Istanbul is the furthest country I’ve been to and also my first European country. Seriously, 20 hours in Istanbul is not enough! Istanbul is beyond amazing and it never fails to mesmerize me, well try asking those who have been there – pretty sure you’ll get good reviews about the city! I feel like coming again and again.
It was a very rewarding experience actually to visit Istanbul during winter. I was expecting the city to be snowing when I arrived, but sadly it didn’t. And exactly a week after I left the city, Istanbul had a massive snowfall. So unfair. Apart from the freezing weather plus the wind (basically everyone hates the wind) coming from the sea, Istanbul is truly beautiful. Every angle of the city is Instagram-worthy (lol), and the best thing about Turkey is it’s a Muslim country! Life abroad definitely feels ten times easier when you travel to Muslim countries – halal food everywhere, toilet with water (haha) and being able to pray in a proper place.
Since my family and I flew to Egypt with Turkish Airlines, so we had the awesome privileges being one of the many transit passengers on Turkish Airlines. Since our layover was beyond 12 hours, therefore we could choose to either spend our layover at a hotel nearby or join a tour group to visit Istanbul. Obviously, we chose the latter considering that it was my first time in Istanbul so why not grab the chance? What’s more awesome is that everything’s FOC!! You name it – from transportation to and fro the airport, breakfast & lunch, entrance tickets and hotel rooms. You only need to bring some Lira cash and voila, you’re set to go!
And when they really mean free breakfast & lunch, they do mean it and you’ll be served some great local cuisine. Fyi, we had our breakfasts inside a restaurant facing the Bosphorus Sea (omg omg omg) and holy cow, the view of the sea in the morning is shit amazing! It was like a dream to be there, enjoying the sunny rays amidst of the cold weather.
For the Istanbul city tour, you can always choose your preferred type of tours depending on your layover period and also your stamina, too haha. And please, if you’re bringing along your parents, please never ever take the walking tour. My parents and I took the effing walking tour and the walk was beyond our expectations. No joke, man, no joke, because streets in Istanbul are quite hilly so it was quite a pain. I think we walked around 10 kilometres and I myself ran out of breath, what more my parents.
some streets we were passing by on our way to the Blue Mosque
Plus, it was winter so weather’s very dry and sweating never helped to warm up our body. Our other group members walked so fast ahead of us but good thing we didn’t get lost in the city! However, as tiring as it seemed to be, I loved the tour. They brought us to few streets where not many tourists go to. So, it was a nice opportunity to have the local scenes to our own. For example, I remember seeing a lamp shop which is designed so beautifully but at the same time reflects the Turkish style. And there are some restaurants with vibrant colours wall paint and also walking past Turkish tea shops where locals would sit outside and enjoy the tea in the cold winter. Everything felt surreal 🙂
the lamp shop that I was talking about
Malaysia needs this kind of building more!
Since it was a half-day tour, we pretty much went to common tourist spots near Sultan Ahmet area. One of the places is the trademark of Istanbul, the Blue Mosque. The moment I saw the Blue Mosque, I couldn’t stop looking at it. Jaw-dropping. The typical me would quickly take lots of pictures but at that time, I decided to put my phone aside and just feast my eyes with this majestic view. Who cares about the pictures plus you can always Google it? Sometimes we really need to just put down those tech/gadget stuffs and enjoy the moment. Our eyes and mind deserve to view those beautiful things ‘live’ too. Let those moments be exclusively ours.
inside Blue Mosque: the significant red carpet and the chandeliers
Hagia Sophia is also an amazing piece of art. I mean, it has witnessed the city growing since it was called Constantinople to Antalya and now, Istanbul. And do expect some queues before entering the area because that place never gets empty! And that pretty much proves that Turkey is a country where tourists flock to regardless of the season. Especially Istanbul which is a melting pot of history, cultures and cuisines. Speaking of local cuisines, we had our lunch at a famous meatball restaurant near Hagia Sophia.
From left: Turkish yogurt called Ayran, lamb meatball (idk why meatball when it isn’t even round shape lol), bits of salads
The lunch was nice but it could have been better if they put more herbs and spices. After the lunch, we walked out of the restaurant feeling so full and continued our walk to the Grand Bazaar. It is a huge area and they sell so many things from food to clothing.
the entrance to Grand Bazaar and also the prayer area inside a mosque near Grand Bazaar
After buying some souvenirs and Turkish candies, we headed to the airport and everyone passed out in the bus. HAHAHA. Definitely one of the best day in my 2016.
Here’s the link if you want to find out more about those free tours provided by Turkish Airlines for its transit passengers 🙂
See you again, Turkey 😉