Sunday, February 23, 2014

Journey to Istanbul

Since I brought my mom this time, I had to engage a travel agent so my mom could travel comfortably. I didn't do much research, and just decided on Poto Travel. The 9D7N package costs RM 4888/person which includes 7 nights accomodation (5 star Dinler hotel at Cappadocia and Lycus River hotel at Pamukkale), 3 meals a day, bus travel to cities of Istanbul, Bursa, Pamukkale, Konya, Ankara, Cappadocia), entrance into sightseeing places such as Pamukkale/Hierapolis, Mevalana museum, Kaymakli Underground city, Topkapi Palace and Aya Sofya. However, as expected of taking group tours, we had to go to the shops / factories as well – a lot of them – silk, carpets, pottery, jewellery, textile and leather. Insurance coverage was another extra RM72/person.

So OK, here is the story proper.

Mon 27/1/14

KL-Abu Dhabi

KL - Abu Dhabi 7 hr 15mins

Our flight was scheduled at 325am with transit at Abu Dhabi via Etihad airways. We departed a bit late from KLIA at 345am. However, we couldn't land in Abu Dhabi due to heavy fog and had to hover for about 1 hour until we got permission to land at around 7.45am. We could see other planes circling around as well at different elevations, it felt a bit like we were in an aerobatic performance!It was chaos at the airport as many flights were delayed as they could not take off nor land due to the poor visibility.

spinning around

landing in the fog

Abu Dhabi - Istanbul

Abu Dhabi - Istanbul 5hrs 5mins

We were transported by bus to Gate 19 at Terminal 1. It looked smaller than its more modern sister in Dubai. Our departure gate 31 was at Terminal 3, so we quickly walked there it was quite far, but of course we knew our flight would be delayed as well from the backlog of earlier stranded flights.

Our Gate 19 was still filled by passengers to Dublin who were supposed to depart earlier than us. We had to wait for the announcement of our new time of departure. It turned out to be at 11am (delayed from 9.45am). We had to wait for another hour in the plane for the arrival of passengers from other connecting flights. We finally took off at 12.30 noon! Unfortunately, we were not served any drinks or snacks by Etihad during the waiting time (2hrs 45mins).

one of our Etihad menus

We finally arrived at Istanbul at 3.30pm, a delay of 2hrs 40mins from the 12.50pm schedule. We were greeted by our Turkish guide, Burak Tuzel. We performed our solat at the airport surau that was filled to the brim (called mescid by Turks, the bigger version mosque is called Camii -pronounced 'jamek'). Now I know 'c' in Turkish is pronounced as 'j'. We then proceeded to the money exchanger at the airport to change our USD notes to Turkish Lira (1 USD = 2.21 TL)

A bit of history of Turkey or Turkiye (which is how the locals call it) name origin – according to Burak. It was the Chinese who gave the name – soldiers of Gengis Khan were called TuChi which means bold and brave. I found from Wikipedia that In medieval times, it was known as Turchia. I haven't verified Burak's statement- but it sounds believable. But what I can be sure of is that Turks would prefer their country to be known as Turkiye, rather than turkey – the bird. They don't even really like to eat turkey, they prefer chicken!

Istanbul - Bursa

Journey today:
Istanbul - Eshikisar: 65km (stuck in Istanbul jam about 1 hour. Journey proper 1 hour)
Eshikisar - Yalova (via ferry) - 45 mins
Yalova - Bursa: 60km (50 mins)

Istanbul - Eskihisar ferry terminal - Yalova - Bursa

Note: Google Maps doesn't have the option to choose transport by ferry. Google Maps, please take note!

We were whisked to our wifi equipped bus (horay! - there was no free wifi at Istanbul airport) and made our way to Bursa. It was already almost dark at 4.30pm! Dusk at Istanbul was at 5.15pm. It was snowing lightly that night at Istanbul! We saw street peddlers – gypsies said Burak – selling flowers in the cold. 

our comfy, wifi equipped bus

gypsies selling flowers
We were stuck in a massive jam (it was rush hour) and only arrived at the Eshikisar ferry terminal at 7.30pm. It was really cold and windy, temperature dipping to 0c perhaps, so we quickly snapped a few pictures then took refuge in the heated cafeteria. We left our money in the bus, so we didn't buy anything here. Yes, the ferry was also transporting vehicles. We were now crossing the Sea of Marmara towards Yalova. Such a pity that we arrived after dark since we couldn't enjoy the beauty of the Marmara sea.

massive traffic jam of Istanbul
Marmara Sea at night

We were famished by the time we arrived Bursa at 9.40pm. Dinner of grilled chicken and butter rice were served at our place of stay - Burcman hotel. I especially liked the butter rice (I could eat the rice on its own) thought the dish was tasty, perhaps influenced by hunger pangs. It was already more than 24 hours since we departed from KLIA so a hot shower was most welcomed. We slept tight that night, after a long journey. A good night's rest was ample to survive the next 8 long journey days .

Tram outside our hotel

Burcman hotel

grilled chicken with butter rice



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