Monday, July 27, 2009

Istanbul

I was in the historical and colorful city of Istanbul last two months and I scribbled down something in between conferences and forums and somehow forgot to post them.

2 months ago

Movenpick Hotel, Istanbul



It's my last day here in Istanbul. I've taken to spraining my ankle whenever I travel. It first started off during the Redang trip, and then it was Bandung and that was the worst and now here, in Istanbul. But that's another story for another day.

It's cold outside. Windy and cold. My cheeks would feel like it's been stuffed with cotton balls whenever the cold air breezes past me. But I like the change in weather. It means I could let my hair down without worrying that in an hour, my head won't look like a giant frizz ball and the cold air gives my cheek that subtle hint of red, without having to wear any blusher. 13°c is definitely a welcome change to the hot and humid 31°c back in good'ol Kuala Lumpur.

I was welcomed to Istanbul with style. And by style, I mean a hair rising taxi ride with me clutching the headrest in front of me and praying silently whilst glancing at my travelling companion and wondering whether we would make it till the end of the ride. I had glimpses of homes built on hillsides and Turkish girls in colorful hijab walking together, giggling and clutching their overcoats tight around them. I had to keep up as the sights of Istanbul zoomed in a flurry past me. I wanted to laugh and throw up at the same time. The friendly cab driver kept insisting for my travel partner to smoke in the cab. A welcome gesture on his part. It was definitely a different kind of welcome. Different but hilarious.


My flight and the luxurious bed and room that I sleep in were paid for by the government of Turkey and Spain, hence it was only fair that I seriously get down to business and less of being a tourist. I had to force myself away from the inviting and alluring smell of Turkish food and its spices beckoning to me every time I pass by the sidewalk café's on my way to the meeting centre and since it was a working trip, there was not much of Istanbul that I manage to experience or capture on digital. Even my guided tour to Aya Sofia was rushed. Hundreds of year's worth of story and history cramped into 20 minutes. But I did steal a quiet moment away from the group to stand in a corner of the mosque/cathedral. I looked around me, at the walls, the ceiling and the floor. When was it like then? Who passed through these doors? What was the story? I imagined church boys in white robes standing by the side of the main door, and I subtly heard the muezzin's call to prayer and rows and rows of Turkish men in deep in prayer. If only the walls could speak.

Outside the Aya Sofia, I could see the Blue Mosque in the distance. Clear blue sky provided the perfect backdrop. It was exhilarating to be there. To be standing among the Turkish families frolicking around on the grass, sharing a picnic with the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque standing guards on each side. There was a food cart nearby, the wafting smell of grilled corn made me think of food.

Remember the movie, A Walk to Remember when Mandy Moore's one wish was to be in two places at one time? I guess I knew how it felt.

Dinner on a cruise on the Bosporus. I was in between continents. Asia and Europe. Culture, tradition and modernization meshed into one. Being in Istanbul is like being transported into a world of two dimensions. You have skyscrapers and ultra modern hotels, and yet you see subtle traces of history past.
I didn't want to go back with no memories of any adventures on my trip here so on the last day here, I played hookie during the last session. I had to. It was either that or the only things that I would remember would be the inside of the hotel room and the conference centre.

I ventured out alone in the city. I had my heart set on the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. Armed with a few hundred liras, a digital camera, the hotel's business card and a map of the city, I thought I was all set. Apparently, I should've thought of it more thoroughly. Leaving behind a map of the city's underground railway system is definitely a result of the lack of thorough thinking on my part. I nearly didn't make it back to the hotel. I knew how to get from Levent 4 to Taksim but that was it. I had no idea how to find my way beyond that. The local Turks didn't speak English but they tried really hard to help me find my way. I even spoke in Malay, out of sheer frustration since they wouldn't even be able to understand me either way, pointing to the spot on where Taksim is located.

The wise Fergie once sang, big girls don't cry. So I didn't although I was actually terrified of the thought of getting lost. Instead, I strolled around the square in front of the Spice Bazaar looking for a bench to park myself and decided just to people watch until I figure out what to do. I know I could've easily flagged down a cab and showed them the hotel's card but I wanted something more. I wanted to stand among the locals, and listen to the sounds. But since it was getting dark, I flagged down that white cab with the blue stripes. J I'll just listen to the sounds of Istanbul's traffic.
You can't help but fall in love with Istanbul.
My flight will be in a few hours. My bags are packed. I'm sad to be leaving Istanbul but I'll be back insyallah.

Cinta, City of Istanbul.

5 comments:

afah said...

..methink venturing out alone in Byzantium is not a wise thing to do,lady..but it takes guts..

..envy you..do you know that Instanbul means downtown..?

Hazira said...

keep on writing ya!! u r my truly inspiration...

Cinta said...

afah,

no wonder I feel right at home then. Alhamdulillah, I came back in one piece.

Hazira,
geli ah ggee ;p but thanx.

Sir Pök Déng said...

"...the cold air gives my cheek that subtle hint of red, without having to wear any blusher."
So it seems you're fair skinned, no? Just like me. No.

"The friendly cab driver kept insisting for my travel partner to smoke in the cab."
Your travel partner was a lad. Or she really smokes.

The wise Fergie once sang, big girls don't cry.
The Cure was even wiser than Fergie. They said, 'Boys Don't Cry.' There's a bigger scope of 'boys' than 'big boys'.

P/s: I'm thinking about going to Istanbul one day.

Sir Pök Déng,
Sarawak, Borneo,
Malaysia.

Cinta said...

Pok Deng Sir,

Compared to the pretty Turkish girls, am not fair.

My travel partner is actually a collegue from Brunei. and yes, he is definately a lad..a younger lad..

Let's go to Istanbul together