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:

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.

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?

creepy note in Dubai

Scary situations I’ve encountered as a solo woman traveller

On my blog, I focus on the good things about travel because I love travelling and I wish that more people will travel.

One of the excuses people give for not travelling is that they do not have anyone to go with.

Rubbish. If you travel alone, you can travel anytime you want.

While I love solo travelling, there are times that I wish I was travelling with someone else. These occasions are times when I did not feel safe.

I always take care to be back in my room before sundown. I feel like Cinderella with her midnight curfew, only my curfew was well earlier.

But despite all the precautions, sometimes scary situations still happen. Today, I want to share two of such tales. Thank goodness the situations were not majorly disastrous situations so you don’t have to feel too uncomfortable reading them.

Failed stalker in Istanbul

Istanbul otogar

Istanbul otogar

After I dropped off my mom at the Istanbul airport, I was back to being a solo traveller. This meant that there is no one to ask me if we’re walking in the right direction and that I can go wherever I want without any reason.

So I got off at the Coach Station stop on the metro. I remember seeing IKEA not far away from it. I really like visiting IKEAs of the world so I thought it was a good chance to add to my Local Things in IKEA list.

The Coach Station metro stop was a mess. It seemed like there were 50 bus companies around and each had a shop facing the metro exit.

I walked around to see where IKEA was. It looked quite far away but I decided that I should go nearer and find a path.

While I was walking, I heard someone talking really loudly. Thankfully, I have mastered the art of ignoring anyone that wasn’t talking directly to my face. Often, I see people over-react to voices on the streets and I don’t think that is very street savvy.

As I was walking to IKEA, I saw a short slim man in a blue polo shirt walking about 5 steps away from me. I thought he was heading to the same direction as I was.

I slowed down to let him walk ahead. Then, I realized that he kept looking back, as if to see where I was going.

By then, I decided that IKEA was too far and I wanted to head back. So I turned around.

Then I saw that the man turned around too. I walked faster, hoping to reach the metro station ahead of him.

While I was walking, some other person walked to me and asked me where I wanted to go.

At times like these, “nowhere” is not a good answer even if it is honest. I said “nowhere” and mimed taking photos.

The direction-giver pointed to the metro entrance and said “Metro. Metro.” I thanked him for his kindness.

I did not check if the blue-shirt follower was still with me but I suspect that seeing me talk to the direction-giver probably scared him off.

Thank you, good man.

The creepy note and persistent delivery man in Dubai

Creepy note

Creepy note

I didn’t mention receiving a note under my door on my first night on in my blog posts because it felt too scary to write about it at that time.

My plane arrived in Dubai quite late at about 10:30pm so I checked into my AirBnb close to midnight. The area from the metro station to the house didn’t seem like the best place since there were many men loitering.

My studio apartment entrance was in a dark lane. I had to take a lift to the house as it was above some shops.

After checking me in, my AirBnb host (a guy) left my studio apartment at past midnight. I took a shower and when I got out, I saw the note under the door.

I thought it might be from the laundry person who came by to drop off my sheets and pillow cases. However, he did not leave a company name so it was unlikely.

I  sent the AirBnb host an e-mail to ask if he knows the person. The host didn’t know and said he would take care of it.

I didn’t know how he took care of it but the incident left a mark on me.

Some nights after… There was a knock on my door. I thought it might be the host but I still asked, “Who is it?”

A man whose voice I didn’t recognized said he was delivering groceries. I tensed up and went behind the door.

After the note incident, I had tied up my door knob to something sturdy with laundry string. No amount of pushing will open the door.

I stood behind the door as my heart raced. I shouted back at the “delivery man” that I DID NOT ORDER ANYTHING.

The man was persistent. He asked if my friend had ordered any. I thought it would be bad to tell him that I was alone so I said that my friend was not in.

The delivery person was silent. I was still behind the door. Then he banged the door again, saying that he was delivering cigarettes.

I was angry. I spat out, “I DO NOT SMOKE! NO ONE ORDERED ANYTHING.”

I could still hear the person behind the door. He made a call on speakerphone but no one picked up. I wondered if he was pretending to check if the phone who called for the delivery would ring in my room.

It wasn’t after a long while when he finally left. I was still in shock and e-mailed the host.

The host didn’t get back until days later since he was out of the country. He said that it was his friend who made the delivery call and said the wrong floor.

I felt really really pissed off that the person did not even bothered to give the right door number and caused me such anxiety. Still, there was nothing I could do.

I would still travel solo

Not everybody is pleased that I travel alone.

Someone once threatened me that “A girl travelling alone is not alone. She is with the Goddess of Death.” [I am sure that line was totally made up.]

Another person made a face and said, “What sort of parents let their daughter travel alone?”

Funnily, it is men who say such things to my face.

No woman has ever told me that we womanfolk should stay at home and knit. Usually, women tell me that they do not dare travel alone but they do not make threats. I give some encouragement in the form of, “Just try it.”

Despite everything, I would not give up travelling solo. It gives me peace and less anxiety when I am able to follow my own itinerary that is made up as every minute passes.

What was the scariest situation when you were travelling alone?

Cat fish

Caturday: Give a cat a rod

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

Give a man a fish and you feed him for for a day. Give a man a rod and the cat will feed on the catch.

Cat fish

Cat fish

This fat cat was spotted lounging at the pier of Eminou. Unlike the rest, it wasn’t hunting in the fish buckets but waiting for its prey to appear at the end of the fishing rod.