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Things to do in Amsterdam, The Pig Newsletter
issue#23 Februari 2009

Pig Amsterdam News

Win 3 free nights at our new Flying Pig!

The   Uptown Hostel gets upgradedYou lucky guys have the chance to win three free nights at the new Flying Pig hostel! Getting wasted is included too! All you have to do is be creative and come up with a fresh name for the newly renovated Flying Pig (Uptown)!

Those of you who've stayed at the Flying Pig Uptown know the hostel is located in a beautiful residential area, very close to Leidseplein. Here you can find tonnes of clubs, bars and restaurants nearby. The area is also known as the museum and fashion district, making it the cultural heart of the city centre where all the cool locals hang out.

Right now the hostel is being refurbished and expanded. The atmosphere will remain the same, with a laidback and cozy feel - making it the perfect setting for people to meet, smoke and drink together.

The new bar will be THE hang out spot for our guests, with an indoor smoking area (of course), lots of great music and our lovely staff on hand to help out with absolutely anything.

A new hostel deserves a new name and we want you guys to pick it! If we use your suggestion we'll invite you to stay at the new hostel for three nights - with all drinks included!

Before you post you answers, in keep in mind that you're replacing the word ‘Uptown’ (in Flying Pig Uptown). Also the name needs to go with Flying Pig Downtown.

Good Luck!

Oh and if you do need some inspiration…

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Amsterdam Fact File:

What you really need to know on your trip to the City of Sin!

coffeeshops in AmsterdamAmsterdam is a city famous the world over for its liberal attitude towards sex, drugs and good old rock and roll. However due to recent changes in the law there’s been some confusion over what’s still cool and what’s now old school when it comes to the law. Now we don’t want any of you guys getting arrested or coming home in floods of socially shocked tears, so we put together this no holds barred guide to Dutch culture as is stands in February 2009!

So what can you legally buy Johnny?
Well the individual can purchase up to five grams of Marijuana from a coffee shop. Technically this is illegal but to my knowledge, the Dutch authorities don’t enforce this law.

Smoking inside coffee shops, bars and nightclubs is definitely illegal unless a separate smoking area, away from the staff at the venue, is designated. A lot of places ignore this rule and the bouncers don't seem to care. Some nightclubs and coffee shops also offer glass cages, specifically for smokers. If you imagine giant crystal balls full of happy smoke then you’re half way there!

So what difference does it make to the authorities if you’re smoking a pure weed joint or a mixed tobacco concoction, in relation to the new smoking ban?

Listen what the police is thinking about it
Well... we know how to handle those tobacco smoking criminals... Click the image

Well a pure weed joint is exempt from the smoking ban and this is where the nonsense starts. The Dutch police need a warrant to legally open your joint - if they suspect you're smoking either pure tobacco or a mix.

When it comes to harder drugs they supposedly just as illegal as they are in countries like the UK, but like any big city you find dealers all over the place. You should know however that the dealers who hang around the red light district selling coke and pills are pushing nothing more than corn flour at €40 a gram.

And Mushrooms?
Mushrooms were set to be banned in December 2008, but shops carried on selling them regardless, so the mayor agreed to offer a period of extended notice. As far as I know that periods is still in effect.

So what about the sex industry? Who’s involved and what’s the current situation?
To be blunt it’s mostly eastern European girls who you see in the windows – but this too is gradually being reined in by the authorities. More and more windows are becoming empty each month, BUT, the girls are fully legal and are supposedly bound to a regulatory body that keeps the pimps at bay.

So if you go for it and buy an hour or two, you won’t end up in jail?
No! But the difficulty with this and the whole joint issue is that the fundamentals of these subjects are forever being changed. It’s getting to the point where no one seems to know the score so at the end of the day, just enjoy yourself but be careful.

A Resident’s Perspective
Robienis a Dutch woman through and through, and as a permanent resident of Amsterdam we thought she’d know better that anyone what the smoking ban means and what parts of the internationally scandalous Dutch tourism trade are still on the menu - for the bright eyed, bushy tailed backpacker.

What are the most noticeable changes in Amsterdam since the introduction of the smoking ban?
The atmosphere hasn't changed really, but here are some things I notice, for me personally.

Loads of people are smoking outside the pubs and bars, especially the small ones that don't have an indoor smoking area. The streets are therefore very full and cosy, but because of this the bars are empty sometimes.

Smoking areas inside pubs and clubs are packed, so again the no smoking sections are empty - so for my non-smoker friends it's sometimes very boring.

A lot of bars are much fresher now - it used to be hard to breath in some and now your clothes don't smell.

People say that different kinds of people (the non-smokers) who used to stay at home because of the smoke, now go out more. I haven't noticed anything like that.

To your knowledge what would happen if the police caught you smoking a pure cannabis joint in the street?
It's sort of tolerated, but there are some streets like the Warmoesstraat where it's not allowed. There are signs to tell you this though – so you’re generally looked after. I think if you really check the law, it's only allowed inside the coffee shops and at home but people smoke everywhere, especially the parks and big open spaces.

The same question but in a coffee shop . . .
Most coffee shops have made smoking areas inside but since you can't check if people are really smoking the joints without tobacco, a lot of these places still let people smoke whatever inside. If these places are caught allowing regular cigarettes they get a standard fine the first time around – that’s OK. If they get caught again the fine is HUGE!

How easy is it to buy cannabis now?
As easy as it always was. Nothing’s really changed as far as that goes.

Is the Dutch government trying to reduce the size of the sex industry or is it still as much a part of the city’s international image as it ever was?
I’d say it’s still pretty much the same, but I actually agree with what they did – shutting down the illegal sites where girls were forced to work against their will.

The thing is now – we have to work hard to let people know that we’re still liberal! People think that a tobacco ban and the end of illegal – exploiting brothels, means an end to the charm of Amsterdam. It doesn’t! Everything is still there but if anything it’s safer and more organised.

As for the red light windows that have closed – well now they use them as cheap studios for artists and fashion designers. It’s great!

How much truth is there in the stories of thieves who prey on tourists who try joints for the first time?
I’ve never heard of it but then I'm not a tourist! The thing is that if you’re with your mates and you don’t get too out of control, you’re going to be fine.

What would you say is the prevailing Dutch view on sex and drugs, as tourism attractions?
The same as always – it’s very liberal, but it's not as spontaneous as it used to be - in my own personal opinion. The government seems to want to focus on the other things the city has to offer Europe but this won't work. Amsterdam is what it is. A liberal and inhibition free city without judgement. It always has been and always will be. That’s the appeal and that’s why I love it!

What Does the BBC Say?
One million citizens of British-land head to Amsterdam every year and more often than not, the motivation is the judgement free bohemia that we’ve come across so far.

The good old BBC does however confirm that the government in Holland are trying to clean up the city’s image, with plans to close half of the Red Light District and tough new regulations for coffee shops close to schools - that openly sell drugs.

The sources at City Hall are reportedly still all for the liberal spirit but say they can’t ignore the gangs that sell drugs wholesale or the groups that illegally smuggle girls into the Red Light District.

So they’re targeting the criminality involved and the potentially dodgy sources who sell cannabis wholesale to the coffee shops. There are now concerns you see - that these suppliers are controlled by organised crime cartels.

But what impact does all this have on the hundreds of thousands of tourists who flock to Amsterdam every year to grab a slice of liberal pie? Well in short – not much! The reputation for good times is still there, as are the tools for having said jolly.

And as for the sex industry? Well the Prostitutes Union, under the watchful eye of Metje Blaak voice some legitimate concerns about the ill effects of closing the windows. Metje argues this would force the girls underground where they’d be more at risk of being exploited by the pimps who for the time being, are kept away by the policy of openness.

In Summary
Well we’ve talked to the traveller, the resident and the BBC, and the one thing they all confirm is that change is potentially afoot in Amsterdam, BUT, the city of sin is still as lascivious, audacious and deliciously wicked as ever!

The smoking ban makes it harder to smoke your usual ciggies but let’s face it – who really goes to Amsterdam to smoke regular fags anyway? The joints are still on the menu, as are the girls – in their completely legal and now pimp free, windows!

My advice, if it’s your cup of tea then give the authorities the proverbial finger and head out there now while you still can. Or in the superior syntax of travel superstar Hunter S. Thompson: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

- Rob Savage

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Financial Crisis and Travel....

Nah, nothing to get worry about when you're staying at the pig!

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Hitch Hike to Amsterdam for Charity




Lindas Column


LindaA little Pig’s adventures …

Dark grey ceilings with hospital white walls and blinding yellow light appear before me as the doors slide open. A thick, smelling, nicotine blanket covers me when I enter the room currently inhabited by several Business men and some scruffy looking fruitcakes. The only tiny window in the area catches my eye and I notice the blackness on the other side. My bag gains several kilos while I stumble around to find a suitable seat for the coming 10 hours. After deciding none of them fit the conditions, I just pick one and light a cigarette.

Taipei airport’s smoking room, unknown hour (or day for that matter) in time and in biological rhythm. As my brain is struggling to maintain sending messages to my body parts, I ask myself; what am I doing here? What was that urgent reason to leave crazy, lovely, safe, familiar Amsterdam? And isn’t it funny how 30 hours travel time always seems a peace of cake when the smiling travel agent is taking half your savings of your bank account? Repositioning for the infinites time in the airport seat while smoking what feels like the twentieth cigarette my mind slowly wonders off…What makes us willingly fall into that backpacker adrenalin trap over and over again?

It’s August 2004 and I’ve just left my going away party at the Flying Pig Palace. After having worked there for over 4 years, with one and a half years of travelling in between, I can find my way home blind(folded). Once again a brilliant night. Bit emotional at the end because I won’t see my friends for a long time, but brilliant all the same. I’ve got my present with everyone’s goodbyes written in it carefully tucked away under my jacket and am already planning tomorrow morning. Australia here I come (again)! I’m going to complete my thesis for university, become a wanted writer and see the world…

And here I am. Midnight in Sydney Australia writing a column for the Flying Pig newspaper. I’ve been here for 1 month now and I have found the answer to my Taipei smoking room wonderings. As I was vegetating waiting for my next plane I met this Australian chick who had to wait for the same flight. After having gone through both our life stories, we exchanged numbers, got on the plane and slept! I arrived in Sydney, got myself a hostel with a pick up (which I had to bargain for!), had a good sleep, met new people, went to the pub, bought the Sydney morning Herald and got myself an apartment. It’s part of a deli store owned by a Chinese family. I have a tiny room, the bathroom only officially holds that reference, there’s no TV and the two dogs they have are huge German Sheppards.

LindaBut you know what, it doesn’t *** matter! I am having a great time, meeting all kinds of people. From the alcoholic Irish one-night-stand, the Australian horse race cameraman to the non English speaking Thai roommate. I get up in the morning, step out into the sun and than decide what today will be like. I get to watch footy in a pub with people that are actually interested in the game, can order a big breakfast in any café or restaurant, play trivia in the pub with my Australian friends who expect me to know the European answers, teach the dogs Dutch, go for walks around town, ride the ferry on a pensioner ticket, witness the greatest sunsets, be an illegitimate student in UTS libraries, go to bush parties or lying on the beach, get to do interviews with indigenous people and see interesting exhibitions. True I’ve still got to work on my thesis and I’ve not been asked to write anything else than this column. But afterwards I will be free once again to travel for 30 hours or more and to be honest, I can’t wait…!