Thursday, August 7, 2008

Turkey - Day 8

Ankara

Even though Ankara is the capital of Turkey, the city is less hectic and the density is lower compared to Istanbul. The night before, the whole city looked deserted as if no one lives here.

The only attraction here is the Ataturk museum (left pix). For those who don't know, Ataturk (full name Mustafa Kamal Ataturk) is regarded as the father of Turkey. He is the first Turkish president. There are many stories about Ataturk, the great revolutionary leader. You would not miss seeing Ataturk's picture inside shops or banners of him along the roadside. One story depicts that Ataturk had an incurable desease and dying. His doctor confined him within the castle ground. However, the leader still would like to meet his people. He will disguise himself as a commoner and walk around meeting his people. Go Wikipedia for Ataturk for more.

We finally reached the Ataturk museum. There were military officers checking our passes before we are cleared to enter the museum. All the staff in the museum are military officials. They have different uniforms differenciating their rank and positions.

The museum displayed all you need to know about Turkey and Ataturk's life. We walk along long pathways with large paintings of wars and important officials that served Turkey. Life sized manequins demonstrated the goriness of the war. Halfway indulging into the history of Turkey, I realized I lost my tour mates including Su. I continued my way until I saw Su standing outside of a large hall. The room is like every book worm' dream. Books covered from wall to wall. These are the actual books Ataturk read. Judging by the amount of books there, you would not deny that Ataturk is a highly intellectual man. Sitting at one end of the hall was a man sitting on the table. I looked closer and his piercing blue eyes almost made me jump. The Ataturk's manequin looked so real, I have to double and triple check to ensure he doesn't blink back at me :)

Outside of the museum, there are large gardens with blooming flowers everywhere. It never hurts to take some picture though! Although we did noticed, we haven't been seeing the rest of our tour mates for quite some time. We waited at the entrance where we were told but see no sign of the our tour bus or anybody familiar. In a while, Bayazid came walking out from one corner. Ooops... we realized that we are the last to board the bus again.

Aha! We finally got a penalty for being late. We had to sing a song and Su told a funny story when we were in Japan to the delight of our tour mates.
Off we departed back to Istanbul. To our relief, the journey back to Istanbul is shorter this time. We managed to reach Istanbul in the late afternoon. Before even entering the city, our bus got caught in a massive jam. Then the highly condensed city emerged. The traffic was jammed all the way to the Grand Bazaar. Everyone has been waiting to go there for their final shop till you drop trip.

The Grand Bazaar boasted more than 2,000 stalls. Before entering the Bazaar, we were warned by Bayazid about the authenticity of the goods there. Further to that, bargain is an absolute must. I had an uneasy feeling as I stepped into the grounds of the Grand Bazaar. Tourists were flocking this place and as we walked, I realized although there are so many stalls, most of them sell the same goods. T-shirts, blue-eye, Turkish delights and hand painted ornaments. Upon closer inspection of the goods especially blue eyes and bracelets, they are really well crafted. More like rejected items. It's really scary as we were approached by bold shop keepers. They will go as far as blocking your path and "forcefully" escort you to their stalls. Once you are in there, they will make small talks. The usual question. "Where are you from?" And they will answer "Oh, I came from there too!" Yeah, I bet.

Most of the shop keepers there knows mutiple language. From Japanese, English, Mandarin. I was awed by their eagerness to sell. Yeah! I bet they definitely have to do that judging by the large number of shops selling a range of similar products. Su and I took most of the larger routes as smaller routes are riskier and you may be "ambushed" easily especially two tiny girls in a foreign land. Once we walked and 2 guys came out from the shop and stopped us from going through.

One will say while pointing at Su "I've been waiting for you!"
The other one pointing at me and gestured with open arms "This is my girlfriend"

Then Su was approached by a guy giving her a balloon. Hehe...

Creepy as it may seem but it's something new that we've never seen before. We decided to buy the Turkish delight. After bargaining like crazy and our clock ticking fast, we finally purchased a box of Turkish Delight for our work mates. Well...only to discover went we were back in Malaysia we were tricked! It's not Turkish delight at all! The contents are like gummy bears and instead of sugary topping, the topping was made of flour. The website imprinted on the box never exists! LOL...luckily we only bought 1 box. Then, I remembered a story that Bayazid told us. Some tourist bought some shirts. It was cheap all right and when they got back home, only they realized the shirt was only the front half! The back half never exists either and the pretty piece of cardboard at the back of the T-shirt was the trick of it all. Bizarre!

We saw the Cartoon family bargaining on some bags. We had enough of this place and were the first to go back to the bus. Most of the tour mates are disappointed as they really save their money to buy everything here. First, the time limit. Second, the exhaution from the bargain. Third, ensuring the authenticity and quality of the goods. I was lucky that I bought souveniers that I see affordable throughout the various stops in the trip.

My personal opinion, don't save all your cash to splurge in Grand Bazaar. Grab any souveniers that you see is affordable along your trip. Plus, in certain shops, you can still bargain a fair price. The best shop was the stop in Cappadocia. It sells the cheapest souvenier. Well crafted Cappadocia model only costs 3-6 lira. You can bargain a hand woven bag to 12 lira. I would have bought all the souveniers there if I had known. Gosh, all the posts I read about Grand Bazaar was not accurate at all :(


After the "shopping" trip, we headed to our last dinner in Turkey. This would be the best dinner as there will be belly dancers around! As we sat there, all of us forget about our food as the belly dancers struts their assets around. Our tour guide I believe was slightly high as he kept saying that one of the belly dancer is his wife. I was so amazed by how she can shake the upper half of her body vertically and the second half (waist down) horizontally. As if each of her limbs are not attached together. I was informed that once a belly dancer is famous as the ones performing in front of us, they can earn thousands in just a few minutes gyrating their hips. WOW! Su and I were suddenly inspired to take up belly dancing!

video

Turkish Belly Dancing
(Unfortunately this video was taken at the wrong angle but this is the best belly dancer we saw in Turkey. Worth twisting your neck a bit :P)

We were taken back to our first hotel that we stayed in Turkey - The Cartoon Hotel. This time, the room we got was slightly bigger but no longer equipped with the shower with music and disco lights :( Su suddenly gestured me to the window. Downstairs, was an a small alley. "Girls" were standing and smoking. Some wearing really revealing clothes. Then it dawned us that we were looking at the streets with hookers. It's really an interesting sight from our hotel. Here we are at the comfy and innocent looking hotel. With Mickey figurines smiling at us. Just outside our window are the cold and hard world of prostitution. A police siren was suddenly heard. We watched as the prostituts scurried and hid inside the building. As the police car past through, slowly they came out from the hiding and back to business again.

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