Saturday, 26 August 2017

A trip to Turkey (Part 2)

Hello again! 

Before I continue, I have a confession to make. All this while I thought Cappadocia is a state or city and I was searching high on low for it on the map that we were given on the bus. It was only a couple of days later when I googled that I found that Cappadocia is actually a region in Central Anatolia which include  Nevsehir, Kayseri, Kirsehir, Aksaray and Nigde provinces. No wonder I couldnt find it on the map. Duh...

I have heard so much about Cappadocia and apart from Pamukkale it is a popular tourist destination because of its uniqueness in geology. Due to the eruption of ancient volcanoes million years ago as well as erosion in the course of time, the earth produced hundreds of spectacular pillars and minaret-like form. Actually, they look more like mushrooms to me. You know, Korean king mushroom!!! Anyhow, there are still visible traces of ancient houses carved from the volcanic rocks. There are also cave hotels and cave restaurants available for tourists.

The best way to view the amazing earth natural formation is either on the hot-air balloon or the jeep safari. Either you get a birds eye view from the high above or up close and personal in the valley. We were all excited to experience the much-talked-about hot air balloon but alas the weather was not on our side. Thats how we ended up on a thrilling jeep safari. (If you wonder whats it like, its actually like being on a short bursts  of roller coaster ride. He he). 




After all the exciting adventures in Cappadocia we went northbound, by-passing Ankara, the capital city of Turkey and broke the journey in Bolu. The hotel that we stayed for the night was located in the middle of a pine forest near a lake and a mountain as the backdrop. It was so picturesque and peaceful that we wished that we could stay longer. 


The last leg of our tour was centred in and around Istanbul. We had a great weather during our city tour but unfortunately the sky was grey during the Bosphorous cruise. 

We spent sometime at most of the tourist spots like the Blue mosque, St Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace, Al Fatih mosque, and shop at the Spice Market and Grand bazaar. And I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise despite the unfavourable weather. 





All in all, it was a wonderful trip. If anyone ask me which country that I would recommend to go on a holiday, Turkey is definitely on top of the list. 

And on top of that the people that I travelled with were wonderful too. Complete strangers in the beginning of the trip who later became friends. 


That's  one of the advantages of a group tour. We get to meet and make new friends. And this particular bunch of people are really great. Honestly, I have been to a few group tours and more often than  not there would be at least one who can be annoying or picky, but not this time. And you know what? A good tour leader and tour guide also made a lot of difference. And this time around both of them were excellent! 

Alhamdulillah. I have been blessed. 

Will update on a couple of short trip real soon so meanwhile stay fit and be happy! 

Travel date : 6-18 May 2017


Friday, 11 August 2017

A trip to Turkey

Last May I joined a group tour to Turkey. I have been to Istanbul on a 5-day-visit as a stopover from Paris to Kuala Lumpur and managed to explore some places of interest in Istanbul. But I have always wanted to visit again and explore other parts of Turkey especially Pamukkale and Cappadocia. And that I did.

Spring was almost over during our visit but we managed to catch the last bloom of tulip. But what caught my eyes were the roses. They were as big as saucers and in vibrant velvety colors. They were such a delight! 



Anyways, immediately upon arrival we made our way to Bursa and visited a couple of historic mosques. Ulu Mosque or Ulucami, was built during the Ottaman empire and has a unique architecture as well as a water fountain inside the mosque for ablution. It was said that this huge mosque with 20 dome was built instead of 20 small mosques around the region for a significant reason.

We also made two other stops: the Green mosque and The Green Mausoleum (second photos below).



The next day we head out to Pamukkale. One of the two places that I was looking forward to see. The antique city of hierapolis is an ancient city on hotspring in the southwestern Anatolia (adjacent to Pamukkale). It is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa and became a healing center where doctors used the thermal springs as treatment for their patients. The remaining structure that we see today was mainly built during the Roman empire, destroyed by wars and earthquakes. The well preserved Roman ruins and museum are said to be underestimated as its being overshadowed by the natural wonder of the hot spring. 

The area is more well known tourist attraction for its large white limestone formation of the hotspring. Indeed, the natural formation is one that we have to see with our eyes. Not only the mineral rich water and milky pools shaped over millennia present a beautiful site but the view of the vast mountain is also a splendour. I wish I could stay all day here just to bask in the view with my feet soak in the theraupic water.



After spending a night in Pamukkale we travelled east towards Cappadocia. We made a stopover in Konya to visit Mevlana Museum which is also a mausoleum for a Sufi mystic known as Mevlana. 

Its a pity that it was a cloudy day for the building structures and the garden around were so camera-worthy. And the tulips garden was still blooming in riot! 


We also made a short stop at an ancient pitstop for weary traveller of the olden days. The roadside inn is called caravanserai. (Four top right photos below). And at the same I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the modern day pitstops that we had throughout our 10 days journey. (The rest of the photos below). The food was good, the rest rooms were clean and the mosques were beautifylly decorated. 


We spent the next 2 nights in Neysehir for the adventure in the Cappadocia. But first we must visit a historic underground city. The closest one was Kaymakli underground city. Like all underground cities they were built in the early century for protection. 

What I find amazing is how the earth remain in position over centuries without collapsing! 


There are a lot more stories to tell and many more photos to share but I shall put that on hold for now. 
Too many good things all at once will be too much too handle 

See you later. 

Travel date : 6-18 May 2017

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Japan Food and Street

No, I am not quite done with stories from Japan. He he 

I am sure that some of you would have realised that I never talked about the food in Japan. I am saving the best for last. 

As a family we are all a fan of Japanese food therefore we thought we should not have any problem with food during our trip. Nevertheless we still brought we us plenty of sustenance from home. You know. The usual stuff; instant noodles and ready to eat rice, etc. But of course we must try the local shashimi and ramen. The real thing I would say. 

My daughter Hanna who planned the trip was told that one of the best shashimi one can get is at the fish market. So off we went in search of the freshest salmon shashimi and and grilled octopus, another family favourite. And we were not disappointed.

We went to Tsukiji Fish market. And even stop over at the wet market. 



We also had the chance to try out the full set meal in a couple of local halal restaurant. And they were goooood! 



Other than food, I thoroghly enjoyed watching the street. Quaint shops as well as typically Japanese houses with aesthetic doorways. 



A week is never enough to explore more but then it gives plenty of excuses to come back. At least I can now checked Japan in my list. 

Alhamdulillah. 

Travel date : 9 - 16 April 2017

Monday, 15 May 2017

Japan Family Trip - Kyoto and Osaka

Everyone I know who have been to Kyoto told me that it's a great place and I felt blessed to be able to experience it my self. The great thing about it is that the interesting tourist attractions are within a few train station away.

One of the most popular site is the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine. And it's the first place that we went to upon our arrival in Kyoto. The spot where it is located is only 5 mins walk from the station but be prepared for long uphill walk because the shrine gates are spread across an entire mountain! I was told that it will take about 2-3 hours to go all the way up the highest shrine and back. Well, of course I didn't make it that far. I was not even half way up.  


Another most photographed sight in the city is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. There is just one main path through the grove and hence the throngs of visitors made it difficult to capture a good photo. There is also a pretty garden nearby with a scenic backdrop of the Arashiyama mountain and a lake. 


I love the colours of the trees on the mountain and I was thinking to myself that they must be amazing in autumn colours too. 

The next day we had the pleasure of seeing more beautiful cherry blossom panoramas. One of them was Tetsugaku-no-michi or also known as the Path of Philosophy.


And the other was Keage-incline. What's  interesting about this place is that there is an old train track that is no longer in use and its lined with sakura trees. 


On the following day we visited yet another popular tourist spot. The Heian-jingu Shrine. What made this popular is the garden that is located in the vicity. 


The garden has a lake surrounded by trees with beautiful colourful leaves or flowers. A walk around the lake or garden would give   a peaceful and calming feel that would melt any stress or trouble away. At least that how I feel. I am pretty sure that in the peak of the cherry blossom season the garden would be even more beautiful and amazing. 


Much that we had wonderful time in Kyoto, we had to leave and depart to Osaka, our final overnight stay. Since we only had a whole day and evening we made full use of the time. Off we went to the Osaka Castle. It s a pretty popular spot for tourists and locals alike for there were several event and activities around the area. There were rock bands playing in one corner and a full orchestra in another. There were jugglers and ninjas and even an old samurai. Believe you me!



Finally the day came that we had to say goodbye to Japan. It had been a marvelous family bonding time. The time that we spent together in such a wonderful surrounding and the shared memories and experience will certainly be a treasure to us all. And I hope that we get to go for a family vacation every once in a while.  Insya-Allah. 


Thank you Allah. I have been blessed. In deed. 

Travel date : 13-17 April 2017






Sunday, 30 April 2017

Japan Family Trip - Tokyo

Its the first family trip after a long while and Japan was everyones' choice as the land of the rising sun has a lot to offer as a tourist destination. And of course spring would be the best time to visit for the  obvious reason. Yes! The cherry blsssoms. 

Hence it's no surprise that it's the first place that we head out to on the first day of our outing when we were in Tokyo. Yoyogi Park. One of the favourite place that the locals go for 'hanami' party. While trying to blend with the locals having picnics under the sakura trees we were so obviously not one when we were busy taking photos after photos the moment we got there.   


We couldn't get enough of them. Even after taking multiple shots after multiple shots. As my daughter was saying "My eyes have been blessed". Indeed they were a sight for sore eyes. 
 .

The park itself is quite a large area and everywhere you go there were families or friends having a fun day outdoor. And I enjoyed watching them enjoying themselves. 


There are other parks in many parts of Tokyo but we didn't have the luxury of time to visit them all. 
We need to go to another popular site. Yup. You guess it right. Mount Fuji! 😍

There are several spots where tourists can view Mount Fuji and we chose to view it from Kawaguchiko Lake. Just a note though, for those making your own way, do book your bus or train ticket in advance. We almost didin't make it that day. 

Frankly, Mount Fuji would look more awesome with a little less or no cloud on its peak. We spent like 3 hours  at the park hoping to get a better view while having our lunch but the cloud didn't seem to get any lesser. And just as we were about to catch the bus back the mountain decided to reveal its splendour! Even though ee were not in the right location to get the full view ofthe mountain, still we were grateful for that moment. Alhamdulillah. Our eyes have been blessed again.


The photos above really didn't do justice to the real thing. You really need to see it with your own eyes to appreciate the beauty and grandeur that it presents. 

After 4 nights in Tokyo we continued our journey to Kyoto. At this juncture let me continue the story of our adventure in my next posting. This has been pending for far too long. I have been to Turkey and back and have yet to complete this piece of article.

So for now, sayou nara!

Travel date 9-12 April 2017

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Scandinavia

The term Scandinavia always includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden as well as Finland and Iceland. During my trip to Iceland, we spent two nights in Oslo and two nights in Stockholm before and after going to Iceland. In both cities  we only had one full day of sight seeing with a tour guide. 

Oslo is a small city yet has some interesting building with unique archicture. We had a leisure walk to explore the city on the first day after lunch and prayer as well as the next at the end of our guided tour. 


As for the guided tour we visited Norsk Folkemuseum, a Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Its an open air museum with more than 150 historic buildings and artifacts mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries but some goes all the way back to the 13th century, gathered from around the country, rebuilt and organised accordingly.  


We then went to Holmenkollen where Holmenkollbakken, a large ski jumping hill is located. It has hosted the Holmenkollen Ski festival since 1892, the FIS Ski Jumping World Championship since 1980 and has also hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics. Truth be told, we were not really impressed  with the ski slope as none of us could ski but what thrilled us was the snow! And on top of that it was snowing lightly when we were up there. It was a beautiful sight for us who come from a country with no snow at all. We spent too much time taking photos and having fun that we took longer than scheduled much to the annoyance of our guide. Hee....


We then had enough time to explore the city again and shopped before calling it a night. A good night rest was the order of the day as the next was the much awaited trip to Iceland. 


After an adventurous trip to Iceland, we spent our last two nights in Stockholm the capital city of Sweden. The tour guide insisted though that its the capital city of Scandinavia! Stockholm is a bigger city compared to Oslo and with a larger population too. The guided tour took us first to the City Hall. It may not look much from the outside but the interior is rather impressive.



We then proceeded to visit Vasa Museum. Now this is something that I am impressed with. The museum displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged! The 64-gun warship Vasa sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. Just imagine, the technology and skill during the early 19th century were not as advanced as today which made salvaging work even more inspiring! 


After lunch and prayer we opted to go on a cruise. Its chilly and some parts of the water was even frozen but we still enjoyed the view and the experience. 



Finally, it's time to fly back home. We woke up to a city covered in fresh snow and it was still snowing by the time we were departing. To me it was like a beautiful  sent off to a wonderful holiday. 


Oh yes. I have also made new friends during the trip. That the beauty of a group tour and even more so when travelling solo. When travelling with friends or family more often than not we tend to cluster in our own small circle. I am guilty of that too.


But then again you may find me wandering on my own half of the time to find a good shot. Afterall, photography is still my hobby even with a compact camera. There were many instances that I miss my DSLR but then again my ageing body and aching bones just could not manage the weight of the camera any more. I am saving all my energy for more trips to come! 

Where will I be going next you may ask? Just wait and see in the next post!

Travel date: 28 Feb - 2 Mar 2017 (Oslo) and 5-7 Mar 2017 ( Stockholm)

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Iceland

Iceland has been one of my dream destinations ever since I watched a show on TV about Iceland. The aurora is one thing to look forward to but then that can be expereinced in some other countries nearby too. Its the ice and glacier that I wanted to see with my own eyes. Since I am not braved enough to travel on my own, I booked a trip with a tour group. Hence I am able to enjoy the trip without having to worry about reservation and logistics. 

We flew to Oslo and stayed a couple of nights before flying to Iceland. And upon arrival we made our way straight to  the Blue Lagoon. A man made thermal bath which was supposed to be good for the skin and general health. Its not the bath that got me excited though, its the sight all the way from the airport to the destination. We were told that it snowed the night before and with the sun shining on that day the view from the bus was very much foreign yet fascinating to my eyes. 



The next couple of days were spent sight seeing. We went to see a couple of famous waterfall namely Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss as well as Reynisfjara Beach also known as the black sand beach. Yes, that's  right.  They are the famous locations used in a popular Bollywood movie. 


Later in the day we had just enough time before nightfall to visit Jokulsalon Glacial Lagoon. This is the place that I have been so looking forward to. And Subhanallah, it was immensely spectacular. My heart felt like it was going to burst. It is even more amazingly fascinating when we learnt the scientific explanations on how nature runs its course and made such a beautiful place. One cannot help but feel close to nature and even closer to Allah, the Creator of heaven and earth. 


I wish that I could just stay there a little longer to absorb the sight and use the time to reflect but we had to rush to the beach to see the end of the journey of the melting glacier and ice. It's  an unbelievable sight. Blocks of ice of different shapes and sizes were scattered all over the beach and the sea. Its something that one has to see with ones own eyes to really appreciate how beautiful and awesome it is.  Everyone was simply awestruck with the experience. 

We had a 3 hour bus ride back the hotel and we were hoping that we would get lucky with an aurora sighting on the way. But alas it was to no avail. Upon checking in at the hotel we were informed that the reception would call our room if there is a high chance of the aurora appearing. And that he did! We were just about to get ready for bed when we got the call, and we quickly put our jumpers and coat on and rushed outside. It was very faint initially and our eyes were not trained to identify the light immediately. On top of that the surrounding area of the hotel were brightly lit which did not help to highlight the aurora in its  true form. Unfortunately I only managed to get a couple of shots before giving in to the freezing weather. The next morning when I checked my camera, I wished that I had stayed longer and take more shots.  What I should have done was put on more jumpers and got back out. Oh well, this would give me the excuse to check out the northern light in Finland some other time. 😉


The schedule for next day was a little more adventurous. It included a steep climb on a large truck with huge tyres all the way up one glacial mountain and we were also given the option to try the snow mobile. Which I declined politely. Hee.... Instead I spent the time absorbing the beautiful ambiance of the sun and snow. It another out-of-the-world experience for me. Its eerily quiet and you only see endless field of white snow right to the end of the horizon. It really can humble you to nothingness. If you know what I mean. Honestly, the photos below does not do justice to the real thing. So I suggest that you go there and see it for yourself! 😁


On our way down we stopped at Langjokull Geysir and Gullfoss Golden Waterfall. 


And after lunch we made our way to  Keflavik, a little town in southwest of Iceland near the airport. Before going to bed we wondered if we would get lucky a second time with the northen light but I guess it was not meant to be.


We left Iceland the next morning with a heavy heart but with plenty of fond memories and new experience. I even sat by the window on the plane for a change to catch the last sight of Iceland.


Thank you Allah for making another of my wish come true. 
Alhamdulillah. 

Travel date: 2-5 March 2017