Saturday, November 29, 2014

Istanbul - Day One

Day 1- 31st October 2014

Our flight was at 2.15am, and we arrived at the airport (KLIA) around 10.30pm ish with parents, brothers and a concerned boyfriend in tow.

I remember my parents acting as if they are sending me off to go study in Istanbul for 6 years, instead of 9 days. Both of our parents (Eli and I) expressed their worries, but as I have thought out loud so many times since March:


We boarded the plane around 30 minutes before take off and I told Eli to "wake me up when its food time" but my body knew that already and I woke up 5 minutes before snack time (A chicken curry pastry thingie .. yucks) and breakfast (Omelette,sausage and mushroom. The bun with the butter and cheese spread was to die for.).

The plane landed at Abu Dhabi airport about 8 hours later, and we had a 3 hours transit at Terminal 3.

Verdict: Tons of people. And if you're wearing a jacket be prepared to take it off during the scanning process. If you're like me, hijab and jacket wearing, make sure to wear a long sleeved shirt underneath.

Once we got passed that, we were in the tax free zone but with no UAE dirhams. There's 2 restaurants (Burger King and an American theme one) with a small foodcourt.

Note: We hung out in the women surau (praying room), and since it was early early morning, there were not many people praying then. 

The lines to boarding could be quite confusing because the gates were nearby to each other and there is not much space for a long queue. We had to ask several people if we are in the right line.

4 hours flight and we landed in a rainy Istanbul. 

An interesting note on the landing: If I am not mistaken, the runway starts/ends right at the cliff edge.

We were greeted by rain, coldness and wind that blew my scarf over my face. By the time I walked down the stairs and scuttled into the small bus that will take us to the terminal, my fingers were numb.

"No one said anything about the wind."

By the time we got into the airport, so grateful for the heated air ... we got lost and walked right past the Passport Controls because we were 

1. Amused by the advertisment for "The Sabah Post", a local paper in Turkey (I assume) while Sabah is a state in Malaysia.

2. Trying to kill the unfounded fear that Malaysians actually need a visa after all. (This is after each of us had checked multiple times on the Malaysia Embassy side and Turkey Tourism Board side.)

Once we were lining up (not so long because we were among the last to get off the plane + a lot of counters + gotten lost for 10 minutes gave the crowd time to disperse), another fear popped up in our minds.

"What if they think we are mail order brides for ISIS?"

I looked at Eli from the corner of my eyes and decided her various piercings and colourful hair would make her look less likely as a candidate than ... me.

But of course, less than a minute at the counter and I was skipping away to the Arrivals Hall.

There was an information counter, and he told us we could take a shuttle (train), bus or taxi to go to the Taksim Beyoglu area. We decided on taxi aka most expensive but easiest.

And this led to one of the two freaky/bad moments we had in Istanbul.

The place was hard to find, and eventually the taxi dropped us near the Euro Plaza hotel, which is on the map we printed from Dogan Studios. He waved his hand in the general area and said the place is nearby.

And went off.

It was drizzling and cold. 

We texted the manager (Who only spoke turkish) and texted the owners about being lost, but the messages did not go through.

We were in front of a kebab store (Doner is the name for kebabs) and I went in to buy some for us. 

Ever watched Taken 2? Yeah, I kinda felt I was gonna be taken because the men in the store looked like in the movie.

Hot + bad guy vibe.

Or maybe cause they were dark, broody and said nothing.

I pointed to the menu, having no idea what I am ordering and just said "Two".

A man took out two skewers of beef, put it on the old fashioned grill and started to chop up tomatoes and cabbages. He took out soft flatbreads and toasted those before wrapping it around the beef and veges.

7 Turkish Lira for each.

Eli said my face looked really worried while in the store, but she herself was worried about being lost that she could not laugh at that moment.

Across the street was a grocer, and the owner was kind to get one of his helper to take us to the apartment.

The boy, late teens perhaps spoke a bit of English and I found out he is Sulaiman and was from Syria. The route he took us through .. was through back alleys and there was the fattest furriest cat on a car (Eli and I both exclaimed in delight but it was more of a way to distract ourself from thinking we are being kidnapped.).

While waiting awkwardly in front of the apartment, a man appeared who is a friend of the manager, and he spoke English and said Soner was shy to meet us.


He helped us carried our heavy bags up 2 flights of tight round staircase and gave us our keys.

Note: He was definitely a Turkish Delight.

The moment the door closed and locked, we both collapsed on the floor and laughed in relief.

Apparently I was not the only one who was thinking of just staying at the Euro hotel if we got conned.

For the next half hour, we got stuck to our phones and the Wifi to inform worried parents/boyfriend that we are safe.

One view from the kitchen window of the apartment. See the middle high building? At night it has fairy lights.
View from our bedroom window.

By that time, it was 3pm ish and we both decided that we should start exploring the next day. Before it got dark, we bundled up and walked 4 minutes to buy some grocery necessities.

From the cutest Turkish grandmother ever.

Note: My only experience of the Turkish grandmothers are during umra' and well .. they can be pretty mean especially in shoving themself into narrow spaces in the saf.

She spoke no English. And found us amusing as we bought a carton of mineral water, bread, sodas and biscuits. A guy in the store helped with the prices by writing on a piece of paper.

It got really dark at 5pm, and both of us pressed our faces against the windows and wonder if we are playing it too safe (By few days later, we were going out at 7pm and coming back few hours later).

So what did we do? Enjoyed our kebabs (Mystery meat we first labelled it until we found out it was Spicy Beef) and was amazed by how full of beef it was. Made some hot Milo (3 in 1 packets brought from home) and we patted ourselves on the back for arriving safely.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Istanbul: The Basics.

Location: Istanbul 
Date: 31st October - 8th November

We started planning the trip in March, and by the first week of April we had bought the tickets and paid the 25% deposit on the apartment.

Flight Details:
Ticket Price: RM2,056

Airline: Etihad

Details: A layover of 3 hours on the trip there, and 7 hours back. Both at Abu Dhabi airport. 

Total flight hours (one way): 12 hours ish. This is from Malaysia.

This was the cheapest option, as well as the shortest ish duration of layover.

Apartment Details:

Price: 300 Euro for 8 nights (This is a off peak season rate) and for 2 people. If its 3 people, 10% increase and 4 people (max) its 20%.

Location: In a quiet street in the Beyoglu area, the apartment is an old 4 story building renovated to accomodate 5 units (1 being the basement level) with 3 different rates.

Apartment: One bedroom, one bathroom, one living room with a small dining area and a kitchenette. It came with a small stove, coffee machine, water heater, washing machine, iron and board, hairdryer, wireless internet, tv and satellite, heater, air-conditioner.

Opinion: I really liked the apartment, though our taxi driver found it impossible to find and dropped us off about 300 metres away.  (It cost about 60-70 Turkish Lira from the airport to the apartment and vice versa) Its not suitable for family with kids, and people who are really particular aka would like a proper hotel. But if you are like my friend and I, who did not want a hotel but want our own bathroom, the apartment would be great.

Link: Dogan Studios Istanbul. It is owned by a couple, who lives in Germany. The units are managed by a local shopkeeper. Semih and Semra (the owners) are really friendly and helpful because I remembered asking them questions like "Is there a lift?" and "Is there an iron and board?" to which the answer was no and yes.

Payment: It was made via Paypal, and the remaining 75% could be paid before you arrive or you can pay in cash to the manager (Soner who only speaks Turkish).

Next post, I would be talking about the expenditures, travelling/public transport, obtaining food, weather and all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Istanbul, From the Soul.

I arrived back in Malaysia at 2.30pm on Sunday, and I think I nearly cried because apparently I missed how green Malaysia is.

Istikal Cadessi, mid morning on a weekday. 
Istanbul was ... amazing. I think it was a city that called to my soul. A city full of history, culture and an amazing combination of the old days and the modern days. I think there were times that I nearly stopped right in the middle of the busy Istikal Caddesi (a 1.4km long avenue) and just let the spirit of the place flow into me.

I know, cheesy. But making Istanbul my first ever travel destination was like getting that first perfect boyfriend. 

The one who remembers how you take your latte, and that your dessert should be chocolate, or apple based. The one who hold your hand while you visit those hidden art galleries, and let it go when you're reading because he knows you need your freedom when you do that. The one that can look at you, and read your soul. The one that you had to let go because it was just not the right time.

I briefly half seriously considered just staying there, teach English/Malay and get myself a nice Turk guy (they are really really attractive, in general. With their beards ala' hipster style, and glasses, and those eyes). But then Mama decided to remind me that I would be cut out of the will if I don't come back as scheduled.

Would I go back? Definitely.

Maybe in few years' time, after I go to couple more places (which has to be decided).

About a year before the Istanbul trip was planned, I asked someone who just came back from there what he thought of it.

"I fell in love with it."

"Slowly or quickly?"

"Both ways."

It was the same for me too.

Waiting to check in luggage. Last picture in Istanbul.

P/S: I will be posting more pictures and blog about the trip.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Confession No 68

Abu Dhabi International Airport

As I sit, awaiting for the connecting flight, I wonder if you will be here, waiting for the same. Would you smile, I wonder. This fantasy of mine.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Confession No.67

Coffee shop. Upon Istikal Caddesi. 

So I have,
Visited and greeted this city,
Sat and stood upon many spots,
Walked and climbed the lanes,
Dined and sipped upon establishments,
And for every single moment,
And I do mean every single moment,
If you were once here too,
Doing what I am doing,
And thinking of that unrequited feeling. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hello From Istanbul!

We are currently in Istanbul. So cold, windy and rainy. Here is the view from the bedroom window and the kitchen windows. I will be uploading more pictures on my Instagram, hanisgorgeous. Follow me there!


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