Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back to Istanbul

It was in the morning news that I learned that there was a hot air balloon crash in Cappadocia yesterday morning. This resulted in one death and 9 injured, a shocking news since this was the first such accident in 20 years. And to think that we were there just yesterday morning itself.

Well, today was the last day for the package tour of Turkey and our tour group will head for the airport and home after a visit to the Spice Bazaar in the morning. But my wife and I would be staying back in Istanbul for another 3 nights on our own. So after breakfast, my wife and I bid farewell to our fellow travellers as they took the coach for the Spice Market before going to the airport. We enjoyed the Crowne Plaza for a while longer before we took a taxi to our new hotel since we cannot afford this 5-star hotel for our extended stay.

Instead, I have booked Hotel Erboy, a 3-star hotel that is highly rated for its location and the friendly service from feedback in TripAdvisor. I found the comments to be true, the staff was friendly, especially the guest relation lady. Since I have put down in my booking as going on a honeymoon, I was offered a free upgrade to their sister hotel, the 4-star Oriente Express that was located at the next street for the first night. While waiting, we were given free apple tea which was easily the best so far that I had tasted.

Since it was too early to move into the hotel room, we did some sightseeing first. We made our way to the Suleymaniye Mosque after some shopping along the way. The streets were quite crowded as it was a Saturday. Unfortunately the mosque itself was closed for renovation but we had a look at the garden with the tomb of Sultan Suleyman and also his wife, Roxelana.

On our way to the tomb of Sinan, the great architect of many of Istanbul's mosques and public buildings, we met a Turk giving out "free" cherry drinks. After we had the drinks, he demanded some money and in order not to make a scene, I gave him 5 lira. Later I was told that there are also shoe-shines who gave you a free shine and then demand a high sum of payment. So if you meet someone who gives you some free stuff, be wary and don't mistake this as Turkish hospitality. Generally, the Turkish people are very hospitable and friendly (especially if they are trying to make a sale) but there are those who misuse this and give them a bad name.

Our next stop was the Spice Bazaar which is much smaller than the Grand Bazaar and thus more manageable but no less colourful.

After our lunch, we went back to the Erboy Hotel and the porter took our luggage to the new hotel, the Oriente Express. We were given a room at the top floor with a good view of the Bosphorus. We had more free apple tea (though not as good as the one at Erboy) before we went out for more sightseeing.

We made our way to the busy Eminonu waterfront with ferry services to all parts of Istanbul.

On the way was the old Sirkeci station, the terminus for the famous Orient Express. I was rather disappointed since the station itself was rather gloomy and deserted. Maybe it was the wrong time of the day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling in Gulhane Park (next to the Topkapi Palace) enjoying the greenery and the flowers. Many Turks were doing the same thing since it was a Saturday.

Then we walked the cobbled street of Sogukcesme Sokagi with many pastel coloured wooden houses and took in other sights along the way before we made our way back to the hotel for a rest before we ventured out again for our dinner.

There are many eating places along Hudavendigar Caddesi (where Oriente Express is located)together with many souvenir shops and is certainly more lively than Ebusuut Caddesi where Erboy Hotel is located. For dinner, we had the lamb kebab on a wok that looked similar to the Spanish paella but with much less rice. Hmm, yummy but fattening, look at the amount of oil!

After dinner, we still had enough time to take in the sunset across the Bosphorus at Eminonu at the vintage point of the pedestrian bridge.

When we got back to the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised to find a plate of Turkish Delight waiting on our bed. From our room we had a good view of the Bosphorus Bridge that was lit up at night before we tucked in for our honeymoon.

Ronald Kwok

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting. I've been to Taiwan once but only transit at the Taipei airport! Must visit Taiwan for a tour some day.