Waiting for the bus to Sercuk [YQrtw Day 54 May 31]

Pamukkale Post Office

Location: Pamukkale, Turkey

I’ve grown to like unwinding days during this trip. I secretly wish to have days when I do not need to sightsee or walk under the hot sun, to sit in the shade and scroll through my Feedly for cat photos.

Today was such a day. Mom and I were travelling to Sercuk at 4:00pm for our Ephesus tour tomorrow morning.

The travel agents have been very enthusiastic in pushing the day tour for Aphrodisias. As much as I love crumbled buildings full of history, I’ve had quite enough of walking in the hot sun looking at crumbled buildings. Well, at least for today.

I managed to convince mom that we should hang out at the hotel until our check out time at 11:00 am. In the early morning, mom–who had napped for a long time yesterday–went for a walk by herself while I continued to sleep.

The part where I sing praises about egg

When I woke up, mom was back from her walk. We had our hotel buffet breakfast. My very favorite type of food for breakfast here is the egg.

The marvellous, humble, notorious, protein-packed hard boiled egg.

In the face of unfamiliar breakfast food such as bread, tomato, cheese and ham, the egg triumphs for its complex flavor.

The part where I forget my ATM card and get ourselves lost

The thing about travelling with someone else is that they will see all the travel mistakes I make along the way.

I do not mind getting lost and finding my way back but with my mother, it’s a lot harder to continue getting lost as she would ask me to ask for directions. (I detest asking for directions.)

This morning, after breakfast, we walked to the main road for the ATMs. I told my mom that she was taking the wrong path and said we should take the two paths and see who is right.

Turns out mom was right. Oh well.

We did manage to find the row of ATMs. However, I was devastated to discover that I left my ATM in my other bag.

NOOOOOO!

My misadventures for the day did not stop there.

When we went looking for the post office, I some how misread my Google Maps directions and went to two wrong places before mom asked some school kids how to get there.

Well, at least there was an ATM there and we could get some cash out.

Walking to Pamukkale's post office
Walking to Pamukkale’s post office

The rest of the day was spent at a tourist-oriented restaurant run by the hilarious 68-year-old Mustafa. We then head to the Japanese restaurant for Today’s Desserts which was banana cake and was also Yesterday’s desserts.

At the restaurants, Mom and I bumped into two groups of Malaysian girls. One group were air hostess in Oman while the other came on the same flight as mom. It’s a really small world.

PS It seems like we’ve met more East Asian girls travelling than boys. Can someone explain why this is the case?

Eventually, our bus to Sercuk arrived. It was a van. I was stuck in the corner with a really chatty Brazillian who talked to an Argentinian girl about travel throughout the first 2 hour of the journey. I never knew anyone could talk so long without stopping to breathe.

Glutton in Egypt

Open air restaurant
Glutton in Egypt
Glutton in Egypt

I spent 2 days in Egypt with a tour group, visiting Giza and Cairo. Unlike Chinese tour groups, we were brought to local restaurants for our lunches (dinner was not included in the package).

I fell in love with Egyptian food when I took the first bite of a well seasoned barbeque meat at our first restaurant.

BBQ meat with bread and rice
BBQ meat with bread and rice

Egyptian bread is fluffy and has an empty air pocket in the middle. I love tearing off bits of bread and stuff them in my mouth. Mmmm.

Bread, beans, potato and beetroot

At one of the stops, we had vine leaves with something inside. I couldn’t remember what it was, it could have been meat but it might have been something else.

i also ate falafel for the first time in Eypt (yep, I didn’t have any in Paris or Dubai). It was nice but I do prefer my balls of food to contain meat.

Falafel and vine leaves

The honeydew that we were served at lunch was pure sugar.

Honeydew
Honeydew

The roast chicken that we had was delicious. Even though I was stuffed with bread and falafel, I tore through the well-seasoned poultry and gobbled its tender meat. (I’m very hungry just remembering it.)

Roast chicken in Egypt
Roast chicken in Egypt

Hibiscus tea

I first heard about this exotic drink on a Jamie Oliver cooking show. He was preparing a meal in under 20 minutes or so and whipped up a batch of bright red hibiscus tea from tea bags.

I bought a box of hibiscus tea when I found it on the shelves of an Egyptian Carrefour. The drink I made was really sour and I didn’t have that great of an impression.

Hibiscus tea
Hibiscus tea

When I was on the tour, I found out that hibiscus tea is served cold and sweetened. I love this formula.

The taste is a mix of sweet and sour. I overheard someone describe it as “cranberry juice” so you can imagine what it tastes like.

Other interesting observations

open air restaurant

The two of the restaurants that we went to were open air. Even though this made the location even more exotic, it’s kind of crazy sitting in the hot open air under the desert sun.

While meals were included in our package, we had to paid extra for drinks. (This was the same in Jordan.)

Bread ladies
Bread ladies

The two places that we went to had a section where ladies made bread. It was quite fun to watch them pound dough and bake bread but it felt more like a zoo which made me uncomfortable.

Coca Cola in Arabic
Coca Cola in Arabic

Not actually something very interesting but here’s a can of Coke in Arabic.

What is your favorite Egyptian food? Share them in the comments below!

You might have missed:

Glutton in Italy
Glutton eats with Florence Food Tour
Glutton on a cruise

Snowy white Cotton Castle–Pamukkale [YQrtw Day 53 May 30]

Cotton Castle--Pamukkale

Location: Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale terraces

Our bus reached Pamukkale town around 6:30am. Fortunately, our hotel had a free twin room and we were allowed to check in ahead of the official timing.

We went for breakfast–half knowing that this probably wasn’t covered in our hotel charges–and ate loads of carbs to give us energy for the day. (Later, the receptionist confronted us about the breakfast. We paid 7 lira each for it.)

Originally on our itinerary, we were supposed to have a free day today and have our tour the next day. I decided that it would be too tiring for us tomorrow to finish our tour at 4pm and hop on the bus to Selçuk 30 minutes afterwards.

So I went out to ask if we could do the tour today instead. I bumped into a person who claimed to be from the travel agency–I found out much later that he wasn’t–who said we could do the tour earlier.

The man also creepily asked me to sit in an empty shop to “chat”. I gave an excuse that I need to bring the Wi-Fi password to mom so I could not stay even for 1 minute.

Later during pick up time, we were approved by the real tour company people to go on the tour today.

I’ll just skip the first two sights that we visited, although they are quite amazing on their own.

First we saw the red hot spring source. The water had a lot of iron in it so the mineral would deposit on the sand and leave red marks. The water did taste like blood, as the tour guide said, due to the iron inside.

Red hot spring

Then it was Heriapolis where we saw about 2km of stone coffins, tombs and mausoleums. We also saw the ruins of the city itself, with plenty of columns around.

I was disappointed when the tour guide told me that there were no ghost stories about the necropolis that we were walking through. I want ghost stories, please!

Tomb

Visiting the Cotton Castle

YQ in Pamukkale

The highlight of this tour was the Pamukkale terraces. The hot spring water that had much calcium in it would deposit the mineral and leave the side of the mountain looking like it was covered in snow

Pamukkale’s name is Turkish means Cotton Castle, which I think is a really cute name. Cotton Candy Castle will make it even sweeter.

Since we had 2 hours of free time, I took the opportunity to bath in one of the hot springs pool. Entrance fee was 32 lira, a little steep but I felt that it was worth it since I did not have to be in the sun. I hide in one of the shades of the flowers.

* If you want to swim in Pamukkale for free, do it in the terraces where the calcium deposits are.

The walk down from the hill top was treacherous. Mom and I had to take off our shoes so we don’t spoil the pristine white surfaces.

Water kept flowing and parts of the ground was slippery or filled with water that passes an adult’s knees. Luckily, we made it in the end without any major catastrophes. A minor bump during our walk down was when one of my shoes fell into the water.

Later in the evening, I went with the hotel shuttle bus to watch sunset on top of a mountain. There, I managed to slip on a little slope and hurt only some small parts of my hands.

More on the blog:

Last week, I was travelling from Athens, Greece, to Istanbul, Turkey, on an epic 15-hour bus ride.

Joining the ‘Green Tour’ of Cappadocia, Turkey [YQrtw Day 52 May 29]

Göreme panorama

Location: Goreme, Turkey

It’s a little funny how all the travel agents in Cappadocia have the same itinerary. (I didn’t do a scientific test but 5 out of 5 tour companies I’ve seen have the same route.)

Today was our turn to go on the “Green Tour” route which would take us to Göreme panorama, Derinkuyu underground city, Ihlara valley, Yaprakhisar, Selime monastery, Pigeon valley viewpoint.

The only thing I was expecting from this tour was the 3.5km walk in the valley. Remember, walking and I are not the best buddies so I wasn’t looking forward it to that much.

A bus full of Asians

Our minivan arrived at our hotel slightly past 9:30am. Mom and I got on the wrong bus before this so we were careful to check that this was the right bus.

The bus picked up several people from their hotels and from the travel company HQ. Interestingly, the bus was full of people with east Asian heritage (so PC!).

There were two men (who we later found out to be from Singapore), us Malaysian Chinese and 7 Korean people.

Statistically speaking, the chance of having a bus full of Asians here in Cappadocia is not that high so I wonder if someone pulled some strings, thinking we would be more comfortable with each other, or something.

So as the itinerary said, our first stop was the Göreme panorama. Panorama stops are a big thing here in Cappadocia because the landscape is pretty amazing.

Overlooking the Göreme panorama

Göreme panorama

These pointy mountains are the result of residues from volcanic eruptions. The walls of the mountains are soft, allowing the residents to cut through the stones to make cave houses for themselves.

While waiting for the bus, we spotted a pomegranate tree with baby fruits. It’s a shame that it’s not pomegranate season now because I could use some of those juicy seedy fruit.

Baby promegranate

Derinkuyu underground city

After a long journey during which I napped, we arrived at Derinkuyu underground city. We could only visit up to the 8th underground floor of this now-abandoned city but it was fun hiding inside the cool caves.

YQ in an underground city

Some of the more interesting points of the tour was the visit to the graveyard/morgue which did not have any dead things in currently.

It wasn’t very fun crouching and climbing the stairs to get to one floor or another so those with back problems should be aware of this before signing up for the tour.

Ihlara valley

Ilhara Valley

After the underground city, it was a 50-minute bus ride to the Ihlara Valley where we had to walk a lot before we could lunch.

Even though the valley was pretty, the exercise I got getting down the stairs into the valley made me a little grouchy.

Ihlara valley

At the end of the staircase was a little cave where cartoon Christian frescos remained. The paintings reminded me of this news when compared with Renaissance period Christian works.

Christian fresco in Ihlara valley

Our 3.5 km walk didn’t seem too long since there was a little river with clear water and the trees shaded us from the sun.

In between the start and the end, there was a small rest area where enterprising locals made 3 lira orange juices and boys chased ducks.

3 lira orange juice

Boy chases duck

Mom and I survived the 3.5 km walk. Everyone was treated to lunch by the river. Drinks of course require extra payment.

YQ in Iharla Valley

Yaprakhisar caves

Following our itinerary, we arrived at the Yaprakhisar caves which included the Selime Monastery. There is more than enough climbing for a lifetime at this place.

Yaprakhisar caves

One of the cave chapels still have signs of frescos but everything was covered in what looked like black soot.

Far from this location was the set for the filming of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. From where we stood, we saw pointy mountains with holes as windows and doors, but not anything more.

Surprise location

Well well well, one of our last stops turned out to be a souvenir shop that sold onyx and other jewellery.

I managed to win a low-grade onyx paperweight by remembering that Cappadocia meant “beautiful horses”. (My answer was actually, “Many horses? Beautiful horses? Strong horses?” I need to cover every possible answer.)

Onyx paperweight

Right next to the shop was our last stop: the Pigeon Valley Panorama.

Pigeon valley panorama

There were a few pigeons around but I was more curious about the stall selling “Turkish Cappadocia Naturel Viagra”. I never found out what the place sold.

Naturel Viagra, anyone?

Back to the bus we goGoreme bus station

That night, we still had to take the bus from Goreme to Pamukkale. The bus ride was about 11 hours and I was stuck in front of a lady who seemed to be leaning forward alot, bumping into my seat from time to time.

I couldn’t recline so I ended up with a stiff neck when I woke up.

More on the blog:

Last week, I was in Greece and I visited Delos, the birthplace of Apollo.

Sri Lanka: Travel costs & summary

Sri Lanka Train Ticket

[I always like reading travel cost posts by other bloggers. Now, I’ve finally got started with my own travel cost post. Enjoy!]

It’s been 50+ days into my travels and I haven’t been telling you about the cost and my thoughts on the different places.

Sri Lanka was the first stop of my trip. I’m very glad that I’ve visited Sri Lanka first because it was tough compared to the rest of the places.

For one thing, Sri Lanka’s tourism is not really prepared well for the cheapo traveller like me.

If you have the money, getting drivers/ tour guides to bring you around is easy and very relaxing.

But I have a budget to adhere to so I did everything on my own–even taking the long-distance public transport on the eve of a major public holiday.

Economy class train ticket
Economy class train ticket

Sri Lanka’s travel costs

In April, Sri Lanka’s exchange rate was 101 rupees to 1 Singapore dollar (something like that).

Oddly, getting my money changed at the bank in Kandy gave better rates than the airport did.

Summary

Total spent (rupees) # of days Daily average
35,937.5 8 4,492

By Category

Accomo Transport Food Museums/ sites SIM + data
15,025 3202 5450 7,575 1,210

I’ll be honest, I was trying to squeeze my money in Sri Lanka (even though there’s really no need to) because I want to see if I can spend less than S$50 a day. I think it worked out rather well.

Stat

Duration: 8 days (3 nights in Anuradhapura, 4 nights in Kandy, 1 night in Colombo).

Photos taken: 549 photos

Rice and curry eaten: 7  (On the last day, I had fried rice instead.)

Random

Best room: While my room in Colombo was pricey and had all that you want in a modern hotel room, it was the Kandy hostel single room with shared bathroom that rocked my trip. For the price of a dorm bed, I got a whole room to myself. Woot!

Not-so-good room: My room in Anuradhapura was large but the only electrical socket was deliberately hidden behind a dressing table. The socket was falling apart and I was afraid of killing myself every time I plugged my charger in.

Best meal: Khotu, I LOVE YOU! This stir-fried dough stripes has the right amount of charred taste from the pan and the generous chicken bits are so tasty. I want to eat more of this!

But I like khotu a lot more than hoppers.
But I like khotu a lot more than hoppers.

Most valuable item bought: Umbrella. Do you remember how I got sunstroke from Sigiriya? If I had bought an umbrella, I would be as healthy as a bull.

Favorite part about Sri Lanka: The price of 3G! It’s so damn cheap and quite fast.

Biggest surprise: Christian shrines at the roadside.

Jesus loves you and wants to give you a hug.
Jesus loves you and wants to give you a hug.

Best experience: Kids boldly saying, “Hi.” to me and asked me where I’m from. Also, a kid asked me in a temple if I was from Japan or Korea and if I knew a particular Korean popstar.

Worst experience: Sitting in crowded third class train carriage with a monk sitting on the aisle across. The old monk’s hands grabbed at the sides of my seat, leading me to squeeze away uncomfortably as I did not think that it was proper for any parts of my body to touch his hands.

Later, some passengers had a shouting match with the monk. One guy offered me his his seat next to his mother.

Another man in purple shirt asked, “Did [the monk] harass you?”
“I don’t know,”I answered honestly.
“If he did, we need to report him,” he said, looking very pissed.

I know that monks are given reverence in Sri Lanka so I wasn’t very sure if I was taken advantage of or just too silly and not just let the monk grab parts of my seat.

Biggest rip off: Anuradhapura scared city entrance ticket for US$35. I know the money is used for conservation but the actual sites that you need to show the tickets are not that splendid. I could have listened to advice on the Internet and cycled in for free.

Biggest regret: Staying for too long in Anuradhapura and not staying a night at Dambulla.

Is Sri Lanka suitable for a solo female traveller?

Before I set foot in Sri Lanka, I asked two girls who have been to the country alone what they thought about solo travel there. Phebe from The Travelling Squid and Stephanie from Pearls and Passport both liked the country and felt it was OK for a single woman to travel there.

After being in Sri Lanka, I think that it’s quite safe to travel as a single woman in Sri Lanka, but some sights are better suited for this than others.

For example, I was more comfortable in Kandy than in Anuradhapura where I didn’t see another East Asian-looking tourist. The beach areas should be tourist-friendly too.

However, the journey to Sigiriya from Kandy was very tiring since I was one of the few single female walking about. Standing on a cramped local bus for 3 hours didn’t help with my level of comfort at all.

In conclusion, I think Sri Lanka is a place that is best visited with a buddy to look out for you. If you really want to travel to Sri Lanka alone, I’d say, “Go ahead!” It’s a safe country but as some of the places are not as lazy-tourist-friendly as Thailand.

If you are interested in reading more about my days in Sri Lanka, check out the archives.

Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia [YQrtw Day 51 May 28]

Flight of the hot air balloons

Location: Göreme, Turkey

Hot air balloon before sunrise

The rude morning call

Today was the day of our hot air ballon ride. For me, it’d probably be the highlight of the trip to Cappadocia because HOT AIR BALLOON needs no reason.

I set my alarm for 4:20 am since our itinerary said our balloon tour was from 5:00 am.

About 2 minutes after I woke up, there was rude, loud banging at our door. Someone yelled that we need to come out.

It was a little disorienting but I figured that it was the hot air balloon company person. I shouted to the closed door, “We’ll get ready and be out.”

“I’ll come back in 10 minutes. Be ready in 5 minutes,” the man shouted back.

The shuttle bus didn’t come until after about 15 minutes. Even when on the bus, the driver asked, “What time did your tour company tell you?”

“5:00 am,” I said.

“We told them 4. Next time, we’ll just leave without you,” he said and continued complaining about how we made the others wait.

What on earth was that for?

Thankfully, that was the only bad part to the morning. The rest of the trip was FANTASTIC.

Small meal before the voyage

The hot air balloon company that our travel agent signed us up for was Rainbow Balloons. (That’s Rainbow Balloons, by the way, in the color of the rainbow.)

Before the trip, we were brought to Rainbow’s HQ for a small meal. At 5:00am, there wasn’t much that I could eat but I did nibble on a cookie and drank some of the coffee.

Every one was divided into groups based on who their pilot was. Our was Arturo.

A very friendly Australian girl was at our table. Through her, I learned about the “Green Tour” in Cappadocia which brings people to an underground palace. (I later found out that mom and I will be going on a similar tour on Wednesday.)

After our meal, we were shuttled to the site where the hot air balloons. Along the way, we didn’t see much hot air balloons that were up in the air.

When we reached our spot, I was pleased to find that the balloons for Rainbow Balloons were the prettiest since they had a stripe with the colors of the rainbow spiralling up the white canvas.

Our balloon was hot and ready for us. Instead of having to wait for our pilot to get the balloon pumped up, the balloon was already in the air when we reached.

Everyone climbed into the basket which was divided into 5 sections. In the middle, there was a narrow section where the pilot and air traffic control person stood. On both sides of the narrow section, there were two baskets, each with a maximum of 5 passengers.

When everyone was in, we were ready for take off. The pilot switched on his gigantic bunsen burner and we lifted slowly.

Hot air balloon and gigantic bunsen burner
Hot air balloon and gigantic bunsen burner

It was still a little dark when we started flying. I peered at the ground and felt that it was pushing away from us.

Soon we were mid-air and it was amazing to see the place from the top. Cappadocia has many funny rock formations and cave houses. Our pilot gave us a guided tour while we floated along.

Even more amazing was the view of tens of hot air balloons floating around:

Flight of the hot air balloons

Flight of the hot air balloons-001

Flight of the hot air balloons-002

Flight of the hot air balloons-003

Flight of the hot air balloons-004

The best ending to a tour

Our flight was about an hour but I got restless halfway during the tour. We finally landed in a patch of grass far away from where we began.

The landing was a little difficult since mom and I had to share one rope for the Landing Position. We did manage to land safely so that was good enough, I suppose.

At the end of the tour, we celebrated our landing with a glass of champagne mixed with cherry juice. I depleted my champagne mix so fast that my refill was pure sparkling wine. Yummy!

Champagne after flight
Champagne after flight

Every tour should end with glasses of Champagne. Seriously.

PS We spent the rest of the day walking in the town for half an hour before retreating to our room for a lot of reading. This is life!

Have you been on a hot air balloon ride? Where do you think is the best place for a hot air balloon ride?

Living in the caves of Cappadocia [YQrtw Day 50 May 27]

Cave Hotel

Location: Göreme, Turkey

If it were up to me, I might not have planned a trip to Cappadocia. Instead, I would have spent many days in Istanbul.

However since my mom was visiting, my sister was very helpful and enthusiastic in looking for sights to see. She found out about cave hotels and balloon rides in Turkey and even helped us book 2 nights in a cave hotel in Göreme.

After a 12-hour bus ride from Istanbul, we arrived in the little town of Göreme. The tour company picked us up from the bus terminal but took a little while looking for our hotel.

When we got there, it was too early for check in but we were allowed to have breakfast. The spread was more generous than what we had in our Istanbul hotel.

Since we couldn’t check in so early, we decided to visit the Göreme Open-Air Museum (15 lira entrance, extra 8 lira for Dark Church).

It took us quite a lot of walking to reach the museum from our hotel. Along the way, we saw the many caves and mountains that are famous in this region. The rocks look quite funny.

One of the more famous rock formation is called “fairy chimney” but for my 15-year-old teenage boy mind, they look more like pen*ses (I looked up wikipedia for the plural of pen*s.) See for yourself.

One fairy chimney. Photo was not actually taken on this day.

After a gruelling walk up and down some hills, we finally reached Göreme Open-Air Museum. Thank fully the entrance fee wasn’t 25 as I previously thought it was.

Göreme Open-Air Museum, worth the visit

Before coming to the museum, I read a few conflicting reviews about Göreme Open-Air Museum on Tripadvisor.

The place was actually nice since I really like Christian Byzantine art for its “unrealness”. But the caves are really small and we needed to elbow a few other tourists to visit the tiny little chapels in the caves.

The best church among the caves was the Dark Church which requires an extra 8 lira entrance fee. Inside, the walls and ceilings are covered with art works but most of the saints have their faces chiselled off.

On our way back, I caved in so we got back on a taxi for 10 lira. It was well worth the money since the noon sun was even more cruel.

Six hour power nap

After a lunch in the little town, we head back to the hotel. Our room was ready and our bags were brought into our cave room.

The cave hotel room was cool even though it was blisteringly hot outside. With our double bed and light, the whole setting didn’t look very much like a cave. Instead, it was more like the walls having funky uneven patterns.

In a cave hotel room

Unfortunately, the room was rather humid and nothing would dry if we hung it inside. Thankfully we have a little porch with two sofas. We took the liberty of hanging a few of our laundry outside.

Since we took a night bus, our sleep quality the night before wasn’t very good. The room was so cool that we fell into a nap very soon.

Mom’s nap turned out to be 2 hours longer than mine. I admired the sunset and worked on May 26’s blog post during that time.

Goreme sunset

At night, we went to a restaurant suggested by Foursquare. The place was awesome as the tea and apple tea were served free and for as much as we want. Yum!

We walked back to the hotel in the cool night air and rested at 11:00pm to prepare for our early morning hot air balloon ride the next day.

Condensing 72 hours of Istanbul museum visiting into 24 hours [YQrtw Day 49 May 26]

Istanbul Shores

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Yesterday, I did a bit of research on the Museum Pass. On the web site, a lot of museums in different regions of Turkey were listed so I had the impression that the Museum Pass would cover all those sites. That’s perfect for us since we’re visiting Cappadocia where there is the Goreme Open Air Museum.

So while queuing for Haghia Sophia, I told mom that we should just buy the Museum Pass. I forked over 144 Turkish Lira to the man in the van and received our two black passes.

I was rather devastated when I read the pamphlet. It only listed a few museums in Istanbul and none that were out of the city. I looked at the pass again and realized that it’s actually Museum Pass Istanbul.

Worst thing was that we would be leaving Istanbul almost 25 hours after the pass’s first use. *sad music*

Anyway, I decided to make the most of it and cram 72 lira worth of sites into 24 hours so we wouldn’t be wasting our money.

This is also a list of “How to see the most of Istanbul’s museums in 24 hours

Site 1: Haghia Sophia (Day 1 5pm) [25 lira]

Haghia Sophia interior
Haghia Sophia interior

We checked off Haghia Sophia around 5pm on Day 1. This is the one site that everyone must visit while in Istanbul. It was even featured in ARGO where Ben Affleck’s character walked with an U.S. agent who worked in Turkey.

This church/mosque/museum will take about 1.5 hours of careful looking and posed photographs. When inside, the space looks smaller than it does from the outside.

Some renovation work was going on so we saw a bit of scaffolding on one side of the hallway.

The mosaic on the second floor was probably the most impressive among everything on display. You could see each tiny mosaic tile when you stand close. When you stand further, the tiles blend together into a stiff representation of Jesus and gang.

Unfortunately, by the time we finished Haghia Sophia, most of the other sites included in the museum pass was closed so we ended today’s sight seeing.

Bonus site: Blue Mosque (Day 2 8:30am) [0 lira]

Exterior of Blue Mosque
Exterior of Blue Mosque

We learned the hardway about the Blue Mosque’s visiting hours. It’s best to visit here in the morning as visiting hour streches from 8:30am to 12 noon. The timing’s much shorter in the afternoon and evening.

Heading to the Blue Mosque earlier means it won’t take up the time for other paid sites that uses the Istanbul Museum Pass.

Unlike the other sites, the queue for the Blue Mosque is much faster as there is no second queue that you need to go to. Just be sure to wear modest outfits.

What to wear to the Blue Mosque
What to wear to the Blue Mosque

Site: Istanbul Archaeological Museum (Day 2 09:40am) [10 lira]

We needed to check out of the hotel by 11:00am so I scheduled a visit to the Archaeological Museum in the morning and Topkapi Palace later in the day.

The museum is not very big so it’s easy to fit this place in an hour’s visit. We did it in less than that.

One of the best exhibit in the museum is the Alexander Sarcophagus, which wasn’t Alexander the Great’s actual coffin but one that had carvings of the guy at war.

Alexander Sarcophagus
Alexander Sarcophagus

There are a few mummies around if you’ve not seen one.

BONUS TIP: There is a free shuttle service on a golf kart from Gulhane Park (the beginning of the slop to the museum and Topkapi Palace). The service is FREE and saves a bit of time walking up or down the slopes.

SIte: Cheap boat ride across the straits (Day 2 11:30am) [extra 4 lira not included in Museum Pass]

After we stored our luggage at the tour agency, we head out to explore. As we weren’t hungry, I suggested that we take a boat ride (since mom seemed to desperately want to ride the boat).

There are packages for 2-hour Bosphorous Boat Tours which cost about 10 euro. We didn’t have 2 hours in our day’s schedule so we took the public transport boat from the Old City to the Asia part of Turkey.

With our Istanbulkat (public transport value card), we paid about 2 lira each for each way. It’s not exactly a long tour by the coast but we did see parts of the shores and the many houses and buildings crammed on the small land.

Istanbul Shores
Istanbul Shores

Across the straits, food seemed to be cheaper as we bought a doner for 2.50 lira (while it’s usually 4 lira at tourist places).

Site: Topkapi Palace and Harem (Day 2 1:45pm) [25 lira + 15 lira]

We waited for the Topkapi Palace shuttle but it didn’t come in 5 minutes. As we walked up the slope, the shuttle went past us. We waited at the Archaeological Museum for it to come back up. There was only a seat so mom got in and I walked up to the top. It was torturous.

The Topkapi Palace was bursting with tourists. It was a Sunday so it seemed like many locals were there as well.

The Palace has nice exhibit items. The most memorable was Prophet Muhammad’s multiple beards in multiple small beautiful cases. There was also a really really big diamond that was about the size of a chicken egg.

Besides the exhibit, the palace’s gardens is great for relaxing. Roses were in full bloom while we were there.

Attack of the Topkapi Palace roses
Attack of the Topkapi Palace roses

The museum pass also covers the harem so we headed there last. I had read that it was the best building in the Palace but I thought it was a little underwhelming since some walls of the palace were decorated more lavishly.

Eunuchs' dorm
Eunuchs’ dorm

Remember, the Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesday, as noted by an angry user on Foursquare.

Did fitting 72 hours into 24 hours work?

By the time we finished Topkapi, we were quite tired. If I was travelling alone, I might have forced myself to walk to the Mosaic Museum. Since I was with my mom, we took it easy and went for a tea break instead.

We only used about 75 lira of entrance fees in the end but the pass was still very helpful since we did not have to queue for tickets.

If you are in Istanbul for a similarly short period, the pass is helpful to help you cut down on queue time. Think of it as Time Equals Money and the few minutes count as 1 lira, or something like that.

Do you purchase Museum Passes?

Welcoming mom and her jetlag to Istanbul [YQrtw Day 48 May 25]

Haghia Sophia

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

As I mentioned in my old post talking about Turkey, my mom has joined in on my round-the-world trip during the Turkey leg (lol) of my trip.

This is the first time that she’s travelling to Europe so I promised to pick her up when she arrives. The hostel I was staying at had a 5:15am shuttle for 5 euro and I gladly paid it so I do not need to figure out the public transport.

Since there was not much traffic at 5:15 am, the bus reached the airport in 15 minutes time. That was majorly fast.

When the shuttle bus dropped off passengers at the international departure hall, I asked the driver if he was going to the international arrivals, thinking that he would pick up the other passengers.

Mom didn’t come out into the arrival halls until an hour after the plane landed. We took the tram from the airport back to my hostel.

We got off our tram one stop too late because I didn’t remember the stop correctly. However, we were in luck as the famous pastry shop, HafIz Mustafa 1864, was just in front.

We breakfasted on three buns, Turkish tea and a cafe latte. The food in the display window looked more attractive than our brown buns but no one was buying the Turkish delights that early in the morning.

Sweets at Hafiz Mustafa 1864
Sweets at Hafiz Mustafa 1864

We got back to my hostel. I quickly packed my things and we shifted to another hotel down the road. The new room was huge and has three beds. How awesome is that.

The next thing I had on my to-do was less awesome. Remember how I bought a new SIM yesterday? Turns out, even though I paid 25 lira for 1GB internet, the data package was never linked to my phone. (I found out from the guy working at Turkcell in the airport.)

Despite being confrontation-phobic, I had to go back and plead for my 25 lira package.

When I got back, the lady who served me wasn’t in. None of her Turkish colleagues spoke enough English but one of them have the bright idea to bring up Google Translate where we “chat” with translations.

After they found out about my problem, they had a heated discussion and even called someone up. However, they did give me my 1GB data back so I am very thankful.

List of places we visited:

Basillica cistern
Basillica cistern
Haghia Sophia
Haghia Sophia
Exterior of Blue Mosque
Exterior of Blue Mosque
Asian part of Istanbul
Asian part of Istanbul

When was the last time you travelled with your mom? How was the experience?