26 September 2011

Places To See In Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey is a place rich in culture, art and history. There are so many places to see while in Istanbul. Some places are just around the city while the others are in the outskirts. Below is the list of places of interest in the beautiful city of Istanbul.

The Sultanahment Mosque or famously called Blue Mosque - It is called the Blue Mosque because of its  interior blue Iznik tiles.
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia - This beautiful church is adorned with magnificent frescoes and mosaic tiles which were covered in plaster when Turks conquered Istanbul and ordered the conversion of the church into a mosque.
Galata Tower - The tower is a prominent fixture in the Old Pera or Beyoglu District. It was used as an observatory tower to aid the Turkish defense during the 1300s. For the tourist, this tower offers an great 360 view of the Asian and European side of Istanbul.
Obelisk Monument
at the Hippodrome
Hippodrome Square and the Obelisk - Chariot races took place in this square. Elections were done via chariot races in the Hippodrome during the Byzantium days. In one area of the Square stands the granite Obelisk carved in Egypt and brought in Istanbul around 1450 BC by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius.
Grand Bazaar - This is a vast shopper's delight, housing more than 4,000 shops selling various goods from carpets to spices to wares. It is a big labyrinth of shops constructed in 1464 upon the order of Mehmed II.
Basilica Cistern - The underground water reservoir is right beneath the Stoa Basilica. It has 336 columns of either in Doric and Corinthian  style which hold the high ceiling.
Topkapi Palace - This place used to be the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire. The palace is situated between the Golden Horn and the Marmara sea of Istanbul and offers a great view of the Bosphorus.
Dolmahbace Palace - This extravagant palace is like a mini Versailles and has many French influences in its designs and interiors.
Istiklal St. in Taksim
Istiklal Street in Taksim - This is a well-known pedestrian street is the melting pot of people of all walks of life. It is teeming with cafes, pubs/bars, restaurants, movie theaters and shops and has a tram running in the middle of the quaint street. St. Anthony Church (a Catholic church) is also located along this street.
Museums - Rahmi M. Koc Museum, Istanbul Modern Museum, Kariye Musem, to name a few.

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16 September 2011

Madison Hotel in Istanbul

Madison Hotel is a deluxe 4-star property located in the lively area of Taksim in Istanbul. Its great location is ideal for travelers who want to have easy access to cultural, entertainment, historical and business centers around Istanbul.

We stayed in Madison Hotel for 2 nights only. It was a short break to fully enjoy Istanbul. In 2002, the hotel was not yet fully refurbished and it looked slightly dimmer and smaller as compared now. Madison Hotel has now been renovated to look more modern and bigger. 

All photo credits: www.madison.com.tr

The room accommodation price starts from Euro 112 per night.

This hotel offers modern-design rooms from double, twin, junior suite and single bedroom.  Rooms have the basic amenities like the mini bar, hair dryer, private bath, satellite TV channels, safe box, telephone, air conditioning, modern designed furniture and free wi-fi access.

So if you are planning to have a short vacation from the hustle and bustle of your daily life, head to Istanbul and enjoy the richness of Turkey's Asian and European history, arts and culture.

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12 September 2011

Istanbul - The City in Two Continents

Bhosphorus Side
Photo credit: copyright www.riatravelbug.blogspot.com

Istanbul is a beautiful city in Turkey. It lies on the Bosphorus Strait and stretches on both the European (Thrace) and Asian (Anatolia) side of this strait. It is the only city in the world that lies in two continents.

We visited Istanbul in October 2002. It was actually our first European trip. We applied directly at the Turkish Consulate in Dubai at The World Trade Center. The visa application was not a tedious process unlike the Schengen and US visa we have applied for in the past. We went in the morning to submit our documents and the interviewer only asked us one question. I forgot what the staff asked but I vividly recall what he said next. He told us to collect our passports the next day. That was it. We were given a week-long visa validity to enter Turkey.

We only stayed for 3 days and 2 nights and booked our accommodation in Madison Hotel in Istanbul. It is a 4-star property located in Taksim area close to Taksim Square, Topkapi Palace and other tourist attractions.

I got a good deal on the hotel because of my travel agent status then. My husband and I flew to Istanbul via Singapore Airlines (and I loved their service! The flight attendants made us feel very special even if we were in economy class) during the airline's promotional travel deals. Since I was an assigned staff in the Singapore Airlines counter, our ticketing head office left a message to the tour operators in Istanbul to give me and my husband a free return airport transfer. The airline fare was also a steal because I only paid around US$160 for both of us and that was Dubai-Istanbul-Dubai! Talk about the perks of being a travel agent!

I'll talk about the hotel and other places of interest on my other blog post later on. Meanwhile, here are some of the few photos we had in Istanbul. Unfortunately, we only had few snaps because our very unreliable digital camera had to malfunction during our trip.



Topkapi Palace, Istanbul


My hubby posing in Taksim Square near the tram track

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02 September 2011

Netherlands for my 40th Birthday

Yes, I have made up my mind. After gathering data and checking on expenses, I chose Netherlands and not Switzerland.

This trip will be my 40th birthday gift to myself. Although it's not yet March but I am just checking out places to visit because I also want to do a side trip to Belgium and Denmark if the time and budget permits.

I will have to consider a lot of things for this trip. I have been to other European countries in the past so going through the visa formalities is nothing new to me and my family. It's going to be costly but I'll make sure that we'll make the most out of the trip.

I have another 5 months to finalize the trip and we'll probably apply for a Schengen visa on February or early March. My birthday is in March but my daughter's spring break from school in in April so we'll take the trip in April. I'll see the tulips in full bloom by that time!

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