Am falling in love in Istanbul…

am flying to Istanbul. 30 mins before landing.
I read, I watch and I hear about it from all the sources that I’ve came cross in mylife, say books, mags, poems, paintings, traveling channels, friends who had been there and when finally I hv the chance to pay a visit, I’ve thought am ready for it. But, I was wrong. once I’ve sat my eyes on it. I've forgotten about my thoughts. I’ve been star struck!

It’s love. When you like something so very much that you actually know nothing about. Love at first sight.

My journey start with a train ride from Attaturk. Riding train is one of my favourite when am traveling alone. It is the fastest way to know a country. And the most important to introduce myself with the local. Am joining groups of young teens standing at the open door and stretching my arms as if am flying thru the Istanbul morning breeze watching the city’s landscape. background song sung by a young boy’s sultry voice while the girls, continously clapping their hands. Exchanging looks & smiles. It so warm and welcoming. I've won the local's heart.

After crossing the old city and reaching Zeytinburnu. Had to switch from train with metro ride to the new city. My first destination. A bed & breakfast in Guthane. The place run by 2 brothers who looks more like a twin. Diar & Mehmet. They welcomed me with a cup of apple tea. Sweet & sour. Just the way I like my tea to be on that very day. After the first cup is drained. Came the second cup. And for the second cup, I shall drink my cup slowly just to ensure the 3rd one will be more meaningful if it’s ever come. As one of my many books taught me. Whenever you’ve been offered tea,” the first cup is you’re a stranger, the second cup is you’re a friend and when it comes to the third cup you’re a family. and for that you’re willing to die for your family” – word of wisdom from Hj. Ali to Greg Mortenson in his book “three cups of tea”

a homey bed & breakfast.but it's kinda secluded.
As for the third cup I don’t think am ready to die for either Diar or Mehmet (note: tho they’re both attractive guys;o). The place where am going to stay. Is small, simple & clean with interesting DIY massage bath. Turkish style. 5 storey building with basement where the kitchen and dining table is. Where every guests having breakfast as one family. Very homey. Chat, mingle & flirting (again. the beauty of traveling alone).

Around 9am. Am start to walk up hill to visit all those rocks, stones, ruins of world’s handsome monuments. (Note: Did anybody hv ever told you how hard and hurt to walk on corbel? even with my most comfy lacoste pump can't even sustain the pain. better write email to lacoste and advise them to design pump with absorber for corbel surface next time!)

I’ve visited them all. And whenever I touched the stones and the carvings. I cried. Because whoever the authors, the sculpturers, the painters were, they’ve done magnificent pieces with their hands accompanied with their heart and soul. The pain, the time and the determination. What they’ve believed of what they’ve made is worth for billion years.

The city is not religious but portray a great deal of tolerance and diversify towards religion. How well both churches & mosques have been synchronized, they’ve preserved the master piece of byzantine arts alongside the mystical quranic verses. no matter one is in denial, but the truth always be, it’s obvious both religions came from the same root. Jesus is one of muslim’s prominent prophet. Not God. Irony.

Marmara cafe~ Local fave
The last for that day, am visiting the ruins of Bucoleon Palace. Once known for it’s wonderful byzantine architecture/ engineering and part of the Great Palace. But sadly now only walls still standing. Ruins and alone. And no one cares. Just like a staggered rocks by the roadside. To poor to be noticed. Went there and pay my tribute. While am buzy preparing for my set up to shot some pixs. Couples of tour busses stop by and let troops of tourist running towards the open Sea of Marmara. 3 guys approached me and asked "What the fuck is this" and am replied with very polite smile, "This fucking walls were the light house and was important part of Great Palace because it served as Maritime HQ". This what happens when you traveling with tour guidos. You do not know fucking things! They'll bring you to fucking tourist trap and drain out your fucking money!

And then,I keep on walking till am reaching residential areas and found this interesting local café where locals gathered. Drinking tea, playing pachman backgammon and smoking shisha. I did all that except playing pachman backgammon as am not a fan of "board games" instead, am reading my book and sketching something. Trust me, this place is awesome. It's facing the railway track and they've huge walls with cool graffiti and overlooking the ruins of Bucoleon Palace and...the Sea of Marmara...and the sunset. Can't get any better view to complete my day. (note: thanx Mickey for that!)

Foods. What is traveling without trying any local dish. Whatever you order will be grilled. Fish. Check. Grille. Beef. Check. Grille. Chicken. Check. Grilled. Vege. Check. Grille. And best to have them either with Turkish Tea or Coffee. But the best dinner I had. Was recommended by someone. At Maiden's Tower. So, here's the trick. You need to RSVP a day earlier. Dinner start @ 20:00. I'll be ferried to Maiden's Tower from Kabatas. and to get to Kabatas, am took metro ride from Tophane and walk for about 30 mins to reach the place that am supposed to wait for the ferry ride.

road to thousands more cafes & nite life
The Maiden's Dinner. The courses were excellent and plus live band plays variety of local & foreign love songs. But the thing is, everyones were either couple or in a group of, yeah guess what couples. And am there alone. For the first time...I was...ohhh FUCK! It's akward. But then they approached me and thought am a journalist. As I've my cam, my tripod and my sketch book. To save my akward momentoes, am just play along and they've served me pretty well. Thank God nobody care to ask which mags am working with. To be honest, I can't think of any. And on top of that tower, you do not want to miss and hangouts at the Kuledebar, I've got great views of Istanbul from Western Side to Bosphorus to Asian Side. Another awesome to end my trip for that day. Unfortunately, my cam ran out of batt:(

the art aficionado's fave hangouts

The arts & cultures. There's no other words to describe perfectly. Just plain and simply amazing. The modern arts exhibitions including paintings, films, sculptures, body arts, fashions, poems and street grafittis are awesome scenes in this place. It's the blend of conventional, rustic, political incorrect, rhetoric, humorous and quirky, creative, religion, artistic, romantic, historic, retro, fierce and all that art aficionados like me could ever wish for. from the safest performance till the very bloody, fucking hell of controversy that has been shown without doubt and fearless!

the coolest kitabevi ever
The shopping. As am not a fan of that activity and also restraining myself from any of those "tourist trap" areas. Hence, am enjoy very much walking along the "Istiklal Avenue" , one, for sight seeing; two, visiting churches from Greek Orthodox, Armenian to Latin Catholic and the third, my favourite shopping store; bookshops (note: apologies if am sounding so nerdy, but heck i love books very much.) recommended...a quite small bookshop called "Denizler Kitabevi". The smells of the shop makes me stay there for more than an hour...and as I left, I bought 5 old postcards with beautifully hand written on each postcards from someone to someone dated back as early as in 1910's. Each tell story of their personal experienced staying in Constantinople (Istanbul formely known) in 5 different languages. The price don't ever dare to ask. It's priceless to be honest.

The only regret. I've missed to visit Rumeli Hizari. Another interesting scant remains of 12th Century Castle, recommended by the same someone too. It's located upper Bosphorus. It was too far from my radar and am unable to reach. I've tried hail a cab but it happens on that very same day am planning to go there's a football match and the road was crowded with traffic and locals chanting I guess the National Anthem. and I've tried walking but I cant anymore as my legs were both sore and I just fell down earlier that day while buzy taking pixs. Was bended on my knee on the hard surface of that fucking corbel.

The 2 things I do not like. One; As am woman. Traveling alone. Am nearly get mob by group of young boys, most of them under 15 and chain smoking while drinking beer publicly while am hiking towards Galata Tower. Thank God with my previous experienced traveling, am changing my plan and make a detour. My advise take tram to go up there if you're alone. And yes, guess it's easier to be guy. Because when you're walking alone, they stare at you like you're walking naked (note: I've to check myself couple of times to ensure if somehow I've forgotten to wear my top or something really bad on myface). This happens not just in Istanbul but generally everywhere. Second; EFES taste like shhhiiettt...yucks!

The most I like. The people and the hospitality. I've been to others place where English not the first language and almost more than half local do not speak, or understand very well. I've always thought that's the reason why they're cold, stiff and unfriendly. But the best about Turkish, they've tried their best to understand and help you out in every possible ways they can to make you feel comfy. When I said possible ways including hands waving, head shakings and nods, actings, asking for pen and paper, scribbling something...which darn funny! Guess it's not about language barriers after all. It's nature. Mainland China shall learn this. When you open the gate, you shall open your people's heart too.

The next posting will be all about Istanbul in Black & White. and more of me writing junkies;op
Be kind.