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Turkey 12 May to 25 May 2013

2013-05-19 18.35.11I have always wanted to visit Turkey.  Hence I did a lot of research and readings before our trip from 12 May to 25 May 2013.  Family of three were excited and so with a little trepidation on my part, we went.  Why ?    Read so much about pickpockets and small theft.  Well, after my trip, I can say Istanbul is a very safe place.  I had no fear even walking late in the night.

This is a summary of our travel which I hope it can help those planning their holidays. We did our tour independently  and enjoyed every minute of it.   I have derived much info and help from the various travel forums that it is the time for me to pay back.

    

 itinerary2  Itinerary
We flew to Istanbul for 3 nights – took a bus to Canakkale for 2 nights – took a bus to Selcuk for 4 nights – flew back to Istanbul to stay for 4 nights before going home.
 singapore_airlines_html  Air travel
Fly Singapore Airlines from Singapore(where we live) direct to Istanbul in a very early flight at 0140 hours.  About 11 hours flight.
Return flight was 1330 hours.  Quite a good experience with lot of food served.  However seat at economy was a little cramped.
 transport  Transport
It is very easy to travel in Istanbul.  We used mainly the tram for our transport.  The cost was 3TL  (jeton) per tram ride.   Never once did we use the taxi. 
From Ataturk airport, we took the Metro train for Aksaray – got out at the sixth stop Zeythinburnu – took another tram that marked Eminou or Kabatas to the 16th stop Sultanhamet where our guesthouse was.
 lira_symbol-125  Money changer
It is very convenient to change Turkish Lira .  The rate in airport was not too attractive.  Back home, the rate was even worse.  Quite a few money changers in the Sultanhamet area.  However, I found the rate there was not as good as I had changed in Grand Bazaar.  By chance, I also found good rate in the Spice Bazaar.   US dollar and euro are most favoured currencies.   I changed US$ for daily usage and  paid the guesthouse in €.  US$/Turkish Liras ( I changed in Istanbul)
Date                      Rate       Where
12/5/13                1.75        Sultanhamet area13/5/13                1.805     Grand Bazaar14/5/13                1.812     Spice Bazaar21/5/13                1.837     Near Grand Bazaar
 red-umbrella-icon  Weather
Was very surprised that it is was very sunny in Istanbul.  Luckily, it was not too humid.  However, it was cold in the morning and night time.  During this time, the day was very long.  Even at 8pm, it was still quite bright.
In Selcuk, it was even hotter.

 merhaba

Language
Basically, Engish is not widely spoken here.  No problem in the hotel or travel service environment.  It is good to learn some common Turkish words.  Learning the numbers in Turkish proved to be quite useful as I realized.

 
 turk_people  Turkish People
Generally, I find the people are friendly and helpful.  However, I had met some who were too helpful.  I knew there was a hidden agenda beneath that smiling face.   Below were some kind encounters:
While trying to ascertain which side of the train station, one kind gentleman just informed us the correct
train station without being asked.
Once we took the dolmus from Selcuk to Izmir octogar.  However, this dolmus did not go to the destination we wanted.  We were lost.  Fortunately, the lady passenger who luckily could speak E nglish helped us to flag another dolmus to the right destination.
While buying some almond nuts from a street vendor in Grand Bazaar, I mistakenly gave a 20 euro note instead of 20 TL note.  He looked puzzled and returned to me.  Later, I realized my mistake.  Thank you for your honesty.  I was impressed.
We were walking along a bakery shop and the aroma of baguette was so good.  One of bakers waved to us and signaled us to come in to the shop.  Suddenly, he just handed one fresh and hot baguette to me.  I gestured to him half would do.  No, took whole, he gestured.  Despite our language barrier, it was a kind deed from a stranger.  Somehow, I could not help feeling the baguette tasted extra nice.
 food  Food
Judging from the breakfasts we had in the guesthouses we stayed, I can only say bread is the ubiquitous item on the table.   Every meal we had, there was bread.  Salad is also served frequently.  Kebab is also sold almost every where.  The fusion of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines has a great influence on Turkish food.
Seafood seems to be rare except for fish.  We loved to have our food where the locals ate.  One banana cost 1 TL.  One bottle of 1.5litre mineral water sold at 1.5TL in Sultanhamet area.  One grilled fish bought around Grand Bazaar was 6TL.  If we had it in the restaurant, perhaps it would double the price or more.
The ever present cay where the Turks love is sold everywhere.  I loved it too. 
Preserved apicots and figs we bought from  Spice Bazaar were fresh and reasonably priced.  I also loved the almonds and cashew nuts.
 accomm_icon  Guesthouses we stayed
 I selected Sultanhamet area to stay because of its proximity to various attractions and ease of travel.

Marmara Guesthouse (Istanbul)
Lovely family-run guesthouse which is at 10 minutes walk from Sultanhamet tram station.  Quite difficult to find.  With help from the friendly people, we managed to locate it.  85 € for triple sharing (ensuite) with breakfast.  Breakfast at rooftop terrace was a nice experience with great view.

Berk Guesthouse (Istanbul)
Another guesthouse of the many in the Sultanhamet area.  However, we were quite disappointed here.  Room cleanliness can be better.  Food at breakfast table was not replenished.  80 € for triple sharing.

Anzac Hotel (Canakkale)
Superb location and room is big for triple sharing.  Big spread of breakfast.   59 € for triple. 

Ephesus Suites (Selcuk)
A homely 4 room guesthouse which I think was the best stay of our trip.  Room is spacious and clean.  Very good and interesting breakfast.  I had a very good discount for triple sharing due to hotel swapping from owner.

Amazon Antique Hotel (Selcuk)
Stayed at 90 years old stone house with 2 huge rooms enough for six people.  Amicable host.  59 € for triple sharing.

 Note:  For more details of my reviews for the guesthouse, please search name=KKVIEW in Tripadivsor.

 useful_links  Useful links :

1)      Witts Hotel Magazine  – a very resourceful site regarding Istanbul.  I use it extensively especially on the transport section.

2)      Fodor’s Travel Forum  – Lot of Turkey trip reports whose hand-on data from travelers who had actually been there are helpful for planning my own trip.

3)      Tripadvisor  – As usual, I read plenty of hotel reviews here before I make the final decision to book my own.

4)      Turkey Travel Planner – Superb resource on everything you need to know when travelling in Turkey.  Absolutely useful to plan your trip.

    

 

 gallery3  Istanbul City Gallery

 

 istanbul 

 ISTANBUL

 canakkale

 CANAKKALE

 efes

 SELCUK

Conclusion
This is a major holiday trip for the whole family.  We had enjoyed ourselves very much.  It was also an eye-opener for us.  As Turkey has good infrastructure , it is very easy to travel.  In major tourist areas, English signs are readily available.  Will we come back again ?  Yes for me, definitely[]

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