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.

1 comment:

Laila N Mysis said...

There is a certain buzz you get from travelling, isn't there? A high that I only associate with airports. I got it while reading this :P And I love how you get to meet such distinct 'characters' too... I must say, I too have experienced both ends of the spectrum in relation to Turkish grandmas. I'm glad you got a nice one this time. (I feel like I just objectified them.). (Hm.).


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