Omurice at Lamuko no Lokanta

Lamuko’s Lokanta: A delightful Japanese restaurant in Pamukkale

Is it still Friday at where you are living? Welcome to YQtravelling’s FoodFriday. The day I show off some of the lovely eats I had while travelling.
Today we’re going to Pamukkale in Turkey for some Japanese food.
Itadakimasu!

Coca Cola ad in Turkish

While in Pamukkale, I found out through Foursquare that there was Japanese restaurant–Lamuko no Lokanta–near the hotel which we were staying at.

My mom who was not used to Turkish food said we must visit the place so we had dinner one night. The food was so good that we went on the second day just for its desserts.

Lamuko no Lokanta

Lamuko's Lokanta in Pamukkale

Lamuko’s Lokanta in Pamukkale

Lamuko no Lokanta, or Lamuko’s Lokata, is run by a Japanese lady. From my eavesdropping, I found out that her name wasn’t Lamuko as the shop name suggests but was Noriko.

Outside of the shop, you will see a banner with photos of different Japanese food. The sign in Japanese advises people who are not customers not to take photo of the banner, but why it was in Japanese was a mystery.

The restaurant looks like the front yard of someone’s house but with a few tables out for guests. The eating space is cosy with about 6 tables that can sit about 4 to 6 people each.

There is also a small section of Turkish seats.

Turkish seats at Lamuko's Lokanta

Turkish seats at Lamuko’s Lokanta

What’s most amazing about the setting is the grape vine ceiling.

When we were there in end-May, the grapes were just growing. It would be amazing if the grapes were ripe and everyone could pick them off their vines.

Grape vines

Grape vines

Unripe grapes

Unripe grapes

Lamuko no Lokanta’s menu

Since this is not a post about the setting of Lamuko, I’ll get on talking about the food.

The restaurant’s menu is decorated in the Japanese-cute style with little speech bubbles above hand drawn animals.

Lamuko's Lokanta cute menu

Lamuko’s Lokanta cute menu

Apart from Japanese meals, the menu includes Turkish food and simple western dishes such as spaghetti.

The pasta section warned that spaghetti is a dish everyone must avoid in Turkey, but it’s ok to order it at Lamuko’s because they cook it nicely. (Mom did order a spaghetti Bolognese at another place. It was too squish and quite gross.)

On the menu, the ginger chicken rice bowl is the most popular dish. Mom got this for dinner.

The chicken was fragrant and did taste of ginger. Mom even felt that the rice serving was too much.

Ginger chicken rice bowl

Ginger chicken rice bowl

For me, I ordered an omurice. I absolutely adore omurice, going to the extend of travelling to an omurice speciality restaurant in Tokyo.

The omurice was alright at Lamuko. The egg omelette blanketed the tomato sauce rice, instead of the usual egg wrapping. It was tasty enough that I finished the whole thing.

Omurice <3 <3

Omurice <3 <3

Cherries

Cherries

While we were eating, the owner brought over a plate of dark cherries. This turns out to be a complimentary dessert. Yums.

After our meal, we ordered Today’s Desserts. It was a banana cake. Mom’s favorite cake is banana cake so she happily ate it.

When we went back the next day, Today’s Desserts was still banana cake but we ordered it anyway because we loved it so much.

Banana cake

Banana cake

We sipped apple tea at the restaurant. It was 1.50 lira each, a reasonable price compared with other restaurants.

Apple tea

Apple tea

Modelling Clay, the dog

When we were dining at night, a large golden lab came in. It picked up a squished mineral water bottle and brought it to me and my mom.

Even though it showed big puppy dog eyes, mom and I were not dog people so we only gave it sad glances and ignored the bottle.

The owner called the dog “Nendou”, which means “modelling clay” in Japanese. That is just the most adorable name for a dog.

Nendou

Nendou

Where was the strangest place you have eaten Japanese food?

Istanbul's Blue Mosque

Turkish riots and afterthoughts as a tourist

Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Mom and I were in Cappadocia when the riots in Istanbul erupted. We were in our blissful bubble which popped when Mom received a Whatsapp text from her friend with a short sentence in Chinese, “There are riots in Turkey.”

We both tried to guess what it might be related. Mom thought it might be because of arguments over land ownership while I couldn’t think of anything.

So mom sent a question back to her friend and to test her theory while I checked the Internet. (Mom’s friend replied, ‘I don’t think it’s about land ownership.”

I scanned a few headlines about the riots. Reports said the riots broke out because of Gezi Park, and how the government wanted to turn the greenland into a shopping mall.

I remember being selfish and thinking, “I hope this doesn’t affect our trip. Maybe it would all die down when we get back to Istanbul.”

It wasn’t until days later on our Pamukkale tour that I realized how serious the situation was.

I was having lunch and scanned through my Twitter stream for random reads. Our tour guide saw me and said, “Are you reading the news?”

“Just Twitter,” I said.

“Ah, you should know about what is happening in Istanbul,” she said in a serious tone. Our guide, Rayu, was only 25 years old, with a ponytail and kohled eyes.

The other tourists were curious about what was happening. The guide said, “There are riots and some people died.”

Back in the mini van, Rayu elaborated. She said the protest was not just about Gezi Park but about the government. The president wasn’t listening to the people so they have had enough and found the reason to fight.

She showed us a grainy photo on her phone of people occupying the bridge that connects the Asian and European sides of Istanbul.

She shared that a few of her friends are participating in protests and that she was worried about them so she did not get much sleep.

Rayu was passionate. She wanted to join the others in the protest. She said that Turkey needs a new hero like Ataturk and joked that maybe she could be the next hero.

Same thoughts, different person

Our other tour guide for the Troy tour had similar thoughts. I forgot what her name was but she had very curly hair that was tied into a bun. Since it was a Troy tour, let’s call her Helen.

She said we tourists should know what was going on in the country. I don’t think she meant that we should know about the news so we can stay safe. The undertone was that since we are in this country, we should not be in a bubble.

Helen said the protests were not limited to Istanbul anymore. Other cities, including her hometown in Antalya, had similar protests.

She was also angry about the president. She called him a dictator and said he wanted to turn Turkey into an Islamic nation. Although most of the citizens are Muslims, they do not see why their country should become Islamic, she said.

Tourist sights not impacted by Taksim protests

I remember thinking, selfishly, that I was glad that we didn’t choose to live in Taksim Square. (I was very close to booking a hotel there.)

When we were back in Istanbul, the Sultanahmet area where most historical sites are at was business as usual.

Mom and I took the tram to the end of the west side. It was one funicular ride away from Taksim Square. Of course we were sensible enough not to get involve or gawk.

When I checked Foursquare, I saw that Gezi Park was trending. Looking at the photos of the location, I saw people in selfies with handkerchief as facemasks.

Would the same happen in Malaysia, Singapore?

I was surprised by passionate both young tour guides were about the protests. They wanted to join their fellow country people, to show support.

I tried to imagine something like this happening in Malaysia. Sure, the young people were very vocal in showing support to whom they believe should lead.

Despite the phantom voters and blackout incident, Malaysians didn’t break out into riots. The police did not have to subdue crowds with tear gas. I’m very glad that everything was peaceful.

How about in Singapore? I know that Singaporeans are a peaceful bunch and probably something as violent as riots would not happen now.

Still, we have to remember that riots had happened in the past in Malaysia and Singapore so there’s no guarantee that they wouldn’t happen again. What is the tipping point for riots to happen?

For me, as someone who has a stake in both countries, I hope no riots happen because it causes devastation to all involved.

To the people in Turkey, stay safe.

PS I have very little knowledge about politics and only know bits and pieces from reading. If anything of what I wrote was wrong, please give feedback in the comments.

Cagaloglu Hamami ceiling

End of the Orient Express [YQrtw Day 58 Jun 4]

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

West end of Istanbul tram line

West end of Istanbul tram line

I was listening to one of the podcasts from Rick Steves. One of the callers to the radio program asked if they could take the Orient Express while in Istanbul.

The answer was that any train that went to the east was considered the Orient Express.

For me, my oriental journey is at its end and I’m heading to South America. I actually do not know what to expect, except the cold winters.

This morning, I had the breakfast provided by my hotel. It’s the usual Turkish fare: bread, olives, cheese, fruits, tomato, hard boiled eggs and drinks such as tea, coffee and artificial lime juice.

Turkish breakfast

Turkish breakfast

There is something about hard boiled eggs in Turkey. They are too tasty for their and my own good. I limit myself to only 2 eggs each day but feel like eating another 2 after I finish them.

After breakfast, I still had to pack my backpack. Since it will be winter in South America, I had to make sure that things such as swimsuit are at the bottom of the pack.

Packing seemed a lot easier these days. I managed to tidy up everything before check out time.

Getting scrubbed at a Turkish bath

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I still had Turkish bath on my list of To-do. On Foursquare, I found a hamam near my hotel so I walked to the place after checking out.

I saw the ladies’ entrance to the hammam. The real entrance inside was hidden behind a screen. After I stepped in, I was too embarrassed to step out even though the pricing was higher than what I wanted.

1,000 Places to see before you die

1,000 Places to see before you die

In the end, I reasoned that I was going to take a bath in one of the 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die. So I paid my 108 lira and steeled myself for an exfoliation session with an attendant who looked very much like Rebel Wilson.

I’ll talk more about the bath in a future post so stay tuned!

Aimless walking, training around

Istanbul post office

Istanbul post office

I didn’t actually cross “Eat Turkish delight” off my list since I didn’t have much cash left in my wallet after the bath. Instead, I took the tram from the west to the east and back to the stop nearest to my hotel.

The train took about 1 hour to reach the west to the east. I didn’t really look out the window all the times since I fell asleep.

Passing the neighborhoods, I felt sad that I was leaving the city where I’ve spent 4 days. Yes, just 4 days but the store signs were already familiar to me.

Of course, my time in Istanbul had to end. I boarded the airport shuttle (6 euro) off to the airport for the third time.

Viagra boxes on the street

Viagra boxes on the street

This day last week…

I was on a hot air balloon in Cappadocia and it was pure awesome.

Fake Trojan Horse at Troy

Too late for the Trojan war [YQrtw Day 56 Jun 2]

Location: Cannukale & Troy, Turkey

The only “bad” weather we had throughout our trip was limited to this day.

When we got off our overnight bus, it was drizzling. We hopped on a shuttle bus to nowhere although someone from the hotel was supposed to come and fetch us. I reasoned that people usually pick up guests after the shuttle bus drops them off.

Using Foursquare, I found out that our hotel was on the other side of the bank. At first I thought we were at one of the banks of a really large lake. I later found out that we were actually separated by the sea.

It was drizzling heavier when we reached the ferry terminal. The shuttle bus driver told us to take Ferry 1 to the opposite bank for the hotel.

The ferry seemed to take forever to reach. We sat indoors where the food counter was. I looked out of our windows and felt that the scenery outside crept too slowly.

While we floated across the sea, one of the little girls awkwardly took secret photos of my and my mom. Her smartphone angle was too strange.

We finally reached the opposite shore. Being the know-it-all, I directed mom to the left side of the road. I was embarrassed to find that I brought us to the wrong direction.

Eventually we reached the hotel. The ponytailed receptionist told us that our day-use room was still occupied so we cannot check in.

He also told us that our tour to Troy which was supposed to be in the morning was scheduled for noon.

So mom and I sat in the lounge, playing with our smartphones until breakfast time came.

The breakfast had typical Turkish food such as bread, olives, 2 cheese, butter, tomato, cucumber. There was a tank that had two faucets: one gave hot Turkish tea while the other gave hot water for us to balance the strength of our teas.

At breakfast, a horde of young people came to eat. I’m a bit uncomfortable with loud human crowds so we quickly finished our meal.

It took another hour or so before our room was finally ready. It was a small twin-bed room on the third floor. I heave our suitcase up the multiple flights of stairs.

Mom took the opportunity to nap while I tapped out more words. We didn’t feel like leaving when 11:30am came.

Start of Troy tour

Well, the Troy tour actually begins with a lunch at the backyard of the hotel. The lunch felt like something from a school cafeteria since the hotel doled out sides onto plates.

If you were staying in Istanbul and opt for seeing Troy, you will be travelling starting from about 7am to Canakkale where lunch is served. Then you will be driven back at 18:00 and reach around midnight.

Moral of the story. Do not take the Troy tour if you are staying in Istanbul.

Our tour finally departed after it was well past 1:00pm. Our guide brought us on the ferry to the Asian side where a bus awaited. The drive to Troy’s site was short. The landscape in the window had hills with multicolored patches.

The hills were much better than the Troy site.

Fake wooden horse

Fake Trojan Horse at Troy

Fake Trojan Horse at Troy

I think I chose to visit Troy for the wrong reason. Mom’s friend’s future son-in-law had visited Turkey on a tour group. They had visited Troy as part of their visit so I added it in as well.

At the beginning of the site, there is fake wooden horse. On the day we went, the horse was closed and we could not climb in.

The wooden horse is a replica but even so, it wasn’t impressive. From our cordoned off area, it looked quite tiny.

Most of the remains of the various Troy cities were the stone wall. I didn’t have enough imagination to think about how it might have looked.

The walk and tour took less than an hour. We looked at stone walls, crumbled mud walls, trees and what used to be the sea.

In short, it was rather boring.

We were shuttled back to our hotel for our ride back to Istanbul. Along the way, there was a souvenir shop stop but the shopowners were not as enthusiastic as the other shopping stops we were on previously.

The long way back

At 18:00, it was time for the private shuttle back to Istanbul. Mom and I were the last ones to board so we got terrible seats at the back.

The journey to Istanbul would take 5 hours. That sounded like forever.

For two hours, we zoomed on the highway next to the sea. We had the view of the Asian side of the shores for a long long stretch. I

Next up was our dinner and restroom stop. Mom and I had an overpriced dinner of roast chicken and gozleme (Turkish roti canai).

Asian celebrities

When we got out from the restroom (1 lira entrance each), we went to look for our bus.

I was looking for our bus when we were suddenly stopped by two local school children. One had long curly hair in a pony tail while the other had blonde hair.

The two kids were super excited seeing us. They asked, “Korean? Japanese?” I said, “Malaysia.” but it didn’t register.

They started talking in long Turkish sentences and mimed taking photos. I wasn’t sure if they meant for me to take photos of them or not but I said, “OK.”

They shouted to their friends, making photo-taking gestures. One of the boys looked bashful and walked away, saying something rather reprimanding.

No one with a camera appeared so mom and I were allowed to go. We walked around a bit more. Our bus door was not open so we stood in a corner, hoping the wind would not catch us.

There, the two students found us again. This time, another boy with a Nikon DSLR was there. As about 6 students gathered around us for the photo, cameraman tinkered with his camera for a long while but didn’t manage to take any photos.

I asked them to take a photo with my camera instead. And they did. By that time, the Nikon camera worked and we were stunned by a bring flash.

Turkish kids and Asian fake celebrities

Turkish kids and Asian fake celebrities

After the photos, everyone was too excited to leave and kept speaking in loud Turkish. Suddenly, a woman appeared and told the kids to calm down. She turned to us and said, “I’m their teacher. Sorry.”

Laughing, I said it was no problem at all. Mom and I returned to our bus, thinking what a funny incident it was.

Our bus to Istanbul finally arrived at past 11:00pm. Our hotel still kept our room and we retired.

Have you ever been photo’d by strangers?

kfc in istanbul

The day I begin travelling solo again [YQrtw Day 57 Jun 3]

[Update June 20, 2014: This post is from the 57th day of my round-the-world trip in 2013. I had been travelling alone until my mom joined me in Turkey. This post marks the day my mom flew back home, leaving me to travel alone for the next 63 days.]

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

(I don’t think anybody’s checking but the post for Day 56 June 2 will be up a bit later. I was on the bus all night long and didn’t have time to update about our visit to Troy.)

5:26PM The sun is still bright outside but I’m now back in my solo travel mode and I won’t be going out until tomorrow morning.

10:25PM Finally back to writing this post after a lot of web surfing and tidying up of future posts.

In the morning, mom and I walked around Istanbul, doing last minute souvenir shopping. To us, souvenir shopping means a trip to the nearest supermarket and grabbing local stuff instead of decorations for the house.

Before noon, I wanted to bring mom to a restaurant that was highly praised. We took the tram to the Asian side of Istanbul. I found the restaurant but it wasn’t serving lunch until an hour later. In the end, we went back to a little cafe near the hotel and had lunch there.

Mom’s shuttle bus came. I went with her to the airport. I felt sad that mom was leaving but I didn’t want to show it. Instead, I became surly and refused to help mom ask where the right passport lane was. In the end, mom figured it out and left.

I waited until mom was inside before leaving the departure area. When I saw mom look back at me after her passport check, I was teary. I thought that it would be lonely being by myself.

I bickered with mom right before she went to her queue because I'm a horrible daughter.

I bickered with mom right before she went to her queue because I’m a horrible daughter.

Turkey’s 3G data policy is horrible

Since my phone’s 3G stopped working since yesterday, I checked with the guy at Turkcell airport counter to see what’s wrong. On my first day in Turkey, I already had problems with the Turkcell folks in Istanbul not giving me my mobile data so it was really annoying having to check with the company again.

After the Turkcell dude served a few tourists, he helped with my phone.

Him: When did you sign up for data?
Me: About 11 days ago.
Him: Oh… Foreign phones can only use 3G data for 10 days. Have you tried switching to another phone?

Well buddy, that’s news to me. Obviously I didn’t read all the entries about Turkish 3G on Google. From Wikia:

All mobiles phones purchased outside Turkey using a turkish SIM card must be registered with the government. There is a grace period that can be as short as 2 days, after which the phone will be blocked for the Turkish SIM.

Thank goodness I bought spare dumbphone with me. I switched my SIM card to the Nokia dumpphone and used it on the super slow 2.5G.

Twitter client on my dumbphone

Twitter client on my dumbphone

Of course, the first thing to do is to check-in on Foursquare. The dumbphone didn’t support Foursquare apps so I used Opera Mini instead for the check-in because the default Nokia browser takes forever to load. I’m glad that the Opera Mini browser was built into the phone so I didn’t need to download anything.

Super blurred photo from the Nokia dumbphone

Super blurred photo from the Nokia dumbphone

I decided to check out Carrefour as my first solo adventure after mom’s companion. I reached Carrefour’s area by Metro but the place was giving me weird vibes (someone tried to follow me and waiters were yelling “Coffee, tea or sex.”) so I went back to the Metro to the city.

Alone again

But I got back to my solo travel routine so easily that I scare myself. I ended up at a mall and had a meal of KFC to cheer me up.

KFC in Istanbul has Coke, not Pepsi like back home.

I was pretty lost then but after tinkering around some of my apps, I found the right direction back to the hotel. After I settled in, I haven’t been out but I do have a list of things to do tomorrow:

  • Go to a hammam
  • Eat Turkish delight
  • Be at the airport on time

I will be in Buenos Aires on June 5. See you when I reach!

Read more about my mild adventures:

Celsus library

Full day Ephesus tour [YQrtw Day 55 Jun 1]

Location: Selçuk, Turkey

[I am writing this in the airconditioned room my mom and I rented for 4 hours. It was half the price of a full day room but having a bed, electrical outlet and hot shower is so totally worth it.]

YQ in Ephesus

Another packed day of sightseeing ruins. Hurray! Unfortunately, we had to check out before our tour bus came to pick us up so there was no more dilly dallying with luggage packing.

Today’s tour group was small, we only had a total of 6 audience. The Brazillian guy from yesterday’s bus ride was on the tour as well. He didn’t seem to talk as much as he did. Maybe he exhausted his conversation topics.

Our tour guide was Ruya and our driver was Ucuk. Our first stop was the ruins of Ephesus which is considered to be second best conserved ancient site after Pompeii. As I’ve not been to Pompeii, Ephesus was rather impressive.

Unlike a lot of ruins which had only a few blocks of building standing (I’m looking at you Temple of Artemis), here, we saw a lot of colomns which were restacked by the archaeologist so we know where they were.

Nike

YQ and mom in Ephesus

The thing that will be stuck in my head forever was the public toilets. In one of the rooms, they reconstructed what a 45-seater toilet would look like.

Public toilet in ancient Roman times

Every rich man who can afford the toilet gets a hole. In the ground, there is a small ditch of streaming water so they can wash their hands or their bums.

The toilet seats line up three sides of the wall. In the middle is a fountain that helps with covering up strange noises that comes from everyone’s backside.

The 3km or so walk from the top of Ephesus to the bottom didn’t feel very long because there were so many things to look at.

Ephesus was also home to the third largest library in the ancient times. But the only thing that survived was the large facade which reminded me very much of Petra in Jordan.

Celsus's library

Killer souvenirs

Honest advertisement: Genuine fake watches

When it was about time to leave, Chatty Brazil and friend were still not on the bus. The guide told us that she dare not go and ask them to come to the van. Previously, a guide was beaten up by a mob of shopowners for calling his tour members back. The guide did not survive. Gulp.

After a quick lunch, we were off to the place where Virgin Mary supposedly lived for some time.

There was no actual house to see but a church that was built on top of the house.

Church of Virgin Mary

Around the area were several taps with spring water. Mom and I filled in half a 1.5 liter bottle of spring water. The water is considered to be holy but I didn’t feel any special effects after drinking.

Make a wish, or a thousand

There was also a wall for people to write their wishes. Whether the wishes were granted, I am not sure.

Our next stop was an old mosque. Inside the mosque, there were a few columns taken from the Temple of Artemis.

Unlike the other fancier mosque where the colors all bloom in your eyes. This mosque had plain walls which gave a relaxed look.

Subdued mosque

There was only one column left at the Temple of Artemis.

It’s rather hard to imagine how glorious it was, based on this one column.

Temple of Artemis

Souvenir stops

While being on a guided tour is relaxing, the part where they bring you to souvenir shops is really tiring.

Our first stop was after the Church of Virgin Mary. We saw the making of very pretty ceramic but I did not have the luxury of buying them. One small bowl costs US$16!

Turkish ceramic

Our next stop was a leather outlet store. They even had a fashion show where models paraded their collection.

Everything in the shop had a 3 digit price tag in US dollars. Gulp

Catwalk for the leather fashion show

The leather store did have a really cute puppy that was wandering around lost, looking for its mom.

Puppy

Selçuk weekly market

Mom and I managed to catch Selçuk’s Saturday market where we bought a few souvenirs and necessities. I now have sneakers for the cold South American weather.

Mom’s really good at this bargaining thing. My strategy for bargaining is to be stubborn about how much I am willing to pay.

Selcuk weekly market

Sex tea

Last week on YQtravelling…

It was mom’s first day in Istanbul. How time flies.

Pamukkale Post Office

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

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.

Cotton Castle--Pamukkale

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

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.

Göreme panorama

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

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.

Flight of the hot air balloons

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

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

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Flight of the hot air balloons-002

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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?