Friday, February 24, 2012

Amsterdam RLD

 
Courtesy Wiki


Janet, Deepti and Me the three of us had visited Amsterdam in Aug 2009. Windmills, Canals, tulips and cheese were on our list of things to see. Since drugs(soft drugs) are legal in Amsterdam, Deepti also wanted to 'eat' hash. Yes eat, since it is actually mixed with a brownie. More about this below. But what actually became the highlight of the trip and the only thing which I now seem to remember and picture very clearly
was the 'De Wallen'!
De Wallen, also known as the rosse buurt to the amsterdammers, is the largest red light district and one of the major tourist attractions in Amsterdam.
Right! So we girls never really had any intentions of actually visiting the RLD, but a day cycle tour changed our prehistoric notions and convinced us to see the liberal attitude of the people of Amsterdam towards prostitution.

So, after about 10 minutes of walking distance from the Centraal Station (the main station in Amsterdam), is located the RLD. After the entire morning city tour on the cycle (which was awesome by the way), our very handsome guide, made the group halt and in a proud tone, started to explain about the RLD and its culture. This was when we realized  that the RLD visit is also a part of the tour and we would soon be actually visiting the RLD! After that information sunk in, as if on cue, the three of us started blushing and exchanging quick glances amongst each other..!!??

So this was what he had to say:
Prostitution is legal in Holland, and it dates back to the 14 century, when sailors used to arrive on the banks of the Amstel river for pleasure. There are about 4 million visitors each year in Amsterdam, who specifically come into the city, just to visit the RLD. The prostitutes stand in windows which are lit by red fluorescent tube lights to attract customers.Safety is the key here.Sex workers have their own unions, body guards, plenty of police protection, an information center for the visitors, frequent monitoring and testing and very high professional standards. Each sex worker has a secret buzzer which is hidden in her room, which she uses for violent clients, or clients who don't pay up later. The police arrive within minutes after the buzzer is pressed and then, necessary action is taken. The prostitutes are legal tax payers of Amsterdam. (And most surprising) The maximum number of customers for the RLD are locals and not tourists. Most of them visit the RLD after they have left home, for work OR before they return home, after work.
We three, in total awe..and amused

So after this tantalizing introduction, we were led into the RLD.

What did I see?
The district had tall thin buildings which overlooked the canals. Beautiful canals with lined trees and amidst them the famous windows, all of them lit. Since it was still almost day time, the fluorescence of the windows was not very bright for us to be attracted, but the scantily clad women in the windows were.
I clearly remember that I saw 2 very beautiful women, in 2 adjacent windows, wearing white bikinis with great fit toned bodies. Both were blondes. The windows were not actually windows. They were glass doors which were rectangular in shape. The rooms were about 4*8 feet sized rooms/cubicles which had a basin and a bed, and the opening to it was covered by these strong glass door-windows, which ran all along the length of the door. And behind those doors were those prostitutes who made very seductive expressions to attract us.  We of course were more shocked than attracted..!

Before we could see anything else, the guide effectively led us out of the RLD, and then concluded the tour.
But 'jate jate' he did mention to us, that, if at all we were looking out for a real RLD tour, it would have to be at night 10PM, and it would start at the Centraal station.

Noting the quick advise in our minds, we set off to have an early dinner and then roamed about aimlessly around the city. After returning to the hotel, Deepti reminded us that, she wanted to eat the 'drugged' brownie. And then suddenly we were like, why not go for the tour at 10, and then find a cafe where we could buy the brownie(yes, they sell drugs in cafes in Amsterdam).
Since no one, except Deepti opposed to this idea (Well she was the eldest, so I guess she thought, it was the best if she was the one who opposed), we all set off to the Centraal station, instead of sleeping in into our warm beds.

So we just knew that we have to be at the Centraal station. Actually, outside the Centraal station, but where the tour starts, and who would be our guide, is something we had no clue of! Nevertheless we waited, and eyed every sleazy man with doubt, assuming he would be the guide to this tour.
But weren't we in for another surprise. After 15 minutes of waiting, we saw a pretty middle aged well dressed women walk towards us. And following her were a group of 8-10 people. Yes so, the guide for this RLD tour at 10PM in the night was not a sleazy man, but actually a pretty decent woman. And who were the part of the group? Couples, old young middle aged, every kind! So we did feel a bit better and safe, amongst this group, and with enthusiasm went along for the tour..

The tour was one of a kind!!!
From brothels to sex shops to museums, the RLD left nothing to the imagination. There were gay clubs, lesbian clubs everything! We came across a shop named Condomerie, which had condoms in all colors, shapes, sizes and flavors. 
There were the smoky cafes and joints as well, just like how you actually see it in the movies!!
And then of course, there were the windows with the girls. The glow of the fluorescent red lights above many windows became very very obvious as it was dark now! There were a lines of windows, all adjacent to each other in lanes running zigzag across the canals. The guide mentioned to us, that currently this RLD had around 250 windows.

The RLD windows were actually divided as per preferences.. There were lanes which housed Asian women only, lanes for blondes, lanes for African women. And of course, there were the windows with the blue lights, which meant these were the homosexual windows.

She also showed us the buzzers, and the information centre, and the police station. There were a lot of lanes which were very small and as we walked into them, we could practically feel the girls' eyes bore into us. There were also a lot of windows which had curtains across them. This, the guide explained, meant those windows were currently in use.

After going through couple of lanes, we came across theatres with huge lines outside them. I saw couples standing outside with prams. So the obvious thought which came to our minds were, what was a movie theatre doing in the middle of the RLD?
So firstly, the RLD does house respectable people like doctors and lawyers. 
and secondly, the theatre was not a normal movie theatre, it was actually a theatre where there were artists performing the different positions of performing sex. The guide told us that, the theatre houses a huge round rotating stage, with 6 couples performing with the audience below. She of course did offer the group free tickets, but since we had an overdose of knowledge transfer in so many other aspects, we choose to skip the theatre. And about the couples with the pram?? It was something which was the most difficult to digest amongst all the heavy stuff which we saw that day!!!
The guide also told us that, the oldest prostitute working in the RLD was 72 years old. In spite of her age, she is supposed to be one of the most sought ed out woman in the RLD. The guide words were : 'Experience is what is her friend!'
 
So after this long post, what did I learn??
Amsterdammers have embraced the fact that it only human to be into soft drugs and prostitution..
They have the most liberal attitude and are very tolerant for something which can be very disturbing in other countries.
The cycle guide, the RLD guide, and others are proud about the RLD.
So instead of demeaning the prostitutes and criminalizing everything, they are upfront about sex and drugs,
enjoy the honesty and don't hide behind closed doors. This is something which you would get to see only in Amsterdam and no where else.
The prostitutes lead a good life and their profession is just a profession like every other profession. They are not judged or are outcasts in the society. They are treated with respect and have honor.

And now what do I think?
In a country like ours, where almost every city has a RLD and none of them still out of business, sex and drugs are still a taboo, prostitutes only exist to provide pleasure and then be dishonored. All in the name of culture and ethics. Is this right? 
At the end of the journey, my notions have changed, and I have learnt that sex is not a taboo, but is infact the most natural thing in the world. Accept it, but also those women who sell it. Respect, and nothing more. 

PS: If you go visiting anytime, and please do visit, it is really an eye opener, not for the sex, but more for the outlook, Do not take photos of the occupied windows - this is strictly prohibited.

Disclaimer: This was couple of years back, so I have used the Internet to refresh my memory and provide appropriate information to the readers. The experiences are my own and the views are not meant to offend anyone.

This post is an entry for a contest by CupONation, an online retailer of discount coupons, and The Shooting Star travel blog.

28 comments:

  1. OMG !! Dood .. I so need to visit Amestradam :D

    Btw ,loved the poetic conclusion . Isn't it prejudice that eventually divided us ?

    For who are we to define "sinning" :)

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    1. yes.. everyone got to visit this place!! About the sinning part, so true!!!

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  2. Nicely written..we didn't take a night tour of RLD..:(..wish we had..We bought a hash brownie and a joint though..:P

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    1. Thanks :-) You should have taken the trip. It was worth it.. Ahh the hash brownie.. I think that is overrated!!

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  3. WHat an experience it is! You have a lioness's heart! I would not have that courage to go RLD area at 10! Girlie.. You are bold.

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    1. :-) Oh I am not all that bold as you picture me to be. But this is was really quite an expereince.

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  4. wow...this sounds like so much fun and my god Jenny, you went there for an all girlie trip...I wish I was there too and we would have NOT left out the theatre;-)

    Very informative...I had heard about this RLD in Amsterdam but this was super informative...now hubby darling needs to be convinced to take me here next:-)

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    1. hehe.. me too.. I am sure we would have visited the theatre!!

      Oh yes please do. Taking the tour with your hubby is the ultimate idea ;-)

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  5. You lived my dream!! I so have to go to amsterdam and eat half a dozen brownies :P

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    1. :-)))))

      Please do visit Amsterdam for the RLD. The brownies are totally over rated!

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  6. Amsterdam is one of my favourite destinations! And I love their open approach to sex. Yep...did the RLD tour as well! and it was me who ended up getting embarrassed. Missed the sex museum though :)

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    1. Oh cool, you did!

      We visited the sex musuem as well!! But we made sure, all of us were watching each exhibit separetly and not together.

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  7. Brought back the memories of this fascinating place! Amsterdam, is one place which is unique for so many things including the RLD, the fascinating Centraal area:)

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    1. :-))
      Oh yes, Amsterdam is surely worth a visit. Please do watch Hum Tum, they have shooted a lot of the song 'Lakdi kyun' at the Centraal area:-)

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  8. I'm not sure why my blog reader did not update to let me know you had written a new post :(-- thankfully, I came to check anyhow. What of the pram? I was still unsure as to why it was outside the theatre- were the parents planning to enter it??

    I've been to Amsterdam a few times- but did not go on the tour.

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    1. Ohh they wanted to go watch the 'act' with the kid sleeping(or not?) in the pram!

      Oh ofcourse you would have been to Amsterdam :-) You have travelled so much!! I really love to travel, and after going through your blogs, you are my ultimate Travel Idol!

      Please do visit the RLD, next time you are there.

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  9. wow! quite an adventure!

    left me feeling jealous though which, to be frank, is not a feeling i like to get from blog posts i read :(((((

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    1. Thanks Sujatha.
      Ohhh.. I think it good to be jealous sometimes.. works as a driving factor for me :-)

      BTW, I am more J. i would love to switch places with you :-)

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  10. I want so bad to go to Amsterdam!!! Check my blog and follow me if you want!
    Ioana

    http://www.fashionspot.ro/

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    1. Thanks for visiting Ioana:-) Sure, will check out your blog!!

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  11. Wow! I totally TOTALLY envy you! :) I was just telling my friend the other day that we should visit Amsterdam and so many other countries for sure..you know..to know how it feels "outside India" though I studied abroad!! I mean I was waiting to taste that special lustre of life like no other!! :)

    I think I'll go with my husband soon! ;)
    Your newest follower. You'll catch me here often! :)

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    1. Thanks so much for following!

      Oh Amsterdam is THE place to visit with your hubby. It has everything, from tulips gardens, to windmills to the RLD. Totally worht a visit!

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  12. A visit to Amsterdam is on the cards for me anyways coz my brother lives there. :) Will definitely take the night tour. Sounds really interesting. And what u said abt our country is so true.

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    1. Thank you Ria. Really appreciate you going through my older posts. Wow, he stays in Amsterdam, quite a beautiful city it is!

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  13. Your bit on Amsterdam made me check for a post on it and hey presto guess where it got me...I did the trip in 2010 and guess what..it was three girls and guess what again, this deepthy ( that's moi) did the hash brownie too..hehehe..I guess all girls do just the same things in Amsterdam...So we went exploring the RLD after splitting one hash brownie between three girls and honestly, two of us ( Indians) couldn't stop marvelling at how we weren't hooted, whistled, eve-teased or even harmlessly flirted with. The American in the gang took it in stride..but the funny part was we didn't realise when the hash brownie kicked in..we kept walking in circles for about an hour or more as we were trying to head back and my need to find a bar of chocolate became the guiding light that miraculously led us to the ice cream shop opposite our hotel on Harlemmerstraat well past midnight...Ooooh this post just made it all come back...:)

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    1. Thank you Deepathy, for coming by my along and actually looking for a post on Amsterdam! Wonderful coincidence - 3 girls and a Deepathy/Deepti in them :-)

      Oh you did get the high! Sadly deepti had the entire brownie and was still pretty sober (which kind of puts me in doubt again :-P)

      and yes, thanks for following me :-)

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  14. Nice and interesting article!!It's good to hear that in Amsterdam prostitues are treated in a humanly manner unlike here. Here in India those "ethical" and "high moraled people" hide behind there places and in front society blame them as being "unethical" and pretend as protecting society.

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    1. I agree Neha. We have really become so hypocritical. All this sanskar and all is such a farce. Yes the hidding part could nt agree more. How much educated we become these nuances are never going to go, unless we change it!

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So what do you think?