Monday, October 16, 2006

Another weekend, another timezone

A 4 hour flight from Sydney will land you in Darwin. A 4 hour flight from Rondon, landed me in Istanbul :) City of men that look like Borat, and kebabs. Even though it's Ramadan atm, there were kebabs everywhere. For someone that doesn't like lamb much, I ate a lot of it over the weekend!

Istanbul has to be the most disorganised city I've visited so far. Catching public transport isn't the easiest thing to do here. Buses don't really stop at bus stops, and bus stops don't really tell you what buses stop there. When we finally did get on the bus, the driver didn't want to accept our pre-paid bus tickets, and the bus was going in the wrong direction. How were we to know there were two places called Tokapi? Which led us to catch two trams back to where we wanted to go. It's a good thing we woke up early that morning :)

Culturally, I'm not quite sure if the Turkish are out to rip me off, or are genuinely being nice. Prices were sometimees exorbitant. 8 lira (equivalent to AUD$8) for a turkish coffee and apple tea? Something smells fishy, and it's not B's lunch breath *grin* The odd thing is, if you act like you don't have enough money, the waiter will say, "It's okay, don't worry". They're ready to give it to you for free or for less than they originally charged you. We even managed to get breakfast for free one morning. So it's a little odd. I think they're nice enough people, but they're also opportunists. As a foreigner who doesn't understand the language or culture, it's hard to argue over prices. If I was in Asia I'd at least try and bargain, but in Turkey, I didn't really want to end up in jail for offending a male.

Which brings me to the next point - LOTS of males. Where on earth are the females? Having grown up in a Muslim country, I didn't expect to be surprised by anything I saw in Istanbul. However, there is a distinct lack of women on the streets. Men are everywhere. Everyone who approached me at the Grand Bazaar was a man. I barely saw any women. The only place I saw women, was at a mosque. Even then, the women were at the back and behind a screen, only men were allowed to pray at the front.

Regarding safety, travelling in Istanbul seemed perfectly fine. No scary militia standing around unless you're at the Dolmabahçe Palace. In a way it's like Rondon. Danger's always lurking beneath the surface, and you're never going to know when or where the next catastrophe will happen.

Favourite memory? Learning how to smoke the hookah (as in a water pipe, not a dead prostitute) with B :)

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