Turkey Tour (Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa, Cappadocia, Pumakkale, Kusadasi) 2009
Lying at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Turkey is a curious mix of East and West, Islam and Christianity. We decided to visit Turkey in 2009 after hearing a lot about it, and after some consideration, decided to join a tour from Chan Brothers (www.chanbrothers.com). This was actually our first time touring with them and our experience with them was quite good, such that if we needed to join any tours next time, we would look at their itineraries first.
We arrived in Istanbul from Singapore via a direct flight. The city is the largest in Turkey and forms the economic, cultural and historical centre of the country. Straddling the Bosporus, part of the city lies in Europe and the other part lies in Asia. As in all tours, we immediately went sight seeing even though everyone was jet lagged after a 12 hours overnight flight. This is one of the reasons I don’t really like to follow tours.
Equally famous is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. with more than 3,000 shops.
Going on a cruise on the Bosporus Straits is a must since you will be standing on 2 continents (Asia and Europe) at the same time, and is a great way to see the city.
We got off the ferry at Ortakoy. Formerly a small village, it’s now a hip place with night clubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and art galleries.
This was our second destination after Istanbul and we took a ferry across to save time.
As Bursa is famous for its Turkish baths and we tried one of the baths that was next door to our hotel. It was relaxing and felt good after being cramped in the plane and then the bus for more than 24 hours.
From Bursa, it was travel by tour coach all the way to the other locations. Along the way we stopped at one large souvenir shop where they sold all kinds of local delicacies like Turkish delights. They also had natural and organic Turkish Viagra…
We did stay at a nice hotel in Kusadasi. Too often you’d end up in forgettable tourist class hotels when going on tours, but I must say that the hotels for this tour were pretty great.
Kusadasi is the hopping off point to visit the House of Virgin Mary, a religious site for Catholics. This is believed to the place where Mary spent her last days. After a winding trip up the mountains, we arrived at the house. It was packed with visitors from the cruise ship.
Next, we went down the mountains and entered the ruins of the city of Ephesus. This is the same city that is mentioned in the Bible and where the Church of Ephesus was founded.
The name Pamukkale means Cotton Castle. This is the place for hot springs and out of this world scenery. The ancient city of Hieropolis was also built here.
After Pumakkale, we travelled for 1 whole day to Cappadocia. Along the way, we got to indulge ourselves in locally grown cherries.
We finally arrived in Cappadocia which is famous for its unique geological formations like fairy chimneys and houses carved out of the mountains. One of the activities that you can do here is hot air ballooning. This is a fantastic way to see the unique scenery. However, we needed to wake up before dawn to catch the sunrise and the cost of this flight is not included in the tour.
After our hot air ballooning, we went to visit the Gerome Open Air Museum. This place is the site of numerous churches carved from the rock and dates back to the 10th century. It is also an UNESCO World Heritage site.
We also visited the underground city of Kaymakli. For those who are claustrophobic, this place is your worst nightmare. This is an ancient city that is underground with homes, stables, churches, storehouses all connected by tunnels. This city was built since 1,200BC by the Hittites and used by the local people until the 13th century AD.
I can see that caves are a big thing in Cappadocia. Everywhere we went, we could see shops and homes in caves. Our guide explained that the caves actually make good homes as they would be cool in summer, and warm in winter.
After leaving Cappadocia, we stopped at a salt lake. This was my first time to see a salt lake and I found it quite fascinating.
Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the second largest city after Istanbul. We only made a brief stop here to visit the Ataturk Mausoleum. This is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey.
Of course we could not leave Turkey without watching one of their famous belly dancing shows. So for our last night in Turkey, we were treated to a gala dinner with belly dancers.