Sunday, September 4, 2011

East of Omaha

Right. This post comes after a whirlwind few months on the road. It all started with Memorial day long weekend (05/31) when I made the trip to the west. (Los Angeles/Las Vegas/AZ) This was followed by several trips to meet friends on the Jersey Shores. This was the first time I was in that area. Had a lot of fun on the beaches, just floating around in the Atlantic is a lot of fun. And excellent seafood fare later of course. Then came the epic trip, Istanbul, Mumbai, Pattaya and Bangkok.

Flew into Istanbul via London-Heathrow. Heathrow is by far one of the worst I have been at so far. The ST bus stand at Dadar/Panvel is better. Also on the flight from London to Istanbul the meal options were interesting, so you get a choice of veg/non-veg. I took the non-veg of course which was prime beef and the veg option was chicken. :) Thankfully noone on the flight threw a fit since it was just for 4 hrs anyway.
Once I landed at Istanbul, made my way over to Immigration n got my visa paperwork sorted thru. Noticed that Canadians have to shell out 60 TRY(Turkish Lira) as compared to the rest who shell out 30-40TRY. Apparently the canadians raised the visa fee for the turks and they followed suit. Next dumped my stuff in the cloakroom and took a cab into Sultanahmet (The main district/downtown) with a backpack.  Checked into the hostel and started roaming the district. Over the next few days covered all the usual suspects, Topaku Palace, Aya sofya, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, now that was the touristy stuff, won't get into much details there is a ton has already been written about these.

Now this is the middle east, one of the more politically unstable regions in the world today and usually in the evenings when I came back from my wanderings I met a lot of interesting ppl in the hostel area like South Africans who were mercenaries, ex-special forces dudes from Mogadishu (remember Black Hawk down, I met a guy from there who was half cyborg due to the amount of plastic n titanium holding him together.), Afghani and Syrian refugees, German Lufthansa pilots, Irish drunks :), Egyptian merchants, Macau gamblers, pretty much ppl from everywhere who didn't want to do anything with the EU, since its expensive n also pretty strict. A ton of conversations around the situation in the middle east and how turkey is becoming the china of that region and North Cyprus being the North Korea, how the Syrians n Egyptians see their govt's turning out, the turmoil in Greece and Gaddafi's rule over Libya, lots of world history n politics basically over some fine Turkish coffee and hookah. These conversations  usually ended up going late into the night and once found myself sipping Raki n Vodka over the banks of the Bosporus with some Germans, Scandinavians, Afghans and Turks. All I can say is am hooked to Raki now and don't miss a chance to down some.

A week flew-by in Istanbul and I hardly saw any desis. Reasoning being, there is no shortage of mosques n minarets in India, also this is the middle east we are talking about, its the friggin' desert here, nothing grows in these areas except palm trees and cacti, thus veggies are in short supply and most of them have to be imported, hence the staple diet consists of kebab n more kebab. Its not like you can't get veggie fare, its just that its extremely limited even more than the US and also if you do find some chances are you will pay thru your nose for it. The few desis that I did see were folks like myself who were already residing outside India.

Over that week made a ton of friends in Istanbul and just walked around Sultanahmet a lot. Would I go back myself to Istanbul, YES for sure. Would I go there once I had a family, ummm...probably not.

This post was typed up a while back and was in draft until now. Hence the delay.