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A Quick Life Update

Almost 10 months and nary an entry!

So much has happened, and I thought I’d do a quick update, since the year is coming to a close:

  1. We completed our home renovations and moved in last April
  2. Our home was featured in the November issue of Manja magazine
  3. I went to Krabi twice — once in April and recently in December
  4. I officially became a statistic on the NEA website — not that it was a good thing. I got dengue in September and it was horrible. HORRIBLE
  5. Faz and I have been married for 2 years, Alhamdulillah!
  6. We went to Japan to celebrate our second wedding anniversary, and we both LOVED JAPAN LIKE CRAZY
  7. I picked up swimming and am damn proud to be able to swim now, considering the fact that I had a phobia of water

There’ve been some months that I was incredibly busy, but I think I’ve mostly kind of fallen into this comfortable routine of going to work everyday and then coming home and doing some chores or watch some TV with Faz before we go to bed. On some evenings, we’d go swim at the public pool.

Before Faz recently started doing office hours, he was doing shift work — and sometimes if he’d be home when I returned home from work, we’d cook and have dinner together. But then he started doing office hours and found it too tiring to cook, so we don’t cook as often any more. In fact I can’t remember the last time we cooked — must’ve been 2-3 months ago!

On weekends I’d have my swimming lessons, after which Faz and I will visit my parents. Sundays are my rest days — I’ll normally want to stay home, unless I have some compelling reason to go out.

Somehow, blogging just never makes it to the to-do list. Although it seems like a gargantuan task now, I do actually want to blog about our reno and trips before I forget all the details.

Soon, Insyaallah!

3 Nights in HK over CNY

I was in Hong Kong for 3 nights over the CNY holidays. It was intended to be a short getaway from Singapore….


I did NOT enjoy Hong Kong, and I don’t think I’ll be returning, ever. At first we thought HK would be a ghost town during CNY — much like Singapore — but a bit of research revealed that most shops/attractions would still be open, which cemented our travel plans.

However, what it didn’t tell us was how much MORE crowded it was going to be in already crowded HK during this period. We discovered there were hordes and hordes of mainland Chinese tourists who apparently love to vacation there over the CNY holidays.

I can’t tell you how many times I was pushed, bumped into, stepped on and elbowed. The extent of it became one of the major reasons why I didn’t enjoy HK. How could I, when I spent half the time pissed! Let’s not even talk about saying sorry — not one of them had the decency to at least offer me an apologetic look.

We went to Disneyland on our second day, and boy, if you think Singaporeans are kiasu, these people are a million times more kiasu. Queues for attractions were, needless to say, atrocious everywhere in HK at the time, but the kiasu-ism was especially ugly to see in a “happy” place like Disneyland. Once they reached the head of the queue and the gates were opened, they were SPRINTING to secure a seat like vicious predators going after their prey. Get a grip — it’s just a bloody teacup ride!

Also, the concept of personal space is non-existent in their culture, so queuing in front of a mainland Chinese means having them breathe down the back of your neck — which is gross and really annoying. Aside from having to experience uncivilised behaviour, almost everything else went wrong for me this trip as well:

    • Didn’t get to take the tram up to The Peak because of the ridiculous queue. Paid the equivalent of SGD 60 for a cab ride up that lasted less than 10 minutes. The fare was split 5-ways but it still doesn’t change the fact that it was expensive for a single cab ride.
    • Didn’t get to take the cable car to the Big Buddha, again because of the queue.
    • Didn’t get to eat a single halal dim sum or anything that comes under the umbrella of Hong Kong cuisine because oddly, all the non-halal restaurants were open, and all the halal authentic HK restaurants were closed. The irony! I was told the hotel we were staying at, Panda Hotel, has a halal cafe — but in reality all they had was a measly one halal line at the buffet — serving nasi lemak. Yes, I went all the way to HK to have NASI LEMAK. And Turkish food. And Indian food. All other cuisines BUT HK cuisine. This was probably also one of the most upsetting things because I was really looking forward to having authentic HK dim sum.
    • I was on the fence about going to Disneyland because I’m not really into these things, but I ended up going, for a lack of a better thing to do. Instead of showing me a good time, Disney decided they’d ruin possibly my one and only time in Disneyland and in HK by scheduling the Sleeping Beauty Castle for maintenance. The fireworks display above the castle at the end of the night was supposed to be somewhat a highlight, but this was how it looked like that night:
      Hong Kong Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle, fireworks

      Fireworks + Castle = Epic. Fireworks + Box = WTH?

      What it could’ve looked like:

    • I wasn’t looking to buy branded goods either, which are supposedly cheaper in HK because they don’t charge VAT — so shopping was not that exciting.
    • Perhaps the most painful thing to swallow was that all this disappointment carried a hefty price tag of about $1,350 — flights and hotel were more expensive because of the CNY holiday. As if that’s not bad enough, I returned with an inflamed ankle from all the walking. My feet were throbbing like it grew a heart of its own. Seriously, I don’t think my SIL is human — when everyone else felt like dying she was still all bright-eyed and cheery and like, “OK where should we go next?”

I went with my sisters- and niece-in-law, and I’d say the only positive thing that came out of it was their company and the bonding. That’s seriously the ONLY thing that is preventing me from hitting my head on the wall.

This was also my first brush with retribution for not listening to my husband. Faz had voiced out that perhaps it wasn’t a good time to go on holiday because we have the house renovation to finance, but I was stubborn. It didn’t take much, but he relented, choosing to see the good that the trip will do me — how it’ll be a good break for me, and that I’ll get to bond with the women in his family. As usual he was his considerate self, and I — well, I was just being selfish. And I got served.

You could say it was a case of bad timing — and I agree — but I still don’t think I’d return. Even without the crowd, there’s really not much that would be of interest to me in HK. It’s just like another Singapore, only more Chinese.

Well, at least that’s another country struck off the map.

No other pics because buat sakit hati.

Woes and Winnings

I have been sooo busy you cannot imagine. Well, ok maybe those of you who have gone through the home renovation process can.

To cut to the chase, Faz and I finalised the design for our house just last week and renovation works have commenced! The hacking work is now complete!

When Faz texted me pictures of the end product, my heart swelled with joy and pride. I mean, I know it’s just walls and I’m aware of how I sound like I’m exaggerating but I am really just emotional like that.

Perhaps a little background story to put things into perspective: We got our keys in October 2014 but we’re only starting the renovation now four months later because we had initially made a mistake choosing the wrong interior designer. How did we come to choose this ID? Let’s just say we listened to our brain and not our heart.

We found that this ID did not have our interests at heart a single bit. Looking back, I should’ve seen the very first red flag. He came to our very first meeting with preconceived ideas of his own, and he hadn’t even asked us about what we had in mind — this meeting was to do just that! At first it did seem like he was proactive and all but it didn’t take long before I knew he was just interested in using his ideas for his portfolio.

What a mistake it was to set our second appointment with him the very day we collected our keys, at the new flat. What began as a day to rejoice became a day utterly ruined because this guy was just pushing his ideas. Any suggestion we had were quickly dismissed as not the best way to do things. They were “not unique”, “not the best way to utilise the space”. He knew damn well we had reservations about his proposal, but get this — he went ahead to ask us if he could go ahead to prepare the quotation! This was only our SECOND meeting. The rate at which he wanted us to sign on the dotted line was ridiculous.

I just knew right then that I could never work with an ID like that because I am simply a person who does not appreciate being told what to do and how to do it. And especially when it’s MY bloody house. Faz said he had never seen a face of someone who had just gotten a new house so black.

See, the thing is we had paid a deposit (probably worth a nice dining table) upfront. Of course we had to have some consideration for that hard-earned money. Friends we related our experience to said we should just be stern with him and tell him what we want because ultimately it’s our house and we’re the ones paying him. Yes, true, but are we not paying him for his ideas? If he’s not even interested in getting to know what we want, how is he to offer us usable ideas in line with our vision?

We ultimately ditched him because we decided that we shouldn’t put our house at stake just for the sake of the deposit. Their terms and conditions stated that it was non-refundable, but we figured we’d just try to write in and get it back, since the fault’s on their part. I vaguely told them what happened (because it was hard to articulate everything on e-mail), left my contact number and told them they could call me if they needed more details. Without so much as a call to find out from us what really happened, in their reply they said that after speaking to the said ID, they decided that they simply “did not agree with me” and refused to refund me. The bloody ID had lied to them, saying that we had ASKED him to draw up the quotation!

I WENT BESERK. I shot them a super lacerative email in which I questioned their integrity. Apparently that got the director’s attention, and a meeting was set up for us to meet him. Long story cut short, we agreed to a 50% refund. I could’ve pushed for more but Faz didn’t want to push our luck. In fact he’s just so non-confrontational in nature that he had just wanted to give in to them and move on without getting our refund back. Crazy! If you don’t want your money back, let me take it!

So a few lessons to be learnt here:

  1. Sometimes it’s not all that bad to follow your heart. In fact, the times I followed my heart paid off tremendously.
  2. Ask, and ye shall receive.
  3. Never, ever, mess with me.

In a twist of events though, the director actually turned out to be likeable. Not in the sense that made us want to go be friends with him, but he succeeded in watering us down. He succeeded in making us feel that we were important to him, even when he knew were walking away. It’s just too bad that his principle of client importance didn’t extend to his ID, as well as the customer “care” officer I was in e-mail correspondence with. He succeeded in making us walk away with an untarnished view of the company — we instead blamed the individual we engaged. And I suppose it really is true that it all boils down to the individual, because Faz in fact has a friend who had engaged the same company but a different ID, and he has only good things to say. Anyway, something to learn from the director about business and customer relations!

So then I turned to this fabulous ID I’ve been following for a while now, and it was like a breath of fresh air because — FINALLY, SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS MY LANGUAGE! But even with a great ID, home renovations are no joke — especially for analytical and detail-oriented people me, because we tend to treat every home reno decision like a life decision!

After about a month of going back and forth with the design, we’re finally down to the action! It’s kinda a downer that the reno’s only just started but already put on hold owing to the Chinese New Year festivities. But it’s ok. Happy workers, happy home owners!

If all goes well, we should be able to move in end Apr or early May.


Old Out, New In

Two weeks ago, I officially moved out of my parents’ place in Woodlands and into my in-laws’ in Pasir Ris to make way for my now married brother and his wife — Alhamdulillah they were safely solemnised last Saturday!

I didn’t take leave from work to pack, so I had to do it gradually in the weeks leading up to the move. At the same time my brother was also moving in his stuff bit by bit, slowly transforming my room of 16 years into his. I had already started to feel a bit sad and sentimental then, but nothing could prepare me for the actual move. Seeing the movers take away my stuff from the house, I felt helpless. I didn’t want to move, but it was something that simply had to be done — a rite of passage, if you will.

All too soon, the movers were done packing my stuff into the vehicle and it was time to say goodbye (God, I’m getting teary-eyed recounting this!). I sat on the sofa, asked my mother to sit down beside me, and rested my head on her shoulder like I always do when we watch TV. I hadn’t even spoken a complete sentence when the floodgates burst. I took her hand in mine and in between sobs, thanked her for everything. I asked for forgiveness and asked her to make halal everything that I’ve ever taken from her and from the house. After hugging her long and hard, I sat down and did the same with my dad, followed by my sister and brother. I went to find my cats Meow and Ashley to stroke and hug them, and cried even harder upon seeing their cute faces. Oh, how I was going to miss each and every one of them!

My sister told me not to cry, that Singapore is small and that I can visit any time, and I know this to be true but the point was that I was no longer a member of the household — my 28-year membership was over. The point was that I would no longer see or be around my immediate family everyday, and that was probably the thing that made me the saddest. The point was that the move was overwhelmingly symbolic of the events to come in my life — a big looming monster of both challenge and opportunity, for which I had to close this door in order to open a new one. The point was it was all scary as much as it was exciting.

Taking a final wefie at the door before I leave

Taking a final wefie at the door before I leave. Doesn’t look like I just cried here, but believe me, my heart was breaking. :(

For the next  few days I felt displaced and empty, like a huge chunk was missing from my life. I cried on the way back to my in-laws’. I cried myself to sleep. I cried the next morning. I cried again at night.  It felt like my time with my family was a person who had died and I was mourning her death. It was literally one of the saddest days of my life.

Thankfully my in-laws and husband have been nothing short of accommodating, and have been so kind, making sure I’m settled in well. Also, I  had my brother’s wedding to take my mind off things, so fortunately the sadness didn’t last all that long. I don’t have a room at my parents’ place anymore, but I’ll still try to sleep over whenever I can so that I don’t give myself a chance to miss them and fall into another bout of melancholy.


Anyway, on to happy stuff! Some pics of my brother’s wedding at An-Nahdhah mosque in Bishan:

Performing the tahiyatul masjid

Performing the tahiyatul masjid.

Can't believe my little brother is now someone's husband!

Can’t believe my little brother is now someone’s husband!

Zul and his lovely wife, Huda

Zul and his lovely wife, Huda. Like Faz and I, I think they can pass off as siblings.

Pengantin dah basi dan bulat

Pengantin yang dah basi dan bulat

Their entire wedding, from the Nikah to the reception was held at An-Nahdhah, and it was simple and fuss-free. The combined wedding of about 900 guests — which the mosque was able to accommodate comfortably — was split into two areas: the area outside the musollah on Level 1, and a room on Level 3. A venue to consider if you’re looking for a mosque wedding!

Zul and Huda, I wish you all the best as you embark on your journey as husband and wife. I’ve only been married for a year, so I don’t think I’m in a position to dish out marriage advice, but hey, we can learn together!

May your marriage and love last till Jannah, insyaAllah.

Keys to the Future


HDB has finally furnished us with a date for key collection! And that special date is the 7th of October!

I know it’s possible to request an earlier key collection, but honestly we’re far from ready to receive our keys. I don’t know why but we’ve been really taking our time (or procrastinating, rather) with the planning. I think much of it has to do with the fact that I’m still, after almost a year, recovering from the exhaustion of planning our wedding (which is almost a year ago now!). Also, knowing that planning for a house is probably going to be 100 times more exhausting just puts me off.

Have you seen that Doctor Doors commercial in between episodes of Renovaid on Channel 5? The one with this lady waking up in the middle of the night screaming like a mad woman? And it turns out that she’s having nightmares — about renovation? I thought that was frickin’ hilarious. I laughed my guts out the first time I saw it. But it got me thinking, hey, that could be me! And then I shuddered.

But now that key collection is just around the corner, I don’t think we can put it off any longer. Faz and I already have a general idea of how I’d like our house to look, but it’s time to get into the specifics like what kind materials we want and everything.

Faz, as usual, has agreed to leave the interior design ideas to me — on the condition that he gets to be in charge of the home entertainment system. I don’t see what’s the big deal about having a home entertainment system. Never having one never killed me, and to be honest I actually even think it’s a waste of money, but I’d better be picking my battles wisely. I have a premonition of myself liking a nice, expensive piece of furniture I can’t get out of my head — which of course Faz will happen to think is an absolute waste of money….

My interior design preferences have evolved over the years — from ‘industrial loft’ to now, ‘rustic scandinavian’.

I still do like the industrial loft concept, but I think the novelty will wear off and over time I’ll wish I had a warmer concept to my home. I’ll probably still retain some industrial elements, but I’ll keep them to a minimum.

I’ve never been a fan of ‘modern executive’ interiors with its sleek, shiny surfaces because it reminds me too much of an office and all the stresses of work. I want my home to be an escape — a laidback place to relax and unwind, which is why we’ve decided to do away with one bedroom to make for a bigger living room. The space will be mostly white, typical of Scandinavian interiors, but rustic with lots of wooden surfaces and earthy tones, and contrasted with thoughtfully curated pops of colour.

It may take a while before our house is fully furnished though because I think I’m going to be very picky about the pieces of furniture we buy. Every single piece has to count!

Seeing as to how we have yet to meet our ID to discuss our plans, I foresee that our house will only be ready for move-in by end December or early January. But the sad thing is that I’ll actually have to move out of my parents’ house earlier — as early as October! My brother’s getting married in November, and he and his future wife will be moving into my room. My sister, who is a sad case because she’s currently roomless and lives in a makeshift “room” in our study, will take over my brother’s former room. With all the rooms occupied, it looks like I’ll have to stay over at my in-laws’ for about a month or so while waiting for our house to be ready.

October is just next month, so I’ll have to start packing real soon! SOBS!

Can’t believe my time at my parents’ is going to be up…FOREVER. Moving out is truly going to be bittersweet. I’m absolutely elated to be starting this new chapter of my life with my soulmate, but I’m going to be miss everyone sorely. How do you go from years and years of living with the same faces — to suddenly living on your own?



A Hairy Situation: A Review on Super Hair Removal (SHR)

I am a hairy person.

I have always wanted to have my leg hair removed SINCE FOREVER because for years and years it was a constant source of frustration and esteem issues. Shaving was such a trauma because for some reason I always tended to get ingrown hair on my legs, which would result in angry, inflamed bumps all over my legs, leaving — gasp — SCARS that would take forever to go away! Not pretty at all.

And I have tried them all — Veet, waxing, epilating, ingrown hair treatment (salicylic acid, basically), exfoliating regularly, but NOTHING helped.

So one of my life priorities when I started working 3 years ago was to nip that problem in the bud — go for hair removal! It was the perfect time to go because 1) I finally had the money and 2) I was going to be married and wanted to look good for myself, and for my husband.

And so I went! One of the best decisions I’ve made in my life EVER. It may seem like an exaggeration, but if you knew how much unhappiness these hairs have caused me, you’ll see how it’s true. I completed my sessions just before the wedding, and have since gone on to remove underarm hair and now, facial hair. I didn’t have any gripes about my facial hair really, but I caved in to vanity. My justification? That makeup will go onto the skin better! I’ll admit the packages are not cheap, but this will be my last course of hair removal. I’m not addicted to aesthetic treatments, I promise!

It is absolute bliss that I don’t have to fuss over leg and underarm hair ever again (or at least for a very long time, because no hair removal is permanent — it’s subjected to factors like hormone changes in your body). I really can’t imagine now if I hadn’t gone — Faz would’ve probably had to bear some of the brunt!

After doing my research, I went with a hair removal technology called Super Hair Removal (SHR). It’s touted as a painless process because the light delivered to the hair follicles is low-intensity but delivered rapidly, therefore heating the follicles just enough to kill them, without any pain. Previously, as with Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), it was thought that the light must be strong and targeted at the follicles long enough in order to kill them, and this was why it was so painful. Now, isn’t R&D amazing?

Despite this promising premise, my first few sessions were EXCRUCIATING. It felt just like how IPL users describe it — rubber bands snapping against my skin — but worse. I only found out why it was excruciating later when my beautician rotated to another outlet and another attended to me — and no, it wasn’t because my hairs were too thick, or that the claims of SHR being painless were invalid. It was because she had been moving the machine over my legs perhaps a bit too slowly, therefore heating up my hair follicles longer than necessary!

With my new beautician, there was still some heat but it was never painful because she takes extra care to move the machine over my legs quickly. The heat and smell of burnt hair can be a bit of a discomfort at first but as the hairs get finer and lesser, you won’t even feel the heat anymore and it’s virtually painless.

SHR is effective for all skin, dark or fair. But as with all lasers, it’s most effective when the hairs are darker and thicker — the light targets darker and thicker hairs more easily than fine hairs. That’s why you’ll need multiple sessions before the hairs are completely gone. OH and the great thing about SHR is that it lightens the skin too! The scars on my legs are practically gone, and my underarms are the fairest it’s ever been! And now I’m hoping for the scars on my face to be lightened too.

I’ve been going for my SHR sessions at CSK Aesthetics, which has been superb. It’s an aesthetic clinic run by doctors whom you can get professional advice from. The procedures are mostly done by the beauticians, but it’s just reassuring to have the option to see a doctor regarding your procedure if you need to. Going to a beauty centre may be cheaper but I was looking to sign up with a doctor-guided centre that knows what they’re doing and can give me advice that’s backed by science. They don’t hardsell either, which is great!

P/S: This is not an advertorial. Been really happy with my results so far, and just wanted to share the good stuff!


10 Days in Turkey: Istanbul (3/3)

Ah, the final leg of our holiday.

Istanbul was made our last stop in anticipation of the shopping that could be done there — we had a meagre 15kg baggage allowance on the earlier domestic flights, you see. But in the end we surprised ourselves by not buying much at all. This, in spite of the legendary Grand Bazaar that houses more than 4,000 shops!

Firstly, the cost of things weren’t that much different from Singapore, making for an expensive shopping spree. Secondly, there wasn’t actually much to buy, unless you’re talking carpets and souvenirs for everyone and their mom.

I only bought a few pieces of clothing, some jewelry, natural handmade soaps, fridge magnets, a pretty iznik tile notebook — and of course Turkish delights and baklava! The sweets were quite heavy but they unfortunately had to be painfully hand-carried to ensure the boxes didn’t get smashed. My 30kg international flight baggage allowance was sadly and grossly underutilised!

Hafiz Mustafa, Istanbul, Turkey

A Hafiz Mustafa outlet selling Turkish delights. How royal is the interior, with all that gold?! They’re one of the better shops, the other one being the Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir chain of shops. Haci Bekir is said to be the original creator of the Turkish delight back in the Ottoman days. We did pass by one outlet but by then we had bought a truckload of sweets from Hafiz Mustafa, so we gave it a miss.

Hafiz Mustafa, Istanbul, Turkey

I was THE kid in the candy shop!

Hafiz Mustafa, Istanbul, Turkey

I had wanted to secretly take a pic of this guy who was manning the baklava section, but I was found out and he invited us behind the counter for a photo with him. Can you imagine how happy I was to be taking a photo with all that yummy baklava?!

While Istanbul wasn’t quite the shopping haven for me, it was still a tremendous delight. Whilst popular attractions like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace and the Basilica Cistern were marvellous, surprisingly I found even greater enjoyment doing the simplest of things — walking. Strolling the streets of Istanbul, taking in its sights, sounds and smells.

It didn’t start out this way though. One of the first things Faz did upon reaching our hotel in Istanbul…..was to watch Scam City Istanbul! On one hand, it’s good to be aware of the different scams operating there (some examples: carpet scams, shoeshine scams, nightclub scams), but the downside was that it made us feel MEGA PARANOID.

We felt like mice stepping out of the comforts of our sewer for the first time to explore the big city, hoping not to get squashed. It didn’t help that we arrived back in Istanbul on a Sunday — it was so crowded! We got stopped every few metres by peddlers peddling Istanbul guide books, maps, toys and imitation perfumes. We were on real high alert.

It took me a trip to the Grand Bazaar the next day to snap out of it. I had been really looking forward to visiting one of the oldest covered markets in history, but when we reached it, I wasn’t strolling through it leisurely taking in the details of the market like I had imagined. Faz was pulling on my hand and we were walking fast, trying not to look interested so that shopkeepers wouldn’t approach us (therefore reducing our chances of getting scammed?). It was ridiculous because I was interested, and we didn’t stop to enter any shop for at least the first 10 minutes!

Of course you still have to be on guard — someone actually attempted to pick Faz’s pocket while we were in a crowded tram! But lucky for us he was one lousy ass pickpocket because Faz actually felt his hand! Without looking at the guy, Faz immediately turned his body away, putting the guy’s hand in a knot — and he had no choice but to wriggle it miserably out of the pocket. Fotunately there was nothing in there in the first place. Faz didn’t confront him, well, because 1) he didn’t actually get away with anything and 2) he wanted to avoid the possibility of an altercation.

Anyway my point is just do your best to be aware of your belongings and surroundings, avoid dodgy people, avoid following people to places and you’ll be fine, InsyaAllah. No need to be excessively paranoid like we were!

The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

The Grand Bazaar on a Monday afternoon. Great time to go because it wasn’t too crowded. I had a go at bargaining here!

The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

An array of tea and spices.We were lured into the shop by this warm and friendly guy whose English was quite good, offering us Turkish delights that turned out to be pretty damn delicious. He turned out to be a Syrian who had only been in Turkey for 6 months. He told us he left for Turkey to find a safer place to work to support his family back home, and asked us to pray for Syria.It was quite sad and I was immediately reminded of how I should count my blessings because there are other people in worse situations. I just wish Muslims all over the world could just unite and be a force to be reckoned with instead of killing each other — but that’s another story altogether.

Sahaflar Carsisi, Istanbul, Turkey

We spent more than an hour in this calligraphy shop in the nearby book bazaar to get supplies for my brother, who does calligraphy.

Sahaflar Carsisi, Beyazit, stanbul, Turkey

Facetiming my brother to show him what they had. He was practically fangirling behind that screen!

I enjoyed Istanbul SO, SO much after I got over Scam City Istanbul.

I loved people-watching. People from all walks of life seemed to converge there, and it was a challenge to tell the different nationalities apart. Some ladies would have fair skin and light hair, and just when I thought they were Caucasian, they’d start conversing in Turkish. Or just when I thought they were Turkish, they started speaking in some other language.

We found the Turks to be so strikingly beautiful that Faz and I felt like ugly ducklings there. We’d be so sillily over the moon when shopkeepers ask, “Are you Turkish? You look Turkish” although we knew it was probably a ploy to get us to buy from them — we read about this tactic of theirs online. The women, whether in hijab or not, were so fashionable and elegant!

One of our simple indulgences in Istanbul was having balik ekmek on the pier next to the Galata Bridge at Eminonu. Balik ekmek means fish sandwich, and really that was all it was: a simple grilled fish sandwich. But believe me, as simple as it was, it tasted SO good! I think it’s worthy to note that I’m not even a big fish-eater, but we came to eat here twice while we were in Istanbul.

Galata Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey

The Galata Bridge. Scores of men line the bridge to fish, and they’re there from morning till night!

Galata Bridge, Eminonu, Istanbul, Turkey

One of the boats parked by the pier and customers waiting eagerly in line to receive their balik ekmeks.

Balik ekmek, Galata Bridge, Eminonu, Istanbul, Turkey

This, my dear friends, is how the balik ekmek looks like. Deceivingly simple, right? Typically at every table there is a bottle of salt and lemon juice, which you drizzle over the sandwich as you wish. I suppose most of all it’s the freshness of the fish that makes it so delish!

Galata Bridge, Eminonu, Istanbul, Turkey

Just look at the crowd! I like the setup of small tables and stools. Easier for the stalls to pack up and go, I suppose.

The sandwiches were only available in the evenings — I assume they spend their mornings fishing. Eating here felt somewhat like an authentic Turkish experience because even the locals and their families patronised these stalls. I loved the ambience. It was quite laidback despite the hustle and bustle of the harbour because you get to just sit there, enjoy your sandwich and watch the world go by — with the sound of the water and the sight of flying seagulls against the monumental old city as the backdrop to boot.

Galata Bridge, Eminonu, Istanbul, Turkey

One of my favourite pics of my favourite places in Istanbul — the Eminonu pier.

I also loved taking a walk down Istiklal Avenue, a pedestrian street in Taksim — the heart of modern Istanbul. It was there that we finally saw some familiar brands like Starbucks, H&M, Topshop and Adidas — we didn’t see any of these in the old city. There were bookstores, cafes, restaurants and pubs with live music there as well.

Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey

Taking the underground metro to Taksim.

Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey

At Taksim station.

Taksim Square, Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey

The famed Taksim Square — the place where protests usually happen. Lucky there weren’t any while we were there though it would’ve been an experience. Nobody ever protests in Singapore!

Taksim Square, Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey

There’s your Starbucks on the left.

Istiklal Avenue, Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey

At the start of Istiklal Avenue with my delish coconut mocha frap from Starbucks. Have we ever had this here in Singapore? It was sooooooo sedap, I swear!

As evening came, Istiklal became more alive, with some pretty talented buskers performing their music. I’d describe Istiklal as sort of a cool place where people would gather to wind down after work. The buildings were old and weathered European-style buildings, but the shops were trendy and the place was bustling. It was a rather nice contrast.


Istiklal Avenue, Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey

Istiklal by night. I had wanted to video those buskers on the left but when we came back down the street they were gone! So far the best buskers we encountered the whole night! :(

Funicular, Istiklal Avenue, Taksim, Istanbul, Turkey

Istiklal Avenue is mostly a pedestrian street, except for these ultra cute vintage funiculars going up and down every now and then.

It was quite easy to get around in Istanbul, as long as you don’t take a cab — you could either get ripped off or the traffic could kill you. We had printed the rail network map beforehand, and all we did when we got there was to purchase an Istanbulkart (our EZlink equivalent) from a newsstand, usually nearby the station. An Istanbulkart can be used by multiple people as long as you have enough value in it. It’s all pretty straightforward. If not, there’s always the station officer, or the tourism police you can approach for help.

Trams in Istanbul, Turkey

One of the frequent modes of transport for us was these electric trams.

We also found out that the Turks (or maybe just this one Turk) have a mean sense of humour.

Faz and I we were in a park having a lovely time people-watching and munching on our stall-bought corn when a homeless-looking man with a dirty brown bucket and a sinister smile approached us — obviously up to no good. Faz had seen him first. He nudged me urgently and got up to flee — but I, unfortunately, didn’t react fast enough and was by then in direct line of fire.

I could only helplessly imagine what was in that dirty bucket. Pee? Faeces? Filthy drain water? Man, the smell was surely going to be excruciating! The scene that unfolded next seemed to begin playing in slow-mo. The man stopped a few steps away from me and raised the bucket. As he tipped it and gave it a strong jerk to send its contents flying towards me, I shielded my head with my arms — it was the only defence I had left.

A couple of seconds passed, and then in the distance — laughter. I opened my eyes only to see the man looking at me wide-eyed, slightly curling his lips to form a rather psychotic smile, and passers-by laughing at us — HARD. Apparently there was nothing in the bucket and it was all a prank! Without time to waste the man then proceeded to terrorise other people in the park, and looking at their reactions, they couldn’t have been worse than mine!

We turned around to check for cameras in case it was some kind of a gag show, but there were none to be seen. Only an insane homeless man with a bucket and a mean sense of humour — which to be fair, made Faz and I laugh like crazies too. We got punk’d in Istanbul!

Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Stopping to refuel in a park.

More pics:

The Blue Mosque

Spectra Hotel, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Hotels in the Sultanahmet area were pretty pricey compared to other areas. I wanted a hotel that had a great rooftop view of the Blue Mosque that didn’t burn a hole in our pockets, and Spectra Hotel was an excellent choice. It’s a pretty basic hotel but it had what I wanted, and that was all that mattered.

Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The famed Blue Mosque and the crazy horde of tourists on a Sunday!

Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The courtyards of the Blue Mosque.

Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The musollah.

Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The amount of detail these Ottomans put into their work is crazy!

Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

View from our hotel rooftop of the Blue Mosque at dawn.

Blue Mosque, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The Blue Mosque by night. This was taken on a night a sermon was being delivered, and those illuminated dots you see in the sky were birds flying above the mosque. The interesting thing was that they were only flying over the mosque, and not other buildings. MasyaAllah, a grand display of God’s greatness!

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia, a church of the Byzantine era that the Ottomans converted into a mosque, which Mustafa Kemal Ataturk later converted into a museum. There is a movement in Turkey to have Hagia Sophia converted back into a mosque, and as result of this there have also been people petitioning for it to remain as a museum so visitors can still access this historical building. How complicated.

Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The corridors of Hagia Sophia. The interior and structure of the former church mostly remained, except for a couple of changes: the Ottomans built a mihrab and minbar, and plastered over the mosaics that depicted faces, just to name a few.

Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The prayer hall.

A mosaic of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus were uncovered in the apse during the renovation of the Hagia Sophia mosque.

A mosaic of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus were uncovered in the apse during a renovation of the Hagia Sophia mosque.

Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Silhouette of Hagia Sophia at dusk.

Topkapi Palace

Dolmabahce Palace, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The entrance to Topkapi Palace, the first Ottoman palace that was built in the newly conquered Constantinople — known to us now as Istanbul.


Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

One of my best buys in Turkey was this iznik tile-inspired pants. Love it!

Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

The Ottomans were synonymous with opulence and grandeur. The palace was so lavish to the point I actually felt shame! It was all beautiful but it was simply too much.

Topkapi Palace, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

A dreamy spot in the courtyard.

Dolmabahce Palace

Dolmabahce Palace, Kabatas, Istanbul, Turkey

The gates of Dolmabahce Palace, the Ottomans’ second palace after Topkapi. They had decided they wanted a different “lifestyle”, so they built another palace to move into — this time European in style and WAY grander than Topkapi!

Dolmabahce Palace, Kabatas, Istanbul, Turkey

There was this pretty pond in the courtyard….

Dolmabahce Palace, Kabatas, Istanbul, Turkey

….complete with ducks!

Dolmabahce Palace, Kabatas, Istanbul, Turkey

One of the few statues of lions in their courtyard. This particular one was crushing an alligator beneath it. Intimidated yet?

Dolmabahce Palace, Kabatas, Istanbul, Turkey

The palace building. It was a pity we couldn’t take photos inside. You should’ve seen it — it had the largest crystal chandelier in the world, a single handwoven carpet that’s bigger than my 4-room BTO flat, and 14 tonnes of gold leaf adorning the ceilings. The Ottomans really outdid themselves with this one.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

I wouldn’t say the Basilica Cistern is a must go, but entry was cheap and we had time, so why not?

Basilica Cistern, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

One of the largest cisterns that lie beneath Istanbul. Also one of the locations where the 1963 James Bond film, From Russia with Love, was shot.

All in all an awesome 4 days in Istanbul and 10 days in Turkey! Planning the trip definitely wasn’t easy because of the logistics of travelling on our own in a big and unfamiliar country. Also there were so many things to see and do, which made it all the more difficult to choose! We wanted to maximise our time there so we decided the best option was to take domestic flights to the different areas in Turkey. We didn’t want to waste time getting lost, so we had our hotels arrange our airport transfers. With the exception of Istanbul which was easy to navigate, we had booked day tours in Cappadocia and Oludeniz, so we were still going to places and doing things we wanted without worrying about how to get there.

Best of all, Faz enjoyed the itinerary I had planned! Granted, he is an easygoing person by nature, but the worrywart that I am couldn’t help but be a little worried that he would find things like museums and stuff boring. But he didn’t, so it was a relief!

I think planning trips on our own is definitely the way to go for us because I like to be in total control of the choice of hotel, food, pace, places to go and things to do. But I think I do want to experience a tour at least once….just to see what it’s like. Hmm, what would be a good country to follow a tour?

It’s only been 3 months since my Turkey trip, but believe me when I say it feels like 6 months — at least. I’ve been so exhausted planning a work event, and now that it’s finally over I say I deserve a quick getaway.

Maybe I’ll try a do-nothing getaway this time. 4D3N in Krabi, perhaps?



10 Days in Turkey: Oludeniz & Pamukkale (2/3)

We spent the next 3 nights in Oludeniz, a beautiful pebble beach in the southwest of Turkey flanked by the Babadag mountains — and is one of the most popular paragliding spots in the world.

Nicholas Heights Deluxe Suite Hotel and Spa, Hisaronu, Oludeniz, Turkey

Our accommodation in Oludeniz.

Nicholas Heights Deluxe Suite Hotel and Spa, Hisaronu, Oludeniz, Turkey

Our room was super spacious! It was a relief especially for Faz, who was like a big bear in small cave in Cappadocia. And it was surprisingly affordable too. I think it may have something to do with the fact that the beach wasn’t within walking distance — and we know this firsthand because we tried! I got scolded for this and I’ll tell you later what happened…

Nicholas Heights Deluxe Suite Hotel and Spa, Hisaronu, Oludeniz, Turkey

Big tubs are almost like a staple now in our holidays!

Hisaronu, Fethiye, Turkey

Explored the very touristy Hisaronu town centre for a place to have dinner.

Nicholas Heights Deluxe Suite Hotel and Spa, Hisaronu, Oludeniz, Turkey

Not spared from slopes in Oludeniz either. This was what we had to overcome to get back to our hotel. And the hill is steeper than it looks here!

Nicholas Heights Deluxe Suite Hotel and Spa, Hisaronu, Oludeniz, Turkey

The view from the hotel room balcony.

Paragliding in Oludeniz

Ever since I saw a photo of a paraglider flying above Oludeniz, my heart was set that that was exactly what I was going to do if I ever made it to Turkey. Well, I made it there, so I went! It was breathtaking. It was the closest I’ll ever feel to being a bird flying — at 6,000 feet, no less!

The scariest moment for me was being up on the mountain seeing other people before me run off the edge of the cliff. That was the moment I started asking myself: SERIOUSLY, ARE YOU REALLY DOING THIS?! I said a little prayer to ask that I reach the ground again safely in one piece and before I knew it I, too, was running off the cliff. It was surreal being so high up with my feet simply dangling in the air but the initial shock quickly passed as I became fixated on how beautiful everything was from up above.

Midway during the flight, my pilot asked if I wanted to do some acrobatics. My inner adrenaline junkie told him yes but I almost wished I hadn’t because we did some spins which made me feel so dizzy I felt like throwing up. I was so relieved when our little performance was over! Nevertheless, it was quite the experience!

Having said all that, my experience was actually tarnished a little by my pilot. I don’t know if he’s just naturally unpleasant or if he got up on the wrong side of the bed that day but he was barking at people from the time we met at their office, and was also on occasion rude to me. I was upset but didn’t want to kick up a fuss (which might result in me not being able to paraglide altogether) so I pushed it aside at the time. But thinking about it now makes me feel quite peeved. I mean, we spent thousands to holiday in Turkey and do all these activities — why does he feel that it’s ok to let people down?!

Faz on the other hand had such an awesome pilot from the same company and enjoyed his paragliding experience to bits. Glad that at least one of us enjoyed the experience thoroughly!


Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

It was a long and winding drive up to the top of the Babadag mountains but we made it.

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

Setting up

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

I got lumps in my throat seeing other people running off the edge of the cliff.

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

Off they went!

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

Faz having a ball of a time up in the air. Love how colourful his pictures turned out!

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

Waiting for my turn. I know it doesn’t look like it but I was already upset with my pilot. I’m pretty sure that half-smile of his was just for the camera because he was back to his surly self after this photo was taken. And me? Well, I wasn’t going to look unhappy in photos if I’m going to be paying for them later.

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

Surly pilot aside, it really was an amazing feeling to be up there. And cold, too! My fingers were freezing!

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

Pretty sure this was before the acrobatics because I could still smile.

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

Miniature houses

Paragliding in Oludeniz, Babadag Mountains, Fethiye, Turkey

You don’t get water this blue in Singapore!

Upon landing (and landing was a bit rough — it had quite an impact on my ankles), we were brought back to the office to have a look at the photo and video footage our pilots had taken, and basically got ripped off paying for them, even after playing the honeymoon card (technically there was some truth to that — it was our second honeymoon). I wish we would’ve bargained some more but we had a boat waiting to take us island hopping. We ended up paying something like SGD60+ per CD when I think we could’ve gotten them at perhaps the ranges of SGD40+. But we did feel better about it later on after coming back from Turkey because we discovered that the footage Faz had taken on our own GoPro was overexposed. Damn, I knew we should’ve gotten that LCD BacPac!

Well, better to have expensive footage than none at all….right? =/

Oludeniz boat trip

Our boat was a double-decker with water slides which by default sounds fun — if you can swim. Here’s a “fun” fact about me: I can’t. So there was no way I was going to slide into OPEN FREAKING SEA! The boat took us to about 6 different spots/islands and we’d spend about 30mins to an hour at each spot. In between, we spent most of our time on the lower deck because we didn’t want to fight the sunbathers for space, and plus I wasn’t looking to get a tan. Closing in on 30 real soon, I’m so not looking to speed up the ageing process! All in all it was a relaxing trip, despite the harsh sun. The waters were so unbelievably blue!

Oludeniz boat trip to Butterfly Valley, Fethiye, Turkey

All the different boats belonging to different tour operators.

Oludeniz boat trip to Butterfly Valley, Fethiye, Turkey

Our boat approaching the Butterfly Valley. Though famous for tiger butterflies, we only saw a few when we were walking up to the Selale waterfall.

Oludeniz boat trip to Butterfly Valley, Fethiye, Turkey

After exploring the island, we were delighted to come back to the sight of our chef preparing our lunch. We were famished!

Oludeniz boat trip, Fethiye, Turkey

This was at Camel Bay, I think.

Oludeniz boat trip, Fethiye, Turkey

Faz going all GERONIMO while the two guys in the water were scrambling to get out of the way. LOL.

Oludeniz boat trip to Cold Spring Bay, Fethiye, Turkey

Ok a little embarrassed about my bright blue foam noodle, but I wasn’t going to let it prevent me from having my fun. Better to look silly than dead drowning! They said this area was supposed to be a hot spring, but the waters were FREEZING! It was a cold spring bay!

Oludeniz boat trip to St Nicholas Island, Fethiye, Turkey

One of the stops we made was at St Nicholas Island, the place believed to have been home to St Nicholas (or better known as Santa Claus) for a period of time, and the original site of his tomb.

Oludeniz boat trip to St Nicholas Island, Fethiye, Turkey

Remains of churches from the Byzantine era.

Oludeniz boat trip to St Nicholas Island, Fethiye, Turkey

Turned out we did quite a bit of walking during this boat trip as well, exploring the islands we stopped at.

Oludeniz boat trip to St Nicholas Island, Fethiye, Turkey

Lovely, lovely view

Back at the Oludeniz beach after the boat trip, we contemplated whether to walk or take the public bus back to our hotel. I suggested walking so that we could see more of Oludeniz, and insisted with 200% confidence that it wouldn’t be that long of a walk. It turned out that my memory of how long the journey from our hotel to the beach took when the paragliding company fetched us that morning was MAJORLY skewed.

We ended up walking for a little over an hour — and before you exclaim “Yek eleh one hour jer”, let me add that it was over an hour of PURE UPHILL CLIMBING. Everytime Faz would ask in frustration “Bila nak sampai ni?!“, I’d say “Lagi sikit jer” but that always wasn’t the case. You should have seen him sulking and trudging along angrily. Man, he was pissed.

I thought I’d try to be positive by asking him to treat it as training for Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka — to which he responded: “Screw Adam’s Peak!“. That didn’t work, so I tried another method — to motivate him by bruising his ego a little, telling him not to be weak. That actually went down worse.

I started to feel bad, and was hoping we could hail a cab or take a bus from the next bus stop but there were none in sight! In fact the next bus stop turned out to be the one near our hotel!

It was no easy feat, I’ll admit. I felt bad for “forcing” him into walking, but secretly I was kinda pleased that we got a good workout after all that bread we had in Cappadocia.

Day trip to Pamukkale + Hierapolis

On another day, we signed up for day trip out to Pamukkale, a place with beautiful white terraced travertine hot springs. We almost didn’t make it there because we didn’t know how to fit it into our itinerary, but I’m glad we managed to. Pamukkale is a natural phenomenon — a mountain of white amidst the greens and browns. The white looks like snow from afar, only it isn’t. They’re actually terraces formed by calcium carbonate mineral deposits left by flowing hot spring water over the years.

The day trip to Pamukkale was packaged together with a visit to an ancient Greek city called “Hierapolis”. We didn’t know much about Hierapolis, where it was exactly and quite honestly we didn’t even know if we were going to appreciate the ruins, but the trip gave us a chance to find out.

It turned out Pamukkale was within walking distance of Hierapolis (it did actually seem like Pamukkale was within Hierapolis but I’m not sure if it would be accurate to say so), and a ticket gives you access to both attractions. The ruins in Hierapolis were alright, though I would think Ephesus would’ve been a better choice (more impressive) if you had time to visit just one site. But Ephesus was out of the way for us.

Travertine terraces of Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

Pamukkale from afar.

Travertine terraces of Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

Look Ma, I’m standing barefoot on snow!

Travertine terraces of Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

Enjoying a cooling dip in the hot weather. The water wasn’t hot at all for a hot spring.

Travertine terraces of Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

I’m not sure if going on a weekday would be any different, but we went on a Saturday and it was crowded! It was quite amusing to see on one end of the spectrum bikini clad women and covered Middle Eastern ladies on the other, and all the various permutations in between — all in one place.

Ruins of Hierapolis, Denizli, Turkey

Some of the ruins of Hierapolis.

Ruins of Hierapolis, Denizli, Turkey

The gymnasium. Without all the equipment we have today, I shudder to think what their workouts consisted of!

Ruins of Hierapolis, Denizli, Turkey

Picture perfect backdrop.

Ruins of Hierapolis, Denizli, Turkey

Climbing more slopes to see the amphitheatre.

Ruins of Hierapolis, Denizli, Turkey

The grand amphitheatre — worth the climb!

Nicholas Heights Deluxe Suite Hotel and Spa, Hisaronu, Oludeniz, Turkey

It was too much of hassle to go out for dinner with all that walking and climbing, so we settled for dinner back at the hotel.

Nicholas Heights Deluxe Suite Hotel and Spa, Hisaronu, Oludeniz, Turkey

Quite a romantic ambience, wouldn’t you say? We hadn’t gone for nice dinners like this since Sri Lanka, so this was quite welcome!

All in all I enjoyed the activities we did and the gorgeous views of Oludeniz but truth be told I had mixed feelings about the vibe it exuded. For some reason Oludeniz is very popular with British tourists and over the years I suppose the place had been moulded to cater to them, making the place less Turkish in its ways and more of a British tourist trap. I had read about this Little Britain in Oludeniz prior, but still decided to go mainly for the activities which led us out of town most of the time anyway, so luckily there was no love lost.

However, Oludeniz was the only place in Turkey that we went in which we felt some uncertainty about the “halalness” of our food. Generally all meat in Turkey is halal because majority of the Turkish are muslims, despite it being a secular state. But walking in Hisaronu town we saw a lot of pork in the menus — nevermind that the other meat sold were halal. We had to recce Hisaronu town quite a bit before we found a restaurant that didn’t serve pork.

Alcohol is a separate matter. Muslims in Turkey (not all, but more so in Istanbul and along the Aegean Coast) seem to prescribe to a different belief about alcohol. Some believe it’s permissible, some believe it’s permissible as long as you don’t get drunk, and some just don’t care. In fact, almost all the restaurants we went to in Turkey sold alcohol. We’d still patronise them, but avoided those selling pork and alcohol because that proved to be a bit too much for our sensibilities.

Anyway, since we’d seen so much pork in Hisaronu, we felt doubtful if our hotel food was halal. So Faz went to ask the nearest staff he could find, which happened to be the bartenders, and they were offended! Genuine or feigned, I don’t know but they were like: What do you mean halal? Of course the food is halal! We’re Muslims! And then they happily started singing “Thola’al badru alaina min thaaniyyatil wada’….”

The juxtaposition of the scene was hilarious. I hope they weren’t high.

Of course, no trip to Turkey would be complete without visiting the legendary Istanbul — and that’s what I’ll be writing about in my next post!

10 Days in Turkey: Cappadocia (1/3)


So Faz and I returned home safely (albeit a couple kgs heavier) from Turkey last month, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT THERE! Our 10-day trip was quite the adventure — I think I had way more fun in these 10 days than I’ve had in years put together!

I’d always wanted to visit Turkey for some reason. I wanted so much for Turkey to be THE honeymoon destination that even though we opted for Sri Lanka instead due to some circumstances, I regarded the latter as sort of a pre-honeymoon. I realised later what a silly concept that was because it didn’t quite work that way. One, because Sri Lanka was just as awesome. Two, the feeling you get going for a vacation as freshly minted husband and wife as compared to going 6 months later is just going to be different — period. So I suppose I’ll consider Turkey our second honeymoon!

Some of the trip’s highlights were staying in a cave hotel and riding in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, paragliding and island-hopping in Oludeniz, and soaking up city life in Istanbul where the population is a whopping 14 million!

Because I don’t subscribe to “saving the best for last” when it comes to my holidays, Goreme in Cappadocia was made our first stop. And indeed it became my favourite part of the trip. It took us 4 airports to get there, but the gruelling journey was well worth it. It almost felt like I was on another planet because our time there was filled with nothing but unique experiences, which apart from staying in a cave and hot air ballooning included marvelling at the unusual volcanic rock formations (known as fairy chimneys) unique to Cappadocia, trekking into picturesque valleys and exploring an ancient underground city — things that don’t exist in the part of the world we come from.

The temperature during the day in Goreme was in the low 20’s deg C. I personally consider that to be cold, but with the sun out, it was quite alright — perfect for being out and about. It only felt cold when the wind blew, which was kind of a strange experience for someone who’s never been to a cold place before. Nights on the other hand, were freezing. Temperatures went below 10 deg C. Our cave room didn’t really make for a warm respite, but at least there was no wind in there and that’s probably already half the battle won.

The air was also especially dry throughout our stay in Goreme. The walls of my nose got so dry that part of it cracked and bled. Fortunately it was just a mild discomfort that didn’t get in the way of things.


Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Turkey

We stayed at a cosy family-run cave hotel called Panoramic Cave Hotel. The owner said her parents used to live here. Two of the rooms were named after her brother and her because they were born in those rooms.

Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Turkey

The room we picked was a real cave room carved out from a fairy chimney. That’s the door to our room on the left.

Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Turkey

The medieval-looking room key that was as long as my palm.

Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Turkey

After travelling almost 24 hours to get here, we were initially a little dismayed to discover how small our room actually was. But that was probably just the fatigue talking because after a while we came to appreciate this unique experience of staying in a cave.

Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Turkey

It was only after we took this photo that we realised there was a winged figure carved into the wall that would look over us as we slept. Creeped us out a bit but once we discovered how comfy the bed was, we couldn’t give two hoots about the figure!

Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Turkey

Felt quite like Alice in Wonderland walking through this fun-sized door.

Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

In the morning we woke up to some noises (sounded like something being fired up) and looked out the window. Lo and behold, we had the famed Cappadocian sight of hundreds of hot air balloons rising up into the sky outside our window! I was practically hyperventilating as we jumped out of bed and out the room to get a better look. I think this had to be one of my best moments in Turkey. I’d seen this in pictures and longed so much to witness it for myself — and truly, nothing beats being there in person. Magical!

Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

A panoramic view of Goreme from outside our room.

Panoramic Cave Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

The cosy breakfast room cum reception area where we’d have breakfast in the mornings.

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

The way to our hotel from the town centre. I swear, Turkey is all slopes! We had quite the workout there.

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Shops like these selling souvenirs, carpets and handicrafts line the streets of Goreme town.

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

A scruffy lil Cappadocian kitty.

Selime Monastery, Cappadocia, Turkey

One of the days we signed ourselves up for a guided tour through our hotel. The tour operators there offer standard colour-coded tours (Green, Red and Blue), each covering a different set of major  attractions in Cappadocia. We took up the Green Tour, which took us to the Selime Monastery (above), Ihlara Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City, Pigeon Valley and Goreme Panorama.

Selime Monastery, Cappadocia, Turkey

The rock-cut Selime Monastery, a Christian monastery dating back to the 8th century. You’d be surprised to know that there are many ancient churches in Turkey because the people practised Christianity in the periods before the Ottoman Empire.

Selime Monastery, Cappadocia, Turkey

It had all the rooms you’d find in a modern day monastery, except they were carved out of rock. Although it was bright and sunny outside, it was dark inside and felt a little creepy. I’d ventured on my own into one of those entrances but almost instantly turned back because I started to get the chills.

Selime Monastery, Cappadocia, Turkey

The interior of another room.

Selime Monastery, Cappadocia, Turkey

It had to be the work of Selime Monastery that made the muscles all over my body ache like hell the next day. These monks must’ve been a really fit bunch back in the day!

Selime Monastery, Cappadocia, Turkey

Gorgeous backdrop.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Contrary to popular belief, Turkey actually has quite a bit of greenery!

Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

Next on the agenda was the Ihlara Valley, where we did a bit of trekking.

Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

The Ihlara Valley, a canyon with a depth of about 100m, runs about 16km and was once home to 4,000 dwellings and about 100 churches with frescoes.

Church of Daniel, Church of Pantassa, Agacalti Kilise (Church Under the Tree), Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

One church we stopped by to see was the Church of Daniel (a.k.a Church of Pantassa) of the 10th-12th centuries which had colourful frescoes depicting biblical stories.

Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

Stopped to rest at a cute lil’ cafe with these tree stumps for tables and chairs. My cousin saw this photo and commented that it looked like a seating area for gnomes haha!

Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

We later stopped for lunch at an interesting restaurant on a stream!

Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Next we visited the Derinkuyu Underground City, the deepest of 36 underground cities in Cappadocia. These underground cities basically serve as shelter against invasions. This particular one can house up to 20,000 and their livestock — can you imagine?!

Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Poor 1.84m husband had to crouch through most of the tunnels.

Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

It was quite an impressive complex. The people had everything they needed and life went on as usual down there. They could get water out of a well, kids went to school, men had meetings, women cooked, gave birth — everything.

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme in the evening. There were SO MANY cave hotels here it was a real challenge to pick one. But we’re happy to have picked Panoramic Cave Hotel because it was value for money and within our budget.

Koy Evi Restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

At the recommendation of our hotel owners, we tried out a open rooftop restaurant nearby the hotel called Koy Evi. Everyone had these cute printed blankets on that were provided by the restaurant because it was about 11 deg C out. Loved the ambience!

Koy Evi Restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Nothing better than having a hot beverage (a tasty Turkish apple tea, no less) in the cold weather!

Koy Evi Restaurant, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Faz having a lamb pottery kebab which came in a clay pot that the waiter had to break open. I don’t think these used pots can be re-used, so can you imagine how many of these go to waste everyday? I did see some shops using them decoration, though.

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme by night. What a sight!

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey


Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Our pilot firing up our hot air balloon.

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Aaaaand we’re up!

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Just. Spectacular.

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Everywhere you turned was a photo op!

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

I don’t usually take selfies, but vacations are an exception!

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

The lovely people in our half of the basket. One basket could accommodate 24 people.

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Nothing but gorgeous views during the hour-long ride.

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

One of my favourite shots of us!

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Faz with our humorous pilot, who made our journey that much more enjoyable. We flew with Turkiye Balloons by the way, which we totally recommend!

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Balloons getting deflated in the distance.

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Boo, our ride was coming to an end!

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

As you can see, the balloons were HUGE!

Hot air balloon, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Faz lending his body weight to compress the balloon into that bag — and doing a pretty good job haha!

And so that concludes our out-of-this-world experience in Cappadocia!

Next I’ll be writing about our time in Oludeniz! :)