What I see, hear and feel

What I see and did..
Biei-Furano, Hokkaido

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Turkey Travel Summary Part 1

After almost 2 weeks (14th Nov-26th Nov)  in Turkey, now I'm back at home. The plane landed at KLIA at 7.05 am after 10 hours 45 minutes in the air over 9,869 km. Alhamdulillah. An hour after that, we left KLIA in a car and a taxi. The taxi went to my son's house in Saujana Putra, reloaded all luggages and passengers into my son's car and headed home to Kuang.

The trip was a success, at least to me. Having two types of travel methods was really good. The first part, 100% guided Istanbul-Canakkale-Troy-Pergamon-Kusadasi-Konya-Pamukkale-Cappadocia-Ankara-Istanbul (refer to the map below). We had to follow the schedules and the fast pace. Shopping and taking pictures were done fast and didn't need second thoughts. The second part, we were on our own exploring a few parts of this mega city in a slower pace and more time on walking around, shopping and sampling the local foods.

The November weather was nicely cool, temperature ranging from 20 degree celsius to 5 degree celsius, at times we didn't have to wear coats at all when the temperature were 15 and above. I think this is the best time to visit Turkey if you are thinking to go at the end of the year.


The blue line from point B to point C and so on shows the direction we traveled. The line from point I (also point A, as we started from here, Istanbul) actually should be towards Gallipoli Peninsular on the European side (which is across Canakkale) but Googlemap got confused. Lol.

We spent 9 days and 7 nights under the charge of  Parlo travel agency and then extended our stay in Istanbul for another 4 days and 5 nights, making the hotel reservation ourselves through Agoda.com. There were 60 of us in this Turkey trip, divided into 2 groups, Group A and Group B but the groups didn't travel together. However, our schedules and hotel stops were the same. The people in my group were mixed ones, 1Malaysia; Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs and Eurasians and the communication language was English. The major occupation group is from the education industry, teachers, and there were eight of us. Our tour leader was a 24 year-old Nicki with a tomboyish look and the local guide was Mr. Ugur (Ugur means lucky).

Daughter and the tour leader.

Please note that this is an itinerary targeted more to the general people and not for those who want a more islamic or muslim-oriented tour ie visiting more mosques and having praying conveniences.

Here is the summary of our tour.

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur
Flight departure from KLIA to Istanbul Ataturk Airport at 12.50 am (14 Nov). We gathered at the airport at 10 pm on the 13th Nov. The flight time was 12.50 am Malaysian time.

Day 2: (A-B) Istanbul-Canakkale
Arrived at Istanbul at 6.30 am and performed our Fajr solat at a quiet section of the airport carousel area. Nicki told us to change our USD into Turkey Lira at the airport (USD1= TL1.8). When I asked Nicki how much she recommended to bring on this trip, she said,"USD600". By then, the bus from Dorak was ready outside the airport to take us to the pier. There we boarded a ferry which took us for a cruise along the Bosphorus Straits that separates Europe and Asia and connecting the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea.  The cruise provided dramatic sights lining the shores ; mosques, villages, palaces, grand wooden mansion, imposing fortresses etc. After that we visited Topkapi Palace and Museum before touring the beautiful Hagia Sofia, a UNESCO world heritage site. We had our lunch at a fish restaurant near the shore. There we performed our zuhr-asr solat before we set off to Gallipoli Peninsular and crossed the Dardanelle Straits by ferry to Canakkale. It was a long journey taking around 5-6 hours from Istanbul. We checked into Kolin Hotel where we had our dinner and slept over for one night.

Day 3: (B-C-D) Canakkale/Troy-Asklepion-Kusadasi
Ancient City of Troy
After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and went off our way to archeological Ancient City of Troy, the site of the Trojan War. It took about 1-2 hours to get there. Mr Ugur gave a quite detail explanation which I couldn't remember much of it. We resumed our journey (2 hours) to Bergama where we had lunch before touring Asklepion nearby, a famed ancient medical center. The journey was then continued to the coastal town of Kusadasi (another few hours) where we checked into Pine Bay Hotel for the night. En-route to Kusadasi, we stopped at a Turkish delight shop where we sampled and purchased some apple teas, Turkish desserts, olive oils and nuts. I don't really like the pre-packaged baklavas sold here, tasted old and laden with 'sugar'. Check the expiry dates and I suggested you buy the freshly baked ones and taste it sweetness before buying. They will let you do that.

Day 4: (D-E) Kusadasi-Pamukkale/Denizli
Pamukkale
As usual, we had breakfast at the hotel before visiting a leather house which presented their high quality collections in the traditional catwalk show. The products were too expensive for us to splurge our money on and we made our fast exit. Ha, ha, ha. The next destination was Meryem Ana Evi (House of Virgin Mary) on Mount Koressos in Selcuk, where Mary spent her last days there. At the base of the mountain, is Ephesus, one of the most outstanding archaeological sites and once the most important commercial center of Western Anatolia. Lunch was taken at Aziziye restaurant in Kusadasi and usually we were given about half an hour to relieve ourselves, performed solat (for the muslims) and did a little shopping at each stopover. Pamukkale was the last destination for the day and we had to reach it before sunset. And that we did after a few hours on the road. Pamukkale Travertine is suppose to be a spectacular natural site, well known for its marvelous white lime cascades formed by hot mineral springs. It is a kars landscape sitting on a volcanic area. Somehow, at the time we were there, the travertines did not have that postcard look.We slipped into slippers (for those who brought) or barefooted and went to soak our feet in the shallow pools or stream. Shoes are not allowed to protect the travertines.  Nearby are the ruins of Hierapolis but we did not go in there. By night time, we had already checked into Colossae Hotel where we had dinner in its huge dining room and soothed ourselves in the thermal pool (Nicki had told us to bring swimwear and cap).

Day 5: (E-F-G) Pamukkale-Konya-Cappadocia
Mevlana Museum
We put out our luggages and breakfasted before embarking on a 3-hour drive to Konya. En-route we stopped at Dinar to taste the local traditional yogurt with honey and poppy seeds and did a little shopping at the souvenir shop. Hopped on the bus to have our lunch at Kirazlibahce restaurant. When we reached Konya, we visited the Mevlana Museum, also known as the Green Dome (under the Dome is the tomb of Mevlana). Mevlana was the mystical Muslim sufi, the founder of the Whirling Dervishes group. The place was very crowded. The next 3-hour journey was towards Cappadocia, a unique historical and cultural region of exceptional natural wonder. On arrival, those who wanted to enjoy the Turkish bath were taken straight to Elis Hamam while the rest checked into Uchisar Kaya Hotel. Dinner was served and those who didnt take turkish hamam ate early. Uchisar Kaya is a cave-like hotel which makes it unique. Sandstones from the area were used as construction medium and there are pictures in each room showing sandstone extractions done traditionally. Strong men.

Day 6: (G) Cappadocia
Gerome Open Air Museum
We had another night here so there was no need to put the luggages outside the hotel room. Yeay, more relaxed. First destination was the underground city of Kaymakli which was built to accommodate 250 000 people during the Roman occupation and was linked to other cities by underground tunnels. There were many souvenir stalls and the price were ok if you could haggle. On the way to Gerome Open Air Museum, we could see the Uchisar Rock castle and lots of fairy chimneys, a natural formation caused by winds and rain. OMG!, Ugur urged us to say this when we came across any great formations. Lol. At GOAM, we entered one of the chapels carved into the hillsides and were told that the first religious colony was dated back to 373 AD. We lunched at the cave restaurant which provided almost the same meals we had during our  previous stopovers with the exception at Bergama. I lost my appetite. The balloon flights which were supposed to be done in the morning were postponed to the late afternoon when the sky was clear. We did not take the flight because we couldn't commit ourselves to burn USD200 a person for the only one-hour thrill. We went to Pasabag Valley instead to view the striking fairy chimneys with twin rock caps or mushroom shaped fairy chimneys (the single rock cap looked like something else to me, lol).  The valley is also known as the Valley of Imagination because some rock formations look like camel, walrus etc.  We wrapped the night with a visit to the carpet factory and here we watched the ladies weaving carpets and how the silk threads were made from the silk cocoons.
More pictures in the Cappadocia entry.

Day 7: (G-H) Cappadocia-Ankara
Anit Kabir
As usual, luggages must be out by a certain time and off we went to the local jewelry shop, Blu Arts.  I bought a turquoise ring here at USD750 (after a discount from 12 hundred USD). Unfortunately, at the time this post was written, the ring is somewhere in Istanbul. :(. Have to accept the fate that the ring wasn't to be mine. By 9 am we set off to Ankara which was about a few hours drive from Coppadocia. As we entered the capital of Turkey with a population of 5 million, we passed the city's shanties which are located at the hillsides. We were taken to a restaurant next to Ankara Gar and had the same meal again. After the meal, we visited Mustapha Kamal Ataturk Musoleum or Anit Kabir which contained his tomb and almost everything about him. Later, we were brought to the Old Ankara Town to see Ankara Castle but we did not proceed with the tour after an old lady gave us a lecture. She seemed to be discontented with her government and told us not to listen to our local guide. We turned back to the bus and off we went to check into Ankara Surmeli Hotel. That night we were given another option, eating-out. We opted to venture out into the unknown streets of Ankara and have our first beef kebab with MAYONNAISE instead of the usual chicken kebab ! Lol. We wandered into few shops and my daughter bought a new coat in red and discarded the one bought in Malaysia (it made her look fat)

Day 8: (H-I) Ankara-Istanbul
Blue Mosque
Traveled back to Istanbul which is 448 km away (about the distance from KL to Kota Bharu) and it took about 6 hours. The group visited Hippodrome or Sultanahmet Square which can hold up to 1 million spectators for a scene of chariot race in the olden days. While the rest went to the hippodrome, we muslims went to pray at the Blue Mosque. Later, the rest joined us inside The Blue Mosque and the only time it is out of bound is during the praying times. Blue Mosque is not that blue but as they said, it is beautiful inside. We did not linger very long inside as time was a constraint. The bus then rushed us to the Spice bazaar and the huge Grand Bazaar where we were allocated only 2 hours to do all the shopping. I guessed they would not even make it to more than 20 stalls. According to a source, there are about 4000 stalls at the Grand Bazaar. Since my family had extended our stay in Istanbul, we took it easy and didn't have to rush. At 6 pm the bus took us to Crowne Plaza Hotel at New Istanbul which is across the Golden Horn and checked in. We were then feted to a dinner with cultural entertainments at a restaurant outside the hotel and there was BD which I was too shy to watch.

Day 9 - Day 14: (I) Istanbul
Departure for 3pm flight to Kuala Lumpur . The group except the 6 of us, were driven to the airport early at 11 am because the immigration process would be long. My family and I then took two taxis to Ayasultan Hotel, a boutique hotel which we had made reservations for 5 nights through Agoda.com. After checking in, we walked to Grand Bazaar and started shopping. Lol. Another 4 days to go, yeay!

The Grand Bazaar

For the rest of our stay, we went a little bit around Kadikoy, Ortakoy, Taksim, Galata, Aksaray and of course more of Sultanahmet.


~~~This posting might be updated or improved from time to time~~~

"Everywhere, the ancient buildings like mosques, churches, grand bazaar, palaces and cobbled alleyways make Old Istanbul looks classic and exotic. The emerging boutique hotels and European-style cafes add characters to it. It felt so amazing to be enveloped by it all."


Thank you for reading and visit me again.

4 comments:

  1. Salam.
    Im going in june but worried over prayer and food. Took a package and it looks quite compact.
    Can you help me take a look at my itinerary and advise me which places have designated areas to solat?
    Here's the itinerary: http://www.hwtravel.com.sg/downloads/HWTK01.pdf

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    Replies
    1. There is no need to worry about food and solat when you are in Turkey. Food are halal as far as i am concerned. The solats are performed at the places we stopped for lunch and usually there are surau nearby or attached to the restaurants. If there is no surau, then u may ask the restaurant owner/workers if they have a place to pray. As in our case, they were very kind to let us pray in their abode upstairs as there were only a few of us (this was in Bergama). We performed jama' and qasar zuhr-asr during the journey from one place to the next. The night and subuh prayers were done in the hotel after we checked in. We ladies didnt carry our telekungs so we just prayed in the clothes we wore. I recommend that u discuss this solat thing with your tour leader and i'm sure he or she will have ur needs and interests catered to. After all you are their customers. If you are travelling with the non muslims, and you are a minority, then you have to pray 'fast' and not let them wait for you. Usually, the tour leader will give you half an hour to 45 minutes rest at the pit stops, to lunch, shop and relief yourselves. So better be the first to get off the bus as the queus at the toilet will be long. Deciding whether to perform your prayer or eat first depends on the situation or need at that time. In my case, i asked about the availability of the surau first before we ate. If it is big, we lunched first as it could accomodate all of us. If it was small, we went one by one..dont worry, although turkey is a secular country, it is still easy to carry out our duties as muslims. Enjoy your trip. It is going to be unforgettable one. Inshaa Allah. :)

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  2. Choice stay at Bali Nusa Dua...interested to visit Bali? ...

    ReplyDelete