Sunday, 31 July 2016

Discovering Istanbul – West meets East …. Where culture collide

After an adventure hitchhiking for the first time I was finally in Istanbul. Modern Istanbul to be correct and it was something of a peekaboo experience for me. Islamic culture never really catches my attention, since growing up in an Islamic country like Malaysia we sort of think we knew what an Islamic country is about. Like an old saying in Malay – Bagai Katak Dalam Tempurung !

City of Istanbul - Turkey

The Hamman

The very first thing I did in Istanbul was to source out the Hamman. It is something that one must experience in Turkey for I have never seen anything close to it, even the bath in Hungary. So a pocket guide map from the hostel and I trace down one of the oldest Hamman in Istanbul …. Since Year 1584. Authenticity … I wanted the real thing …. Not the best nor the most luxurious … but the real shit.
Cemberlitas Hamman - Istanbul
 Do you want a full service or a self-service the nice lady counter asked pointing at the price chart.
While Yebba went for the Full service I opted for the self-service, for side-lining my eyes to the right I saw a few heavyweight fat bald moustache elderly man in their towels, slowly swish slapping themselves with another small towel waiting to manhandle anyone that opted the full service. To be sincere I was afraid they would break my bones accidentally. Full service comes with a massage and a full body scrub down and full use of the facility which we had no idea what it was till we were in it.
Girls and Boys don’t mix … separate Hamman. Blasphemy if one would even try to peekaboo either side. Hence here on out whatever is written is purely on the boys side. Oh and since no camera was allowed … no photos …sry
Into the bath house up a second floor where I was shown into a tiny cubicle room where one could just rest or change or get ready to go into the Hamman. There was no pool or common soak area or such. In fact there was a large round slab of stone in the middle that was heated up and hot water that was piped into small little corners where one could go and wash up themselves. The room was slightly steamed like a sauna and male attendants would give you a full service if you paid for it upfront.
Thou I did not paid for it I saw what went down. A male attendant for a male …. With a body scrub first they scrub you hard-core down everywhere other than the privets. I have to say it looks amazing and torturous at the same time.  I just lay down at the large hot stone and daze …. Sweating everything out before being intoxicated by the heat. The place felt like being in a Mosque, all the fine intricate cravings and mosaic patterns and a skylight reflected though many intricate glass mirrors and colourful tiles that somehow dazzles the eyes.
Although I told Yebba 2 hours should be long enough, I manage to last a full 45 minutes before giving up and having to come out of the room. All men had a small towel to cover themselves but other than that we were practically naked. Steam, sleep, shower …. Repeat.
Yebba had a blast with the massage and body scrub and check out all the beautiful girls in the women side of the bath house …. How we men wish we were there ….
The Blue Mosque
Next was the blue mosque …. Always trying to get to the Blue Mosque …. Sad to say in the 5 full days I was in Istanbul, I never made it to the Blue Mosque. Istanbul is big with lots of things to see and somehow we were always side tracked getting lost exploring the nooks of the city. Layers upon Layers of culture and dream was built into Istanbul.
Mosque in Istanbul
Still I visited a fair share of Mosque in Istanbul, just not the Blue one … the Mosque here was more liberal, even more than in Malaysia I would say. Istanbul being a very tourist hub draws loads of tourist that thrives the economy but also teaches the locals tolerance to the oblivious and obnoxious tourist.
Why do I say this? Well I was walking around with two Australian kids. Young spirited Ecila and Yebba, short pants and a tiny shirt that is semi-transparent due to light colours Ecila was strolling around with full confidence in every Mosque we visited and gathered a lot of stares. Ah the temptation of oblivion. Yebba had the respect to cover up as a princess best she could after my previous long explanation of people and culture and mutual respect.
Loose the sunglasses Yebba.
Do you wear sunglasses to church Yebba?
Yea, wats wrongs with it she retorted.
I rolled my eyes and left Yebba alone with her sunglasses but after a bit she took them off.
At one of the Mosque, Ecila and her free spirit finally sat down next to me at the raised pedestal outside the main hall, the courtyard. What I did not realized at that time was that I was sitting on the left side of the raised pedestal … - For the male, while Yebba and Ecila should be on the right side where there was lovely intricate wooden screen to obscure the full view of women from the man. Ecila and Yebba sat down next to me and a minute later they started lying down trying to get a suntan like it was the most normal thing to do in the mosque.
Don’t do that ….
Why ???
How do you explain these things to a 8 year old kid ???? Do you force them to listen or do you educate them …. The latter is harder said than done when trying to explain abstract ideas.
I dunnu about you girls but I dun feel comfortable that you are trying to suntan in a mosque ….
Left it at that to shimmer and within a few minutes they raised up, looked around and you could genuinely see the embarrassment on their face
If I was too sensitive, the people of Istanbul was very considerate and understanding, for other than the stare of envy there was no stares of disgust. I was very much humbled by the experience of the Istanbul people and the way they viewed religion.
The Bazaar
Whoever painted the picture of Ali Baba and the forty thieve and middle east as a Bazaar crazy culture did not get it entirely wrong I guess. Sometimes it’s all true.

Trinkets in Istanbul Bazaar
Trinkets Trinkets everywhere. I love the bazaar and the heat that comes with it. It was like looking for that one item of precious magic lamp in the heap of junk. No Magical Gennie for me in the end but it was something that one dun get to experience everyday … if you have someone that like to shop throw them into the bazaar while one wonders around admiring the relic structure itself.

Grand Bazaar Entrance - Istanbul

Internal Architectural Works of the Grand Bazaar Istanbul 
Red Tea - Turkey

Of all the things to do in Turkey …. My favourite was the simple red tea … Just find a right shop and enjoy the view.

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