A reporter from local broadsheet Straits Times found me through my most popular post and wanted to ask for my comments on the new service. Thankfully, I caught his e-mail in time as my e-mail notification pinged while I was staring at my phone.
I prepared for the interview by reading on the background of the new service. I even jotted down “juicy” quotes that would make me look slightly unhinged but endearingly colorful to the audience.
The reporter called and we had a 12-minute chat during which I sounded bipolar. I was totally against the service at one point, talking passionately about its cons but at another point, I discovered its merits. I couldn’t make up my mind.
Still, the reporter summed it up in two sentences and made me look like a very practical traveller (which I am).
I did request that he use “travel blogger” as my job title as “marketing exec” seems like a totally irrelevant commenter on this subject. He obliged. Thank you, good sir.
The report came out on Page A2 on Straits Times and also on My Paper. I can now officially say that I was on the news as a travel blogger.
Last night, the hostel owner drove me to the bus station for my midnight bus from Nasca to Lima. Thankfully, I was not car sick during this trip although I was disturbed by loud snoring.
It was around 6:30am when the bus rolled into Lima. The sky was grey and it looked like it rained. The bus stopped at two stops, mine was the last at La Victoria.
I haggled with a cabbie (30 soles to 25 soles) for a ride to my hostel. It took a while to find the hostel because the addresses in the area weren’t in order.
After a call to the hostel, we found the place. The place that I’m staying at is actually someone’s apartment turned into a hostel. It’s really pretty inside but a bit far from the main bus station (6 blocks!)
I explored a bit of Lima’s historical center when I went to run an errand.
Picking up mail in Lima
I don’t plan to do much sightseeing in Lima for the two days that I am in the capital.
Since I’ve seen Machu Picchu, pretty much everything else is dull. However, there is an interesting museum that I might go to if I can figure out where it is exactly.
However, I do have a very important errand to run. My friend, D, in Singapore has sent me a package using a poste restante service. It means that the post office keeps your mail for you and you collect it by showing your passport.
Ever since I’ve read about poste restante, I’ve wanted to use the service to collect mail in a place where I do not have an address. For me, this is really romantic.
It took a while for me to find the central post office but it was really easy to pick up my package. The lady looked at my name and went in search in the “L” box which did not have anything for me and in the “Y” box which had an envelope for me.
Bus system in Lima
The hostel owner, Marco* (his real name), passed me a transportation card for Lima. I went off to explore the public bus system on my own.
When I started this daily log of my trip, I promised myself not to hide too much from you guys. I want to record the good, the bad and the ugly of a long-term trip.
I am writing this entry in my warm hostel in Nasca. I am glad that the events that I will share is in the past. Some of the more graphic parts of the story will be hidden in white font and those who wish to feel disgusted can highlight those paragraphs to relive the event.
Last morning in Cusco
I checked out of my “hotel” slightly before 10 and went to a restaurant listed on Wikitravel for breakfast. The food was good with local bread, a juice, scrambled eggs and even a latte to go with it.
Unfortunately, during breakfast, I had reached almost the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Even though I’ve read the book so many times, I still wept over [highlight the next two words for spoiler] Dumbledore’s death.
Afterwards, I did a bit of souvenir shopping at one of the handicraft places. I left with a plastic bag full of things I hope can be used back in the Southeast Asian tropics.
I loitered outside a restaurant Nana* (not her real name) and I went to the day before to steal their Wi-Fi. Nana left a message saying that she’ll be meeting her Swiss friends at noon. Since Nana would not be reading this, I will admit that I had a tiny crush on one of the guys so I happily said that I would go too.
I still had time before the meet up so I headed to a cafe I had marked on Foursquare. The cafe, called Panam Cafe, reminded me of the Capitol in The Hunger Game series. The coffee was alright and I bought a croissant-like bread almost as big as my face to nibble on my 14-hour bus ride to Nasca.
It was time for the meet up and I stood under the shadow of a light pole, waiting. The guys came eventually although Nana was still stuck with her errand.
We headed to San Pedro market. There, I had two and a half glass of juice since I was more thirsty than hungry. Unknown to me then, not eating lunch was a wise choice.
Soon it was time for me to leave. I bade farewell and went back to my hotel for my “muchas cosas” (loads of things).
The taxi ride to the bus terminal was smooth. I checked in my things and paid for the bus terminal tax.
I was delighted to find that the bus Wi-Fi worked this time for my phone. On my last Oltursa trip, my phone could not join the Wi-Fi network. I wrote a post on my Facebook Page showing how the interior of the bus looked like.
When the bus set off, I was tired but excited to be heading to a new location. I had a small packet of wafers to tide me over before the dinner on board.
Plus, my school mate from the Arequipa language school, Tasha was going to meet me in Nasca so I’ll have a travel buddy.
A few hours into the journey, I started feeling a little queasy. The bus was rocking quite violently as it turned on the curves of the hill. I few times, I felt my stomach churning but I kept everything down.
When it was dinner time, at about 7pm, I felt even more nauseated by the smell of food. I covered my nose with my blanket and hoped for the best.
When the bus attendant came over with the trolley, she saw that I was unwell and suggested that I do not eat. I was allowed a small cup of Coca Cola which I drank happily. Later, she passed me a plastic bag and a pill for motion sickness.
I rested, with my hand grabbing tightly at the plastic. Then at one of the rocky turns, I knew I could not keep my stomach down any longer.
Being sick on the bus
[Beginning of unpleasant recount of vomiting. Please highlight to reveal the content.]
I have not thrown up in a while so I was quite curious about how it was.
In the beginning, saliva fills up in my mouth, as if my body wants to protect my mouth from the attack of stomach acid. I held the plastic close to my mouth and retched.
Out came a flow of liquid (thank goodness for my juice lunch) and a taste of wafer. With the bag held closely to my mouth, I threw up more liquid.
Even when my stomach was empty, it cramped for many times to make sure that nothing was left inside. It was a most unpleasant feeling as I burped out air.
When the ordeal was over, I rinsed my mouth and tied the bag. I held on to the bag at my side, glad that the man sitting next to me had moved behind so he did not have to see that scene.
I closed my eyes and rested. I woke up when the attendant came over with hot water and tea bags. She even gave me two mate de coca which helps with altitude sickness. I embarrassedly pointed to my plastic bag. Later she passed me two bags.
I sipped some mate and rested. I could feel the bus turning every corner. I imagined that the upper deck was swaying more violently than the lower deck. I also imagined the liquid in my ears churning wildly.
I had to throw up again. This time, there was only the taste of mate. I was horrified since this meant that even drinking liquid can cause more throwing up.
When the bus stopped for new passengers, I brought my two vomit bags to the toilet and dumped them in the trash can that was lined with another plastic bag. I hoped the altitude would not cause them to burst.
When I got back to my seat, I felt a pounding in my head. This usually meant that I did not drink enough water and I was having an effect similar to a hangover.
I took tiny tiny sips of water to pacify my body. Eventually, these five sips of water came back up but that was at three hours before the end of the journey.
When I finished all three plastic bags, I had to go to the back of the bus to wake the attendant and ask for more plastic bags. I threw away the soiled bag as she rummaged through her first aid kit.
She found a plastic bag that held bottles of soft drink. Thank goodness I did not have to use that bag.
[End of disgusting story.]
Arriving in Nasca
I didn’t really sleep but I was woken up by the attendant at past 6am. She told me that the next stop was Nasca. I gathered all my things and waited patiently for the bus to stop.
When I got off the bus, I waited for Tasha’s Arequipa bus to come. The bus did came but she did not. The attendant of that bus was unhelpful when I asked if a Senora Tasha was on board.
In the end, I got on a taxi found by a tout. The tout said the ride was 5 soles (reasonable for tout prices). He told me that my hotel was full. I read about this trick in travel guides and insisted that they bring me to my hostel.
Thankfully the driver did not try to bring me to some strange place. I was left at the front door of the hostel where the caretaker Fernando greeted me a long while after I rang the doorbell.
I picked the dorm room which is empty apart from my bed. I requested for breakfast since my stomach was empty. I was surprised that the breakfast didn’t feel like The Best Meal Ever but was glad for food and a solid ground.
My adventures for the day will continue in the next post!
I have been in Arequipa for two weeks. It’s kind of funny how I ended up staying in a place I’ve not heard about before my trip and which I only learned about at Iguazu Falls.
Not sure if I’ve told you the story about the Peruvian girl who told me that the weather in Arequipa is always warm and it is known as the City of Eternal Spring. I jot down the name in my iPhone notebook and forgot about it until I needed to plan my Peru trip in Santiago.
I’m glad I went to Arequipa. The language school I went to was great, stuffing my brain with different past tenses and some future tenses.
The city was beautiful with buildings built with limestones. Food in Arequipa was good too but I suppose this is true for Peru.
I didn’t do much on my last day in Arequipa. I finished packing and checked out of my room. Then I went to a cafe where Tripadvisor reviews promised good coffee.
I managed to find “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. The book cost only 4 soles (S$2) and is surprisingly thin. But from the first chapter that I’ve glimpsed through, everything you need is still there.
Tasha (not her real name and previously known as N in my entries) still had her room with the hostel so she let me take a nap in the spare bed. How nice it is to be able to lie in a bed!
Finally, it was time for me to head to the bus station. I was really stressed out because the smallest note I had was a 50 soles note and about 4 soles in change.
The hostel didn’t have any change for 50 soles neither. I always find it funny when businesses do not have enough change lying around.
In the end, I had to tell my taxi driver that I only had a large note and that I was willing to be charged an extra 2 soles to get change back. He didn’t quite get it until the end but all was well.
On the taxi, the driver asked me if I am married/ do I like Arequipa/ when will I come back etc. I answered all of that in Spanish. (Not very good Spanish but still…)
10-hour Oltursa bus to Cusco
At the bus station, I found the Oltursa counter and started my check in process. At the counter, the guy weighed my suitcase, stapled a label with CUSCO on it and a serial number.
Then I paid the 2 soles “exit tax”. I find it funny that we need to pay bus terminal taxes like airport taxes.
There was also a carry on luggage check. The man felt my bags (all 4 of them) for what I think is alcohol because the video on the bus said no alcohol is allowed.
Then everyone hung out at the lounge. The lounge had comfortable sofas but not enough for every passenger. Thankfully I found a 1-seater sofa and hogged it with my stuff.
Among all the passengers, I spotted 4 British girls while the rest seemed to be from Latin America. From what I’ve heard, Cruz de Sol has loads of foreigners. I’m kind of glad we didn’t have that many chatty foreigners on this bus.
Soon it was time to board the bus. My seat was the very last on the lower floor. The facilities on the bus astounded me. This is definitely the best bus I’ve ever taken.
The seat is big with comfy cushions. There was a small pillow and a blanket waiting for me on my seat. On the right of my seat were two electric outlets. I immediately made use of it by charging my phone.
The seats are able to recline quite far but not enough to be called an actual bed although the type of seat is called “cama” (bed).
The bus left at 8:35pm, just 5 minutes after the scheduled timing. I guess that is considered really punctual in South America. (Not that Malaysian buses are any better.)
Once the bus started moving, we were served dinner. The main dish was rice and fish with a side of tequenos while the dessert was a rice and quinoa mix.
There was either coffee or tea to go with the meal. The bus only had the teas preferred here: spiced tea with flavors such as anis, cinnamon and others. I still have a supply of ceylon tea from Sri Lanka so I chose to have that instead, along with a tea spoon of sugar.
There wasn’t any movie playing on board although there was a video of safety in Oltursa buses and some travel program about one of the destinations covered by the company.
I got ready for bed soon because there was nothing to do on board. My phone could not connect to the internet and I do not want to use my laptop because I have motion sickness when trying to read on a moving vehicle (trains and planes are alright though).
I sent mom a text message telling her how good the bus was. Her reply was that she could not read my message. I totally forgot that my Claro SIM card could not send out messages in Chinese. How is that even technologically possible?
Anyway, I went to bed in my seat with my eye mask and ear plugs. When I woke up for the toilet, I realized how cold it was outside as the little cubicle was freezing. As the bus swerved violently, I laughed out loud and my breath caught in my chest. Was this the work of altitude sickness, I dared not investigate and instead went back to my seat to sleep.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have reached the last South American country of this trip (unless some millionaire decides to whisk me off to Bolivia/ Ecuador/ French Guiana/ Colombia.) I am now in Peru, the land of Machu Picchu and cerviche.
Before we all head out for a Pisco Sour, let me recount my 11-hour journey from my hostel in Arica, Chile to my homestay house in Arequipa, Peru. This trip involved a lot of deserts and not so much desserts.
My Arequipa language school advised me to reach Arequipa between 5pm and 8pm. I did a bit of calculations on a paper napkin and concluded that leaving the hostel at 11am should be OK.
What I didn’t realize was that the distance between Arica and Tacna was really really far. It took about 1 hour 30 minutes for me to get there from Arica’s terminal.
I took one of the shared taxis (collectivo) to Tacna. The front seat was modified to fit two slim people and the driver. However, my big butt ended p in the front seat with a slim Peruvian girl while the back seat held three other people.
From Arica to Peru’s border, the taxi played greatest hits from Backstreet Boys. I sang along softly to songs such as “I want it that way”, “Larger than life”, “Show me the meaning of being lonely” while I watched the desert fly by.
In the desert, the sun seemed to shine extra strongly. I had my sunglasses on but the rest of my face was still affected by the rays.
After a long while, we finally reached Chile’s border. Everyone got out the car and showed themselves to the custom officer.
Then we got on the car and drove about 2km to Peru’s side of the border. Here, we took our bags out (I had 4!) and went through customs and X-ray machines.
I was given 30 days in Peru which is just right since I’m leaving on August 4.
Then we got on the car again and drove for a long long long time before we reached Tacna. I dragged all my belongings with me and changed my Chilean pesos into Peruvian soles. My 20,000 pesos turned into a 100 soles note and a few coins which depressed me a little.
I dragged everything to the national terminal just outside of the international terminal. I found the booth for Flores and bought a 25 soles (S$12.50) bus ticket to Arequipa. Everything was just too easy.
After I finished buying the ticket, I was approached by 3 Peruvian girls, who asked if they could interview me for a school project.
At first I was worried that they were a pickpocket gang. Then I remembered that I can’t even reach my important stuff so how could they?
One of the girls pointed a phone camera at me as I sat through several Spanish questions about how I find Peru, where I was heading to, what we language we speak in Malaysia and what sort of dance we do.
In the end, I was asked to say a few words in my language. I did a very awkward Chinese monologue about how I just reached Peru and Thank You Very Much.
This was all very strange.
I eventually got on my bus and sat there for the next 6 hours or so. I napped a lot as it was too hot to admire the scenery. I did take some photos for you.
The sun set completely at about 6pm. While the bus wound through the curvy mountain road, I saw stars for maybe the first time in South America. I couldn’t tell if they were satellites or stars but the sky was beautiful.
The bus reached Arequiapa at about 7:15pm. I followed the school’s instructions and waited for a cab to drive into the terminal compound instead of catching one outside.
I was ushered into a car with three other ladies who were squashed in the backseat. I believe I was charged the Foreigner price so I could sit comfortably in front.
When we reached the home stay place, te cab waited for me while I rang the bell. The host mother came out and I grabbed my bags.
So I’ll be staying with Srna G and her two late-teens for the week. Stay tuned for more home stay fun!
For me, while sitting on the bus for 23 hours is torturous, it is not as torturous as forking out a large chunk of the remaining of my savings. That was how I found myself on seat 20 on a semi-cama bus.
I broke down the journey into two: Santiago to La Serena and La Serena to Arica. Somehow, 23 hours of journey felt better than 30 hours straight on the bus.
I decided not to do a post similar to 31 hours of travelling because I get motion sickness when I try to read or write on a vehicle with wheels. I wish I didn’t have this problem since I would be able to read a lot more books when travelling.
I was seated next to a Chilean guy with large arms. I still had the aisle to put the rest of my arm and my feet so it wasn’t that bad.
On the bus, I managed to watch A Good Day to Die Hard and Hitchcock in Spanish. The first film didn’t require much listening skills since it’s all about blowing things up. Thankfully I’ve watched Hitchcock on the plane before.
Tur-Bus has a built in warning system that rings whenever the bus goes more than 100km/hour. There is a beeeeeep and the bus would slow down a little.
The bus was had air conditioning, which was great since I believe we passed through many places where the temperature was really cold. At one point, we were driving among the fog/clouds on a windy mountain road.
When we stopped at terminals to pick up people, I would go off the bus to breathe some of the cold fresh air. Ventilation on the bus wasn’t fantastic.
Food on a 23-hour bus ride
Some snacks and breakfast was included in my bus ride. However, the food provided was not enough to satisfy even a sedentary adult.
I had 6 green apples from Santiago and munched on them when I felt a bit of motion sickness. The sweet juicy apples helped keep things from coming up my throat.
Arriving in Arica
I figured out we were in Arica when everybody got off the bus. I only had 10,000 notes and 60 cents with me so I broke my note by topping up 1,000 peso on my phone.
Armed with a few 1,000 pesos, I followed the directions from the hostel and went to the opposite side of the road. Bus #8 came, I got on, asking in terrible Spanish if the bus went to the road I was going to. It did.
Using Google Maps [Tip! Save a spot on your app and the map for the area will still be there when you need it.], I found my hostel. I checked in, took a shower, tried to blog, napped and woke up for dinner. I had to walk to the main street for some local fast food but my belly thanked me for putting something–anything!–in it.
I’m now finishing up this post in my 12-bed (beds, not bunk beds, thankfully) in Arica Surfhouse. There’s no heating here but the temperature feels like a nice 17 degrees.
For some strange reason, the small town of La Serena has a large concentration of malls. Besides Plaza Mall Serena where I bought my suitcase, there was Plata del Mar mall where I went to in the morning for the DIY store.
The left part of my glasses has a crack and I am afraid that this crack would lead to a complete break off of my glasses. That’s why I’ve been checking out supermarkets for superglue or anything similar.
Eventually I found a 100gm tube of glue at the DIY store. However, after multiple times of trying to glue the crack together, my glasses still has the crack. Hope I can work it out before it breaks and I have to use my backup glasses.
After getting the glue, I had plenty of time in La Serena before my bus to Arica at 4:20pm. I walked around, mentally ticking off the different Places of Interest, including:
Archaeological Museum – La Serena
I wanted to visit two museums in La Serena but I only found the Archaeological Museum. The entrance was 600 pesos and I got to see two Incan mummies and one Moai.
The Moai was very impressive but it looked kind of lonely standing on its own in a building.
By the time I got out of the museum, I was hungry for coffee and lunch. The cafe I went into didn’t serve their menu of the day until 1pm so I got a cafe latte to sip and wait till 1pm.
After collecting my multiple bags from the guesthouse, I walked to the bus station, walking alongside Panamericana Ruta 5 which is a shorter and easier route compared to what the guesthouse has on its website.
The bus came about 4:32pm. I thought I still had some time to use the bathroom since I heard the driver said, “Quince.”
However, when I got back, the bus driver waved me onto the bus. As soon as I sat in my seat, the bus pulled out. I was the last person to board. How very embarrassing.
There wasn’t any official rest stops along the way. I was thankful for my 6 green apples which also helped with altitude and motion sickness.
I woke up at 8:05am and began packing all my things. Back on Day 1, I only had a backpack and my slingbag. Now, besides my sling bag, I have a backpack that is bursting at its seams, a huge Carrefour cloth shopping bag for my laptop and other important things and another smaller Carrefour shopping bag for water and food.
My luggage has gone out of hand. I even had to wear my two jackets simultaneously because there wasn’t space to put them in. By the time I was ready to leave, I looked like a hobo with my three bags and multi-layered jackets.
Thank goodness for the jackets because it was 8 degrees C when I got out. Instead of shivering, I was warm and snug, although a bit tired from my bags.
I initially thought I would reach the bus terminal in half an hour but it took a bit more time than that as there was a bit of traffic jam. Thankfully I left one hour earlier.
The Tur-Bus terminal is pretty good. In fact, the whole place is much better than bus terminals in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru. There weren’t any strange smell of piss or drunk/ drugged people hanging around.
My bus didn’t come until 10:34am. As soon as I got on the bus, the bus started pulling out of the parking space and off we went. That was fast.
The bus I booked was a “semi-cama” (semi bed) and the seats were quite comfortable. I could lean back about 150 degrees if I wanted to.
Through out the 6-hour journey, we were treated to three movies and no snack break. Luckily there was a toilet on the bus.
There was a very quirky Wes Anderson movie “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou“, the sleep inducing “Another Day to Die Hard” and the funny “Parental Guidance”. The latter two movies were dubbed in Spanish.
The view along the way was gorgeous. We passed by mountains and even the sea where the waves were gigantic.
I snoozed a lot along the way, mainly during Bruce Willis’s movie.
We reached La Serena on time and most of the people got off the bus. Using a print-screened version of the hostel map, I slowly walked to the place I would spend the night at.
During the walk uphill, the straps of my bag dug into my shoulder. My hands felt like they would rather fall off than carry all the crap. So I decided there and then that I would get a suitcase with wheels.
Where do you find a suitcase in small town La Serena? After putting my luggage in the 4-bed hostel room, I walked back to the bus terminal where I saw what looked like a mall.
Indeed, it was the local mall. The inside looked exactly like one of the malls in San Jose. I was excited. I haven’t been in a “real mall” since coming to South America!
I walked around, admiring consumerism. My dinner was from a fast food place–a quarter chicken with rice and french fries at the price of S$8.
I managed to find a suitcase I like. At the cashier, I was given a discount for using a foreign credit card. My lovely black suitcase (actually, the only color they had) cost about S$100. I’ll show it to you one day.
The sun had set by the time I left the mall. I felt safe walking back the dimly lit roads because I figured that there would be less crime in a small town.
Now I’m back in my hostel room, in my warm bed. I’ll need plenty of rest for my 20-hour bus ride tomorrow. See you then!
The headline’s a bit of an exageration because our bus did stop for dinner and to San Ignacio for a bit of sightseeing. Still, it took us about 23 hours to arrive in Puerto Iguazú.
I’m writing this post on the lower bunk bed in a 10-person dorm in a hostel. There is mould on the wall and the ensuite bathroom looks a bit iffy. My complaints stop here.
Yesternight, we boarded the bus at about 7:30pm and off we went. While I was terrified of being on the party bus, there were seats in the lower deck where there was less partying so I enjoyed quite a lot of sleep.
At about midnight, the bus stop at a rest stop for about an hour. It was very very cold outside.
It seemed to me that there were almost 100 people in the rest stop restaurant. It was the beginning of the super long weekend and service at the place seemed really slow.
You first have to queue up at the first line to get a receipt for your food. Then join the super long queue for food and wait for the food to be cooked. Then you find a table.
Thank goodness I bought a ham and cheese sandwich from Buenos Aires so I didn’t have to join the crazy queue.
While waiting to go back on the bus, I enjoyed seeing my breath come out in white wisps although I couldn’t catch it on camera.
Back on the bus, I settled down into my seat, pluggged my ears, covered myself with my Emirates blanket and fell into deep sleep. ZZZZzzz.
The Next Day…
It was about 7:30am when I woke up. The bus was passing by fields dotted with what I first thought were boulders. Later I found more “boulders” and these had legs. Hey, they are cows!
I kept imagining how tasty the cows would be but there was no steak around to pacify my stomach.
Our next stop was a petrol station with its 2 cubicles in the ladies’ and a hot water dispenser for mate lovers of Argentina.
Then it was a long long long bus ride to San Ignacio.
Ruins of San Ignacio Miní
Unfortunately, it was raining when we got to San Ignacio. I changed to my flip flops so I would not end up with wet socks and shoes.
You can read more about San Ignacio Mini on Wikipedia because I didn’t really understand the Spanish-speaking guide. It was the first time I’ve seen a Christian construction built from red earth, a nice change from the usual stone stuff I’ve seen in Europe.
After the guided tour, we walked in the drizzle to a tourist restaurant. Along the way, there were a lot of souvenir stalls.
After lunch, it was a long bus ride to our hostel in Puerto Iguazu. The rain did not stop.
It’s now 8:21pm and my dorm mates are playing Spanish songs loudly. At least the songs are nice. I’m now thinking if I should head out for dinner because I don’t think it’s covered in our tour package.
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]
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]
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.