Thursday, May 8, 2014

Istanbul 2014 - Transit & Arrival, Day 1

Date: 4th April 2014

After 8 hours flying, we arrived in Doha Airport  at an early hours, saddened to see the new airport is still not open resulting a long queue at the transit hall. Upon clearance, we went straight to freshened up and hang out at the airport as our flight was supposed to leave soon. I captured the Doha airport illegally in below photo for my insta-weather. The Doha airport is no way near Emirates airport in Dubai but mostly Qatar Airline has purchased both Boeing and Airbus aircraft, which is good to balance the needs. Honestly, I felt much safer when I saw Airbus flight that we took to Istanbul. MH370 mystery has left doubts on Boeing safety to me personally. Less than an hour later we were boarded for the next plane to Istanbul. The journey was nearly 4 hours. We were served snacks and lunch on board.

We arrived in Istanbul feeling accomplished though it was a long queues in front of immigration lines to receives us. The long queue shows how popular Istanbul is among the tourist. It was nearly an hour before our turned were cleared. 

Selfie at the long queue of immigration lines

As soon as you stepped out from the immigration, you may see a beautiful cactus garden which are my sister's Rosnani favorite plant at her home. Seeing my 2 sisters look fabulously happy being in Istanbul, I recorded their happiness in below photo, near the Cactus Garden.
Cactus garden after the immigration check point
However, a surprised waited us at the baggage lines when we could not found any of our luggage. The airport "Lost & Found" officer was there waiting with a list in her hand. When we approached her for assistance, she asked if we could look again at the baggage belt if our luggage happened to be there. In the piece of paper that she was holding was list of luggage which were not could transferred into the Qatar Airways flight to Istanbul due to a mishandling of luggage in Doha Airport. All passengers luggage (Malaysian mostly) were nowhere to be seen. Hence, we had to fill-up the lost & found form and was promised that we shall get our baggage the next day when the next flight from Doha arrived.

With nothing to carry, we straightaway headed to look for Istanbul Metro line, which was easy to locate using the airport's directional sign. It was located on the left side, lower level of the arrival hall. A local Turks had assisted us how to purchase an Istanbul Card which we need to purchase 1 for all 4 of us. Kindly take note that you do not to purchase for all as it can be shared within the group. The card has it's credit that you can top-up at any available machine, placed in Istanbul city. It was the most convenience and cheaper way to travel in the city. 

The card and the top-up machine are different, the above was to buy an Istanbul card
After we have successfully purchased the card, we went to look for directional line map which were made available at most if not all the tram and metro lines. The 3 sisters were locating ways how to go to Yazar Hotel from the airport in below photo. We had to stop at Aksaray station and took another line until we reach, Sirkeci. The hotel was booked via our favorite hotel website, We made a right choice in terms of location, budget and convenience as Yazar Hotel had offered everything that we look for. Their hotel rates included breakfast. 

It was about an hour past noon when we were done with the card and the direction. There's 5 Metro lines in operation at the point of visit and we took Metro Line 1, M1 to Aksaray. From Aksaray, we use tram (fare paid using the same Istanbul Card) to Sirkeci line. Below photo was how the M1 line from and to airport looks like.

Happy faces in a good condition train
It was amazing to view the city from the metro, a view differs from our Kuala Lumpur city. The weather was reasonably cold but the walks made us forget about the cold weather. We walk in the Aksaray area  feeling excited when we saw tulips being planted in most of the area. It was tulips festival in Istanbul. I snapped below photo of my sister and local paintings at the passageway from Aksaray Tunnel point.

Istanbul is a city where the history building are visible at every corner you turn, all preserved and mostly in use till present date. In my opinion, the design looks quite similar. It's old architectural building is a resemblance to a proud of Ottomon Empire. A monument that can be seen in below photo is in Aksaray.

Beautiful weather in Aksaray
In front of the tram station, we found a small cozy restaurant that we decided to stop for lunch. While waiting for lunch, we went to change more Euros to local currencies, Lira as Euro 20 changed at the airport not suffice for all of us. The money changer is called as "Change Office" in Istanbul and available in most of the areas. It is so convenient for the tourist to get their money changed. 

Local cuisine as our first lunch in Istanbul City
The tram we took stopped right in front of "Marmaray Sirkeci Istasyonu". I was glad as I wanted to purchase our ticket to Bucharest as soon as we arrived in Istanbul. Thereafter, we were looking for direction to Yazar Hotel. After getting lost here and then, we finally found and glad that we chose a place which is nearby to attraction places. After a quick rest and prayer, we went out to look for clothes and other basic necessities as our belonging were all inside the luggage that was stuck in Doha Airport.

Purchased expressed train ticket to Bucharest at the Sirkeci Train Station
We stayed for 4 nights in Yazar Hotel and it was really great. The hotel is situated near the main city attractions, merely 5 minutes walking distance to Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque and 5 minutes to Yeni Cami/Spice Bazaar and another 10 minutes to Galata Tower. It's address is in Sultanahmet/Fatih area. The hotel staff are all very friendly and helpful. We basically were directed by them to a shopping area not far from the hotel and Eminonu, within a walking distance. We found what we need in the clothing shop and groceries shop, hoping that the Airport Lost & Found will send our luggage the following day.  

After we have done with shopping, we went to take our diner adjacent to Hafiz Mustafa baklava shop. My sisters brought back some Turkish Halva and pudding from Hafiz Mustafa shop, I had rice pilaf and beef for my diner as the whole day I was not taking any rice.

Cold night, late dinner and tiring day
Later that night, we had small discussion since we have skipped 2 place of interest (POI) scheduled on the first day, i.e. to Grand Bazaar and to Taksim Square. Our day 2 itinerary has been shifted to day 3 and we had to squeeze in whatever times left to include the 2 places that we supposed to visit. My next entry would be by details of places that we visited.

Stay with me for some tips and information of our choice for POI.
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