Travelog: Turkey

(All photos were taken using Nikon J1 & Huawei P9 in panorama mode, all without edits. Kindly excuse any blurry photos, I’m not a professional photographer)

I had the opportunity to join our company trip to Turkey this year, Alhamdulillah. And this is my first time flying far far away from home, 7700km away in distance.

Our flight was on the 22nd of December, at 1.10am from KLIA to DXB (Dubai International Airport). The flight continued at 9.55am to SAW (Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport).

Day 1 : Istanbul – Canakkale

We reached Istanbul around 2.30pm and met with our local guide, a 29-years in experience Turkish man named Mr. Cafer (The C is pronounced like a J, so his name sounded something like Jaafar). We then climbed aboard our designated bus, which brought us safely, to all of our destinations all throughout Turkey. The bus driver was a handsome man (these people said that he kinda looked like Brad Pitt, the messy version at least), named Ersin (not sure if it’s spelled correctly though, sorry).

The temperature was around 14 degrees. From SAW we travelled to Canakkale through the Osman Gazi bridge. The view along the road was pretty amazing, even from the smudgy windows of the bus.

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View from the Osman Gazi bridge
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View along the road
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A town 

We had our first stop at a Turkish Delight store, Munira, for shopping and prayer. I bought a box of Turkish delight, weighing around 1kg for 110TL.

We reached Canakkale when it was already dark, around 9.45pm. All of us were contemplating on exiting the bus to take some pictures with the Trojan Horse, as we didn’t wear any long johns or heat-techs, just cladded in our jackets. But then again, it would be a waste to not take pictures when we’re already there.

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Trojan Horse
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Night lights

It’s funny really, we’re all shivering in the cold and most of the pictures ended up blurry as we could not stop shaking. The temperature was around 11 degrees.

We continued our journey and spent the night at Tusan Hotel.

Day 2: Canakkale – Kusadasi

After breakfast at the hotel, our journey for the day started at 7.30am.

We had our first photo stop at the city Izmir. We had a walk to the Izmir Clock Tower, which was full of people from families to couples to friends, including tourists like us. It seemed like a really nice place to hang out and chill, feeding the birds or sitting by the stones along the waters. The temperature was 15 degrees, so it was not that cold, just nice.

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Birds to be fed
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Izmir Clock Tower
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People just chillin’

From Izmir we travelled to the ancient city of Ephesus. And our group were the last to exit the ancient site, mainly because we took way too much time posing for photos.

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Entrance ticket
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Ephesus
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Remains
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More remains
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One of the guardian cats
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Remains again

I bought myself a cup of Vanilla ice-cream, to satiate my thirst for walking a long way throughout the ancient city.

We spent the night at Suhan 360 hotel in Kusadasi.

Day 3: Kusadasi – Pamukkale

We had our breakfast in a hurry and went out to the hotel lounge to take some photos. The hotel was facing the sea so the view was breathtaking. The temperature at 9am was 4 degrees.

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Morning view

We first stopped at a Leather Factory Outlet. After watching a short fashion show, we were shown around the outlet and those with well, high budget, can buy any of their leather goods from jackets to wallets to belts etc. My budget was pretty low so I did not buy any.

We stopped at an Olive Oil shop on the way to Pamukkale, where I bought a box of Pismaniye Cotton Candy for 35 TL. We continued our journey and stopped at a Textile shop selling all sorts of cloths, from bedclothes to tablecloths to scarfs etc. I ended up not buying any.

Finally, we reached Pamukkale, also known as Cotton Castle. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, extremely famous and known for its thermal spring terraces. Let me tell you that it’s just like pictures you see on the Internet (if you have not been there) except that most of the beautiful pictures were taken when the place is not crowded with tourists. On the other hand, I was there when it was packed with people. Hence, I could not have a picture taken without some other people’s faces (and butts) in it as well.

We have to walk along the terraces barefooted as slippers or shoes are not allowed. The stones were freezing cold and we had to warm our feet in the hot springs (which was not really that hot) once in a while.

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The road leading to the terraces
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At the terraces
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People mesmerized by the view
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A wider angle of people mesmerized by the view
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Closer view of the hot air balloons

It was magical. Pure magic. We were there from 4.30 till dark (around 6 to 6.30pm). And we get to see the sunset. Mr. Cafer (our local guide) told us that we’re a lucky bunch because in his 29-years experience, it’s not easy to be able to catch a view like that. So, yeay for us!

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Sunset
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More sunset
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So beautiful I wish you were there to see it

The view is to die for. Enough said.

We spent the night at Lycus River Hotel. After our dinner, some of us went out for a walk to the nearest small town (which was around 15 minutes walk) in 9 degrees. Initially word got around that the town was having some sort of ‘pasar malam’ or night market. However when we reached the said area, it was already closed. But some shops were still operating so we sat down for some kebabs and tea.

We had to walk back for 15 minutes and this is the first day that I’ve successfully walked for 10,000 steps!

Day 4&5: Pamukkale – Capadoccia

We had an early start, around 7am in the morning as we had to reach Capadoccia at around 7.30pm. Yup, almost 12 hours in the bus.

We were brought to a stop for some Turkish treat, a Turkish yogurt with the mixture of honey and poppy seeds. It’s one of my favorites. Slash that. It’s my only favorite dessert all the while in Turkey, really. But it’s not for everyone, some of us did not really like the taste. It’s 10 TL per plate.

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The best

We stopped at Konya to visit the Mevlana Museum. The museum showcased the well-known Sufi poet, Rumi’s heritage and history. There were some of our own Prophet Muhammad’s heritage as well, they even have some of the Prophet s.a.w’s beard, which smelled of roses. We heard the call of Asar prayer and had our prayer break in the same building, which acted both as a museum and masjid.

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The architecture
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The graves
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The mosque
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Had to wear this before entering
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The beard of our beloved Prophet SAW is in the enclosed glass box
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A different angle
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Another different angle

I bought a Rumi bookmark, which listed the 7 advices of the Mevlana (link), for 12 TL.

From Konya, we were supposed to visit the Caravanserai. A caravanserai is basically a road-side inn for travelers during the old times and is now made heritage sites. Somehow, the tyres of our bus had some problems and we had to cancel the trip. Instead, the bus driver spent some time looking for a tyre repair shop along the highway as we continued our journey to Capadoccia.

We found one workshop that was actually opened and had a short stop. We had a little treat of tea and Turkish Pizza while waiting for the tyres to be changed.

We reached Cappadocia, shortly before 8.00pm. Shuttle buses from the hotel had to pick us up as our bus could not travel directly there, the route was too narrow.

We spent two nights in Dreams Cave Hotel, which had no lift service whatsoever so we had to haul our heavy luggages up the staircases (for those with upper floor rooms). It was tiring and we’re almost out of breathe as we’ve reached our rooms but it was also super fun in the cold and we had our laughs.

Had a good night sleep in the cave hotel, despite the architecture that seemed somehow medieval (what would you expect when you live in a cave lol). And we woke up to a pleasant surprise.

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Did not have the chance to sit and chill
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Look at all the whites
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Snow were still falling
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Excited bunch
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Looks pretty cool

 

Yes, it snowed!

The snow was still falling when we came out to have our breakfast. And we were all so happy as we expected snow in our last trip to Japan but was left disappointed. Not this time around, though. Alhamdulillah, we get to see, feel, touch and play with the snow.

Please excuse the excitement as we lived in a tropical country where the weather is either sunny or raining.

But yeah, there were no hot air balloons in the sky. None! Hence, in Capadoccia when most people would pose with the colorful hot air balloon as their background, our photos were all whites, with snow.

We had some outdoor and indoor visits around Capadoccia and had an early rest at the hotel. We were back at the hotel around 5.30pm.

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Underground City
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Mushroom Valley
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Pigeon Valley
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I-dont-know-where-this-is

Unfortunately, one of our portable wifis were accidentally dropped in the snow. So, we had to search for the wifi modem (which was white in color) amongst the thick snow around the hotel compound. Even the hotel owner joined in the search but to no avail. Hence, we gotta let it go. Let it go, let it go~.

As we had an early rest, some of us decided to walk to the nearest town, to have some kebabs after dinner (again yeah I know). Apparently we’ve been eating similar menus for 5 days straight that our stomachs and taste buds have had enough. The typical Turkish meal for lunch and dinner was : Salty rice (which is cooked with oil and salt), potatoes (either french fries, baked or stir-fried with aubergines), chicken/meat/fish (grilled), salad, soup (either potato/tomato/vegetarian mixed) and spring water.

Initially, most of us were planning on joining in the operation kebab but the temperature dropped to -3 degrees during dinner that half of us cancelled while another half (all guys) took up the challenge and went out to get themselves some kebabs.

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View at night

And me and my roommate had an early night sleep on the 2nd night.

Day 6: Capadoccia – Izmit

Again, we had to haul our luggages down to the receptionist before heading for our breakfast. The floor was slippery and we had to be really careful while we stepped down the staircases. The temperature was still minus degrees.

After breakfast we travelled to Izmit. We stopped at some sort of an ‘RnR’ which had a lovely toilet and some souvenir shops. I bought a Haribo Roulette for 2 TL and a Capadoccia Keychain for 15 TL. A blue stone bracelet caught my eye but I didnt buy it. I’m regretting as I type this.

Anyways, some of us went to a McDonalds located at a petrol station nearby. According to them, the McDonalds was pretty much deserted which was surprising considering the McDonalds in our country are almost always packed. Our local guide, Mr Cafer was like, ‘I see some of you are happy buying McDonalds. I’m happy that you’re happy but we don’t really eat McDonalds here because they tasted artificial.‘ LOL.

We stopped at Salt Lake for some photos. It was really windy so we could only bear a couple of minutes by the sea.

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Take 1
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Take 2
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View from the 2nd floor

We travelled to Ankara to visit the Ataturk Mausoleum. According to our local guide, each and every official (Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, etc.) who are visiting Turkey had to first stop for official visit to the Ataturk Mausoleum. So, if we were lucky we can meet any of the official body, if any of them were visiting as well.

But we were unlucky because all the roads leading to the Ataturk Mausoleum were blocked by the police (for unknown reasons). So, that was disappointing.

We continued our journey to Izmit and spent the night at Ramada Plaza Hotel.

Day 7: Izmit – Istanbul

We had an early start as we had only 1 day to spend in such a big city.

We started the day with shopping at the Grand Bazaar. You can get anything here, from leather, antiques, ceramics, lamps, jewelry, turkish delights, carpets, spices and all sorts of souvenirs. Although, word of advice, they only sell ‘Istanbul’ souvenirs here so if you’re travelling to other parts of Turkey (Konya, Capadoccia, Pamukkale etc) make sure you buy the souvenirs from the respective places as well.

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Had no idea why the policemen were gathering there
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Grouping together after shopping

I bought some keychain for my friends ( the cheapest was 3 for 10 TL), a Turkish Delight box ( 1kg for 70 TL), a square silk scarf for my sister (45 TL), a handwoven carpet bookmark (5 TL/piece), some small boxes of Lokum for my colleagues who did not join the trip (20 TL/box) and some fridge magnets (5 TL/piece).

All in all, I could say that the prices were not that reasonable. You could get better prices in other places, really. For example, the shops outside the Blue Mosque sold the same bookmarks for I TL/piece. Way cheaper.

After Grand Bazaar, we went to Topkapi Palace. It was crowded, and we had to queue just to get in the entrance (including getting our bags scanned). Some of the exhibition centres forbid the use of cameras, especially in the exhibition hall with all the Prophet and his companion’s heritage and artifacts. I wanted to take a picture of a Quran reciter there, though. At first I thought it was a recording but turned out a reciter was sitting right there reciting all the time! But yeah, no cameras allowed.

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Entrance ticket
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Entrance
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Just the outer view
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Another entrance
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Take 1
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Take 2

After Topkapi Palace, we walked out to the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, which were located within walking distance with each other. Too bad we could not enter Hagia Sophia as it was closed by the time we finished with Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque was having some renovations too. So the photos that I took were only the outer view of them.

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Could not remember what building this is 
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Sultan Ahmet mosque aka Blue Mosque
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Hagia Sophia
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Blue Mosque in the dark

We were given 5 minutes break for WC (toilet break, they called them WC in Turkey) and I went on wandering to the Blue Mosque on my own, thinking people were following. Turned out I was wandering alone and when I walked back Mr. Cafer was like, ‘Where have you been, you could have gotten lost.‘ Well, thank God, I did not wander that far.

Oh, and this is the 2nd time that I’ve successfully walked for 10,000 steps.

We were at the Blue Mosque till dark for our prayers. After the Maghrib prayer were called and done, we rode our bus to our dinner, which was on a cruise. I was supposed to take some pictures but it was too cold and I was tired hence the only pictures I took were from the windows of the cruise itself. Which had reflections of our faces in it due to the indoor lighting.

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View from the cruise
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View on the way back after the cruise

The dinner on the cruise felt like forever and upon arriving at the port, some of us (including myself) were asleep, with our heads on the dinner table.

We rode the bus to our stay for the night, the last night to spend in Turkey, Radisson-Blu Hotel.

Day 8: Istanbul – Home

Our flight was around 4.30pm so we had to be at the airport by 1.00pm.

We still got time in the morning. Hence, our local guide brought us to the Spice Market and Taksim Square in Istanbul for last minute shopping. I ended up buying another fridge magnet for 5 TL, 2 more keychains for 10 TL, another bookmark for 1 TL and 2 pieces of Sejadah (praying mat) for 100 TL each.

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Spice Market
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Entrance to Spice Market
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Road leading to Taksim Square
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Shops take 1
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Turkish flag 
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Shops take 2
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A tram

Basically, I spent all of my TL and was left with several coins, which amounted to around 5 TL.

Finally, it was time to head to the airport. We reached IST (Istanbul Ataturk Airport) at around 1.30pm. We bade the bus driver (Mr Ersin) good bye and collected some tips for both Mr. Cafer and Mr. Ersin for their services all throughout our time in Turkey.

Let’s just say getting into the airport towards our check-in counter was disastrous. This is due to the fact we had to queue up to scan our bags and all, right as we entered the airport entrance door. The place was extremely crowded with all sorts of people and their bags but no proper queue was established. Hence, people were cutting lines and getting to the front of the scanning machine took longer than necessary. Some of our belongings were nearly snatched by other people too. Thank God, nothing bad happened.

After checking-in, we bade our farewell to Mr. Cafer, who was waiting until all of us completed our checking-in process. He was waiting for another tour group at the same time.

Our flight reached DXB (Dubai International Airport) around 11.00pm and the next flight to KLIA was 3.30am. We reached KLIA around 3.00pm, 30th of December at the temperature of 33 degrees.

Most of us went to have Malaysian food (Nasi Campur, Tom Yam, Mi Kari etc) right after we landed safely in KLIA. I guess, no matter where we travel to, Malaysian food will be greatly missed. No better place than home, huh.

There goes my travelog, which was not much. It was such an amazing trip and I honestly felt like a huge piece of my heart was left in Turkey, in all parts of the beautiful country that I’ve stepped on and made memories with. Cant get enough, and will definitely visit Turkey again in the future, when time and circumstance permits, inshaaAllah.

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