Final few days in Istanbul

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Again, before we get started, we have uploaded more photos from our remaining days in Istanbul which can be found HERE.  Again please have a look around and let us know what you think. It was great to read everyone's comments after the last update.

So, according to the last update Pat was not doing too well after a bout of food poisoning brought on by a corn on the cob and we were planning on flying to Kiev to eventually move to Moscow to get the Trans - Manchurian train over to China.  Well, plans change.  And our plans changed pretty dramatically.  More on that later.

After spending most of our day on the 7th July getting information on the train to China and booking flights to Kiev, we then phoned the offices in London of one of the companies that provides train tickets and excursions along the way.  We phoned them mainly to try and get clarification on the visa situation for Russia, Mongolia and China.  It was during this conversation that we learnt that the visas are a nightmare to organise (particularly for Russia) and that there were no places with their company until end of August.  Time to have a rethink.
We learnt another lesson here that we shouldn't book flights until we had everything in place and more information.
Just as we finished on the phone to London we bumped into Fahad and Adeel (the guys we went to the Groove Armada concert with). They had been away for a couple of days and it was good to see them again.
We talked through our failed trip to Russia and decided there and then that we would just fly to the end of the proposed train ride (i.e Beijing) and continue from there.  The best way to get into China is via Hong Kong so we decided there and then to fly to Hong Kong.  Sorted!!

The next day, 8th July, we cancelled our flight to Kiev and spent the day mainly relaxing at the hostel.  At 6pm that night we met up with Adeel and Fahad again and went off to see some more live music.  The annual Istanbul Jazz Festival was on and we got tickets to go and see Jose Gonzalez and Antony and the Johnsons playing.  The venue was a very intimate place next to the hospital in the centre of Istanbul.  Jose Gonzalez played first and for me (Pat) he was very average. I don't know much of his music but he was very samey.  Fahad and Adeel, who both know his music, thought he was excellent.  Next came Antony and the Johnsons.  And I have to say these are probably the best ever live band I have ever seen....ever.  I knew very little of them but had heard some of their music, and they totally blew us all away.  Absolutely brilliant.

9th July - happy birthday to Pat.  33!! Getting old!!!  Today, in true old couple style (well we are both in our 30s now) we went for a stroll.  Very nice too.  We decided today to go for a walk along the coast of the Bosphorous river which splits Istanbul in half (or in threes depending which way you look at it).  The walk took us along the shoreline to Galata bridge where there are loads of cafes and restaurants so we stopped and had a coffee and a slice of cake. Nic told the owners it was my birthday so they brought my cake out with a candle - ahhh.  Nice touch - thanks Nic.

We then had a stroll back and stopped for ages to watch some fishermen in wet suits, snorkel masks and great big bloody harpoon type instruments dive under the water and spear these poor little fishes.  Once they had skewered them they threw them into a rock pool where they swam around for half an hour or so with their guts hanging out before dying.  Nice.  Presumably they would be sold and served in the local restaurants that same day.

Over the next couple of days we booked our flights to Hong Kong (leaving 13th July - Friday 13th July!!!) and saw more of Istanbul.  On the 11th we went to see the Cistern, which is basically an underground freshwater place with lots of columns (if anyone has seen the James Bond film, From Russia With Love, with Sean Connery then they will have seen this place.  There is a scene where James Bond is in a little rowing boat underground in a place with loads of columns - well this is it).  It was built a long time ago (we were told but I can't remember) and I think it is used to cool the Hayia Sophia.  Have a look at the photos, it was very interesting.

After the Cistern we took a walk to the Egyptian spice market.  Again, images of merchants trading over exotic spices came to mind but again you got rows and rows of stalls selling genuine fake Armani jeans and Versace T-shirts with the odd spice and Turkish Delight stall dropped in.  The smell, it has to be said, was fantastic and the spice stalls very interesting but on the whole a huge let down.

On our final day in Istanbul we made enquiries about hostels in Hong Kong and found what appears to be a very nice one in the New Territories called Ascension House.  Some of the hostels in the main parts of Hong Kong (Kowloon) look horrendous and get some shocking write ups. 
Also we started to make enquiries about working on farms while travelling with an organisation called WWOOF ( which stands for Willing to Work On Organic Farms.  They have associated farms all over the world and we started to make enquiries about working on a farm in China and found a number of places that seemed to real suit what we are after.

And finally, the last bit of excitement in Istanbul is that we nearly lost Nic.  We were sat on top of the roof terrace at the hostel chilling out when a gust of wind took one of the sun parasols (which are HUGE) and blew it right over the edge of the roof.  Unfortunately, for Nic, the parasol was lashed down to her bench and as the wind took the parasol it dragged the bench, and Nic, across the floor.  Thankfully a wall stopped Nic from going over the edge with the parasol.  It took three of us to rescue her and the parasol.  It was hilarious but only after we knew she was ok.
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