Istanbul: Where East Meets West

Trip Start Feb 06, 2011
Trip End Sep 15, 2011

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Saturday, May 7, 2011

The flights from Hong Kong to Istanbul were fairly uneventful.  Free wifi in both airports definitely helped the time pass by!  I wasn't hungry when I arrived in Seoul for my layover but I couldn't not eat Korean food in Korea!  You all know how much food makes me happy :)

I ordered my bibimbap and it was delicious!  At 9000 won ($8 CDN), it was a solid deal and I was a happy camper!  My flight from Seoul to Istanbul was completely full.  I couldn't believe it!  I didn't think that this would be a popular route but apparently many Koreans are making their way to Turkey to visit the religious sites important to early Christianity.  I think I was the only non Korean on the flight!  

I arrived in Istanbul, paid my $60 USD visa (Canadians pay the most out of any country!), and hopped on the metro to get to my hostel.  A taxi ride would have cost 30 euros but it only cost me 3.50 TL (Turkish Lira) or $2.25 CDN in total.  I dropped my bags off and ventured into town to check out the area.  I was staying in the Sultanahmet (Hippodrome) district which is the heart of the Old Istanbul where all the major tourist attractions are located.  

Barbeque House was highly recommended on TripAdvisor so I made my way there for dinner.  I knew this would be the first of many kebab meals I would have on the trip.  They cooked the meat on a charcoal bbq and the food was delicious!  I tried the local beer (Efes) as well and it was much better than most of the beers I had in Australia.  Unfortunately, most of the restaurants don't serve anything other than Efes so I doubt there will be much beer sampling in this country.  

I quickly found out that if you are a single female traveling through Turkey, you're 100x more likely to be approached by random Turkish men trying to sell you tours, carpets, Turkish delight, ice cream, pretzels, etc.  It's all very predictable.  First, they'll ask you where you're from.  Then, they'll ask if you would like some apple tea or Turkish tea (both are delicious!) and go inside their store to just "chat".  I must say they're very hospitable and charming but don't fall for their tricks!  I had one guy ask if he could show me his family brochure of silver jewelry and it ended being a carpet store!  He tried to coerce me into buying a small carpet and when I told him that I would need to "think" about it overnight, he tried to sell me 3 even smaller carpets.  I politely declined and as I walked out of the store, he tried to ask me out!  Ridiculous.  

However, not all of them are after your money as I did meet one guy who was nice enough to offer me lots of advice on what to see, do and eat in Istanbul.  I spent the next 3 days visiting all the tourist attractions including the Grand Bazaar (over 4000 stalls!), Spice Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, Haghia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Blue Mosque.  The buildings are incredibly beautiful but there are way too many tourists here!  It's not even peak season and there are hordes of tour groups lining up to see each attraction.

On Friday night, I met up with my Gap Adventures group for the start of our 2 week adventure through Turkey.  There were 9 people on tour and they were all girls!  Talk about estrogen overload.  Luckily our guide is male but he's quite young so I have a feeling he will be bossed around on this trip.  He did a city tour for the girls the next day but I had already seen everything on his itinerary so I went off on my own to explore some more.  We're taking a 9.5 hour overnight train ride to Ankara (capital of Turkey) and then a 5 hour bus ride into Goreme.  I've never been on a sleeper train before so it should be interesting!

It's officially been 3 months since I left Vancouver.  I can't believe how quickly time has flown by.  I've traveled just under 39,000km and I'm having the time of my life! :)
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Em on

Absolutely amazing, Claud! I think T and I were in Istanbul the same days you were!! We arrived in Izmir on the 8th, and were in Istanbul on the 9th, and 10th! Would have been awesome to bump into you....Sounds like you're having a blast! Stay safe!

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