Singapore to Istanbul

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Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul
January 4th 2013
Published: January 5th 2013
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With our boarding time approaching we started heading down to Gate 10. Fortunately, before we walked all the way there, we checked the departure board to discover that our gate had been changed to Gate 3!! So it was about turn and back to Gate 3 ... which wasn't open so we wandered around looking for some more seating. We were really struggling to stay awake by this stage. We nearly dozed off sitting in the seats arranged around the television screens so we thought we should head back to see if the Gate 3 lounge was open. Easier for them to find us asleep there than have to mount a search of Terminal 3 if we missed our boarding call.

Finally, it was back onto the plane at 0050 for our 0150 departure to Istanbul. This flight was far from fully booked, but we found ourselves in a fully occupied row. We felt very jealous of the people who had three seats to themselves so that they could lay down for an almost sky-bed experience!! Even so, we managed a few hours sleep sitting up.

We had a much smoother landing in Istanbul. If the Changi landing was a four out of ten, I guess this would deserve to be ranked about a nine. I was tossing up whether to put my jumper and scarf on before leaving the plane or wait until we were in the terminal building. Boy, am I glad I opted to put my extra clothes on before disembarking, because we didn't disembark via a sky-bridge. We had to de-plane onto the tarmac and then take a bus to the terminal building and it was COLD outside.

We were almost first in line to purchase our Turkish visas. The only reason that a few people got in front of us was that Bernie decided to withdraw some Turkish Lira from the auto teller. It only cost us €15.00 each to enter Turkey last year in May. The price has gone up since then and we found ourselves forking out US$60.00 each for our visas this morning!! Bernie said that he overheard someone saying that Australia has increased its prices for tourist visas so I guess it follows that other countries would increase the cost for Australians to visit.

From the visa counter it was on to immigration to have our freshly stuck visas stamped and then out to the baggage carousel where we were pleased to find that both of our bags had made the transfer at Singapore. It's always a relief to find that your luggage has arrived at the same destination as you!!

So far, so good. We went out the 'Nothing to Declare' lane and started scanning for someone with our names on a board for our transfer to our hotel. Hmmmn, no-one with a sign for GAFFNEY. Some of the other operators were very helpful though and rang the number for Talisman Travel for us. The guy on the phone was like 'Welcome to Turkey. I'm sorry, I can't contact my driver. If he's not there you'll have to catch a cab'. Welcome to Turkey indeed!!

As we were looking for our way out of the airport and to the taxi rank we had to run the gauntlet of the car hire companies. We ended up booking a ride into the city with Alamo for €50.00. No idea if that was a rip off or not because we hadn't researched the price for a taxi fare into the city because we thought that we had a transfer arranged by our travel agent. C'est la vie. We really just wanted to get to our hotel to have a shower and clean our teeth. Besides, the tour company should reimburse us for their operator's no-show.

Thank goodness they were expecting us at the hotel. It was blissful to be able to get straight into our room at nine o'clock in the morning and get freshened up. Once we were showered we donned several layers of clothing and headed out to start exploring Istanbul.

We found the tram easily at the end of the street and purchased a 20 Turkish Lira travelcard from a kiosk near the tram stop. We couldn't squash onto the first tram, but the next tram arrived just a couple of minutes later and we were on our way into the Sultanahmet and the Old City.

After taking some foggy photos (the prevailing weather conditions not the quality of the photography!) of the outside of the Sultan Ahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) we ventured over to the Ayasofya (Haghia Sophia) where we purchased three day museum passes. We spent about an hour exploring the Church of Holy Wisdom which is considered one of the world's foremost architectural wonders. Inaugurated by Emperor Justinian in 537 it is an awesome building with some incredibly well preserved golden mosaics that date to its Christian origins before its conversion to a mosque in 1453. Since 1934 it has been a museum.

Time to eat and time to warm up - it was cold out of doors and possibly even colder inside the Haghia Sophia. All that marble I suppose?? We were so hungry that we went into the first restaurant we found. It was about about eight hours since we had breakfast on the plane so it was no wonder we were hungry. The restaurant had a fabulous brazier going which was excellent for warming up my cold hands.

After eating we were heading around towards Topkapi Sarayi (Topkapi Palace) when, I am embarrassed to have to admit, I was sucked in by an English woman to go and see some of her jewellery designs at her husband's family's shop. But it turns out that she was really just bait for yet another carpet seller!!!!! All morning we did a good job of fending off the Turkish men who wanted to take us to their carpet stalls at the bazaar, but then this English woman snuck under our (I mean, my) guard!! We sat politely for a while and heard the spiel about how damn fabulous Turkish rugs are. Eventually we were able to extricate ourselves without buying a rug. From a purely artistic viewpoint, they are magnificent, but we really don't need or even want one in our house.

With the temperature dropping more quickly than the sun (which had made a half hearted appearance for a few hours) we finally made it around to Topkapi Palace for a quick circuit of the grounds. We really only wanted to scout it out today as we will visit it properly tomorrow.

Back to the Blue Mosque to check out the possibility of a sunset photo. With the cloud having descended back over the city there was no spectacular sunset photo to be had!! By this stage we were feeling pretty cold and tired so we caught the tram back to the Hotel Amethyst. We were back at the hotel by about 4.30pm, but with sunset only about 20 minutes away it seemed more like evening than afternoon to us!

We managed to stay awake until dinner time by writing the travel diary and processing photos until about 6.00pm. We went to the bar/bistro under the hotel for dinner because we were too tired to be bothered going any further afield. After a quick meal we beat an early retreat back to our room before we embarrassed ourselves by falling asleep at the table! I think we were both asleep by about 8.00pm.

Steps for the day: 12,015 (8.18 km)

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