Just a quick note, I’m not actually in Bahrain today, I’m just a few days late in writing this, but ssshhh….don’t tell anyone 😉
Currently, as you will probably know, I am, let’s say ‘slightly’ behind on my Brother vs Sister competition. So when I saw a flight that would bring me from Trivandrum to Istanbul via Bahrain, with a 9 hour connection (Yup!) I thought, here’s an opportunity to gain myself a bonus country! The fact that Gulf Air offer flights for a chunk lower than other airlines was also a very nice added bonus. Ticket booked – boom!
Side note, if you’re booked on a Gulf Air flight, or if you’re thinking about booking on one – do it! They were great! Plenty of leg room, if not more than what I’m used to, good food, friendly and helpful staff. I would definitely recommend!
Alas! As with every great plan, usually comes a great problem!
Did you know that you need a visa for Bahrain? No? Me neither.
Did you also know that said visa costs about 25 dinar, equivalent to about £45! Now, I’m keen to up my country count, but I’m a girl with currently no income – £45 is a precious amount of money for just a few hours. I had some thinking to do.
You know sometimes it really can be a case of “who you know” – Funnily enough, this rule certainly applied in the following turn of events….
Having found out that I was going to be stopping off in Bahrain, and hearing that I had wanted to pop out to spend some time in the country, a friend of my dad’s, Wendy, messaged me to say that actually she had lived there many years ago when she had been cabin crew for Gulf Air, and that she still had a friend, Hilary, who lived there, and that she would be more than happy to show me around. Amazing!
But what to do about this pesky visa??
There is a transit-visa. It costs 2 dinar (around £3.70 – I can make my peace with that), and it would allow me to enter Bahrain for those few hours between my flight. Only glitch with this is they usually only allow this visa for those transiting on to Saudi Arabia by land.
“I have a friend who works for immigration, I’ve told him that you’re coming, ask for him directly and he’ll arrange the transit-visa for you!” Sweet!
Visa bought and paid for, passport stamped, and into Bahrain I trotted.
As a child I always would imagine Arabia as this magical and enchanting place; roof tops, magic carpets, spices, desert and palm trees, ‘Arabian Nights’ – when I went to Dubai these images were quite harshly dashed. Apologies here for any Dubai fans, but to me it lacked that…feeling. The modern world may have brought along it’s riches, but it had eradicated any soul that was once there.
Bahrain on the other hand, whilst of course shows influence of the modern world, has managed to do so still with their more traditional influences in tact. Perhaps this is because it has managed to stay more off the “tourist trail” more so than it’s neighboring countries.
There is a laid back feeling here, granted I was only there for a short time, but it doesn’t take long to get a feel for a place – and I liked it here. Everyone seemed very friendly, always smiling and saying hello, it felt very personal. People still acknowledged people.
It isn’t a big island and there isn’t a whole lot to do, sightseeing wise you could easily see everything you need to see in a day. Instead, I think it would be a nice place to come and just soak up some local culture and architecture for a few days, staying in a homestay or a guesthouse. Sample some of their yummy local cuisine, or try your hand at haggling in one of their souks. I’m not one one for massive sightseeing days out anyway, I prefer to check out local life and just ‘being’ in a place – and I think Bahrain could be a cool place to do this in.
Thank you Wendy and Hilary for allowing me to come and visit Bahrain – and additionally allowing me to be able to add on a new country to Brother vs Sister 🙂
So with my time in Bahrain at end, back to the airport I went, and onto my flight I got.
A tuk tuk ride, two flights, one new country, and 24 hours travelling later, I arrived into Istanbul.
I’d been to Istanbul back in 2008 with my mum and sister. We’d visited the mosques and the bazaars, and I had really liked it.
This time I was staying with an old friend of mine, Yucel, who I’d not seen in 12 years! We had met in Fethiye all those years ago when I was working in Ovacik, but had just never got around to seeing each other again. It’s incredible how quickly time can disappear; a year turns into two turns into 5 and then before you know it 12 years have gone by! It’s a scary thought, and a gentle reminder that we should be grabbing onto life with both hands.
So a couple of days in Istanbul, and guys, I think I have found a city that is now in serious competition with London as my favorite city. Now, if you know how much I love London you would understand what a bold statement that is for me.
There is just something about it. It’s pretty, it has character, the food is incredible. There are streets full of places to eat breakfast, terrace bars and restaurant’s. The design is a perfect blend between east meets west, Ottoman architecture still very much preserved. I love Turkish design, I think there is something very old and mystical about it.
We spent a day wandering around Taksim and Galata. We walked up Galata Tower, which looks exactly like Rapunzel’s Tower FYI :), and gives a 360 degree aerial view of Istanbul. Looking out over the Bosphurus, you can still picture all of the old ships coming in from the east to trade spices and materials, it’s beautiful.
A traditional Turkish dining experience is to sit and have the food brought to you without knowing what it is you’re getting. A notion which, to my sometimes ‘particular’ pallet, can be a bit daunting. However, do not under estimate how amazing the food is in Turkey! Don’t be fooled by the dirty doner kebab that plagues our nights out okay, real Turkish food has enough flavours to send your taste buds into a mouth watering frenzy! So, my advice is don’t worry – sit back and enjoy 🙂
They start off serving small mezes and bread, from Cacik (yoghurt and mint) to curried fish – followed then with your main course which will either be fish or meat, with Turkish rice, potatoes and salad. All washed down with a glass of Turkey’s finest, Raki.
Now THAT is an acquired taste! Yizers!
An evening of this, and live Turkish folk music, trust me – is a great way to spend an evening here. Don’t miss out on it.
Other than this I really just hung out with Yucel. The next day I had the yummiest glass of white wine, please bear in mind that I’d not had one since I left England and any of you wine lovers out there will appreciate just how nice it is to taste that first sip of a good quality glass of wine – especially if you haven’t had any in over two months! It was a small piece of heaven. Then that evening we went out for some beers with one of his friends, Sezgin, came back a little ‘happy’ shall we say, and ate some chocolate pudding – bliss! Haha.
I say all of this in the most non-alcoholic sounding way possible okay 🙂 #DrinkResponsibly 🙂
All this brings me to the end of my time in Istanbul and ready to get my bus bringing me down to Fethiye. It’s a 12 hour journey, leaving at about 8pm and getting in at around, yep you guessed it, 8am 😉 I travelled with Pamukkale, and actually not a bad journey at all. They offer back of the seat entertainment, movies, music, tv shows, and drinks and snacks service, all included free of charge – bonus!
I fell asleep listening to ‘Pink Floyd, The Wall’ – My favourite Pink Floyd album, it’s a masterpiece, probably flawless actually. Waking up to ‘Comfortably Numb’ just as the sun was rising over the vast open lands fringed with mountains, and low lying cloud, was probably a moment I’ll remember forever.
So I have more visitors coming tomorrow, mum, sister, nephew and soon to be brother-in-law, are all coming over for a week’s holiday. So I’m just going to enjoy my time with them and will be back on here next week, hopefully with an update of my next whereabouts.
Have a good week peeps x x x