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From Turkey to China

Farewell

sunny 39 °C

It started as a faint idea 4 months ago,
My son had arrived to Teach in the same school as me, and I was looking forward to working with him and having some company for the first time in 6 years.
After he had been here nearly 1 month and was enjoying it, one evening we started discussing Teaching in other countries. A friend of mine had been telling me about China so we discussed that possibility and decided to test the water,
We put our CV’s out on the web, and BANG we were inundated with offers in one week.
We spent some time deleting the ones we were not interested in. Both of us had taught Children in the past and we were not keen to go down that path again. I was tired of teaching Children, and Dans experience in Thailand had scared him to death…50 Children in a class all aged between 4 and 6.
We spoke to a really nice guy who made us a great offer and we debated. It was high school ages, but after further questioning, he admitted there maybe around 40 children in a class. We declined.
Finally we settled on one and started the process.
We made a date of the 1st August for leaving Turkey.
This gave us some time to try and save, and to make sure everything would be in order for my small dog.
The school do refund flights etc, but not until you have worked for them for 3 months.
So the process began.
For a month we were sending scanned documents back and forwards by emails. Contracts arrived and were scrutinised. Everything was on track.
Then the school casually informed us that to get a work visa, we would have to return to our home country.
This was right out of the question. The cost and the time was not feasible.
I rang the Chinese Embassy here in Turkey and was assured that, providing the school in China, named Turkey on the top of the application papers, there would be no problem.
In the following weeks I phoned them on 4 separate occasions to keep checking that was still the case.
We had some work to do ourselves to get the visa.
We both had to have full medicals, which was not a cheap process. We had to make sure the dog had all her jabs up to date, including rabies, and also a Health Certificate for her. My Vet was an angel where all this was concerned.
There were forms coming every week via email for us to sign and photos to be added. Then they were sent back to be readjusted.
It was a good job we had allowed this time period.
As July drew nearer I started to get little panic sessions, but my son has a solid head on his shoulders, and was a great support. The problems I kept throwing up, he talked through and made them seem irrelevant.
Finally the Work permit papers and Invitation papers arrived by Fedex from China.
Believing now that this was finally happening, we found some very cheap flights to China, and decided to book them, as flights were increasing daily in price, as the time drew nearer to August 1st.

We booked a flight to Ankara to go to the Embassy,completely confident everything would be OK.
The early morning flight to Ankara saw us both excited and nervous. But we had checked and double checked with the Embassy website, and we had all the papers they required and even more.
Having never been to Ankara, we decided to take a taxi from the airport to the Centre. Big Mistake.
The taxi driver saw us coming, and took us on the ring road all around the outskirts of Ankara. My heart sunk lower and lower as I watched the meter climbing to ridiculous amounts, but there was nothing we could do, as we were on a main highway with nowhere to stop,
As soon as he turned off the highway into a built up area, I told him to stop, threw some money at him (Not the full amount of 250 lira on the meter) swore at him and we walked off.
Where to now! We were in Ankara somewhere, with not a clue how to get to the Embassy. We assumed the taxi had actually brought us to an area near the Embassy so started to walk. Asking a few people where it was, we eventually found it 1 hour later.
We handed our precious papers over, and our passports and Turkish residency books.
The girl checked everything and then made a phone call. She asked us to wait.
About 30 minutes later we were ushered into a small room.
They had a problem! I needed a paper from my present school to say I was working. This was not possible as I had no work visa. I spoke calmly to the man and told him, I am here on a long term tourist visa, as shown in our residency books. He would not budge. He said we would have to come back next week with the original document. I explained we had booked flights etc, and we brought everything that was on the website, and also that I had discussed this a few times direct with the Embassy, but he would not budge. He said, even if we came back the following week with the paper, they would not be able to process it for at least 5 days. Another 2 weeks!
We left the office and my legs buckled.
I sat a few minutes thinking, and then we made our way to find a café for food. I had one mouthful of my omelette.
We found our way back to the airport by bus, and had 4 hours to kill. We both just sat for a while in silence.
Then we started to talk about our options.
By now we had told our landlady we were leaving, and the “For Rent” sign was hanging from our balcony, we had handed our notice in, and some of my things had been sold, to be collected later.
The job thing was not a problem. We could have stayed and continued to work for them. I know they would have been pleased by that.
The apartment was a problem, as she had now let it for the 1st August.
So if we stayed another 2 weeks, we would lose a lot of money changing our flights, and be homeless.
Time to go home and re think.

Plan B

We were both very depressed and we could have given in I guess, but I have not struggled in Turkey alone for 5 years without learning some survival techniques.
So, after some calculations, it was decided that to lose the flights would be crazy, to change them, out of the question as our home had now been let again for the 1st August, so the decision was made to go. To use the tickets to get to Shanghai as planned, then to go onto Hong Kong, where we could get a Chinese Tourist Visa for 1 month, fairly easily.
The school were in agreement with this plan, and assured us once we were here on a tourist visa they could easily get it changed to a work visa. So I booked a cheap hotel online in Shanghai.
As UK Citizens we can stay in Shanghai on a 72 hour visitor’s visa. Our plan was to stay in a hotel in Shanghai, as we would arrive on a Friday (Nothing was open Embassy wise until the Monday) and then travel onto Hong Kong on Sunday.
I arranged an agent online who told us the visas could be done in one day.
If we had them there at 8.30 am Monday, he could return them at 1pm, at a large cost of course. But we needed to get this done quickly and get back to Shanghai, so we agreed.

So plan B consisted of:
Flight to Shanghai (as previously booked)
Drop dog into Shanghai Quarantine for 7 days. (Already planned)
Stay in a cheap hotel near the airport for 2 nights (Booked online)
Fly to Hong Kong Sunday afternoon (Booked online)
Hotel in Hong Kong for 1 night (Booked online)
Visa papers to agent at 8.30 am Monday morning.
Kick heels around Hong Kong until Monday afternoon
Find a way back to Shanghai
More expensive than our original plan, but do-able.
So after selling everything we possibly could in the apartment to raise any extra cash, we left Turkey in better spirits.

The flight from Adana to Shanghai is around 14 hours. A long time for a little dog, but I had faith that if she was with us, she would cope. She behaved wonderfully in every airport, and we did not have to confine her to her travel bag until we were boarding.
She stressed, but only I knew this, in so much as she would not drink any water and slept and slept. We sneaked her in between us on the seats in the plane, when the lights went down. As soon as we arrived in Shanghai, I opened her box and she walked through the airport with us, tail wagging.
Shanghai Airport was a pleasant surprise. Large and modern, with great signs to direct you.
Arriving at the customs area, I found an Officer and told her we had a dog with us. We were then fast tracked to the front of the Immigration queue for the visa. The Immigration officers were polite but non talkative, and in a few minutes we had our 72 hour visa stamp.
Then the Agricultural Customs Officer showed us the way to her Department. The Vet on duty was very helpful and polite. It took around 10 minutes to book my little girl in and then she was gone. And I was left with 3 slips of paper that said to collect her in 7 days.
This was a relief actually as we had some awkward travelling to do, and to take her to Hong Kong was impossible.
Tired and very weary, we went to the nearest Money exchange booth, who informed us they didn’t change Turkish Lira. Bit of a blow, but we had a little English money which we changed for Chinese Yuan, imagining we could get a currency exchange in Shanghai City later that day.

Leaving Shanghai Airport you are accosted by all the usual touts.
We took one of the touts’ taxis and within 10 minutes pulled up at a very strange looking motel type building in the middle of nowhere. Nothing like the ad on Booking.com!
The rooms were filthy. Sticky dirty carpets, but the beds were clean. We left a bit of Coffee in a cup overnight, which attracted Cock Roaches!
The Hotel kept asking for payment and we told them we needed to change money first.
Showered and changed and really not wanting to move at all after travelling for nearly 1 day, we made our way to a bus stop to go into the City Centre. The bus driver would not accept the note we had, so he let us travel for free and dropped us at the Metro. We learnt the ticket system, and caught a train, with no idea where to get off. I suggested we get off when a large amount of people did, as it should mean a busy area. We found ourselves in the centre, near Peoples Square, and started the hunt for an exchange office. It was now 8.30 pm and we asked some Australian Tourists, who told us most big Hotels would change money. We tried 3, only to be told on the third attempt, that no one in China would accept Turkish Lira! Great. All our money was in Lira. We grabbed a cheap bite to eat, and so tired we could not think anymore, headed back to the hotel. It was 10pm now.
Again we managed the Metro, and actually felt a little pleased with ourselves. Then suddenly the Metro stopped, nowhere near where we wanted to be, and everyone got off. The Metro closes at 10.30 pm!
We piled out of the station besides a busy highway, along with 100’s of others, to be greeted by a mayhem of Taxis. The Taxi system in Shanghai consists of 2 types, private and metered.
We were approached by a private, told him where we wanted to go and he quoted a price. We started to walk away and I suddenly turned back and offered him half. He argued a bit, and agreeing on a price we got in. Lesson : Chinese private taxi drivers can be bartered with.
We didn’t know if it was fair, if it was a rip off, but we were both past caring. The little English Money we had managed to change was disappearing quickly.
Back at the Hotel, we camped in the room. No water, no food, in very dire circumstances, we tried to sleep.
The next morning we contacted some friends to see if somehow we could send this money back to Turkey in exchange for a deposit of same amount into our Turkish Bank Account which appeared to be working in China.
Drawing a blank with that option, the only other option was the Ex. My son contacted him, explained the situation, and he immediately agreed to deposit £250 into my sons Bank Account in the UK. Finally a little hope. We waited for 3 hours until the money showed online in his account, and once again headed into the Centre to find an ATM.
When we got the cash, I think we were both just so elated we grinned like Cheshire Cats for 1 hour.
We tried to get back to the Metro in a decent time, but again, we got turfed off at 10.30. We made our way, again by taxi, to the Hotel and paid the room bill.
The tickets for the flight to Hong Kong had been paid for before we left Turkey, so early in the morning we got up to catch breakfast at the hotel before making our way back to the airport. As breakfast was included in the price of the room, we thought it would be good to try, as we overslept the previous day and had missed it.
Breakfast Chinese Style. Not to be repeated ever. The buffet consisted of noodle soup, hard boiled eggs, fried things which may have been vegetables, and hot water.
I took the boiled eggs, and proceeded to shell them, only to find the egg yolk inside was green. Breakfast was not eaten!

The Hotel took us to the airport, and we had already planned to leave our oversized suitcases in the airport, and travel with hand luggage only. What a great idea it is to be able to check your bags into a secure room and leave them there for as long as you want. The cost was minimal and it gave us the freedom of not having to pay excess baggage charges on the “internal” flight.
Neither of could enjoy the airport, as we both had the same thing on our minds..Please God, let them change Lira in Hong Kong. 2 people had told us they wouldn’t and we really didn’t know what we were going to do if that was true. Another important part of all this travelling is finding Wifi to keep in touch with family and also to keep the school advised on our whereabouts. For this, Airports are useful.
We caught the “internal” flight from International Departures! Scrutinised by the Chinese Immigration now, we sighed with relief when the plane took off.

Hong Kong :
As the plane approaches Hong Kong, you get some idea of the beauty of the place. Incredibly green, and mountainous, with long white scattered beaches.
The Pilot was British. A taste of things to come!

The first thing I saw as we were waiting for a bus to take us to the baggage collection, was a small Money Exchange Bureau. Heart in mouth I approached, and asked him if they changed Turkish Lira. Without looking up from his PC, he said, “Yes, how much”
The young man behind that desk will never know how near he came to being slobbered all over by an elderly woman and a young skinny guy!
Finally I felt my body began to relax. Yes, we could do this now.

Hong Kong airport is the most confusing airport I have ever been to.
Seemingly miles and miles long, it took us forever to find an exit to have a cigarette.
Then back into the airport again to try and find the coaches that take you to the various hotels.
We spent nearly 2 hours walking round looking for the right place.
Finally on a coach we left the Airport and began to take in this amazing City.

We had decided before leaving Turkey that as we had booked a very cheap hotel in Shanghai, we would spend just one night in a better quality hotel in Hong Kong. We had pre booked a hotel in the centre of Kowloon and it was better quality. Definitely no Cockroaches in this room!
The view from our room on the 13th floor was amazing.
We showered and left the Hotel and turned a corner to find ourselves right in the Heart of Kowloon. What an amazing place. For shopping it is to die for. We spent lots of time window shopping the amazing Gold shops and huge malls.
The other surprising thing about Hong Kong is its “Britishness” So much is still left over from the colonial days. The traffic signals, the crossings, the obedient behaviour of everyone! Everything was written in English and Chinese. Almost everyone spoke reasonable English, and were generally friendly and helpful.
Frustrated by not being here with expendable income, we ate some real Chinese food, had a beer, and returned to the hotel.
We had to be up very early to make our way to some Metro Station to meet the agent at 8.30 am. A bit cloak and dagger’s !
We got to the rendezvous point at the bottom of the escalators by McDonalds. I was disappointed not to see a James Bond look alike, but a large Chinese man whose English consisted of “yes” and “ Money”
In front of us were a guy from Ireland and a guy from the States.
We waited our turn, and gave him the papers and passports. I asked him where we would meet him that afternoon to collect them, only to be struck dumb, when he said, “No afternoon today, Afternoon Tomorrow” I tried to explain we had been promised a same day return, but he just kept shaking his head. Defeated, we left the passports with him and returned to the Hotel.

Another Dilemma! We had not allowed for an extra night stay in Hong Kong.
Reluctantly we went to reception and asked to stay another night, only to be told, there were no vacancies that night! Could this really get any worse?
Then it dawned on us we also had no passports to check into a hotel! That would have to be dealt with when we found a room.
Temperature outside was 42 degrees. My dear Son decided to walk around the City to try and find us somewhere, after exhaustive Internet searches were coming up with no availability. I parked myself in the Hotel Reception with the bags, and he set off into the City. I took the opportunity to make use of the hotels laundry room, as by now we were both running out of clean clothes.
2 Hours later he returned, exhausted and soaked to the skin.
The only available places he could find were either a flea pit run by a dodgy Indian Guy, with stained mattresses and obviously a place for taking ladies of the night, or an upmarket one around the corner, which had 1 room left. It was much more expensive than we could have imagined, but we seemed to have no choice. So we dragged our bags around the corner, and checked in. They accepted the Photocopies of our Passports.
Feeling very deflated now, and extremely tired, we spent the evening in the room watching a movie online.
After checkout in the morning, we had to kill time until 3.30 when the visa guy would return.
Not wanting to waste anymore of our money, which was rapidly disappearing in this wonderful but expensive city, we made our way to the Railway Station to wait for the visa man.

We sat on benches and discussed our options for leaving Hong Kong that night. We had to leave that night, as there was no way we could afford another night here.
We checked flights, but they were coming in as very expensive for that night, and arriving in Shanghai at 1.30 am, when no one would be around to meet us.
We decided on the sleeper train, as it was a lot cheaper, and although takes more time, would get us into Shanghai at a reasonable time, even if a day later.
Therein followed another problem. The one Sleeper a day left Hong Kong at 15.15. Our visas were not coming until 15.30. A begging phone call to our mystery agent, brought no joy. 3.30 pm no earlier!
OK, we thought some more. Checking online we discovered it was possible to pick the Sleeper up the next day in another city. So we decided to take a train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, spend the night in yet another cheap Chinese hotel, and pick up the train there to Shanghai.
The visa man came as scheduled, and visas in hand we went to book the trains.
The woman shook her head and said not possible, I asked her calmly to please check her computer, which she did shaking her head. Then she smiled and said, “you lucky, 2 sleepers left, but expensive”. We knew the price and had allowed for it, which was a lot cheaper than the plane. We knew the expensive sleeper consisted of a room with just 2 beds and a toilet attached. We smiled, sighed and bought the tickets. We reserved a cheap hotel online, and set off for the platform.

As we would be leaving Hong Kong and entering China, this part of the railway station is actually an emigration department, exactly as you would find in an airport. Once on the train, it has no stops, until it reaches Guangzhou…leg one of the Journeys.
What greeted us when we descended to the Platform took my breath away. A double decker train. We were shown to our seats on the upper deck, and during the 2 hour journey, we received refreshments and snacks from hostesses. I have to say this part of our journey, really impressed me. The train was comfortable and very similar to the layout of a plane, except a lot more room.
We pulled into Guangzhou station feeling rested and more optimistic. This was to be short lived!
Taking a taxi, we realised that the hotel was very near the station. As soon as we checked in we also realised immediately it was in a red light area. But the room was large, with A/C and clean.
We showered, changed and went to look for somewhere to eat.
Walking a short distance, we passed a few girls on the street under street lights, and the whole area had a bad feel to it. We saw a large upmarket hotel on the other side of the highway, and went into the lobby. We asked if there was a restaurant, and were shown to an upstairs room, which had quality. The food was excellent, and reasonable, and we made friends with one of the waitresses. I think they were all in awe of 2 foreigners. We felt they did not get many foreigners in that area.
Making our way past the girls again and now some dodgy looking characters who accompanied them, we returned to the hotel.
In the morning we checked out and decided to walk to the station, as it was not far. Unfortunately we took a wrong road, and in the ceaseless heat, pulling bags, decided to give in and hail a taxi.
We had just started to wave at cars when a Rickshaw motorbike pulled up. We looked at each other and were so hot and fed up, I just said, Oh to hell with it. Jumping on, we both squeezed onto a small seat. When it was turning corners, it was a heart in the mouth feeling, but he got us to the station quickly and cheaply.
We located the platform for the sleeper, and I was so looking forward to a relaxing journey, where we could sleep and wake up in Shanghai.
On boarding the train, we were shown into a compartment with sleepers consisting of 4 berths. We looked puzzled and showed our tickets again to the steward, who nodded and pointed to a four berth. Again we had been misled!
Very very disappointed now, we sat on the bottom bunk and waited. 10 minutes later a young Chinese couple came in with a very small, sick baby! No sleep tonight then!
Daniel took the top bunk as did the Chinese man, so that left me lying opposite the woman with the baby.
At around 7pm a man came along selling meals. We ordered 2 after seeing the Chinese couple order. It was edible, but I later discovered it was not meat cubes, but cubes of blood.
Everyone on the train went to bed after this meal, which was around 8pm. We were a little lost at this point, and lay top to tail on the bottom bunk talking, but soon realised we would have to leave if we wanted to chat, as they were sleeping.
We wandered around the train for a bit, but every carriage was the same, people in bed! Some in 6 berths, and some 4 berths.
Daniel took his laptop into the top bunk and listened to music. I actually lay down and tried to sleep.
By now my stomach had that feeling that something was seriously wrong. I tried to ignore it, and must have dozed a little. I woke suddenly to the knowledge that I was going to throw up. I ran to the disabled toilet (The cleanest one) and projectile vomited for around 10 minutes. Feeling extremely sorry for myself, I climbed back into bed and tried to sleep. Every time I was drifting off, the baby would wake, and then the whole process of heating water for the bottles and changing nappies began.
By the time people were waking up in the morning at around 6.30 am I was exhausted and still feeling unwell.
I sat on the bed and looked out of the window as the sun rose on China and the countryside swept by, and I was seriously beginning to doubt our decision at that stage.
Finally the train pulled into Shanghai station and we disembarked, dishevelled, tired and utterly fed up.
We caught the Metro back to the airport to collect our suitcases, and sent a message to the school to say we would be at the airport for 12 noon for them to pick us up.
I had been in contact by mail most days with them, keeping them informed to our whereabouts.
The message came back that they were surprised, and it would be at least 3 hours before anyone could collect us. Almost ready to catch a flight home now, we made our way to some chairs, and began the wait.
Daniel managed to sleep sprawled out across the chairs and bags, I just sat and reflected.
Finally two young girls appeared to take us to our final destination. We piled into a taxi, and they tried very hard to make polite conversation with us, but by this time, Dan was in a deep sleep in the front, and I kept dropping off.
Finally we arrived at a Hotel as promised by the school.
It was pleasant and we had a room each for a change!
The girls were insistent that they had to take us out for a traditional Chinese meal, which had my stomach making strange sounds again. We tried politely to explain how tired we were, but they were not to be budged. So we washed, changed and walked to a large Restaurant.
I think they ordered nearly everything on the Menu, and although we were probably hungry, we were too tired to eat a lot.
Finally they left us alone, and we made our weary way back to the Hotel. Saying goodnight to each other, I fell into bed. My eyes had just closed when the room phone went. It was Dan. Telling me that his room was haunted because a light kept coming on and off in his wardrobe and bathroom, and he was coming to sleep in my room. He turned up at the door with his quilt and pillow, and made himself a bed on the floor.
I laughed and laughed at this point. How ridiculous the whole situation was!
At exactly 9.30 am my phone woke me from a deep sleep. It was my new Boss telling me she was outside my door, and sure enough she started to knock on the door. Nearly tripping over a sleeping mass on the floor I opened the door a fraction, and had to put my foot in the way to stop her barging in!
My initial reaction was, how the hell do I explain Dan asleep on the floor, when he has his own room!
I asked her sleepily, to give me 10 minutes. She reluctantly agreed to wait in the Lobby and I closed the door.
Frantically waking Dan, I told him to go back to his room, and get dressed. He stumbled out of the door, wrapped in his quilt, and I prayed that no Staff saw him!
Respectably washed and dressed we made our way to the Lobby, looking like we hadn’t slept for a week, and made our introductions.
She was a busy, efficient person and had our day organised. Not quite what I had in mind for today. We were going to the school, and then onto to look at some apartments.
Still in a daze, she checked us out of the hotel. At this point something kicked in, and I did politely ask her what happened to the week in a hotel we were promised, to allow us time to view some apartments. She smiled and said “but the hotel very expensive, we will find apartment today, and tonight you will be in new home”
I lost my ability to smile at anything then.
So after a quick coffee in Starbucks, we were bundled into a taxi, and her HR manager gabbled on the phone in Chinese to someone for ages. We arrived in a street that looked like something from a horror movie. All windows had bars, and electric poles carried wires which were hanging in a precarious way. We waited at the side of the street for ages. When I asked what we were waiting for, I was told “Agent, with Key”
About 10 minutes later a small old woman pulled up on a scooter, and the 3 of them carried on a nonstop conversation in Chinese.
We walked a while in unbearable heat, and then as we turned a couple of corners, I realised the area was getting poorer and dirtier. I stopped and told my Boss; no way could I live in this area. She smiled and said, “just look, we have 3 to look at”.
Reluctantly I followed them up some stairs of a dark, dingy apartment Block to a place that I have no words to describe.
As soon as we walked in, I told her “No way”
She argued with the agent for a while, and all this time the temperature was increasing.
After much raised voices, we marched back down the stairs.
The woman left on her scooter, and we got in another taxi.
There followed another short drive, to another area. A bit better than the last one.
We entered the apartment Block and again I was dismayed to see how dirty the stairwell was and no lights. She took us up five flights of stairs, and arriving breathless and soaked to the skin, I looked around, and started to cry. I guess it was a combination of tiredness, and disappointment. I could not speak to anyone, so my son spoke for us. He made it very clear that this was not what we wanted, and please take us to a hotel, and let us stay there for a few nights to give us time to look.
Again there were many raised voices, and we were told over and over that this was good and cheap!
The HR manager was adamant that this was the amount of money they were prepared to front us, for deposit etc. The agreement had been made earlier they would front the deposit etc
So we left again, and this time we were taken back to the school. We were abandoned at this point, and sat drinking water in a daze.
After lunch, My Boss came to us, and said there was one more in a better place, but more expensive than they had planned. That would be OK, if we agreed to take the money as a loan, and pay the school back. I would have agreed to anything at this point, so we said Yes.
Back in another taxi, we pulled down a back street that was undergoing a lot of road works. I sighed again, but after getting out of the taxi, we walked around the corner and in front of us was paradise!
Security gates with 2 guards allowed us through, and we found ourselves inside a large site, with gardens, trees and brand new low blocks of apartments. Some were still being finished off. My spirits lifted a bit.
Then another wonderful surprise, a lift.
We got out on the 5th floor and walked into heaven.
Brand new, everything was dusty, but immaculate.
I didn’t think twice. Agreeing immediately, everyone smiled and money began to pass hands.
2 hours later, we collected our bags and returned to the apartment.
There was no A/C and the landlord was out of town for 2 days, although over the phone he had agreed to install it on his return.
The next day he came to see us, and another nice surprise, he spoke English.
True to his word, the next day 3 A/C units were installed and a new fridge freezer appeared.
The next day, we caught the coach to Shanghai, and then a bus to collect the Dog from Kennels.
It took us all day, but as she was beside herself to see us, it made it worth it.
The following day, Sunday, I had hoped for a quiet day to unpack and clean a little, but we were inundated by the Landlord, My Boss and some workman, tying up loose ends. After the contracts had been signed, the Landlord and his wife took us for a meal, and he even took us to a large shopping mall to buy some small bits.

My Boss had agreed to give us Monday and Tuesday off and our first working day would be Wednesday.
Monday morning we were summoned for a “Training Day” 9am to 5 pm!
Tuesday morning we were summoned for our medicals at 9am with nil by mouth since the night before.
Finally Tuesday afternoon we were free!

I feel as if my feet haven’t really touched the ground since leaving Turkey, and I realise it is going to take this old body a while to catch up on all this, but things seem to be OK now, even if I have my doubts about the truth behind the apartment business.!
The next saga is the Work Visa, which she has casually dropped into conversation, that we MAY have to go to Hong Kong for!
To be continued….

Posted by TravelnTurkey 00:10 Archived in China Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises bridges buildings night trains turkey visa border Comments (2)

Turkish Folk Tale

THE LEGEND OF ŞAHMERAN

Today I would like to recount a Turkish Folk Tale told to me by my students.

We were discussing snakes and if Turkey had poisonous ones, and I was told that indeed she does.
There is one variety in particular which resides in the area of Adana and also other areas along the Mediterranean coast. They did not know the correct name, they described it as black and that it can reach 2 to 3 metres in length. Three of my students have physically encountered this variety in the countryside and all of them warned of how dangerous it can be.
I have since learnt that this snake is probably the Black Cobra, which does indeed live in Southern Turkey.
So from learning that there is a nasty variety of a LARGE snake here, they proceeded to tell me the Folk Tale regarding this snake.
snake1.jpg

THE LEGEND OF ŞAHMERAN

The legend of Şahmeran comes from Mesopotamia. It has been told and retold in Mardin for hundreds and hundreds of years. The name "Şahmeran" actually comes from the Persian name "Şah-ι Meran," which means "the shah of the snakes". Şahmeran was half a snake and half a very beautiful woman. She was a snake from the waist down, but from the waist upwards, a beautiful woman. Her portraits are traditionally hung on walls inside houses especially on girls’ bedroom walls. It is believed that hanging her pictures brings good fortune for them.

_ahmeran.jpg

Once upon a time, there was a tall and handsome boy called Tahmasp who lived in Mardin. One day, by mistake, he walked into a cave where thousands of snakes were sleeping. There he met Şahmeran.
Tahmasp couldn’t hide the fact that he was attracted to her although she was a snake from the waist down. Tahmasp remained in the cave for days on end, listening to Şahmeran tell incredible stories about the world and humanity. He was in awe, but when Azahmeran had told him everything and there was nothing left to tell, Tahmasp decided that he was missing the outside world and left. Even though Şahmeran didn't like this idea, in the end, she accepted it.

So Tahmasp returned to the land where he used to live. But one day, the king of that land got very ill. One of the king's assistants who was quite evil told the king that the only treatment that would cure him was to eat a piece of meat from the body of Şahmeran. The search began. Anyone who might know anything about Şahmeran was asked to come forward. One day, as Tahmasp was at the hamam, he was identified by soldiers who spotted snake scales all over his body. The soldiers brought him to the king's evil assistant. It turned out - not surprisingly - that the wicked royal aide's real aim was not to make the king better, but to hear about the secrets of the world straight from the mouth of Şahmeran.
Tahmasp was tortured until he revealed the location of Şahmeran's cave. So the assistant and the soldiers went to the cave and found Şahmeran who revealed her great secret, saying: "Whoever tears off a bit of flesh from my tail and eats it will be endowed with all the secrets of the world. But whoever takes a bit of flesh from my head and eats it will die instantly." No sooner were these words out of Şahmeran's mouth than the villainous assistant cut the half-snake, half-woman into two pieces, and ripped a bit of flesh from her tail. Tahmasp, horrified by what he had just witnessed, bit into a piece of flesh from Şahmeran's head so as to die immediately. But what happened instead is that the king's evil aide - having eaten a bite of Şahmeran's tail - died on the spot while Tahmasp appeared completely unaffected. It turned out that Şahmeran had anticipated the king's assistant’s plot and had seen to it that her lover, Tahmasp, inherited all her knowledge, while her enemy went to his death. However, in the wake of Şahmeran's death, Tahmasp was so bereaved that he isolated himself away from the rest of humanity.
Afterwards he is said to have become a legendary doctor, Lokman Hekim.

Posted by TravelnTurkey 01:54 Archived in Turkey Tagged children animals turkey snakes adana Comments (1)

Fethiye to Meis

Day visit to Meis / Kastelorizo

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Having decided to renew my visa at Meis this time, I travelled down from Istanbul to Fethiye for a few days holiday and from there would do a day trip to Meis via Kas.

Also known as Kastelorizo, the current official name in Greek is Megisti which means “Biggest” ,ironic really as it is only 4 square miles (10 km²) and is the smallest of the Dodecanese, but the biggest of the small archipelago; (Turkish: Meis , Italian: Castelrosso).
It lies roughly 1300 metres off the south coast of Turkey.
Over the Centuries this little Island has been fought over by many Nations. The island was conquered by the Romans, the Byzantines and then in 1306 by the Knights of St. John of Rhodes who built the castle with its tall twin walls and loopholes, making it one of the strongest fortresses of the Aegean Sea. The Egyptians, French and The Turks have also captured it at one time or another.

I arranged with one of the tour companies to be picked up in Fethiye early morning, and waiting outside Migros at 6.30am in the morning, it gave me some quiet time away from the hustle of the tourist resort to reflect.

Fethiye will always hold a special place in my heart for many reasons. How happy I had been living here, how sad I had been here at times, and how amazingly beautiful this place is.
In this town I had seen my family enjoying fun holidays, I had healed a broken heart, I had fallen in love and I had done, seen and experienced crazy times.

The transport arrived on time, and I was pleased I was the only passenger. The driver spoke perfect English, and kept me entertained with his stories on the journey. He stopped at the scenic places briefly so I could take photos. Then we swept down into Kalkan and collected 4 other passengers.
Finally we arrived at the Harbour in Kas.

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Views of Kas from the Road

Kas is a place I will never tire off. It is so different to other Tourist towns. A little more “upmarket” and a different kind of clientele. My heart was a little heavy remembering a special weekend here at the Reggae Bar with a special person. Shaking off my melancholy I made my way to the Tourist Office to give my papers and pay the Fee.

I had a small argument with the guy running this place as they wanted the Visa fee in Euros, which meant the £10 note I had exchanged my lira for was actually useless. So changing yet more liras, this time into Euros, and muttering under my breath that I was actually paying more for my Visa this way, I left his office.

We boarded the boat after handing our passports over to the Captain, and I made my way upstairs, cornered a piece of the deck and settled for the short journey.
Meis is only 25 minutes from Kas on the ferry, and usually you have around 5 free hours on the Island before returning to Kas.
Even if you do not need a renewed visa, I would recommend it as a great place for a visit. So near to Turkey yet within a short time you are really in Europe.

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Approaching Meis and the Harbour Area

Disembarking I strolled around the small harbour, captivated by the colourful houses which really give you a true feeling of being in the Mediterranean region. I passed a small building which houses the Duty Free…YES Duty free.
As I passed one small café I noticed a sign for sausage rolls. OMG Yes, I forgot this is not a Muslim Country. I sat quickly and ordered 3 !
Sated with 3, although they tasted so good, I possibly could have stayed there all afternoon eating sausage rolls, I decided I should now exercise them off.
At one end of the harbour walk is a small bar with some sun loungers and from the concrete area, people were diving and swimming in the most amazing clear waters.
I grabbed a bed, and proceeded to copy everyone else and relaxed with a drink and a cooling dip.
Of course everything is in Euros, although some of the shops did take Turkish Lira, I have to say I really don’t know if it was cheap or not.
Refreshed I dressed and wondered around for a while.
I know there are a few places that are must visits here, but the Temperature was in the 40’s and I did not feel inclined to wander too far from the waterfront.

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The Waterfront and the Crystal Clear Waters

After visiting the Duty Free and stocking up, I made my way back to the boat.
I sat in a small café and was quickly joined by a couple of people who have retired to Kas, and their friends, some Turkish Captains. We ordered beers and snacks, and spent the last hour or so jovially recounting our experiences in Turkey.

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Finally it was time to embark for the short journey back.

Arriving in Kas, as we disembarked the Turkish harbour Police checked our documents, and waved us off.
I meandered around Kas for a while, marvelling again at this wonderful slice of heaven in Turkey, and then it was time for the pickup to take me back to Fethiye.

The journey back was quick, with a different driver, and after dropping the others at Kalkan I was once again alone.

We sped along the Highway towards Fethiye and I glanced briefly at an old man across the other side of the road, walking with some goats and his dog, when suddenly the dog dashed across the road. My driver had no chance and there was an almighty sickening thud and then the car lifted as it went over the dog.
Panic stricken I imagined he would stop, but no, he calmly looked in his mirror and assured me the dog had got up and was walking. I turned to check, but all i could see was the old man hurrying across the road. Would I ever get used to the indifference towards animals here.

Pulling into Fethiye, the sun was setting, and I thanked the driver and quickly checked the outside of the car. There was a tiny indent on the front bumper, but that was it.

As I was leaving for Istanbul the following morning, I wanted to savour the last few hours in Fethiye so I made my way to the Harbour where I ate a fish meal, and people watched before heading back to my hotel.

Posted by TravelnTurkey 12:49 Archived in Turkey Tagged animals boats travel turkey visa border kas meis Comments (0)

“Fire in the Mountains”

Cirali

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For a long time I had heard of the “Fire in the Mountains” near Antalya and had wanted to see this phenomenon with my own eyes.
Known by the local inhabitants as the Yanartaş (burning stone), it is caused by natural Methane gas escaping from the rocks.

I had done some research and found out it was a Mountain near Olympus and Cirali.

I finally had the opportunity just before I was leaving Turkey to come home for a visit.
My Turkish friend and I left Fethiye to spend a few days in Olympus, before going onto Antalya to the airport.

My friend was also very curious to see the flames, as he totally did not believe this was possible. A fact I found very amusing. Firstly he had never heard of “Chimera”, which I was amazed at, as a lot of foreigners know of this place but this was his Country and he did not know about it. Secondly, he was convinced it was a “sham” for the tourists. So eventually I persuaded him to accompany me and see for himself.

We drove down into Cirali looking for a small hotel. I really wanted one with a pool, but the main ones along the front where way out of our price range.

Finally we found the wonderful “Canada Hotel”. Set back a bit from the beach on the road into the village, it is run by a Canadian Woman and her Turkish husband.

Very clean with a wonderful pool, and great food, the setting is lovely, tucked away in a quiet spot, and very peaceful.

It is about a 20 minute walk through the Forest to the beach from here.

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We had been told the best time to visit the mountain was as the sun was setting, as it is cooler for the climb, and the fires are more dramatic in the dark.

So filling a backpack with some Beer and snacks, we drove to the base at the North end of the village. Here there are signposts to the burning flames of the Chimaera. If you are staying in the village or in the Tree House areas, there is a tractor and trailer, which will bring you to the base.

Historical info : The famous myth of Bellerophontes is said to have taken place here.
When he arrived in Lycia, Bellerophontes found out that every night the Chimera, a monster with the head of a lion and the tail of a dragon, terrorized the village taking the children, women and livestock away and leaving their bones alongside the mountain.
Bellerophontes became the hero killing the fire-breathing Chimera from the back of Pegasus, who not only carried the hero but actively participated in the battle himself.

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There is a something special about this place that draws people to want to undertake the steep climb of this mountain. The climb is about 1 km uphill, and it consists of a series of wide very steep rock steps and it normally takes about 20 - 30 minutes depending on the individual.
I have to admit I had to stop 3 or 4 times to catch my breath, as it is very steep in some parts. On the way up, we passed trees laden with small pieces of cloth. When I asked I was told that they were prayers, given to Allah asking for help, or a small thank you.

I am also ashamed to say that twice I was passed by elderly Turkish Women looking fresh as daisies!

We did this climb in late September, and I imagine that late Autumn or early Spring would be the best time to attempt it, as the weather is a little cooler then.

Closer to the flames the path opens out to the natural terrain of the area.

It is more difficult walking back down and a MUST is good walking shoes. No flip-flops or high heeled shoes. We found that a torch was a must, and the best ones are the ones you wear on your head, as this leaves your hands free for the climb.

Staggering, gasping and crawling the last bit, we finally arrived at the top. It opens out here into some flattish areas with small pockets of flames everywhere.

It was still daylight, and difficult to appreciate them at their best, so we found a flat spot, spread out a blanket and cracked open the beers.
The views down over the bay are worth the climb alone, plus it is noticeably cooler at that height. It's about 180 metres above sea level.
The sun slowly started to set, and the fires seemed to dance alive.

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I can understand now why people make the climb. It was a magical sight.

My Turkish friend, inspired by a few beers, and who was still not convinced, started poking sticks and other things into the holes, to catch the Man who must be underneath the rocks lighting the fires. It was an amusing sight.

He spent ages running from one Methane hole to another, extinguishing the fires, only to be astonished when they magically relit themselves.
We stayed a while, sipping our beer and watching the Turkish Families using the natural barbecues to cook sausages and chicken.

Coming down is a whole new experience, especially with a few beers under your belt !

This is a high conservation area, and still unknown to a lot of tourists. I do hope it retains this charm.

One other place we found was a Nightclub high in the rockface at Olympus, called Babylon Town. Dancing all night under the stars with a cool breeze was great.

Quirky but fantastic location.

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Posted by TravelnTurkey 09:00 Archived in Turkey Tagged mountains beaches travel turkey antalya olympus Comments (0)

1 Jeep, 2 Teenage Boys and 3 Weeks in Turkey

Touring the South Coast Of Turkey

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There comes a time in life with children when only 1 is left at home. This one is now a Teenager and absolutely does not want to come on holiday with parents alone. So, deciding to go on a trek of Turkey for 3 weeks, we asked Son if he would like to bring a friend.
So follows a story of 3 weeks in a jeep with 2 teenage boys.

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Dalaman to Fethiye:

We landed at Dalaman and our Jeep was dutifully waiting for us. Piling the bags in and two nearly 6 foot tall boys was a task in its self.
We arrived at the airport very early morning, and the boys crashed all over the bags, a pile of legs and bags everywhere.
The road from Dalaman to Fethiye then was over the top of a mountain and down the other side. Having arrived just as dawn was breaking, meant we could at least see the road going up and down. These days there is a tunnel through the mountain, which avoids the heart stopping journey we used to take.

Arriving in Fethiye at the Harbour, we pulled up in front of the Hotel we had previously booked, as we did not want to be driving around looking for somewhere to stay at that time of the morning.
No one was in reception. We rang and rang the bell, and eventually a sleepy receptionist appeared.
Apparently there was now a problem, as the AM and PM time had been misunderstood (when is anything understood here) and therefore our rooms were still occupied! We were shown into a lounge and the boys, who had just about opened their eyes, crashed on the sofas. Hubby and I tried to settle in the remaining two chairs, but it was impossible. Just after dawn, we headed into Fethiye to get breakfast, leaving the boys sleeping in the lounge. Upon our return, we were told the rooms were being cleaned, and would be ready in half an hour.

The rooms, when we got into them, were small, but comfortable and finally we managed to get some sleep. Short lived sleep as the Hotel was coming alive, and our room fronted the main road into Fethiye. Eventually we gave up and retired to the pool. The Boys had found second wind, and wanted to explore.

I was totally against the idea of them walking around Fethiye alone, as I still remembered vividly that my son had once been kidnapped in Tunisia. (Another story)
So my husband reluctantly agreed to go with them, leaving me to do what I do best, relax with a book.
They returned a few hours later, wanting to change and “do the Bars”.
Thus ended our first nights stay. We rolled back to the Hotel, exhausted, with two teenagers still raring to go.
We left them in the Lounge playing Pool and chatting to the staff.

Boat tripFun

Boat tripFun

The following day we had booked a boat trip, which is what this area is famous for. You get to travel around the small islands dotted of the coastline with a meal thrown in for the price. It is excellent value for a day out. We all had great fun, swimming in the clear pristine waters here. Also it is a great way to tire two teenagers out!

Happy Boys

Happy Boys

Up early the next Morning, as we had a drive ahead of us, trying to drag them out of bed was eventually accomplished, and they rolled into the jeep, and fell asleep again, legs everywhere.
Did I mention Teenage boys are like Owls. Awake all night and sleep all day. This was going to be a trying trip
From Fethiye our plan was to drive to Antalya, with stops on the way.

Saklikent:
We detoured to Saklikent Gorge for a couple of hours. On the road to Saklikent the numerous small cafes have large overhead hosepipes that constantly run with ice cold water into the road. It is possible to drive through these “car showers” to clean the dust of your vehicle. My son was fast asleep in the back, but his friend was fascinated by these. My Husband looked at me and winked. Oh God he was going to drive us through in an open top jeep. Sure enough he swerved quickly into one and my poor son nearly had a heart attack, being woken from a sleep with an ice cold shower. I sympathised, but his friend and Father were hysterical, as were the owners of the café. We stopped to let him dry off, and grabbed a coke. He refused to speak to us for quite a while, and back in the jeep submerged himself under a towel, in case his Dad decided to do it again.


The gorge used to be a quiet relaxing place to chill and grab some lunch. These days it is full of coach loads of tourists, and almost impossible to hear the peace there.
Back then, it was still a quiet place, and the Boys had great fun in the Ice cold water that bubbles up from underground. Great place to cool down.

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Lunch and frolics over we took the jeep across the river bed, which is really only a trickle of water in some places during the summer. There is a variety of mud here filled with salts, which are great for your skin. Very softening, and supposed to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

The River at Saklikent

The River at Saklikent

Kas:
Leaving the river we set off again for the road to Kas.
Anyone who knows this area will be aware of the infamous Kas road. This journey of ours was taken before they widened and secured the road.
The Kas road in those days was a windy, narrow one with steep drops into the sea one side, and cliff faces on the other.
Still not used to travelling the roads here, and totally mistrusting of every other vehicle on the road, this was an uncomfortable journey for me, much to my Husbands amusement. There were a couple of occasions where I actually closed my eyes and prayed, one in particular when we met a huge Tourist coach on one of the narrow bends.


Google View

Google View

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I was so pleased when we arrived safely in this beautiful place. Kas is one of my favourite places in Turkey.
We drove along the front looking for somewhere to stay and found an upmarket hotel, with good views and a great pool. The boys were now awake and hungry.
We showered and changed and walked down the hill into the centre.
After eating in one of the open restaurants on the front, we sedately walked up the hill, through the shopping area. Here we were tempted into carpet shops and souvenir shops by touts with endless supplies of tea.
Foregoing the carpet shops, as we had our fill of those on previous trips, my son found an antique shop. Inside was full of treasures, including all manner of guns and swords. This began the first argument with beloved son. He wanted a sword. We tried to explain that Customs would confiscate it, and he would not be allowed on the plane with it, hampered by a keen shopkeeper telling him wonderful ways of getting it through customs.
Eventually he stormed (You have to have a teenager to know what this means) out of the shop and up the hill, refusing to speak to anyone. We left him to stew and got back to the hotel. Here we bought some drinks and took them out to the pool terrace. My husband and my sons’ friend dived in the pool. Therein followed a huge argument with the Hotel Staff, as apparently after seven o’clock it was illegal to use the pool. I dragged my Husband and the boys, back to the rooms, and fell asleep listening to a ranting Husband.
We checked out very early!

We drove down the front a little bit, and checked into a small pension (bed & breakfast) with no pool, but a great view of the sea.
Opposite us was the sunbathing rocks area. There is no beach to speak of in Kas.
The weather can change quite dramatically in Turkey, and this day was no exception. We were all sunbathing and swimming from an area on the rocks, which belonged to the pension. My son is a strong swimmer, and I had asked his friend if he could also swim well, to which I was assured he could.
From our vantage point we could see a swimming raft a little further down the coast. The weather became overcast and windy with some rain, but still very warm.
My son decided to swim out to the raft. The sea was choppy but I felt confident of his ability. Then his friend also decided to follow him. We watched them swimming and soon my son arrived at the raft. I began to realise that his friend was struggling. My Husband also became concerned and dived in to swim over to him. I watched while my Husband hooked up with him, and they arrived at the raft together. I was to learn later, that the Boy was indeed struggling very much and was panicking so he grabbed my husband and nearly drowned the pair of them.

Resting on the Raft

Resting on the Raft

I watched as they sat on the raft and the large sea swells lifted it up and down. Eventually my husband and the boy swam to the nearest shore and walked back to me. My son swam back.
Lesson learnt..never trust a teenager who tells you he can swim well.
He also learnt a big lesson, and had respect for the sea after this.
He was exhausted and had swallowed a load of ocean. He was actually shaking and quite ill for a few hours.
We ended the day quietly having a meal at a small restaurant, with an early night.

Ucagiz:
We had decided to visit a small place called Ucagiz (Translates into meaning three mouths)
The road down to Ucagiz is terrifying, consisting of a very windy steep drop from the mountains to the sea. There are no barriers, and very little space. I wanted to take photos, as the views were incredible, but I could not let go of the roll bars.
We passed through a plain at the bottom where there were hundreds of goats roaming everywhere. The road became wider, and finally I breathed.
We came around a small bend, over a small hill and dropped into Ucagiz.


Ucagiz Harbour

Ucagiz Harbour

Immediately we were invaded with people trying to sell us things, and wanting to take us to boats, hotels, restaurants, and all manner of other things.
This is actually a very tiresome thing that happens in Turkey.
My Husband had no patience for these things, and so pulled up as soon as possible next to a small stone house in the shade of a huge fig tree.
We had just turned the engine off when a small elderly man came out of the house and started chatting away in Turkish, and a little broken English. He had a small boat which we could rent for the day to go to see Simena, the sunken city, for around £30.
Wanting to escape the madness surrounding us, I said it sounded lovely, but we had suitcases and bags. He immediately started unloading them and carrying them into his small kitchen. We understood we were to leave them there, and they would be very safe.
We then followed him down to the harbour, where on the way he bought ton of fruit and some bread and cheese.
The boat was lovely, with a small glass bottom area. We had it to ourselves.
He took us to a small bay with crystal clear water, which was filled with multicoloured fish. We spent some time here, swimming and relaxing.

Crystal Waters

Crystal Waters


Then he took us over the ancient Lycian sunken city of Simena. In ancient times Simena was a small fishing village and was later an outpost of the Knights of Rhodes (formerly of St. John). The half-submerged ruins of the residential part of Simena were caused by the downward shift of land by a terrible earthquake in the 2ndcentury AD. Half of the houses are submerged and staircases descend into the water. Foundations of buildings and the ancient harbour are also seen below the sea.
You are not allowed to swim here anymore due to many people taking artefacts away from the site. It was amazing to see the village below us, with so many things still intact. The ancient city of Simena once consisted of two parts - an island and a coastal part of the mainland.
We stopped and he prepared a lunch of cheese, bread and fruits.
We then travelled onto the mainland to the charming fishing village of Kalekoy ("castle village"), its buildings mingling with ancient and medieval structures. The top of the village is dominated by a well-preserved castle built by the Knights of Rhodes partially upon ancient Lycian foundations. Inside the castle is the smallest amphitheatre of Lycia. At the eastern end of the village is a Lycian necropolis with a cluster of some very nice sarcophagi overlooking the sea and surrounded by ancient olive trees. Near the harbour of Kalekoy is another sarcophagus, popping up from the water.

Here we decided to walk in the sea. It is very shallow and clear all around the edge of the village, and was a wonderful place for a dip. After this it was suggested that a walk to the top to see the castle would be a good idea. Not for me. The thought of climbing anywhere in 40 plus degrees left me almost in shock. So off they set. I sat in one of the harbour front small cafes and watched them ascend.

Resting on the Castle

Resting on the Castle

View from the Top

View from the Top

Upon their return, we had another swim and set off back to Ucagiz.
We found a small but wonderfully clean apartment room overlooking the bay.
There is very little to do in Ucagiz, as it is a very small village, with just a few restaurants. In the evening we sat on the balcony and played cards.

We had heard that there was sea kayaking here, and the boys wanted to have a go. My Husband was also up for this, but I decided to give it a miss. I really wanted to find somewhere quiet I could swim and read, as there is no beach in Ucagiz.
So off they went to get kitted out, and I walked along the harbour front. Here I hitched a lift to one of the small islands in the bay, where I was informed there was a swimming area.

There was indeed a small concrete platform area where you could relax and swim. Unfortunately I soon realised I was not alone here, and there was an old man around the corner who decided I needed Company. So after swimming some, and giving up on the lazing with a book bit, I watched the Kayaks for a while, and then my lift returned. Back at the Harbour I made my way to the Kayak station café and waited.
The first thing I noticed when they came in was my sons mood. Things had not gone well obviously. It turns out that he was not feeling so well and really struggled against the sea, not helped by a Father and friend teasing him for lack of strength.
Another sulky evening.

We left the boys to it, and found somewhere we could relax for the evening with a beer or two.

Kayaking

Kayaking


Olympus:
In the morning we started the Journey to Antalya.
Upon reaching the sign on the road for Olympus, we decided to drive down and have lunch there.
We didn’t know at that time that there are actually two parts to Olympus. They consist of the Beach at Cirali, and the area where the wooden Tree Houses are. Cirali as it is known by the locals or Olympus, became famous due to young people or budget travellers who overnight at small camping sites, consisting of wooden huts, or small bed & breakfasts, or in their tents.

Tree Houses

Tree Houses

Olympus

Olympus

It was an important Lycian city by the 2nd century B.C. The Olympians worshipped Hephaestos (Vulcan) the god of fire. No doubt this sprang from reverence for the mysterious site of Chimaera, an eternal flame which still springs from the earth on top of the Mountain not far from the village. This is caused by Methane Gas seeping through the cracks in the Mountain.
We pulled into the most famous of the tree house camps then called Kadirs.
When we went it was still a rough and ready back packers haven. These days he has air con in the rooms and more mod cons.
There was a lovely restaurant with an upstairs set atop a huge tree, where we relaxed on the floor cushions and had a beer.
We stayed for a couple of hours letting the Boys explore, and then set off back up to the main road. This is a beautiful part of turkey, set in forested areas with a heavenly smell of pine everywhere, and surrounded by the most magnificent Mountains.

Antalya:
Eventually we came within sight of Antalya.
Approaching from the Kas road, you get a great view over the city, before dropping down into the City itself.
We knew that we wanted to stay in the old part of the City called Kaleici, which consists of historical ruins, and Ottoman style houses. It had remained the main part of Antalya City until after the Second World War. It is famous for its old walls and Roman Gates. Today, it is a protected area, and continues to be renovated back to the Ottoman period. According to tradition, in the 2nd century BC the Pergamon king Attalos II ordered his men to find "heaven on earth". After an extensive search, they discovered the region of Antalya. Attalos rebuilt the city, giving it the name "Attaleia" which later mutated in Turkish as Adalia and then finally Antalya. What we were unprepared for was that it is like a maze.

Kaleici Streets

Kaleici Streets

We turned off the main road down a side road and promptly realised we had no idea where to go. This is when the touts arrive. Before we knew what was happening we had a passenger on the front of the Jeep, gesticulating at all the traffic to move out the way, and one on the rear, asking where we were going.
We had the name of a small Bed & Breakfast we had found on the net and liked the look of because it had a small pool, which was a rarity in those days in Kaleici.
The tout managed to direct us there without mishap, but wouldn’t leave without a tip!
The hotel was comfortable, and central.
We stayed 2 nights here.

On our first night exploring Kaleici we stopped in a small café bar which had Nargile pipes. These are “Hubbly Bubbly” pipes and used to smoke different flavoured tobacco. My Husband and the boys wanted to try, so the waiter proceeded to commence with all the paraphernalia which accompanies your smoke.

The Nargile consists of a glass bottle, into which a metal pipe device is placed. The bottle is half filled with water, and a long flexible hose is attached to the pipe. Atop the pipe is a small metal tray to catch cinders and above it a small cup-shaped bowl to hold the tobacco.
A specially-formed plug of tobacco is placed in the bowl, and a glowing coal is placed atop the tobacco, igniting it. (The coal is a kind of charcoal.
The smoker attaches a mouthpiece to the flexible hose, sucks on it, and draws tobacco smoke down through the pipe device, through the cooling water, along the flexible hose and into the mouth.
At least that’s supposed to be what happens. What happened, in my Husbands case, was the waiter tripped on the infernal carpets that are strewn everywhere and the hot coals landed in my Husbands lap.
Did I mention how accident prone he is when we are on Holiday? We have never travelled anywhere without something happening to him.
It appeared to be a fairly serious burn, as it had burnt through his trousers and onto his skin, but did I also mention I lived with a macho man He shrugged it off, maybe due to the alcohol influence, but the waiter and other staff were mortified.
We never returned to that café, although looking back, we should have eaten for free every night there

Hadrians Gate One Entrance to kaleici

Hadrians Gate One Entrance to kaleici

Antalya did not really leave a good impression on us, as we were also robbed here.
The only time we have ever experienced this is Turkey.
Leaving the boys asleep in the Hotel in the morning, we decided to stroll down to the Harbour and have Breakfast there.
Walking through an open green area, I spied a young man carrying a tray of what looked like Bagels, on his head. He saw I was intrigued, and came over and gave me one.
I learnt they were called Simit. It is a kind of bread coated with sesame seeds.
As we had always experienced the Turkish wonderful generosity and hospitality, I stupidly assumed he had given it to me for free. As we walked away, he started asking for money. Then another young man joined him.
Not knowing how much a Simit was we could not argue when he said 5 lira.
Not being strangers to Turkey or its millions of Lira (as was then) my Husband took a 5 lira note out of his wallet. This is when it gets out of hand. One of the young men insisted my husband had not given the right note, and tried to take a 50 explaining it was a 5. My husband is angry now, as he understands the money very well. The young man is dipping his fingers into my Husbands wallet, who promptly gets very angry with the Waiter, and then ensues a bit of a slanging match, whereupon suddenly the boys left. My husband opened his wallet to replace the 50 that had been taken out, and realises the young man had stolen most of the money in it. They were clever and very quick with their hands, so I am sure they had done this before. We found the Police Station, but really the Police were not interested in us, and anyway it was hard to describe two young Turkish men- Dark haired and about 18 years old. That about describes half of Antalya!
Now having a very bad taste in our mouths, we packed up and left Antalya heading for Egidir.

Antalya to Denizli

Antalya to Denizli

Egidir:
From Antalya we headed north for a long hot drive. We were headed for an area we had been told was equivalent to the British Lake District.
The drive there took us through some beautiful countryside, and through large fruit growing areas. It takes around 3 hours to get here.
We had planned to stay one night by the Lake. To say we were disappointed when we got there, would be slight understatement. We drove around for 1 hour, and decided to just continue our drive to Pamukkale.

Lake Egidir

Lake Egidir

Pamukkale:

Pamukkale is around a 3.5 hour drive from Egidir, through Denizli City.

Komando school Egidir

Komando school Egidir

Leaving Egidir, we passed through various Mountain ranges and valleys. Most noticeable was the Carving in the side of the mountain of the School of Commandos near Egidir. Just a reminder of the Military force here.

I will admit I really do not remember a lot about that journey. We were all tired, and disappointed, and the Boys just slept most of the way. Apart from the odd incident of having Toilet stops, and retrieving lost caps, it was fairly uneventful.
Passing through Denizli, I was impressed with how modern it seemed, the roads were good and signposted well.

The approach to Pamukkle from Denizli is over some fairly flat Terrain, and the first hint you get of this wonderful monument from Nature, is what appears to be snow covered slopes in the distance. As you drive closer it still eludes you as to what it actually is, until you are almost on top of it.

Approaching Pamukkale

Approaching Pamukkale

Road into Pamukkale

Road into Pamukkale

Pamukkale Village was very small with a few hotels. We were all exhausted having been cramped in the Jeep for nearly 8 Hours, so we jumped at the first decent looking hotel we saw.
It had an amazing pool, ok rooms, and ok staff.
Booking in we realised it was very quiet everywhere, and found out we were the only guests. This seemed a little odd to us, but we were tired and hungry, so we just showered, changed and drove into the village to eat.
The next morning at breakfast, we asked why the hotel was so quiet. We were then told it was an “overnight” stay hotel for the Pamukkale tour coaches. They drive to the cliffs in the morning, stay the day exploring and then around 6 o’clock check in to the hotel for a meal and a bed, only to depart early the next morning for their onward journey.
This was great news for us as we had this great pool to ourselves all day, with waiters tripping over themselves to serve us.

Hotel Pool

Hotel Pool

The next day we drove up to Hierapolis in the late afternoon as it was too hot during the day to leave the cold pool. There is a small entrance fee, and then the road takes you through an old Graveyard, with endless Sarcophagi. This necropolis is one of the best preserved in Turkey. Most of the 1200 or so tombs were constructed with local varieties of limestone.
We parked and began to explore the ruins.

Hierapolis

Hierapolis

Pamukkale

Pamukkale

Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century and later became a healing centre where doctors used the hot thermal springs as a treatment for their patients. There are two Roman baths, a gymnasium, several temples, a theatre, a main street with a colonnade and a fountain at the hot spring. Hierapolis became one of the most prominent cities in the Roman Empire.
Destroyed by various earthquakes over the years, it was lost until the 1890’s when archaeologists started to excavate. Today excavation is still ongoing.

We sat a while at the top of the magnificent theatre, and the boys walked down the many steps to the stage area. It was still all open to the public at that time.

The Theatre

The Theatre


And so for the finale; sunset over the terraces.

There were 3 or 4 upmarket hotels built here and they destroyed some of the limestone formations that Pamukkale is famous for. Fortunately the Turkish Government saw sense and the hotels were torn down. When we went you could still see the foundations and entrances left over from these hotels.

Pammukale

Pammukale



Just before sunset the tourists arrive. This particular evening it was mainly Japanese tourists.
You are no longer allowed to clamber over the terraces as they have finally acknowledged that it was destroying, in a very short time, what Mother Nature took Centuries to build. The pristine white pools were turning a dirty brown colour, and it was declared a World Heritage site in 1988.
Pamukkales terraces are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by water from the hot springs. This deposits Calcium carbonate which has hardened and formed the wonderful pools.

So we watched the sunset over the hills, which caused the pools to change into wonderful hues of pinks and reds.

Leaving the ooh ahhing Japanese to it, we made our way back to the hotel.

I was actually loath to leave this place, as we had undivided attention from the Hotel during the day, and special treatment in the evening. The pool was incredible, so cold and huge. It felt good to be relaxing. But the men were itching to get to Bodrum.
My daughter had come to Gumbet near Bodrum on holiday, and we had intended to meet up with her for a couple of days, before returning back towards the airport.

Pamukkale to Gumbet

Pamukkale to Gumbet

Gumbet:

On the road again, facing another hot dusty journey of about 4 hours.
An uneventful journey as we just wanted to get there. Driving through a couple of cities and various small towns. All of us keen to see the sea again.
Finding the hotel where my Daughter was staying was not too difficult, and it was good to see her again.
The hotel she was staying in was small, with an equally small pool, but it was just nice to be with her.
We booked in, cleaned up, and went for a meal.
What to say here? The harassment we encountered while walking along looking for a suitable restaurant was hard for us to take in. We had always holidayed in and around the Fethiye area, and had never come across touting like it before. It made it uncomfortable to walk anywhere. Eventually we got dragged into a place which looked reasonable. With the meal finished, the Boys were raring to go. After all we were in an area that catered for teenagers. We had a stroll around the area and after a little while both I and my Husband had enough. We turned back to the hotel, leaving the Boys to do their thing. Here I finally felt reasonably safe at letting them loose, as it was a small place then, and not far from the hotel.
We stayed in Gumbet for 3 days, and I don’t think we saw anything of the two boys during this time. They were out all night, and slept most of the day. Occasionally they would emerge from the room, to catch us for more money, before shuffling back to their beds again.
We took the jeep and explored some of the peninsula. It appeared to be a reasonably beautiful place.
We booked a boat trip to “Aquarium bay” and even got the boys onboard.
This was our biggest disappointment I think. Remember that we had travelled some of the most beautiful coastline of Turkey, and swum in crystal clear seas, here we were faced with an area with rubbish, plastic bottles and possibly even sewage floating in the waters.
We were ripped off with the prices for alcohol onboard, and apart from the sundeck, it was a trip to forget instantly. We were shown camel island, where people can ride on Camels and have pictures taken, and a few other nondescript areas.

Gumbet beach

Gumbet beach

The only grace Gumbet has is the long sandy beach. The downside is finding a space.
A few years later, we took our Daughter and her new husband again to Turkey, and showed them the other areas, and she understood then why we found Gumbet tacky and disappointing. Not a place I would go or have ever returned to since.We were struggling to get the Boys away from here, as they were in their element. Playing pool, having fun, and as they were just growing into men from teenagers, enjoying the party atmosphere.

Finally we had enough, and having stayed longer than intended, we said goodbye to Daughter and set off for Turunc.

Gumbet to Turunc

Gumbet to Turunc

Turunc:

There is a well marked main road to Turunc, but we had looked at the map, and saw a small road which hugged the coastline. We decided to take this route.
We drove through some of the most amazing forested areas I have seen, with deep gorges, and huge mountains, and nerve racking “roads”. We passed woman walking cows along the road. Goats freely wandering everywhere, and the only sounds were the constant hum of the cicadas. We stopped in various places, just to stretch legs and absorb the wow factor. It was a great reminder of how beautiful this country is, after the nightmare of Gumbet.

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Finally we descended onto the road which goes through Marmaris. This is another bustling tourist town and we drove straight through. Turunc is about 20 kilometres past Marmaris.
From Marmaris you climb and climb, which means that somewhere soon you have to drop. Sure enough we turned a corner on the treacherous road (Many coaches have come off this road) and saw Turunc spread out below us.

Treacherous roads

Treacherous roads

We had no idea of where to stay, so we drove down to the front, checking out a couple of places, but they were very basic. As we sat in the jeep pondering whether to try the huge hotel at the end of the bay, we spotted a hotel high up on the mountain. We drove back up and found the track which led there. It was a wonderful place with apartments, and a pool that seemed to hang onto the edge of the cliff overlooking Turunc.

View over Turunc

View over Turunc

We stayed two nights here.
Now we had moved into October and the weather began to change. Black clouds appeared on the horizon, and shortly after the rain started.
When it rains here after the summer, it is torrential. Flooding everywhere very quickly. Fortunately as fast as it comes, it goes.
The boys went jet-skiing, taking advantage of the little train that took hotel guests down to the beach front.
We spent a wonderful evening having a meal in one of the restaurants on the beach, and pleasantly being able to walk around the small shops. Having to jump over the huge puddles that had formed everywhere.
Turunc is a small place and takes about half an hour to walk from one end to the other, with a great charm about it. The beach has a blue flag and the area is famous for its Olives.
There is no nightlife in the village, so after eating etc we would head back to the hotel and in the apartment at night, we played cards, and other games, and had some fun times with the boys.
The second night we dined by the pool overlooking the twinkling lights of Turunc below.

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Finally we were coming to the end of our trip, and so we set off from Turunc with the idea to spend the last night a bit nearer Dalaman Airport in Dalyan.

Turunc to Dalyan and onto Dalaman

Turunc to Dalyan and onto Dalaman

We arrived in Dalyan early evening, and we were really only looking for a bed for the night, as our flight was early in the morning.
We settled on a small Pension in the centre, sat on the edge of the river, in a peaceful situation.
Dalyan achieved international fame in 1987 when developers wanted to build a luxury hotel on the nearby İztuzu Beach, a breeding ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle species. The incident created a major international storm when David Bellamy championed the cause. The development project was temporarily stopped after Prince Philip called for a moratorium and in 1988 the beach and its hinterland were declared a protected area.
Life in Dalyan revolves around the Dalyan Çayı River which flows past the town. The boats that ply up and down the river, navigating the maze of reeds, are the preferred means of transport to all the local sites.
We have been to Dalyan many times, as we often use it a last night stopping ground on the way to the Airport. It is a small town, touristy, but quieter than a lot of the others in the area.
As well as the fantastic sandy beach down the river, it is famous for the ruins of Kaunos which are a short boat trip across the river.
The tombs were built for the wealthy and were carved by servants clambering down the rock faces on ropes, and carving while they hung there. They have found countless skeletons at the bottom of the rock faces, proving what a dangerous job this was.
Showered, changed and packed, we made our final night in Dalyan a quiet one, We had a nice meal, and a few drinks, and the boys did some last minute souvenir shopping.
As we drove to the airport in darkness the following morning, I looked behind me to see two pairs of long legs wrapped around holdalls, and two sleeping, brown lads.
We had survived in one piece,with some events that we will never forget.
This was also the last holiday we ever had together with my Son.

Kaunos

Kaunos

Would I do it again - in a heartbeat.
Would I recommend taking two Teenagers on a Jeep safari for 3 weeks - Absolutely !

Posted by TravelnTurkey 01:44 Archived in Turkey Tagged beaches children travel turkey antalya jeep kas dalaman gumbet olympus Comments (0)

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