Monday, October 5, 2015

The Flight.

We flew to Bangkok with Turkish Airlines. Our original plan was to fly to Hanoi separately, Kathleen from Dublin and I from Istanbul. Searching for the best value flights possible, I suggested to Kathleen that she fly to Bangkok return and buy single flights, then on to Hanoi she could then get a return to Bangkok from Siem Ream. It made good sense as multi city flights were coming in around €1000 and the return to Bangkok was €498 return with the flight to Hanoi just under €70.

I planned to fly with Asiana from Istanbul to Hanoi and return with them from Siem Reap. This came in just under €800. Once I knew Kathleen was flying to Bangkok and thinking she might stay a couple of nights, I decided to get the same flight from Istanbul. It would be cheaper again.....or so I thought. But I was wrong. To get on Kathleen's onward flight from Istanbul would cost me €800, €300 more for two flights less. 

I decided to spend the same money as originally budgeted, fly back to Ireland, see Mum and then join Kathleen. Amazing! Four extra flights and almost the same cost as flying from Istanbul,  €800.

Turkish Airlines are a comfortable airline to fly with. The food is good, there is in flight movies and the seats are comfortable. The second leg of our journey from Istanbul to Bangkok took just over 9 hours, I watched several movies, did my knitting. Hurray for bamboo needles, there is no problem bringing them on a flight and knitting both relaxes me and helps me pass the time. The thing I did least of on this flight was sleep even though I was supplied with a "flight kit" from the airline.

Landing reminded me of Ireland. We came down through thick grey cloud. It didnt bode well for the next couple of days.


The Holiday begins.

On Thursday we did a whistle stop tour of Sultanahmet, but not before we had a lazy breakfast on the sixth floor of the And Hotel. Kathleen was in her element, olives and tea on tap, not to mention the wonderful views of the Aya Sofya and The Blue Mosque.
I loved the cloud in this photograph of the Aya Sofya

The Blue Mosque by day

Looking towards Topkapı
We parked our overnight bags in the storage room and set out to see the sites.

As we only had a day, I suggested Topkapı Palace

The gates to Topkapı but who is that lady posing in my photo?

There is so much to see there and it is ideal for a lazy amble. I was pleased to note the short queues. I have been here before and they can snake back for miles. I renewed my museum card, one of the bonuses of having a residency permit. At a cost of 40tl for the basic or 50tl to for the Muze + card you get free entrance to most of Turkey's museums. We also bought the extra tickets to visit the harem. It would be such a waste to visit the Palace and not see the harem.

An inner courtyard in the harem
It was our first stop. I love this building and I find myself transported into another age. The first time I visited here, it was 2006 I think, there were actual guided tours, so much better than the audio guides available now. You can't beat the human touch, someone to answer questions, add the extra bit of information and to crack a joke. I imagine myself living there in Ottoman times.

Comfy places to sit and read.
However, in reality, instead of, as I imagine myself, a beloved wife of the sultan, lounging on cushions, sipping coffee (sorry even in my dreams I can't bring myself to drink tea) I am sure I would have been the poor servant girl, dragging buckets of coal for the don't spoil this this fantasy by telling me it was the eunuchs that performed this task.

Doors tiles and domes, you need to look left, right, up and down,

After a wander around some of the other rooms, including the circumcision room,  it was time for coffee overlooking the Bosphorus. These are places I only read about as a child, never dreaming that I would visit them later in life.

The Bosphorus.

The next plan was to visit the Treasury and also the displays of clothes. One look at the queues for these sent us hurrying in the other direction towards the kitchens. We also had a quick run around the Weapons room. I can't imagine how they hefted some of those swords.

With time marching on, we headed for the Blue Mosque. It was Kathleen's first time inside a mosque. It is a beautiful building,  once you have fended off the tour guides and the carpet sellers on the way in and out. Speaking Turkish helps. I found that while they still chatted for a couple of minutes, they quickly gave up on the hard sell.

Inside the Blue Mosque

It was time to return to the hotel, grab our bags and head for the airport! My holiday is about to begin.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Room with a View.

Yesterday, my friend Kathleen and I set off on our big adventure. I had been planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia for over a year. I had planned a solo trip but then Kathleen decided to celebrate a significant birthday by joining me.

We then tweaked the original itinerary, a 17 day/ 16 night tour of Vietnam and Cambodia, a GrabOne Voucher, with the help of the ever patient Mr. Anthony of Go Asia Travel, until we ended up with a glorious 5 week trip of a lifetime.

 On the first leg of our journey, we flew from Dublin to Istanbul. It is Kathleen's first time in the city. Therefore I presented her with her birthday present, a room with a view. Of course this was a "rebound" present as I get to share the room too.

Aya Sofya

The Blue Mosque
Interestingly, I discovered I felt the holiday begins for me tonight when we fly to Bangkok. Flying into Istanbul, I just felt I was coming home.