Saturday, March 21, 2009

Single Room Ensuite

I initially thought of sharing the story of my frustrating stay at Homeros Pension in Selcuk, Turkey in an entry. However, when my instructor showed me a writing contest in Harper's Bazaar, UK with the theme 'mother', I knew this story will be perfect for that. I have decided to tell it from the pension owner's mother's point of view. That is challenging considering that she speaks very limited English. As I write, I realise how many times I actually bothered the poor old woman. Her son deserved a a good spanking, he was so thoughtless and insincere. You can read my online review here:

It will be tough keeping the story below 2000 words though. Let me know what you think, ya?:)

Single Room Ensuite - 1st Cut


The next morning, I hear a female voice calling me. “Mamaaa! Mamaaaa!” The clock shows 6.30am. I climb up the stairs. The guest is standing in front of her bedroom door in her white thermal under shirt and pants. Her long hair looks uncombed. “There is no hot water,” she gestures with both hands. I put up my palm, a sign for her to wait. She nods. I climb up the stairs to the first floor and walk to the master bathroom. The hot water has been switched off. I turn it back on and then tell her to wait for another half an hour. I lift up one finger and indicate cutting it into two. She nods in understanding and re-enters her room.

After breakfast, Osman takes her to the Ephesus ruin site around 5 kilometer away. He tells me that she has ventured out on her own after that. She does not return when darkness creeps in and I start to worry as I wait in my room. To my relief, she turn up at 7.30pm. “Yoohoo...” I sing and rush up the stairs. She smiles and nods in appreciation. By then, she notices my concern.

The morning after, again she calls me at 6.30am. “Mamaaa...”
“Yes.” I climb up the stairs. “There is no hot water,” she says.
I recognise trouble. Winter does not stop this Asian girl from bathing twice daily, and from her irritation, I know that she did not get a hot shower that morning either .
“I give up,” I put my hands up and try telling her that it is caused by the cold. “Upstairs got hot water.” I pointed to the stairs and ask her to follow me. She goes into her room and picks up her transparent toiletry bag from the dresser and the used bath towel hanging on the wooden chair. We climb up. I point to the master communal bathroom. She goes in and thanks me.

During breakfast, she complains to Jervis, my son.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wet, Hot and Clean - Cagaloglu

This is my 8th entry on Turkey.

Being a spa fan, I had looked forward to visiting the Hamam, or Turkish Baths, during my holiday. Before that, the closest I ever had to experiencing one was the Morrocan version of Turkish Hamam at Bangsar Village. Hmm.. that was like 5-star when compared to the popular ones in Turkey.

And I managed to cover 4 hamams in 15 days. By the time I got back to KL, my skin had become so smooth. Really, LOL! I have to say that no hamam was perfect though. Each one had its' own pros and cons. However, the first hamam I went to on my second day in Istanbul was the most memorable. It was kind of like being nurtured back in history. And a shot of hot steam in cold Winter was heavenly.

'Cagaloglu Hamami has remained more or less unchanged since it was built on the orders of Sultan Mahmut I in the mid-18th century. It's a favorite for the makers of TV ads, who consider it an essential element when selling their soapy wares! Celebrity bathers are rumored to have included the likes of Franz Liszt, Florence Nightingale and Tony Curtis. Cagaloglu is listed in 1,000 Places To See Before You Die. '

I arrived at a colourful stain-glass door and stepped in. A man greeted me at the counter and showed me the list of treatments available. I opted for the most luxurious one, I think it was 50Euro for an hour treatment. After paying, he took me pass the cafe and lounge into another room. I got to choose a soap for free. It was a tough choice, they all smelt nice. I decided on Honey. He showed me a range of Kese or square scrubbing mitts to choose from. He said it was better to purchase one for hygienic reason. I went for the hardest and most expensive one, a black piece. Guess I was in for a treat, and I didn't know if I'd have time to go to another hamam.

He then asked me to go straight into the lavish Camekan, the women's changing section. One of the women there greeted me and showed me the individual dressing cabin. It has a desk and a small bed to lie on. I closed the door and locked it with the big golden key. I could still see the happening outside as the top part of the door and wooden wall next to it was covered with glass. I changed into a pestamal, a distinct check red and white cloth worn at hamams, and stepped out. The old-fashioned wooden clogs made me fumble badly. A woman showed me the washroom. After I got out, I found a pair of plastic sandals laid on the floor. I laughed. Apparently, my lack of skills was obvious to everybody.

My therapist was a big-sized, bubbly Turkish woman with short curly hair named Nuva. She took my hand, opened the big wooden door and and brought me into the steam room. There was a big Gobektasi in the centre of the room. The hot hexagon-circular-shaped marble platform was meant for lying or sitting on but it was empty at that time. In fact, the only guest inside seemed startled to see us, probably because she was not wearing anything. She quickly turned to the wall.

There were several marble wash basin stations next to the walls around the Gobektasi. Nuva gestured towards the one next to the door. She made pouring water gesture with her arms and left. I sat on the edge on the marble next to the basin and looked around. There were two taps, for hot and cold water. Feeling warm from the steam, I use the copper scoop and poured water onto my body.

After a few rounds, I sat back down and took it all in. It was beautiful. A 300-year old bath, the architecture was ancient and very intricate. There was a leave-shaped design behind each basin. The mostly white and a bit of light grey marble colour was a bit run down, yellowish, but the signs of age added the place's charm, I think. The whole ambiance was so calm and peaceful.

Before long, another woman walked in. She went to the other guest and asked her to lie down on the Gobektasi. It was time for treatment. Nuva walked in shortly and asked me to do the same on the other side. I got up on the lukewarm marble slab and lied down. She asked me to put my hands above my head. I stared at the inside of the high dome top. I could see the fine carved ceiling and shiny holes resembling round disco lights. It was kind of hypnotising too. At times, I felt like it was the rays of the sun piercing through, it wasn't glaring though. I soaked in the whole atmosphere, feeling very relaxed.

Nuva adjourned to one of the wash basins, removed her clothes and quickly poured water onto her body. Then, she re-appeared in a bright swimsuit. She took the black bath mitt I brought in and started scrubbing my skin. It was so soft to the extent that I wondered whether she was doing it properly. LOL! And she used it on my face after that, without washing it first, err? She then asked me to turn around. She gave me a light back and neck massage before asking me to sit up so she could massage my arms. Then, I had to get up and walked to the wash basin nearby where she would pour water over me. She would also pour water on the marble platform to get rid of the soap before I could lie down again. Telling me what to do was tricky with her very little English, but at least I understood her.

She repeated 1 more round with skin peeling mixture and told me that after the third massage, my skin would become smooth. The final round, she used a piece of cloth and lathered some soap into white foam. I could feel the delicate bubbles multiplying on my body, and before I knew it, I was covered in foam. I nearly got a bit in my mouth. LOL! It was slippery too, and it was tough to stop myself from sliding around too much. And yeah, I had to get up and walk to the basin 3 times altogether. It was kind of strange.

During the final wash, she asked me to sit down on the marble edge at the basin so she could wash my hair. After she was done, she gestured towards the other basin and instructed me clearly, "Water, water, water. Steam, steam, steam. Understand?" Apparently, she was using the basin we were at for her bath. LOL! I did as she said and stop from time to time to enjoy the steam.

I was a bit disoriented at first without my glasses. I could see, but the haziness from the steam plus my lack of vision made it all seem rather dream-like. During my treatment, a few Caucasion guests had come in. By the time I was done, the Gobektasi was filled with mostly naked women covered in foam, with a therapist attending to each of them. Apparently, everybody went for the luxurious package. At least, the therapists 'arranged' the women neatly at a comfortable distance from each other. And I think only 1 woman was wearing a pair of bikini.

Around 2 hours later, I got out of the hot room and changed into a towel. Then, I re-entered the Camekan and got dressed. A woman knocked on the door to hand me a free gift in a plastic bag, it was a pair of black cotton panties. After that, I slowly put on my sport shoes in the women reception area and absorb it all for the last time. A staff offered me a drink, I ask for apple tea, it was not free, LOL! And finally, I put on my bulky Winter jacket and left.

Anyway, I soon learned that visiting one hamam may opened a new window, but I was far from understanding what hamams were all about.

For better pics, click here:

(Next: Chamberlitas Hamam)

p/s: This is not a hamam review, just an account of what happen at the point of time that I was there:)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lost in the Labyrinth - part 2

This is my 7th entry on Turkey

By the time I arrived at the entrance of the Grand Bazaar, I was already sweating. I had to unzip my Winter jacket, which I wasn't comfortable of doing as it exposed my waist pouch. The place might seem complex and tricky, but fortunately, I didn't have much trouble there. I got lost slightly when the tour guide left us there during the city tour on Day 2. However, walking by myself was much easier as I didn't have to remember a specific entrance or spot to gather, etc. I can just wander off naturally. And the guidebook was right. The Grand Bazaar consists of 1 main lane that branches out into side lanes on the left and right. So, it was fairly simple.

Feeling tired, I decided to find the cafe I saw at one of the side lanes the other day and have lunch. It took me only a few turns and turning back, and there was Havuzlu Restaurant, am elegant and nice outlet. There was a fountain in front of the entrance. I chose a cozy table for two outside. It was interestingly placed as I enjoyed the dining backdrop of leather jackets, which belonged to the stall next door. I asked for the menu. The waiter called the energetic Captain to attend to me. I noticed that when I dine, normally the Captain or the owner himself would attend to me, probably due to language barrier. He suggested that I sit inside, said that it was nicer. I didn't agree.

He said not everything was in the menu, so what don't I go and see their food selection and decide. He took me inside and explained everything in detail. They have an appetizing selection. I decided on meatballs. It came with vegetables and potatoes like a casserole. Forgetting that they always served bread with each meal, I ordered the oily rice too.

Shopping at the Bazaar did not appeal to me. I only got a small 'evil eye' necklace and pendant. Locals believe it would protect you from evil. I wanted to buy key chain, but I didn't see anything I like. Of course, merchants were calling after me like mad. 'Excuse me, lady. I say, Lady!

After a short window shopping, I decided to stop by at Cafe Amrosia for Coffee. Then I saw the menu display. 'Sahlep'. I remember reading about the creamy traditional drink with hibiscus roots in Tom Brosnahan book so I ordered it. It was really thick and burning hot with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder, I think they boiled the milk in the pot. After that, I went to change money. The waiting area for 4 was really cramp and I didn't feel comfortable as the staff attended to all customers at once. That means the others would know how much money you had on you. And I was exchanging USD1000 too. There were 3 men when I got there and they invited me to have a sit.

After that, I stepped outside. It was raining. I opened my folded umbrella but it kept turning inside out from the strong wind. I quickly hailed a cab to go to Chamberlitas Hamam. When I was done, it was already dark at 6.30pm. There was a cab waiting at the junction. Having learned my lesson, I ignored it and strolled along. I waited at the road for a cab to pass by. The driver was eyeing me so I stepped into a Turkish Delight shop nearby. I ordered 2 types of goodies before realizing that 50 gram of each was a lot and I didn’t want to carry 2 extra boxes to Canakkale the next day. So, I only took one. The owner gave his card, asked me to go again. He wanted to show me the way to walk back to Sultanahmet. I asked him where could I get a cab instead, it was too dark. He went out and hailed the same one which was waiting for me. He said I shouldn’t pay more than 5 TL and talked to the driver for me. We agreed on 5 TL.

I was due for another nightmare. When we arrived at the crowded area of Sultanahmet, the cab didn’t know where the hotel was. He also didn’t know how to read the address from the card that I gave. When I asked him to stop and asked for direction, he ignored me and kept on going. I then rolled down the window and called a person near by to ask. After a few trials, a man I asked spoke good English and showed the way based on the address. We didn’t get there but this time the arrogant driver himself rolled down his window and asked. The second one didn’t speak much English but he knew the way.

When we arrived in front of the hotel, the driver insisted on 10TL instead as he had to turn around many times, as if that was my problem. I had sensed that coming and quickly grabbed my stuff and opened the door. One foot already out, I yelled at him, “You said 5TL!’ I threw the money at him and banged the cab door before quickly crossing the lane to my hotel. I was lucky that he got a shock and sped off. Naz Wooden Inn front door was always locked and you had to knock. He could have come after me. And Han, the receptionist, listened patiently to the long-winded account of my misfortune. He agreed with me, the nice cab drivers are really nice, where else the bad ones are really bad.

Feeling tired of cabs, I asked him to arrange a dinner booking at a Fish Restaurant for me that night. I knew it would be a classy and expensive outlet as they provided complimentary pick-up and drop off service. I spent 40TL for salad, main course and Cay. I seldom exceeded 10TL per meal before, except the two treated by Simah and Havuzlu. Anyway, the fish in tomato gravy with cheese in a hot plate was delicious and fresh. At first, I was not happy sitting quite near the entrance. Fortunately, the Captain moved me to another table as soon as it was empty. Oh, it was Valentine’s Day and my new secluded seating area were reserved for couples mostly. LOL! The place was full and we could hear loud music and singing from the function upstairs.

I found out that my pick-up to Canakkale the next morning would be delayed to 3.00pm due to snow. So, in the morning, I took Han’s suggestion and took off for the Asian shores on my own. Having learned my lesson, I made sure I walked until I found the tram station. From Eminonu, I walked to Kadikoy Iskelesi and took a ferry. Onboard, I walked right in until I came across a nice seating area, like for VIPs. The ferry docked at Haydapasar before reaching Kadikoy. I showed my Istanbul Time Out guidebook to the merchants at the convenient stall near the jetty and asked for direction to recommended places.

When I was crossing the road, I saw many policemen lining up, at least 100 pax. At the closed area in front of the jetty, a group was putting on loud Turkish music and making announcements. I didn’t think much of it and went off to venture. At the old Bazaar, I got myself a nice pair of pink Winter boots at 50TL. I surveyed the restaurants in the area, having read that Kadikoy has the best selections. I finally decided on one filled by local diners. The waiter was surprised when I ordered both fried anchovies (they ran out of shrimps) for appetizer and grilled Seabass for main course. The fishes were very fresh, and the price was slightly cheaper than European Istanbul, I think.

Kadikoy’s many outlets were occupied by a wide range of products from vegetables and fish market to books and music equipment. At the flower shop nearby, remains of Valentine’s Day from the previous night were still there. Red heart-shaped balloons and romantic gifts too. I was so tempted to drop by at Starbucks for a cup of Coffee after that. However, on my way back to the jetty, I saw a group of people marching and shouting with pickets signs and all. There was a protest going on, which explained the batalions of police. The protest area was fenced in and it seemed under control. I wasn’t scared but I thought I better head back quickly. I had to follow the crowd and make a whole round to get to the jetty due to the closed space.

When the ferry reached Eminonu, I got of with the flock of commuters. However, I discovered that walking back in the opposite direction was not as easy as going. I lost my bearing completely. The few people I asked didn’t have a clue and nearly made me cross the road and walk all the way back to Sultanahmet (when I wanted to take the tram). The second time I asked, the ticket counter man finally got out of his cubicle to show the lower floor and the staircase down to the tram station. It was just 3 minutes away.

Getting down at Sultanahmet was another horror. I started walking down next to Aya Sofya. A tourist I asked was going to the Arasta Bazaar, so I followed him there. He advised me to use the Blue Mosque for bearing next time, the bazaar was not visible from afar. From there, I took a turn into a wrong narrow lane and got lost big time. It was to the extend that I was already worried about being late for my 3.00pm pick-up. After showing the address to many people (I really mean many), I finally found the Inn. A 5 minute-walk became 45 minutes. Not only I made 1-whole round, I think I might have made even 2, LOL! The place was as complicated and confusing as a honeycomb. I reached Naz at 2.50pm, just on time. Luckily, I had already cheked out of my Cave Room earlier, at 9.00am. I managed to change my clothes and washed my face like 5 minutes before my cute tour guide arrived. He was to accompany me on the Metro public bus all the way to Cannnakale.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hidden Hospitality

This is my 6th entry on Turkey.

As much as I enjoyed my Turkey holiday adventure, I have to admit that the first 24 hours after my arrival was something else.

I took the MAS Golden Holiday package and that included airport pick-up. The driver who met me at the Ataturk International Airport was 'mute'. A frail looking man, he kept his right hand in his pocket. He did not smile and did not greet me. In fact, he didn't speak a single word to me, not even a Merhaba.

MAS list of accommodation does not include anything appealing in the old city part of Istanbul. I finally decided on the four-star plus Madison Hotel in Taksim, the modern district. The main reason was because I was afraid of being stuck indoor due to heavy snow and the place has a Hamam. Of course, that didn’t matter because snow only arrived much later this year. Also, the Hamam and recreational facilities were unisex, so they were useless to me.

The pick-up van had to pass by a security gate to enter the area. Madison checking-in was really efficient. I remember its porter practically jumping out of the door and sliding my luggage into the lobby as soon as the van stopped. Within 3 minutes, registration was completed and he was already carrying my luggage to the room. I found out that the room heater was great. I didn't even have to wear socks when I slept at night.

The neighbourhood was filled by modern dining outlets, which made me long for the day I’d move to another hotel in a more authentic area. The first thing that struck my mine within the first hour I was in the country was how European it was (and how totally non-Middle Eastern).

After leaving my things in the room, I went down for breakfast. The buffet spread was tempting. I gave my room number to the waitress but she appeared blur. The proud looking captain quickly approached and ask if I needed assistance. After helping myself to the huge selection of breads, cheese, fruits, local soup and hard-boiled eggs, I noticed something. I was 'underdressed' in my casual blouse and lazy blue jeans. The guests were either formally or fashionably dressed. They either had business suits or designer jeans with elegant accessories.

Madison seemed like an expensive hotel, MAS must have gotten a really special rate. And guests didn't have to identify themselves, they just go and eat. But then again, in Kuala Lumpur, you can dine in jeans at a five-star hotel and not look out of place. And I also learned that asking whether the food was 'halal' was kind of insulting to the Captain. That was another person who was allergic to smile.

The hamam was not yet opened so at 10.30am, I went back to my room. I had booked a boat ride tour with the New Deal Travel Agency at 1.00pm. There was plenty of time. I wasn't happy with twin beds, but they turned out to be useful. The spare bed served for me to lay the layers of clothes I was wearing for the day. When my mother did not reply my sms, I called her. After that I set my alarm clock and lied down for 2 hours.

I contemplated going for lunch at noon when my phone rang. There was a female voice. She was calling from the hotel lobby. She asked if I had booked a boat ride at 1.00pm. I said yes. She then spoke in a tensed and loud voice that I had 1 minute to get myself down there. I asked what time it was - she said 1.10pm. Unfortunately, I had set my clock 1 hour behind the local time. But then, the man I had spoken to earlier said between 1.00 to 1.15 pm, depending on the traffic. It didn't sound like a time-sensitive affair to me.

I quickly jumped out of the bed. I had already paid for the trip and my main concern was not to lose my money. I was still kind of disoriented when I put on the layers of clothes. I never had to wear so many pieces before. As I was grabbing my waist couch, my phone rang again. Gosh, the woman was uncontrol-able. After locking the door, I looked down to make sure that I had a pair of pants on top of the my thermal underwear. It was my first winter. I was worry about feeling cold.

When I got down to the lobby, the woman was standing in front of the door. I quickly apologised and told her I got the time wrong. I must have been really 'off' because normally if someone had scolded me, I would fire back. The 2 hotel receptionists stood there with their mouth open, obviously she had made a lot of fuss. It turned out that she wasn't even the tour guide, just the pick-up woman. She even had the nerve to try to sell me more tours. What pissed me off was that after my tour group got onto the boat, we had to wait for more than 20 minutes for the other tour groups to come and fill up the boat. After that, the guide gave us 15 minutes free time to explore the spice bazaar. Guess what I did? I bought a cheese bread and sat at a nearby bus stop to eat it. Yeah, that was my lunch on the first day of my adventure.
Later that evening, I had booked a cultural show dinner with belly dancing with the same travel agent. The man told me the pick-up was at 8.00pm. After an hour cat-nap, I got dressed and rushed down. After waiting for a while, I asked the receptionist to call the agent to check. He did and they said 5 more minutes. He said normally pick-up is at 8.30pm, the show only starts at 9.00pm and the restaurant was nearby. If they were late, they should call. They might charge 10Euro less than the hotel, but they weren't even there.

They bus didn't turn up until 9.05pm. The guide told me the traffic was bad. What infuriated me was that the restaurant was only 5 minutes away from my hotel. I could have gone there on my own.

I was really tired by then. I was put at a small table on my own. The over-eager waiter irritated the hell out of me. He asked too may questions about the food, if I understood the show, etc. The problem was that he liked to speak when the show was on and music was loud. So, he had to lean close to my side and I had to put up with his bad breath. And I hated to be interupted. Later on he said if I wish, I could give him a tip. He left the bill folder on my table. I didn't leave a single coin.

That evening wasn't memorable. I only snapped one photo, and that was of the appetiser. LOL! Well, the cameraman did take a photo of me with a belly dancer but I couldn't remember where I put it.

Merhaba, that was my welcome to Istanbul.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lost in the Labyrinth

This is my 5th entry on Turkey.
Travelling in Turkey on my own was a significant achievement due to the fact that I am extremely direction-challenged. This entry is not merely about the local transportation system but rather how you have to go beneath the ‘deceiving and tricky’ surface to fully enjoy the essence of this unique country. And I did just that.

Feeling ambitious, I had pre-booked a Bosphorus boat ride tour 4 hours after my arrival on 11 February, followed by cultural dinner with Belly Dancing too. That did not stop me from grabbing a late lunch at a Café near my hotel in between. It was easy to walk around Taksim and I was glad that I chose Madison Hotel to kick off my holiday. My first day schedule was tiring but a good decision nevertheless. It put me on local clock by the next morning.

I had also pre-arranged a full-day Old City Tour on the second day. After that, the local guide dropped me at Eminonu to buy a train ticket. I was frustrated to learn that Pamukkale Express was no longer in operation. I had to take a bus instead.

I was about to try riding the tram for the first time when the thought of going to a Hamam came into mind. It was only 5pm, too early to go back to the hotel. I hailed a cab in front of the station. “Cagaloglu.” I got the correct pronunciation from the guidebook. The driver repeated and without saying a word took me there in like 10 minutes. At first he stopped right behind the place. I had no clue where to go. I asked him several times and he pitied me and made 1 turn right to the front entrance of the Hamam. I noticed the meter moving and he charged according to it.

After the Hamam, I took a cab to Taksim square to purchase a bus ticket from Pamukkale back to Istanbul. The cab dropped me at the junction, it was close by but he didn’t point the right side of the road properly. After walking for 5 minutes, I stopped by an office and asked a few men there. They didn’t speak any English so they stopped a passerby to speak to me. They all insisted that I should turn back all the way and go to the Pamukkale travel agent. That didn’t sound right, the cab driver appeared confident. Halfway back, I saw it across the road. Names of cities were written in bright font on the glass wall. It was the bus ticketing office. I bought the bus ticket at 50TL, the journey would take 10 hours.
I took a cab back to my hotel. I didn’t bring my hotel address (in fact that was the only address I did not have with me as MAS did the booking). The driver didn’t know exactly where it was and he called somebody to ask. Then, I saw a familiar restaurant near my hotel and asked to be dropped there.

On the third day, I took off to the Cartoon Museum in Fatih on my own. The driver was not familiar with the place. So, he stopped and showed people the address in my Time Out Istanbul guidebook to seek direction, until we finally got there. Yeah, still no problem. I hailed another cab to Taksim Square. I agreed to meet Simah for lunch at Burger King but the driver didn’t know where it was. He dropped me at Pizza Hut instead. While waiting for Simah to find me, I saw a Turkish Airline ticketing office and entered. To my surprise, the air ticket from Denizli (a town near Pamukkale) to Istanbul cost 109TL. That was 1/5 of the amount I got from the internet when I checked while I was still in KL. The flight is 1-hour only, so I bought it.

After a fantastic lunch (which I’d share in a separate entry), Simah left me at Istiklal Kadessi, the modern major shopping area. I wanted to visit Homer, the biggest English book store there. I ended up visiting Robinson Crusoe and a few others too. I found several English short fictions by Turkish authors, exactly what I wanted. I also bought a pair of black leather gloves with dark pink fur trimmings. My legs were killing me by then. I wanted to stop at Gloria Jeans for Coffee but it was full. It started to rain again so I hailed a cab back.

And again I forgot my hotel address. I said Beyoglu and the driver took me to a different hotel. I refused to get down and he scolded me that my Madison was actually in Taksim. I would have to pay much extra (for 2 trips). He dropped me by at the side road next to the hotel, rather than in front. Things were already heaty by then. The fare was 18TL. I took out 20TL but he eyed the 50TL in my waist pouch and asked for that instead. He said he’d give me the balance of 35TL. It was weird so I insisted on handing him the 20TL. He said he wouldn’t give me the change of 2TL. I yelled at him, quickly got out and slammed the door.

It was somewhat unpleasant but the real problem only started on Day 4 when I moved to Naz Wooden Inn. It is located at Sultanahmet – the old city and a busy tourist area. I was only staying there overnight before being picked up by Hassle Free Travel Agent for Canakkale. Haan, the bubbly receptionist was very helpful, giving me direction on how to get to the Grand Bazaar nearby. It would take a 15-minute walk and he specifically told me not to take a cab.

After turning a couple of lanes and walking pass the Arasta Bazaar, I found the blue mosque. But the tram line and the tram station were no where to be seen. I wasn’t a fan of walking. A cab was waiting nearby and the driver called me. I quickly got in, thinking it would solve my problem. Big mistake! I forgot to check and he did not switch on the meter. The old man even pretended to be nice, saying he didn’t speak much English and wishing me a happy holiday and all.

He took a long way and turn around, I thought the road was like that. Finally he dropped me at a busy shopping area and said the Grand Bazaar was a 3-minute walk away. The meter stated 3 so I took out 3TL to give him, thinking of how cheap it was. He argued that it was not the amount, only the distance. He insisted on 20TL. I opened the door and was about to flee. He got out of the cab and came after me. It was too much but he seemed dangerous so I threw 20TL at him.

After 25 minutes of walking and stopping to ask people 3 times, I finally reached the Grand Bazaar. It was a straight path but he actually dropped me even further than the spot he first picked me up. He charged me a bomb too. That was downright cruel. May he rot in hell.

(to be continued)