Posts Tagged 'TURKEY'

December 20

One of the most interesting birthdays I’ve ever had was in Turkey. We had been travelling for over two months on our bar trip in 2010, and I had forgotten the days. We arrived in Cappadocia a few days before my birthday in November, and immediately booked a hot air balloon ride as it was the most popular way to see the fairy chimneys and pigeon houses. The night before, when we were getting ready to go to bed, I suddenly exclaimed, “It’s going to be my birthday tomorrow!”  Kat then followed suit with, “We are going on a hot air balloon!” Needless to say, we were incredibly excited when we went to bed that night. However, we did not feel the same at 4 am, when we woke up groggy eyed, took a long shuttle to the boonies of the boonies, sat through an excruciatingly long safety video in the cold room by the takeoff spot, and sipped on on hot chocolate to stay awake. Finally, the balloon was ready for us, so we and about 20 others trooped outside to see the last phase of the helium…and I suddenly woke up. This stunning sight was the first glimpse I had walking out of the headquarter building, and I ran to take this picture before it lifted off the ground.



This past weekend, I attended the Anatolian Festival with a bunch of good friends and some new ones as well. We ate and ate and ate…and then we ate some more…taking tons of pictures along the way. I came back the next day with Justina and grabbed some more pictures of the places I didn’t get to see much of the day before. My favorites by far in portraits were the characters that posed readily for me at each of the gates. They were dressed in gorgeous gowns, and kept to their characters the whole time. As for the food, i think the gyro and the rice pudding were the clear winners of the day. However, the lahbmajoun and the soups were a close runner up.







onto the fooooood …..

gyros are my favorite

ravioli and baked potato

turkish desserts

rice pudding























and some playful poses as well *_*




November 14

Ephesus is filled with ancient ruins. It’s only a few hours away from Istanbul, off the West Coast of Turkey, but so incredibly different than the bustling capital. The quaint town is filled with hospitable people, small boutique shops, and great cuisine.  I had possibly one of the best spicy kebabs of my life in Ephesus, right around the corner from Urkmez Hotel. I don’t remember the name, but it has a red awning with red tablecloths outside, a jolly cook/owner, and the most amazing spicy kebabs with yogurt sauce ever. It was so good I didn’t even take a picture of it! =/ 

Anyhow, we spent the day exploring all the ruins on foot. We walked to the Temple of Artemis, which is only a fraction of its former glory. Just a lone pillar is left standing, but it still attracts tourists as one of the wonders of the Ancient World. The best thing about Turkey is the accessibility of the ruins to tourists. I could just walk right into the ruins, touch the stones, sit, read, eat and take photographs at leisure. A tour book salesman named Ali came up to us, and offered us the sweetest mandarin oranges I’ve ever tasted. Here is a video i made while Kat was talking to Ali. [Oh, and I am retarded. I said it was about 75 degrees Celcius. which is WRONG. It’s 75 degrees Fahrenheit.]

Then we walked to Ephesus ruins, which is about 2 km west of the Temple of Artemis. We got to the front and spent about 2 hours eating delicious sandwiches, buying postcards, and I even got a fake Rolex at a “genuine fake watch” store. No joke, that was what the sign said. I paid a whole 15 TL for my gold watch, and finally made my way into the ruins. We saw the Greek Theatre first, and when i walked inside, there was a guy there taking pictures. It was Gavin from the hot air balloon in Cappadocia!! We were going the same route in Turkey so its always fun to run into people you met in another city or country.

The Library of Celcus is one of the highlights of Ephesus. It’s structure is well cared for and still standing. You can see the workers working behind the structure, but we were still allowed to touch and access many of the parts of the ruins. Naturally, we did jumping shots and stretches!!!!

ancient greek theatre…in turkey
gotta do it in front of the ruins
  found someone we met in cappadocia…he’s stalking us! *_*

  another head cut off
library of celcus

   pretty kitty!
one of the wonders of the ancient world: temple of artemis
chicken shish kebab
Gavin is one of those people who can just meet people really easily. I can be really sociable and all, but he has the gift of being able to get people to actually come out and socialize!!! He brought a completely new group of people from his hostel that we never met before, but had the greatest time with that night. We had a good dinner learning about each others’ “cultural heritgae,” as Raj calls it…and then we walked around Ephesus town looking for the best baklava.  We found some in a bakery that some of them went to the night before, pitched in 1 Euro each, and bought a box of baklava. We invited everyone over to check out our hotel terrace that I’ve fallen in love with, and the owners of Urkmez Hotel [Cem and Cüneyt]
were the best hosts I’ve seen yet. They didn’t complain that we brought over new friends who were not staying in the hotel, but instead heated up water for apple tea, brought out some munchies, and shared baklava with us. Even better, they joined us for some great conversation and travel stories.  If you are ever in Ephesus, please stay at URKMEZ HOTEL. It is hands down, the best hostel/hotel to stay in for both value and price in Ephesus.

November 13

Welcome to Cappadocia!!!! I got up at 430 in the morning to get in a hot air balloon ride…but the day is not over yet!!! As soon as we got back from hot air balloon, we stuffed breakfast in our mouths and ran out the door again to meet the Red Tour that will take us to the pigeon house/caves, fairy chimneys, and scenic points of Cappadocia.

Here is a picture of me in front of some smaller fairy chimneys. These interesting natural structures are all natural, and they are still eroding as we speak. Cappadocia use to be underwater and these rocks are still continuingto erode today….making new fairy chimneys while destroying others. The people have chosen to not interfere with nature, and let it take its course. When the houses are inhabitable, the government makes new housing in the valleys for the people to move to. Many of these chimneys are empty now, but you can still walk through them to explore.

This is one of my favorite pics of the day of the both of us. I just put the camera on a nitch [yay gorrillapod], on timer, and took the pic. The lighting is amazing in this part of the cave house. As for my outfit of the day, I blended my trekking gear with some cute stuff I bought a long the way. My Sherpa shirts never loose shape, and those Lucy walking pants are probably the best investment I made on this trip. The scarf was acquired from a cute vendor in Istanbul, and the Merrells are just essential for a day of climbing and cave exploration.

lucy walking pants, sherpa longsleeve shirt, merrell all purpose trekking shoes, scarf from istanbul, rei blue jacket

and two videos…!!!!

Follow the leader!!!!
Cappadocia is known for its pottery. The pots are used for food as well. The traditional dish is to cook veggies and meat in these clay pots, and then break them over fire with a sword. This factory also has artistic dishes, bowls, wine jugs, and decorative plates. The intricate detail of each item, all made and painted by HAND, is just incredible. We got to watch all the workers on shift painting, and Kat even tried her hand at making a small flower pot!!! *_*

Imaginary Valley is just what it sounds like. Looking at these natural land structures, what do you see???? The sun was setting so the images from the other view points are not as good as this one. Among the “images” that you can see are camels [this one], an open palm, a fist, and Napoleon’s cap. The camel here is my favorite, it’s so large and prominent!

pigeon cave house

We met this fun lot from the hot air balloon ride. The basket was quite large so we didn’t get to talk to a lot of people until after we landed. After a glass of champagne and a long trek to find the pick up shuttle, we all started chatting and agreed to meet up for dinner at One Way Restaurant in the center of Cappadocia town. Gavin is the social butterfly of the group, and brought along some new friends from France as well. It was a really fun night of toasts, wine, and fairy chimney grilled meats!!!
November 09

This is Part I of how I spent my 28th birthday. We are currently in Cappadocia, Turkey. I didn’t realize that it was my birthday until midnight, after we booked the hot air balloon and Cappadocia red tour. I also realized that I would only get 4 hours of sleep that night because we had to get up at 430 am to meet the balloon in the valley. I fell asleep happy with anticipation for the upcoming day.

At 445, we groggily got out of our comfy bed caves, got dressed really fast, and ran out the door. The shuttle was there to take us to the office where we waited with about 20 other people. We didn’t see a single soul walking around town the day before, but suddenly, at 5 am in the morning, all these tourists came out of nowhere to ride the hot air balloon! The pilots informed me that a lot of these tourists are richer folk who stay outside of downtown, higher up in the resort caves.

 This is OUR balloon!! Some girls we at our hotel went on the hot air balloon as well but with a different company. The crazy part is that there were about 30 balloons in the air that morning, and many of them were converged together..but it so happens that she got some amazing shots of OUR balloon in the air from HER balloon!!!! Even better…we took pictures of HER balloon in the air without knowing!!! We met up after dinner on the rooftop terrace of our hotel in Ephesus a few days later, and started talking about our experiences in Cappadocia. Suddenly, we realized that we had been taking pictures of each other all morning!! Both of the companies that we went through were set up farther apart than the others, so we had more space to take off. I can’t believe our luck. She had a Canon DSLR so the images were just top quality. Here are the top 3 from her camera!!!


in the air!

murat, our pilot

We were going really low here and really fast…makes for a great pic!

balloon shadow
landing a bit off…so the crew had to rush to get the balloon straightened out

November 08

 I bought this Nazar ring because the evil eye is sold everywhere in Turkey. I love getting jewelry that is unique to that country. I know Nazars are sold in many Mediterranean cultures, but since I won’t be hitting up many of them this time around…this will do! According to wikipedia, in Turkey, evil eye jewelry and other such trinkets are particularly common. The evil eye is also known as the Eye of Medusa ( A mythical greek gorgan). A nazar or evil eye stone (Turkish: nazar boncuğu) is an amulet that protects against the evil eye. Colorful beads, bracelets, necklaces, anklets, and all manner of decoration may be adorned by this particularly popular symbol, and it is common to see it on almost anything, from babies, horses, doors to cars, sidewalks, cell phones, and even airplanes.

I really liked his scarf so he sold me one just like it. I like that he has this pimp expression on his face, and holding my 20 lira for the scarf. He then proposed to me with the red ring below, but I’m pretty sure it was just for the visa. Naturally, like a lady, I took the ring, and said no thank you. *_*

November 06

Hagia Sofia, or Aya Sofya in Turkish, is one of the most amazing architectural accomplishments of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. It was originally constructed as an Orthodox basilica but from 360-1450, it was a Roman Catholic Church of Constantinople. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, it was converted into a mosque and remained so until 1935. The altars and icons were removed and replaced with the mihrab and minarets.  The government turned AyaSofya into a museum in 1935 to end the religious conflict over the building. The pictures didn’t come out so great because I didn’t bring my gorillapod and it was kind of dark inside. I switched the program over to a high contrast mode for snow, and got this fun bright yellow tint on everything. We then edited this set of pics with some ultra high contrast and decreased saturation for added emphasis to this spectacular piece of architecture. Oh, and we made a video as well! Enjoy!




The Blue Mosque across the way is modeled after AyaSofya. It still functions as a mosque, so we didn’t get as many pictures inside. We went in about 15 minutes before the call to prayer, so they started ushering people through it pretty fast. I snapped a few pics of the main prayer room, the blue dome, and the tulip carpets…but most of the others are blurry.

November 05

Istanbul, also known as Constantinople, is located at the very northwest corner of Turkey. The Bosphorus river flows through Istanbul, separating the Asian side from the European side. It is the only metropolis city that is on two continents. The blends of Asian and European culture are very apparent along with Middle Eastern influence, so the city is a huge melting pot of culture, diversity, and fun. My favorite part, of course, is the food. A few of my favorite dishes here are lentil soup, kofte, kebabs, gyros, apple tea, fresh mint tea, salep winter time [hot yogurt drink], ayran [cold yogurt drink], garlic yogurt, and Turkish coffee! 

Here is a video of a dish called testi kebap. It’s lamb or other meats cooked in a clay pot with tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. Quite delicious and very filling!! Oh, and the waiter calls me Lady Rambo when he found out that I am Vietnamese. Apparently, the only correlation to Vietnam he could think of is Rambo. I happily played along and by the end of the night, that was my adopted name.


Raki is not my friend. I’m pretty open minded about food and drink. I like a lot of different flavors and if the locals love it, I’ll try it…most of the time I love it. Here,  I can definitely say that raki is vile. Guess which glass is mine and which is Kat’s.

Mint tea in Turkey is just all kinds of happiness. Apple tea as well. I’ll have to take a pic of it later. It comes in a tea glass like Turkish tea. Mint here is crushed and just boiled with hot water. Simple, subtle, perfect.

New shades! We are eating at Dervish, one of the most famous places to eat right in front of Sultanamet. They serve gyros to go, but we sat in to enjoy the view, and try another lentil soup!

lentil soup
kofte with fries
garlic yogurt

We got roped into looking at some carpets. The random guy at Blue Mosque offered to give us a free tour if we looked at some of his carpet selections. We managed to not fall into temptation and buy the three thousand dollar majestic rug…but not without lying to them that we had husbands that would kill us if we bought it.

The red one is my favorite and the blue one is Kat’s

Taksim Square is where a lot of demonstrations and bomb threats take place. It’s a metropolis hub, and much more busy than Sultanamet area where we are staying. However, with the recent scare, we decided to only take a tram and metro to have dinner at Taksim and then go back to our cute area! Taksim is very chaotic and busy, but the restaurants and street food are aplenty. We tried to look for Gani Gani, a restaurant with sit on the floor cross-legged style dinners, but to no avail. It’s a locals joint and there are no street names [or any that i could find], so we ended up finding a really cute place that serves kebabs and mixed meat with the best yogurt sauce, then walked the whole length of Taksim promenade. I found a Gloria Jeans Coffee so i bought a $5 cafe [blehhhh on the price], and walked the rest of the way back to the metro and tram.

Salep winter time is hot salep, or hot yogurt drink. They add cinnamon to it, and i just love love it. Kat thinks it’s too sweet but I always finish mine and want more! Below is the best salad we’ve had in Turkey yet. A gigantic medley of cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, hummus, yogurt, and chili sauce. So healthy and delicious.

a lovely evening here…

Our waiters were ALL cute and we had the best time at this restaurant. Spent double what we planned, but well worth it for the entertainment. These two guitarists are fantastic. The guy on the right looks like Nicolas Cage, and his buddy can sing a mean Cat Stevens. Here they are, doing Wild World. Happiness.

Stand By Me