Turkey Travel: Bosphorus Bridge - A Story of Scamming in Istanbul

Turkey Travel: Bosphorus Bridge - A Story of Scamming in Istanbul
Of all the great possible choices to pick from, it most certainly should be Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge. Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, Galata Bridge, Ataturk Bridge, Golden Horn Metro Bridge, Fatih Sultan Mehemet Bridge – what can I say, Istanbul loves to create bridges that are not only architectural masterworks, but also expedient for everyday use. Crossing the Bosphorus strait, this suspension bridge connects Europe and Asia, which essentially extends between Ortaköy in Europe, and Beylerbeyi in Asia. Because this was a spontaneous choice as the first stop to see in Istanbul, we were totally unmindful of the slim chance of getting scammed in broad daylight!

Yes, scammed. You read that right. After years and years of living in a third world country, I should have known better – my instincts should have been heightened by the dodgy looks of our cab driver, or the way he maneuvered around the streets of Istanbul on our way to the Bosphorus bridge. But then again, seeing how stunning the Istanbul city was, you’ll kind of lower your guard down, and forget about the possibilities of having that “tourist trap” jiffy. Also blamed it on the fact that I decided to go for tea instead of coffee that fateful day, so I was a bit half awake. :-)

At present, the Bosphorus Bridge has the 25th-longest suspension bridge span in the world, with eight lanes wide - three standard lanes, one emergency lane and one pedestrian lane serve each direction. Throwing in a bit of a history here - the actual construction started in the 1970s and this was designed by Gilbert Roberts and William Brown. Nowadays, they have an annual Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon that allows runners to cross the bridge on its way from Asia to Europe. Now, get me my running shoes, I think that’s pretty cool, we need to join that?

Back to the story of scamming. We decided to take a taxi to get here, because our place was quite far from this side of Istanbul. We wanted to veer away from the typical tourist bus traps (oh the irony). Our cab driver was warm and friendly; it was not in our position to throw any stereotypes about the potentiality of scamming, just because of how he looks and all that. Nevertheless, you know how intuitively, you can feel something is amiss? Yes, weird as it may sound - there were tell-tale signs that he was about to scam us.

What sealed the deal was when I was about to pay for the cab fare, as soon as I personally handed him the correct cab fare, he “accidentally” dropped the money on the floor – and when he picked it up, the amount was already different! It’s like a David Blaine moment. Black Magic?! What just happened?! 100000% certain we paid the correct fare, but then again, it’s difficult to argue in a foreign place, right in the middle of an empty alley, where he dropped us off.

I knew he changed it the minute he picked up the money, but of course if you are in a completely new city, in a completely new place, with no one around and all that – it’s rather challenging to reason. So, just like any safe-than-sorry traveler, we walked away. Mustering the courage not to let the incident ruin the whole trip, I made sure I took the plate number of the taxi, and report it accordingly. Ahh alas, a school of life moment. A firsthand experience of some new learning, it’s been a while so yes, it was something.

Luckily, there were really gorgeous Bosphorus views to see and enjoy here. No one can’t complain once you reach this place, because the overall vista was just an absolutely spectacular sight to behold. It’s not too charming as the ones in Budapest, or not too humbling as the ones in Bangkok, but it certainly has its own signature air of awe that makes you want to make it a part of your favorite places to visit. Scam or no scam, Bosphorus Bridge is still that deserving must experience bridge spot when visiting this side of the world. 

Turkey Travel: Exploring Istanbul for the Very First Time

Turkey Travel: Exploring Istanbul for the Very First Time 
With one hand, I can clearly count the times when I had spontaneously booked a trip miles and miles away from where I’m at. What can I say, despite my wanderlust, I am still a planner by default. But but but, having said that, I’d like to clap my one hand with the other for taking that fortuitous chance with Turkey, and booking that ticket without any form of hesitation. It’s certainly by far the best spontaneous ticket purchase I had, one of the places I’d truly recommend to visit more than once.

Eurasia meets Mediterranean Europe – this is what Turkey is all about. With its teetering oceanside villages and unquestionable turquoise seas, Istanbul is obviously an all-levels kind of dangerously exciting cultural melting pot. Did you know that it’s relatively easy to get a Turkish Tourist visa? Did you know that Istanbul is all about culinary explosions of flavours and food finds? Did you know that Turkey has one of the best lyrical landscapes you can ever sing for yourself? Yes, so many shattered stereotypes and newly formed fondness for this country because of my first visit. It most likely will not be a one-off visit, as I would want to come back and visit the other parts of Turkey!

From crossing between continents, to surreal places to visit like Hagia Sofia, Cappadocia, Turkey is one of those countries you’ll misinterpret as standoffish. Maybe because of the news, or maybe because of its history, or its religion, or any of the other excuses you can quickly identify, but if truth be told, Turkey is a really beautiful country explore.

I could no longer count the times I hushed “wow”, when I wandered around and tried out every bit of Turkish delight. You can just imagine, being  bordered by eight countries: Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest; Georgia to the northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; Iraq and Syria to the south – the cultural inspirations in Turkey are unlike any other.

With its population that’s close to 100 million people, it seems to be overcrowded to walk around DIY style, especially in Istanbul. I found myself being mistaken as a Turkish quite a few times. All cool, I suppose. I think they aren’t wrong to assume, because it’s a fact that Turkey is a transcontinental Eurasian country. There’s such a thing as Asian Turkey, which includes 97 percent of the country; while the other one is the European Turkey, which is across the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles.

So yes, it’s time to join me as we sightsee around Turkey, through the upcoming visual posts on every possible corner and crevice you can see , from the POV of this an unassuming DIY Asian traveler. Lol. Turkey, I’ll come back for you!

Doha Souq: To Shop Some Spices, Souvenirs, and Surprises

Doha's Souq Waqif
Let me tell you some quick facts before you read further. This is most certainly not a shopaholic’s guide to wandering around and buying good stuff at Doha’s labyrinthine souqs, known as the Souq Waqif; but, this is most likely the visual piece of online trail that you most want to see, instead of Google images – these are the photos of what you can see from this side of the shopping world.

Although admittedly, Qatar is the most happening place in the entire Middle East, everyone knows about that (especially with all the recent news?) So that fact alone should encourage you to visit this shopping side, when you get the chance to do some souvenir shopping in Doha, Qatar. Can you imagine my surprise when I explored this area of Doha, only to find out that it’s full of locally hip shop-worthy items you can bring back home---

Of course, if you happen to be looking for souvenirs that are relatively bargain-basement, then the Souq Waqif is the best that you will find. Window shopping is also a good idea, but of course, it’s better to not resist the urge to bring home some really cool stuff from the Souq Waqif.

This is probably the most interesting and the most reasonably priced area that you’ll find in the entire Doha. Of course, some could argue that it’s probably a “tourist trap”, but the quality of the merchandises, food finds, and trinkets here, they are worth the thumbs up.

Once you are done with the obvious admiration of the overall architecture and heritage here, perhaps you can also look for the indoor theater known as the Al Rayyan Theatre, or the Pet area that are in the Souq Waqif. These two spots are certainly crowd-friendly, especially the Pet area which sells domesticated pets like dogs, cats, birds, and even turtles.

Be sure to look around and pick the best traditional garments, handicrafts, spices, and your favorite souvenirs. There are lots to choose from, for sure.  Moreover, if you are quite lucky and well-timed, you may even see art galleries, events, local concerts, or festivals in this area.

To experience local life in Doha, this souq space is worth a visit. Strolling around these narrow alleys, you can enjoy the Middle Eastern style of happiness brought by these various local products, and perhaps even the joys of grabbing a bargain. After enjoying some of the hard-to-find-back-home good buys, be sure to choose your rest space via their restaurants, cafes, and al fresco spots. Time to experience this spectacle of Doha’s souq life!

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