My knowledge of Turkey was pretty much limited to the reviews on Tripadvisor, most of which are more factual than descriptive, so I had no idea what to expect upon arrival in Istanbul.
Having just flown from LA airport a week ago, I was surprised that there wasn’t a long queue at the customs and tons of people crowding around conveyor belts; There were no stringent security checks or severe looking officials eyeing you and your baggage; Someone gave us 1 Turkish Lira for the luggage trolley and didn’t ask for it back.
As I took in the sights of Istanbul from the window of our minivan, I realized that Turkey is not just culturally rich because it is geographically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, but also naturally beautiful with the harmonious co-existence of sea, rocks, flora and fauna.
I spent my first day taking in the sights and sounds, exploring Sultanahmet and we even tried the squeezing with the locals on the electric trams, with the help of our friendly guide.
There is something spontaneous about blogging on the go that I like. But the flip side of this is that most entries will be short because I’m beat from sight-seeing everyday.
I’m trying out the WordPress app but it is quite limited. Since all photos can only appear after my text, here are the captions:
1. Kebab meat is everywhere. A set meal costs about 5.50TRY. It comes with chicken or beef in pita bread, fries and a drink.
2. The people here at this restaurant are so warm and friendly. They allowed me to enter the serving area for a photo op even though we weren’t planning on eating.
3. Such stalls are common and the food always looks very good.
4. Stalls like this are scattered all over the Sultanahmet area.
5. Boiled maize.
6. I think these are some kind of Turkish apples? Or plums? It’s the size of big grapes, crunchy and a little sour.
7. My first Turkish coffee at a traditional Turkish restaurant.
8. Silk for sale.
9. Pretzels! I believe there is something in the dough that makes these plain pretzels really tasty. I wish they were warm though.
10. I love handiwork!
11. The view on the way back to the hotel.
Night flights are tough to bear because it is so hard to sleep on the plane. We arrived at Istanbul airport at around 7+ in the morning and headed to our boutique hotel to drop off our luggage before heading to the office of the tour agent from whom I booked my tour tickets.
I won’t reveal too much yet because I hope to do a full review of it at the end of my trip.
After we settled on the itinerary and full payment, we walked out onto the streets and immediately got ripped off.
Those of you who have had Turkish ice-cream would know that it is kind of an amusing act. The seller would scoop the sticky ice-cream and then tease you with it till he’s ready to give it to you. We were so fascinated and he was so good at assuming the sale that we just stood there while he made us take the ice-cream. My dad did want the ice-cream but when we tried to ask him how much, he didn’t answer us in English. After he was done with Act 1, he wanted to assume another sale but we were going to walk away without paying because he didn’t tell us how much and we didn’t know where to pay. Finally he said it cost 10 Turkish Lira (TRY).
As we walked on, we found many many many stalls selling it, and while the ice cream flavors may differ (this one had yoghurt as one of the flavours), it shouldn’t cost you more than 2 or 3 TRY. We ended up with another 5 ice creams for everyone.
It was a good, relatively inexpensive experience on our first day.
Tomorrow we’re going to do more sight-seeing.
Playing around with a new app just to see if I will be able to blog from wherever I am tomorrow. Yes, I will be going away and for those of you who don’t already know where I am going, you’ll find out soon enough.
I was thrilled to be invited to the live racing at the Singapore Turf Club last night. Although the rain was incessant, the races went on as usual.
The Singapore Turf Club lies on massive ground and on the way to the Orchid Box, we passed by my favourite horse carriage!
I was also going for the classic look last night. Unfortunately due to the rain, I couldn't stand by the horse carriage.
We arrived just in time to catch Race 9 and Race 10, where the prize money was S$1 million and S$3 million respectively
Inside the box area, there was a buffet spread and unobstructed view of the race. All these TV monitors provide information on bets and Rocketman was the hot favourite for Race 9!
It was all very overwhelming, so Eddie very kindly explained to Elvin and I how to look at the odds, and what sort of bets we can place.
Eddie telling us which are touted to win. Apparently, most people were rooting for local horse Rocketman and the 2 Hong Kong horses.
I decided to place my bet on the horse touted to come in 2nd, to finish with a placing of 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Happy Zero came in 3rd, so I made a winning of S$6.
The winner for Race 9 was Green Birdie (HK). Rocketman and Happy Zero came in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Prize money was S$1 million.
For Race 10, I decided to place my bet on Horses 1 (Gloria De Campeao), 2 (Presvis) and 4 (Lizard's Desire), to come in first 3 placements (not in order), but didn't make any money from this.
Lizard's Desire (No. 4) came in first, Gloria De Campeao (No.1) came in second and Al Shemali (No.3) came in third.
Last night, Elvin Ng and I were invited to the Singapore International Racing Festival Gala Dinner held at The Shangri-la Hotel.
I do not know much about horse-racing, but I love horses, and this year it is even closer to my heart because horse carriages were crafted as part of the festival.
I love horse carriages, because growing up in an era of automobiles, there’s always a fascination with the older modes of transportation. Or maybe it’s just a simple case of yearning for something you cannot get. We got a chance to see one of the six horse carriages outside the ballroom last night.
A group of musicians were seated in the horse carriage to entertain guests at the cocktail reception.
The closest I get to owning a horse!
In front of the Singapore International Racing Festival ice sculpture with Charlee
The whiff of chocolate was so tempting, but I was battling food poisoning yesterday, so I couldn't enjoy this lovely dessert.
Has any of you seen these carriages around?
This was outside Mandarin Gallery.
This was at Bt Panjang Plaza.
This was at Bugis Junction before moving to Raffles Plaza Park.
This was at Plaza Singapura.
This was at Junction 8.
My favourite horse carriage! This was at Raffles City before moving to Raffles Plaza Park.
They were on display at various locations in Singapore till 14 May. I would probably see all of it tonight at the race itself!
Have you seen this?
All in a day’s work
Early in the morning at Fort Canning.
Doing my warm up
Stretching my legs before I conquer the flight of steps
Close-up of my eyes
The make-up artiste touching up my lipstick
Director James briefing me
Pluck at Haji Lane
Still at Pluck, they have really good home-made ice-cream. The flavours always change but they're all good! I'm not a fan of Baileys but they have very good Baileys ice-cream. And Earl Grey and Fig!
Pretending that I'm talking to someone when I'm actually gesturing to the air.
How it looks on camera.
It's funny I have lingerie holders above my head!
One of the owners of A Thousand Tales was asked to be in the shot so we had a little chat.
Her daughter also has a mole on her lip, so I kept telling her I'm her sister!
Blending into the surroundings
We had to pretend to have a conversation about music, it was so funny because we were just blabbing and moving!
Director said I blend into the background and looked quite spooky!
The crew and me.