Turkey - Istanbul Part II

The next day was our last day in Istanbul. We were due to leave after midnight so we pretty much had the whole day to spend. It was a bit tricky because we were to check out before noon. I have to say the timing of the flight was rather inconvenient but that was the way it went. I guess you can always pay for another night if you want to enjoy the rest of the day relaxing or napping in your hotel room but that's not what we did. The plan for the day was to go to Basilica Cistern and take a Bosphorus tour. Since we had so much time to kill, I thought we should take the full bosphorus tour which departs at 13:35 and be back at 18:35. Since my source was googling, I wasn't actually sure if the information I got was correct but still I thought we could just start the day late. Maybe it was our body clock but we didn't start the day late. I think we finished our check out even before 10. The hotel was nice, they gave us 2 packs of coffee as presents :) We left our luggages with them and they told us that our pick up time for the airport was 09:30 pm. So much time to kill. So first, it's a walk to the pier. We could actually walk there. It was a nice sunshiny day, very cooling, a really great day to be spent outside. Found the Bosphorus Pier and saw the schedule and my googling was right, so we got our tickets at 25 TL each. Oh I have to say that there are private tours which arrange for a tour of the bosphorus but I wasn't really sure what they offer exactly and they always come at a higher price, so I thought this one was not bad.

Since that was like only 10 am something, we had so much time to kill. We crossed the street and visited 2 mosques and the spice bazaar. The hotel lady who talked to us the day before told us to see these 2 mosques which she found to be more beautiful than the blue mosque :P Well it was really less touristy and it made me rather nervous about going in. However just like the blue mosque, it's also open for tourists. We followed a small group going in. Since there weren't many tourists, they don't provide plastic bag, you just put your shoes on the racks, which is fine. The first one we went to was Yeni Camii or the New Mosque. Again it's pretty. The dome had this nice design with a color palette like one you can find in a baby's room. Maybe because it's something really new for me, but I really enjoyed and was in awe seeing how pretty the mosques were.

Next it was to the spice bazaar which was right next to it. Obviously as indicated by its name, most of the sellers here sell spices and also turkish delights. It was smaller than the Grand Bazaar which is great and just like the Grand Bazaar, it was also photogenic. It was very interesting to see mounds of spices for everything that you didn't even know exists. Also there were many types of tea. Then there were many types of turkish delight and dried fruits. Since we already bought our things and it would be too impratical to be carrying many things as we spent our day, we didn't buy anything here. To see pictures of the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar (I combined the pictures from these 2 places in 1 set), you can go here.

Then it was a short walk to another mosque nearby, Rüstem Pasha Mosque. I like this mosque perhaps because it was brighter inside and the more minimalistic approach in the design. Perhaps because of its brightness and the maroon / brown and white color blocks, it reminded me a lot of Basilique De La Garde in Marseille which I was very lucky to visit last year.

To see pictures from Yeni Camii and Rüstem Pasha Mosque, you can go here. Overall, I'm glad that we got to see these 2 mosques which weren't in the initial plan. It was also nice that there weren't many tourists there. I am thankful that there were some because as I said, I still got nervous about entering a mosque because I was just not sure if I was allowed to. So seeing other tourists was nice. I guess with mosques, it's a different kind of feeling. Not like if I'm in Italy, in which I wouldn't hesitate entering any church I encounter. Anyways, we still had time, so we decided to walk to Basilica Cistern. It was perhaps not a very good decision because obviously we got confused and the hilly area didn't make it a comfortable walk but we made it *yay* Basilica Cistern was something really magnificent. There were many tall columns underground with a pool of water. It was very cool inside it which was nice and to think about the construction of it, it was really fascinating. I'm not sure how it worked as a cistern though. In general, I just don't know how cistern works :( Anyways, found the wishing column like the one in Hagia Sophia and made my wish there by putting my thumb into the hole and trying to make a full circle twisting my hand. I guess not many people know about it and like many of these things, their ability to grant wishes are questionable. I guess this one wasn't as famous like the one in Hagia Sophia. I think many people think the wishing column means that you have to throw coins into the area around it which did have many coins. Then of course there were the 2 famous medusa heads which were filled with tourists trying to take pictures. Me too. Unfortunately pictures from this place didn't turn out so well because it didn't have much light in it. I like the cistern a lot even though it pretty much didn't have anything much inside it but columns, but I still think it's cool and it's always nice to be in a place which is literally cool :P To see more pictures from Basilica Cistern, you can go to this set.

After which, YeeMaggio had lunch and then we went back to the pier for our boat trip. We decided to take the tram this time and stopped in Eminonu. For precaution, I took a motion sickness pill though I think it wasn't necessary. It was quite a long trip. I spent most of it standing up taking pictures. It was windy on the boat so it was rather cold. It was interesting to see the buildings around the Bosphorus strait. Took this picture of Dolmabahçe Palace.

At some point, I just stopped taking pictures and just saw the view. I remembered standing next to this older guy who was snapping pictures. We didn't talk but it was pretty peaceful to be standing next to him and hearing his camera clicks. You can actually get off in any of the stop and then get on again when the boat is making the route back but like many others, we decided to stop at the last stop in Anadolu Kavağı. I vaguely remembered reading that you could go up hill to see something. When we arrived we just saw many seafood restaurants and some shops and we weren't sure what to do with the around 2-hour break. We walked around a bit and saw some tourists following a street up the hill and we did the same. Man! It was tough. It was physically tough that I seriously wondered if the view would be worth it. I just comforted myself that it would be so nice walking this road on the way down. I couldn't make this hike without stopping though, especially because some of the last parts involved climbing stairs. I had to stop and take a breather. My breath was short and I was panting but I made it up to what I now found out (I just googled it) to be Yoros Castle. I remembered there was this gate to enter it and it was weird, there was a man guarding it and he would open the gate and then lock it. When he saw several people wanting to go in or go out, he would open the gate but he would lock it again. I'm not sure why he did that. Anyway, when I got in, the man locked the gate behind me and YeeMaggio was left behind but she eventually got in. I remember that I just straight away sat down and then there's this tree in front of me. Not the most beautiful tree I've seen but it felt comforting and I remembered thinking something like, hello tree, I climbed all the way up here just to see you :P There was nothing much there really. We were in this walled area. We could see the sea below and it was actually the black sea down there but of course as you know it's not black. I just thought the view was ordinary and after the long and demanding hike, it wasn't really rewarding. I guess the reward came in the form that you made it there. I, who's so not healthy or fit, made the long hike up and I didn't know that I could do that.

That's the tree I was talking about, the only tree there. After some time there, it was time to go down. On the way down I saw this group of Italians who were like they're gonna faint. It was really seriously hard. If you want to do it, do it just as you get off the boat because you must factor in the time taken to go up, see the view, and go back. It was seriously a nicer walk down. I'm pretty sure we took less time going down than up. I had a fish meal there while waiting for the boat. Then it was the boat ride back. Again, I spent most of the time standing. This time in the lower deck which was more windy. It got pretty sentimental at that time, being alone, cold, and reflecting on life and the journey which was ending, and just emptying the brain and seeing the view. I think I really needed that solitary quiet moment. I always need my time alone. The sun was setting and truly it just got very sentimental for me.

For pictures from the Bosphorus, you can go here. So anyways, we arrived as scheduled at 06:30 pm something. So that's around 3 hours to kill. We decided to walk back to Sultanahmet area. It's the second time of the day walking there and it still wasn't a smooth journey. I am really bad with direction but we got there. YeeMaggio had dinner and I had my last dish in Turkey, sutlac the rice pudding which I didn't enjoy much. After dinner we still had time to kill, darn, we're running out of ideas. So we just walked around and it was dark by then so I was rather uneasy about the whole thing. Saw the blue mosque in the distance and it looked beautiful and I decided to take pictures of it. I also heard some Indonesians again here and it felt rather lonely because they were in a big group and they had things to do and I didn't have any but anyways, saw the blue mosque and saw that it was open. I wondered if we could go in. Again it's just one of those things, I wasn't sure. I remembered thinking that shouldn't a mosque be a like church where it should be a sanctuary for people in need. So we entered the mosque compound and there was no guard to chase us out. I guess you can always enter the mosque anytime. It was very much quietter than in the morning when there were many tourists but there were still tourists in there, not many, just a few. I think it was perhaps nicer to visit the mosque in the evening when it's pretty with all the lights and not many people inside it. I don't know if it opens 24 hours though. So anyway, we didn't enter the mosque, we just walked around its ground and be in awe at how pretty it was. I remembered feeling happy, at peace, and loving it. For this, the blue mosque will always have a special place in my heart. It had given me shelter when I needed it and it was just so majestically beautiful, like something coming out of a fairy tale. I should say thank you for being so welcoming :)

So after that, at around 9 pm, we decided to go back to our hotel. This time we decided to take the tram and it took us less than 15 minutes to reach the hotel. The hotel staff decided to call our car early and we left before 09:30 pm. The staff were really nice, they said goodbye with a smile and a thank you and I totally would love to stay in their hotel again. Our driver was also nice. He was chirpy. Because of our rather late timing, it was a breeze to get out of the maze, but our driver was still driving really really fast that I was a bit worried. I wondered if I should tell him that we were not in a hurry because I wondered if that's the reason he drove so fast. However I knew he didn't speak english well, so I didn't say anything. He did put on the radio loudly which was saying the prayer which I believed was the prayer after maghrib and that kinda made me feel at ease a bit. I thought at least we had some prayers going on. I think it took us less than 30 minutes to reach the airport, a total opposite than when we arrived.

In the airport, the check-in was quite maddening. Turkish airline counters were handling check in for all their flights and the queue was rather crazy. I thought it's pretty amazing that our luggages didn't get mixed up. The sorting mechanism inside there must be awesome. Anyway check-in done, we did some shopping to finish our last lira. Saw many Indonesians and as guessed there were many Indonesians on the plane. Apparently the plane's last destination was Jakarta. Unlike the flight in, this flight out was filled with Indonesians from a church group. I couldn't get much information about what they were doing there though. From the accent it seemed they're javanese. Anyway, God was kind to me. After the bad flight in, He let the seat next to me empty *yay* I was actually pretty sleepy and tired that I actually managed to sleep after dinner. I just went into a fetal position and lied on the 2 seats I had. Who knew that with my size, I could actually make myself quite compact. I didn't know how long I slept but I really slept. I didn't remember someone pulling down my window. I also didn't remember hearing the Kenny G section in the playlist I made of Al Jarreau + George Benson, Kenny G, and Chris Botti. Must be all the walk and hike and the way over our bed time that made me be able to sleep. So in all, I only watched 2 movies in this flight, Flipped (which was good) and Hanna (which I thought was so so). We arrived in Singapore at 04:30 pm something. I actually packed some Burger King first for dinnner before taking the taxi. Arrived to an empty flat *thank God* but then Max came when I was having my dinner. He came to get some socks. I was pretty tired and not so chatty at that time but we did talk a bit. He was quite impressed that I took a hot air balloon ride. I told him that was my 30th birthday present and for my 29th birthday present, I took myself to Barcelona. He said all that was good and for my 31st birthday present, I should get a guy!!! *cue eyes rolling* It really felt like normalcy talking to him. That was the reality. Holiday was ending and real life began again. Darn, as I wrote those lines, I get pretty depressed :( Oh well. So that was the story of my last day in Turkey. As promised, I'll write one last post to reflect about the Turkey experience. Hope to get it out soon. Thank you so much if you've been reading everything :)

:) eKa @ 9:43:00 PM • 0 comments

Turkey - Istanbul Part I

The last leg of my trip was Istanbul. As much as my time in Izmir wasn't perfect, I was actually rather sad about starting leg 3 because that meant holiday was ending and I was really not ready for it. For some reasons, mom was thinking that I was on my way home at that time. She had watched some news about Turkey and I guess she was rather uneasy about it. I don't know what she watched but I guess it was about the Syrian refugees who were moving to Turkey and obviously situation there was bad. That was the news we watched most of the time then. I guess mom was rather eager for me to go home. However to Istanbul it was. Again we took pegasus airline. There wasn't anything interesting to report on the flight. Oh, YeeMaggio's luggage was overweight that she had to open the suitcase on the spot and took out some stuff. I didn't see it actually because I was done before her. I only found out after she finished. Pegasus itself gives 16 kg of luggage allowance if I'm not mistaken. Anyways, we arrived in Istanbul. Met the person who supposed to pick us up. I remembered seeing tulips blooming by the roads and they were beautiful. The drive at the main road was smooth enough but when we reached the Sultanahmet area, it was hard. I purposely chose an area in which we could kinda walk to the blue mosque, hagia sophia, and the rest of the places nearby. So this area of Istanbul is apparently in a hilly area and it was like a maze and the streets are not wide enough for 2 cars to pass through comfortably so to navigate this area takes a lot patience and skill. I think we spent around 30 to 40 minutes in this area just to get through to our hotel. Also perhaps it's because our timing in the afternoon, hence the streets were busier. When we had to go to the airport to get home at 9pm something, it was a breeze.

What mattered was we arrived at the hotel. I chose Hotellino and it was great. The staff were mostly youngsters in casual clothing. The room was big and nice. It was the nicest hotel we stayed in and it was really nice that I would love to go back and stay there again if I come back to Istanbul. It was also like on the end of a street so I think we got a bit more peace and quiet. I arrived to a news of an earthquake in Sumatra that I stopped mid sentence when I was talking to one of the staff and just tried to read the texts on the tv. It was a footage from metro tv. I think the staff was nice because I think he told the rest that I was from Indonesia. Luckily it was far from my home so all's cool. I did send mom a text. Due to the longer than expected time in the maze of Istanbul, we couldn't proceed with the plan of visiting Basilica Cistern. I would definitely get lost somewhere finding it and by the time we found it, we may not have enough time to explore it, so it had to be postponed. We opted to find dinner instead. Settled at this small restaurant but it get more crowded as we were there and I had perhaps the best meal so far. It was shish chicken and it was awesome, tender and juicy. I think I had my best meal in Turkey in Istanbul. Since I'm a fussy eater, I couldn't say I like Turkish cuisine much. The problem lies with me not them. Though I have to say that I love the dessert I had tried no matter how sweet they always came in. Perhaps that's the Indonesian genes in me that we love sweet things :P I thought that baklava was basically like a lasagna of sweet things but it was very addictive to me. Then I also like this panna cotta like dessert which I'm not sure what it's called. Then at this dinner I tried this cheese baked thingy with a surface like vermicelli thingy which of course sweet because it was doused in honey or syrup. The taste kinda reminded me of cheese martabak Bangka but it was different and I loved it a lot. I think the only dessert I didn't like was sutlac, which was the last Turkish thing I ate. It's a rice pudding and I don't know if it was the restaurant who made it that way or it's really like that but I could feel some grains of rice and that felt really wrong for me to be feeling rice that way and so I didn't enjoy it fully.

Nothing much happened that day. The next day was our so called Istanbul tour. In the morning one of the hotel owner kindly greeted us as we were waiting to be picked up. I think she greeted every guests in the morning. She's very friendly and she gave us a map and talked to us about the places to see and explore. She said, you should explore the things that you were going to see today on your own. She's perhaps right but I know that I'm not good with directions and stuff and I don't know if YeeMaggio is any good herself so that's why I chose the tour so that I would be well taken care of, so to speak :P There supposed to be 6 people in the group but 2 didn't even arrive in their hotel so it was us and this couple from Birmingham, Barbara and Richard. I admire them truly. Just as I admire parents who have toddlers and strollers in tow, I admire older travellers. Barbara is 71 and she needs walking stick to help her walk. Her husband Richard brought a foldable chair for her so that she could always sit anywhere. This physical limitation does not stop these ex-teachers from exploring the world. Last year they went to Norway to see the nothern lights. They've been to Libya some years before the revolution. Then this time they're taking a cruise which will take them to see Bulgaria and so on. Truly I admire them. I also admire them for the strong marriage they have. I can tell they care for each other a lot. I think it's obvious that Richard really loves Barbara and they have good conversation with each other. It's incredible for me to keep a marriage last that long. I did wonder how on earth the teachers' salary or retirement package can fund all these trips. It doesn't seem to be something possible in this side of the world.

First stop was the hippodrome where there are obelisks. One of the obelisk came from Egypt and I always get very fascinated that they managed to transport these giant things to places like Istanbul and Rome from Egypt! Now that I think about it, I wondered how do one make an obelisk. There's also a sculpture column that supposed to have 3 snake heads on it but none of the head is there anymore. I thought it would be cool if they were. This is the picture of the base of the obelisk from Egypt. I like this obelisk, I thought the symbols on it were very cool.

Then it was to the blue mosque or the actual name is Sultan Ahmed Mosque or in Turkish, Sultanahmet Camii. I think Camii might be the turkish word for mosque. I was most excited to go to this mosque. The excitement was there even before I left for Turkey. Even though I come from Indonesia, the country with the largest muslim population, I have never entered a mosque. The closest I've been to an Islamic place of worship is my high school's musholla which I entered because my muslim classmates at that time (I couldn't remember who, so sorry) invited some of us in when we said we were curious. I don't know if the Islamic teachers would have liked it though it they had found out. In Indonesia, it's not like there's field trip to visit mosques even though Jakarta has one of the biggest mosque in the world. I'm not sure if the muslims in Indonesia would have liked non-muslims to just waltz in their mosques though mosque like Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta does allow non-muslims to come in and see it. I want to make this a thing in my life list, to go inside Istiqlal mosque. So anyway, entering the blue mosque was something totally awesome for me. Walking towards it, I was like giddy in excitement and I tried to see everything. I think it's the only mosque in Istanbul or perhaps in Turkey to have 6 minarets and it looked really pretty. Very different from mosques in Indonesia but I should not comment about this because as I said, I've never visited any mosque in Indonesia.

Side track a bit. You can see that the trees were still empty with no leaves. Istanbul was a bit of a mix between Izmir and Cappadocia. The trees were still empty but it was greener than Cappadocia and tulips were blooming. Another interesting climate observation for me. So anyway as mentioned, I tried to see everything about the mosque. There were many tourists and there was this rule on the wall. You have to take off your shoes - of course. They kindly provide plastic bag for your shoes. So you don't have to leave it on the shoes racks and get confused later on. Women should cover their head and shoulder - not followed. None of the tourists did this and in fact I don't recall seeing anyone monitoring what you wear and such. Not like in St. Peters in the Vatican. One thing which was missing from the rule which I found to be shocking was there's no mention of women not entering if they're having their period. I asked my guide about this and he said the rules do apply for the muslims but it's alright for the tourists. It's another shocking thing for me. I wondered if they do some sort of cleansing with holy water when they close the mosque during praying time - but muslims don't use holy water. I do urge you not to enter the mosque if you are having your period though. Just respect the place, a place that holds a lot of sentiment for many people. Just think of it like in Bali, you are asked to respect the temples and not enter if when you're having your period. Then a more shocking thing happened. As we were queueing to go in, I saw a dog sleeping basking in the sun, like all the cats and dogs in Turkey. There's a dog, a DOG in the mosque's ground! I was totally in shock! It was just a 3-4 metres away from the wudhu place. Yes the dog wasn't inside the mosque, it was only outside but it's so called the mosque's ground and I was totally flabbergasted. It's another thing about Islam in Turkey which seems so not very restrictive like in Indonesia. We'll talk more about this in my last post on Turkey.

Inside the blue mosque, I thought it was beautiful. It felt like a church actually with the mosaic glass windows and the domes being decorated beautifully. As I said I've never been inside a mosque but from what I see from the tv for example, mosques in Indonesia are not like this. There's this circular low hanging light thing which you can find in all mosques in Turkey, at least in the ones I saw in Istanbul. The lighting was not so bright inside the mosque so I think you need these lights to help people when they want to read the Quran for example. The walls were adorned by ceramics and everything about it were just beautiful. Unlike a church where it's more narrow in the inside focusing on the altar, it's wider in a mosque. There's this section on the second floor which the Sultans used to do their prayers when they were still ruling. I found it interesting because I knew that by right everyone should be on the same level when they pray, everyone is the same. Obviously noone use that section anymore now. The guide was telling us that Turkey being a secular country, the Imams in the mosque who give sermons and religious guidance to the people are actually civil servants. They have to go through the whole Islamic education and then they work for the government. I don't know if this is what happens in all parts of Turkey, like even in the small villages. I don't know how I feel about this, with the Imams being under the employment of the government. Again, let's leave this for the last post.

In the mosque, I heard some Indonesians again :) It really made me smile in the inside. After the mosque, it was a walk to Topkapı Palace, another place with many Indonesian tourists :) There were also many kids on a field trip. The palace compound is of course very big and we didn't explore all. This is another place that I would really like to explore more extensively. You can't really take pictures inside the exhibition rooms /chambers. The first chamber we saw was this place where the Sultan's ministers would meet to discuss their state affairs. There's this window in which the Sultan can eavesdrop on the conversation. He didn't do it all the time but the mere presence of that window made his ministers be careful in what they're saying, of course :) Then there were chambers where there were some of the jewelleries and gifts that the Sultan received. The most amazing thing for me was the Chamber of Trust. There were these relics that made me gasp and widen my eyes and say OH MY GOD! everytime I saw one after another. There was Moses' staff. You know how in pictures when they depict the time Moses parted the sea and he'd be raising the staff. The staff was there! Well if you want to believe it that is. The guide did tell us, it's up to you if you want to believe it. There are things like Abraham's bowl. I was like, oh my God! That bowl is only a few generations away from Adam and Eve. Then there's also David's sword that made me think, David had a sword? Why of course, David had many things. There were also some remains from prophet Muhammad, like his beard, which made me think that we should do DNA testing on it. It will not prove anything but I wonder if it can determine if someone is his descendants. Perhaps not? The similarity between us and our parents is like 99% but when it has passed thousands of generations, will it it still be possible to say someone is the descendant of someone else? Anyways among other things which I was more sure of the origins were these locks and keys from the Kaabah. Everything was just awesome. It was truly the highlight of Topkapı Palace for me. It was truly truly cool.

Then it was another walk to Hagia Sophia. This used to be a church. Then it was turned into a mosque. I just read a bit about this in Wikipedia, it was a pretty hostile transformation. When it was turned into a mosque, all the frescoes or drawings were covered with Islamic things. This is especially because in Islam drawings of humans are not allowed. Then in the more modern time, it was converted into a museum and restoration of the original Christian items was taken. Of course it's hard to uncover a drawing underneath a plaster for example, so right now it's totally a mix of Christian and Islamic things. You can see Jesus and the angels but you can also see Islamic caligraphy. Being from my high school, I could actually identify the word for Allah. They have these some sorts of medallions with what I believe to be names in all the mosques I've seen. They circle the dome of the mosques. I can only identify Allah which is always at the front right. It's too bad I didn't have the time to explore all of Hagia Sophia. Didn't have time to go to the second floor. When I come back to Istanbul, I will definitely see more details of the blue mosque, Topkapi Place, and Hagia Sophia. I have to do this on my own so that I'll have all the time I need. Maybe I'll get to make a wish in the wishing column too. There were many tourists queueing for it.

After that it was lunch. Then it was to a carpet shop, again?!?! *sigh* Here the sale guy was kinda treating me and YeeMaggio like we didn't exist. While it's good to not be on the spotlight, I felt it was rather condescending. Like dude seriously, I can afford your carpets. Barbara was very particular in asking how much of the profit from the carpet was going to the carpet maker. However the carpet seller didn't give any definitive answer, he just said that the carpet makers were not suffering *okaay, roll eyes* Anyway Barbara got one, I wondered if she felt forced and felt bad about the push. Richard was muttering under his breathe when the sale guy went into his pushy mode which was funny for me to hear sitting next to him. He loves his wife though, so he's okay about it as long as Barbara's happy :) After that it was to the grand bazaar.

This place was huge and you could get lost easily and it'll get frustrating finding the entrance in which you entered. I heard some Indonesians here again and almost joined a group of Indonesians in their attempt to buy some souvenirs :P You know how in touristy places, the sellers will try to greet you in a language they suspect you're from. Well since I'm with the white YeeMaggio, we got a lot of "ni hao" or "konnichiwa". In here, one seller perhaps in his attempt to just throw anything that might catch the bait, said "apa kabar" as I passed. That made me turn and smile and I said, very good. I think he was surprised that he was right this time and I actually turned, so he said "selamat datang". To which, I said, "thank you" with a big smile. You know as a nation you've made an impression when they start learning bits and pieces of your language. So it was pretty great to be hearing this type of welcome :P I just bought some evil eyes here. I have to say I began to like these evil eyes thingy :P Then that's pretty much it for our day. We were driven back to our hotels and so it was good bye to Barbara and Richard. They were the last strangers we had the pleasure of meeting. To see more pictures from that day, you can go here.

Since we finished our day pretty early, YeeMaggio decided that we should go to Galata tower. It was one of the places that the hotel lady was recommending in the morning. From our hotel you can walk there if you want to but it's gonna be a real long walk and I was way too tired to do that. Although I think it would be fun to cross the Galata bridge. There were many people fishing there. I saw someone getting a fish. So anyway, we chose to take the tram. However, we didn't know how to do that *sigh* We got to the station near us, then we saw the machine. I wasn't sure what we supposed to buy and how much the trip was. I was pretty frustrated at that time. Along came this tourist whom I straight away asked if he spoke english. He did. I think he was American. He was with his wife and he was very kind in explaining to us how to use the machine. You put the money in and for 2 Turkish lira you get 1 jeton, which is like a plastic coin chip which you may find in a game arcade. 1 jeton is used for 1 trip, no matter how far or how near. Okay, got it, and off we went from our stop in Sirkeci to the stop across the bridge in Karakoy. I could actually saw the tower as we got off but then as we crossed the street, it disappeared from view so I didn't know which direction to walk. In times of uncertainty, follow the other tourists. So we saw some other tourists and we just followed them to what turned up to be a walk up a hill. Darn, it was difficult but I pressed on and I didn't stop at all until I reached the tower. My reasoning was, the moment I stopped, it'd be too difficult to continue and I just got madder with every step I took so with each step it was like I was lashing it out to the hill. Reaching the tower, there was this queue which was pretty long and we joined the queue. I thought it was pretty stupid to be joining a queue for something I wasn't sure what. It was the queue to go up the tower. Ticket price was 12 TL. You took a lift up and you still had to climb up a circular stairs which you know I loathe :( I wasn't enjoying it at all. Then we reached the viewing platform but the space was very narrow that people should only go in 1 direction. I thought the view was so so but you could really see Istanbul, the European and the Asian side. On the European side, you could see the blue mosque which was so identifiable with its 6 minarets and then there's Hagia Sophia and you could also see other mosques. The sun was going down at that time and I remembered a tinge of orange.

To see the view from that tower, you can go here. That ended our day. We had dinner nearby and off we went back to our hotel in the European side of Istanbul. The next day was our last last day in Istanbul. I'll try my best to get the story up soon.

:) eKa @ 1:02:00 AM • 0 comments

Turkey - Ephesus

So the story continues. The next day we went to Ephesus with a stop first at the house of the Virgin Mary. It's the house that some believe the Virgin Mary stayed in until she died. Some believe that she died in Jerusalem. I'm not so sure which one is right. Apparently Jesus asked St. John to take care of His mother when he died and when St. John went to Ephesus, some believed that Mary also went with him. The house is located on top of a hill though. It was quite a drive up. Some believe that this is to keep her safe. I was educated in a Christian school and we didn't really talk much about the Virgin Mary. She pretty much only appeared when we're talking about Jesus' birth though I do somehow recall that she was present during the wedding in Cana, in which Jesus performed his first miracle. Either way, I was just excited to be visiting Ephesus because it's one of the books in the new testament. This could be the place where the book was written. You know, I tried to sing the song of the new testament just now. It's this song that we learnt back in school which list all the books in the new testament and I cannot believe it that even though I stumbled at first, I got it right! I think I only made 1-2 mistakes. It's incredible. I guess that really shows how successful my 11 - 12 years education in a Christian school was in brainwashing me with Christian faith :P I don't mean it in a bad way actually, I cannot deny that that Christian education and Jesus do shape me a lot and my belief in God. It's just I cannot be a Christian the way many Christians perhaps want me to be but I really I do not doubt that Jesus is there for anyone who needs Him :)

So anyway, arriving in the house of the Virgin Mary, I was quite surprised that it was kinda heavily guarded. There were soldiers / guards with weapons. There weren't like many or anything but seeing them and the weapons, I did get stunned a bit. In comparison, I didn't recall seeing any guard with obvious weapons in the airport or the blue mosque in Istanbul for example. Also I saw quite a few tourists from the Phillippines. I guess this is one of those places where people really want to visit for a pilgrimage. The house itself for me was just like a small box. It's small and when you go inside it, there's just a small altar. People went in to say their prayer. There's no chair at all, so people were standing. I said a little prayer but then I quickly went out. I guess in a way the place didn't have a lot of significance for me that I thought I should go to make space for other people who felt deeply about the place.

Near the house, there are these few water taps, which I think people believe to be holy water. Okay, I'm not so sure about the deal with the holy water because again the Christians do not really use them like how the Catholics often do. I'm not sure if water can just be holy just because of the source or you need priests to bless them. So anyway next to the water taps, there's this wall where people left their wishes, messages, or prayers. They seemed to be mostly written in handkerchief or tissue papers. I didn't put any because I just never do this kinda thing.

So here, I heard some Indonesian voices from a couple. I was just dying to talk to anyone. I guess even more so because of the dreadful guide. That day, there was just me and YeeMaggio, the guide, and the driver who was super nice to always open the door for me. I felt rather uneasy to always have the door opened for me but the special treatment did feel super nice. Anyway YeeMaggio is not actually the most chatty social kind of person, she's quite passive and that just basically meant that it's me having to deal with the guide most of the time *sigh* So I was just looking forward to talk to "normal" people. So I straight away asked them if they're Indonesian which was a rather stupid question actually because I already knew they were. I heard the lady / tante / auntie jokingly told her husband why he used so many of the water, like he wanted to do wudhu :) We talked a bit, just normal questions like where we come from in Indonesia and then basically said bye. I just needed something to kinda keep me sane, so I was glad that I just started talking to them and it was nice of them to reply back nicely :)

After the house, we were off to Ephesus. I hated the guide. First stop was having to sit down and listened to him giving some lectures which wasn't interesting at all. I couldn't wait for it to be over. When we started walking, of course we would stop at certain points so that he could give some explanation. I took pictures while he's explaining and he's reprimanding me, telling me to only take picture after he's done. Okay, it's perhaps not the most polite behaviour from my part but seriously that didn't mean I wasn't listening. I'm a girl, we can multitask. So that was kinda very strict teacher kind and if he's a teacher, he's not the lovable kind. I just wasn't in the mood for anything anymore. I remembered one of the first stop was this parliament place, pretty cool. Then there was a section with markers that indicate it's the doctor's place and the pharmacy across the street. Then there's also the common toilet place. Very funny. Of course the draw was the library. This ruin was very well preserved that one can really see how big the structure is. The guide was saying that of all the Roman and Greeks archeological sites in the world, 75% of it are in Turkey. So they really do have a lot of stuff to excavate and preserve. In the picture below, the library is the thing in the middle, like 2-storey high.

You can see dark cloud there in the picture. Now when we left Izmir that morning, it was actually raining. It wasn't so at St. Mary's house but it's super unfortunate that in the middle of exploring Ephesus, it started raining again. It wasn't heavy but it wasn't light as well. That really dampen the spirit :( Suffice to say we couldn't stay long :( Now, in front of the library, there's a brothel. My guide said that he wouldn't be surprised if one of these days they would find a tunnel leading from the library to the brothel. Yeah, I think that could be possible. We know there are many high standing men who fall from grace for issues like this :P So anyways, in our hurry to avoid the rain, we were pretty much rushing in seeing the things we saw. We did see the theatre. I thought the one in Orange, France was nicer. Then there were also some sarcophagus which I believe were excavated from the area. As I said, due to the rain we basically just rushed off. I think Ephesus is really cool though. The ruins are very near to each other than the ones in Hierapolis. So that made exploring not so physically demanding. You can really see where the things are, the parliament place, the gates, the streets, the markets, the library, the theatre, etc. It really showed how the city would be like on those days. Oh I have to say, there are many cats in Ephesus :D They're like everywhere.

So anyway, after that lunch. The guide was sitting with is and I couldn't take it anymore, I told him that if he's gonna smoke, I was going to change table. So he moved to smoke but then he came back :( He then told us about his family. Apparently his grandfather is some famous muslim scholar or something, his sister is a tv personality working in Istanbul, and he himself married an architect. He seemed to be having such a classy connection all around, why does he suck? See, I am getting more judgmental. Anyways, after lunch was a visit to this carpet making place. I wasn't that interested to go because I was foreseeing that they would try to sell us things and I had no intention to bring home a carpet. It's just not something possible in my life now. We went anyway. It turned out to be a nice visit, except for when they tried to sell us things. The person who explained things to us was very nice. He was soft spoken and spoke english well and after the guide I had, I was just drawn to him being so nice. First he needed to say the disclaimer that they're not torturing any of the girls working there, that none of them are underage, and in fact they take in whoever want to learn to make carpet so that they can make a living for themselves, and the government support them for this effort and they also preserve patterns which are perhaps disappearing. It never came across in my mind that these workers are perhaps underage or underpaid which is actually a valid point when you think of it. The carpets are expensive and how much of the money actually go into the people who laboriously made them?

So the guy got a girl to demonstrate how to make a carpet. Here in Turkey, they use a double knot, a fact which doesn't really matter to me. I know nothing about carpet making, ingle knot, double knot, what have you. Basically in making a carpet, there's this vertical skeleton. Then the makers take colorful thread and make knots around the skeleton. They have a tool to push the knots down and make them tight and when they finish some centimeters, they use a special scissors to trim the knot. The guy asked me to try making knots. Even though I only had to make a knot based on the thread the girl already prepared for me, in a section of a skeleton she already chose, I was still nervous I was going to ruin it. So when I did one, I declined to do another one. It's so pretty and tedious to do. I seriously didn't want to ruin it. I understood the process but I didn't understand how the girl could translate the paper pattern into areas of the skeleton and which colored thread to use at any time and how they can stop the work today and still come back to work tomorrow and understand where to continue. I guess this is the real secret. I tried the knotting thingy on the wool one where the thread are pretty thick. We saw the silk one and man, the threads were finer and soft and truly a more daunting process. Also we were shown how they got the silk thread from the cocoons. They said they only used cocoons in which they're sure the insects inside it are dead. I'm not so sure how they check if the insects are dead. So they dropped the cocoons into warm water basin and there's this tool that the use to kinda stir the water and the silk fiber will stick to it and they just transfer it to a handle and I think maybe they spin something to get all the silk fiber and they can really get a lot from 1 cocoon. After that, I guess they do more processing to produce the silk thread and of course there's the coloring process. After that demonstration, we were taken to see some carpets. This was the uncomfortable part :( We were taken to a room, given drinks, as the custom is. Then a guy just started showing carpet after carpet. They were really pretty. I particularly liked the ones with was like a painting / story with many different items on it. I like this kind more than the ones with repeated pattern. Obviously we declined buying anything. I feel bad about declining but what I am to do with a carpet. In Singapore, I don't even own the room I sleep in. The carpets were on the expensive side but it wasn't so expensive that I go bankrupt buying it. Of course if I were to buy one that can fit a big hall, I would definitely feel the heart break :P

After that we were asked if we would like to visit the Ephesus museum or the Basilica of St. John. The guide was kinda like saying that there'll be like nothing in the Basilica and the museum was better. I was like whatever, okay, go to the museum then. In the museum, he just gave us time to explore it on our own which was actually a good thing for me. Anything to get away from him. At one point, there was this tour group with their leader who spoke english well and sounded nice and I got really sad because he seemed so nice and more interesting that I kinda stood awhile listening to him. I listened to him telling the story of the seven sleepers. Then even though I kinda didn't have any interest anymore on the things in the museum, I just sat there waiting for time to pass and just to enjoy some time alone away from the guide. Of course, I couldn't get away from him forever.

Then I think we went to see this remains of the Temple of Artemis. There's only a remain of 1 column left. Since there's only 1 column left, obviously I wasn't like amazed or anything. I just remembered seeing that the pond in front of us, though it wasn't pretty or anything, it was captivating for me in its own way.

After which was this pottery place which again I wasn't interested to go to because I wasn't going to buy anything but I wasn't going to argue with the darn guide who was kinda asking us repeatedly over and over that I just said okay, fine. The guy in the pottery place was this young guy. He's also very nice, soft spoken, and speak english well that I was again happy to be able to talk to someone nice. We saw another guy demonstrating making a vase, but I thought the Cappadocia's demonstration was better. They use white clay here instead of the red on in Cappadocia. The young guy was a bit pushy when he was showing us the collection. In a way, I cannot blame him, it's his job but turning down people is never easy. I guess I was okay with the guy being pushy because he's at the very least was charming and came across as nice. He told us the story of the turtle trainer but when I googled it out, the story he told us was different from what I got in google.

After that we went to this shop which sells turkish delights and stuff. There were other tourists there and the owner particularly greeted me and YeeMaggio. He was super nice and funny and spoke english really well. I just like him straight away. We bought some stuff there. I think the products were good. They also had some promotion or something. I got a free promegranate tea because I bought a box of apple tea. They're nice. Now apparently my NUS friend, JTG, was in Turkey too around the same time I was there. From the pictures he posted in Facebook, it seemed he visited the same shop! I seriously wonder if our timeline overlapped. Were we there on the same day or was it different. If it was the same day, was it a different timing? If I had met him there, that would make my day so much better from dealing with the darn guide. Anyways, that was the last stop. It was the drive back after that, thank God! I was so relieved when we're back in the hotel. Thank you God, it's over. May I never experience a dreadful guide like that anymore, or if I should have guide like that again, please let me be in a group of fun people at the very least. Please God, amen! Anyways, to see pictures from the Ephesus trip, you can go here.

The next day we were due to fly to Istanbul. I decided to fly later in the afternoon so that we would have the morning to explore Izmir a bit. Without the dreadful guide, we got sunshiny day with blue sky :) It was rather cold though. We made it to see the sea. It's beautifully blue. We saw a man fishing. I wonder if he could get a fish. I watched him awhile and he did get something pretty quick. It's squid. He noticed me looking at him and he kindly showed me his earliest catch which was a bigger squid. He gestured that he needed to release this new catch because it was too small for him. It was an okay size actually but I understand you gotta be responsible in fishing. I felt very happy that without words I understood him and he took time to tell me something. I am thankful to God for moment like this. I remembered turning to tell YeeMaggio something and when I turned back to say goodbye to him, he was already on his away to find a different spot, so I didn't get to say a proper goodbye and thank you and it was a bummer :( Anyways the water in that sea, which I think is the Aegean sea were filled with jellyfish. You could spot them easily. As we walked we found the clock tower. Sat awhile there seeing kids running after the birds or feeding them. I'm not loving the birds much because obviously they pooped all over. Then we saw there's a shopping area / market nearby but we didn't explore it much because basically we didn't like people asking us to see this and that. Then as we walked back, we stopped at Konak Pier and we had KFC. It was nice :P So that was my second junk food in this trip. I welcomed it though. Again it's the familiarity. Then a horde of french teens came. I spot who I thought to be the teacher in charge / chaperon of the group but he looked so young that I was thinking how on earth he dealt with these kids. Teens can be quite a pain. Anyway then we walked back. We were picked up by the guy who picked us up when we arrived. He sent his son to pick us up in the hotel and brought us to the car. Then his son left for class, I think. I think there's a school or university nearby. Oh, I have to say that I noted something which was also very different from the muslims' lifestyle in Indonesia. Maybe it's the Asian thing as well that we're just not expressive in showing our affection to each other. It's just in Indonesia, it's still something extremely rare when you see couples being all lovey dovey in public. People will definitely stare. While in Izmir as people were enjoying the sun and view, I saw youngsters making out. It would be something deemed scandalous in Indonesia. It would be something normal in many places of the world, it's just for a country where the majority of the population is muslims, it doesn't feel like it at all, so very different from Indonesia. Again, I think I need a special blog post to talk about what I saw, observed, and think. To see some pictures of Izmir, you can go here.

So that was the end of leg 2 and the last leg was Istanbul :) I'll try to get the story up soon. These whole writing and uploading the pictures really take a lot of time :| But I am a person of words and of pictures too :P

:) eKa @ 11:18:00 PM • 0 comments

Turkey - Hierapolis + Pamukkale

Hi guys, apparently I have some time this evening. So let's continue with the story. In the last post, I told you that we were leaving for Izmir the next day. Why Izmir? I'm not really sure myself how I came out with that decision. I normally book day tours from viator.com when I am in my holiday and I would choose a city in which there are day trips going from those cities. For some reason, I chose Izmir. I think because I saw there's a trip going to Hierapolis and Pamukkale and the picture looks nice. So in Izmir, I decided to take 2 day trips, one to Hierapolis and Pamukkale and the other to Ephesus.

Now to go to Izmir, there are several ways. I chose to take planes. This time I chose a budget airline provided by Pegasus Airline. There's also another budget airline that fly direct from Kayseri to Izmir but they do not fly everyday and it so happened on the day that I wanted to leave, they weren't flying :( So Pegasus, it was. Budget airline is not the cheapest mode of transportation available. I'm sure there are buses. Like the Japanese, I think they left for Istanbul the same evening we did the green tour by using an overnight bus. I'm just not that hardcore. I guess I'm a spoilt brat. My flight wasn't a direct one. In fact it's rather hard to find a direct flight from Kayseri to Izmir with a nice timing. I just didn't want to arrive in Izmir too late, like in the evening for example. So my flight was first to Istanbul's Sabiha airport, which is the airport in the Asian side of Istanbul and then it went to Izmir. It was a long journey. That day was mostly spent being on the road from Göreme to Kayseri and then airborne. On the drive to Kayseri, I remember thinking that I'll miss Cappadocia, that there was a lot of wide open space, and I was thinking about my life a lot, what I should do with my life, if I could continue living the life I have now. Let's just say there were a lot of life changing decision appearing in my head and it's telling me that I should and could do it. We'll see, you'll never know. So anyway, arrived in the airport. Waited for the plane and got into the plane. I have to comment and show you this very cute safety video that Pegasus have. It's very cute. I really watched the whole thing the 3 times I was in their plane.

Unfortunately this one doesn't have an english subtitle. I found the english version but that wasn't what I watched and anyway the girl in the Turkish version is so much cuter :) As I was looking for the video, I realized they're not the only airline who are using kids in the video. I think it's a good idea that airlines are making their safety video cuter or funnier, at least it really made us watch it.

When we arrived in Sabiha airport, I have to admit that it felt like going back to civilization. As much as I love Cappadocia but I realized that a small town lifestyle did kinda make me feel rather disoriented or confused about what to do with time if we're actually living there. Yes, the place is not like totally remote. There's wireless internet in my hotel as I am sure in other hotels too but I remember asking dumb questions to my hotel guy like, is there a cinema? Is there McDonalds? What do people do here for fun? Do they hang out? Yes, there is a cinema and McDonalds, it's around 15 minutes drive to a slightly bigger town. I'm not counting on the existence of Starbucks. Why this topic came out was because I saw an advertisement on tv about Burger King promoting its kids meal with toys. I remember telling YeeMaggio, how sad for the kids here that they saw that ad, but they cannot get it because there's no Burger King here. I guess because of that, suddenly I got reminded of the things that a city has which are missing there. So arriving in Sabiha, with its concrete and steel structure and one of the first thing that we saw was Arby's, and then going to the toilet which was like similar to the ones you can find in the city (motion sensor tap and soap dispenser), it's like realizing what we had kinda forgotten and realizing this is what we knew and what was familiar for us and it's really that true sentiment of going from a village to a city. I realized how at the core, I am just a city person. As I said, I love Cappadocia. I guess, I just didn't realize how I really love the familiarity of a city, no matter if those familiarity makes cities so general and less unique than a place like Cappadocia :P I have to be true, no? As dumb and arrogant those sentiments are, those were really what I felt :P We had lunch at Arby's (I broke the not eating junk food and only eating local in this trip twice) and waited again for our next flight. It was quite some time that I had time to write in my journal. Interesting thing happened. As we were queueing to board, a young boy (maybe 10 to 12 years old) suddenly came nearer to me and said something to me, but it was in Turkish which of course I didn't understand. I just said, I didn't understand. He still looked at me, like he was hopeful that we'll be able to speak. Then an older man in front of me talked to him, in what I assume that he's asking the boy if he learnt English in school, which the boy said yes, so the man was encouraging him to talk to me in English. This conversation happened in Turkish, so I could be so wrong in guessing it. Anyways, the boy then just looked at me, still with a hopeful look. In the end perhaps he got embarrassed that he went back to his mom. I totally regret not asking anyone what just happened, what the boy wanted. It's just I think noone around me could speak english well, including the older man. So I don't know, this will remain a mystery :(

Arrived in Izmir and darn, there's a hole in my luggage :( It didn't survive. I had to get a new one. First thing first, driving to our hotel. Managed to find the person who picked us up. The city reminded me on some parts of Jakarta, if Jakarta can be clean. I realize that my point of reference are always things in Indonesia. Then we saw the hills filled with houses or appartment buildings and that's so not like Jakarta :P There's this huge head sculpture of who I think is Kemal Ataturk in one of the hill (think Mount Rushmore). It was pretty cool. I don't know if I want my big head on a hill or a mountain but I cannot deny the coolness. Got to our hotel, which is pretty good, big bathroom which I think might be just slightly smaller than my bedroom now. It's your standard hotel which again gave us mix feeling. It lacks the family feel of mama Imran but it's also something which was familiar. The hotel staff was nice, one of them helped us the next day in figuring out how to use the TV. They made it so complicated that as he was explaining it to us, another guest was asking him to teach him as well :P So anyway, we settled our things and YeeMaggio was gung ho about getting me a new luggage. Now, Izmir is the 3rd most populous city in Turkey and our hotel is surrounded by buildings but there is no mall nearby! Seriously, we walked and walked but no luck. There were areas where there's one shop after another but we just found it weird that there's no mall. Being that it was Sunday (it was easter sunday actually), some of the shops were actually closed. Seriously, living in Asia with malls which open everyday of the year, the concept of closing a shop on Sundays is hard to digest for me. I remembered being shocked when I experienced it last year in Barcelona. I guess it's an Asian thing. I once read this American wrote that malls in Asia are like malls on steroid, they're super big and always buzzing, which is true true true. I guess that's what we need if we're living in a city?

So anyway, walked around trying to find a shop which we could be comfortable about going in and in the end we settled with this shop because there's a boy there helping his dad. The boy is 15 and he's chubby :D So I guess, we just felt at ease with a kid there. I admire him for helping his dad. He should be able to speak a little english but maybe he's shy. He showed me price using a calculator. When I called him, boy boy, his father got a giggle and he laughed when I told the boy, your eyes are so beautiful :D They were indeed. It was this light brown, maybe it's hazel? I wonder if he'll remember that day forever, the day a strange lady told him his eyes were beautiful. Maybe he's forgotten it by dinner. Anyway thinking of the boy, I got reminded of Max who's just 1 year older and how different they are. This chubby boy was still shorter than me. He's helping his dad on a Sunday and he seemed like a decent nice boy and it made me feel like Max is this empty brainless immature shell. I mean we both are already agreeing that he's narcissistic. He loves that word now. Since the day I taught him the word, he's been using it especially when I comment that he takes a real long time getting ready and has to look at the mirror countless times before going out. Anyway, when we were buying water at a 711 kinda store, we also saw 2 boys working there. I wonder if it's a Sunday thing, do all the kids like to go out to work on Sunday for extra money? They're very young. I guess perhaps it's better than playing computer games or watching tv.

Nothing much else to say about that day. It was good to be getting a new luggage. It was bigger than my original one, so that made packing for the rest of my trip was rather nice :P I was feeling rather sickly actually, maybe because of the travelling around, we actually ate at the hotel that day. The next day was the day we went to Hierapolis and Pamukkale and the day I met the dreadful guide *sigh* For the trip to Hierapolis and Pamukkale, there were only us and a girl from England, Sima. She was travelling alone (girls are braver!). Then we had a driver and the guide. I seriously do not like the guide. Maybe he's not a bad guide. I actually read good reviews about him. However I am totally not comfortable being with him. He smokes and he likes to stand near you when he speaks. One time he was hovering around me while smoking. The more I tried to move away, the more he tried to stand nearer. Damn it! I regret to admitting I'm not a muslim. If I had told him I was a muslim, perhaps I could have gotten him to keep a distance. The only good side is that there's Sima too there. It was her third trip with him and I don't know how she could make it the last 2 days. Perhaps it's a cultural thing, this guy just made an Indonesian and a Singaporean girl felt totally uncomfortable :( That plus the long drive to Hierapolis (around 3 hours) made me dread the trip a lot and it made me miss Cappadocia :(

The long drive showed a scene totally different than that in Cappadocia. The drive actually reminded me of the drive from Jakarta to Puncak and also from Barcelona to Montserrat. While it's brown in Cappadocia, it was totally green here with green mountains. It really showed the different climates in the regions and how their springs really start at different times. Crops were growing strong here. Many orange trees with many oranges on them. While there's no life yet showing in the vineyards of Cappadocia, the grape vines in the vineyards in this region were already reaching 0.5 to 1 meter. I was thinking how perhaps those wines would be the first to be produced and drunk in the country and the one from Cappadocia would come later. It feels fun to be associating the different produce from different regions with different periods of the year. Poppies were blooming too. I love them! Somehow I had a feeling that their colors were more bloody red than the ones in Italy for example. After the very long drive, we arrived at this tiny lake or big pond in which we can see the white Pamukkale. I thought that place was beautiful and a nice relaxing existence. There were cute ducks, the water was green, and the white mountain or hill felt awesome. We stayed there for awhile. Look at this bench, isn't it nice to be sitting there for some time and just breathe.

Notice also the gray clouds forming. I attribute it to the dreadful guide who's just bringing us bad luck :( Let me just add some other complains about him and then I'll shut up. He said he's in jail now because he's now married, and it's only been 6 months. Then the next day, we also got him again as a guide (my please please PLEASE God didn't work this time) and it's even more dreadful because there were only the 2 of us and this guy was complaining that Sima complained about him about something in the feedback form. Now, seriously, it's never a good thing to be complaining or bitching about another client in front of your clients, no matter what business you do. Idiot! So basically he sucks, if not for Pamukkale, my trip there would just be the suckiest day I've ever experienced in a holiday, topping the part when I missed a train in France.

Hierapolis and Pamukkale are actually located in the same area. I think you just need to use 1 ticket to enter it. Oh yeah, one more thing. He kept the entrance tickets. Okay, I may not be like my cousin who does nice scrap books but I do like to keep all these tickets. He's just so uncomfortable to be around with that I refrained from asking any questions and initiating any interaction. Moving on, Hierapolis is an ancient Roman city, so there are many ruins and the area was very big. The hills were green and pretty with many yellow flowers. As we walked throughout the area, I heard some Indonesians speaking and it made me smile. Being that it's a city, there are things like the theatre which we only saw from afar. I think it's because my stupid guide was too lazy to walk the distance there, promising us that the one in Ephesus is nicer, aarrghh! So we saw ruins, didn't recall his historical lessons. I remember he said that Fiat is sponsoring the archeological work there.

Saw the Cleopatra bath which is basically this pool area which the people have made into a rather modern version with cafe all around. There were people swimming there. The water is supposedly good for your health and it came from a hot spring it seemed. Then we went to see the ancient burial site with all the sarcophagus which are all out in the open now because of earthquakes. We took some sort of a truck there because he said it's better that way because it's a long walk and we had to pay for it. Alright, I think that was a good choice which he had to repeat countless times (shut up!!!) but I think we still should have walked to the theatre :( Then he left us alone in Pamukkale *yay!*. Pamukkale means cotton castle and it's totally amazing. I've never seen anything like it before. The only way I can kinda describe it is using Indonesian reference. You know how you often see pictures of paddy field in Bali, like they are in terraces in a hill. Now imagine less terraces, not many layers, maybe 3 to 4 layers down. Substitute the greeneries with white limestones and substitute that area where the paddy grows as pond of water or in this case, they are called travertines.

You can walk in the travertines or if you want you can take a dip in it. The water was not so hot nor was it cold. You have to take off your shoes, why obviously actually, since it's water afterall and it was so much fun. My spirit was lifted walking on those travertines. Be careful though because it is slippery and they are rocks afterall and if you fall, I think you'll die rolling down the hill. It's white wall all around and the water is blue and I cannot stop saying it's fun. It's FUN FUN FUN!!! Unfortunately in the middle of it, it started drizzling. It didn't let up, so I surrendered and started walking back. Upon reaching back though, it stopped and the sky was rather bright again, and since we still had time, I went back again and I just felt so happy and thought thank God, this dreadful trip is worth it, thank you! It's awesome. It's still unfortunate I couldn't go all the way to the end but still being there in such a unique place and having so much fun was amazing. It's seriously one of the most amazing things I've seen and been. I love it a lot :) For more pictures of Hierapolis and the wonderfully amazing Pamukkale, you can go here.

After that it was lunch, then to a lame Burberry factory outlet shop. Suffice to say we were not amused and then it was the long drive home. I was just glad to be separated from the dreadful guide but I knew that the next day I'd see him again. I could only pray that there would be other people for the trip. I think because we were tired and it was quite late, we decided to have dinner at the restaurant behind (or is it in front of) our hotel. I think Izmir has great seafood produce since it's by the sea. Why I chose to write this uneventful dinner in which I ate a pretty big seabass (which was good because I think it's fresh) is because as we were sitting in the restaurant, I realized we're surrounded by men. Seriously, there were only us 2 girls in the restaurant with all men. I believe in our entire block there, the number of female were perhaps only 10 while the rest were all guys. It's so noticeable that you couldn't help notice it. It's rather intimidating actually. I don't know what they're thinking seeing these 2 girls. Noone stared at us actually. Everybody were doing their things, eating with their friends, but as I said, it was rather intimidating. I was thinking, if girls don't really go out? They just stay at home or after work they quickly go home? It's nice that our hotel was just 1 m away because I think I would have been pretty scared if I had to walk a distance with only guys all around. Again, I do have to emphasize that it was actually not dangerous or anything. Noone stared or maybe they did and we just didn't check if they did. It really seemed that everyone was genuinely minding their business and everyone seemed really nice. The restaurant gave us free apple tea, perhaps they realized we were looking rather cold. Also when we left, one of the man, who was perhaps one of the owner, smiled and nodded at me. So that was nice. So aside from the self-imaginary intimidating situation, there's perhaps nothing intimidating about the situation at all. It was just odd for me because as I said it just became so noticeable that you wondered about it more and more. Okay, I guess I'm done with this blog post. It's been pretty long also. Next one will be about the trip to Ephesus with the dreadful guide again, aarrrghhh!!! He made me not want to stay in Izmir anymore :(

:) eKa @ 11:01:00 PM • 2 comments

Turkey - Cappadocia

I just finished uploading, tagging, titling, and writing some descriptions on 67 pictures in flickr. That's pretty exhausting. Anyways, hello people. I'm back in Singapore. I was back exactly last Saturday. Where did I go? Did you guess correctly based on my last post? Well I went to Turkey and it was awesome. Why Turkey? Well it wasn't the first plan for this year. However my travelling mate, YeeMaggio, wasn't able to leave work to go to our first destination so Turkey it is. Still doesn't answer why Turkey and what's the first destination? Well I'm not gonna tell you what the first destination is because I felt I jinxed it when I told many people about it. So I'm gonna keep it quiet. The why Turkey, is because this year I just want to go to a country which will accept an Indonesian like me without the difficult process of applying visa beforehand. Granted, I've never been rejected of schengen visa the 2 times I applied for it. However I dislike the fact that I had to prepare many paper works which include things like disclosing my personal information like statement from the last 3 months of my saving account and also getting permission here and there which involved telling people in charge of where I am going to go. Turkey allows Indonesian to get in with visa on arrival and it was so painless. I guess that's why I've seen and heard many Indonesians out there. Most felt in Istanbul, the invasion of Indonesians is just beginning! But that's another story when we reach the Istanbul leg. Today we're gonna start with my first leg, in the lovable Cappadocia.

This time around, I'm gonna give some information which is hopefully useful for people who want to go to Turkey or Cappadocia. I didn't have a lot of time to plan this trip. We only finished settling everything like 1 week before departure. From Singapore, there's a direct flight to Istanbul (everyday I think) from Turkish Airline. I chose Turkish Airline but they have code sharing with Singapore Airline. So when booking from Turkish airline's site, do check which airline serves the flight. Basically Singapore airline offers same day arrival, it leaves after midnight as opposed to Turkish airline who leaves before midnight, so that's why it can arrive on the same day. However the price difference can be 500 euro more expensive. If you are one of those people who are in love with Singapore Airline (= rich), go ahead. Let me just tell you that 500 euro can get you a nice hotel accomodation for almost a week or a really nice handmade Turkish carpet :) So anyways, got into Turkish airline. When I chose the seat, the seating plan seemed to still be rather empty so I was hopeful in having a quiet flight. Lucky for the airline, unlucky for me, it wasn't so. There were many Indonesians actually. I talked to one of the Indonesian tante (lady / auntie) while we were waiting for the lavatory. She's from Bandung and she's in a group which were on an umroh package tour. They would have a small tour in Turkey after their umroh. I was thinking it's been a long journey for this lady. Bandung to Jakarta, then transitting in Singapore, then Istanbul, then around 4-5 hours more to Saudi Arabia. That's like around 2 days of travelling. Anyway, having that many Indonesians in the plane made me feel good. I chose an aisle seat at the side block. The plane was rather small, there were only 2 seats at the side block instead of 3. That made me rather uneasy because I don't know, I don't know how plane works. I just wonder if this small plane will fare as well as bigger planes on a long journey (it takes more than 10.5 hours). I just thought bigger planes will not get easily blown by the wind but they do have more surface area to be struck by lightning I suppose. Anyways, unfortunate me was seated next to a big inconsiderate guy. I cannot blame him from being big and you know how guys just cannot sit with their legs closed, but bottomline is he's invading my space a lot that I basically only used like 75% of my space :( I was pretty pissed. Suffice to say, I couldn't sleep and I ended up watching 3 movies, Moneyball (very very good), The Big Year (very good, I found myself be more curious about birds), and A Dolphin's Tale (so-so, borderline boring).

So then we arrived in Istanbul Ataturk airport which is the airport located in the European side. Istanbul is a city located both in Europe and Asia. It is separated by the Bosphorus strait. We haven't actually arrived yet at our destination because our first leg was Cappadocia and so we have to fly to Kayseri or Nevşehir. I chose Kayseri. It's a domestic flight, so in Istanbul, I had to do my visa and go through immigration first. We left before midnight in Singapore and arrived just after 6 am so the airport was pretty quiet. After some walking and asking for direction, we found the counter for visa processing. Since YeeMaggio is a Singaporean, she doesn't have to do this. When I was there, there was this group of Indonesian ladies in front of me. So they went first but they didn't give the exact change. It's 25 USD for one Indonesian. I had the exact change so I gave my money and passport. Since I had the correct amount, the guy quickly put the visa sticker and returned my passport first with a smile :) Easy peasy and so painless! I was super happy :) :) :) By the way, one of the lady in that group was maybe an Indonesian celebrity. She looked like the lady who played the teacher in Laskar Pelangi. She was all smile to me, so nice. I'm not sure though because she didn't look so pretty but we did just go through a long flight and I am just bad at recognizing people.

Anyways, after that we walked to the domestic terminal. The flight was leaving at 9 something. I think there might be an earlier flight but I chose this flight because I wasn't sure if the visa thing would take some time. So we just waited at the airport. Now, Turkish Airline is by no mean the cheapest way to travel domestically. There are budget airlines like Pegasus and Sun Express. I forget why I chose this. Perhaps because the other timings were not so good or I just didn't want to risk missing flight doing visa or waiting for the luggage and doing check in again for another plane. I have to say that Turkish Airline domestic flight is SO MUCH BETTER than its international one. The plane is smaller but the seats were bigger. There were more legs space and we were wishing if only our international flight was like this. 1 hour something later we arrived in Kayseri. Here I noticed part of my luggage was torn. Darn it! I'm not sure if it's because my luggage was too full or it was bad handling. I was pretty down and I wasn't sure if it's gonna survive all the way back to Singapore. Anyways, we found the driver that supposed to pick us up. I was so worried he left us because we left the airport later than the rest of the passengers because we had to pick our luggages last from a different place since they were international luggages. Thank God the driver was there. The drive took 1 hour plus and it was through this area which was pretty barren. Maybe because it's not really spring yet, all were still brown. There were wide open spaces and it felt like in a middle of nowhere and there's this beautiful snowy mountain in the distance, I think it's called Mount Erciyes. Then I saw remains of what I think were grape vines but I couldn't be sure because that would mean it's a vineyard. Vineyard in Turkey? A country with a majority muslim population? Seriously? Apparently they were vineyards as I found out later and man so it began my many shocking cultural experience in Turkey. I have to be honest, I knew nothing about this country before I came. My cousin asked me where it was and I told her I seriously didn't know. That time I wouldn't be able to point it in a blank map. I just knew like Indonesia, the population are mostly muslims and the capital city is Istanbul* and there's a blue mosque in Istanbul which is supposedly beautiful. Obviously I researched more about it for this trip but the whole differences in how the muslims in Turkey are as compared to the ones I know growing up in Indonesia shocked me a lot. I need a whole different post for this so let's just move on with Cappadocia now.

Cappadocia is a region. By the way, I've been pronouncing it the Italian way and I don't know if it's the right way to pronounce it though I did hear some Turkish pronouncing it that way. But people like my guide pronounced it Kapadokya which is another spelling of the region and Indonesians will definitely pronounce this correctly like how my guide did it. Moving on, I decided to stay in small town Göreme which people wrote that it's a good place to stay and also because the hotel I wanted to stay in is in Göreme. But you can also stay in other city like Urgup just like this other Indonesian lady who stayed there and kindly answered my query when I asked her about getting visa on arrival. The hotel that I wanted happens to be the first in Trip Advisor list and so it's fully booked and so did the second, third, and so on. So I settled with Nature Park Cave Hotel after going through the list. Partly because you can book the activities as you did your booking which is actually what all hotels can do for you. In fact even though I have specified it through my online booking, the guy only did it when we reached there. Another website that you can try is this. They handled my airport transfer in Göreme and Izmir (at a cheaper rate than all I could find) and they were very prompt, efficient, and helpful in answering my mail - love Ms. Seda. So anyway, my hotel is run by a mother-son team. I didn't find the room and facility to be amazing. I think it's adequate. YeeMaggio found it to be interesting. Well it is different. The location is not bad. It's a bit away from the town center but the town is rather small that you basically just walk 5-10 minutes to find food. The town is filled with hotels but there are still people's houses around our hotel. In fact from my room's window I can see the neighbour's house. I just called the people around us as our neighbours there. The older ladies like to spend the day gathering, chatting, and drinking tea. They sat on the old sofa being put outside this neighbour's house and one time laid a carpet in front of the sofa, drank tea, while the kids played. There's a small playground nearby. Nice existence. As I was spying them, the mother of the hotel waved at me :) and Mama Imran is the reason why Nature Park Cave Hotel with all its imperfection is pretty awesome. She doesn't speak english except for a few phrases but she's no nice. The next day when we finished dinner, we saw her just finishing buying vegetables from the seller at the street, so we gestured that we helped her carry the load. As we arrived, she insisted that we had kiwis then cucumbers. Kiwi is fine with me but I had a hard time accepting the cucumber (I don't eat vegetable). Since I couldn't gesture it to her without sounding rude, I ate it (well done Eka!). Then she cut another cucumber since she thought we like it. Luckily YeeMaggio does like vegetable :) At one point she pointed at me and said teacher. I don't know if she's throwing her limited vocabulary or she sensed that I am a teacher. At that time I said no, because I am not a teacher but then I thought well I was once in that position. Maybe I am meant to be a teacher for real? Anyways, as I said I love Mama Imran. She would blow us kisses whenever we go. I didn't feel good calling her only by her name. I wanted to call her Umi which I believe is Arabic for mother, at least that's what I learnt from Indonesian tv, but I don't think they got it. I love her and would really want to see her again but I think I would love to try other hotels, especially the first one I wanted when I have the chance to return.

So that's been a long story. Let's continue. I wanted to go to Cappadocia because I knew you could take hot air balloon ride there and it's one of the best places on earth to do it. Seriously, google it. The list will also normally include Maasai Mara in Kenya which seems to also allow visa on arrival for Indonesians - why, hello :) By the way, apparently India now also allows visa on arrival for Indonesians. Maybe my europe days are over and I should focus on these countries which welcome Indonesians (a bit) openly. I used "a bit" because you still need a visa. I'm digressing. So the plan was to take the hot air balloon ride as an awesome 30th birthday present for myself and then the red tour and a green tour the next day. It was listed by the hotel, so I just took them. For the balloon ride I chose the deluxe one which cost 225 euro / person which is by the way pretty cheap if you compare it with the price in Australia for example. The deluxe ride means you are in a basket with less people and the flight is around half an hour longer. There's a however to that which I will explain below. The green and red tour each cost 30 euro / person which I think is pretty cheap - admission ticket + transport + lunch + guide included. Now the hotel guy kinda dampen my spirit because he said, about the balloon ride, let's hope for the best, let's hope the wind would be okay. I was like what?!?? I knew there's a possibility the weather is not making it possible to fly hence you should always aim to do it on your first morning there. There were some people writing in blogs that they couldn't do it because of the weather, so it's a real REAL possibility. I just thought, I have 3 mornings there and don't tell me I still couldn't fly. Suffice to say that with my luggage situation and the fact that there's a possibility we couldn't fly, I was feeling pretty sad that evening. After dinner, we asked the guy about the confirmation and he said it's okay, they'd pick you up at 05.30 am. Halelujah! THANK YOU GOD!!! I was so happy and grinning and HAPPY!!! You cannot believe! So it's off to bed, I slept nicely I think partly because of the flu medicine I took since I sneezed a few times since I left. I did get awoken by YeeMaggio who claimed to be hearing strange noises. I was so sleepy that I didn't really address her issue much and went back to sleep.

So 05.30 am came and they were early actually, the hotel guy had to knock at our door and he thought we couldn't wake up. So the pick up people picked other people first and then came back to us. Then we were driven to the meeting point. We were gathered in the meeting building where they went through the list of names and gave us a card with pictures about the inflation of balloon and landing instruction and our pilot's name. By the way, to go through how the balloon is being prepared please look at this step and go to the next picture to see the second and third step. Once you got this card, you can go have breakfast. It was pretty cold that morning, pretty much because it's still a bit cold in Cappadocia in early April. We did this on Good Friday, April 6 (thank you God, it was an awesome Friday for me). After breakfast, we went to the van which had our pilot's name. The van would take us to our departing point. Some balloons departed at the same place, but there are many different places located all around. We drove pretty far to our place and we were the only balloon there, perhaps it's part of the special deluxe treatment. In our group there are 2 american couples, 1 young, 1 older. A malaysian family (mom, dad, daughter) whom I initially thought to be Indonesian. Then there's a venezuelan family, I forget how many they were, perhaps 4. Anyway, I made friend with the older american couple, Andy and Robyn, who's from New York. Andy was pretty nice, he started talking to me and they're awesome, they had ridden a hot air balloon before in Egypt. I saw a balloon moving rather fast and that kinda freaked me a bit but Andy reassured me it's gonna be smooth and awesome. I think he's excited that I was excited. I made them laugh when I told them that I was thinking it's funny that he doesn't sound like Raymond, from Everybody Loves Raymond. Well, I was once in Cinque Terre with a group of New Yorkers and they sounded like Raymond so that's the first thing that came to my mind and I thought it's funny. They thought it was funny as well :D Making people laugh, especially strangers is super priceless. Andy then proceeded with a lecture on the different sections of New York which unfortunately I cannot relate with.

Moving on, in the basket, there are 5 sections / compartments. 1 middle one for the pilot and his 3 gas tanks and 2 each at the side for the people. Me, YeeMaggio, Andy, and Robyn shared a compartment. When we were inside the basket before they untied the rope which tied the balloon to the van so that it wouldn't float straight away, we were given instruction on what to do during landing. Then we were off. It was amazing. The basket was high enough to prevent you from falling but it was still scary enough for me. I sure didn't want to get knocked down accidentally and fall or get my camera or phone fall as I was taking pictures. I tried not to make big movements. It was awesome, I will never stop saying this. Apparently the pilot cannot control where to go, the wind does that. The fire for the balloon is not on all the time. The pilot fired it up to go up. So he can only control going up and down and rotating the basket. His skill is in reading the wind so that we can ride it. Obviously I don't know how to do that, I was absorbing the view that I didn't pay attention if reading the wind is actually something that is visual. Anyways, there were ballons all over the sky. It's one amazing view, not only seeing the land below with the weird formation and the rocks but also seeing balloons all over with different colors. It's amazing!!! Now apparently I think every balloon carries 3 gas tanks during flight. Overall they use 4 tanks, 1 is used during preparation. We were in a deluxe trip which apparently means our basket had to be smaller so that with 3 tanks we could technically fly longer than the ones with bigger baskets. We were actually pretty squeezy in there :( However all are controlled by the wind and that day the wind was pretty strong that we moved pretty fast and so in the end our flight was also around 1 hour. The pilot said he only used 2 tanks not 3 and we would get a refund. Since I paid my hotel guy, I should have taken it back from him but because none of us made an effort to ask our hotel guy about this, in the end we didn't get some of our money back. So I guess if you want to take the flight, perhaps the normal standard package will be sufficient but I know one will be tempted to be up there longer. Look! It was a really awesome 30th birthday present for me.

Landing was much easier than they made it to be. What was so amazing was the precision these guys have, we landed our basket on top of the truck. So they didn't have to carry the basket from the ground to the truck, awesome. See this landing process 1 and move next to see what happened after that. After we landed, we got cakes and champagne, fruit juice if you don't drink, and a certificate (don't count for your name to be spelled correctly though). All I can say is, please let me do this again God! After that, we were driven back to our hotels and our hotel guy wanted us to have breakfast. Aah again, but since it seemed there were only us in the hotel and they had prepared food, so we went up. Mama Imran was very friendly, putting cheese which were fried in a spring roll type skin on our plates. This thing is a very typical Turkish snack it seems. We arrived back at the hotel at around 8 am something. Next was the red tour with 09:30 am pick up time. So the balloon ride still gives you time to do your things for the day. I actually wonder why they only do flight in the morning. Most probably because of the wind.

The red tour group was pretty small which is great. There's us. 2 Japanese ladies which we ended up hanging out with, Miyako and Setsuko. An american girl with a japanese heritage and fish tattoo down her neck, Keiko. She seemed to be travelling alone *awesome*. 3 chinese tourists, all girls. Seriously girls are more adventurous in exploring the world than guys, you'll always see more girls than guys. 2 brazilian, Rafael and Beatrice, which are now living in Lyon, France. I think they are students, I'm not sure if they are boyfriend and girlfriend. An Indian couple who seemed to be living in the USA. Then there's our guide who in the middle of the way I realized to be handsome. His name is Mehmet. I love handsome guys and he is one :P He's very young though. I found out he's 25 the next day. I was lucky enough to have him again the next day (the please please please God perhaps helped). I am in the age where everyone is younger, so finding his age made me look at him as a boy boy, little brother kind :( Anywaaaays, first stop was to look at Uçhisar Castle. Can't go in, could only see it from a distance. Here we met Andy and Robyn again. The nice Andy was calling out to me. They also were doing the version of what I think was pretty much the same tour. We were sure we'd be seeing each other throughout the day but we never did again :( and I'm pretty bummed out about that.

Then it was to Göreme Open Air Museum, which were basically the remains of churches, chapels, living quarters for christians, made in the caves and inside the rocks formation. It was pretty cool. There were christian paintings inside the walls but don't expect elaborate frescoes like the major churches in Italy. It was pretty simple but there were also chapels with more details and it was pretty awesome. We couldn't take pictures though. Mehmet was very particular about this. I think the museum is very very interesting, obviously because physically it's so different. Just look at this.

We didn't explore everything. I guess it would be nice to visit it on your time to see every single thing. Over here, I met the malaysian family from the balloon ride who said "hi" to me :) Then it was lunch, we sat with the Japanese. They're cool. Then we visited this place which I wrote in my travel journal as an ancient village which was used to be inhabited by the Greeks and there was this population exchange at that time between the Greeks in Turkey and the Turks in Greece. Let me just say that I would like to say sorry to all the knowledgable guides who had guided me and will guide me in the future. I may not pick up any information at all about what you are saying and I'm sorry but history lessons with so many details and years and era and people are hard to put into the brain :P I do try though, at least to put some stories into the pictures :P

Then it was to this ceramic pottery place where the guide there brought us through all the rooms, except the burning oven. We saw the artists painting the ceramics and they are amazing people. Then a master showed us how he formed a vase and then of course we were guided to the shop which was filled with many beautiful things. The nice thing is the guide pretty much allowed us to see, take pictures, without pressing us at all or hovering around us to "explain" about the items. I was just admiring all the beautiful pieces and be in awe with all the artistry.

Next was the Monks valley, where there are rocks formation like mushroom. This formation on the right of this picture looks like a rabbit, don't you think?

Then it was Imagination valley which I think should be renamed to Open-For-Interpretation valley. I mean, if you think you see ducks and other people think they are 2 dogs, who cares? Anyway so unfortunate, I didn't realize my camera was over exposing the pictures from this area so the pictures didn't turn out good. This one was heavily photoshop. The formation on the left is supposedly a camel but if you think it's another thing, then it's up to you.

After that was our last stop which was wine tasting. It was weird, the people on the shop didn't explain the wines at all. Drinking is okay but promoting it is not? I remembered thinking I couldn't believe that even in Turkey I did wine tasting, crazy! We tried 1 red wine and 1 white one. I don't know what I drank, I think the white one might be chardonnay. I don't know if they were good because I'm totally untrained for this but I remembered thinking I like the white one better which was rather unusual because I normally go for red. Then we were done for the day. I think we reached our hotel back at around 5 pm. We decided to walk a bit further for dinner. Oh by the way, the day before when we arrived we did walk around the town a bit. It's mostly filled with restaurants, cafes, hotels, travel agencies. We did find the school. So nothing much to do after dinner. Saw mama Imran with her groceries then we just went to rest in our room after helping her.

Like the red tour, the green tour started at 09:30 but I was awoken earlier than that. From my window, I could see balloons bobbing up, so I went to the hotel's terrace and took some pictures of balloons which were visible.

I remember feeling how I also wanted to be up on the air again. Anyways, then I had breakfast. For the first time we saw 2 other people in the hotel but our hotel guy always ate with us. I don't know if he purposedly did that but it's good I think for him to be chatty and friendly and there's of course mama Imran ready to put food on your plate. I had to say no to all the vegetable stuff :P By the way, the skinny YeeMaggio totally ate so much more than me when we were in Turkey. She should move there so that she'll be fatter. After breakfast, we were waiting for the pick up and it was Mehmet knocking at the door. Aaaah, yes, I was so happy :D Being that a small town, of course he knew my hotel guy. Along with Mehmet, was Miyako and Setsuko again *yay!* and Rafael and Beatrice. He was picking them first by foot. Apparently we stayed near each other. Then the car came to pick us up. The 3 chinese girls from yesterday who were more cultured (one of them spoke with an american accent) were now replaced with 3 chinese girls and a chinese guy who were the stereotype chinese that we love to hate. They drove me crazy. Also to replace the indian couple from the day before was an American girl, Andrea, who's now teaching english in Istanbul and his turkish boyfriend. Apparently Andrea once taught english in Pekan Baru for a year and she said she'd been thinking of what she could say to me in Indonesian but she's forgotten her Indonesian. She's nice telling me that :) I love it when I can talk to strangers :) Unfortunately I didn't have the chance to do that much in this trip, mostly it happened in Cappadocia actually. It made me love this place more. We started at this point were we could look at the formation of rocks below and took photos.

Then it was to Derinkuyu Underground City. A city built underground which was pretty cool and fun to explore but totally not one for people who have claustrophobia. It's basically like the human's version of ants colony or the naked mole rat's burrows which I saw in Singapore Zoo last month. Side note: seeing naked mole rat made me icky, they're just so aarrrgghh. So basically it's all tunnels and chambers in the underground city. I didn't take many pictures because there's nothing much to take. Even the ones I had turned out pretty bad, like this one.

It is still an interesting place to explore, what's with the bending down, almost crawling kind. It was much much cooler down there too. This always surprises me, that being underground can be cooler. As much as it's interesting, it's also demanding. There was one section where Mehmet said, this tunnels leads to the morgue, you guys can go there if you want. Darn, it was this very long narrow dark tunnel. Narrow that even for me and my size I felt rather claustrophobic. I was behind Rafael and I am amazed that he was okay considering that he's so much taller than me. We were laughing when I commented how on earth they dragged a body down there and why would they want to do that only to get it out again. We thought they just pushed it down and let it trundle along. Either that or they were really small people back then. There was also a long staircase like path which you climbed up while bending, suffice to say most of us felt our knees weak and wobbly when we finished that but we all finished it and we all made it out alive! We should all be so proud. I know I am for making it in and out the morgue tunnel without hyperventillating :)

After that we went to Ihlara Valley. It was quite a drive and we stopped for lunch nearby. We sat with the Japanese again and the Chinese group on my left. The chinese got more annoying. They complained that they had to pay for drinks, the rice was too little, and then they asked the waiter why they got the same portion of oranges as the table where there were 2 people instead of them 4. I felt very uncomfortable that they demanded more. We decided that we gave our oranges which we couldn't finish but I think they rejected it. I felt sorry for the waiter but I also think it's just oranges, give it to them and shut them up. Oh well ... I'm not trying to be racist. I am stating observation and I am sure the same sentiment would be felt by Indonesians as well, like by my family. But I think Indonesians lack the gut to demand it especially if they don't speak proper english but these chinese don't let it stop them. In a way that's what make them so ahead of other people, because they fight more? I don't know. Anyways, Ihlara Valley. First stop was to see a church with paintings inside its walls. There's a depiction of Daniel in the lion's den. Then it's a 4 km hike / walk which was easy and fun enough. I think the valley would be nicer when it's green and really I've seen pictures when Cappadocia was green, it's pretty. Seeing the view I had, I often thought why I came at that time. Things would be much more beautiful when it's green maybe a month later but then I thought about the people I met and that's the reason why I should be there at that exact time.

There's a river running through the valley. There were some farmers on the other side of the river, I think they were clearing and preparing the land. I'm not sure what the deal is for them to farm there. Tourists need tickets to enter Ihlara Valley so I thought it's some sort of conservation land.

There was a man fishing too. Mehmet was saying "assalamualaikum" to him. At one point we stopped for a break by the river. Had a little talk with Mehmet and managed to make him laugh :D He asked me, "eh you're indonesian right, are you a muslim?". This is the second question I always got asked when people found out I am Indonesian. I am thinking what one of my politically-correct french teacher, Mr. C, would say about asking such a question that can be used to profile someone. I told Mehmet I always got asked this and I had to say I'm not, I'm sorry and he laughed when I said I'm sorry. He also laughed when I explained I'm like a mix, came from a budhist family and went to a christian school. He just said I'm complicated. Anyway, I'm not sorry that I'm not a muslim. I am sorry that I cannot answer yes I am because I think it's like the person asking will have this nicer respond after that like a secret handshake or something if I say I am and now they couldn't do it. So sorry to disappoint you. He told me, people assume since you come from Indonesia and all. I guess maybe I'm not the first Indonesian many of these people met but perhaps I am the first Indonesian they met who's not a muslim. Anyway, he said he met other Indonesians before and they're muslims and the girls wore head scarf and it was beautiful. Well ... okay, I could only smile and grin with his honest respond.

After Ihlara Valley, we went to this place I think called Yaprakhisar. Another interesting place to explore but at this time I was already rather tired.

So upon meeting time, me and YeeMaggio decided to just go down to the meeting point and just sat watching the view in front of us. The Japanese were already there. I have to say that the Japanese were always the first in meeting point. I guess that's japanese discipline and courtesy for you. At the meeting time, noone came down but us. Mehmet had to start calling people out. I taught him to say "khwai tien", the chinese word for faster to get the Chinese to hurry up but my pronunciation might be off too :P He actually looked rather off that day, he looked less patient, like he was tired. I told him that when he sat next to me for awhile. I told him, I thought it's because the chinese drive you crazy because they sure did drive me crazy. It's been a not-so-easy day for him compared to the day before. The people were harder to deal with, there's the Chinese, the American and the Turk who were often missing on their own, and at that time even the Brazilian were somewhere else. It's not easy being a guide, it's like guiding kids on a school trip and having to teach them but since they're paying clients you can't scream at them unlike teachers can :P Anyway, finally everyone were there. I didn't mind the sitting down. I was feeling quite tired that day but we had another stop after that. The pigeon valley.

It might be the sun, but it looked rather pinkish and there were some yellow parts. That picture was beautiful. I remembered that it was cold when we stopped there for awhile. Then last stop, a souvenir shop where they sold turkish delights and roasted nuts and many other things. The chinese hogged the table where there were samples of turkish delights and they made it impossible to get passed them, a good chinese wall. I could only sigh and after realizing it'll be futile waiting for them to clear up, I kinda followed the Japanese who just started looking around at other things. Well, I actually just went to the toilet. I thought the shop was nice but in between feeling really tired and my luggage situation, I only got an evil eye decoration for myself. We were running pretty late that day. It was actually around 6 pm. My hotel guy did tell me that morning that the Whirling Dervishes performance that I wanted to watch was at 06.30 pm. So since everyone know everyone there, he knew where we were and he came to pick us there. It was a surprise. We basically were rushed off, so it was hugs to the Japanese who had been pretty nice companions for the last 2 days and bye bye to the handsome boy, Mehmet :P He's seriously cute.

The hotel guy was driving us and another 2 ladies who also stayed in the hotel, apparently from the Czech Republic. We arrived just on time. I don't know if they were waiting for us. Again I think everyone know everyone, maybe our hotel guy told them to wait. The place was full and so we couldn't sit in the front. It was really something. It was in Arabic and I don't speak Arabic but nonetheless since I grew up in Indonesia, it felt very familiar. It did get repetitive at one point but it was still something which is kinda hard to explain. You just had much respect for it though I have to shamefully admit that I took pictures during the performance (but it was without flash). I didn't know you couldn't. They did spin again after the performance without the song so that people could take pictures. Anyways, they ended it with a prayer which I don't know from which part of Al Quran but it's a prayer that I'm sure all Indonesians have heard before. It sounded so comforting for me. In fact things like hearing azan (the islamic call of prayer) was strangely comforting for me and I looked forward to it though I don't when I am in Indonesia. I guess it's because it reminds me of home and it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside to feel that bit of home.

So that was our last day in Cappadocia. Oh I had to add that dinner that day was later than the last 2 days. We arrived around maghrib. We saw our hotel guy walked quickly to pray. We decided to just eat in the nearest restaurant to us, a place we tried on our first day. We settled with Turkish pizza. We were seated next to the oven, so we could see the chef preparing the pizza. Along came a dad and his baby daughter looking at the chef. I could hear that they're speaking Italian, so I just started talking to them. Baby girl Bianca was so cute, she's 3. Very chatty, she talked about her family, her older brother who's also a toddler, Pietro, and her mom who's always reading. My Italian is not so good and it's even harder to understand an Italian baby. I translated her "sempre" to "often". I don't know why I did that, perhaps I just translated it to what I think she meant but her dad corrected me because perhaps mom is really always in the book. They came from Ravenna which he said is near Venice. I googled it out and it's true, that means I understood them correctly. The dad said that I spoke Italian well :) Very nice of him. I seriously don't think I speak good italian but I've gotten compliments that I'm fine. The nicest one was from a train staff in Milano Centrale who stopped halfway in our discussion to say, complimenti :) Anyways, the dad told me that he explored Indonesia before. I assumed Bali but he said, okay Bali, but also Sulawesi and Borneo and perhaps many others. I thought wow! Was rather embarrassed myself that I haven't explored Indonesia much and he had. Of course it was in the days where he had no 2 toddlers. I still admire him and his wife for being game enough to bring their 2 kids to places like Cappadocia. I admire all parents who bring their kids, stroller and all, and still fulfill their dreams to explore the world. I bow to them all. I guess you should never stop chasing your dream, but that's not something that I will do. I guess simply from the day the kids are bornt to the day they complete their ivy league education, all money should be saved for their education. I have high dreams and expectation for my kids :P Anyways, they went back to their table when baby Bianca started talking more about her family, including nonna (grandma) Lucia :D

We left the next day for Izmir. Mama Imran blew me kisses when I said my goodbye. I had a super good time in Cappadocia. A nice place, awesome experience, a handsome guide, nice strangers who crossed my path. I could only hope they also had a nice experience meeting me though only for a little bit. This is a super long post! Phew. I guess I covered pretty much all. Next leg is Izmir which I will try to write soon. To see more pictures, please go here :)

* April 26, 2012: I'm an idiot!!! The capital city of Turkey is Ankara not Istanbul. Istanbul is the largest city though. Still, I'm an idiot!!!

:) eKa @ 1:23:00 AM • 1 comments

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