Monday, December 15, 2014

Istanbul... aku datang!

CK writes

I don't travel much.  Selain daripada duit ciput, I have a bunch of furry companions at home.  Susah nak cari orang yang boleh jaga diorang.  I went to Istanbul in October 2014. Just a few days trip with a friend.  This friend of mine dah ajak pergi dari setahun yang lepas, kejap jadi, kejap tak jadi... last2 bulan August haritu terus je jadi beli tiket. Nasib baik PK available untuk jadi bibik. Dia la orang yang paling excited, terus bergelut book kan tiket flight.  
Ada drama sikit di malam yang yang nak pergi tu.  As usual, urusan penghantaran ke airport diselenggarakan oleh PK anak beranak.  Keluarga tu kalau tak boleh naik katerbang, boleh pegi airport je pun dah cukup seronok dah.  My friend & I was supposed to be flying with MAS.  Masa tengah queue, orang kaunter panggil & bagitau that MAS was overbooked...boleh gitu?  Dia nak suruh naik Turkish Airline yang akan berlepas lebih awal.  I yang tengah berkobar2 nak support airline malaysia ni terus bagi reason that I am with a friend, yang pada masa tu belum sampai lagi.  Dia suruh tepon my friend, nak jugak suruh kitorang naik katerbang Turki tu.  My friend pulak tak jawab tepon.   
By the time dia sampai we had to queue at another counter.  Rupa2nya, since kawan I ni pemegang silver card Enrich, maka seat dia memang secure kat katerbang MAS.  Akak kaunter tu siap nak timbang dah beg kawan I ni.  Dengan lajunya I cakap kat akak kaunter tu, kalau tiket I tak lepas naik katerbang MAS tu, beg kawan I ni tarik balik tau!  So, akak tu pun tepon sana sini, cek itu ini... at last I pun dapat la naik katerbang mesia jugak.  Ishh... rugi la beli tiket katerbang kalau tak dapat makan nasik lemak kan.  The flight was delayed, bertolak around 1.30am and arrived at Istanbul at 7.30am local time.



Turkey is big, and the attractions are scattered all over the country.  Macam2 tempat menarik, tapi semua jauh2 from one another.  Unless you have lots of annual leaves to spend, otherwise that’s why most people choose to spend their time in Istanbul only. Basically, Istanbul is located in 2 continents - Europe & Asia.  The European side is divided into 2 - the Historical or Old Istanbul where most of the attractions are located, and the Modern Istanbul.  If it’s just a very short trip, i would suggest you to spend your time in the historical or old Istanbul only because there are lots of interesting spots within steps away.  

I love the calmness of the place.  There’s no rush.  Maybe the weather played a great role too.  When I was there it was autumn with the temperature less than 16 degree.  Quite windy, especially when you are by the sea.  Kata orang the best time to visit Istanbul is around April.  Tulips are everywhere during that time.  Tapi, be prepared jugak sebab the crowd is gonna be huge, ramai tourist maka lebih panjang la line nak beratur di mana2 pun.  One interesting thing that I love about Istanbul is that they are animal friendly.  You can see cats and dogs everywhere & they are all well taken care of.  They spend their days sleeping everywhere in the park, and surprisingly, takde pun nampak or jumpa najis2 diorang merata2.  Everyone loves animal over there.  I saw a lady at the mosque who brought a bag of cat’s food with her to feed the animals.  Once I saw a couple of tourists got scolded by a local sebab sentuh kucing dengan kaki.  If only we have that same attitude here in Malaysia.

I’ll try to write down the prices, whichever I remembers, for guidance.  Jangan risau kalau bawak duit tak cukup sebab ATM machine ada di merata2 tempat, cuma jangan lupa call bank to activate your ATM cards.  Not many money changers in KL ada simpan duit Lira.  You can opt to bring Euros, then change it in Istanbul.  I think the best is just to withdraw your money at the ATM, the exchange rate is better than buying Lira in KL.  Bigger shops accept credit cards, even some shops at the Grand Bazaar.  But, I noticed that they prefer cash than credit card, even at the hotels.  Katanya the bank charges them a lot.


Except for the rush to beat the long queue at the museums, otherwise life runs slowly over there.  Take your time to walk at the park, sit & enjoy eating Simit - a loop shaped bread, sometimes encrusted with sesame seed.  Enjoy the cold weather munching warm corn and chestnuts.  Or if you are hantu ais krim like me, jangan lupa rasa ais krim dia.  Sangat lain from the normal ice creams that we have in Malaysia.  Walaupun pakai baju berlapis2 tapi gigih jugak nak makan ais krim.  Simit costs 1TL each, buah berangan 5TL & ice cream 5 - 7TL (I bought twice, ntah kenapa harga lain2 tapi kedai sama ;) ).  Try their freshly squeeze pomegranate juice.  Harga 5TL.

A man selling pomagranate juice
Simit is sold almost everywhere


Kalau nak try nasik, jangan la terkejut kalau tengok portion yang besar.  Diorang memang makan lauk dalam kuantiti yang banyak.  Dia punya 1 portion tu my 3 - 4 kali makan kot.  Most of the time I had kebab, wraps & soups.  Most of the places serves bread on the table.  Any kind of bread, and semuanya sedap.  If you ordered for soup, biasanya they have lenthil soup - pun dapat a basket of bread jugak.  They eat lots of meat, and salad.  Kalau tengok menu mesti lebih kurang je semua.  I would suggest you to try their Balik Ekmek or grilled fish sandwich.  Yang ni ada kat Eminonu, or at the Galata bridge.  The one sold at the stalls cost 5TL.  Fresh warm fish on a cold day, by the sea - sebijik rasa macam kucing!  Under the Galata bridge are restaurants, mostly with fish menus & seafood.  Ada la jugak sotong goreng tepung, tapi mana la boleh lawan sotong celup tepung yang makan kat tepi pantai Kuala Terengganu kan.  Harga makanan lebih kurang around 8TL - 25TL sepinggan.   
The turkish drinks lots of tea.  Kalau kita shopping lama & beli banyak barang kat kedai dia, usually they will offer tea.  They have very nice apple tea, and at one of the shops, I was offered cherry tea - pun sedap jugak.  They are also known to have nice coffee.  So, no worries about food.  You won’t go hungry, & semuanya halal.


Prepare yourself with a printed rail map.  Just google and you’ll find one.  Once arrived at the airport, if you choose to travel by public transport, go one level down.  Take the escalator down and buy yourself an Istanbulkart at the vending machine.  Be sure to change the language to english, nanti tak paham pulak apa dia kata.  An Istanbulkart costs 10TL ie 6TL for the card & 4TL top up.  Lepas dapat kad tu top up la banyak mana nak guna.  I would advice to buy this card even if you plan to go to the hotel by cab because you’ll be travelling by tram most of the time.  This card is usable in the bus, tram etc.  The charges is 2.15TL per tram ride.  Without this card, you’ll have to buy token, which costs you  4TL per ride.  The same card can be used for a group of 5.  Tak payah beli sorang satu sebab deposit 6TL tu memang tak dapat balik.  Tap the card to pass the swivel, then just pass it to the next person.  Senang je.  Tram runs frequently, tak payah nak berebut2 kalau penuh sebab the next one will come very soon.  Your rail map will guide you if you have to change into other mode of transportation.  Don’t worry, senang je nak faham.  You can easily walk up to 3 tram stations.  Lebih dari tu dah consider jauh dah.  The main attractions are between Beyazit to Kabatas station.  Kabatas is the end of the tram line, located at the Modern Istanbul.  Kalau at the Old Istanbul, you’ll be travelling alot between Beyazit to Eminonu.

Trams are frequent.. tak payah berebut2 :)

I would suggest to get this map :
Free from tourist info counter

It’s free.  I got this for free somewhere dekat2 area Blue Mosque.  Itupun hari kedua last baru jumpa.  Dalam map ni ada locations of the places dan jugak station public transport.  So, tak payah pegang banyak2 map at one time.


If your main activity is around Sultanahmet area, I would suggest you to get a hotel closer to the tram line.  Especially if you are bringing someone who is not quite capable of walking long distances.  Those southern area (close to the Marmara Sea is actually located downhill.  Jangan terpedaya sangat dengan kata2 internet yang kata ’10 mins from Blue Mosque’ etc..  Memang betul boleh sampai dalam 10 min, tapi bukanlah dengan berjalan lenggang lenggok.  Mak2 & makcik2 yang sakit kaki will not enjoy the walk.  Nak naik cab pulak rasanya sangat tak berbaloi sebab sebenarnya tak jauh sangat & kereta will have to take a further way to reach the main area - wasting time & money. Hotels are cheaper semakin jauh dari area Sultanahmet or Blue Mosque.  Maybe not cheaper sometimes, but they offer more facilities.  So, the decision is yours.

Rows of hotels around Sultanhamet area

  •  Always keep 1TL coins in your pocket.  Public toilets charges are 1TL.
  • Plan your activities to the museums in the morning.  Queue to the ticket counters of Aya Sophia and Topkapi are always long.  Kalau tak sempat, just plan one museum a day, spend rest of the day ke tempat2 yang free.  Next early morning baru pergi ke the next museum yang kena beli tiket.  Few of my friends who visited Istanbul in April didn’t managed to go in sebab queue tersangat panjang.
  • Selalu akan jumpa orang yang offer nak tunjuk kedai dia yang jual karpet.  They’ll try their best to take you to their shops.  Kalau taknak beli karpet, dia akan cuba jual lampu, taknak jugak dia promote kedai makan dia or hotel.  One family usually runs a few types of business.  Pandai2 la cari alasan kalau taknak terperangkap.  Do not accept the drink if you don't feel like buying ;)
  • Kat sini ramai jugak yang minta sedekah.  Perempuan yang bawak anak or most of the time you’ll see childrens - biasanya kanak2 perempuan kat tepi2 jalan.  Even sampai tengah malam.  It’s really sad seeing those kids by the road side in the middle of the night.
  • Most of the shopkeepers memang kenal Malaysian.  They’ll always greet “oo..Malaysia?”.  Berjaga2 la ye.  Don’t get yourself caught dengan teguran ramah tamah tu.  Kalau tak berminat nak beli, just smile and walk fast.
  • Bulan April ada tulip festival.  Merata2 ada tulip.  My colleague said that their tulips are bigger and more colorful than the ones in Amsterdam.  Kalau nak tengok boleh la plan pergi bulan April, tapi tiket katerbang & hotel mungkin lebih mahal.  Crowds lebih besar di mana2.


Ada banyak tempat nak melawat around Istanbul.  I’ll describe few main ones.  You can opt to buy museum pass which costs 85TL for 72 hours.  Kalau memang suka masuk keluar museum, this card is sold at the museum ticket counters.  The card is valid to be used at 6 museums : Aya Sophia, Topkapi, Archeological museum, Chora museum, the Turkish & Islamic Art museum and the Mosaic museum.  Unless you are the type who could spend hours in museums, otherwise I personally don’t think that it’s worth buying.   

These descriptions are just brief.  The history behind each attractions etc are better described by encik gugel.  Susunan pun bukanlah mengikut apa2 preferences.  

Blue Mosque / Sultanahmet Camii

Tak complete la kalau pergi Istanbul tak lalu depan Masjid Biru kan.  It is known as Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul.  Sebenarnya I tercari2 jugak kenapa kubah dia tak la nampak biru pun?  Kalau masjid tu kat Mekah & I tak nampak kaler biru tu, harus la I panik jugak.  Mana la tau kot2 hati hitam sangat sampai kaler pun tak nampak dah kan.  Whatever it is called, masjid ni memang cantik.  Tiap2 kali lalu mesti rasa nak ambik gambar.  Entrance is free.  Avoid visiting during prayer time, dia tak bagi masuk melawat time sembahyang.  Tram stop : Sultanahmet


Aya Sophia or Hagia Sophia

Aya Sophia was once a church.  Selepas Constantinople jatuh ke tangan Islam, it was converted into a mosque.  And now, it’s a museum.  Located directly opposite of the Blue Mosque, with very stunning reddish colour.  Not a super big museum, takkan sesat pun kalau masuk dalam tu.  Plan your visit early in the morning kalau tak nanti buang masa pulak beratur.  The ticket price is 30TL.  Tram stop : Sultanahmet

Topkapi Sarayi

Once a palace, now it serves as a museum.  Again, if you plan to visit, sila lah datang pagi2 to avoid the long queue.  I came here after visiting Aya Sophia, but we decided it’s not worth waiting in the queue.  So, we went to other places & came back early next morning.  Tempat ni luas but most of the places inside tak boleh ambik gambar, accept kat luar2 bangunan, park etc.  Entrance fee is 30TL.  Tram stop : Sultanahmet or Gulhane.   Boleh jalan dari Sultanahmet but I think Gulhane entrance is closer.

Basillica Cistern

Alamak... I don’t have nice picture to show.  Sebenarnya most of the photos were taken using my phone only.  I only realised that camera I ada kulat on the first day I arrived.  Esoknya lens pulak buat hal.  Mood mengambil gambar memang takde.  Kat Basillica Cistern ni agak gelap.  Dia ni kawasan bawah tanah, tempat takungan air.  Siap ada background music macam cerita2 seram.  Tempat ni tak ramai orang beratur, so tak perlu nak berlari pagi2 buta nak beli tiket.  Tiket price is 20TL.  Tram stop : Sultanahmet. 

Grand Bazaar

Sesuai dengan nama dia, this place is huge.  Kalau bawak makcik2, kena la selalu perati kot2 hilang.  Ada banyak simpang2 kecik kat dalam tu, and after a while you’ll feel lost sebab kedai2 semua lebih kurang sama.  You’ll find almost everything here.  From shawls to paintings, foods, jewelleries, clothes - anything.  Kena pandai bargain jugak, ada orang kata benda kat sini mahal dari luar.  Entrance fee takde, masuk tak payah bayar - tapi keluar nanti mungkin duit dah habis.  Tram stop : Beyazit.

Burnt Column

It was erected when Istanbul was the capital of Roman Empire.  Zaman dulu it was located in a center of a large square and was topped by a statue of Constantine.  It was known as the Column of Constantine, also as the Burnt Column or Cemberlitas in Turkish.  Tram stop : Cemberlitas. 

This column memang kat tepi jalan je.  Kalau jalan kaki ke arah belakang sikit, jalan2 sikit you’ll find another small open bazaar.  Kalau nak beli barang2 hiasan copper, brass etc tu lebih murah kat sini dari dalam Grand Bazaar.

Spice Bazaar

I discovered this place by chance.  Tengah2 jalan kaki tiba2 nampak ada open market.  Lepas tu baru sedar dia ni la Spice Bazaar yang orang dok cakap tu.  Macam nama dia, tempat ni memang ada jual spices.  Selain dari tu ada jugak jual ikan, cheese, turkish delights, silver wares etc.  It is an open market, bukan dalam bangunan macam Grand Bazaar & sangat ramai orang.   Tram stop : Eminonu.


Gulhane is just one stop after Sultanahmet.  Kalau rajin nak jalan kaki pun boleh.  Along the roads are shops.  Macam2 kedai ada, kedai makan, kedai ais krim, karpet, souvernirs - everything.  Walaupun taknak or tak suka shoppping pun, I suggest that you visit this place.  Jalan je slow2 sambil2 makan ice cream.  Memang best tengok life style diorang.  Kalau malas nak masuk tempat ramai orang macam Grand Bazaar tu, jalan2 kat sini lebih tenang & aman damai, and I think you can find most of the things here too.  Tram stop : Gulhane.

Whirling Dance

The whirling dance or sufi dance is unique in Turkey.  Katanya sambil berpusing tu diorang berzikir. Masa tengok tu tak boleh tepuk tangan, and definitely no cameras.  If you plan to watch, do your reservation at least a day earlier.  The dance starts at 7pm, only one show per day.  You’ll find the ticket agents around Sultanahmet area.  There are few places where the dance is held, the one that I went was at Hodjapasha Dance Theatre.  Price is 60TL.  Tram stop : Sirkeci.  Sampai situ kena tanya direction dari orang sebab location dia tersembunyi sikit.  Another place is at the Sirkeci Train station.  Mungkin ada jugak tempat2 lain, tapi semua memang starts around 7pm.

Taksim Square

Taksim Square is located at the Modern Istanbul.  To get there, naik tram sampai hujung ie Kabatas station.  From there, you’ll have to change into Funicular (boleh guna Istanbulkart jugak).  Keluar dari station tu terus jumpa tempat ni.  You’ll not miss sebab ada tugu seketul kat situ. 

You’ll notice that the buildings are taller in this part of Istanbul.  Memang betul la tempat ni lebih moden.  Kalau nak cari shopping complex kat belah sini la tempatnya, jangan la cari kat old Istanbul, memang takde.  My suggestion is, jangan la cuma berdiri kat area tugu tu, not worth the ride.  Tram Stop : Kabatas - then take Funicular to Taksim.

Istiklal Caddesi

Walk straight from the Taksim Square and you’ll find yourself standing in between rows of fancy shops, and hundreds of people.  Ntah kenapa each time I tengok gambar2 orang, kat area ni memang sentiasa ramai orang.  Kalau rasa nak shoppping benda2 yang branded, kat sini la tempatnya.  Frankly, I didn’t walk up to end of the road.  Jalan separuh jalan dah rasa serabut dah tengok orang ramai sangat.

Dolmabahce Sarayi

This palace is located on the European coastline of the Bosphorus strait.  It serves as the new palace after Topkapi.  The first president of Replublic of Turkey, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk has spent his last days of medical treatment here.  Now, it is open for public, but with a guided tour.  To reach here, take tram to the last station ie Kabatas.  Lepas tu jalan kaki. Boleh tahan jugak la jauhnya ye.  Tram Stop : Kabatas

A clock tower on the way to Dolmabahce Sarayi

Galata Bridge

Galata bridge connects the two continents.  Di sepanjang jambatan ni ramai betul orang memancing, dari pagi sampai ke tengah malam ada orang memancing.  Di sebelah bawah jambatan ni ada banyak restoran, mostly dengan menu yang ada ikan.  Bukanlah kari ikan atau sambal ikan.  Usually grilled fish, served with salad.  Di waktu siang, ramai orang duduk2 kat area antara stesen tram & jambatan, mengadap ke arah laut.  Kat area tu jugak ada stall yang jual sandwich ikan bakar & coffee.  Take your time to enjoy the cold air from the sea, plus steaming hot coffee & freshly grilled fish sandwich... wahhh.

This is Galata Bridge, yang nampak tinggi bentuk cone kat atas tu Galata Tower.  Beneath the bridge are restaurants.

Galata Tower

This tower is located just after the Galata bridge, at the European side.  It is a cone capped cylinder building.  Nak pergi tempat ni kena naik tram sampai Karakoy, then kena jalan panjat bukit sikit.  Quite challenging untuk yang sakit2 kaki nak sampai ke sini.  I walked all the way from Eminonu tram stop, lalu Galata bridge, pastu naik atas ni pulak..penat jugak.  It was initially planned as just a walk after dinner, tiba2 kitorang naik tram sampai Eminonu, tiba2 jalan lagi sampai ke sini.  Kalau datang waktu siang, boleh la naik ke atas tower tu.  Tram Stop : Karakoy


Ada few other places which i didn't describe here.  There are few places that I passed by & stopped tapi tak tau nama.  And there are places I intended to go but didn’t managed to visit.  You’ll find lots of interesting spot while walking along the road between Beyazit to Gulhane stop.  Can’t imagine how great the place must’ve been during those old times sebab sambil2 jalan ada je tinggalan2 bangunan lama, pecahan2 tiang etc... which I rasa kalau dikumpul2 boleh buat mini muzium kalau kat Malaysia.

Million Stone

The German Fountain (tapi takde air pun..) & belakang tu Blue Mosque

Some old artifact along the way to Topkapi Sarayi

As usual, after every trip there’s always new things learnt, new perspectives over our surroundings - peoples around us  and life itself.  I met a Malaysian family at the hotel.  On the second day I met them, they said that they haven’t gone anywhere yet accept to the nearest restaurant which is just a few steps away to have lunch.  Rest of the day was spent sleeping.  At first I thought it was a waste to spend so much travelling but not to explore the whole place.  Then I realised that it’s a way for them to get away from their usual schedule.  I’m sure along the way they’ve enjoyed and learnt something from what they saw and observed.  I did.  Although it was just a short trip, and there were places that i’ve missed to visit, i still enjoyed the trip.  I enjoyed the walks walaupun each day kaki rasa sakit.  I enjoyed watching different peoples, the cats & dogs each day.  I think I’ll even enjoy sitting at the parks whole day doing nothing if I have time to do so.  It’s in our mind.  How we explore and make use of what we see and experience every day.  Kalau ada orang tanya what do I get from travelling - yes, no materials gained.  The money could always be used for shopping, down payment for a new house or car, new handphone, branded clothes and the list goes on.  But I obtained experience.  As quoted by Albert Einstein : “The only source of knowledge is experience” & by Julius Ceasar : “Experience is the teacher of all things”

* Note : No good pictures, but I do hope it'll enlighten your plan anyway :)


  1. The pics are good enough akak, dah cantik dah tu. Turki! Wanna visit them one day: insyaAllah...

  2. Insyaallah.. one day.
    Ayat menyedapkan hati seniri : good memories are kept in photos, the best ones are kept in the heart :))