My trip to Amsterdam

By: Firman Alamsyah, PhD (C-tech Labs Edwar Technology)

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Hi guys, I would like to share my experience on a trip to Amsterdam attending the 25th Biennial Congress of the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR). This is my second trip to Amsterdam since 2016 when attending my first EACR conference series titled A Matter of Life or Death on 28-30 January at the Rode Hoed Great Hall. Before starting the trip, as an Indonesian citizen, I must apply visa to the Netherlands, named Schengen visa, since the country is one of the European Union (EU) member.   To apply for Schengen visa to Netherlands from Indonesia, I went to VFS Global office located at Kuningan City Mall 1st floor, Jakarta. Information on how to apply the visa can be found on VFS website at http://www.vfsglobal.com/netherlands/indonesia/, choose the type of visa, then follow the instruction. It was quite easy to apply for Schengen visa to Netherlands and it took only a few days although I applied it for travelling in summer season in Netherlands, the peak of tourist visits. I would like to give some tips for applying the visa as written below.

  1. First, we must make an online appointment for applying the visa and make sure that our appointment schedule is at least one month before our departure. Please visit this link for appointment schedule: http://www.vfsglobal.com/netherlands/indonesia/schedule-an-appointment.html. We must pay the service fee to complete the appointment registration. I paid 416,500 IDR for the service fee of business visa.
  2. After choosing the type of visa, download and fill the visa application form. Prepare all the required documents with their copies and bring them to VFS Global office at the time of our appointment. We may bring a copy of our ID (KTP) and a proof of return flight tickets booking although they are not mentioned in the list of required documents.
  3. Please come early to the VFS office at least 30 minutes before the appointment schedule, since there is always traffic jam on Jl. Dr. Satrio of Kuningan City Mall, especially in the morning and afternoon. If we come late just a minute after our appointment schedule, we must make a new appointment schedule and we may get a new appointment a month ahead.
  4. We may get the visa within 4 days after application submission. Please check e-mail every day for passport collection confirmation from the VFS office.

After getting the Schengen visa, I flew to Amsterdam with Etihad Airways (the cheapest at that time) for 18 hours with a transit in Abu Dhabi Airport. I arrived at Schiphol airport Amsterdam in the afternoon at 3 pm. In summer season, the daytime is longer than night in Amsterdam. Dzuhur prayer at 2 pm, ashar at 6 pm, maghrib at 10 pm, isya’ at 12 pm and shubuh at 3 am. Therefore, I still had time to do dzuhur and ashar prayers in one time (jama’). To go to Amsterdam city from the airport, traveller may choose some preferred transportations. I prefer to use train to Amsterdam RAI station, and it took only 10 minutes to go there and the ticket price was 4 Euro. Then, I walked to Amsterdam RAI, the venue of the Congress, near the station, and went to Victorie Hotel in 15 minutes’ walk from Amsterdam RAI. In Victorieplein area, I saw moslem women everywhere wearing hijab or veil as well as Arabian and Indonesian men. Fortunately, there was a Halal Indonesian restaurant named Indonesia Indah, very near to the Hotel, only 3 minutes’ walk from the Hotel. Between hotel and the restaurant, there was a supermarket named Dirk, which sell halal noodles from Singapore. We can also ask the supermarket assistant which food are halal for muslim, since there were a few Arabian working there. I also found a masjid in the Victorieplein area, named Shoura mosque, about 8 minutes’ walk from the Hotel. For all adjacent facilities, it was very convenient to stay in Victorieplein area. I suggest you to book a hotel in this area when visiting Amsterdam. It takes only 15 minutes by tram to Amsterdam Centraal from Victorieplein.

After a one-day break at the Hotel, I went to Amsterdam RAI attending the Congress. Attending the EACR Congress itself was a great experience for me. A thousand cancer researchers and clinicians from around the world were showing their world-class cutting-edge research on cancer. There were 12 topics presented at the Congress, including Carcinogenesis, Cancer cell biology, Cancer genomics, epigenetics, and genetic Instability; Experimental/Molecular therapeutics, Pharmacogenomics, Translational research, Molecular and genetic epidemiology, Prevention and early detection, Radiobiology and radiation oncology, Signaling pathways, Tumour biology, and Tumour immunology. An opening lecture by Professor Anton Berns, the President of EACR, gave an impressive and deep message to the audience. He encouraged all the participants to unite to solve hundreds of thousands of new cancer cases each year. Cancer cases can only be solved by research. Moreover, he gave spirit to the audience that every cancer researcher should be proud as a cancer researcher, since their contributions in cancer research give big impacts to the world.

Another impressive lecture was delivered by Professor Rene Bernards from the Netherlands Cancer Institute, with the title “Bringing affordable healthcare to the clinic”. He told us how he and his team struggle to make cancer treatment affordable to patients. They do not want to cooperate with big pharmaceutical industry to reproduce cancer drugs that have expired patents. Instead, they cooperate with institutions that have the same vision to bring affordable healthcare to patients. The institutions are Oncode Institute and Qameleon Therapeutics. Then the drugs are produced and marketed by Generic drug makers. Therefore, patients will get generic cancer drug which is cheaper than the ones produced by big pharmaceutical industry, but with the same quality. Recently, in my country Indonesia, the National public insurance called BPJS has stopped to afford Trastuzumab (Herceptin) for cancer patients, since the price is expensive, about 25 million IDR or about 1,728 USD as reported by Metro TV. This condition has prompted the public to file a lawsuit against BPJS. The spirit and struggle of Rene Bernards should be emulated by Indonesian cancer researchers, so that patients can afford their medications. No one should skip medications due to their high costs. This is the responsibility of cancer researchers and the government as well.

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