Category: Turkey

Nov 03 2009

Diyarbakir, Turkey

To Diyarbakir

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Scenary during the journey
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Arrived at Diyarbakir Yeni Otogar (New bus station) at around 8am.
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The bus station is located around 14km west of the city so that’s why I did’t see any city like building. Nobody speaks English here so took a bus towards the east part of town and got off around the old city. A tip of looking for places to get off is to look out for signs of museums or places with a few 3-5 stars hotels. Usually this will be around the city center or places with tourist attractions, budget hotels.

Diyarbakir is considered as the unofficial capital of Kurdistan and is the largest city of Southeastern Turkey. Many people mentioned that the city is not safe and dangerous because of guerilla attacks and separatist movement. The city has around 1.5 million people and is the strong hold of Kurdish separatist movement. Around 90% of the population here is Kurdish and everyone is proud of their Kurdish background and tell me that they are Kurdish and not Turkish. There is a Kurdish looking flag on the public bus.
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There are around 30 millions Kurdish in the world but they don’t have a country. The Kurdish people live around southeastern turkey, northern iraq, northeastern syria and northwestern Iraq. They had suffered some atrocities and many were killed during the massacre of Armenians and during Saddam’s rule in Iraq.

There were not many tourist in Diyarbakir so everyone stared at me. Met a guy on the bus and he sort of showed me around but he couldn’t speak English. Approached by 2 guys and they invited me for tea but then they tried to sell me stuffs and I left.

Walked around the old wall, 6km in total
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The old city
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Since there were no hostel here, I gotta get a room in a hotel. After asking around few hotels,
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I checked in into Hotel Ozbal (20 TL single room with shower).
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Late lunch at around 3pm, had chickn kebag (6.5 TL)
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To get to Northern Iraq, I will need to cross the border at Silopi, Turkey side to Zahuk, Iraq side. Then try to find my way to Dohuk, Northern Iraq 3rd largest city. I read that shared taxi is the only way to get there but since taxi is quite expensive, I found a post mentioned that there is a bus from Cizre to Dohuk, Iraq. Asked around the bus station but no one knows, plus nobody speaks english.

Met a Kurdish friend on the street, Erdol. He is a nice guy, showed me around
Ulu Camii (Grand Mosque) This building was originally a church and it was converted to a mosque.
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and treated me for dinner.
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He and his friend Suffran worked in US over the summer so they spoke pretty good English. I learned a lot about Kurdish history from them. He has many friends that joined the PKK, which is considered as a terrorist group in the mountains. The military is very powerful in Turkey and has more say that the government. The military doesn’t want to talk to PKK and between 1984 and 1999, the PKK and the Turkish military engaged in open war. Turkey has a compulsory military service so sometimes Kurds joining the military have to fight their own friends and family. However, things are getting better and the government lifted the ban on Kurdish language. However, Kurdish name is still disallowed.

We then went to the new part of the city to visit Mega Center mall
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and then had tea. That’s my 5th cup of Kurdish cay (tea) for the day and I didn’t pay for any tea.

Nov 02 2009

Cappadocia and where next

It’s snowing today and the weather is around 0 C so there weren’t much activities to do. Spent pretty much the whole day planning my next destination. Originally I was planning to go to Iran from Turkey. However, right now I am considering to visit Northern Iraq before heading to Iran. I will need to head to the south east part of Turkey if I wanted to visit Northern Iraq. Another problem I have is time constraint because my visa to Uzbekistan is valid only until Dec 1st and I still have 3 more countries to go before Uzbekistan. Also I still have not got my Turkmenistan transit visa yet and I will need to give myself some additional time because many travellers have problem getting the visa.

Northern Iraq is open for tourism and it’s also called The Other Iraq. It’s an autonomy entity of Iraq and is governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Duhok, Arbil and Sulaymania are some of the bigger cities in Northern Iraq and I will try to visit those cities if possible. There are some good information on Lonely Planet Thorntree forum as well as some travel blogs, Backpack Iraq and Joe’s Trip.

Bought travel insurace finally because my next few destination will be more exotic and a little more dangerous. I should have bought travel insurance before my trip because the price for a 6 months coverage is just a little more than a 3 months coverage. I paid $173 for a 3 months insurance through world nomads.

Walked around Cappadocia in the afternoon
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Outside the Open Air Museum’
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Went to the bus station at 7pm and tried to get a bus ticket to Kayseri (one of the powerhouse economy in Turkey). However, the bus ticket agent mentioned that the bus is full. I don’t think it’s true but I can’t really argue with him since there are only 2 ticket agents that sell bus ticket to Kayseri and they are like a cartel. Got a overnight bus ticket to Diyarbakir instead (50 TL, 750 km away). They provided a shuttle to Nevesir which is another city 15 minutes away, then took the Batman bus to Diyarbakir.
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Turkey has some good buses and even though there is not much leg room but I have Wifi access on the bus. Bus stopped at 4.30am for morning prayers. Toilets are good business in Turkey because we have to pay for almost every toilet in Turkey.

Nov 01 2009

Cappadocia 2nd day

Backpackers Yasin Hostel
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There are 2 tours around Cappadocia organized by Rose Tour. The first one is the red line which is closer around Goreme and the other one is the green line which goes further to the east part, to the underground city, the Ilhara Valley and a monastery. We joined the green tour (50TL) since it goes further.
The bus picked us up at 9.30am from the hostel.
Stopped by for a panorama view. Cappadocia means the land of beautiful horse. The area around Goreme has many underground churches. Many years ago, this is the hiding place for Christians from Roman persecution before Christianity became an accepted religion.
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The underground city Derinkuyu was founded around 1960s. There are around 36 underground cities that had been found so far and Derinkuyu is the one which is better preserved, has 8 floors (85 meters deep) so far but many floors have not still been excavated.
The Underground City.
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Ihlara Valley
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In 1923, there was an exchange of population between Greece and Turkey and this involved approximately 2 million people. Greek Orthodox living in Turkey had to move to Greece and Turks Muslims living in Greece had to move to Turkey. This caused many of Cappadocia Christian inhabitants moved to Greece and the caves were abandoned.
A church (Christian fresco)
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Lunch is included in the tour. I had trout
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With some Malaysians
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Dinner, Spicy Kebab with tomato soup (11 TL). They provided unlimted bread and I think I ate more than a loaf of bread.
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Oct 31 2009

Goreme (Cappadocia), Turkey

Arrived at Goreme
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around 5.30am in the morning. There were 6 other Malaysians on the same bus to Goreme and since they booked an extra bed at Backpacker Yasin Hostel (9TL, around 4 Euros a night with breakfast), I just tagged along.
There were 7 beds in our hostel and it’s in a cave.
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The toilet is in a cave as well.
Met some hostel friends (Brad, Hugo and Lori) and we rented 4 scooters for 2 hours (15TL)
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and rode around Goreme.
Stopped to take photos.
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The motorbike gang
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Taking a break
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Uchira hill
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We rode to Uchira (west part of Goreme) and then to the east part.
Some moonlight
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Oct 30 2009

Ankara, Turkey

Arrived at Ankara trains station at 6.30am.
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Outside the train station
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It’s around 450km away and the overnight train took 8.5 hours. I prefer to take overnight train if possible because I can save a night of accommodation and time. For express train or bus, it will only take 5 hours.

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Everyone mentioned that there isn’t much to do in Ankara so I stored my luggage at the locker in the train station and planned to take an overnight bus to Cappadocia.
Walked to the park
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across the train station and met some friendly security guards.
Walked around the city center
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and got up to the old castle in Ankara.
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Street View
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Since Ankara is the capital of Turkey, I decided to visit Malaysian embassy to ask about visa issues for my next trip to Iran, maybe Iraq and Central Asia. Took a minibus (konakalle) and got off at the south part of the city.
Ankara southern suburb
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Malaysian embassy
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is located at Mahatma Gandhi street with many other embassies.

The ambassodor was not in and spent time chatting with some malaysians from the embassy (from left Mr. Suffran, Mr. Azrin and Mr. Jamil).
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Like always, Malaysians are a friendly bunch and Suffran, a Colonel from the military working in the embassy bought me lunch.
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Took bus 114 (bus 112 will go to the embassy row as well) back to the city. Walked around Kizilay which is a popular place to shop and hang out.
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Kocatepe Mosque
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Took a metro
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to the bus station to enquire about bus schedule. Ankara is at the center of Anatolia so they have buses to almost every part of the country.
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Went to An?tkabir, Kemal Atatürk’s mausoleum but it’s already close.
Went back to the train station to grab my bag.
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I stored my bag for 11 hours and that cost my 7.5 TL.
Walked around the park across the train station at night. There were some very colorful lightings in the park.
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Took the 1.30am bus (20TL) to Goreme (Cappadocia).
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Turkey has nice buses and the seat is quite comfortable. The journey will take around 4 hours to Goreme.
People in Ankara are more formal and uptight. There are many people wearing suits, probably because there are many government officials. However, everyone is still quite helpful. The only problem is that people in Ankara don’t speak English. I have not met an Ankaran who can speak fluent english.

Oct 28 2009

Istanbul 3rd day

We planned to do a big loop today. Starting from Sultanahment, we took a ferry to the asian side, then crossed over the Bosphorus bridge to the new city and came back all the way down to Taksim. After that crossed another bridge south to Sultanahmet.
Istanbul route

Took a ferry to from Eminou to Kadikoy which is at the Asian side.
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With Juliana
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With Kengo
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Visited Fenerbache football stadium.
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The Asian part of Istanbul is more residential.
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After 2 days of looking at old buildings we wanted to look at the modern part of Istanbul. Took bus no. 500 from the Asian side crossing the Bosphorus bridge to Mendicekoy which is the new part of Istanbul.
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Visited Cevahir mall which is one of the largest mall in Europe
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Took a metro to Taksim. It’s so crowded and there were many people walking on the street. (Istiklal st)
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Fruit Stall
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Galata tower at night
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We walked all the way back to our hostel in Sultanahmet.
Next day,
This was my 4th day in Istanbul and it’s time to check out. Pics with the crew, we have been traveling together for the last few days and it’s time to say goodbye.
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Nice weather today. I am taking the pic at Eminou which is at the Sultanahment side and across river is the Galata side (you can see Galata tower from the pic).
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I was still deciding if I should either head west to Izmir, visit Ephesus (a historical site with Roman ruins) and Parmukalle (great view of Taverstine) or keep on continue my journey to the east to Ankara. Decided on the later because of time constraint.

Got a overnight train ticket at Sekerci tran station (30TL with student card) but the train will depart from Hyderbasa which is at the Asian side.

Today is Turkey independence day and there are Turkey national flags everywhere. Turkish are quite proud of their country. The military is quite powerful here and there is a compulsory military service for man. Also we can’t access youtube in Turkey, the website is blocked by the government. So I will try to upload some videos later.

Had Adona kebab for lunch with Faruk in Taksim area. Then took a bus to Bibek which is at the northern part of Istanbul, but I got off at Kolej since it’s late in the afternoon and it will take a few hours walk to Sultanahmet.
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The Bosphorus bridge
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Walked around Beksitas square
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Lahmacun, Turkish pizza (1.5 TL)
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Had Pilav, rice with bean (1.5 TL)
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and a Turuv Doner (1.5 TL) for dinner.

Firecrackers show because of Independence day celebration.
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From around Bibek to Sultanahmet, it’s around 12km walk

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Took the last ferry (9.10pm) to Haderbasah train station and then took the 10.00pm train to Ankara.
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I got the top sleeping berth
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I heard Ankara has cases of swine flu so hope things won’t be that serious.

Oct 26 2009

Istanbul, Turkey

Arrived in Turkey Otogar bus terminal at 5.30am in the morning.
There are many budget hostels around the neighbourhood called Sultanahmet where the Blue Mosqu, Topkap? Palace and Hagia Sofia are located. Took a metro to Aksary and then switched to a tram to Sultanahmet. They don’t have a day pass here so every section of the transportation is pay per use (1.50 TL ~ .70) and not including transfer.

Got to Istanbul Hostel and got a room with around 20 beds, (20TLR a night ~USD 13)
Met Juliana, a Brazilian who is also traveling alone at the hostel and we walked to the Topkapi Palace

and the Blue Mosque.

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Basilica Cistern

Turkey Map with tourist attractions

Walked to Grand Bazaar which is one of the oldest and largest covered market in the world with around 3500 shops.
The Grand Bazaar

Selling guns in the bazaar

Took a tram to Kabatas then a funicular to Taksim, a famous street with shops and cafes with a few hostel mates.

Next day,

Visited Hagia Sofia with Kengo and Juliana. It cost 20TL, around 10 Euros each to get in to Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sofia so we picked only Hagia Sofia. Hagia Sofia was built in 532 AD during the Byzantine empire and was the largest cathedral for a thousand years before Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and turned the Hagia Sofia into a mosque.
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Inside is huge, looks a little like Orthodox church
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With the team

View from the window
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Walked across the bridge to Beyoglu the north part. Fishing is a popular activity on the bridge.
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Balik Empek (fish sandwich 3 TL) for lunch at the fish market
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Climbed up a small hill and got to Galata Tower which is on the north side of the river.
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Spice Market
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Jimmy Carter, the ex president of US was in Istanbul too. We kept bumping into his group of VIP
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and he was staying at the Four Seasons at Sultanahmet, just across our hostel.

Night view of Hagia Sophia
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