One Of The Best Morning I Ever Had

indeed…


If there is one thing that makes me hate my very best friend, Andreas Knogler, is when he greets me from somewhere new in Europe. He did it few times. From Denmark, Greece, Germany, Romania, Slovenia, and the last one was from Croatia. Next, will be from Kosovo (oh wait, he’s in Croatia again today!). Do I really hate him? Yes, I do. No, I’m kidding. Yes, I’m sure I do. No wait, envious? I think that is the word.

When I made a joke that Andreas will always be a winner comparing his travel history with mine, he laughed “my geographical location is better Azis, so it doesn’t count”. For me, it counts! So when I had an opportunity to runaway from hectic and crazy Lagos and flew to Turkey, I already thought I should “greeting from Istanbul, Andreas!” to get one score. Tho I’m still far away behind his score, I always find interesting every time we share our travel stories.

The time I was stoked sending a short video to Andreas when I was at the downtown in Cappadocia. He replied me that his dad, onkel Knogler, was there last year and enjoyed it so much. I must agree with the fact that it is hard not to enjoy a dazzling place like Cappadocia. Even by writing this sentence makes me dream to enjoy Cappadocia one more time!

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“I was on the phone with Andreas just few minutes before I ended my day. Few hours before I had to wake up at 3.30am”


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On day one when I arrived at my hotel, the lady in the reception told me that perhaps the balloon flight on my schedule might be cancelled. She wasn’t sure but the pilot had announced the chance to fly was 70%. “But I had checked on forecast that tomorrow will be sunnier than today” I said. “It depends on the wind, but he’s not sure. We will let you know in the evening if it cancel or not” she smiled. No worries, Azis came with no expectation, huh? so he shouldn’t be disappointed if he couldn’t finally be on the hot air balloon.

I woke up very early tho I wasn’t ready to leave my bed (you know why, soft bed, thick white blanket, and cool morning). I stood under the shower very quickly, prayed, and sat on the couch in the reception before 4.30am. It was silent, no one there but a receptionist. “Am I late?”, he answered with smile, “No, don’t worry, 10 minutes before your pick up time”

The shuttle bus arrived. I sat nicely inside with few travelers on the same purpose heading to a place where we took light breakfast. Inside the room, there were so many people ready for an exciting experience. Most of them were dressed super stylish like as if they were ready having pictures of themselves with the best possible appearance. I sat down with a cup of hot tea, few cheeses, strawberries, a slice of bread, and light conversation with a solo female traveler from Colombia. She was in Turkey only for 3 days, didn’t know that she had to reserve in a prior to the balloon flight. She looked a bit dissatisfied yet I could see how excited she was for 73 days ahead exploring Europe.

Thirty minutes after breakfast time, I stood in front of some balloons with an exciting feeling, also my dread to be up there.




When I was enjoying Istanbul from above in Galata Tower with Hakan and Saf, I was worried how would it feel inside the basket for my balloon flight. I mean, Galata Tower just about 206 feet high huh, and I was a bit terrified when breeze was blowing. I don’t have acrophobia, but wondering myself inside the basket and way up, up there, I was scared shitless. If you never or you’re planning to experience hot air balloon, there’s nothing you need to worry about cause the pilot is experience and certificated.

When the balloon starts go up and up, you’ll definitely enjoy the view like nowhere else. I was on cloud nine when we were up. It wasn’t scary at all. Admiring the stunning landscape of Cappadocia from hot air balloon just before the edge of the sun appears over the horizon in the morning was unbelievable.

I had never imagined I would have an opportunity to experience it by myself this year. I had never imagined I did it, went up there to feel, to see and to remember, one of the best morning in my life. In Cappadocia.



“I’m not a travel blogger you guys know :), but I could share some tips if you’re planning to experience this by yourself…”


  • Trust me, tho it’s not that cheap, it is worth it for a life time experience (yes, Cappadocia balloon flight is among top 3 in the world). I guess your trip to Cappadocia wouldn’t be accomplished without hot air ballooning :)
  • It’s way much better to reserve your schedule days before and it is also important to check the weather on forecast. As mentioned above, the flight depends on the wind. I picked my date when it was sunny, I mean, if the day is clear it should be safer than cloudy day right?
  • When you have date for your stay in Cappadocia and hot air balloon is in your bucket list, prepare minimum three days including your arrival. In case your schedule is being cancelled, you’ll have a chance to fly on the next day. Before I checked out on my last day, I heard a convo between two Asian ladies and the receptionist. They were disappointed cause their flight was cancelled. I was lucky everything went well :)
  • You’ll be so passionate to take million of pictures when you are up there with your camera, that’s okay, but give time for yourself to enjoy the moment. Photograph captures a moment that’s gone forever I know, but when you are up there, drop the camera, close your eyes for seconds, take a deep breath, open your eyes widely and capture the real moment in your mind. Trust me, you’ll remember all the moment too well
  • Dress moderately but clever, you must prepare that up there could be colder. I wore a tee, a sweater and a jacket to make me warm yet still comfortable :)
  • Listen to the pilot’s instruction for your own safety, they’ll brief you do’s and don’t’s before we’ll fly. A little practice for landing is one of the important thing you must do. My flight was 100 percent smooth, I did not have to do what I practiced after the basket landed on the ground
  • Don’t forget to be grateful if you have an opportunity to experience this by yourself :) 

Day Five, Cappadocia


“I guess for everyone who has been to Cappadocia will agree with me, Cappadocia is something else.”


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Since I travelled with no expectation from my very first day, I had no regret if there was place/something I couldn’t visit or achieve in Turkey. It could be different when you have high expectation about a place and in the end you will say, “this is not what I had in mind”. If you haven’t been to or you are planning to visit Turkey, I must tell you this: Turkey is stunning. Turkey is a dazzling country. I mean it.

I landed at Kayseri Erkilet Airport in the afternoon with a stunning view of Mount Erciyes Dağı right after my arrival. On my fifth day in Turkey, Kayseri welcomed me with a warmer spring breeze and brighter sky, just exactly what I checked on forecast a week before I flew to Istanbul. Since I had a complete travel package that time, it was easier for the pick up from the airport to my hotel. Everything was arranged smoothly. I had a pleasant conversation with the shuttle bus driver, Mr Umar, who speaks English fluently. Lucky enough, I was the only passenger inside the bus. It made me felt like a private guest how would I felt if our ride were an open roof Mercedes (stop dreaming!). Gazining the beautiful landscape of Kayseri inside a clean shuttle bus with a wide clear window glass was exhilarating. When I was almost arrived at my hotel and finally saw those cone-shaped rock formations and fairy chimneys with my naked eyes, I felt confident Cappadocia would leave something special in my heart.

I didn’t explore much on my first day in Cappadocia. Just mingling around from where I stayed, took pictures as many as I could, was also a bit anxious when I starved in the late afternoon but happy in the end cause I found the way to the downtown. I closed my first day in Cappadocia with happy tummy and tempted eyes (textures and colors in Turkey such a heaven for a creative person like me!).

Still have many pictures how stunning this place was. More to come!



Oh, should I mention here how I was so snuffy with my very good friend, Hakan, when he sent me a phenomenal -at least that’s what I call it with Saf- video of him eating croissants with Saf when I was starving that noon? No, don’t worry, it’s a humbug :) I do love Hakan and Saf anyway, how could I upset -with Saf’s annoying laughter yes!- kinda happy with a video I keep in my iPhone that makes me smile again and again.

I can’t wait to continue this post, how I enjoyed two days in Istanbul with Hakan and Saf started from Galata Tower!

Nuriev From Kiev

Talking about traveling, I have one dream I really wish it would be happened anytime soon: exploring Europe by road with my very best friend, Ruli. Renting an old Fiat for three months, start the slow journey from Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, till stop for a month in one of our dream destination in Italy, Tuscany. Staying in a country side and living like locals. It won’t be bad if we could enjoy the end of our trip with something a bit fancier. Doing nothing with a thick wallet in Santorini could be the perfect ending. Man, dunno when that will happen yet just imagining this dream could make me smile ear to ear for a whole day. 

Okay, back to REALITY.

There is one thing I have always loved from traveling is the people I meet along the way. Lucky me, most fellow travellers have become my friends for life. It is amazing every time I meet random people in another part of the world and feel connected after all. A fellow traveler from Kiev, is one of my new friend I would remember from my recent trip.

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“Hey, are you OK? Did you drink too much last night?”


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A question I heard right after I opened my eyes. I dropped my head on the pillow without an answer. My head was a bit dizzy from a horrible night when Hasan and I left the police station after 1am. Three minutes later I wrote, “so sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. I’m Azis, from Indonesia. I just lost my wallet last night.” on my iPhone. I went straight to the restroom to upchuck a wave of nausea and left my iPhone in his hand. I came back to our room that has four beds, it wasn’t that spacious yet I felt more comfortable than my previous hostel. I introduced myself to Deniz, a fellow traveler from Ukraine.

My mind wasn’t clear enough looking for solutions how I would survive in Istanbul. My mind was divided into two. Staying in hostel for a day or went outside to soothe my mind with camera in hand. Both options would have some of TL100 Hasan lent me for food. While I was looking for solutions, Deniz tucked himself with a thick white blanket, “I think I’ll sleep for two hours”. 

When I looked at him I said to myself, “I wish I could also tuck my body after I bathed, took a nap few hours and went for a proper lunch, with few new Zara after, that’s how I should enjoy my last two days here. It’s pesky I know”. Otherwise, I was busy thinking how I could get at least $150 till I left Turkey the next day. Deniz was still awoke with his smart phone in his hand. He didn’t close his eyes for napping yet busy browsing some infos how to transfer money to Ukranian bank. He showed me his card and laughed, “there’s no money here, Azis”. I laughed, too.

I had blocked all my cards last night so the only way to transfer money from my account was using token. And had no one with me, suck, sigh. I was busy contacting one of my good friend in Lagos a whole day to send me money, but I knew Lagos is funny (and in the end was zero, poor her). I didn’t give up till I finally got $160 from my colleague when she was in New Jersey, US. Stupid me, I gave Hasan’s details to her when she sent thru WU, it meant the final answer to get the money was meeting Hasan, ugh.

 


“I just want to grab a beer and breathe fresh air, wanna come along?”


 

Deniz was looking so fresh after he took a bath. I felt like, “damn why I had to stay a whole day in this room and tomorrow I’ll say bye to Turkey?”. I looked at Deniz and said “so sorry because of me you couldn’t even take a nap, but hey I don’t mind for a cold vodka”. Sure, the last sentence was a jest since I don’t drink (I promise).

I followed Deniz outside. That day was a pretty day in spring. We were walking around İstiklal Avenue, the weather was cool, the crowd was the same. Deniz offered me something to eat and I couldn’t lie anymore that I was starving. I said I didn’t mind for a cheap kebab, I laughed. Most affordable street food in Istanbul is delicious. With only TL100 I had no choice to be fancy. Deniz took me to a food stall near our hostel that sell döner kebap and friends.

We sat outside with warm wraps on the table. He had ayran while I had coke. Deniz was laughing when I said that I didn’t drink coke but it was an exception for that day. Not because he paid the bill, yet what I wanted was enjoying every second, every single thing I had in Istanbul. We had a very warm random conversation, about our dads, what we wanted to be in the next 5 years, when the first time we drank (he laughed again for this), and what we wanted to do if we are in Amsterdam one day.

“Why you love photographing food like that? Come on, eat”, he said. “I’ll remember this wrap in the next few years when I look at the picture you know”, I responded. 

After our quick-lunch, Deniz took me to one small cafe for Turkish coffee after I mentioned Starbucks (why Starbucks when Turkey has fantastic coffee, he said). We sat inside since the spring breeze was colder in the afternoon. We continued our random conversation from why I interested in interior design and would like to capture buildings in Amsterdam (Deniz shooked his head for this), why he studied obstetrics and gynaecology at Bogomolets National Medical University, how busy he is with his internship in Kiev, till when he started playing violin, saxophone, and piano.

 

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We went back to our hostel when he had to prepare his next trip with his uncle who lives in Istanbul. We said goodbye after I asked for some photos of him, few thank you’s for the wrap, the coffee, plus two cigarettes I took when I accompanied him smoking in front of our hostel (believe me, I don’t smoke and can’t live with smoker, but smoking in a cold day in spring could make you warmer, Deniz taught me how to smoke right).

Deniz was leaving when his uncle was arriving, and I kinda happy could hug him to say bye for a very short meeting with a friendship left behind.

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“I think Deniz really had no clue what he did was meant for someone who only had $30 for the last two days of vacation”


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Hey Deniz, if you read this post, let me make confession here. Do you remember when I slow down my steps in front of one market where fresh strawberries and blueberries were neatly displayed? And you were asking me, “do you want that?” and I said, “don’t worry, I’m fine.”?

I was lying to you that afternoon, lol. I was really, really wanted to taste those berries in spring where the weather was cool. I think it’s just my nature that I can’t ask too much when someone already helped without I even asked. You used to reply my message “forget it” when I said thanks again for that day.

Dear Deniz, what you did to me was more than enough, and it taught me one thing: sharing is a good thing, indeed. We don’t need to be rich to share something, it could be the real meaning of being rich when we do it wholeheartedly, unconditionally.

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спасибі за доброту Йора.

See you in Kiev.

And The Rest Was Such A Long-time Friendship

 

..was one of the best day I had in Turkey.


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One of the lesson I learned from my trip to Tokyo and Kyoto last year was simple: give yourself time to sit down at one corner, feel the ambiance and surrounding, breathe easy, and forget about destination. As mentioned that I had no itinerary when I was in Turkey, it gave me more spaces and options how I could enjoy my day. On my first day in hostel, I took an hour to do a small research and decided where was the best place to visit the day after.

Day two was when I headed to Sultanahmed area. I sat on the bench and enjoyed the view of the park in front of Hagia Sofia before strolling around Sirkeci, Grand Bazaar, and an afternoon treat at Hafidz Mustafa. I headed back to Hagia Sofia (though I didn’t enter cause I read the best time to visit is 9am) but I entered to one of the most beautiful sacred place nearby, instead.

There, I found some magical moments. The echo of call prayer from the mosque was magical. The architecture of the mosque was magical. And the thing I loved the most that day was an accidental friendship I found inside the mosque. I honestly love unpredictable moment just jumped up like that while I traveled. Magnifique, as French says.



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“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”


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I’m pretty sure you guys know the sentence above is one of the basic rules in life. If you do not ask for something, you’ll always have no as an answer. That exactly what I had in mind when I was inside Sultan Ahmed mosque.

Right after Asr prayer, I was still admiring the beauty of the mosque with a camera in my hand, typical tourist. Taking some pictures while my mind thought about every details on those fascinating domes. Five minutes after, I dropped my camera and what I wanted to do was recording the moment in my brain till there was a whisper knocked my mind, “take one with yourself in the picture.” 

If you ask me, I’m more like BTS person when I’m traveling. I do prefer to photograph the objects/people than seeing myself in the picture. But I said like, “come on, you are in Turkey, just do what you want to do. Having one with yourself in isn’t a bad idea, nah? even just one.”  I stood from the floor after I saw a gentleman stood too. The whisper was sounded louder than before,“if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”

I had a fickle heart to ask to someone who I saw was busy taking picture. I bet you will think the same like what I thought then. If you are a solo traveler, you’ll prefer to ask somebody who looks like traveling alone. When I saw Safoine stood with his smart phone, I asked him if he could help me with my camera. The first time I gave my camera, he handed over to a gentleman that was standing in front of us, which I later knew his name is Hakan. Saf said Hakan could take photograph better. I offered them to have some photos from my camera after Hakan took myself twice. After that moment, we introduced ourselves. I never felt such a welcome acquaintance like what I had with Hakan and Saf before. It was warm, gracious, and genuine.

We left the mosque together and headed to somewhere near Galata bridge for sunset, with interesting conversations in between. Enjoying the late afternoon just before the golden hour will always be one of my happiness. And enjoying it with a view of Bosphorus strait, cool spring breeze, shrieking seagulls, and two new pleasant friends like Hakan Akansel and Safoine Adel, could be one the best happiness I won’t forget on my second day in Istanbul. Don’t judge me if I had to take some photos of them that day cause everything was so perfect.



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Thank you to the internet nowadays for making everything easier. I connected to Hakan after we exchanged our WhatsApp numbers before he and Saf went back to their hotel. We met again for a dinner at Mom’s Corner Istanbul as suggested by Hakan (he’s Turkish by blood and a real foodie anyway, so we just need to follow him for the best places in Istanbul). A cozy beautiful evening at a restaurant with strong elements, authentic Turkish food, a warm conversation with InstaStories plus Snapchats and our new friendship.

We were walking to İstiklal Avenue after dinner (gosh, it was such an exercise walking on uphill road in the evening!), passed Galata Tower, took scopes of ice cream and ended by chilling at Taksim Square.

I want to share some fun facts on my second day :)

  • I had 4 different interviews kind-of from some pupils around Hagia Sofia. They were having an English assignment and had to find somebody who could be asked some questions in English and recorded. The last one was when they stopped me, Hakan and Saf with the same purpose. Kinda funny yet interesting
  • I have to admit that most time I could be so garish when I meet someone new. When Hakan and Saf said they landed in the morning on the same day we met, flew from Paris, and they speak French, I said “I hate you guys”. Excusez-moi, call me garish and I don’t care
  • It was so fun I could record our dinner scene and posted on my Instagram Stories that day, I felt so cool you know :D (this is beyond garish I know)
  • An iPhone selfie we took together above was the better photo than the one Bangladesh man took from my camera. I did wish he could take the photo perfectly but a picture of myself with closed eyes was like “WHYYY?”
  • Hakan is so much better taking selfie photo rather than me. Most time I always shake holding an iPhone for a selfie
  • I just knew that croissant means crescent moon in English. I heard Hakan said “our meeting point is where that croissant is”, when he pointed the moon shape on one Turkish flag. I thought Hakan was jested for a real “croissant” after I told him and Saf that I’m a croissant lover
  • I met with Ali Murad, originally from Cyprus that works and lives in Qatar when I was waiting for Hakan & Saf before we went for a dinner. He was on a business trip in Istanbul and asked me if I could join him to the club in Taksim. I told him that I had an appointment with Hakan and Saf, he said “you can ask them to join later” ((oops! maybe next time Ali! :P three of us do not drink!). We became friends after exchanged WhatsApp number, the last time I spoke with him on the phone when he heard that I lost my wallet in Istanbul

 

Next post is when I thought was one of the most memorable day I had with still, Hakan and Saf.

 

Reflection: Save Myself

May is when I become anxious. Tho this sounds crazy, but become older is hideous for me. Hope I don’t have gerascophobia.

But this year, I’ve tried to accept the fact that age is just a matter of number (I think I’m trying to write falsity here). Perhaps, I always feel that I’m not that young to do THIS and THAT. Perhaps, I feel that I should do THIS and THAT earlier like years back. I should had attended a French class when I was 14. I should had travelled outside country when I was 16. I should had gotten my scholarship in Germany right after high school. I should had more stamps from Schengen countries on my passport when I was 23. I should had been married at 26. I should and other 100 shoulds. And here I am, standing at the age near two numbers that I always anxious about.

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“But again, life has no blueprint right?”


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Right now I’m not trying to write falsity. This year I feel I should be wiser to myself. I should be tougher enough to face this world than before. My personal reflection this year after my birthday three days ago is the title of this post: Save Myself. If you are wondering why I pick that, please listen to this (I could listen 100x a day, I’m serious). If I have to write a statement of mine inspired by that genius song it would be

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“Sometimes in this life, we are too busy giving attentions to people we love or hate and forget how we should love ourself. It could be so exhausting if we did not realise how much we’ve ever given too much to people. Some of them would remember things you did. Most of them might be, would take it as granted. I didn’t say that we should not love or save someone else. It just reminds me on how it could be detrimental when we gave too much to other people or felt taken advantage of.

We really need to be wise when we want to save someone else, select the essential ones and do it full hearted


Having few best friends that born on May give some sparks of happiness on me. Sending them wishes, birthday cakes and bad jokes in between, tho I’m living billion miles away like this, I always find it exciting. And also I want to thank to most of them that sent me beautiful wishes (almost shed a tear when I put on my internet back after worked day and night on 11!). From genk Sogeh, Mb Ika & Ita, Mb Ririn, Ayos, Shohib, Atre, Yuriko, Rifda, Ms Andhi, Judith from Spain (you’re too kind!), a voice message Andreas sent straight from Ljubljana, Teppo from Oulu, and some dropped on my Facebook wall. I grew up with no birthday celebrations (tho I do love to celebrate others!) but I got a wallet to replace the stolen one, maybe I could count him as a birthday gift for myself :).

That Spring Breeze, In Istanbul

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“Perhaps, traveling with no itinerary is the best travel style”


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To be honest, I’m not that good doing a travel research. Though I do love reading travel stories from other travelers or bloggers, but I’m not that thorough concerning a destination. I always try to take notes for some key informations such as how to get there, do and don’t till exchange rates. My trip to Turkey wasn’t like my trip to Japan last year when most of my needs had been sorted before I even flew. This one was more like “let’s find the way when you are there”. Also, I had no itinerary except in Cappadocia for the balloon ride. So, basically my recent trip was like “I’m ready for any surprises”.

Arrived on Friday morning at Atatürk Airport, I headed straight to Taksim. Metro in Istanbul isn’t as complicated as Tokyo, and that’s a good news. Flying to Turkey with zero expectation reminded me of something:

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“Though I wasn’t full of the joys of spring even when I landed, but stood inside the train and found myself in somewhere I haven’t been to, was surreal”


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I was still wondering what Turkey has that could surprise me when I was standing inside the train. Yet I felt a feeling I’d missed that sparkled immediately. That feeling when you were inside the train and you could see difference faces and styles you’ve never seen before, and probably it was my wanderlust.

I did arrive around 11am at my hostel called #bunk, received a warm welcome and informative tips from Olga, a Russian lady that works in the front desk. She asked me, “your first time in Istanbul?”, “yep, zero expectation. Let’s see what will I experience here” I replied. “You’ll love it, Azis”, Olga convinced me with a sweet smile on her face.

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I didn’t start sightseeing on my very first day in Istanbul, I only looked the nearest mosque for Friday prayer, took lunch with my first Turkish dishes (that always look tantalising from the glass window), went back to hostel for napping, and relaxing in Taksim Square in the evening (when I realised evening in spring was so cold).

I went places on my second day. I started my mood right. I setted a bright smile on my face, listened to fav songs from my iPhone, and walked along to Taksim station. Before I went down to the station, I stopped my steps in front of Monumento a la República. I could vividly remember what I did. I stared to the sky, it was so clear and blue. I breathed easy and let the spring breeze and bright sunshine that morning kissed my face. I said to myself “I think I love spring”.

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“Day two could be one of the most beautiful day on my trip”


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First, I really enjoyed my morning in the tram heading to Sultanahmed district. Sitting in front of a Turkish lady that speaks English very well who kind enough giving me some travel trips while accompanying a friend from States. I will always love a simply moment like that, sitting by the window in a sunny yet cool morning, seeing random faces, gazening out to the unusual morning scene, and heading to somewhere new.

Second, giving myself “me-time” by sitting at Hafiz Mustafa in the afternoon after strolling around Sultanahmed district. There was nothing better by sitting by the window upstairs with a slice of pretty cake and a cup of hot Turkish tea while spring breeze was still cool.

And the last thing that made my second day in Istanbul beautiful was an accidental friendship with a very friendly and welcome des amis français in the Blue Mosque. Perhaps that could be the real meaning of the joys of spring for me.

Will share how it happened on the next post.

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