The global COVID-19 pandemic has heightened our awareness that time is subjective. Does it feel like 2020 went on forever? Did lockdown drag, and can you even remember how you spent your time when you weren’t living under COVID-19 restrictions? You are not alone. For many, 2020 has been the year in which the constancy of time was lost to the upheaval of coronavirus.
Clocks were invented to help us track the passage of time - and yet in some moments when staring at a clock, we are made aware of just how long a second can feel. For some people who enjoy working from home, the days have whizzed by. For others desperate to travel, time has slowed to a crawl.
And just like that, it’s almost 2021. The start of not only a new year but the beginning of a new decade. I guess many people, like myself, are glad to put 2020 behind us and move forward with a fresh start. It was an incredibly difficult year filled with new changes and uncertainty. I have been looking forward to a new beginning for some time now. We are humans, and we require some semblance of hope to keep us pushing forward. Rather than focus on the negative, I thought it would be fun to do something uplifting as I set a course for a new decade. Many including myself have taken this time off as an opportunity to do something they may not have thought to do: take up a new hobby.
It was a comfortable 30-minute train ride from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Rotterdam. I must be honest, I didn’t know what to expect as my train came to a stop. I thought perhaps just a smaller version of Amsterdam awaited me.
But from the moment I stepped off the platform, I realised I was wrong. It turned out Rotterdam is one of the most modern cities I have been to. And it’s a side to the Netherlands and in fact Europe as a whole I hadn’t expected. I knew very little about the second-largest city in the Netherlands before I decided to go to Rotterdam. What I discovered was a modern, vibrant city full of architecture, art and culture.
During my visit, the weather was very beautiful, so I spent most of my time outdoors just walking, enjoying the city and the incredible architecture around the city. The majority of Rotterdam was destroyed during World War II which is why Rotterdam is so different to Amsterdam. The city has been rebuilt and is now filled with modern, sleek, innovative, creative and unusual buildings. My favourite thing about many of the buildings was the way a slick skyscraper would stand next to a quaint little house, emphasising the uniqueness of them both.
Right next door to Amsterdam is Haarlem – yet another little lovely, quaint city that charmed me during my trip to The Netherlands in December last year. While I do love Amsterdam, I really love exploring other Dutch towns. I love such charming, medieval city with ancient buildings and cobbled stone streets and therefore this Haarlem, a typical “Dutch” town, is also one of my favourite.
Easily accessible (only 20 minutes from Amsterdam) yet a world away from the major city nearby. This is totally my kind of destination. It reminded me a lot of Amsterdam, but on a quieter note. The pace was a little slower, though filled with life, the presence of tourism less paramount, yet the locals were supremely welcoming. I enjoyed every minute and I often hear Haarlem described as a little city. As it is one of the most densely inhabited metropolitan areas in Europe, this reference is more an interpretation of its village-feel than its populace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought travel and tourism to a standstill, and I'm not sure when it will restart. I’m sure everyone else is feeling the same way as the world is practically melting in front of us. However, that should not stop me from completing my travel blog posts. I went for a two-week long trip to The Netherlands in December last year and I didn’t know that would be my last trip for a long time. I can hardly believe it has taken me this long to share this, and I have to say, long overdue. But I think it’s always better late than never at all. So I will be rolling out some blogs this month to conclude the few remaining highlights of my Netherlands trip, with this post on Utrecht.
Travelling throughout the Netherlands on a whirlwind week of adventures in December 2019, I finally arrived in Utrecht. I made my way by train to Utrecht (the journey takes only 25 minutes by train from Amsterdam), a city that has come to be known by many as “Amsterdam’s cool little sister”. And indeed, I think it's one of my favourite cities in the Netherlands.
Charming is perhaps the best word to describe Utrecht. Utrecht is home to enchanting canals, medieval streets and fascinating monuments. This is a city that thrives on mixing old and new, urban living and green space, tradition and innovation. Cobblestone streets hum with chatter as the locals sip coffee and catch up with friends, while every bit of the canal is put to good use – even right down to water level, where wine bars, sports clubs, cafes start right at the water’s edge. What sets them apart is the “lower level” - below the street above - where the warehouses were located in olden times.
I visited the Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) last weekend. SIPF is a worldwide biennial gathering of minds commonly pursuing the advancement and appreciation of photography. The biennial event is back for its 7th edition. Set amidst a pandemic, this year's theme #SIPF2020 is "Departing and Arriving", a theme that seems extremely fitting with our current circumstances.
The concept sounds very simple, yet a complex one. Prior to the pandemic outbreak, the theme "Departing and Arriving" seeks to explore our migrant histories and identities in both the local and global context. In the process of witnessing and experiencing the changes that have taken place in our world, the theme has evolved to take on a reflective outlook at the human condition. In the trajectory of arriving at a new normal is the discovery of a deeply rooted desire for a better tomorrow.
This year's SIPF blew me away and redefined everything for me. Allow me to bring you along with me on this journey of Departure and Arrival, but with a little disclaimer – I’ll be featuring some of the fine artworks I got to witness and I do not showcase all of them in my blog. I will leave some of them in suspense, because I think there are actually so much more to see for yourselves and explore at the festival.