I like to think of myself as a city girl. I like the buzz of big cities, the bright lights, the throngs of people, the twinkling skyline. I like riding the underground, the subway, the metro (basically I am a massive train geek). Tokyo, Seoul, London, Hanoi…I love these kinds of hectic, frenetic places. Places where if you blink, you might miss something.
So what on earth could possess me to up sticks and go to live in a fairly remote Turkish village that is famous for…well…basically being a ghost town? Where the walk to the village takes at least 25 minutes and where I’d really need to yell for our nearest neighbour to even have a chance of hearing us?
Whilst Zambia is a land of stunning natural beauty, wonderful people and amazing wildlife, it is not a place where utilities can be considered what you might call ‘reliable’. Both water and electricity were capricious beasts during our stay in Zambia. Pretty much coming on and going off as they pleased and with very little in the way of predictability. The water especially was a pain in the rectum.
What does this have to do with my hair or ruining photographs? Well…
What do you get if you cross the best bits of a gingerbread man, a shortcake biscuit, a fruitcake and a scone?
Well, if you’re me, the answer is a massive crumb based mess. If however, you happen to be a Turkish baker and not cursed with the all the baking acumen of the guy in Pudding Lane who started The Great Fire of London (my skills in this regard are more ‘burnt off’ than ‘Bake Off’) then what you get is a small lump of otherworldly deliciousness known as a kurabiye.
Before I get any haters commenting on the fact that I am lucky to be able to travel at all, or that my passport makes it so easy to travel: I am well aware of the privileges that have been bestowed upon me by an accident of birth. I am a British citizen and I hold a British passport. It is maroon and says the words ‘European Union’ on it. (I’ll be keeping it looking that way until I have to renew it and sadly by then ‘The Saj’ will have made it blue and taken those words off it to show that Brexit means Brexit. Or breakfast.)
Let’s face it, Hanoi isn’t a city where you are going to find yourself short of things to do. There’s spectacular temples and churches, water puppet shows, prison tours, Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, a plethora of coffee shops where you can just sit and watch the world go by (and there is plenty happening on the streets of Hanoi to keep you entertained) and, a wide range of museums covering everything from fine arts to ethnology.
But on this trip we fancied doing something different. We wanted to experience the Hanoi of old. The Hanoi that was hinted at in the broad tree lined streets, elegant colonial architecture and in the crepes and delicious pastries served in many cafes.
Enter the Hanoi Zoological Museum.
If this seems to be an impossible conundrum, fear not: in the last year and a half of long term travel (but thankfully sans elephant pants and dreadlocks) I’ve found a variety of ways to exercise on the road. If you are a frequent traveler or living the nomadic lifestyle like us and want to up your exercise game, read on!
Adventurers from all over the globe often come to visit Mulu for something else: lying beneath the dense jungle is a honeycomb of underground caverns and rivers that make up one of the most extensive limestone cave systems in the world. Some of Mulu’s caves are even world record breakers: Deer Cave has the world’s second largest cave passage, whilst the Clearwater Cave System at Mulu is the eighth longest cave in the world. And if you still remain unimpressed, the Sarawak Chamber is the world’s largest natural chamber capable of holding 40 Boeing 747s wingtip to wingtip. Whoa.
As much as Instagram would love you to believe, travel isn’t all about beautiful girls looking off into the middle distance on a swing over the ocean. Sometimes travel is about feeling like you are never going to stop vomiting, until you resemble the dried up husk of the person you once were or worrying you might actually shit yourself to death. Or both. Lovely, I know. But this is #realtalk.
Eggs and Vincent don’t go together. Anyone who knows him will know that he ‘isn’t a fan’ of the humble egg. In cakes, it’s fine. He can just about tolerate it in a fried rice or a Pad Thai, but he would prefer that it wasn’t in there in the first place. But an egg on its own? An omelette? Fried egg? Poached eggs? Egg and toast soldiers? No sereee, he would rather just pass, thank you very much. You can keep what came out of a chicken’s bum. He will just have something else.
We are back in Turkey for the first three months of 2019 and although we are staying in the South Western region, in the ghost town of Kaya Koy, it got me thinking about what I love most about this country. And I started thinking particularly about Istanbul - my favourite city in the world.
Istanbul is a city with good food, amazing architecture, a rich history, a myriad of cultures, huge shopping bazaars, beautiful parks and a plethora of fantastic cafes and restaurants. There’s so much to see and do, you could easily spend a week or two here. But if you are short on time, here are a few of my favourite things to do in Istanbul.