Monday, October 24, 2011

Getting the feel of modern Istanbul

Beyond Galata is the modern Istanbul
Unlike the city of Sanandaj in Kurdistan that had made us felt so wanted like a celebrity, nobody gave a damn at us in the crowded Taksim.  From Sultanahmet, we took the tram to Kabatas and there we took a funicular to Taksim . It is nice to have a look at Taksim as it is known to be Istanbul's "Mecca of Fashion", the heart of modern Istanbul and the symbol of the secular Republic. But above all, Taksim is most remembered for it bloodiest Taksim Square Massacre on 1st May, 1977. Hence, even these days you'll find the presence of police at all times here. I was here before and it never change; people thronged through Istiklal Street and Taksim Meydani (Square) was flooded with people.

Istiklal Caddesi (Street), Taksim
From Taksim, we hopped on the Levent metro line with the intention of wandering in Istanbul biggest shopping mall, Cevahir in Mecidiyekoy/Sisly.  It was peak hour, the metro station was busy and the coach was full of young vibrant citizens; perhaps tertiary students or working professionals. I sat with my hands clasping onto my day-napsack…ahh.. how unfashionable I look in comparison to them. They were all dressed up in chic European style…yes it is Winter after all…time to flaunt your stylish winter jackets.

The coach was spotless clean but not until my "dog-nosed" friend sniffed something…she said in my language, “Do you not smell something like urine?” “Ermmm…I do…but I was engrossed looking at these people…they all seem well-dressed and the coach looks clean :)!” Unlike Konya, there are not many ladies wearing head scarves here.
Cevahir Shopping Mall, Sisly

As soon as the train stopped at Mecidiyekoy, we got off, saw the wide roads and pondered which direction would take us to Cevahir. Ahhh…I don’t want to waste time and so I kindly asked the man at the small petty shop for direction and he brilliantly showed us the way. I learnt this from my Iranian friend, Ebrahim…shout, wave and do what ever you can as long as you get your direction right and don’t waste time.

In a few minutes stroll we were at Cevahir Shopping Mall, it is so huge…just like any other shopping Malls in big cities in the world. Right in front, is a huge Starbuck CafĂ©…a house of its own. I never get to explore this part of Istanbul the last time I was here. Opened in 2005, Cevahir boasts to have 320 shops carrying several international brand names and local designers too.
Starbucks Coffee in front of the mall

Excitedly, we approached the entrance and was mildly surprise to find that all bags had to be scanned and we had to go through the normal body scan you would find in the airports. Nothing to worry as we’re absolutely bomb-free. We passed our security test and soon we started exploring each and every levels of the mall.

Half way the shopping spree, we decided to have dinner…after browsing the whole floor of eateries we opted for Burger King...what a choice! Anyway, I was trying to avoid the greasy Turkish food to save myself from any stomach upset.
Istiklal Street, Taksim
Near Taksim Square
Cevahir Shopping Mall
Shops in Cevahir
Taksim Neighborhood

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Charming Goreme - Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme town has a beautiful and unique landscape
As the sun sets, the town landscape changes hue
My last visit to Goreme was in 2009 and exactly two years after that, here I am again in this little charming town that has always fascinated me. Everyone is asking why I come again...the answer is...I am missing Goreme too much :) that's it! Just in two years, Goreme has changed so much, the town gets bigger and there are many new hotels popping up every where. For convenience, this time I stayed in Walnut House right in the center of the town.

After the flight from Atartuk Airport, Istanbul was delayed for few hours due to bad weather we finally arrived safely in Nevsehir. The flight wasn't a smooth one and it was pouring in Istanbul with thunder storms during the flight. I prefer the Nevsehir airport than the Kayseri as it is cheaper and nearer to Goreme.

Tourists everywhere in town
We arranged the airport transfer to the hotel and about 45 minutes or so we arrived at the hotel at about 9pm. That night I had to sort with Merdan, the son of the hotel owner, on the tour schedules for the next day. Merdan has been very helpful and he speaks English pretty well...so communication was easy. Some of us wished to go for the hiking tours while others prefer a much easier tour. Due to bad weather, most ballooning companies canceled their balloon trips for the next few days.

The weather was much kinder on my second day in Goreme and I managed to take some pictures of Goreme town in the evening.  Personally, I still feel that Goreme is the best town to stay as a base to explore the Cappadocia region. Now, with more banks, shops and restaurants, it definitely offers tourist more choices and better facilities.
Roads are huge and lined with local tour buses
Goreme bus station
The town gets busier 
New pension across the bus station

Cave houses around the town
ATV Quad bike for hire


Souvenirs shops near Walnut House
Carpet shops and cafe
Public water supply

Even the old mosque in Goreme had a 'facelift' 
Goreme town at night - shops are opened till late at night

The Many Faces of Bodrum Castle - Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum Castle at Sunrise
Just got back from Turkey again and this time I have added Bodrum, Konya and several other places to my list. The weather was not favorable on most days of October but we just had to make do with the daily heavy rainfall in Istanbul and several parts of Cappadocia. Apart from Spring and Summer, September is still the best time to be in Turkey before the weather gets blistering cold and wet. We stayed at Gulet Otel and had one of the room with splendid view of Bodrum Castle. For 5 days in Bodrum, we had the opportunity to spend much of the time watching the castle. Apart from the day trip to Pamukkale and Kos Island in Greece, we spent our days in Bodrum eating and exploring the huge bazaar along the coastal town.
Bodrum Castle on a fresh sunny day
Blue sky that matches the sea
The view from the hotel window
Taken from the beach near Gulet Otel

As the night falls...
On a fine day