Sunday 30 April 2023.
Highlights: Business Class flight, getting lost in Istanbul, exploring the historic Istanbul (Fatih district), meeting my tour group.
To effectively started at midnight while transiting in Singapore. I luckily got to use the the Singapore Airlines SilverKris (Terminal 3) Lounge (review here) has it was so close to my depature gate. Nothing like a shower to rehydrate you.
The Singapore to Istanbul flight SQ392 (review here) left just after 2 am Singapore time. This flight took approximately 11 hours and for me was at the end of an extremely long day. Being in business class (using award points) make it a comfortable flight in particular the abilty to turn the seat into a bed. I probably managed about 4 hours sleep on the flight in total, usually 30-40 minutes at a time. Due to the timing of the flight almost everybody tried to sleep making it a quiet flight.
Arriving at Istanbul Airport and clearing Immigration and Customs was a breeze. I was one of the first passengers in the International Visitors Immigration line which helped. My bag made it despite the tight transit time in Singapore so everything was looking good. Additionally it was not too hard to find my booked transport to my tour starting hotel, but from here I had an unexpected adventure.
The airport is over 40 kilometres to Fatih district (the historic district) in Istanbul that I was staying at. There was a major fun run event that meant the driver dropped me off about 5 kilometres short of my desintation. He them placed me on a local tram and gave me vague instructions to find my hotel.
Not great I thought but I had an offline map app on my phone to help me, however I have selected the wrong hotel with basically the same name. So while I got off at the right tram stop which turned out to be 5 minute walk to my actual hotel I ended up carrying my bags, that got heavier as I went, for over an hour heading to the wrong hotel and then back to where I started and finally my hotel DOH!
I was staying at the Golden Horn Hotel and arrived there around 10.30 am sweeting. I had put my jacket and fleece top away as soon as I could. Check in wasn’t until 2 pm so the hotel took me bag. After cooling down I decided to risk getting lost again and to explore the local area.
My walk took me down near the Bosphorus Strait where I saw the ‘fun runners’ who complicated my day. I also visited the Turbe (tomb) of Sultan Madmud II Khan who died in 1839 when the Ottoman Empire was still in existance. There we other Sultan’s and prominent citizens buried here as well.
From here I visited the outside of the Nurosmaniye Mosque whose construction started in the 1750s and to me seemed like an architectural marvel.
The last historic site I came across was the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar is closed on Sunday’s so I’ll be visiting this location later during this trip, probably after Central Asia visit and my return to Istanbul.
That evening I meet our group. We are a full tour with 15 tour members, although 2 didn’t attend the group meeting. We had travellers from UK, Ireland, Neverlands, South Africa and Australia.
Our Chief Experience Officer (CEO) / Tour Leader is Isik a local of this area of Türkiye. Isik is an accredited guide so he will be providing full service by leading us though the historic sites we visit whereas a lot of the time you use local guides.
We finished up by going out to a nearby resturant where we swapped stories and got to know each other a little better before we fully start the tour tomorrow when we leave at 8.30 am.
A most interesting long day, what I’m sure I’ll remember is getting lost looking for my hotel, which while not fun at least got me to see some areas I’d miss and keep me awake to combat jetlag 🙂