Turkish Baat 10 : Istanbul and The End

Continued from Days 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

Day 10

We were supposed to leave only at 11 from the hotel, but we woke up early because…shopping! In addition to the more famous Grand and Spice markets, there is also one near the Blue Mosque called Arasta Bazaar. The internet had some good things to say about it. It was very close to the hotel, and we reached by 9. The shops were just beginning to open. It is smaller than the other two. We found some super cushion covers, but otherwise, it actually seemed pricier than the other markets.

We bid goodbye to the hotel by 11, and this time, reached the airport in just an hour! After doner kababs for lunch, we did some duty free shopping and boarded the flight. The flight to Doha had no in-flight entertainment and I had to restrain myself from finishing the book I had brought! The flight was a bit delayed and we had to make a run for the connecting flight! We were warned by the Istanbul duty-free salesman that they might not let the liquor through, thankfully spirits dampening didn’t happen. More

Turkish Baat 9 : Back in Istanbul

Continued from Days 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

Day 9

Since it was going to be our last night in Turkey, we began searching for a restaurant with a view and found Olive. We asked the Sokulla Pasa reception to book a table for dinner. After breakfast, we were picked up, at 8.20 but then spent the next hour roaming around the hotel picking up and dropping people! Finally, at around 10, we landed up at the first palace in our itinerary – Dolmabahçe Palace. This was the residence of the Ottoman Sultans after Topkapi Palace. We were told that after the then Sultan visited Europe and saw the residences of his counterparts, he felt that his current residence lacked style. Despite not really having the money, he took loans, taxed his subjects and got this built. Now, this ‘little’ home built on EMI is valued at $1.5 bn.  I wondered if a Gates or Zuck could pick it up!

No photos are allowed inside the palace, but you know… 😀 The place is insanely garish and really looks rich! After the Ottoman sultans were exiled, this was used as a presidential guesthouse for visiting dignitaries and Ataturk, when he dropped in from Ankara. To be noted that this was where he died. I wondered whether the sultans had put a hex on him.  More

Turkish Baat 8 : More Cappadocia

Continued from Days 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

Day 8

One of the few days on which we could afford to wake up slightly late. The breakfast view from the Dedeli Konak terrace was quite awesome. This hotel was owned by our tour operator, and he visited every morning. We had seen him the previous day, but since we were in a hurry, we couldn’t chat. He joined us for breakfast, and promised to ensure we got time in the evening for shopping, have a driver ready to take us around and find good restaurants for us in Istanbul.

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Turkish Baat 7 : Cappadocia

Continued from Days 1,2,3,4,5,6

Day 7

This was the most highly anticipated day and event in the tour. All the conversations we’ve had about Turkey had this – the balloon ride – as the reference point. We had to wake up at 4 AM though. I heard later that this was also possible during the evening, but it was risky and very few operators dealt with it. Also, nothing like seeing the sunrise. We were picked up in fifteen minutes and taken, shivering, to the meeting point from where we’d get airborne. Before we got on, we had coffee and cake, and watched the balloons being filled up. All of the flame throwing made me think of GoT and dragons. 25 people are allowed per balloon, and once we were in the air, we could see a hundred balloons around! Different colours and at different heights, it was a spectacular sight!

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Turkish Baat 5 : Pamukkale & Kusadasi

Continued from Days 1,2,3,4

Day 5

The hotel didn’t have a great rating on Trip Advisor, but there were comments about  great view. Our room overlooked the pool, so I went around asking the hotel staff, most of whom didn’t understand English. The girl at the reception seemed to, and after listening to me patiently and giving me a knowing smile, she said, “you go for tour, you get great view”! I learned later that the balconies on the upper floor got this view. We checked out after a bland breakfast in what seemed like a hall converted into a restaurant, and waited at the reception for our guide. They played The Beatles’ “Real Love”, I hadn’t heard it in a long time! 😀

Our guide Ali soon appeared,a jovial character, who later claimed he had been speaking English only for the last 3 years and had learned the language from movies and music. There were six of us in the mini van and we proceeded to the hot springs. Ali explained that most of the large hotels were located nearer to the springs and the houses and hotels in that area had two pipes – one being dedicated to the spring water. Apparently, Nicholas Cage had visited during the shoot of Ghost Rider 2 and so had Salman and Katrina, though he claimed the movie to be Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahani. Hmm. The springs had a lot of iron, causing their red colour and a taste of blood. They were supposed to cure skin ailments. Bathing, not drinking. More

Turkish Baat 4 : More Bodrum

Continued from Days 1,2,3

Day 4

Because of the plan flip, we weren’t sure when we’d start. Like typical first-benchers, we were ready to go by 9. By about 10.15, I had gotten tired of watching Bieber and will.i.am (liked Tom Hanks in “I really like you” though) and using up the free wifi and gave the tour operator a piece of my mind via mail. Turned out to be a good idea because he had forgotten that he had flipped our plans! A few calls later, we were told we would be picked up at 12.

Charlie arrived right on time and immediately brought the vacation on track. He was born in Australia, and when we told him of our travails, immediately apologised and insisted on buying us lunch. He even called the bus guy from the previous day. We didn’t manage to get the real scene behind the 10.30 screeching though! We drove towards town and saw a kite festival happening near the windmills. One particularly imaginative person had made a kite that consisted of a lady’s legs and shorts and flippers. The kite in the air looked like someone swimming. More

Turkish Baat 3 : Bodrum

Continued from Days 1,2

Day 3

The Salmakis Hotel reminded me a bit of Santorini, perhaps a less prettier cousin, mostly thanks to the construction of the hotel and the colours used – white and blue. But that wasn’t the only thing. It was the attitude of the service staff – they always had something better to do when you beckoned. D noticed that the colour of our wristband – given to us when we checked in – was different from many others. I also agreed that colour had a lot to do with the disparate treatment of guests. The view from the restaurant area was fantastic, but though the breakfast spread was not lacking in terms of quantity, it wasn’t impressive in terms of taste.

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Turkish Baat 2 : Istanbul and beyond

Continued from Day 1

The night vanished and so did the headache. We finished a heavy breakfast that involved a cheese fest, and started out on our guided tour -at 8.30 AM, after a series of tour bus changes. They bring everyone to one place and then distribute into various buses depending on the tour chosen. Our group had, among others, four Indian middle aged ladies, a Pakistani couple, a US couple who name dropped Myanmar (!) every ten minutes, a Singaporean Indian who was having nightmares of a belly dance experience from the previous night, a Chinese girl, and  an elderly Indian gentleman who was forever confused about the hotel he came from. (he raised his hand whichever hotel name was called out!) The tour was arranged by our travel operator through She Tours, and our guide was a lady named after Minerva. We also saw a hop-on hop-off sightseeing option called Big Bus Tours on the way. First on the agenda was the Hippodrome of Constantinople. It has a Serpent Column, a granite obelisk, a bronze (stolen since) obelisk and a German fountain. The place was crowded, also because there was a rally scheduled to happen in the evening. Quite a nice coincidence, because the place was originally famous for horse and chariot racing.

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Turkish Baat 1 : Istanbul, almost!

Prequel: Turkey resisted us twice, back in 2013. We planned a trip in January only to figure out that the weather wasn’t the best in all the places we wanted to visit. We tried again in May and there were protests. Not against us, but in general. This year, thanks to the house shift, it was all one big rush. To add to that, we had to shift our trip by a week at the last minute because my visa process was bungled by a very inept ‘travel agency‘.

Day 1

Maybe it was a bid to compensate, the cosmos decided to grant us an uneventful beginning to the trip. Though we began at an insane hour (4:15 AM flight) the Meru cab was on time, and we met B and P at the airport, on their way to Jordan. Chatting with them also meant that we didn’t fall asleep. Qatar Airways gave us an omelette and chicken early morning meal, and though I had plans to watch a movie, I promptly fell asleep. We landed at Doha’s Hamad airport and saw that giant teddy bear that belonged to the royal family. Wes Craven would be proud of that thing! But otherwise, quite an awesome airport, though I couldn’t find free WiFi. That tin-man playground seemed quite fun.

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