Galata, Topkapı & Ortaköy I

were three places we created those friendship memories…


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Spring breeze that night was icier. I was running in hurry on my way back to the hostel with a happy smile on my face. Had to admit that I was so stoked on the day I met Hakan and Saf. It didn’t come to my mind I would meet and became close friends instantly just like that, spent time together till midnight (anything better than ice creams and friend’s laughters to end the day?). Back to where I met them for the first time, Saf was the first person who offered me to join him and Hakan if I had no place to go. I almost said no to Saf yet I kept it in my mind till I remembered something: “while you have no itinerary on this trip, so make it memorable with unpredictable, unplanned, unexpected things!.”

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“Where do you have in mind to spend tomorrow at, Hakan?”


 

Since it was Saf’s first visit in Istanbul, Hakan was his guide if I may say. Key questions about the city went directly to Hakan if we had some. When Hakan mentioned about “boat” on Bosphorus Strait, I won’t say no when he offered me on the second day. If you googled things to do in Istanbul for the first time, boat tour is among the top must do. Before boat tour, Galata Tower was the first place we visited.

We agreed to meet there at 11 in the morning. Hakan said 10am before but I knew we won’t make it cause hello, spent a whole day and ended by walking from Sultan Ahmed till Taksim Square in midnight wasn’t a joke (Istanbul has many uphill alleys, kindly note). I took sometimes earlier before I met them by enjoying a buffet at Parole İstiklal on my way to Galata. I shouldn’t tell you the truth this brekkie scenes more like ‘picture-purpose’ yet I did enjoy Turkish chai in spring. I’m serious.

As much as I enjoyed Istanbul, I tried to take my time to do one of my favourite things when I’m traveling: starting my morning with a cup of cappuccino in a coffee shop. When Hakan sent me a message they would be a bit late, I took my time to linger around to take some pictures and ended with a coffee right in front of Galata Tower. I was about to tease myself spending my Turkish Lira to bring home one of cute vintage table lamp from a small shop (designer’s temptation, classic – full stop). Nevertheless, I didn’t enter when I finally saw Hakan and Saf were walking hurriedly. A bit confused but I understood why it took sometimes for them to arrive at our meeting point. Hakan said, “there were three men behind us when Saf wanted to get a new ring but we didn’t take it” while Saf added after, “so sorry Azis, we didn’t mind to unrespect you by came late”.

I answered, “so let’s get tickets and enjoy Istanbul from above”. 

Surely, with a bright smile on my face cause we would spend a whole day together.





More pictures to come on part II :)

 

Happy Eid Mubarak for those who celebrate! I wonder to celebrate Eid next year in somewhere new. Marrakech perhaps? Or even, Paris? Dreaming is free, right :)

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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 and Safoine, could be one the best happiness I won’t forget on my second day in Istanbul. Sadly, I couldn’t show you our picture we took together here as requested by Hakan. That’s not a big deal right? Saf’s smile you can see below’s such a prove how bright the day we had then.



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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, 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)
  • We took an iPhone selfie (sadly I couldn’t show it here, as requested by WHY Hakan WHY) that was so much better than the 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 our 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 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 our WhatsApp numbers. 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.

 

Istanbul, Prelude


“I flew to Turkey with zero expectation. I mean, it was real zero…”


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Even from two days before my departure, I had no interest to expect much from Turkey. Let me make this simpler, I never put Turkey in my “country-to-visit-before-I-die” list. Tho I used to browse “Turkey for a week” on Google, and learned about their currency, some greetings in Turkish, but truly I wasn’t that excited to be honest.

So, how did it start?

On January this year, I finally got an agreement with the company for two weeks casual leave. It should be on February and ended by mid April (cause something happened in between, rggh). I had a fickle heart during that time to decide where to go and almost cancelled the trip. I should be over the moon right? but for some reasons I wasn’t keen to travel. Lurking at the air fare was one of the reason, too. This is why I always envy with my friends that live in Europe, where they just need to take a train for two to three hours and “greeting from Berlin!” will be on my iPhone screen like Andreas did. Or like my Ukrainian friend that I met in Istanbul (I’ll share about him on separate post) that told me he just paid around $200 for return ticket from Kiev. Flying abroad from here with only $200? FORGET IT. Airfare from and to Africa continent is always crazy. Don’t gasp if I tell you how much I paid my one way ticket from Jakarta to Lagos last year. It was $1700. Return could be cheaper but hey, it could be as close as $2800-$3000. INSANE. I was thinking I could even pass Istanbul on my way back to Indonesia when I have my annual leave. I did check the airfare for multi-city and it was reasonable. But my boss said “Azis, stick with your schedule. You need to rest. You are going to Turkey right?, just go.” 

I thought about it twice. Morocco came in between.

K, I never tell you that the agreement was included half of my ticket would be paid by the company. $883 divided into two, I paid half. It was still high right? it was! but if I didn’t take that opportunity and kept thinking about my travel cost, I would not have those beautiful moments and memories and pics for this blog :). Oh please note, that airfare wasn’t even direct flight to Istanbul. I had to transit in Cairo for 6 boring hours via EgyptAir. Not to underestimate Egypt but my flight via EgyptAir was the worst international flight I’ve experienced. How could I be on the air for almost 6 hours without even a small screen with movies or songs right in front of my seat? I don’t recommend at all :). My next flight from Cairo to Istanbul was so much better via Turkish Airlines although it was only 2 hours, but everything was good (not to mention how I enjoyed that warm sandwich with mozzarella, tomato and mushroom when I was starving by 5am!).

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“My friend, Andreas, used to say to me that traveling will give us more stories.

He’s hundred percent true


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My trip to Turkey was full of stories.

Right after I got my e-ticket, I applied the e-Visa. I used to read how easy to apply online but in my case, I found some gravels. I had to try three times here. The first try was almost done till I found that I couldn’t do the next step: payment. It was stated then that I couldn’t get the visa in this city. I found it strange till I had to read the same case on TripAdvisor forum. When my departure date was getting closer and closer, I became a bit anxious. I had to contact Turkey Embassy in the capital city but got a bit confused with dual languages on the phone. I tried to contact the Turkey Consulate General here in Lagos but no response. Till I saw one phone number people suggested on Google under Turkey Embassy so I made a call. When I was on the phone I knew it was fraud. I did explain what my visa issue was to him and he answered that the website was having a problem that moment. He told me I could get the visa from the Turkey Consulate after I sent a copy of my passport and made a payment for N 125K. Excusez-moi, that was more than $200 while the official e-Visa fee is $25! I finally got the visa after I got the additional link the Turkey Embassy sent to my email.

Another story I had when I arrived a bit late in the airport after I had to pass one bank to collect my debit cards, then went to the office to drop my hand-over notes, then traffic jam. Tho I had checked online, arrived late in the airport for international flight would give you butterflies in your stomach. I had annoying moment when I was at the passport checking point. There were two EgyptAir staffs that checked my travel docs. One lady with a very bitter no-smile face and one man who held me for more than 30 minutes. The man held my passport and asked why I only had e-Visa without OECD? I said, “Excusez-moi? what the hell is OECD?” I didn’t say what the hell but my voice tone was similar with that. I never heard about OECD before and he asked me the same question with force and one book in his hand. I looked at the book when he was re checking my e-Visa and found that “OMG! why you have to check all those countries list on that manual book and force me for OECD, there is internet in 2017 you know!”. I spent almost 40 minutes waiting for him till I had no patient and spoke to him like “I’m Indonesian passport holder. I just need e-Visa to Turkey. And I travel only for vacation, please look at this”. And he gave my passport back after I showed him one article on my iPhone, gosh that was nonsensical nonsense.

I’ll continue sharing stories from this trip on the next post. Let me refresh you with some photographs from Istanbul after my too-long prelude :P

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