Tag Archives: Istanbul

First Impression

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.

Just another day at Sultanahmet

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.

Ripped off in Istanbul

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.