Getting around Don't take your car into the centre of Amsterdam unless your hotel offers parking. Otherwise you could spend a lot of time trawling the pretty canal streets for elusive park-and-ride spots when you could be taking in the sights. In the summer, the best way to take in the city's trees and unique traditional and modern architecture is on a bike. There are white-lined lanes for cyclists, but Hong Kong two-wheelers will have to adapt to local rules. Although polite and friendly, the Dutch will wag fingers at bikes without reflector bands on the front and back wheels, and sticking your wife and child side-saddle on the rack behind the seat a la Guangzhou is definitely a no-no. Cycling two abreast is also illegal. Bikes can be rented all over Amsterdam and a deposit or credit-card imprint is usually required, along with an additional form of identification. Remember to lock the bike up because thieving is big business. Trams are a great way to travel around Amsterdam and they all leave from Centraal Station: No 1 and 2 traverse the main canals; 16 takes a route to Museumplein and Concertgebouw; while No 9 and 14 go to the Muziektheater and Waterlooplein flea market. Circle tram 20 has been designed with tourists in mind and runs past almost all the main tourist attractions and many of the major hotels. It runs about every 10 minutes from 9am to 7pm. Buy yourself a strippenkaart (ticket comprising strips), which allows you to take trams, buses, underground and overground trains (1.40-17.40 euros; HK$11-$138); or one-hour or one-day travel passes which allow unlimited travel on all of the above. You can buy them at bus, tram or railway stations as well as some post offices and shops. Amsterdam is famous for its canals and it's fun to hire a water bike. There are four places at which you can hire and drop them off and each offers a booklet suggesting routes. If you don't want to pedal yourself, take a Canalbus. There are three routes - Red, Green and Blue - and it's a pleasant way to get around town. Activities No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a peek at the notorious red-light district where women sit in shop windows trying to lure men into their brothels. There are about 5,000 legal prostitutes in the city, attracting millions of euros a year and, despite the sleazy image, the area isn't as threatening as you might think, with fashion boutiques and drinking spots nestled among the sex shops. Nearest Metro station: Nieuwmarkt. You'll learn a lot about the Netherlands' history by visiting the excellent Rijksmuseum. It houses the world's best collection of Dutch art from the 17th century, a period when the country was at its most prosperous, expanding its territories in the East and West Indies and elsewhere. Rembrandt's works are the highlight, especially The Night Watch, but other memorable paintings include religious works from the 15th and 16th centuries and art by the Romantics and Impressionists (Stadhouderskade 42, Museum District. Tel:  20 674 7000, www.rijksmuseum.nl ). When I lived in Amsterdam, my favourite hangout was Amsterdamse Bos, a huge park on the edge of the city. It was created in the 1930s as a job scheme for the unemployed and is now popular with locals who spend their weekends there, picnicking, biking, camping, horse-riding and visiting the goat farm. In the summer, you can cool down with a swim in Bosbaan lake, or simply paddle a canoe or paddleboat. Topless sunbathing is common throughout the Netherlands, so you can strip off happily here without worrying about stares. A boat trip is a good way to view Amsterdam as the craft takes you to various interesting sights while helping you to understand the nature of the country. The Netherlands literally means 'the lowlands' - half the country lies below sea level and water from the North Sea is prevented from flooding in by dams. Like the whole country, Amsterdam has a lot of canals, and on a boat you can admire the interesting architecture of houses along them with their tiny doors. Many are more than a century old and very buckled. Well worth a visit is the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the world's largest collection of work by the artist - more than 200 paintings, 500 sketches and 700 letters. Most of the works were collected by Van Gogh's brother Theo, one of the few who supported the penniless painter during his lifetime (Paulus Potterstraat 7, Museum District. Tel:  20 570 5200; www.vangoghmuseum.nl ). Ten minutes walk from Centraal Station is Dam Square, next to Koninklijk Paleis, the former palace. It's one of my favourite spots in Amsterdam as you can really feel the pulse of the city while you watch the crowds, feed the friendly pigeons and admire the beautiful historical buildings. The monument at the centre of the square commemorates World War II victims. Shopping De Bijenkorf, meaning 'beehive', is the biggest department store in Amsterdam with five floors of goods that would appeal to fashionistas. The home furnishing and jewellery sections are especially good and La Ruche cafe is a relaxing place for lunch or a coffee break (Dam 1, Old Centre. Tel:  20 621 8080; www.bijenkorf.nl ). With the Netherlands being renowned for its flowers, a visit to the floating Bloemenmarkt (flower market) is a must. You'll feel like you're immersed in a flower bed, with bountiful blooms everywhere you look. The famous tulips are available in a wide array of colours at rock-bottom prices (Singel Canal, between Konigsplein and Muntplein). You'll find the best bargains at Hema, which has stores throughout Amsterdam. It offers a wide range of quality goods, from clothes and shoes to beauty products, from home accessories to stationery, and there's also a photo developing section - one of the cheapest in the city (Kalvertoren, Singel 457. Tel:  20 422 8988; www.hema.nl ). For a look at local life, head to Albert Cuyp Markt. The biggest market in Amsterdam, it stretches for a kilometre and sells fresh vegetables and fruits and cheap crabs, as well as clothing and repro antiques. Don't miss the made-on-the-spot sweet and sticky stroopwafel or treacle waffle (Albert Cuypstraat, De Pijp). Dining I love eating in the Leidseplein area. By day it's filled with street performers and at night it's one of Amsterdam's most popular night spots, decorated with neon lights from theatres, cafes, bars and clubs. You'll find the town's most upmarket eateries here, with cuisines ranging from Italian to French to Argentinian. Cannabis is widely available and openly smoked. General Dutch is Germanic and similar to English, therefore easy to learn. Daag is a useful word, as it means both hello and goodbye, and you can say it to anyone. Meanwhile, Ja (yar) is yes; Nee (nay) is no; Dank u wel (dank i vel) is thank you; WC (vhay-say) is toilet; and Spreek jij Engels? (sprayk yay engels) is do you speak English?