Drinking çay in Istanbul

There is no word that can describe the feeling when I first drank my Çay (Traditional Turkish Tea), the taste, the way I held it with my fingertips on the rim of the tulip-shaped glass, and the amazing ambience of Istanbul. I didn’t stop drinking ever since; every hour if possible. I have to be honest, food (and drink) usually plays important role on how Bandi and I end up loving the place we travelled to or not; and Turkey scored well on that department. We were really looking forward to every meal.

We started everyday with scrumptious Turkey breakfast; which just like their tea, is a big deal for them. From this experience, I learned the best way to eat my toast: with butter, cream and honey. Mind blowing. Although most of the recommended dishes in Turkey are meat heavy, there were some pleasant surprise of vegetarian options. I turned into a vegetarian most of the days because I simply couldn’t eat meat everyday. I love love love their Lentil Soup, pairing with Turkish famous bread makes it perfect.

Before I continue rambling about food, let’s talk about the city itself.

I rarely fall in love with cities. Cities are not my most favourite place to travel to and only few cities left mark in my memories; London, Tokyo, Rome. So I was surprised when I grew fond of Istanbul organically. Istanbul is visually beautiful, no doubts, but it also has something unique that enticed me. Maybe it’s the culture, the people or the food, I didn’t really know when exactly I fell in love with it.

I knew it was love because there’s something I hate about it, yet I still love it. Turks smoke like they drink their çay, non-stop; and I hate coming home with my hair smelling disgusting.

Bandi and I visited the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, or famously known as the Blue Mosque. I had goosebumps all over me when I entered, it was the same feeling when I first entered Pantheon in Rome, the unforgettable feeling, the wow-this-is-out-of-this-world feeling. It was BEAUTIFUL. Please take note that you have to dress modestly if you plan to go in, you also need to take off your shoes. There is no entrance fee as this is a functioning mosque.

The exterior of Sultan Ahmet Mosque

The beautiful interior

 

Our second stop was Hagia Sophia, which has a very long history. It was a church during Byzantine period. Hagia Sophia has more interesting stories than the building itself. We stopped for a while before we entered, sat on the park bench, just to read the long history of Hagia Sophia, it’s really interesting how this building has witnessed so many revolutions happened. Google for the story, it could be 20 pages long! The main wodden door in Hagia Sophia has been standing since 6th century!

Super old door!

Bandi and I, in the park between Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmet Mosque

The third must-visit place in Istanbul is Topkapi Palace. This place is huuuge! Slot some time to really walk around and explore the place. Bandi and I really enjoyed this place, especially the kitchen museum, imagining how it feels to be the chief cook in that era, leading a team to cook for the whole palace (roughly 4,000 people), it was massive in that era. The museum has a lot of information written all over it, so we could really learn about the palace.

Sadly the 40 Lira entrance fee doesn’t include the Harem (the place where the Sultan spent his private life with his family). You need to pay additional 25 Lira to get to know the Harem.

If you’re a Moslem, or interested in one, there is some seriously important artefact stored in Topkapi Palace, such as footprint of Prophet Muhammad, Moses’ staff, and other impressive collections! You may googling more about the list and its authenticity, but it is definitely a must visit!

Our favorite place in Topkapi Palace is the balcony where you can see the sea. It was such a beautiful day in Istanbul, and seriously how can you not love this city?

My only regret is not to spend longer time in Istanbul. I was so mesmerized by the seabirds that followed us all the way when we boarded ferry from the European Istanbul to the Asian Istanbul. There were thousand of them, hovering above the ferry, while cruising from one continent to another. Everything about Istanbul is visually beautiful.

And the vibe in Galatasaray bridge in the evening, full of people fishing, chatting, hassling… A dad teaching his daughter how to fish, a group of friend hanging out while eating fish sandwich, a couple having fun under the bridge, where the restaurants are, and their pink sunset… This city is really special, their sunset is pink color! I love Istanbul, I really do. I will definitely come back because I’ve left a piece of my heart there. :)

Cheers,

May, with a hair as pink as Istanbul’s Sunset.

You don’t need to quit your job to travel the world

I got a goosebumps just now, when I wrote my first word on this post. I can assure you that this post will be, by far, the most passionate piece of blog post I’ve written. (And it will be word-heavy, get your popcorn!)

This post is specially written to those who are truly passionate about travel and for the dreamers like me. :)

Here's a photo of me in Mt. Bromo to jump start the mood!

Here’s a photo of me in Mt. Bromo to jump start the mood!

I have a new star in my life and his name is Gunnar Garfors. Check his blog and you will fall in love too. This guy travelled to every country in the world while he’s having a full-time job and traveling is not the job itself.

Travel is his hobby, and he’s doing it right. He’s criticized of being too ambitions for doing so many rush trip such as traveling to 4 continents in a day but if you understand his style, he’s the kind of guy who keeps wanting to break the record, who likes to tick off challenges and trust me, he really loves the idea of traveling (moving from one place to another).

I was a bit disappointed reading his book though, the English translation is poor and he visited Batam for his Indonesia trip. Sigh. Apart from that, it’s an interesting book!

The most important thing about his existence is that it strengthened my belief to travel around the world without doing that dramatic move: Quit my job. (except I strike a lottery, then I will quit my job. LOL)

I don’t agree with quitting your job and then go travel until you’re totally bankrupt. What’s the point of it? You can only travel for maybe 1 year, then what’s after that? It’s true you have to live in the moments, like today is your last day on earth, but…. I wanna live in the moments throughout my whole life, not only 1 year and then suffer. I want to live long and travel forever! I don’t want my travel to have an expiry date! I want the adventure continues forever!

I love to travel, it’s my hobby, my lifestyle, my true love, whatever you people call it these days. But since as long as I remember, I’ve always been fascinated by the Globe. When I was a kid, I would spend hours reading Atlas Book and staring at the Globe while dreaming about my adventure. I’m a common girl (not very academic-smart, not very pretty, but super lucky) from a middle income family in a third world country. Going overseas or let alone holiday was almost impossible. When my Dad lost his job, it was even harder for me to survive life.

Bottom part, I was not fed with golden spoon in a silver platter. But….

I am a dreamer.

I wanted to travel the world. AND I WILL. BECAUSE I CAN.

So, I made a plan. My plan was simple: Find a decent paying job and save some money to travel the world, one city at a time.

The challenge was: I have to support my Mom and Dad, how am I suppose to feed 3 mouths and saving money to travel?

Travel needs money, we all know that. So, I made a very very risky move: I left my country and moved to a neighbor-first world country, because I needed the currency. Thankfully I made it. So, now that I can spare my money for both my parents and my travel, I need to find the time, because I have a full time job, remember?

Then, I realize, to travel you just need 2 things: MONEY and TIME. So now…. let’s analyze the shit out of it!

MONEY

Used by 90% of people as an excuse not to travel… Money! I don’t have money to travel, blah blah blah. I didn’t have the money to travel either, but I MADE MONEY. BECAUSE I CAN.

No matter how little money you make, you can always spare 5% or 10% for travel. Everyone could have different amount, but I’m a believer: AS LONG AS YOU’RE FOCUSED ON YOUR GOAL, YOU CAN. Nothing in this world you cannot do unless you say so.

1. Have a decent paying job, which you actually like.

You don’t have to be super passionate about your day-job. As long as you like the job, you’re happy, you’re having fun with your colleagues, the environment is good, and make a decent living, you’re on the right track. Remember, don’t suffer your self in a job you hate just because it pays you more money. I know you love to travel and have to focus about your goal, but hey… be kind to yourself too. :)

2. Buy cheap air tickets.

I totally agree with Garfors in this post he made about cheap flight tickets. Calculate how much money you make per hour, and then buy the tickets that is the cheapest calculated by YOUR VALUE. Remember, time equals money too! And my personal travel tips would be: WHEN YOU SEE A PROMOTION ticket price that is too good to be true, BUY! I know it’s an impulse buy, but it’ll bring you to a new place, go for it! Always ALWAYS subscribe for all kind of airplane newsletter.

Sometimes I didn’t plan where I would go. My travel destination could be very random, depending on the cheapest air ticket. My ultimate goal is to travel the whole world anyway, where to visit first doesn’t really matter anymore (after Europe). For next year, I’ve bought tickets for 2 different trips and both were impulsive because the price was ridiculously cheap. I didn’t think too much, I just bought it.

3. Free/Cheap accommodation.

Since Airbnb was invented, I no longer stayed at hotels when I travel. I only stay at hotels for relaxing trip (such as anniversary trip and honeymoon). Airbnb is THE BEST THING that could happen to me (after Bandi lah of course). I know there are a lot of scary stories about airbnb. The thing is… you can never find a flawless system in the world, because no matter how many people having good intentions, there are always some bad people who wants to ruin it. There are always some bad apples.

Be Smart about everything. Don’t just blindly trust people and follow your instinct! If you don’t feel comfortable, or suspicious about someone, GO AWAY. 99% of the time your feeling is right! So yeah, airbnb saves a lot of money for my travel. But if I have friend in a place I’m about to visit, I will notify them. You’ll never know if they are willing to host you, or maybe willing to show you around their city. It’s always fun to travel with locals!

I’ve shared so many wonderful experiences with airbnb in most of my travel posts genuinely because I want everyone to experience trip in the best way possible. :)

Anyway, if you haven’t had airbnb account, please sign up with my reference link here, you’ll get SG$28 free for your first booking! :D (This is not an advertised post, I swear!)

4. No Shopping Policy.

I don’t really shop when I travel. I can’t relate when people said “empty your luggage and come back full.” I feel like shopping is a waste of time. I can always shop in Singapore if I need something. I will not spare my time to shop. (It only happened once in my life, when I went to Japan with my girlfriends. Osaka has some crazy cheap stuffs!) But anyway, if it’s already struggling for you to buy air tickets, why would you waste your money buying stuffs you don’t need (and you can’t afford)?

It’s all about priority. I’ve written a post in Bahasa before about prioritizing your money. I got this comment a lot, “Wow, you must be making a lot of money, you travel a lot.” People perceives traveling as a luxury. Well, yeah it’s value-added (it’s the only thing you buy that gives you actual value to your life) but I don’t think it’s luxury lah… It just happened that I prioritized travel above shopping, above wasting money clubbing or hanging out in a expensive cafes. We just happen to use our money for different purposes.

There is nothing impossible in this life unless you say so. It’s the same with money. Set your goal, calculate and math the fu*k out of it!

TIME

I once worked in a company that gives 7 days leave a year (shit, right?) and I could still travel. I went to my 26 days of Europe trip with only 3 days unpaid leave. I saved my leave, I prioritize my travel. Once again, prioritizing is the key word here.

Starting next year, I will have around 20 days leave. I’ve planned 2 big trips and 1 small trip so far. It will be 3 new countries for me. So exciting! I’ve calculated the budget too so I can still pay my bills, my rent, my house mortgage etc. I’m still a common adult who has responsibilities you know… I just chose traveling as my number 1 hobby (and priority.

1. You need a good plan.

I must say my planning skill is super impressive. #shameless. But seriously, I could travel to Mt. Bromo, went to KL (for Bon Jovi concert) and roadtripping in NSW, Australia in the same month and only took 5 days of leave. Amazing, huh? Told you my planning skill is crazy! :p Visit my post about my Eurotrip and you’ll understand what I meant by crazy planning skill! I have itchy feet. This year, my passport documented at least one trip per month! No matter if it’s just a short weekend trip, I just have to gooooo! :D

2. Planning on next year’s calendar.

Whenever I see there is public holiday, I see it as a travel opportunity. Whenever there is a promo priced ticket, I see it as travel opportunity. My skill at chasing of cheap air tickets has also increased throughout the time. I now pronounced my best catch ever is when I bought return ticket from Singapore to Taipei for only S$55. No kidding. I felt like winning gold medal when I got that price. LOL. Back to the topic, I will block the long weekends and spread my leave to acquire as many trips as I can get (of course must calculate the budget too lah).

3. Energy.

There are some days (like in September) when I traveled every week, I didn’t have enough sleep because I needed to work. You need to recharge your energy, so find an activity that recharge your energy. Some recharge by sleeping, some by exercising, some by spending time with family, some… with more travels! LOL. My point is… know your limit. Don’t overdo yourself. If your body tells you it’s tired, it is. Spend some time for yourself too!

I don’t know what else to say about saving your time, so I guess the list ended on number three.

About prioritizing life

It is very difficult for me to finally swallow this ugly truth, but I just have to accept it and now saying it… To travel around the world will be a bit difficult when you have kids.

I will get hate comments for this, but this is the truth. You can keep denying it, but it won’t bend the truth.

Why? Because kids need time and money. It doesn’t mean you can’t travel at all, no I didn’t mean that. It’s just more difficult and your frequency of travel will be less, of course.

AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN THESE TWO. You just have to shift your priority, that’s what life is about anyway, prioritizing things.

We make decisions all the time, and we should never regret anything. You just have to be honest about what you want and do things that make you happy.

If you decided to have kids and be happy about it, you should stop making sad comments on people’s traveling photos like “ohh… so nice… I wish I was there but I had to take care of my kids”. Is it suppose to make the other person feel bad or to make you feel better? That you chose a path as a mother, and it’s an honorable thing to be a mom? (Oh wait, now I’m rambling about a totally different topic here)

Bottom line is… EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT PRIORITY IN LIFE. BE HAPPY ABOUT WHAT YOU CHOSE. :)

NEVER COMPARE YOUR LIFE WITH SOMEONE ELSE’S.

Also as I mentioned before, not everyone loves to travel, which is very understandable. Some will save money to buy branded bags, some for fast cars, some for staying in a five stars resort. Please understand that everyone has different way to spend their money and NEVER JUDGE. Never think that your way is better than someone else’s way. Again, don’t compare.

But I believe if you read this post, you should be one of those people who loves to travel. :)

And if you’re an adventurer like me, keep going! Don’t stop, don’t compromise your happiness. Keep your curiosity, explore the world. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste of time or waste of money. Traveling is a great investment, trust me. You feed your soul when you travel, you experience, your view is widened.

Don’t stop.

ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE! :D

Cheers,

May, keep moving.

#30daysblogging Where to, next?

Day 13

Post is an idea from El Tandiono

After the amazing-tiring-moneysucking Europe Trip, Bandi and I had been some kind of travel immunity movement… We tried to ignore all the emails from airlines flashing about their promo prices, until… we couldn’t handle it anymore. LOL. We got a very very good price for only $200+ (I didn’t remember how much exactly) per person to explore Darwin, Australia. And we impulsively bought it. It’s for next August. Come to think of it, we didn’t really know what to explore in Darwin, we didn’t know whether we would have the approved leave, the time to apply visa and the money by then, but we did buy it anyway. LOLOL. So let’s see what’s gonna happen.

Our  next ambition is actually to resign and backpack across Indonesia. We planned it for 30days but if we ever had the guts to quit our jobs, we probably would do it for 2 months. But well, we have house mortgages and everything, we don’t know if we’re really gonna do it. :p

Remember this plan?

Remember this plan?

I’ve always had this imagination in my mind that someday we’re gonna do it. Now it’s just either we have the guts or not.

If we really couldn’t leave our responsibilities for that long, maybe we’re gonna shift to plan B: which is take different short trips for different destination. But honestly I like the long trip better. I love to be on the run, to be constantly moving everyday. It’s tiring, but it’s ADVENTUROUSLY AMAZING. :)

But it’s still a dream now. I hope it’s coming to be true one day. :) But for this year, we’ll just settle for a week at Darwin. (oh, and a possible honeymoon :))

What’s your travel plan for 2014? I hope it’s exciting!

Cheers,

May, si kaki gatal.