Thursday, July 11, 2013

Maldives - Last but certainly not least

I have worked for the same company going on ten years in September, seven of those in the US. I have traveled a bit for work in the US and use my corporate Amex which accrues points. I'm not always a good points spender but this was well worth 2/3 of my points :).  

I did a four day cruise in the Maldives with the Four Seasons last August and it was a complete splurge on myself. This time around, I was trying to get home from Turkey, thought I could stop in Singapore on the way back and what is between Singapore and Turkey? The Maldives. Well, sort of. :) Plus, my friend Stephanie (living in Singapore) hadn't been before and wanted to go. My miles covered my flights and hotel. Add in Stephanie's super status at the hotel and we got champagne, free breakfast and free happy hour each day. Don't worry, we still managed to spend a lot but it was soooo nice :). 

Our villa had an outdoor shower and giant tub/jacuzzi that looked like its own gazebo. The room was glassed in but with a remote for blinds. You could see from the shower through the room out to our patio. The patio had its own set of lounge chairs and them a small s-curve path to our private beach area with two more chairs and an umbrella. So crazy. We started our first afternoon there, swimming in the water. Then headed to happy hour. We did some snorkeling around the island reef as well as a day trip. We did the paddle boat between the two islands and swam in the pool in the ocean. Good fun!

Here are some pics:
The main island that is uber Muslim conservative. Not much to see/do here. 

The Conrad islands

Super cute idea of a coconut on a stick to wash your feet of sand. They had these all over but mainly at entrances. 

Shower and tub

Patio and beach

Room with outdoor bathroom across the way. 

Free breakfast (we snuck food out to hold us through lunch and until dinner because meals were so expensive)

Fish at the house reef

Swimming in the pool that's in the ocean. Awesome. 

Stephanie's having fun in her tube also!

My fat butt almost bit it here. 

Paddle boat fun

Snorkel excursion!!

Good to go

We saw lots of turtles but this may be my best shot. 

Swimming with the turtles.

Finding Nemo (that's our guide)

A friendly shark ;)

Big trigger fish

...and that's all folks!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cruisin' the Med

After my heavy duty sightseeing, I decided to relax on a three day gullet cruise along the south western coast of Turkey. I started in Marmaris and ended in Fethiye. A gullet is an older looking sailboat type thing:

There was a captain, cook, crewman and a boy along with 14 guests. There was another solo German lady (but I actually think she was bunking up with the captain), me, two girls who just finished university exams in England, an older Danish couple, middle aged Australian couple, two middle aged Turkish couples from Istanbul (one spoke English) and a retired couple from New Zealand (the man was from Seattle originally but has been in NZ the last 30 years and is now a NZ citizen). So we were a mixed bunch but greatly enjoyed each other's company. 

The sails never actually came out and we motored everywhere. The weather was perfect! Warm with a cool breeze and slightly cold water. The water was cold to me as I'm use to the warm, bathwater-like waters of Bali, Thailand and the Maldives. Yes I know, I have no right to complain about anything :). The water was really blue and clear but not a whole lot of fish to see. We sailed, ate, swam and read. The Danes did teach us a new card game, Plump. I quite enjoyed it. I also got a great restaurant recommendation from one of the guys from Istanbul. I had two days back in town before I flew out. It was amazing :)! 

The cook on the boat was good too. I've never eaten so much eggplant (aka aubergine) in my life. I think he worked it into every meal and I enjoyed it. He was selling some rugs his mom made and so I got one for about $40. I haven't figured out where to put it at home yet though. 

It was good fun and a nice restful three days. And that sums up my time in Turkey.  Here are some pics from the cruise. 
At the bus station waiting to leave for Marmaris.

We stopped at a beach for an hour or so one day. So nice. This side was a rock beach but the pebbles were so soft and smooth. I brought home a few of those as souvenirs too. 

The crewman who shuttled us off the boat. There were lots of gullets docked wherever we went but it never felt crowded and I was surprised to not see any pollution from the tourists. 

We hiked on one island to see some church remains from before the twelfth century. This corridor is from the eighth century. Some of the others were from the fifth century. There were like 8 churches on this one little island. 

Hello :)

My cabin

Remains of a church

Beautiful views 


Lunch or dinner

You can see the rocks here. We think this use to be a building or village or something and then the water level rose. Up towards the shore, you could see piping that was similar to the irrigation or sewer pipelines we had seen in Ephesus. It was really interesting. 


Friday, June 21, 2013

Turkey - who knew it was in the bible!?!

Usually I plan my own travel, do research, set the itinerary and make the bookings. For Turkey, I did not have the time to do that so instead I found a US lady who's been living in Istanbul and has her own travel agency. Through email and some wire transfers she got me a plan and arrangements made. However since I didn't do the work, I didn't have an appreciation for what was on the schedule. It was not a bus tour, but a collection of different standard day tours with some free time in Istanbul at the end. Other than my lack of knowledge on the historical significance, it worked really great! If you're headed to Turkey, feel free to reach out to Rina ( 

My first trip out from Istanbul was to Selcuk (pronounced sell-chuck) and a couple American girls from my flight bummed a ride with me and my pre-booked driver. It worked out well because one talked to the driver the whole time (I generally don't like small talk with drivers) and it was a huge mini bus that would have been rather empty without their company. 

From Selcuk, I did a day tour to Ephesus the next day. It was only once I was on the bus with the tour guide and he mentioned something about the book of Ephesians that I realized we were going to the city of the Ephesians, Ephesus. Duh me!?!

It was a city of ruins. It was on the water and a harbor city. But now due to different plans by Mother Nature, the water is a long way off (3 miles or kilometers). The most amazing sight was the facade of the library. It is something like 75-80% original pieces rather than being restored. Pretty amazing. 

We also visited Mary's House which is where it is believed she lived after Jesus's death and was brought here by John I think. As I entered, a group of tourists from somewhere (not sure where) were singing a hymn of some sort. It was very moving. 

I met an American who has been transplanted to Australia for the last five years and her Australian friend on the tour. We did dinner that night and were also signed up for the tour to Pamukale the next day. Pamukale was a historic site of city ruins as well, but they have some mineral springs there which makes it more of an attraction. There is calcium in the water that turns the rocks it flows down into these white snow covered looking hills. The hills have also formed into different levels of pools. It was really fun although it was a quick visit. I didn't get much more of the history that sunk in :). 

Pics from the tours:

Statue of Mary 

Mary's small home 

Wall of prayers (although I heard someone call the wishes, but I left a prayer)

In high tourist season, this road down to the library is packed with people. Good timing for me. Ruins are often hard to appreciate in pictures. This is the walk through town. 

Our guide explaining how a wheel symbol that we saw in lots of the marble was a way Christians could subtly add their mark but not get into trouble. The Greek letters representing different things are all captured in the wheel. 

Can't remember now what this was, but was one of the ones more in tact. 

View from atop the theatre. The road you see in the distance was the harbor road that ended at the water, which now ends at land. 

Closer pic of the library


They didn't use marble here, so the ruins were more sparse. 

Water starts here

Great views of he country side. I was told Turkey is pretty self sufficient when it comes to agriculture. We saw orchards next to corn fields next to cotton fields :). 

The pools were pretty cool looking and the water temp quite refreshing without being freezing. 

There is one spot where tourists can walk down through the pools. I had to exit the gate at the end of this to go catch the bus, so I had to take all my belongings on the way. 

What the town looked like way back when. 

Moosejaw is where I got my big green backpack (70L) for this month long trip. 

The walk down. Wish I would have stayed a night here and been able to spend more time. It was a 3 hour drive from Selcuk.