Monday, June 29, 2009

Istanbul Bosphorus cruise

After a good night's rest, we were ready for today's programme. Most of us had jet lag as we woke up much earlier than we should. Breakfast was good at the Crowne Plaza, after all it is a 5-star hotel.

We had our mandatory Bosphorus cruise this morning as this is a must for all visitors to Istanbul and I was pleasantly surprise that it was a private cruise along the Bosphorus as we had the whole ship/boat to our tour group. Unfortunately, the weather was not so good as it was gloomy throughout the cruise and rather chilly with the wind. Well, it is one of those things that I dreaded whenever on holiday: lousy weather. Even the photos turned out gloomy.

The Galata bridge with many seafood restaurants.

The New Mosque dominates the Eminonu ferry terminal.

The Dolmabache Palace on the Bosphorus

One of the many hotels, restaurants and clubs along the Bosphorus

The Bosphorus Straits is famous because it separates Asia from Europe and links the Black Sea to the Mediterranean via the Sea of Marmara. Below is one of the two bridges that links Asia to Europe across the Boshphorus while a third bridge is under construction.

The next stop was Topkapi Palace. Luckily the weather improved as we approached lunch time. Here we viewed the legendary Spoonmaker's Diamond, so called because it was sold for three spoons by the finder of this lost diamond. We also saw the mantle and hair from the beard of prophet Mohammed in one of the pavilions.

The entrance gate to Topkapi Palace

The Throne Room

The Harem (?)

One of the pavilions

View of the Bosphorus from Topkapi Palace

After lunch we went on our way to Canakkale, passing Gallipoli (from a distance). We had to take a ferry across the Dardanelles to reach Canakkale on the Asian side of Turkey. We stayed the night at Iris Hotel which faces the Aegean Sea with promise of a romantic sunset but unfortunately the sun was obscured by the clouds. Sigh.

Ronald Kwok

Thursday, June 25, 2009

First day in Istanbul

I must say, this is the most scary holiday trip that I have taken so far.

No, Turkey is not a scary country, far from it. It is scary because of the timing of the tour, during this A(H1N1) flu pandemic. I was so scared that one of the passengers in our flight will develop a fever and get spotted at the Istanbul airport during the arrival and the whole plane load of passengers may be quarantined. What if I myself develop a fever before landing in Istanbul, even if it is not because of A(H1N1)? That will be the end of my holidays.

Thus it was with a troubled heart when I landed in Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul in the morning since one of my fellow travellers in this tour, a boy with a US citizenship was coughing with a running nose during the flight. Could it be the dreaded A(H1N1) flu? And what better place for it to spread that on a 12 hour flight in the confined space of an airplane? So it was with a big relief when all of us got through the thermal scan and none of us was hauled up with a temperature. Phew.

We met our local guide, Ali, when we left the immigration area. He was young, friendly and good humour. (Also good-looking too.) Since we arrived in the morning, our first stop was for breakfast at a restaurant near the Blue Mosque. It was good that we did not start our tour immediately as it gave us some time to relax and adjust after the long flight from home. And it also gave us our first taste of Turkish food.

After our refreshing breakfast, we made our way to the Hippodrome. There were already plenty of tour buses and even more tourists making their rounds here as this is the most congested tourist area in Istanbul.

Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain

The Egyptian Obelisk

Close-up of the Obelisk
Our next stop the Blue Mosque just next to the Hippodrome.

Entrance to the Courtyard of the Blue Mosque

Interior of the Blue Mosque

Exterior view of the Blue Mosque

Just across the road, the Haghia Sophia awaits us.

Exterior view

Inside view

Another inside view

After the tour or Haghia Sophia, we walked to our lunch at a restaurant nearby. The restaurant was full of tourist as it seems to be a popular spot for the tour operators.

It was another walk after lunch. This time it was to the Grand Bazaar and it was a good thing we made the visit today, a Saturday as it would be closed on Sundays.

Gate No.1 to the Grand Bazaar

Inside the Grand Bazaar

Most of us were already tired when the coach picked us up and dropped us at our hotel. It was the 5-star Crowne Plaza in the old town.

After a rest and a welcome shower, we were all ready to venture out again. It was for our seafood dinner at Kumkapi, an area popular with many seafood restaurants. The setting was great but the seafood was not so good. Not sure it's because I am not used to the Turkish style of cooking seafood or I'm spoiled by the cooking back home.

Kumkapi, home of seafood restaurants.

From there we made our way back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest.
Ronald Kwok

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Back from holidays in Turkey

Hi, I am back from my holidays in Turkey and I'll be posting the details later. First a general overview. This is a very enjoyable holiday, though a bit tiring because of the long coach journey at times since Turkey is a big country (geographically) and package tours such as this would want to cover as much as possible in the shortest time. This was a 10-day tour and I extended another 3 days on my own in Istanbul.

As stated in my earlier post, I choose the tour under Parlo Tours and it turned out to be a good choice. First we had a good local guide, Ali, who was both knowledgeable on Turkish affairs and also very entertaining with his personal Turkish life anecdotes. The hotels and the food were also pretty good by Turkish standards and the itinerary was even better than what was advertised as it covered some places not mentioned in the brochure. So just a quick photo tour of the major places covered.


Bosphorus Cruise








More details in my later posts.

The break was good but the problem with such breaks is that it is difficult to get back into the routine again so maybe that is why they are called breaks as they break the routine. Previously after a tour, I only had to deal with my still photography but this time around I also had to sort out hours and hours of videos taken by my wife on her new Sanyo HD2000 camcorder so it took me quite a while to start blogging again. Never mind.

Ronald Kwok


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