Amsterdam Stories and Tips

The Red Light District, The Red Light District

I had always heard about the Red Light District and was very curious, so we walked to this area of town after dinner (plus it was only a couple of blocks from our hotel- see the Grand Westin). The Red Light District was a surreal experience. Almost everything is legal- drugs (marijuana, hash), porn shops (with every possible type magazine, video, sex toy), live sex shows (strip joints to actual sex), and prostitution. The area seemed perfectly safe and many couples walked through the area. The police presence was appropriately visible and until really late at night the crowd did not get overly seedy (particularly if you stayed on the main thoroughfares). Some of the side alleys were a little scary but it was fairly easy to see where you shouldn’t go. It only takes a minute to figure out, but the coffee shops are actually the marijuana and hash bars. Once inside one of these bars, you can buy everything from fresh squeezed orange juice and hot chocolate to a variety of marijuana and hash. We went to two of the more prominent coffee shops on the first night – the Grasshopper and the Bulldog. The Grasshopper was a triple level complex that had dancing and music, a steakhouse, and several bars and lounge areas. We settled on the bottom level which was a fairly low key with a few tables a chairs and about 20 people engaged in a variety of activities. We ordered a couple of hot chocolates (which were actually very good) and tried to just get a feel for the place. After a few minutes we figured out how everything works. In addition to drinks, the bar sells paper and pipes (or you can borrow one) while an enclosed area that looked like a casino cage sold the drugs. A menu was available and you could choose from over 5 varieties of hash and 5 varieties of marijuana. I’m certainly not an authority on this, but most people felt the home grown Dutch marijuana was the best choice. You could get pre-rolled joints if requested. An interesting thing about drugs in Amsterdam is that the illegal drugs (i.e. cocaine, heroin, etc.) can be used if you just have it tested at a government sponsored testing facility (better to keep the drugs safe and track the distribution than crack down on people who have them - or so the theory goes). If adventurous, definitely go to one of the sex shows (you can haggle the price down - especially on slow nights). Also, check out the sex shops. You will be amazed by some of the stuff you see. Don't be afraid to try the hash bars. I thought it was great smoking a few joints and having some hash brownies while sipping orange juice or hot chocolate. My girlfriend and I also found the Prostitution Information Centre to be interesting. It is like a tour featuring the sex trade. All of your questions are answered and you can buy a copy of the Pleasure Guide (full of interesting facts, news and stories). An example of a fact given at the Centre, prices start at approximately $20-$25 USD for either a blow-job or sex (15-20 minutes). While on the topic of sex, Amsterdam has fetish clubs, legal call girls (call a number and they come to your room), and sex clubs. The book 'The Cool Guide to Amsterdam' by Joe Pauker reveals all.

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