map of westeros

How can I get to Westeros? : Prompt 16 of #indie30

Prompt #16: What city in Europe would you like to visit the most?

Having visited Paris in 2011, I can’t really think of any other European city that I would like to visit. I think my imagination has been eroded from too much travelling.

Although I don’t have a a particular city in Europe that I’m dying to visit, if I were dying, I would choose to go to the fictional land of Westeros in Game of Thrones (which is kind of in Europe and filmed in Europe).

Map of Westeros

Credit: Robert whose handsome face I’ve cropped out

Compared to my current life, Westeros has 1000 times more swords and an infinity times more shadows dragons. Those are good enough reasons to go.

I would love have been a part of the storyline but based on my karma, I’d probably end up as Character Who Crosses The Road in the books or the film. Plus, I wouldn’t have survived a day in Flea Bottom.

Actually, come to think of it, I don’t feel like dying that soon. The one reason I want to be in Westeros is so that I can wear fantastic braids all year long (which I have been doing in a mini scale these days).

More on Game of Thrones filming locations:

 

This post is part of 30 Days of Indie Travel Art Project.

Cagaloglu Bath

Getting a Turkish bath in Istanbul

[Hi, before you continue, I have to warn you that this is is a rather TMI (too much information) post. It has the most concentration of the word “naked” out of all my posts. In case you are curious, I’ve used the world “naked” before.

You are welcomed to imagine whichever person you want to see naked while reading the post, if that makes you feel better. You have been warned.]

This is an elaboration of my second last day in Turkey.

Cagaloglu Bath

Cagaloglu Bath

One of the things you need to do in Turkey is to get a Turkish bath at a Turkish bath (hammam). For those aren’t sure what a Turkish bath is, it’s a bath where someone–hopefully Turkish for an authentic experience–scrubs you really hard with a loofah and let you lie for a short period of time on warm tiles.

Yes, you pay someone to scrub you in the nude.

The last time I let anyone bathe me was when I was a kid and didn’t have full control over my limbs.

I’m not usually a shy person when it comes to bathing matters. After spending a bit of time in Japan, I am comfortable with walking around naked in Japanese and Taiwanese onsens. But getting someone to rub my body with a loofah is probably a test of my limits.

Even though I have Turkish bath on my to-do list, my mom who was travelling with me in Turkey wasn’t keen at all. She’s the type who get squeamish in onsens so I understand that. In the end, I have to visit the baths on my own.

According to my research (reading loads of mixed reviews on Tripadvisor), there were a few baths around my hotel area. I eyed two and started looking for them.

I found Cagaloglu Bath’s side door after a long walk up and down Istanbul’s slopes.  Fortunately, it was also the ladies’ side door. Entering the entrance, I passed by a poster of Kate Moss posing on some tiles before the screen that divided the bath and the outer world.

1,000 Places to See Before You Die

1,000 Places to See Before You Die

A long poster hanging on the second floor told me that it was one of the “1000 Places To See Before You Die”. That probably means that I’ll be paying for a lot of ambience too.

The little court had a few marble tables and stools. There were a lot of ladies sitting around looking bored. They wore the uniform white polo t-shirt and some brown pants.

I asked the lady at the counter for the price. Looking at the chart, I did a quick calculation and realized that it was quite out of my budget. But I already had my feet in the compound and I feel compelled to sign up for a session even though it would mean less lunch for me. I chose the cheapest package that included a scrubbing session.

Counter Lady said I could pay later and shouted to one of the ladies. The woman who answered reminded me of Rebel Wilson.

I was shown to a room and told to change. The room had a sleazy look to it. A bed with a plastic-like dark green fabric was pushed against the wall. A small dresser with a feedback form was next to the bed.

The room had a glass window which was frosted on the bottom half to protect the modesty of whoever was inside. Not that we need any modesty since we would be buck naked in the sauna room anyway.

So I changed out of my clothes and wrapped a towel around myself. Since I was paying a night’s worth of a hostel stay, I wore my glasses so that I could admire the marble hammam. But as I closed the door, Rebel pointed to my glasses and mimed taking them off. So much for getting my eye worth of the hammam.

I was told to wear clogs and I shuffled like some Ch’ing dynasty lady with lotus feet. Rebel helped by grabbing my arm and steadying me.

I walked with blurred vision, passing an empty chamber before going into the hammam itself. Rebel brought me to the round stage-like marble place and slapped the surface. I interpreted that as asking me to lie down.

So I lied down on the warm marble and tried to relax. It was a bit difficult because the marble is hard. Being half blind without glasses didn’t help with my experience. Everything on the ceiling looked like a blurry bouquet of lights as the sun streamed through some of the circles on the roof.

Roof of a hammam

Roof of a hammam. It was prettier inside the bath.

After a while, I flipped myself over like a piece of steak to warm the front of my body (while covering my backside with my towel). My neck twisted uncomfortably as I rested my cheek on the marble. I didn’t know I have cheekbones until the marble pressed against them.

I tried counting how long I was told to grill myself. It didn’t seem very long before Rebel appeared. She was armed with a loofah mitten and a bucket.

She flipped me around so I was facing the ceiling again. With a bit of warm water sloshed on me, she began her car polishing moves. Every inch of my skin was scrubbed.

Halfway during the scrub, Rebel grabbed my hand so I could feel the bunch of dirt that she had scrapped off me. There seemed to be a crazy amount of dead skin on me. I thought back the times that I had showered and wondered why there weren’t as much dead skin.

Then I was flipped over like a burger patty. My back, backside and legs were scrubbed. When all was done, Rebel patted my shoulder and escorted me to the shower area.

The shower area is basically a corner of the hammam. The bath lady waits for the pail to fill with warm water before giving you a good shampoo.

When I was lying down on the tiles, it was OK for me to close my eyes and not look at what Rebel the Bath Lady was doing to my body. But now that we were standing up, I awkwardly looked at the top of her head.

As Rebel finished my shampoo, I saw her give my body a look and give a nod. I felt it was an approving nod, or wasn’t it. I wasn’t sure what to do so I awkwardly smiled at Rebel instead. Then I was wrapped in a towel and shooed back into the room.

Back in the brothel-like room (where no one gave me a “happy ending”), I counted my coins for Rebel’s tip. My notes were too large and luckily my coins were just enough for tip.

Fountain

I shuffled out of the “1000 Places To See Before You Die”, feeling sparkling clean but strangely molested.

I later discovered that the ladies’ entrance I went into was a dwarf compared to the real entrance which was very beautiful. I felt cheated that I wasn’t asked to leave from the main entrance.

Read more about other people paying to get scrubbed by strangers:

cava

#FoodFriday A special bottle of cava

Welcome to YQtravelling’s FoodFriday. The day of the week when I show off some of the lovely eats I had while travelling.

Today’s drink was a bottle purchased in Barcelona but drunk in Singapore about 2 years after it was bought.

I bought a bottle of cava from Barcelona’s airport at the end of a business trip (aka press trip).

My interpretation of cava is a Spanish champagne. Only sparkling wines produced in a certain region and a certain method can be called cava.

My bottole of cava was dark green with a heavy bottom and a wooden cork. I made a promise to drink it only on a very special occasion.

The bottle moved with me to another place and stood in a corner for a very long while. It seemed like I would never have that special occasion to drink it.

Finally, I did take the bottle out in March 2013. Finally, I was going to travel around the world!

When I got it out eventually, it was covered with thick dust and strong strands of spider web (or was it dust?)

Flutes of cava

Most of the “dryness” of the wine was gone by the time I shared the bottle. Still, it was a good wine for me as it was still sweet and intoxicating.

Do you have a special drink?

savoy balik

#FoodFriday A fishy meal at Savoy Balik in Istanbul

Welcome to YQtravelling’s FoodFriday. The day of the week when I show off some of the lovely eats I had while travelling.

Today we’re going to heading to Turkey for some seafood.

My mom and I had a good meal at a trendy fish restaurant on her first night in Istanbul.

The place was called Savoy Balik (I think “balik” means fish in Turkish and it also means “to return” in Malay.) Getting there was an adventure (see below!) but it was worth it.

Savoy Balik

Savoy Balik

I ordered grilled fish and it came with half a lemon in a plastic stocking, beets, half a raw onion and raw vegetables. (Eek! I dislike raw veggies.)

Grilled fish

Mom’s fish stew was better and I ended up eating more of her share than mine. The stock that came with the fish tastes of tomatoes. Yummy.

Fish stew at Savoy Balik

Turkish desserts after meal

Although we were quite full after the bread and fish main dishes, I still wanted to try the desserts. I didn’t recognize almost everything on the menu so I picked two dishes which were on the cheaper side.

Semolina pudding

One of the dishes was a sweet pudding. I didn’t write down the name so I’m not sure what it is. It could possibly be semolina pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It’s a bit too sweet since we had to mix it with the vanilla ice cream to get it to become not tooth achingly sweet.

Apricot drizzled with sugar water

Another dessert was apricot sprinkled with something unknown. At least I know that it’s apricot?

Walking for our food

The restaurant wasn’t initially on our To-Eat list. How did we end up there?

Well, Foursquare convinced me that it was a short walk away and then I convinced my mom to head there.

So we followed Foursquare’s directions. “Head north and turn to the left.” What Foursquare did not tell me was that there wereA HELL LOT OF STAIRS to climb before we got to the place.

Staircase to food

Mom and I took about 5 sets of stairs this tall before we got to the right street.

Mom kept saying that we should take a cab but I didn’t think it was worth being fleeced if the restaurant was just around the corner.

However, we ended up walking for what seemed like forever until we hit the right corner. The seats outside were all taken so we had to sit inside where the waiters didn’t pay us much attention.

How far have you travelled for a good meal? Share your experience in the comments below.

around the world with overexposed model

Around the world with The Overexposed Model

There’s a side of me on the internet that I’ve not shared on YQ Travelling, until today.

Back in December 2012 when I was in Singapore, I created a Tumblr called The Overexposed Model (OEM) to record ads which I’ve come across that feature an ambiguously raced young lady.

The tumblr was actually a follow up of a blog with a similar goal. The blog was called The Overexposed Big Mouth Model but it disappeared when I was trying to submit my sightings.

Since OEM was in so many ads as the generic smiling women, I thought it was fun to chronicle my discoveries. I shared the blog link with a few friends but I mostly kept it as a semi-private collection.

Then one day, a freelancer from the Phillipines asked if he could interview me about the blog as part of a feature on the model. I can now honestly say that I was in Esquire Philippines (or something like that), however not as a bikini model.

In March, the Singapore media ran out of story ideas and featured The Overexposed Model in various print and web outlets. Some readers started submitting their own sightings of OEM to the tumblr. I put those up too.

Naively, I thought that the tumblr will hibernate while I go on my four-month journey. I still keep seeing OEM.

In the beginning, it was fun spotting OEM but now it feels kind of like a nightmare. Each time I see her, there’s less giddy surprise and more “NOT AGAIN!” Of course, I still obediently take out my camera and snap her photos.

Overexposed Model in Malaysia

OEM selling ulcer medication in Sabah, Malaysia.

OEM selling ulcer medication in Sabah, Malaysia.

My first overseas sighting of OEM was back home in Sabah in a clinic. She was in a ulcer medication ad.

Overexposed Model in Greece

Overexposed Model in an optician ad in Athens, Greece.

Overexposed Model in an optician ad in Athens, Greece.

In Greece, I found OEM hawking glasses in Athens.

Overexposed Model in Argentina

Overexposed Model in Buenos Aires airport

Overexposed Model in Buenos Aires airport

I thought I was safe from OEM but I found her at Buenos Aires airport, selling some sort of travel card.

Overexposed Model in Peru

Overexposed Model on Cruz del Sur website.

Overexposed Model on Cruz del Sur website.

I found her on a bus company’s website, ready to go for an unplanned weekend travel.

Overexposed Model in a clinic ad in Arequipa, Peru.

Overexposed Model in a clinic ad in Arequipa, Peru.

In Arequipa, in a lonely building, I found her in a life size printout. I thought I should stand next to her to prove that I spotted her.

Overexposed Model in the papers in Peru.

Overexposed Model in the papers in Peru.

Then I saw her again in the papers.

Overexposed Model in San Salvador

Overexposed Model in a pharmacy ad in San Salvador

Overexposed Model in a pharmacy ad in San Salvador

When I was out window shopping, I saw her outside a supermarket.

I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing OEM in an ad. It’s funny how she’s featured in so many different countries. Does her looks makes her the everyday person of the countries she’s been featured?

Have you seen the Overexposed Model? Share where you’ve seen her in the comments below.

emo cat asks you not to look at him

Caturday: Emo cat in Selcuk

Location: Selcuk, Turkey

Emo cat

Emo cat

I don’t know if cats actually know that I’m taking photos of them when I wave my camera in their face. Maybe they just find the rectangular object annoying so they turn away.

Good news is, Emo Cat is less emo when you look from afar. In the background is the ruins of an ancient bath.

Not-emo cat

Not-emo cat

Leave emo cat alone!

black beauty

Caturday: Black Beauty at Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Black Beauty in Istanbul

Black Beauty in Istanbul

If I had a cat, I would like to have one that is all black. That way, it wouldn’t look too dirty if it rolled around in something.

This cat was resting at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum before I went to disturb it. It walked off, ignoring me.

When it reached the steps, it turned back and gave me a mean look. Meow!

Cat from afar

Cat from afar

If you have a cat, what color would it be?

apple tea cup

#FoodFri The best drink in Turkey

Welcome to YQtravelling’s FoodFriday. The day of the week when I show off some of the lovely eats I had while travelling.

Today we’re sipping some unique tea in Turkey.

Apple tea served in traditional glass

Apple tea served in traditional glass

When I was in Turkey, my most memorable drink was apple tea. The drink is served in a small traditional glass and is usually pale yellow in color although there are florescent green ones too.

At first I tried to guess how they make apple tea. Do they boil the apples and serve the liquid or do they first dry the apples and then boil them?

I had guessed that real apples were involved because I sometimes see bits of solid things inside.

Size of a Turkish glass

Size of a Turkish glass

Then one day, at one of the hostels, mom and I discovered that apple tea is made from powder. Just add hot water to taste.

At the weekly markets in Ephesus, mom bargained with a tea powder seller and bought half a kilo of apple tea solution.

Powders sold in a Turkish market

Powders sold in a Turkish market

However, I was more interested in the “Sex Tea”.

Where to buy your sex tea? Turkey.

Where to buy your sex tea? Turkey.

PS Apple tea seemed more like a tourist-thing than a local-thing. Locals drinks loads of black tea.

Do you know any drinks from Turkey?