After over half a year of no vacations, decided to cash in and join a Canto-speaking tour to Turkey. No, I cannot speak any Canto but figured that I can easily get by with a reliable tourbook in hand and I was right.
Not only were the tours reasonably priced, but given that Turkey’s such a huge span of place to cover and I didn’t have that much time, being herded like sheep suited my needs quite well.
We left airport at 1am on Monday, and landed in Doha for transit at around 5am Doha time (that would be 9am HK time), leaving for Istanbul at 8am (1pm HK time) and arriving at 1pm. From the Doha airport, you can already see the changes and know that you’re visiting another region.
Women are starting to cloak themselves, some with shawls the other in full on black silk gear with only their eyes and hands showing. At Duty Free, locals buy big packets of Tang, Lux soap and Nido, which I found to be really weird. Took a photo here for proof and you can imagine full-body clothed Arabs lugging boxes of these babies:
But then again, people may think the same when they buy Nestle Mango and Ube Ice Cream at Duty Frees in the Philippine airport so who am I to complain? 🙂
Stupidly, I didn’t have any have dollars so it was a hassle spending for anything. That’s the problem, away from Asia, exchanging HKDs is like finding water in the dessert. Dollar is still the convenient king and since we departed Hong Kong at 1am, all the currency exchange offices were closed! So here I was, embarking on a trip with no dollars!
Anyway, upon arrival in Istanbul after four more hours in the air (our first leg lasted for 8 hours which was made bearable given Qatar Airway’s stellar in-flight entertainment system), weather’s terrific. We however, had to take a bus for a long 6 hours to our next destination.
The downside to joining a Canto-only speaking touris you get herded like shep with no clue where to go. Nonetheless, the travel agency I joined — Kuoni Travel — was very professional. Our tour guide Carol spoke a bit of Mandarin which is good and she’s been helpful so far. She even lent poor me USD50 just to start me off.
We had to cross the sea so our bus docked on a boat which took us across the shore. Our bus (pictured center) was one of the first few cars, and before long, the boat was filled with many more vehicles:
On the boat, it’s beautiful. The sights themselves are just wow. Don’t think you can see such clear blue skies especially after coming from a more polluted Hong Kong:
Believe it or not, we took this shot and it was already 7:30pm. It’s summer in Turkey and the days are a lot longer — the sun shines brighter earlier, and sets later. During our trip there, the sun set around 8:30pm on average and rose around 4:30 am.
In Turkey, it seems that families love kids. We see a lot of families with kids and the fathers dote on them. They’re all over the kids and they’re in all sorts of play. Quite heartwarming me thinks:
We arrive at our hotel and have dinner at a later 8:00pm. During the entire trip, we have dinner around this time because Turks seem to operate on a looser time schedule than we do. Lunch at 1:00pm, dinner at 8:00pm.
Dinner is rich with many sour mixes of yoghurt. I notice that there are more varieties in salad and dessert than the mains. Looking at rich sauces, you realize its inevitable to stay thin in Turkey, but you try them the same. Do note that this is just a small part of the salad buffet — think I counted 17 types of cheeses served that evening:
A closer look on the types of spreads that we enjoyed during our trip there, which I found to be entirely delightful even though my Canto-speaking compadres found them to be quite disgusting. Many of them merely picked on their food which I found to be a pity, given that they’re not so used to the Turkish spices:
Aside from the salads which formed the first part of my meal, introducing my embarrasing choices of mains. They were so delicious that even though I’d worry about the calories later, I just didn’t freaking care. It was so delish that it would’ve been more sinful not to eat them when you get the chance:
Haha, I’m sure that some of you may not find this as delectable as I did, but just loved the local fare in Turkey so just didn’t care. I can always diet when I come back! 😀
To top off such a sinful sumptous meal, we move on to the desserts. There were two parts of the dessert buffet full of uber-sweet cakes and bread soaked with sweets. Totally loved it!
Got a little trigger happy on the dessert menu by mind you, just getting a little-bitty piece for the desserts I found to be interesting then, and check out the results:
That’s enough calories for a WHOLE cake. Do note that I only took small pieces so you can just imagine the wide array of choices we have on the dessert menu. Sigh, bye-bye diet!
Later on, our guide encouraged us to visit the nearby local Kipa supermarket.
I was quite impressed with what was being sold — check out the wide array of yoghurts, olives, and Turkish fare:
Bet you can’t see produce with such variety and freshness at home, and check out the varieties of cheeses being sold:
As you can see, no matter how thin you are when you arrive in Turkey, it’s impossible to keep the weight and many of the men sport pot bellies and the women are slightly heavier than usual. But who can blame them? Food here is good and fresh!
Later on, we head home. Turkey has a clock that’s 5 hours late which screws up my bodyclock a bit. Hence, even though it’s already 7:00 am at home, I’m still wide awake because it’s still 2:00am in Turkey. Aiyo…
More to come on my 10-day trip!