4-12 August 2017
I was choosing between PNG and Turkey. As I checked for flights, I realised that flight times were about the same, both visas had to applied online whilst Turkey’s airfare was cheaper, hence, I chose Turkey.
5 Aug 2017
Flight to Istanbul, as usual, was uneventful. I arrived early morning of Saturday. Without any plans, I decided to wait for the sun to rise before I went out of the airport. I arrived at Sirkeci Emek Hotel and friendly staff welcomed me with coffee. I stayed and rested by the dining area for a while because I could only check-in by 11am. I started looking at maps and all.
Hotel was a couple of minutes away from the Blue Mosque,Topkapi Palace Museum and Hagia Sophia. I walked aimlessly and reached these places. The mosque was open then and I stepped in. After this morning walk, I headed back to the hotel to check-in.
Showered and rested for a while. Headed out to the sea side to have lunch. I had Balik Emek (Fish sandwich). Then, I just randomly took this 2hours Bosphorus Tour. That tour opened my eyes on how much beauty this city has to offer. I already then realised that I wouldn’t be able to see much in a few days.
I walked to Spice Bazzar and got myself an Istanbul Kart which I thought, I would start using the next day. I watched the sunset near the Spice Bazaar and went home.
6 Aug 2017
I had breakfast. It was Sunday, and I wanted to go to mass. I tried using my Istanbul card. I was certain that I would be able to find the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. I took the tram, train and funicular and walked…..but, unfortunately, after I tried hard to find it, I lowered my pride and just decided to take a cab. Haha I reached, late for the mass.
Heat was close to unbearable.I had to walk more, aimlessly, again, I reached Taksim Square. From there I tried the Islak (Wet) burger for the first time and liked it. I also never craved for milkshakes so badly my entire life like I did that day. It was so so so hot!
I felt so drained after that short of a walk, so I sat down by the shaded area where the Taxis were parked. I observed how these taxi drivers talk to people and to each other. It was fun just watching them. There was a roaming coffee vendor, with his thermal water carrier and styro cups, he approached anyone who called him. One driver offered me a cup, I refused., though I deeply appreciated the gesture.
I also, realized that despite the heat, nobody uses umbrellas in Istanbul, only tour guides. I was tempted to open mine up but I was afraid that people would just suddenly queue up behind me..hahaha joke.
After resting, still drained, I headed back to the hotel and rested some more. Haha I went out in the afternoon.I thought of going to Topkapi Palace, but I realised that I wouldn’t be able to have enough time visit the whole museum because it was already late. I walked out and headed to Suleiminye Mosque supposed to be to see sunset, but then again, I came there too early for sunset. Haha Late for museums and early for sunsets! Haha So I took the tram and went to Galata Tower for my sunset instead and tadah, I came right at time. I witnessed it from up there. I was gorgeous.
Before I went back to the hotel, I stopped by the middle of the bridge and watched how busy Istanbul’s port is. I’ve never seen such a busy port at the center of the city. Small and huge boats were zooming to and fro. It was captivating.
Istanbul’s Busy ports at night
I concluded the night after thirty minutes.
7 Aug 2017
I dropped by the Guilhane Park to start my day. That day, was museum hopping day. I took the 85Lira, 5 days Museum Pass to escape the queue to the museums. I doubted if I would really be able to finish all the museums but I got it anyway. I started of with Harrem, inside the Topkapi Palace museum. I won’t discuss much on what was inside the museum because that can easily be Googled. 😉
Hagia Sophia was next. First it was a church then it became a mosque. Marks of it being a church were well-preserved despite it, becoming a mosque. It was amazing to see both religions merged into one structure. I had enough of museums, hence I decided to walk near the water again. I had an early Kebab dinner, which tasted so delicious. Then, I walked to people watch again. Fishing is a popular leisure activity in Istanbul. I was amazed by the amount of fish they can get despite the port being so busy.
As I was walking around Hagia Sophia, strings of words came to my head:
Patterns are to be erased.
Burned, hoping all remnants will go away.
Determined despite pessimistic.
Some things have to change.
Something has to be done.
Not knowing that despite how many times the structure is ruined,
Crashed and broken,
Visions and stories of the old
Will continue to live on.
Like a scar on the surface.
Like a heart that is broken.
Soon tears will cease.
Soon the crashed shall re-form.
Into a stronger and a more captivating gem.
The one impossible for just anyone to bear.
It will be able to stand all the tests of time.
It can beguile kings to desire it.
It will make the greatest people hope for it.
It will, however, never belong to anyone else.
Only to the one who formed it back.
Only to the brave who decided to jump!
I went back to the hotel early because the next day, would be my flight to Kayseri!
8 Aug 2017
My childhood dream of riding on a hot air balloon, would soon, be a reality. I took this land package tour from One Nations to tour Cappadocia (ride a hot air balloon) and Pamukkale. Pick up was at 4am. I had to be take the 6am flight to Kayseri.
Arrived in Kayseri. I dropped my bag first in my accommodation for the night, Heaven Cave Hotel. Then, immediately started of with the tour. First part was a hike around the trails of North Cappadocia. We had stops to eat fruits from the tree and packed some as well. This hike gave me a closer glimpse of all these cave houses and churches. It was amazing to think that these caves previously sheltered early Christians.
After the hike, we went to a stone factory, then buffet lunch. We then went to a Unesco Heritage Site called Kaymakli. Another stop that left me in awe. The Early Christian communities that lived the underground as deep as twelth levels. These cities were connected by tunnels and were ventilated using air holes. Smart! Living underneath was communal. They’ve wine storage, kitchens, churches, animal stables etc. I continued on impressing myself by buying an ice cream afterwards. It was so hot outside the underground city whilst underneath was insulated, hence, cooling.
We drove back to he hotel. I rested and freshen up for a while and still decided to head out for a small ascend to the Wish Hill in Urgup for the sunset.. View from up there was nice enough. There was a nicer view at Red Valley according to them, but it’s a bit farther, so I settled for this quieter sunset.
I walked around the town afterwards and went home. The next day’s a big day! Hot air Balloon!
9 Aug 2017
Pick up time was at 4am, again. I haven’t been sleeping well. We arrived in a posh hotel somewhere in Cappadocia, haha I wasn’t sure which hotel was that. We had a light breakfast before they drove us to the jump off point of all the hot air balloons.
I had an impression that hot air balloons actually comprise of one huge basket that passengers could walk about and around it. Actual balloon wasn’t like that. The basket was equally divided into 4 and each compartment fitted 5 people crumped all together. Butt to butt. Haha
Anyway, the view from up there made me forgot that the other guy’s butt was touching mine. It was surreal, especially with the backdrop of the sun slowly rising and the land and rocks formations. It was ethereal.
We had a glass of champagne after that. I was sent back to my hotel after the ride.
I freshened up and had my second breakfast of the day. Haha That day was a tour of South of Cappadocia.
The van picked me up and drove by Imagination, Monk and Fairy Valleys. Walking around these formations humbled me a lot. They were so beautiful.
We then went to a local weaving factory then, lunch. After lunch, we headed to the Open Air Museum which showed more cave houses and churches. This part contains school structures for both girls and boys.
After this, we went to a Pottery and the hanging bridge to cross the river in Cappadocia and that concluded our trip of Cappadocia.
During this journey, I got to meet a friendy Pakistani family. I seldom see families that really communicate and they do. They made me feel like I was part of their family. They offered to help me take photos, seats to eat close to them at lunch and a space when I already checked out and roomless that afternoon. Maybe, Pakistan would be my next destination.
Sadly, I had to leave for my overnight bus to Pamukkale.
10 Aug 2017
We reached Koray Hotel. We were supposed to rest, freshen up and have breakfast here before our day of touring Pamukkale. We started the tour at 9:30am.
First stop was a small thermal water spring. Less crowded initially. We then headed out for the bigger one. Pamukkale is an area which is famous for it’s mineral-rich thermal waters. Ruins there include a well-preserved theater and a necropolis. After all the stories, we were left to enjoy the pockets of thermal water and/or the paid pool area.
It was so hot and crowded that I just decided to enjoy it from afar, instead of soaking into it. It actually didn’t look as pretty as in the photos only because, it was too crowded and there wasn’t many pockets with water during that time. I was a little bit disappointed to be honest.
We then headed out for lunch then to another stone factory. During this trip, I got to talk to this American couple. Me and J immediately clicked because of our passion for travel and Indonesian Volcanoes. He shared his life with me and that, I deeply treasured.
I sometimes feel a bit of a pinch when I had to part ways with people I meet on travels. It felt like they were my long time friends < for a while> because of the homeness I feel when I talk to them. Reality is, these friendships most of the time, ends fast. I hope, it won’t but most of the time, it does.
Anyway, we again had to part ways, they were going to Ephesus, I was going to the airport for my flight back to Istanbul. While waiting for the bus and the flight, I again made friends with a Maldivian guy. I’ve never know of someone from Maldives until that day. Haha It was so cool.
Reached Istanbul. Checked into my accommodation, Turvan Hotel.
They gave me this very creepy room. I thought, never mind, it’s ok. I headed out to find dinner and when I returned, I realised that the room cieling was leaking. I wasn’t sure where the water was coming from so, I asked them to transfer me to another room. They said they didn’t have another room. So, I couldn’t take it, it felt unsafe and disgusting, to be honest. I told them, I’d look for another acoomodation then. All of a sudden the reception said, oh , they have another room but it has to be cleaned first. And so, I waited. The next room looked lighter and better but it still, is definitely old.
11 Aug 2017
I was able to sleep well because I was so tired. I had breakfast, then I headed out to Karakoy port to take the ferry to Prince’s Islands. There were 4 islands I think and I decided to alight at the third island. I realised that the boat full of people would all alight at the biggest and most famous one, Buyukada.
I walked around the small island and attempted to search for churches. I found one. I walked up the stairs not knowing where to actually go. On top the hill, there was no one else. It was just me with this beautiful view of the sea. I was so lucky.
View from atop Prince’s Island
I walked up further but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find another church. I started of with my descend and walked along the port, had another icecream and as soon as I saw there was a boat going back to the main islands, I took it. The boat was heading to Kabatas.
In Kabatas, I walked around once again. I saw a museum but it was already closed. So, I decided just to head to Basilica Cistern which was a waterway with beautiful columns near Hagia Sophia. I then, walked to the Grand Bazaar to shop for souvenirs, had dinner and finally, get back to the hotel. That night, I had coffee with a friend despite I was so tired.
Aug 12 2017
It was my last full day in Turkey. It felt a bit nostalgic but life had to move forward, I decided to conclude this trip with a relaxing treat. I decided to go for the cheapest Turkish Massage in town, which was called Buyuk Hammam. I went up and down the hilly roads of Istanbul to find it, and I was able to do so. Unluckily (and luckily, I wasn’t there during), the day before, there was a fire inside the hammam. They had to close the women part of it. So, I again, walked up and down to find the other one around the area called Tahiri Galatasaray Hamami. I found it too. It was empty. Price in there was really beyond my budget but, I tired myself so much looking for it, I thought, I might as well go for it.
To be honest, it was a little bit intimidating. I’ve heard of friends going for it before but being there, alone was different. So the process was, I paid for it. They asked me to go up to get myself naked but with a towel wrapped around me. They then, asked me to the common (both guys and gals) heating room or like sauna to heat up for about 15 minutes. Then the auntie brought me to a private room. She asked me to take off the towel and lie facing down over marble-looking table. I saw her peripherally, she also took off her dress and she was only wearing bra and undies. She started scrubbing me. I could really feel my dead skin going away. It felt good. Then, she asked me to rinse. I was just obeying all her orders. She, then asked me to lie down again for the soapy massage. Then, rinsed again. She sat down a stool and asked me to sit down infront of her and she started scrubbing my head too, like a little girl. She asked me to rinse again, after I rinsed and put my towel back on. She stripped herself bare naked. I got a shock. I didn’t know where to look. I faced the door. Haha Then she offered me a cup of tea afterwards, then went back up to dress up. I was closing the door and she kept on opening it. I had a feeling, she had a plan and true enough, she kept on opening the door, everytime I was closing it because she wanted to ask for some money as tip. After I gave her, she left me alone.
I again went out and walked around Taksim. I decided I wanted to at least go to Asian Side. I wanted to go to the highest point of Istanbul which was Camlica Hill. I took the boat from Kabatas to Uskudar. From Uskudar, I didn’t have any idea how to get on a bus to go up the hill. I asked around and people were very helpful. I took the bus (Cant remember if it’s 15A) and walked to the hilly ascending path to the point again. From atop, I saw where the major waters of Istanbul,Golden Horn and Bosphorus meet, the Sea of Mamara. I was disappointed that I didn’t go there earlier on this trip. It would have really nice to view the sunset from up there! Unfortunately, I had to go.
Rushing, I took the cab heading down to Uskudar Railway station and took the train to Sirkeci. I had a show to watch at 7pm, the mesmerizing, hypnotizing Whirling Dervishes. I felt giddy for them. I went to see it, near my accommodation. The place was called Hodjapasha. There was one more near the Sirkeci Train station and it was a bit cheaper. I only realized it when I passed by the tourist information Center. You can also buy the tickets from there as well.
I then packed, check out, and headed to the airport. Holiday was over.
Flight was 3hours delayed though, but it’s ok.