Our journey begins just after midnight, clear skies and twinkling stars accompanied us all the way to Sagil, a little village not far from the legendary mountain, Gunung Ledang.
Along the way, we decided to make a pit stop, you know to stretch our legs, empty our bladder and bowels…ehehe, or catch a cup or two! It’s a two-hour journey you know, so it’s important that we drive comfortably and reach our destination safely!
We took the North – South Highway and exit at Tangkak, a village bordering the State of Melaka and Johor. Then, took the country road to Sagil where our guide patiently waited for us, in front of the 7-Eleven Store. It was 3 am, still much too early for us to do anything plus our bodies were crying for a much needed rest! Moi, our guide was accommodating enough to let us catch a wink or two at his little abode.
Morning came much too soon, we groggily, moved and transported ourselves into the awaiting vehicle to grab some carbs, protein & fluid before setting off on this treacherous journey!
Thank you, Bobby Chinn, for your show “World Cafe Middle East: Istanbul” has brought back memories of my short trip to Istanbul!
The places you’ve been, the food you’ve tasted, the people you’ve met & the culture you’ve experienced instantly took me back to the early Winter of 2005! I never imagined myself setting foot and breathing in the air of the once famous and fearless Byzantine Empire as well as the birth of the every powerful Ottoman Empire!
Istanbul is a mixture of the old and the new, the modern and the traditional, of European and Asian, the religious and the liberal, just look all around you. It’s a melting pot of culture! Why not? It connects the East to the West or specifically, Europe to Asia or vice versa!
Istanbul is rich with History and Culture, you’ll find historical sites within distance of each other. Sites left by the Romans, such as the Basilica Cistern that lie beneath the city itself, not far from the Hagia Sophia, which is within walking distance to the the Sultan Ahmad Camii or also famously known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles inlaid in its interior. If time permits, spare some Turkish Lira YTL and go on a tour of the Topkapi Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit its many chambers from harems to stables and galleries. Immerse yourself with history, transport yourself back to the Ottoman Period. Imagine what would’ve become of you, if you’ve lived then!
If you love culture, go ahead and experience Turkish dance and tradition at the Orient House, Best Western Hotel. Catch the belly dancing, whirling dervishes and enjoy Turkish cuisine at the same time! It’s quite an easy place to locate if you’re staying within the area of the Old City of Istanbul. Just 5 minutes walk from the Grand Bazaar and the other historical places! I remember it took us about 15 minutes walk from the Royal Hotel, Laleli, Istanbul to reach our destination! In fact, Istanbul is pretty safe compared to Madrid, as we were always reminded/warned about pick pockets! So far, we’re pretty lucky!
Another must not miss place to visit is the Galata Tower, built on a hill across the Bosphorus River. An ancient Tower with a restaurant on its upper floor which provides visitor with a 360 view of Istanbul and its surroundings! Go ahead and try to locate the Hagia Sophia, the Queen’s Mosque, the Goldern Horn etc. Down below, explore the avenues of Istanbul. As for me, I found İstiklâl Caddesi by accident. We were being adventurous or maybe brave or actually a little thrifty by deciding to walk back to our hotel! It looks simple from the top of the tower, imagining the route to take home, it didn’t look far either! In actuality, it wasn’t far! Anyway, we took the stairs, no it was the lift down. Bought some souvenirs from the Galata Tower Shop including a pair of evil-eye earrings (which I’ve lost during my 1st trip to Japan). Walked down an avenue, turn a few corners and realized that we’ve lost our way! Somehow, God must be on our side, we took a turn or maybe two and found the main street with shops and restaurants the whole stretch. With the number of people going through it, we’re confident we’re on the right track. In fact, we stopped by a few places to get Turkish Silk Scarves for me and Turkish Glassware by their ever famous glass maker, Pasabahce and then stop for lunch since we’re famished from all the adventure! Sated, we made a move and found ourselves at Taksim Square and realized we had just left İstiklâl Caddesi, one of the famous avenues of Istanbul! I guess that’s what you call adventure!
Oh by the way, we managed to hail a cab back to the Grand Bazaar before heading home, oops hotel! I felt right at home, here…damn, there! What more can you ask for? The warm Turkish Apple Tea, the fresh bread, Turkish Delights to spoil you, and obviously the beautiful people and the culture and heritage!
Sitting here, with only the sounds from the TV in the background accompanying me, my thoughts and my heart seem to be working over-time, incessantly telling me to go back to blogging. This forgotten or maybe neglected hobby of mine was once my passion, a place to pour out my feelings, a diary or a journal of sorts.
Photography is another passion of mine, however I need to constantly remind myself the importance of being patient, for a good picture I believe, is captured, when one keeps a clear head amid all the chaos or disorganization etc. As the saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”. The photo you capture is self-explanatory, it tells a story of who you are, of your emotion at that particular time. Just look at the photos taken at war-thorn countries. These photographers have managed to capture the emotions of the victims of war, the sadness, the rage, the torture, the face of losing their loved ones, their homes….themselves, or even their identity. Looking back in time, I find photographs as a significant source of history, be it family history or a reminder of how the world has evolved. Who ever would thought that such an iconic building (I’m talking about the WTC) would simply disappear off the face of the earth? How many of you still have photos of WTC in your albums? Any regrets on taking things for granted, in this case, taking such iconic feature of your city or country for granted? I have!
I’ve been up the WTC back in the Spring of 97 @ 98, can’t remember exactly the year. To tell you the truth, my heart wasn’t in it. As I recall, it was located at the Financial District, so as you see, me and business is like like oil and water, we just don’t mix! Thus, the lack of interest in the building’s function, background and architecture. Nor do I have photos taken of it, may it be the interior or a close up of the exterior! But I somehow do have a photo taken from the Empire State Building, you could see the 2 towers standing tall in the background. Well, that was then, for today a different structure takes its place!
People create History, but photos tell a Story. Without them, one may never be able to visualize the scene or to live in the moment. Ahh…the importance of photography and that little or over-sized device you carry along with you, digital or simply the old-fashioned kind….Let’s roll film!
p/s: Don’t forget to pack your camera on your next trip out of town!