Sunday, 22 July 2012

day 5: uninvited breakfast guests and getting stark naked in cappadocia

after a nearly 10 hours overnight bus ride, we finally arrived in the lil town of goreme in cappadocia at about 8.30am. that's 1.5 hour later than what was written in our itinerary! but wait, there wasn't anyone to meet us at the town square where the express bus let us off!

looking like a lost puppy and didn't know where to go nor what to do!

luckily there is a tourist information booth there and we got the nice man behind the desk to help us. i showed him our itinerary and told him that we were booked at peri cave hotel & pension. he placed a call to the hotel and told them about their 2 stranded guests. and within 10 minutes, a car from the hotel came to pick us up. then it took us a total of 3 minutes to get to the hotel! lol... if we'd known the way, we could've walked there!

when we got to the hotel, more confusion ensued. they couldn't find our booking! again, i showed my itinerary and told them the name of our tour agency. they said they will check and of course they have room to accommodate us, but in the meantime, would we like to have some breakfast? after the long and tiring bus ride, of course we tucked in! 

outdoor breakfast in the nice and crisp weather.

we were very excited that we would be staying in a CAVE!

while we were eating, the hotel people came over to tell us that there's been a mistake. we were actually booked for another hotel and the driver is already here to pick us up! what the...?!? we complaint that he should've met us at the square, then this stupid mistake would not have happened! anyway, we said thank you to the nice ladies in the kitchen of peri cave hotel... you know, for the free breakfast. i hope they charge it back to the other hotel! or to the tour agent! hehe...

another 3 minutes car ride bought us to sarihan cave hotel & pension. luckily it's also a cave hotel.

the space in the cave were hand carved out, so it wasn't a natural cave. that explained the shape of the room, electricity and all the modern fixtures. 

they even carved out a space for the tv! 

a spacious and modern bathroom...

we were just settling down and getting ready for a nice warm shower when the front desk people called up to say that our tour van is waiting at the front for our 9.30am tour! what the...?!? we've not taken a shower since the morning of the previous day (the cold outdoor shower without shower gel in pamukkale does not count!). that's like 24 hours without showering! we were really looking forward to this freshening and cleansing up, and they tell us we've no time?!?

we told them we're not ready, but as there were other people in the tour, the driver said he'll go pick up the rest of the people from the other hotels around the area and be back to get us... IN 10 MINUTES! heck, i'd need more than 10 minutes for me alone! we just had time to brush our teeth, splash water on our faces and change our clothes! damn, damn, damn!

first stop was the monks valley, or pasabag. the whole of cappadocia is known form these rock formations. those rock caps are known as fairy chimneys.

inside one of the caves, said to be the living quarters of a monk named simon who came to live a hermit's life a long time ago.

turkish ice-cream!

view from the van... woolly sheep! i nearly broke out into the baa-baa black sheep song, but thought better of it :P

next we went to the devrent valley, or imagination valley, where the rock have weird formations... do you see a turkey there? a camel?

next, a visit to the pottery shop in avanos (another town in cappadocia), the centre for terra cotta work since 3000 bc. 

first, there's a demonstration of how potteries were made the traditional way. in the olden days, a man can only win over his bride if he shows that he has the ability to make pottery. this is to prove to the girl's parents that he has the means to make a living and can provide for his bride and family.

next, they asked for a volunteer from our group, which gave some very hilarious result! someone from our group commented that now we know who's responsible for all those phallic formations in the area! LOL...

we were served tea and coffee in these cute and unique cups. took some will power on my side not to slip this into my bag! :P

next, we were shown how the wares were hand-painted and coloured in the typical turkish design. this particular shop has their own "family design", which is passed down through the generations (it's the 6th generation now) and is said to be quite famous throughout turkey.

 then we were brought down to the shop part, where all their wares were displayed. it's underground and quite cold down there!

this is how the wine jars are held. for bigger ones, you slip your whole arm in and support it with your sholders.

didn't buy anything, coz they were freaking expensive and it's not like we'll be able to tell the difference between "unique family design" and "mass-produced-made-for-tourist" wares. so we waited till we got back to istanbul and bought cheaper ones from the roadside stalls :D

see what greeted us outside the restaurant at lunch time? our guide joked: "you know there are some restaurants where you get to choose your fish from the aquarium? now here, you get to choose your own mutton. take your pick!" lol...

as starter, we had tandoori soup with bread. quite nice, but some ang-mohs in our group didn't like it. 

our main dish: chicken cooked in claypot. the top was covered with some pastry stuff on top, like shepherd's pie, but the chicken was cooked in spices.

oh, see what the non-english speaking driver gave me? *blush* hahaha... lovely lilly and i was sitting up front with the driver, coz the van was kinda full and there's no point for the guide to take up 2 seats in front when he only need one seat behind.

after lunch, we were brought to yet another carpet store... 

by day 5, we were getting a tad tired of carpets... even though they were "flying carpets" :P

after sitting through the carpet talk and smiling politely while sipping yet another cup of apple tea, we were brought to the goreme open air museum, where these caves served as religious buildings in the middle ages (goreme was an important centre of christianity at that time).

pigeon houses on the rock formation created by people in the olden days, where the dropping were used as fertilizers.

 with a bunch of school kids on an excursion here. they were all very eager to introduce themselves to me, probably cherishing the opportunity to practice their english! 

we were getting quite tired by now, so we didn't go into each and every hole in the rock, but just hung around outside while those still with stamina did their exploring. i was expecting to get really cranky from not getting to shower, but surprisingly i was ok. must be due to the cool weather, that i didn't feel so sticky and uncomfortable even after walking around so much!

our final sightseeing for the day was to this hill that overlooks the uchisar castle.

poor camel!

back at our cave hotel. this is on the 2nd floor terrace, one floor below us.

the other cave hotels around the area... some parts are added on, obviously.

since it was still early, we decided to explore the town of goreme a bit, which is just a 5 minutes walk from our hotel. i recalled our tour van passing by a hamam (turkish bath) place earlier, so we went out in search of it. seeing that we've not showered for more than 36 hours by then, a turkish bath sounded like an exquisite idea!

lotsa stray dogs here, but it's good to see that they've all been tagged, meaning they've been neutered. that is so much more humane then just shooting them down or rounding them up to the pound. so impressed with their efforts!

after some walking around getting our bearings of the place, we finally found the place. the basic hamam bath is 60 turkish lira (≈ RM103), so that's what we took. i tried to charm the proprietor to give us a discount, but it didn't work. need to work on that department more! hehe... but he did throw in a disposable g-string bikini for us, which he claimed to charge other people an extra 10 turkish lira.

after paying at the counter, we were shown downstairs to the ladies' floor, where we were given a locker each to put our stuff. after donning our disposable bikini, we wrapped ourselves in the towels provided and went out to see one of the hamam ladies, who applied a seaweed facial mask on our faces and lead us into the sauna. as this is our first time, we didn't know what to expect. and the non-english speaking service staff were of no help. so after sitting in the sauna for a while, we were at a lost. do we go through the other door to the next stage? do we continue to sit and wait for someone to come get us? so i went out again to ask the staff, not that they would understand what we were saying and vice versa. but while we were trying to make sense of what the staff was saying to us, we heard a bell went *ding*. ahhh... so that's what we were supposed to be waiting for!

so the staff pointed us to another door, which was a shower room. again, with no instruction. we went in, saw the shower cubicles and a flight of steps leading up to a small indoor pool. since this seemed like the "next stage", we assumed that we were to go have a dip in the pool. so we went into the shower cubicle to wash off the mask on our faces and went into the pool. that was when we saw the sign with images that showed we're not supposed to be wearing anything in the pool, not even our bikinis! opps...

we quickly got out, and went through another door, where there's a big slab of marble platform thing in the middle of a big room, something like this:

pic copied without permission from here.

there were naked girls lying around on each edge of the marble slab, each being scrubbed by a service staff in black 2 piece swim suits, while more naked girls were sitting around at the side where the marble water basins are, waiting their turn. some were stark naked, while some (the shy ones like us, even though we were in our disposable bikinis) were wrapped up in towels. it was quite awkward for us, trying to avert our eyes away from all those nakedness, but didn't know where to look as there were naked women in every direction!

when it was our turn, we were scrubbed long and hard with some special cloth. the service staff doing this part of the job were all quite big sized, so there were really some pressure going. i joked with lovely lilly that they looked like amazon women (from our crash-course in roman mythology at ephesus just recently)! soon, we can see little rolls of grey grime and dirt on the marble around us. i felt so light after that! imagine carrying all those dead stuff on our skin the whole time! yucks!

after being scrubbed nearly raw, we were washed and sent back to the shower room with the pool. NOW only we're supposed to go dip in the pool... totally naked! so we decided to forgo this part (the getting naked part), and just showered and went to dry ourselves and change in the locker room. we were feeling so squeaky clean that we were quite reluctant to put on our dirty clothes again, but there's no other option around it. 

upon stepping out of the hamam house, it started to rain. so we quickly found a restaurant to go into for our dinner. dinner was pizza and from the menu, it looked like it was on some baguette. so we ordered one pizza each. imagine our horror when we saw that the pizzas were quite big! we could've shared one, especially since both of us ordered the same kind of pizza! =_='''

in the end, we packed half of each of our pizzas to go, and on the walk back to our hotel, there was this dog who kept following behind me. no prize for guessing who ate the remainder of the pizza slices.

view around our hotel at night...

Thursday, 5 July 2012

day 4: pamukkale, the reason we're in turkey!

we woke up all buzzing with excitement, coz we'll be going to pamukkale! one more item to cross off my bucket list! ok, i don't really have a bucket list. just saying it for dramatic effects :P

the hotel breakfast was nothing great, so again, no photos taken. we checked-out and were picked up from the hotel by our driver at 8am. the bus ride from kusadasi to pamukkale took about 3 hours, going through denizli with their vast landscape of strawberry and pomegranate plantations...

...and the snow-capped mount ararat in the distance

everyone was excited when we caught our first glimpse of the white hardened calcium on the sides of the hill...

but first, we had to do the practical like eat lunch first! it's another buffet of arabic fare in the town of pamukkale, included in the tour package. oh, did i mention that i love their rice? slightly sticky and tasted something like calrose rice...

after lunch, we're finally there! but before getting to the calcium terraces, we need to listen to our guide telling us about the site, where the ancient romans have built a city around it due to its natural spring source bla bla bla... which was rather frustrating, coz we just couldn't wait to get to the calcium terraces!! shaddup and let's get going already!

 site of the ancient roman school...

the main road of the ancient hierapolis, found and excavated less than 6 months before!

finally, we got to the highlight of our trip! here is the source of the natural spring, known as the cleopatra pool (tho' we were quite doubtful if cleopatra was really here!). this pool is said to posses rejuvenating effects, something like the pool of eternal youth lar, and we had to pay 30 turkish lira (≈ RM60) if we wish to go for a dip here. 

not exactly clean like a swimming pool and lovely lily and i had some initial qualms about dipping ourselves in a pool full of green algae and other natural stuff! so city slickers of us, right? :P

but we went ahead anyway, coz we've come all this way here. and we'd have seen the calcium terraces of pamukkale, so even if we were to die from some weird bacteria in the dirty water, it would have been worth it. lol!

anyway, after dipping in the pool and getting all wrinkly, we decided it's time to go out to the calcium terraces. we can't step onto the white calcium with our shoes on, so after much discussion, we decided to leave our shoes in our lockers (included in the 30 lira payment for cleopatra pool), instead of leaving it out in the open at the top of the terraces. but that means we had to walk barefoot on the pebbles and sand, as the terraces are about 200 metres away from the cleopatra pool. so for those of you who're planning a trip there, remember to bring slippers! and a big towel, coz...

...we also had to walk half naked in our swim wears! luckily i didn't decide to wear a bikini! :P

up-close shot of the dried up calcium from the natural spring water. but they can't be completely dried, coz then they'll turn brown...

ahem... now THIS shot would look good if i'd decided to wear a bikini, right? :P 

the parts with water... without water. now they have a water management system, where they control the water flow to different parts of the terrace in turn, to let the calcium sediment a chance to harden so that they don't erode away from being stepped on by so many tourists

muddy calcium sludge... 

my favourite pic from the trip! natural infinity pool... 

after frolicking in the hot turkish sun for nearly one hour, we thought we'd better get back to the pool for another soak. luckily the tickets that we paid for were not for one-entry only. there's lovely lily getting some water back massage in the pool...

as we were going on to capadocia from here, we didn't have to stick to the schedule of the rest of our tour group, who were going back to kusadasi at 4pm. so we were able to take our own sweet time in making the most out of our 30 lira, soaking in the cleopatra pool until we're all wrinkly and sun-burnt (coz tho' the air is crisp, it was pretty sunny), and with blue-black bruises on our legs, as the floor of the pool is full of big boulders, marble columns, stones and pebbles - easy for us to loose our balance and scrape and knock ourselves!

our tour guide had showed us the way to pamukkale town, which is just a walk down the calcium terraces. so just before the cleopatra pool closes at 5pm, we got up, took a quick cold rinse at the shower (the water was really icy cold - we were literally jogging in place under the shower!!) and got dressed. i guess we didn't think this through enough, coz we didn't bring any shower gel, shampoo nor skin lotion with us. so after all those exposure to the sun and the calcium in the water, our skin felt all dry and icky.

walking back down the calcium terraces, this time carrying our shoes with us...

in pamukkale town, we quickly went to the tour office where we had deposited our luggage earlier and got out our toiletries bags to try to salvage our skin as best we could. still, we've not taken any proper shower, so we were still feeling icky.

after making sure that our transfer to our next destination has been arranged and everything is in order, we decided to look for dinner. as this is already my 4th day in turkey, i'm quite ready to have some other food that's NOT turkish. so lovely lily and i decided to split up and have our dinners on our own, since it's really a very small town and there's not much chance that we'd get lost.

i decided to try this japanese shop just next to the tour agent's office... which served korean food. here's my bibimbab... and they were not expensive at all (tho' i've forgotten the actual price now)!

inu-chan, the big friendly goldie belonging to the japanese lady who ran the restaurant... "inu" means "dog" in japanese, so its name is something like "little dog". how cute!

after dinner, i went to look for lovely lily (who was still eating her turkish kebab) and we took a walk around town, popping into shops etc. then we went back to sit around at the tour agent's office before transferring our luggage to a small b&b from where our van will pick us up. they have free wi-fi there, so we spent our time surfing the web and updating facebook (only me, as lovely lily doesn't have fb) before the van's departure.

we were brought to the denizli bus station, where we had to sit around for some 2 hours before our bus finally arrived, inhaling all the cigarette smoke around us. i tell you, turkey must have the largest smoker population in the whole wide world! everyone seems to be smoking, from old men and women, to young teenage boys and girls barely of legal age! we were watching in disgust at a young couple saying their goodbyes. both took a long drag from their ciggies and even before they exhale the smoke, they were already locking lips with each other! urgh!

oh, they're also very liberal and open, for an islamic country, with plenty of PDAs around - must be a european influence. anyway, in our itinerary, it was stated that we will depart for capadocia at 9 or 10pm. but our bus only arrived at the bus station at 11pm and departed at 11.30pm. so you can just imagine how many times we changed our seats to get away from them smoke!

but our bus was quite alright lar. it's an express bus, air-conditioned (thank god, no smoking!) and they even served us hot drinks and cake! we were on an overnight bus to capadocia, a journey of about 8 hours. so i declined the coffee/tea, coz i intended to go straight to sleep and be fresh and ready for the next day's tour. (was also looking forward to a nice warm shower when we arrive at our hotel in the morning!)