Sunday, December 23, 2012

World Travel 2012-Istanbul-Turkey (Part 1)

Istanbul has always been in my "to-do" list, and when the opportunity arrived last June for my annual long-distance travel plan, I did not hesitate to make this city as one of the intended destination. And the time couldn't be more appropriate as when me and my friends were researching for flight deals, Malaysia Airlines was having their global sale, and we've got ourselves tickets to Istanbul at bargain price.

I always have the notion that once you've got this far out of the country, it's better to venture a bit further out as you may not have the opportunity or money to do it next time.Thus, by referring to the world map and also comparing flight ticket prices, we also included a visit to Amsterdam and Athens in our travel planner.

My flights and travel plan can be summarized as follows:

KUL-IST: Malaysia Airlines
IST-AMS: Transavia
AMS-ATH: Transavia
ATH-IST:Turkish Airlines
IST-KUL: Malaysia Airlines

This first and the second parts of my blog entries will cover our point of arrival-Istanbul.

Our flight departed from Kuala Lumpur well pass 1 am, and it was a full flight, with many leisure travelers following group tours. After a flight time of 10 hours 15 minutes, we finally arrived at Attaturk International Airport Istanbul, or "Attaturk Havalimani" as they called it in Turkish language.

We were welcomed with Istanbul cool morning breeze of 21 celcius and made our way to our hotel, located in the Sultanahmet area. This can be considered as the hotspot for travelers as most of the main attractions such as Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque is located in this area, and within walking distance.


beautiful classic Turkish designs

There are many choices of accommodation here from budget to luxury type. We put up at the Sultan's Eye Comfort Hotel-a modest accommodation and cheap. The triple room comes with breakfast.

As we arrived in Istanbul way before the check in time, and the room was not readied, we had to leave our bags at the lobby and spend our time venturing the surrounding area. This was quite unpleasant as after a long flight, the first thing that i wanted to do was to freshen up with shower and to have some rest...but that was not the case then.

In semi jet-lagged condition, and in the same clothes worn for the past 12 hours, we made our way around the localities waiting for our check in time.

Fortunately though-as i mentioned earlier, this was really a hotspot as there are many attractions within walking distance. And the Istanbul Port and the coastal area is just down the hill, where we spent some of our time at a seaside restaurant there.

Few metres from our hotel, we arrived at a bazaar area, at the gate of the Blue Mosque. As it was still early in the morning, most of the shops were still closed.

Colourful houses

We walked further up to the garden and courtyard surrounding the Blue Mosque. Here you can really appreciate the careful and detailed planning of the Ottoman Empire's architect whereby they have made the Blue Mosque as the central building and the other buildings were made to surround the same. Thus, it was easy for us to navigate around by just making the Blue Mosque as our point of directions.

 Old Building

an obilisk..far from its home

Then we entered the Blue Mosque area via its main gate. There were a few entrances to this mosque but the main entrance is the grandest and offered you magnificent frontal view of the mosque.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque or better known as the "Blue Mosque" was built by Sultan Ahmet 1. The reference "blue mosque" was made with regard to the blue tiles adorning its facades. Take note as well that the many minarets of Turkish mosques reflect the status of its builder, whereby for this mosque, there are 6 minarets altogether for it being built by the Sultan. Mosque built by commoner may only have/be allowed to have 1 minaret.

some Turkish cats lazying around

Our first day was spent on our own, walking around without any definite destinations. The next day we have booked ourselves on hop-on-hop off tour bus which we booked earlier via Viator's website. This tour bus was a really easy and affordable way to get around as it will pass through all the "must see" places of the city and you can opt either to alight the bus or continue your journey to the next stop of your desire-it's a kind of combination of back-packing style with guided tour. It will also saves you time as you dont have to wander around directionless to find your intended destinations.

The tour bus pick up point was at the vicinity of Haghia Sophia, a stone-throw away from our hotel. Thus we decided to visit the Haghia Sophia first.

Just one word to define this historical monument....spectacular. From the sheer size of the structure to the ornate tilings and chandeliers, this monument really speaks out about its grand historical background and also the different designs concepts between the Byzantine empire and the Ottoman.

It was built as a cathedral. Later under the Ottoman ruling it was converted to a mosque and lastly under the secular government-a museum, for which it remains as such nowadays.

There were so many interesting and beautiful sights of this buildings which can be captured, thus ill let the pictures do the talking.

External view........

Ground floor......

Then we walked up the slippery marble stairs to the upper floor. From here you can really appreciate the massive structure of this building.

A visit to Haghia Sophia was really the highlight of the day-and needless to say that it was really worth it. I truly thankful that i finally saw this beautiful building before my naked eye and to walk and explore the within was such a surreal experience. I really hoped that i could spend more time there but we have full itineraries planned for our 3 days 2 nights stay in Istanbul, thus have to move on to the next attractions.

I will write more about my Istanbul odyssey in Part 2 and more exciting places to be featured, one of it being the Grand Bazaar. Cheers-Kay 2012


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