Snippets of Turkey

Assalamualaikum and hello all! 

I had to force myself to write this as the memories about the trip are slowly diminishing.Writing about this trip had definitely made me relived my memories of Turkey!

In December 2018, my family and I went for a trip to Turkey, covering Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bursa and Uludag!

I did not make the itinerary for this trip, unlike the previous ones. Don’t know why. Perhaps I had gotten tired of making itineraries or perhaps I didn’t really have this much interest to go to Turkey. My parents were the ones who wanted to go to Turkey, actually, so we just tagged along. I thought Turkey is quite boring, but boy was I wrong! It was SO MEMORABLE! One year on, I could still remember all those places that I visited!

I’m not going to blog every single detail about my trip. I can’t really remember the date they built Hagia Sophia, or some historical facts (gasp!).I just want to reflect on my feelings there-those good, wonderful feeling of happiness when you’re in a new country. The feeling of wanderlust. J

Day 1- KL-Jeddah-Istanbul

Our journey started on the 11th of December 2018, taking a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah. We had to transit for 6 hours there, before taking another flight from Jeddah to Istanbul. It was my first time taking Saudi Airlines and I have to say that the service was excellent! I love all the in-flight food and entertainment. The majority of the passengers were heading to Jeddah to perform their umrah, and I couldn’t wait but to look at them enviously, praying that one day, I too could be given the chance to go to Makkah. Ameen.

It would have been a perfect, satisfying, comfortable journey if it were not for the fact that I suffered from sore throat the day before departure. The classic Sarah-is-going-to-catch-a-cold/fever warning symptoms are sore throat, followed by bouts of sneezing every few seconds and runny nose. SO ANNOYING!

I kept on swallowing Panadol and Piriton (Forgot to bring Actifed!!!), praying with all my might that my immune system is strong enough to combat this illness. I slept throughout the journey, only waking up when food was served.

Approaching the holy city of Makkah al-Mukarramah

Young Sheldon with Arabic subtitles. xD

The meals were served twice. Plus there’s a tea/coffee time in between.

Then, the 9 hours journey was over, and we found ourselves at the Jeddah Airport, where we were required to stay for a 6 hours transit before taking another flight to Istanbul.

The 6 hours transit would have been bearable if it is not for the fact that the transit area was freaking crowded and uncomfortable with people sleeping on the floor because there wasn’t adequate seats! The Saudi government should improve their infrastructure. They are very rich, right? Surely they could afford to build and provide better facilities in the airport! Also, the transit area has a rather large retail section where they sell duty-free perfumes and stuff. *rolled eyes*. They should tear those down and expand the waiting area. I mean, some of the pilgrims were sleeping on the floor! So kesian!

Of course, the anxious me covered my nose most of the time. It was so crowded, and people were coughing and sneezing. I didn’t want to get sicker. I was so scared of getting the Mers Cov.  My immune system was still struggling!

Alas, 6 hours was over. We took a flight to Istanbul, and the in-flight service was as excellent as ever.

Reached Istanbul, and the hotel driver brought us to the Sultanahmet area, which is the best area to stay if you want to walk to the historical places without taking a cab or a tram.

The place was situated in a hilly area. The lanes are so narrow and crowded. The driver could not park directly in front of the hotel, so we had to lug our luggage up the hill, in that drizzling afternoon. 

I forgot the name of the hotel. But it’s like a small 3-4 storeys apartment.

You open the door of the room and these are my brothers’ beds.

Climb several steps up to my parents’ queen-sized bed next to my single bed situated next to the heater and window.

We prayed Zuhur+Asar first, then went out to have lunch. The same goes with other countries that I had visited, it took me quite a while to register the fact that I am in another country, thus I did not feel that excited, initially.  There’s no “I can’t believe I’m here! Yippee!!! ” sort of things.

The Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud II and his royal family. 

Turkish delights!!!

Found a Turkish restaurant and went inside. I LOVE ALL THE FOOD! Except the Turkish Coffee. Which is so bitter, LOL. Well, coffee is supposed to be bitter, duh! 

Then we went out to Serefiye Cistern, an aqueduct. Nothing much in here.

Walked some more, finally, the beautiful sight of Hagia Sophia greeted us from a distance. That was when it struck me “I’m here! And this place is so beautiful, Masya-Allah!” and I got all excited! We only took pictures on the surroundings without going inside, that activity is reserved for tomorrow. My mom got leg cramps because it was so cold! My dad massaged her legs. So sweet! And we had to hold her on each side as she couldn’t walk properly.

This deserves a MEME! Whatcha lookin’ at? 

So many cats in Istanbul and they are all FAT! My mom’s friend said it’s because the people there regard the cats as members of their own community. Thus they are very well-fed. None of the cats came to us begging for foods. None of them are skinny. Which makes me laments the conditions of the cats in Malaysia. 😦 

And we slept early that night (9 pm Istanbul time) and woke up at 3 to 4 in the morning.  Still couldn’t recover from the jetlag.

Day 2 Istanbul-Sultanahmet

Woke up for a breakfast at the hotel. I LOVEEEE the food served! A variety of cheese, breads, potatoes, hummus and various condiments.

View from our hotel room. Not much of a view. HAHA. 

But at least you can see the Bosphorus Strait. 

Then we were ready to explore Sultanahmet area. First destination of the day is the Basilica Cistern, which is similar to Serefiye Cistern except that it is more famous because it appeared in the movie ‘Inferno’ starring Tom Hanks. Built during the reign of Emperor Justinian, It was used as a water storage area. So, another aqueduct.

Medusa upside down, I think?

Wait, this is Medusa with her viper hair.

Then, we moved on to Hagia Sophia, which is just across the road.

I can’t really remember the ticket price. But we got in for 60 liras per person, with a personal so-called tour guide who charged us 100 liras. So in total, it was 400 liras. Well, he did explain almost everything about Hagia Sophia but somehow, I’d rather explore the whole building by myself instead of having to follow him around here and there.

Hagia Sophia is really magnificent. It was once a church during the Byzantium era, and then converted into a mosque when Muhammad al-Fateh conquered Constantinople (old name of Istanbul). It is two-storeys high, and the second storey is where the Empress of Constantinople pray. As I walked towards the second storey-with a series of passages upwards, I couldn’t help but to imagine the royalty of the olden days walking on the same floor to get upstairs.

There are also mosaics featuring Christ, Mary, the emperors and empresses, and also mosaics with the name of Allah, Prophet Muhammad pbuh, and the 4 Khulafa Ar-Rasyidin.

I think this this the mosaics depicting Emperor Justinian and Emperor Constantine on the left and right presenting the Hagia Sophia and the city of Constantinople to Virgin Mary and baby Jesus Christ.

When the tour was over, the tour-guide asked for 500 liras. We were shocked. All of us argued “You said it was 400 liras!” and he said “Okay, 400 liras then,”. It seemed like he was taking the chances of us forgetting what we had promised him earlier. Luckily we remember. Huh!

Then, we moved on to Topkapi Palace. The security to these historical places were quite tight. We had to put our bags over the conveyor belt to be screened, etc. Just like in airport. We later found out that it’s a precautionary measure against terrorists, like those who planned an unsuccessful coup at Thaksim Square a few years back.

Well, you can buy tickets to two separate places- Topkapi Palace and the Harem, or just Topkapi Palace, or just Harem, where the Ottoman sultans’ concubines resided in during the Ottoman Empire. 

My parents wanted to go to only Topkapi Palace. Now that when I think of it, why didn’t I go to the Harem too? WHYYY???

The entrance fee for Topkapi Palace is 60 liras, the same with Hagia Sophia. The entrance fee for the Harem is 60 liras too.

The Palace is beautiful and well-kept. There is a section where you couldn’t take photos of the beard of Rasulllah SAW and the robe of Sayyidatina Fatimah RA. But of course, some ‘smart’ people couldn’t understand the rules or even too illiterate to read, leading to the guards saying ‘NO PHOTOS! NO PHOTOS!’ every single second.

The place where they take ablution. 

Walking around the Royal kitchen area. 

Bosphorus strait! 

The library. Not a real Ottoman there. 

It was here that my sneezing got worse and I knew then that my immune system had failed me and I had officially fall sick.

We then had our lunch at the restaurant and ordered some kofte (meatballs) and soup. I love the lentil soup. I could still taste it in my throat until today. So hot, creamy, savoury. Yumss

That green soup there!!! 

We then performed our prayer at the Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque. Went to take our wudhu at the toilet nearby, as in the toilet, there were several Malaysians (LOL Malaysians are everywhere!) who said that they witnessed someone being pick-pocketed right in front of the toilet. I shuddered upon hearing that and clutched my belongings closely.

I kept on sneezing when I was praying, LOL. Then we went to the Grand Bazaar. It reminds me of ‘Silk Street’ in Beijing, only that the vendors here were nicer and much more polite. Didn’t buy anything there. Just looking around.

Entrance to the Grand Bazaar. See that security barrier there?  It’s everywhere! 

Then, we went to buy simcards as the wifi at the hotel sucks, and also because we need to do a web-check in for our next flight to Cappadocia. OMG, writing about Cappadocia makes me excited!!!

Then I stayed in the room the whole night with my darling brother Haziq, who was such a fine young man who volunteered to stay in the hotel with me while my parents and brother went out to get dinner- chicken kebab omg so nice!! I shivered in the cold winter ambiance-heater sucks! Sneezed, sneezed and sneezed, took PCM, Actifed (somehow I found it somewhere in my bag), vitamins, and when I woke up the next day, I felt better, Alhamdulillah.

Day 3 Kayseri-Cappadocia-Uchisar

Breakfast was as usual, AMAZING! Then the hotel driver sent us to the airport where we waited for our flight- Turkish Airlines to Kayseri Airport.

In the plane, we were served this grilled cheese bread with tomatoes which is so delicious!

Snowy landscape

Arrived there on time, found our driver and got into the mini bus. What bugged us the most was, the driver was waiting for two more groups who had not yet arrived at the airport. So we had to wait for them and my dad got sulky because we almost missed our prayers.

Anyway, we travelled across the highway to get to Cappadocia. You could see remnants of snow on the hills and by the roadside, which made us feel really excited.

The best part of Cappadocia is our CAVE HOTEL located at Uchisar, which is the highest terrain in Cappadocia.

The hotel is the most luxurious and prettiest hotel I had ever stayed in. It’s one of a kind too, since it was carved from a cave. Our suite is so spacious, with my parents room in front, then a short hallway leading to a big area with my bed on one side, and my brothers’ on the other side. There’s a Jacuzzi tab too! My mom got it at an affordable rate for 2 nights, not exceeding RM1000. It’s a bargain for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

The entrance to our Cave suite. Climb up the stairs. 

And it opens to my parents’ bedroom. 

You pass through the door on the left of this picture, moving along a short passage, and you will find…

My brothers’ sleeping area 

And mine. So cool right!!!

The view from my bed. On my right is the staircase leading down to…

Our bathroom, with shower and jacuzzi! There’s another bathroom at my parents’ room, also with jacuzzi. 

The only downside is it’s so far from the Cappadocia town, so there isn’t any nightlife. All we did was just exploring around the area (so cold!) and just enjoyed our room! And oh, we booked a one-day Green tour for our activity tomorrow. The receptionist called the tour guide and they will be picking us up tomorrow. There are several kinds of tours- Red, Green and Blue (I think) but I chose the Green Tour because I wanted to go to the Derinkuyuu Underground City.

BTW, the receptionist doesn’t understand English. So we had to use Google Translate to communicate with her.

The only thing missing is the hot air balloons. This picture would have been perfect then! 

I read this (the hotel’s copy) and vow to go to Konya one day! Insya Allah! 

Day 4 Cappadocia

What’s a superb hotel without a superb breakfast?

I think I was answering a query about drug doses. LOL really. The doctors in my ward would ask me anytime, anywhere. Tak sampai hati tak jawab. 

Breakfast was super awesome, we had the waiter serving us, we ate lots of breads and cheese.

Then the tour guide picked us up with his van. His name is Azan. There were two other groups there. One is a Singaporean Malay family, another is a couple from India.

Our first destination for the day was the Selime Monastery. You had to climb up the hill to get to the now-defunct monastery. The whole architecture was amazing! He also showed us the structures which supposedly inspired George Lucas’ depiction of Star Wars’ Tatooine.

Then, moving on to Ihlara Valley. This place is so beautiful! You just have to see it by yourself as no words could perfectly describe this place (actually I am too lazy to type out flowery descriptions about this place). 

I want to go to New Zealand! #tetiba. This reminds me of one of the paths Frodo, Sam and Gollum took to destroy the One Ring. 

Those caves were the Christians’ settlements back then. 

Then we had our lunch, which is included in the tour package.

Barley grains with cheesy chicken. Of course, my favourite green soup served with lots of bread. 

Continued our tour by going to the Derinkuyuu Underground City! It’s the place where the Christians hid from the Muslim Arabs during the Arab-Byzantine wars. It could accommodate up to 20,000 people and there were amenities like chapels, schools, storage rooms and kitchens inside. It extends to a depth of 60 metres and  believe me, without a tour guide, you would be lost inside this maze of a city. We even crawled down to the place where they stored dead bodies. Wicked!

It was a rather strenuous journey, especially for my mom, as we had to crouch down and climb up numerous series of stairs.

Then, we went to Pigeon Valley while the rest of the group went to take the super expensive Hot Air Balloon rides. RM1000 per person for a 30 minutes ride. Lucky Singaporeans who only had to spent $300 of their money to take the hot air balloon. I mean, I wouldn’t mind spending it on myself, but my parents refused to take the hot air balloons and thus I didn’t want to go up there all by myself. So, yeah. A bit regretful. Maybe one day.

The pigeons nestling in the rock formations.

You could see the hot air balloons!!! And the evil eyes charms hanging from the branches. The Huawei Mate 9 watermark tu sibuk je. Hahaha. It’s from my dad’s phone. 

Nice pictures were all taken by my brother and my father. 

Ended our tour with the jewellery factory. Then we went back to the hotel.

Day 5 Yenikapi, Istanbul, Galata

Last day in Cappadocia. Had our last breakfast there and rushed to catch our flight back to Istanbul. This time, my mom booked a hotel near the Yenikapi area. But the hotel was better than the first hotel we stayed in. We met my mother’s high school friend-Angie who is now a teacher in Istanbul there. So Auntie Angie taught us how to take a metro to Galata where she treated us for dinner at a seafood restaurant!

The restaurants under the Galata Bridge. We didn’t go to any of it. Instead, we went to the one near to the fish market. Which offers seafood at a more reasonable price! 

The train to Galata
Fresh seafood
Assorted condiments

That’s what I love most about Turkey. The food! Everything is halal, no pork, also cheap. Then I was reminded of how we had to cook in Japan and Australia as it was difficult to find halal foods. And halal foods are expensive too.

We walked around Galata Bridge and took another Metro to the Galata tower area. Then we went back to our hotel. My brothers and I shared a room where we played Snap! Happy Families and Donkey. I won all three games! #powerofa90skiddo

Day 6 Bursa

Took a ferry to Bursa from the Yenikapi Ferry Terminal. Bought our tickets there at the counter. Arrived in Bursa, where we took a cab to our hotel. Checked in to our hotel after we had settled everything, praying, etc. We made our way to the market in Bursa, eating lunch at a restaurant along the way. I had blisters walking several kilometres away from the hotel to that market.

Our sleeping area. Syafiq’s first pose.
Parents’ sleeping area. Syafiq’s second pose. Hahaha.
Chocolate Pudding
Kofte. Meatballs.I only finished the meatballs, leaving behind the soggy breads.
Say Cheese!

Something happened. I desperately needed to go to the toilet. But no one understands English there. No one knows what a toilet is. So I quickly typed the word ‘toilet’ on Google Translate and they immediately showed me the way, LOL.

This masjid was built in 1399 and still standing strong! 

While waiting for my father and brothers praying at the mosque, my mom and I had the opportunity to taste a creamy hot milk sprinkled with cinnamon drink called Salep!

The delicious Sahlep

And we drank lots of tea as well!

Hot tea with two sugar cubes by its side. I already put one. One is sweet enough.

I bought several boxes of Turkish delights as souvenirs and my dad bought Walnuts, Hazelnuts and other kinds of nuts. My mom bought spices, and on our way back to our hotel, we tried the oysters squeezed with a bit of lemon. Yummy!

Alhamdulillah tak dapat Dysentery

Day 7 Uludag

Took a cab to the Teleferik Station at Bursa, it’s a cable car to the Uludag Ski Resort.

Long story cut short, we arrived in the snowy mountain of Uludag! My second time skiing after 4 years and I had forgotten how to do it.

My father, on the other hand, enjoyed himself so much that he kept on failing, and had knee pains that makes it difficult for him to walk properly. My mom kept on scolding him, saying that he’s no longer young, so he should learn how to limit himself.

Menemen in the pan there

I got tired of skiing and ate Menemen with my mom. It’s kind of like scrambled eggs with tomatoes.

Another amazing thing that happened there: We experienced a snowfall!

No activities at night because my dad was in pain. So my brother just ordered food from the restaurant and we ate dinner in our hotel room.

Day 8 Sultanahmet, Istanbul

Something adventurous happened.

We checked out of our hotel in Bursa and got into a cab to the Ferry Terminal. But ferry was not available for the day since it the sea was rough, with choppy waves and stormy weather. So how on earth are we going back to Istanbul? Oh yeah, there’s no direct flight from Bursa to Istanbul, BTW.

And….the answer is, we took a bus!

Which is the best decision ever! As we traversed across other towns and cities of Turkey to get to Istanbul. 

Bus is super nice! 

There’s also someone serving you tea and cakes! 

The bus stopped at Uskudar. No one could tell us how to get to Istanbul, which is the other side of Bosphorus strait. Like I said, not many people understand English! It was drizzling at the same time. Luckily we met a young Turkish lady, who is the daughter of a mufti in Turkey. She could speak English so it was a relief! She showed us the way until we reached our hotel in Sultanahmet. Thank you! 

We checked in to the hotel and ate lunch at the restaurant located in front of it. I can’t remember the name of the dish I ate but one thing for sure, there are like 5 pieces of chicken wings with bread and I finished them all. Really delicious! Middle Eastern foods are my absolute favourite! Then we went out to shop for some stuff. We also went to the Grand Bazaar (again) with my parents buying Turkish prayer mats as souvenirs.

This is the one!
Inside the Grand Bazaar

 I went to a bookstore in Sultanahmet to search for Elif Shafak’s books. It was freaking expensive! One paperback for 100+ liras? When I returned to Malaysia, I bought all of her books from Kinokuniya, each costing less than RM50. Aunt Angie was right. She told us that the Turks were not into reading, and that books are expensive there!

Went for another shopping  trip at the shops near the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome is kind of like the Roman Colosseum, only what remains of it now is just two huge pillars.

One of the two pillars of Hippodrome

Day 9 Spice Bazaar, Galata Tower, and back to Malaysia

Last day in Turkey! Went to the Spice Bazaar, then only took a picture outside Galata Tower as there was a long queue to go inside. Then we ate lunch, checked out of our hotel, and went to the airport.

Inside the Spice Bazaar. It was less crowded than the Grand Bazaar
Shops selling Turkish Delights and Dates
On the way to Galata Tower
Galata Tower

My siblings and I watched ‘Siccin 2’ on the laptop while we’re waiting for our flight. Watching a Turkey horror movie in Turkey. Wicked! 

Back to Jeddah for a short transit time, and back to Malaysia!!!

Overall, a very memorable experience! My parents talked about how they want to go to Turkey again. They want to explore the other states and regions of Turkey. I want to go to Konya- also known as the City of Rumi as the great Poet Jalaluddin Rumi once lived and buried there. Then, to Pamukkale, Antalya, and so many more!

That’s all, a blog post long overdue (almost one year!). I’m glad I managed to finish writing about my trip there. Sorry it’s not as extensive and not having much details like my Snippets of Western Australia post as I had forgotten every single thing that happened a year ago. I really need to make it a habit to write on my travel journal each time I visited a new country. 

And Insya Allah, I will be taking a trip to Egypt this December, then performing my umrah in Makkah and Madinah. I am really looking forward to it. I want to receive the hidayah. I want to improve and strengthen my relationship with Allah and Rasulullah, aameen. 

Originally published on 29/11/2019

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