Mark Twain said that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” and my trip to Turkey really reminded me of this obvious truth. I am an avid watcher of the news and an even more follower of social media news articles, comments, online reports or just anything regarding international relations. However, the more I travel, the more I realize that what we are fed, is never the complete picture.
VISA REQUIREMENT : E-VISA (for Jamaican passport holders) at 20USD or VISA ON ARRIVAL with 30 days stay.
SOLO FEMALE TRAVELLER
TRAVEL DATES: END OF RAMADAN BEGINNING OF EID which means many people had traveled out of Istanbul and it was fairly empty.
Arrived in Istanbul
My hotel car picked me up and took me to the hotel which was located in Karakoy Istanbul. Karaoky is on the European side and is a prime area with access to Taksim, Kadikoy and all the main tourist sites.
I landed at , and by 8:00 am I was out the door! I hit the ground running.
I booked a cultural highlights tour on TripAdvisor thinking the guide would take me to all the main spots but unfortunately, it turned out to be us walking to the front of the buildings and hearing the history. It wasn’t so bad but that's not what I wanted so I tipped the guide and moved on.
I started walking around when A Turkish young man asked if I needed help. Now everyone said I shouldn’t speak to anyone on the street, but I did anyway. I told him I needed a guide that could help me navigate all the essential sights in one day. He said he had a cousin and he would get him. He got his cousin who led me into a carpet store, served me Turkish tea and gave me the low down on everything we could do for the day and how much it would cost.
He offered 80USD for 4 hours, and I would cover expenses such as transport, food and entrance fees when necessary. I knew it was a bit much, but I only had a day to get everything done, so I negotiated for 6 hours instead.
First was the Bosporous Boat trip which took us right down the middle of the Asian and European side of the country. You won’t actually get off the boat but sit back and enjoy the historical narration and the sightseeing. I FELL ASLEEP. The air was too clean and relaxing and I had already read about it in a book. I tried to stay awake but no luck.
We walked around the pier a bit, which was filled with stalls selling fruits, drinks, and bread.
We then jumped in a taxi and headed to the highest point in Istanbul. But before getting there, we stopped at a Mosque which had numbers of people praying outside. It was very fascinating for me. Apparently, this is known as a very conservative area but no one bothered me or stared at me when I walked around and across their prayers mats and into the Mosque.
We then made our way uphill to the highest point. It was magnificent! Overlooking the city was terrific. It was called the Golden Horn.
BRING A SELFIE STICK. IT HELPS.
We walked around that area which was filled with tourist and sat down in a in a cute coffee shop named after a famous french writer Pierre Lotti. I didn’t have Turkish coffee…
Make sure to wear proper shoes and stay hydrated. Its hot and its an uphill climb!
OH, BRING TISSUE FOR BATHROOMS.
We then walked further uphill and came upon a street filled with small souvenir shops but something different caught my eye. A photo shop! Of course I ran inside , dressed up as a Sultana and took fun photos. The overall cost for an email with all the photos and a printed version was 25USD.
We continued on back to the main area to see the main sites. I chose to see the Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern and other small attractions in the area. Unfortunately I didn’t see the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (The Blue Mosque). I looked at it from the outside.
I was amazed at Turkey and this was only Istanbul and the city center. Everything I had learned in history class in school was here in front of me. To be honest, I was a bit mentally overwhelmed. It was too much to take in in just a day.
The day was all fun but my real dream was to see Pamukkale ! So I walked into a tour office called Shiny Tours and shelled out 350USD for a last minute one day trip by plane to see the beautiful thermal pools!
My guide got me a train pass and I took the train back to my hotel. I walked around the area and ended up near Taksim Square, sat at a restaurant , ate a lovely dinner and walked back to my hotel to get some rest before the early wake up the next morning.
DAY 2- NOT THE BEST DAY
PART 1- PAMUKKALE DISASTER VIDEO
PART 2- After missing my day to Pamukkale I ended up taking taxis and trains all over the European Side of Istanbul. I went to 4 different malls but didn't find anything special. I walked around the city for a total of 6hrs before heading back to Sultan Ahmet area by taxi. This taxi driver was the only bad taxi driver I met. He tried to charge me 4 times the amount the ride should be and even stuck up a conversation about me marrying him and taking him back to my country. He tried to bully me into to paying the full fare by screaming at me but I screamed right back at him. I knew I had the upper hand because the Turkish police are very serious about the treatment of tourists. I threw him way more than he deserved and I left. I tried to walk from the Sultan Ahmet area back to my hotel in Karaoke but everyone had started coming back into town and the streets were ridiculous full. A 20 minute walk was talking 50 minutes! By the time I made it I was exhausted. I took a quick nap , then woke up to meet a Spanish young lady for a night out on the town.
I hadn't done much research about nightlife in Istanbul but I really wanted to experience the live music. I found a few spots on TripAdvisor in the Taksim area. What we didn't know is that the Taksim area is supposedly known to be a dodgy area. As soon as we started walking through we felt on our own that it was a bit dodgy but no one bothered us so we kept walking until we found a spot with live music. The bartender was welcoming and very friendly and the band was great but my companion felt uncomfortable because we were the only females and the venue was dark and on a small street. We left walked back to light and stopped at another bar with a wonderful bar. It seemed like a family space as everyone was dancing and singing together. I thought the singer and the entire band was brilliant! See Video Below.
We lost track of time and had to make the scary walk back downhill to our hotels. I wouldn't recommend this at all. The street from Taksim to Karakoy is pretty dark and lonely after midnight. I made it safely. No one bothered me
TURKISH COOKING CLASS
Easily the best part of my Turkey trip. I was still bummed out about Pamukkale but this lifted my spirits. I try to do a cooking class in every country I visit.
I booked a cooking class on trip advisor with a company called COOKISTAN. The cost was 100USD .
I took a taxi to the meeting place which was really close to my hotel. Our teacher AYSIN met us and it turned out the class would just be myself and a lovely amazing Indian couple. We got a tour of the supermarkets and a historical tour of the neighborhood called KURTULUS formerly known as Tatavla.
I really liked this area in Istanbul, there were so many of all types of people.
The supermarkets amazed me. So much fresh produce, so much variety and so much dairy products! As someone who pretty much stopped dairy (except cheese) years prior, this was overwhelming. I don’t even eat yoghurt.
We got to the cooking class space and it was absolutely beautiful. Very clean and well designed.
Not only was the recipe super easy and fun to make. Our teacher and her assistant were both super knowledgeable and friendly. I stayed behind for a bit to drink wine and chat after having lunch.
We made STUFFED DRIED EGGPLANTS, BORECHIK, CIRKASSIAN CHICKEN, BULGUR SALAD, SULEYMANYE SOUP & a PUMPKIN DESSERT.
Turkish Hamam (BATH)
I got an Uber and headed back to Sultan Ahmet to meet my guide again. This time free of charge! He took me to a traditional Turkish Hamam (Bath House) . I wasn’t overly impressed . It wasn’t hot. Nothing like Japanese onsens . I was told to put on paper undies and lay on the blue tile for a few minutes so my body could soak up heat. I was bored and I wasn’t getting any heat so I called the lady who was responsible for me. She came in fully naked and gave me a full bath and scrub with a special soap bar. Nothing fancy. I left got a massage and went back to my hotel.
The plan was to head to the Asian side in the evening but I was exhausted and ended up just grabbing take out dinner at the only Vegan Place I could find near Karakoy.
I found the Turkish people to be super friendly and helpful. They weren't sure if I was a tourist or not but they were always helpful. No one treated me differently or stared at me. The men tend to be a bit over protective but I enjoyed it. The guys at my hotel were super super helpful with information, getting me taxis and making sure I was safe. My guide and my Uber driver were the same.
I plan to go back to Turkey because there is so much more to do and see in this spectacular place. Not once did I feel unsafe!
Thank you Turkey for a wonderful time! Enjoy the random photos at the bottom.
JAMAICAN GIRL IN ASIA-MONIQUE