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)

Merhaba!

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 BALLOONING THE NEXT MORNING!

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! :)