October 19, 2011

Turkey: Istanbul

My flight to Istanbul from Doha only took 4 hours and 30 minutes. And for information, Malaysian doesn’t need a visa to enter Turkey. 

As soon as I landed, I called my sister. She arrived a day earlier from Turkmenistan. I told her I could take the tram and met her at the nearest tram station to our hostel. But she insisted to come to the airport to meet me. So I waited. 1 hour and a half later, she arrived. Actually she had a reason why she wanted to come and meet me at the airport, she stored her suitcase at the baggage custody services because she was lazy to carry it in the tram. She came to meet me, retrieved her suitcase and asked me to rent a car to our hostel. Clever woman!
So we rented a car for 25 Euro. Driving from Istanbul Ataturk Airport to the hotel was only 45 minutes. We stayed at Cordial House Hotel. Well, it is a hotel but it also has dorms for budget traveller like me. I paid only 5 Euro per night for the dorm. Super cheap considering it is located in Sultanahmet area, the center of tourist attractions.
After resting for a while, refreshed myself and had a light snack, we went out to start playing tourist. This city is so rich of history, thus, the many historical spots. Roman Empire, Byzantine, Latin Empire, Ottoman Empire all played a big part of making what Istanbul is today.
First off our list was to visit the Topkapi Palace. It’s just a 10 minutes’ walk from our hostel. This extraordinary and secret palace was the residence of the Ottoman Sultans and the center of Ottoman might for nearly 400 years.
entrance to the palace

There’s a lot to see in the complex; from stunning architecture to plush gardens; from unbelievable large jewelry to relics from Prophet Muhammad's life; from the baths to the bedrooms of the sultan. 


the garden

entrance to the hall of holy relics

The Hall of Holy Relics is filled with artifacts belonging to various Prophets mentioned in the Quran and Bible. I was speechless seeing all those artifacts. It's unbelievable to imagine these items are still intact. Too bad photography was not allowed in there so I can't share it here. :(

Then, there's the Harem which is the highlight of this palace.

This Harem was where the wives, concubines and children of the sultan lived. Walking through the interconnected chambers, I was amazed. The walls were filled with decorative tiles and ornaments. This palace is still beautiful despite it being old.

ablution fountain
the toilet

It is actually very big with about 100 rooms in estimation, but we were allowed to see only a few of them.

We were then led to the Imperial Hall, where the Sultan would be entertained with his family and guests.


Beautiful hall I must say. At some parts of the walls, they were decorated with verses from the Quran and glass windows.

From the balconies of the palace, you have breathtaking views of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.

We spent a little over 4 hours there. Could have easily spent more time exploring the palace if not for the approaching closing time.

The museum is open everyday except Tuesday. 
Visiting hours are from 9:00 to 17:00.
Entrance fee is 20 TL. Additional 15 TL to enter the Harem. 
Direction: Take Zeytinburnu-Kabataş Tram Line (T1) and stop at Sultanahmet.

We wandered around Sultanahmet area, and then settled at a restaurant for early dinner. 98% of Turks are Muslims so finding foods in Turkey is not a problem.

After dinner, we headed to Press Museum in Sultanahmet to watch Sufi Music concert and Whirling Dervishes ceremony. Paid 35 TL for the ticket. The Dervish Dancers are actually Sufis performing their worship ritual. As such, it is an authentic ritual, and not set up to be a typical dance performance.

There was no introduction or explanation. It started with a number of musicians and singers playing lovely melodic instruments and singing.

Next came the dancers, who started one by one to whirl.


Each dancer had their own slightly different style. It was quite beautiful to watch, and I was amazed that they didn't seem to get dizzy. They twirled for more than 30 minutes ok!  
Watch my video to hear the music and to see the actual whirling...
The whole performance lasted about an hour. I found it to be fascinating, and I would strongly recommend this experience to other visitors though I saw some people sleeping halfway through it. For some, it might be boring or monotonous. Yeah, it is somewhat monotonous, watching people twirl for 30 minutes or so. My advice, you should do some homework first before coming to watch it. Do read information about Mevlana sufi before going to this show to really appreciate this performance. When you understand what the performance means, you’ll find the hour-long ceremony of Sufi music and whirling dervishes colorful and interesting. 
After the show finished, my sister went to Cemberlitas Hamam (will write about it later) but I was too tired, so I went back to the hotel to sleep.
to be continued...


fatt said...

hi rara,
interesting. from msia to turkey u naik flight apa? return flight cost around how much.

i try played the video but turned up i yg pening...lol! skrg baru i tau dance tu part of ritual...huhu...so apa agama dorg sbnrnya coz i confuse between "Sufis" & worship ritual dance...boleh u explain tak?

boleh i tau conversion currency TL ke RM tu macam mana? duit dorg lagi mahal ke atau mcm mana?

thanks :)

bdk2 @ John said...

Awesome! U pegi for vacation ke rara? Such a nice country...listed in my wish list ^_^

keep on writing!

aziahmk said...

darlinggg..thanks for the info for istanbul..am looking forward for it...hehehehe :) errrr...another thing, yg u bayar 5 euro for the room tuh utk dorm ye...coz i tgk yg double private bathroom 60 euro.....

Ernie Khairina said...

hi u bestnya. my dream place, one day...hihi. thx 4 sharing!

rara said...

fatt: i naik Qatar Airways.. transit kat Doha then to Istanbul. return trip i dapat rm2400 gitu. masa i cari tiket for the date i wanted that's the cheapest la.

ahahhaa.. pening kan tengok? i tengok setengah jam lagi pening wooo! diorang actually islam jugak.. just that diorang practise sufi tu to achieve spiritual union with God. the whirling tu made everything around them blur.. kirenye macam they put aside everything and focused only to God la. ni pemahaman i from what i read. kalau salah sori ye. :D

about the currency: 1TL = RM1.70.. lebih kurang la.. tapi kat sana euro is widely used.

rara said...

john: i teman my sis travel :) i loveee turkey.. kalau AA launch route pegi sana confirm i nak grab the tix. hehehe

rara said...

kak monik: when's ur trip? :D ha'ah i duduk dorm.. budget. hehe.. hotel ni time i pegi tu dia ada different rate - internet booking and walk in rate. walk in rate lagi murah sikit. tapi maybe depends on season kot.

rara said...

ernie: u dah dekat dah tu.. :)

bdk2 @ John said...

owhh u naik Qatar Airways. yup2..kalo dorang offer the cheapest fare to istanbul. kwn i pun penah pegi sana for 2 weeks. mmg cntik sgt2. tggu Airasia launch je pegi istanbul mmg i akan rembat jugak nnt. insyaALLAH...

Duduk pun tak kisah...sbb confirm2 kat sana selesa. plus it's cheap! betol kata u, sometimes kalo walk-in lagi murah. tp kan turkey ni peak season dia bila ek? sama mcm europe ke? like summer?

rara said...

john: hostel kat sana memang cheap. terkejut masa tengok rate 5 euro tu. macam tak percaya. hehehe... rasanya peak season dia macam europe jugak.. turkey ni mostly dia nak follow europe.

Ernie Khairina said...

Hi dear, finally i'm going! This may hee. so i'm checking info from your blog. tq

rara said...

ernie: yayyy for u!! hehe.. u pegi istanbul je ke or round other places in turkey jugak? anyway, if u need any info let me know k.. mana yg i tau boleh i share the info :)