Her Istanbul Is So Much Better Than My Istanbul

In my long-ago adventure in Ciudad de Mexico, there was one influencer (YouTube travel vlogger) whose posts about the city made it easier for me to go around.  Her posts about Mexico City was so helpful during that time that I made it as my reference on where to go, what to visit and how to go about.

This vlogger recently posted her adventures in Istanbul, Turkey.  I was a little swollen with pride to learn that I being a small-time traveler actually came and visited years ahead before she did.  I was secretly hoping that she has read a number of my blog posts about Istanbul for her to use as her travel reference of the city.

inside hagia sophia

But when I watched her posts about Istanbul, I was so envious that I wanted to revisit the city and re-do all my lackluster blog posts. Hahaha!  Her vlogs were so vibrant, so appealing and so alive that though I already have seen, felt and tasted what she was featuring, I wanted to go back, do the same and do the way she does! 

I guess I am just bitter that I could not produce a better feature of Istanbul the way other travel content creators do.  Am I really envious about her work? Or I am just finding an excuse because I really wanted to go back to the grand and splendid Istanbul?!

Let me then post a short clip of my personal experience in Istanbul. 

I hope that re-reading multiple times this blog post would in some way reduce my craving to revisit that beautiful transcontinental city.  And to that lady vlogger – whom I refuse to identify and feature here, hahaha! – I do admit that you really do a better job than I do. 

Let me just then be contented with the powerful saying that: “recognizing one’s own weakness is one of the biggest strengths that one can have”. And yeah, I am so bitter and really wanted to be back in gorgeous Istanbul. Hahaha!

Second Time in Istanbul Courtesy of Turkish Airline

I have always thought that airport transits and layovers are synonymous to pain, discomfort and boredom.  Sleeping on benches, agonizing people watching and killing time at a dreadful airport is no one’s ideal cup of tea.  I can still recall the throbbing soreness of my skinny butt during my 10-hour transit in Qatar airport when I was on my way home from Morocco in 2009.  But this preconceived idea I have with me about airport transits and layovers has been erased.

Thanks to Turkish Airline which offers free tour of their magnificent city, Istanbul! On my way to Mexico City from Manila, I have a 9-hour layover in Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport.  Instead of proceeding to the transfer lane after disembarking the plane and wait for my next flight, I instead proceeded to the immigration line to show my Turkish visa and have my passport stamped so as to enter Turkey.

After which, I proceeded to the Turkish Airline’s hotel desk/counter at the airport and told the staff that I would like to join the free tour of the city offered by their airline.  The staff then simply asked for my boarding pass and asked me to wait for my name to be called.

I was sipping my Starbucks coffee when my name was called.  And, viola! Goodbye airport and hello (again) dreamy Istanbul… 

with the other excited passengers who chose not to get bored

turkish airline is teasing me to revisit istanbul…

this is so turkish…

i miss dining at this kind of an eatery

yummy turkish delights 

my personal favorite, hagia sophia 

inside the famous sultan ahmed mosque

No one wants to sit in an airport for so long but almost all wants to see the world’s greatest cities and save some money while doing so.  This free airline stopover tour offered by Turkish Airlines can be considered one of the best money saving idea for a travel enthusiast like me.  Istanbul stopovers can now be considered a great travel trick for it can further expand a traveler’s destination.

And aside from that, I can now boast that I have been to Turkey twice!  The tour was brief yet Turkish Airline is giving me reason to revisit their mesmerizing country…

Nakatipid, nakalibre, nakagala at nag-yabang!

My Uchisar Journey and Still Solo on Spooky February

February for me is more eerie and scary as compared to the Halloween month of November.  For me, it is more disturbing and unnerving as compared to the Chinese ghost month of August.  Reason being? It’s the sinister month when Valentines is celebrated!

With much resilience and fortitude, I was able passed through more than four and a half decades of scary Valentines celebrations.  And though my chance of finally celebrating it with a partner may have started to further dwindle, I would like to stay positive.  I am staying positive because I believe that everybody deserves a great love story.

And while I STILL wait for the most spectacular Valentine’s Day ever, let me just post my photos from my previous SOLO travel in Uchisar, the highest point in Cappadocia, Turkey.

       

And I hope that my upcoming love life shall be as spectacular, historic and as stunning as that of the Uchisar Castle of Turkey!

Balang araw! Hu yu kayo sa kin pag nagkataon! Hahaha!

Solo In Pamukkale

Prior to doing an out-of-the-country solo journey, solo travel for me is tantamount to fear, isolation, risky, worry and boredom.

Though these concepts were at the back of my mind, my journey in Turkey was actually my third solo travel abroad.  And one highlight of this Turkish adventure was my visit to the Turkish cotton cloud known as Pamukkale.

It has been a month yet I could still recall the exhilaration, joy and awe by the beauty and magnificence of Pamukkale. This huge and weird looking and shimmering show-white limestones along the mountain slopes are  are such a view to behold.  

And while I explore the rugged terrain on what Turkish believed to be solidified cotton and dip my feet to the warm calcium-rich spring water that drips slowly to the mountainside, I could hardly believe I was able to get there.  This made me realize that solo travel for me now is synonymous to independence, freedom, inventiveness, self-determination, creativity, self-indulgence and boldness!

 

Kung ganyan kaganda, okay lang mag-isa. Pramis!

Filipinos’ Image of Turkey & the “Pasabog” of Pasabag

The Tourism Office of Turkey should pay me! Hahaha! This is because there has been quite a number of Filipinos (mostly my friends and relatives) who are now wanting to tour and visit this transcontinental country of Eurasia.

Turkish people should know that there seem to be some level of dreadful and critical image lurking within the minds of Filipinos about Turkey.  May be it is the media responsible in doing so.  It is because we Filipinos are only informed about Turkey when some bad or terrible new happened in that side of the world.

Actually, friends and colleagues were amazed to find out how beautiful Turkey is through the photos I posted in my Facebook and Instagram accounts.  But their first question if they happen to meet me about my Turkey journey is if it is safe and secured.  My usual answer? I was also hesistant on pursuing my Turkey journey prior to leaving Manila.  But towards the end of my Turkish adventure did I realize that it is one safe, harmless and innocuous place that I have been to.

To further prove my amazement about Turkey, let me feature the explosively beautiful Pasabag.

It’s a valley with unique and astonishing rock formations where you’ll get a feel of Cappadocia’s striking and iconic fairy chimneys. The tuff stone pillars of Pasabag are easily recognizable. It stands at 10 to 15 meters high often with twin or triple rock caps.

Pasabag is often referred to as the Monks Valley.  This was due to St. Simon and the monks who sought refuge inside this rock formations. 

Monks sought shelter in Pasabag after attracting unwanted funfair-like popularity after the public learned that they are some kind of a miracle-makers. To create shelter, monks would start by carving rooms for themselves at the bottom of the fairy chimneys and work their way to the top.  They were said to only descend to receive food and drinks from their disciples.

With the “pasabog” (translation: explosive) beauty like Pasabag and all the other equally amazing spots of Turkey, I hope that this country would soon erase (or at least improve) their undesirable image among the Filipinos.  I hope that this country would not remain to be like the monks of Pasabag who chose to be left unknown from the awareness of the itchy-footed Filipino travelling wanderlusts.

Yung makakating paa dyan, seyp po sa Torki!

The Blue Mosque of Instanbul

Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque should not be missed by any tourist in Istanbul.  Set on one side of the magnificent Sultanahmet Square, this vast mosque with high-domed ceiling is accessible to non-worshippers only at certain times of the day.

But don’t let the time of its closure put you off! The beautiful exterior can be considered one engineering marvel.  It is tagged to be one of the most impressive monuments in the world.  And its interior is a beautiful display that exudes peace, harmony and goodwill.

Can’t say much about this place for I was astounded by the massive beauty of the Blue Mosque.  Let me just post numerous photos I took of this majestic world wonder. 

Ang ganda!

Bravura of Hagia Sophia

VoucherCloud, a money-saving app, last year released a world map that identifies each country’s most popular tourist destination based on TripAdvisor’s top-rated “things to do” feature.  Surprisingly and with a bit of disappointment, the stand out for my country, the Philippines, was Kayangan Lake.  But where is that?  I wonder how this lake beat and knocked out world-class destinations like El Nido, Boracay and Bohol.

spectacular especially at night

massive indoor view

impressive minbar, the pulpit where the imam stands to delivers sermons

grand calligraphic panes!

selfie muna

monolithic marble cubes: these massive liquid container is used to distribute juice to the public for holy nights and prayer celebrations

But when I checked Turkey, I was super happy to know that this beautiful country’s top destination was the Hagia Sophia.  Though they seem to be a flop in the Philippines, VoucherCloud and TripAdvisor are so correct with the Turkey result.  I have recently been to Turkey and only a stupid, puny and absurd tourist will miss the majesty, grandeur and beauty of the great Hagia Sophia.

As one of Turkey’s most celebrated landmark, the great Hagia Sophia was a Byzantine church for 916 years. It was later converted into an imperial mosque by a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and stayed as such for 482 years.  Then in 1935, it was transformed into a museum and was later considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It may have a turbulent past but because of its rich and significant historical background, Hagia Sophia easily earns respect from all religions and occupations.

Though every nook and corner of this building seem to have an intense and loud story to tell and despite being the busiest and most visited attraction in Turkey, the Hagia Sophia still maintains its calm and peaceful effect towards its visitors.

I don’t have a tip on how to explore this ancient structure.  The only advice I can give to all those who will be fortunate to visit this top Turkish destination is to breathe, digest and admire the bravura of the rich stories of this spectacular structure.

mother mary with baby jesus in the middle. to the left is emperor john komnenos while to her right is empress irene

theotokos! apse mosaic

lovely dome

ancient deisis mosaic treasure…

at awe!

Nakakamangha!

Touched a Weeping Column and Met a Coequal Villain at Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern as a tourist spot at the tourist-infested Sultanahmet area of Istanbul seem to have always been overshadowed by the more grandeur, more magnificent and more historically ornate Sophia Hagia and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). All these three spots surrounding the Sultanahmet Square are within short walking distances only.

But the Basilica Cistern seem to have always been the last choice that tourists would go to if the 3 places to visit in Sultanahmet would be Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Cistern Basilica.  This is why it dawned in me that it would be smarter to start with the latter before heading to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  Making the Basilica Cistern my first spot to visit would make me avoid the hordes of noisy and annoying tourists who later in the day would flock the underground treasure of a place after their respective visits to both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

still with puffy eyes… need to drag myself from bed…

eerie yet majestic

no wonder Istanbul does not have an underground train system… treasure lies beneath…

My temporary smartness actually paid off.  On the morning I visited, there was actually only one Caucasian and a family of four Chinese tourists inside the cistern.  The rest of the tourists that morning I suppose were at a long queue at the gates of both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Without seeing yet and not yet been overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Istanbul’s icons (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque), I was able to fully grasp, value and appreciate the historical richness and structural splendor of the Basilica Cistern.  I was at awe as soon as my eyes were able to adopt to the underground darkness.

One mini-highlight was the Hen’s Eye column.  It is the only column of the site engraved with what looks like numerous eyes which appears to be weeping as dripping water from the ceiling runs down to this column.  The dripping water has left its mark over the years, turning this specific column into a medley of blue, brown and green hues.  The Hen’s Eye is also known as the weeping column which is said to be engraved in tribute to the thousands of slaves who died during the construction of the cistern.

weeping column

need to touch it

And since I had limited time to read about Basilica Cistern prior to going to Turkey, only when I reached the end of this ancient water reservoir was I surprised to realize that this place houses the head of my co-villain Medusa!  After giving some imaginary greetings and salutations to the giant Medusa heads, I never missed my chance of taking a photo with her.

Now I understand why Dan Brown has chosen this Byzantine-made murky, eerie and creepy expanse as the final site in one of his famous novels.  I truly marveled at the sheer engineering magnificence of creating such an expansive underground cavern below the colorful ancient city of Constantinople (now Istanbul).  I was so thankful that there were few tourists around for I really got to see, smell and digest the beauty and richness of the place.  It made my Medusa and Basilica Cistern visit such a very gratifying and enriching experience.

co-villainous

medusa!

the wicked tandem!

Nagkamustahan bigla kami ng gagang Medusa!

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Capricious Cappadocia

Flying a hot air balloon seem far fetched and was never in my bucket list.  It is because I keep my list achievable, rational and realistic.  Though part of my bucket list is to visit the transcontinental country of Turkey, my flying a hot air balloon in Cappadocia was just in one of the plenty of things to do that I would not regret in case destiny would not let it happen.

And when I stepped on the tarmac of Kayseri Airport (after a domestic flight from Istanbul), I already concluded that flying the hot air balloon would be next to impossible.  It was snowing!

Prior to going to Turkey specifically in Cappadocia, one travel tip I read in various blogs which I realized to be very significant is to book for a hot air balloon ride as soon as you arrived and checked-in in your hotel.  Since hot air balloon ride is synonymous to Cappadocia, I suppose all hotels in Cappadocia has contacts to hot air balloon operators.  A tourist must request/book for the soonest possible day of the ride because not all days in capricious Cappadocia would permit flying because of erratic weather conditions.

And since Cappadocia just experienced the first snow of the upcoming winter, I already gave up the idea that I would be riding the world famous hot air balloon in this part of the planet.  The hotel owner told me that it would be impossible for operators to fly for the next couple of days.  He nevertheless told me that I am booked on the day hot air balloon flying resumes.  On when it is, only the weather knows according to the hotel owner.

But on the last night of my 5 days stay in Cappadocia while I was packing my bags for my return to Istanbul, the hotel owner was knocking on my door to inform me that hot air balloon ride resumes early tomorrow morning.  That I got to be ready at 5:00 AM because a shuttle van will pick me up at the hotel so as to bring me to the site where all the preparations and flying happens.

When I told the hotel owner that I may not be flying anymore because my flight back to Istanbul is tomorrow after lunch, he gleefully told me that all flying happens in the morning and that I will surely be back at the hotel by 10:00 AM.

On the last night of my stay in Cappadocia, I concluded that part of the heavy snow that fell on my first day in Cappadocia must probably be fragments from a lucky star that were sprinkled by the heavens.  I got to ride the hot air balloon! 

When our balloon was landing on the plains of Cappadocia, I have already concluded that riding the hot air balloon was one of the unforgettable highlights of my Turkey journey.  It was so surreal, the exhilarating experience was actually more than achieving and crossing out an entry in my bucket list.

Jusko, jusko, jusko! Salamat!

The Angel at the Love Valley Owns a Phone (Final Part)

I stepped out of the store to look around, but I noticed that it was only me and the man inside who were there in The Love Valley, all the rest of the Chinese tourists has left along with their big van.  Feeling like a captive, I muster the courage to inquire from the man inside if taxi cabs passes by that area of Cappadocia.  He says never.  He relayed in broken English that taxis that goes to the Love Valley are at all times with a passenger who rented the cab to be driven around the sites of Cappadocia the whole day.

the lovely love valley

this suddenly became the tastiest tea ever!

unleashing the power of the selfie stick

With teary eyes, I asked the man if there would be a possibility to call a cab and ask its cab driver to pick me up in The Love Valley.  Without any response, the man then stepped inside the inner confines of his store (for authorized personnel only area I suppose) and when he reappeared, a calling card of a taxi was in his hands.  He then pulled out his mobile phone from his pocket and started pressing the numbers.

When the man ended his conversation in his mobile phone, he told me that a taxi would arrive in about 30 minutes to pick me up and drive me to my hotel.  He then told me that the whole taxi fare was worth 30 liras.  I instantly agreed with the price.  I was actually willing to pay more than that! Hahaha!

The man then told me to sit, sip my tea and patiently wait for the driver.  I instead, walked out and started to see again the beauty and magnificence of The Love Valley.  I took another set of selfies of me with the valley and walked again inside the shop.  I was so happy I wanted to buy all the merchandise inside the store.  I could not control my happy feelings, I told the man that he is such an angel!

While waiting for my cab without any tourist or buyer around, the man and I got to converse.  I learned that his name is Darius, he is a Christian, living by himself in Turkey and hailed from the Muslim country of Iran.  He talked about how he misses his family back in Iran and even relayed how difficult it was to be a Christian there.  And when the taxi cab arrived, I could not control myself but to give Darius a big warm hug!  I whispered to his ear… “You take care and may God bless the people like you” before finally bidding goodbye.

While the cab was moving away from The Love Valley, I was humming Madonna’s 80s song entitled Angel.  And when I was near my hotel only then did I realize that indeed an angel can appear in unexpected ways. And when I entered my hotel, I looked for the owner and thanked him for not letting me book the Red Tour option.  He asked me why but I refused to answer.  I gave him a nice smile and told him I need to get to my room to take some nap.

Yu mast be an eingel… Ay ken si it in yor ays…