Thu 31 Oct - Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands

Off to Netherlands' capital, Den Haag or The Hague as it is called in English.

You can travel on one single bus, number 385, from down the street where we are in Noordwijk all the way to the central bus and train station in Den Haag and that's what we did. The trip takes around 50 minutes and the lovely bus driver upsold us to a family ticket again for £14 where single tickets back and forth would have cost us £24, so she saved us £10 in the process, nice.

Den Haag Centraal was undergoing major expansion work and not even the clock here was showing the right time as we arrived one hour earlier at 10am (or they hadn't wound back the clock after daylight saving time ceased last weekend).

A map of central Den Haag, where we kept ourselves in between the central station next to the right hand 4 and the International Court of Justice between B and C at the top.

And this is how Runkeeper showed our wandering through Den Haag.

After a section of very ordinary and boring highrise business buildings around the central station, dull and soulless, we arrived at Herengracht and now things picked up. Yep, we were in the red light district judging by the shops selling a huge variety of sex toys if the windows are anything to go by.

But, wait... What the...?

It was quite easy to find your way around Den Haag if you know your destination and it is a well known spot. These signs were to be found everywhere.

Den Haag streetscape along Herengracht. Hans thought that the men on top of the building were forming XXX for a reason...

Surprisingly enough, Den Haag had a larger Chinatown than we would have imagined. Of course, we knew about the Dutch' Indonesian colonial past, but we didn't expect a "general" Chinatown to cover several city blocks. Although we have to say, this Chinatown didn't have much karma as it looked a bit "arranged" as if it hadn't developed naturally and with far too many of the buildings being of 60s, 70s and 80s variety.

We are very fond of the Chinese bakeries as you usually get very tasty pastries for very little money and as we passed this place and saw somebody sitting there with a coffee as well, we were hooked.

So, coffee and Chinese pastries for morning tea. Yep, it was really nice and for a total price of £5 well worth the money.

The Chinese bakery was selling durian pies... No, we were not game to try them. Next time...

After our morning break, we continued into a boring shopping district with all the usual retail suspects, apart from this one. We are not sure about you, but we would hesitate going into a shop with that name...

This area is called Binnenhof and we thought that it looked like an old castle that had been added onto numerous times over the years, but when we asked a Securitas guard, she told us that these were all government ministries here, and had always been.

Well, we didn't really believe her, but when we got home and checked, she was right. Di was a little thirsty...

A few more photos from around the square above and you can probably see our doubt. It looked really regal and calm apart from some schoolkids running around and looking for things as part of some school excursion.

A "selfie" inside Binnenhof.

The building to the left looked like a church to us, but nothing like that could be seen on the map.

We exited Binnenhof and walked around to the other side of Hofvijver which is the pond on the northern side of these government buildings. This guy really wanted to be in the photo.

Haven't you been taught that it is impolite to point? Di is giving the statue a lesson, of whom we never heard of, sorry.

A bit further ahead was an old town gate called Gevangenpoort according to Google Maps.

We walked northwest on a street refered to as Noordeinde and we soon realized why, the street passes Noordeinde Palace, the working palace of the Dutch royals according to a sign.

The palace didn't look much to the world from the street and certainly did not stack up compared to other European Royal palaces. Hence, we reckoned that there must be more on the other side.

We did, however, like these window shutters in the bright and alternate colours.

OK, the Noordeinde palace wasn't very impressive from the other side either, with a de-facto car park in front of it. Is this really all there is to it? Definitely a place for business rather than a showcase.

Well, there was the Royal garden referred to as Paleistuin and that must be the crappiest looking Royal garden that we had ever seen. We've seen much better suburbian parks than this. Are we missing something here?

The area around the palace is nice though and full of galleries and embassies. Moving right along and there were these two lovely ladies sitting there on a park bench...

Our destination in Den Haag was of course the Peace Palace (or Vredespaleis as it is called in Dutch) with its International Court of Justice. Unfortunately, there were no guided tours scheduled for today so we went into its visitors centre instead.

A short synopsis about the Peace Palace. We think the International Criminal Tribunal backs onto this - which a few may recall was where Slobodan Milosevic was tried for war crimes during the Balkan war.

The Visitors Centre had an exhibition about the building's history and its functions. Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate and philanthropist, of the Carnegie Hall fame, donated $1.5M dollars in 1919 to finance the building's renovation. That would have been a hell of a lot of money in those days.

Outside the Peace Palace, they had "welcome" written in a lot of world languages in the shape of the world map. We liked that the Australia shape had welcome but think G'Day might have been more appropriate.

A continually burning World Peace Flame was supported by every country in the world - but since this was set up in 2004, more countries have been created like Kosovo and South Sudan so they might want to update the plaque at some stage.

Di getting close to the warmth of the flame (it was a cold day in Den Haag). The stone work was actually quite hot to touch.

A selfie with the Peace Palace and its front gates in the background.

Time now was already 1pm (time passed quickly) and we wandered back to Chinatown for lunch (we had seen nothing else on the way that inspired us more).

We wandered a few streets but no good karma places until we reached Ming Dynasty which had plenty of Chinese customers and a wide selection for Dim Sum. Good enough for us, so in we went.

Di looked very happy - she loves Yum Cha / Dim Sum but noted it was not to Sydney standards. Pretty good though for Europe.

After lunch, a light rain had started when we left the restaurant and as we had seen what we wanted in Den Haag, we headed back to Den Haag Centraal to catch the bus back home to Noordwijk.

The bus station was big and our bus came on platform O. The Dutch bus system is brilliant with lots of dedicated lanes and always priority for buses at traffic lights.

A smooth bus trip home and an afternoon with two loads of washing to user test the drainage (yep the drain seems to be fully fixed now), some reading and chilling.

Dinner was home made salad, hot bread and garlic prawns. Very yum.

Being 31st of October, it was of course Halloween and we heard kids screaming out in the streets but no one visited us for trick or treat. So instead we watched a very funny Halloween special on "The Big Bang Theory" to get our Halloween injection for today. All good. Good night.

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