, it was surprising to see that it was an extremely safe tourist attraction. The best part of this evening tour was the visit to the museum of prostitution. As much as it all looked jalapulajengz and glamorous outside, one thing that all these workers hold on to or desire to have, was self-dignity. In the museum, there was a huge red window screen where you can stand and see for yourself how it feels to be judged. 

Immense respect for these sex workers. Interestingly, these women had to pay taxes and rent for the rooms at which they work. There was even a childcare centre in the middle of the area. Little did we know, we would be spending almost 4 hours at this  unconventional place filled with rich history.

Giethoorn Village

“While baby boomers tend to seek the safety and convenience of an overcrowded touristy restaurant near a major attraction, Millennials are taking a step outside their comfort zone to experience that sought after authentic meal.” - Sarah Clark about Millennials (Huffingtonpost)

Millennial Sister: You know this aimless walking and exploring has led to….
Me: more hatred for each other.

Her hysterical laughter lasted for a good 30 seconds upon hearing my reply. It was about 2.5 hour journey from Amsterdam Central. Cycling, walking or self-operating boat rides were some options to view the enchantingly beautiful Giethoorn Village. 

I opted for the motor boat which I thought would be relatively easy compared to the canoeing option by millennial sister. A mini world war 3 broke out and was brought under control over lunch.

Me: I have done kayaking before la. It can be tiring to use the paddle all the way you know.
Millennial: canoeing more fun.
Me: ok then, you will do it all the way. I take photos only.
Millennial: this is unfair.
Me: that’s why I say motorboat is easy.

We got on the motorboat with purple cushioned seats. The engine started. I placed my hands on the steering wheel of the motorboat. As an in-house chauffeur for almost 10 years, I thought it would be similar to that of driving cars on roads. Oh holikaMoli!

Self-esteem was crushed. Self-confidence ruined. Ego burst. It was nothing like car-driving. The motorboat hit the sides of the canal several times and my instability was an embarrassment. And my bladder was going to explode again because of the chill wind that penetrated my lower body . But we were only in the first phase of the journey. There were 5 phases in total. Millennial sister took over the task of ‘driving’ and she was more steady than I ever imagined.

We reached a point where we had to take a right turn as instructed on the map given. However, that path led to a vast space and we didn’t see any other boats. Millennial Sister and I quarreling if we should continue or go back- It was like one of those scenes from life of Pi when the boy was alone with a fearsome Bengal tiger in the Pacific Ocean.

Me: I don’t think this is the right route.
Millennial: look at the map they gave.
Me: right turn but look, no one is here what. I think not this one.

The PSI level for my bladder was going several notches higher.

Me: I really need to go toilet.
Millennial: we stop at the side. You want to go?
Me: go where? Nvr mind, we go back. I don’t think this is the route.
Millennial: let’s just go further and see.
Me: no we better go back. U-turn now.

After returning the boat, the Bengal Tiger  millennial sister gave a 2-hour lecture on my insecurities, how fearful I am, of uncertainties and how these weaknesses were going to affect my life, future, sleeping pattern, handphone bill, shoe size, digestive system and quoted other real-life incidents that happened 2 decades ago.

I felt more relieved that I came back to shore to use the toilet.

Moral Compass Mohana

The helping tendency of millennial sister has surprised and shocked me on several occasions. Right from helping a Japanese tourist to carry her heavy luggage down the staircase at the train station, to helping a bunch of old Dutch ladies to take a group photo (and one of the ladies was overjoyed with the amazingly shot picture and gave compliments), paying back the right amount when the waiter had missed out to add in the cost of the Tiramisu we ate, giving directions to the confused-looking old-couple who wanted to go to the Dam Square.

However, being vigilant was one thing that I didn't dare compromise. On the way back from Brussels to Amsterdam, we got down at Den Haag Station to take another train. We were looking at the train service info board and someone tapped sister’s arms. We turned back. A middle-aged man with grey stubble stretched his arms, opened his closed right fist to show us a few coins he had, on his palms.

He: I need another 2 bucks to shave.
Me: *flashed an awkward smile* no. Thanks.

And I stepped a few inches forward to move away from the spot. We had been on a crime-free trip so far and I just wished it would be that way till we reach Singapore. Not that he looked suspicious but I didn’t want to take the risk of opening my purse at that moment.

But this Moral Compass Mohana aka millennial sister, instead of just moving away from him, was trying to strike conversation with him. I signalled her not to take out her purse and to move in to the crowd. He might have thought we were more pichakaran (beggar) than him (true to large extent, after this trip) and he left the place.

Me to millennial sister: nee eppo yen avarkita Coffee with DD programe pannikitu irunthey?


Nevertheless, I enjoyed every bit of the trip and learnt that sisters could be on the same frequency most of the times despite our likes and dislikes.

(Ps: A secret to be revealed. I let millennial sister score a few goals on purpose when we were playing table foosball at the butcher cafe. Because blood is thicker than Belgian Chocolate milkshake.) 


  1. Haha..That's an entertaining post again. Very informative to know on some of the good spots to visit (the film museum looks very interesting). Amusing to read the fun you had with your millenial sister too and beautiful to capture the essence with an appropriate picture :) Keep going, travel more and blog more!


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