The first time I went to Singapore, I felt it was fine. Overhyped, in my opinion and lacked both in character and charm. While my opinion in that respect hasn’t changed much, I’ve liked it a little bit more every time I’ve visited. I think the sharp contrast it offers in comparison to Penang’s rustic grit and charming chaos is part of that. The place might just be growing on me.
Shortly after returning to England from the sunny and also rainy (it’s the rainy season) shores of Trinidad and Tobago, I undertook some house sitting duties.
I’m still doing it now, it’s my first time. I also have a cute little doggy named Calypso and a cat named Sorrel that I’m looking after.
My friend, Elahe came up from Brighton for a visit, so we decided to take advantage of the British sunshine and the BBQ grill in the garden. I thought I’d share some pictures from my grilling throw down and our feast. It’s nice to be back in London (in summer at that) and to have SUN 🙂
How’s your braaing game this summer?
Braaing last year in Durban, South Africa.
Your chariot will be labelled Havatas. Ask at the information desk in the airport and they’ll direct you if you’re not sure where to go to catch this bus, but it’s just outside the airport exit.
The service is very regular, leaving every 30 minutes. It starts at 4am and the last bus leaves at 1am. The journey takes a reasonable 40 minutes, but obviously consider time for traffic.
Additionally, the service I used to get to Taksim didn’t leave on time and whenever people showed up as we were about to leave they’d wait and take them on. Good news if you’re running late, bad news if you need to get going, so bear that in mind. I didn’t buy a ticket in advance and I think because I landed so late (23:30), it wasn’t much of a problem to get on the bus.
It cost 11 Turkish Lira, an awesome, pocket friendly price if you have a tight budget or just want to save some money. When I asked around, a taxi would’ve cost about 50TL. If it’s a few of you then a taxi may be worth it. It might also cut your time down a little because unlike the bus, you won’t have any scheduled stops on your route.
The Havatas bus service also runs from Taksim to Sabiha Gökçen Airport, as well as a few other routes. You can get more details of them here http://www.havatas.com on their website.
This was a life saver for me. My friends who I met up with in Istanbul joined me on it as well when we departed. They used the metro when they arrived and with their baggage it was a struggle fest! Hopefully this saves you some money and backaches too.
My tram pulled into the stop. I saw him approaching the back door of the tram where I was sitting. I poised myself in case he needed any assistance. He didn’t. He sat with ease, directly opposite me.
Almost immediately an oddness hit me. No staring in awe, in wonder, in curiosity nor in any of the less desirable tones I have experienced in my everyday life here in the Czech Republic. I was just another person sitting there. Just another human. No more, no less.
With that realization- the pureness, the security, the innocence, the rawness of just being a person– came a completely unexpected burst of emotion. It was a feeling I have never felt before. I don’t think I have enough of a gift with words to describe it with any justice. And even if I did, it still wouldn’t portray its immense depth.
Tears welled up in my eyes. I held it. I felt a strange happiness. I held it. Then everything erupted and the tears flowed. I cried. I cried in appreciation of that unique and precious moment. Then the tide inside me changed and I cried for all the times I sat opposite someone and the feeling that I felt was the complete opposite of what was in that moment. I cry again now as I write these words, in thoughtfulness and in gratitude.
At that moment, as I got up to exit the tram, I had a distinct and almost tangible thought, imagine if this was what the world was like, always.
Then I cried in mourning of that….. and in pure hope of that.
The Lee Sung Dang bakery opened back in 1945 and is much sort after by people nation wide. Bus loads of people queue up for a treat from the renowned bakers. This happens during the week and of course is at peak on weekends. Whenever you go by, there’s a massive line inside which often spills out onto the pavement.
Luckily, being a teacher in SK, we were often treated by parents who would turn up producing cakes, cookies and rice breads on Teachers’ Day or just to say thanks. One of my favourite memories of going here was after a night out. Somehow we ended up at the Jinpo Marine Park around 6am. It’s located about a 5 minute walk from the bakery. After some cheeky exploring there, the grand idea to head over there was executed.
We were among the first handful of people there. The smell of freshly baked goods, the sight of all the shapes, colours and flavours…. It was difficult to choose. That’ll probably be your biggest problem here! The red bean mandu are popular, as well as other red bean laced items. I am not a fan, at all. If you’re not too, there’s more than enough there to please your taste buds. There are lots of great bakeries around town so when you go here, in my opinion it’s really to say you’ve been there. Check it off your list and enjoy! It was pretty cool to say the oldest bakery in the country was in my city 🙂
P.S. I mention in the interview that I have started a group on Facebook called The Wandering Pier. I’ll be writing a full post on that development soon. In the mean time feel free to come over & join our travel/expat convos! You can also check out the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/thewanderingpier
This is right up there as one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in. It lives up to the pictures on their website and other people’s reviews.
The decor is new, modern and chic. The ground floor lounge area is good for relaxing, waiting for friends or making new ones. The computer room is also down there. Chatting with staff at the reception desk was nice. All the staff members I encountered there were friendly and helpful. They advised on places to go and things to see. The hostel also puts on its own events in the rooftop bar.
Ah, the rooftop bar. It offers a lovely view of the surrounding city. You can hangout inside or outside. There are games to keep you busy, if the bar and free wifi don’t do that. It’s also here you have their excellent €5 all you can eat buffet breakfast. You should try it at least once. There’s coffee, tea and juice. Yogurt, cereal, jams and fresh fruit. Cheeses, cold meats, salad, boiled eggs, special yummy scrambled eggs, bread…*whew*…and more!
I stayed in a 4 bed mixed dorm. It was tight, but sufficient. Equipped with lockers which you secured with your own code on the keypad. The beds were comfortable and the sheets even felt nice!
Okay, here are some things that were not so good. A couple of the nights I was there it got quite noisy 3/4am. I always have my earplugs so that was okay for me. Wifi in my room on the second floor was temperamental, so I’d have to go outside of my room or downstairs to get connected. The toilets – where you sit is square, which looks quite fancy, but not the most comfortable. There wasn’t soap in the toilet closest to my room for about 3 days. The price of drinks in the bar are as pricey as anywhere in the centre. We were recommended a restaurant around the corner that basically ripped us off. We spoke to a staff member about it when we returned and she said she’d inform the manager.
Some of those aren’t a huge deal and as I mentioned it is definitely one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed in. I would stay here again and would recommend it to anyone, I just wanted to give a heads up about those points. Have a great time in Istanbul. It’s a wonderful city to visit.