The surprise trip (again!): Istanbul

My surprise trip to Japan was a big success.

To feed my travel instinct and all the hectic schedules I have right now; I plan to go somewhere close and yet interesting.

Don’t push me to explore West Europe!

I want something eclectic, intriguing.

This trip must also accommodate the needs of my husband, my eldest son, my 3.5 months baby and I (of course!).

One thing for sure, we all crave for sunshine (and good food!)

***

There’s always an initial plan hahaha…have you not known me, really!?

I really wish to visit Athene to complete my ancient history trail. But then I checked the flight ticket, it was almost €400/person.

We’re planning to visit Indonesia anytime around this year, so spending too much on a week (or less) vacation was simply irrational.

Istanbul came as my second option because:

a. The flight ticket is affordable (less than €150)

b. The hotels are relatively cheap and spacious.

c. The city has lots of history, good food and the chance of warm weather is relatively big.

For less than a week I arranged this trip, a little bit gambling since my baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet. We are all very tired and mommy needs a Spring break.

Bismillahirrahmanirrahim…

I booked everything and as the time of departure was coming closer, I was unsure if we could make it.

The eldest was a bit sick. The baby is still awake at night. I’m tired, my husband is also tired.

And at that time, The Netherlands and Turkey has also a political conflict.

What more can I add to the list to reassure that this trip is so impossible.

There’s a moment when I wanted to cancel it. But my Man said no; WE CAN MAKE IT! Let’s go on holiday!

***

In the morning of our departure; I was so nervous. Can we make it, really?

If there’s a will, there’s a way. I remember a quote “fear brings you nowhere”.

So Bismillah…we ran for our lives to the gate and flew to Istanbul!

***

So many questions about Istanbul come to me. Is it a child friendly city? Is it expensive? Is it safe to travel there? How do I like Istanbul? etc.

Well, I usually well prepared every time I travel but this time not. I actually don’t have enough time to gather information about this city trip.

The only thing I did is to book a shuttle taxi from the airport to the hotel.

My first impression of Istanbul is really bad. It’s just a packed city with a dirty outlook. I was quite disappointed at that time. A friend of mine reassured me, it’s a wonderful city and she likes it very much.

The next day I walked almost 5KM to explore the new and old city and I was mesmerized and simply speechless for what I have seen.

I literally had no single word to even describe it at first.

You ask me what I think about Istanbul now??? IT’S MARVELOUS! Beyond gorgeous.

I have never seen a city that as complete as Istanbul.

The city is so poetic!

I saw the old face of Cairo in it, I saw the character of Rome in it, I saw the elegance of Paris in it and I saw the glory of the city along the strait.

Istanbul is feast for the eyes. It’s West Europe in one place.

Is it an expensive city like Paris and Amsterdam? NO, definitely not. You’ll feel a bit like a millionaire here

A 30 minutes taxi ride cost only €10-€15. A bottle of water cost less than €0,50. Amazing!

Istanbul is a child friendly city too. There are parks and good pedestrian ways. Most of the public toilets are equipped with baby changing board. Even in the toilet on fast food restaurants.

Istanbul has also a good public transportation, which you can easily travel from one side of the city to another. Especially in the old city, close to the Sultan Ahmet area, where no private cars and motorcycles allow to enter. It makes walking really comfortable.

The only problem is the hilly part of the city. It’s very hilly and sometimes very steep. But that what makes Istanbul really special.

At the time I was there, Istanbul is safe regardless of everything you see or hear on the news. There are indeed many police officers, gun loaded armies and tanks. But Alhamdullilah, I have no single problem there.

***

To those who will travel here with kids, I suggest you to:

A. Fly with a full service airlines like KLM or Turkish Airlines. Pick a morning flight after 9 am. And wear cotton clothes! Atatürk Airport is hot. Literally HOT!

B. Pack your bags with enough diapers, medicine, clothes and SNACKS! Turkish people don’t speak enough English. Basic English is understood but yeah…further you’ll be lost in translation.

C. Beware of scamming. It’s everywhere. Avoid empty taxi on the street side. Preferably order a taxi using UBER app. Even the shoe polish man do a trick to fool you.

D. Don’t do too much, one or two sightseeing a day is enough. Kids need to rest. My trick was to get out around 09:30 until 16:00 and let the kids sleep until 19:00. And then we go out again until 22:00 or something. I don’t change the clock for a short gateway.

E. Follow your children’s mood.

F. It is best to stay in the hotel around old city but the Taksim and Kabatas area are also very recommended.

G. Book a 4 or 5* hotel. They’re affordable and very spacious. Kids are easily entertained here. Remember! A happy kids make a happy parents. You don’t want to ruin your hoilday, do you?

H. Always drink from a sealed bottle (even for washing baby stuffs).

I. To avoid queue at touristic places, take a tour. You pay only €10-€15 extra for it.

J. People in Istanbul love kids. They will try to hold them or touch them. If you don’t like it, say it clearly.

H. Topkapi Palace disallow parents to bring stroller. This was one of the reasons I skipped this place.

***

Yes. That is all I can say for now. Istanbul is an attractive city. I recommend you to visit this city. The cultures are perfectly blend here. You’ll also see the European-Turkish (with blue eyes and blond hair) and the Asian-Turkish (looks a bit Mongolian and Arabian).

***

The history of the city will leaves you speechless. It’s grandiose. You’ll see it when you are there.

***

The conclusion of this trip is make the best of your time in Istanbul. 5 days is not enough.

Istanbul can hypnotize you with its charm.

Furthermore, this trip has proved that you can travel with small kids as long as you can work together with your partner. It’s not impossible. You just need to be open and expect for the unexpected.

Let loose!! You need to loosen up a lil bit hahahaha.

Ciao!

Na’

The surprise trip: The Land of the Rising Sun

It took me so long to make this album. On the last few days of our stay in Tokyo, I found out that I’m pregnant (again).

To cut the story short: I got neusea when I think or see a picture of Japan.

So in the last 2 months I have never ever (dare to) open the picture folder. Even to think about the ramen I ate, I can get really sick. Weird? I know.

Okay, here is the story: this is indeed the surprise trip I made for my husband. The initial plan was to visit Andalusia. However, for one reason and another the trip must be cancelled. So what should I do? I had already opened the piggy bank (seriously!); we need to go somewhere.

Japan was my first choice. A dear friend of mine will go there for hanami and it would be really great to meet her there. So I checked the ticket, accommodation etc. Voilà! The budget to Andalusia fitted to my Japan trip hehehe.

So here are my tips:

  1. Book ticket at least 3-4 months in advance to get a good price. Go for KLM!! No matter how cheap the other airline is, direct flight will save you some energy.
  2. Japan is beyond expensive. Hotel is not an option (for us) since we have a toddler with us. The price per night is expensive too, even for a 3* hotel. Unless you are flexible with budget, I won’t suggest you to stay in a hotel. Japan’s hotel room is rather small. So, airbnb was for us the best option.
  3. I came to Japan for the hanami (the cherry blossom festival). The best time to come there is between the last week of March and the beginning of April. It’s still rather chill but a lot warmer than in Holland though. Autumn would be the best season to visit too. The nature in Japan is stunning.
  4. Language barrier is an issue. Many Japanese don’t speak fluent English. So make sure make a brief note of simple question. Especially when you are Muslim, it is so helpful. A little practice before depature is good.
  5. Japan’s public transportation is topnotch! Clean and ontime. People are very discipline and respectful. So make sure you make the best out of your trip with it. Trying Shinkansen Nozomi is a fantastic experience!
  6. For the first timer, Kyoto and Tokyo are a must. My advice would be to spend at least 5 days in each city.
  7. Japan is a muslim friendly country. There are many halal restaurants through out big cities and they have a prayer space in big station too. Prior to your departure, please download the halal gourmet japan app.
  8. Japan is a child friendly country. Meets every need for a baby to an elder. It’s a country for everyone. In Japan, you can find baby changing room almost in every station or disabled toilet that inclusive baby changing room, they have so many parks around the city, excellent pedestrian road, and the Japanese love children, they’re willing to help in every need you have.
  9. Buy IC card like Suica or Icoca. It’s a one card for everything, from transportation to dining. You can almost pay everything with it. It’s a tap and go system. So convenience.
  10. Some palaces in Japan requires reservation in advance. E.g Kyoto Imperial Palace.
  11. Try local food (of course!) and enjoy tons of food stalls around the city.
  12. Respect the nature, the people and the rest you’ll be fine. Stay dicipline! Japanese people are one of the finest people ever exist. Nature is considered very sacred. Their relationship with nature is unbeatable. Very romantic at glance.
  13. Rent a portable wifi at the airport before you go everywhere else. Portable wifi helps you to explore the city, to ease the language barrier you might experience along the way and it connects you of course with friends and family. I remember I video chatted with my youngest sister through out the journey to Mino Waterfall. She helped me also a lot with the translation of Japanese characters. Thanks to the portable wifi.
  14. Shopping in Japan is a fantastic experince. Feels like home, really! They have unique, absurd, beautiful pieces to offer. Mind the price, it’s expensive everywhere besides the 100 yen shop of course.
  15. Go beyond the tourist map. We saw an ads on the train and decided to go to visit a village named Sakura, simply to see the mini Keukenhof in Japan. It’s far from Tokyo but it’s a lifetime experience.
  16. Don’t buy Japan rail pass unless you’ll visit more than 3 cities with a long distance. If you only visit Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, having an IC card is enough. Besides Nozomi, other shinkansens are relatively affordable.
  17. Do buy kanto pass in Tokyo. It includes a rail connection to outskirts of Tokyo area like Sakura, Narita, and to Fuji Mountain.
  18. Have enough YEN ¥ prior to your departure. Not every ATM machine accept foreign bank card, not even your mighty credit card. However, 7/11 atm bank accept it, but it’s not available in their every store. So good luck!
  19. When traveling with a baby or toddler, diaper is a must have. But what if you run out of it?

Make sure you have enough with you. Finding a diaper in Japan is a headache! Been to supermarket, convenience store and drug store in the city center. We finally found it in drug store in Tokyo but it’s like 20 mins from the central station Shinjuku. Too far!

I think that’s all I have in mind right now. Hope it helps you to plan your trip to Japan.

Na’

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