Getting a Turkish bath in Istanbul

Cagaloglu Bath

[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.


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:

Caturday: Catlen of Troy

Catlen of troy

Location: Troy, Turkey

Catlen poses with fake chariot and gladiator
Catlen poses with fake chariot and gladiator

I found this cat in Troy. Unlike other cats I’ve met on the road, this is more affectionate. Maybe it smelled food on me or something.

Catlen, looking mysterious
Catlen, looking mysterious
Catlen just wants pets
Catlen just wants pets

What will you name your cat?

Caturday: Black Beauty at Istanbul Archaeological Museum

black beauty

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?

#FoodFri The best drink in Turkey

apple tea cup

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?

Lamuko’s Lokanta: A delightful Japanese restaurant in Pamukkale

Omurice at Lamuko no Lokanta

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.

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

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.


Where was the strangest place you have eaten Japanese food?

Turkish riots and afterthoughts as a tourist

Istanbul's Blue Mosque
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.