Daily Archives: 15 December, 2008

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Third Day @ Istanbul

Starbucks, Macbook and Lonely Planet

Considering the late night we had yesterday, it was amazing that we managed to get up at all. But woke up we did, and after a typical breakfast at Bahaus Guesthouse, we headed out… for more coffee at Starbucks before venturing out for the day. LOL. Our first stop of the day was the famous Grand Bazaar.

At the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is the heart of the city in much more than a geographical sense and has been so for centuries. With over 4000 shops and several kilometres of lanes, as well as mosques, banks, police stations, restaurants and workshops, it’s a covered city all of its own. Though there’s no doubt that it’s a tourist trap par excellence, it’s also a place where business deals are done between locals, and where import/export businesses flourish.

Beautiful, beatiful Turkish light

Grand Bazaar was the main reason why I wanted to visit Istanbul, having been captivated by the intoxicating love affair between Bette and Sammy in the book “Everyone Worth Knowing”. Alas… it was quite a disappointment. Nothing more than a glorified Chatucak (the famous bazaar in Bangkok), the touts really got us down despite the warning in my faithful Lonely Planet.

Would I be back? Nope, definitely not – so I took lots of photos for memory sake. That’s how bad it was. Luckily the rest of Istanbul more than made up for this disappointment.

After a seriously bad lunch at Grand Bazaar, we headed back to Starbuck to meet up with Wilson. We were debating if we should do the famous Turkish Bath thing – called a “hamam” – and in the end Wilson and I went to Cemberlitas Hamam for the experience, while Liping stayed put to enjoy her latte (and guard all our belongings, haha).

At Cemberlitas Hamam

The Cemberlitas Bath is a still-functioning historical public bath that was built in 1584. It was commissioned by the foundation of Nurbanu Sultan, the wife of Sultan Selim II and the mother of Sultan Murat III. The bath is one of the most important works of 16th century Ottoman acrhitecture and was built according to a plan drawn up by the legendary Turkish architect, Mimar Sinan.

Cemberlita Bath is the only hamam I have visited in Turkey, and well worth it. The entire experience – showered and scrubbed by a hefty attendant, lying on the heated marble looking up at the heavenly dome, and a Turkish massage – was great. I wished I had the time to visit some of the less well-known and perhaps less touristy hamams. We were not allowed to take photos inside the bath itself for obvious reasons, so we took some photos at the reception area and outside the hamam instead.

At the Galata Bridge

Later on that night, we decided to walk from Emimonu to Beyoglu enroute to Istiklal Cadessi via Galata Bridge. Galata Bridge is a scenic bridge connecting the two shores of Istanbul – the old Istanbul (ancient cities such as Sultanahmet) and the newer, more arty-farty European shore (known as Beyoglu). Liping, Wilson and I decided to stroll over the bridge to take in the sight. But it was damn cold and I didn’t really get to soak in the atmosphere, so we took some interesting photos instead.

At Istiklal Cadessi

And we arrived at our destination, after a short furnicular ride from Tunel. Istiklal Cadessi (Independence Avenue) is the backbone of Beyoglu. Formerly known as the Grande Rue de Pera, it is home to the city’s smartest shops, European embassies and churches, many impressive residential buildings, and fashionable teashops and restaurants. Istanbullus work, sleep and shop within its orbit.

This street, stretches between Tunel and Taksim Square, is akin to Orchard Road in Singapore. This is where I spent most of the nights in Istanbul, since most other places are either too expensive (along the shore of Bosphorus) or closed (the rest of the city).

Dinner at Haci Abdullah

We had one of the most wonderful dinner here on the first night, at this famous restaurant recommended by Wilson called Haci Abdullah. The meal was wonderful – you can see all the photos here – even if it was pretty pricey. And oh! I bought a beanie for myself to cover up my messy hair since I didn’t have any hair wax on me after the hamam experience, and I gotta say, I looked pretty cool in it. LOL.

Night Shot of Blue Mosque

After the dinner, we strolled around for a little more, before catching another furnicular to Taksim Square, from where we took the tram ride from Kabatas back to Sultanahmet. Enroute back to Bahaus, we took some more photos of Blue Mosque at night – before calling it a night. We were all pretty beat, and it was only the third day of our stay here in Istanbul!