Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Istanbul on the Asian Side

Monday, November 16, 2009

Istanbul on the Asian Side

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My trip is coming to a close which is fine by me. I wish I had stayed in Thailand a little longer, I knew I would feel this way but my financial situation simply would not allow for it. I arrived very early on Thursday morning in Istanbul. My cousin picked me up from the airport and I ended up at their apartment around 5am. We stayed up for a while and chatted and then went to bed. I woke up around 11a.m. had some breakfast and then went across the street to her hair dresser to get my hair done. I absolutely love getting my hair done in Turkey.

Since all the hair dressers are men, I always joke that the hair dressers look like Saddam Hussein. They smoke cigarettes while doing your hair (well, not anymore, there is now a smoking ban in Istanbul). A young apprentice, about 14 years old, will assist them throughout the process, holding the blow dryer as they blow out your hair. Everyone in the salon is male and straight, you will very rarely see a woman working in a salon in Turkey. For some reason, it is a man’s job. And, your hair comes out looking INCREDIBLE. I had all over color done, washed and then highlights put in all over my head, cut, color and blow dry. The highlights are so incredibly subtle that it looks like my natural hair.

After that not much has happened. My cousin, her daughter and mother sleep until at least noon and then spend the rest of the day sitting around. At 3 or 4pm they will get up and do something. On day 2, Friday, I had some appointments at hotels, the Four Season's Bosphorus and The W Hotel. My cousin took me to those appointments (against my will) and later we picked up her mom and daughter and went to Istinye Park (an amazing, luxury mall).

Four Seasons Bosphorus
Pool at Four Seasons, Istanbul

W Hotel Istanbul
w hotel, istanbul

Istinye Park
Istinye Park, Istanbul

Later that night, we drove to Ajia Hotel and had a late night sight visit. It worked out quite well, the traffic had died down and it only took us a short time to get to the hotel. The hotel is located so incredibly far that with traffic, and Istanbul traffic is horrendous, it would take up to three hours to drive to the hotel. Though we arrived late, the young man at the front desk gave us a tour of the hotel showing us multiple rooms and suites. He put together a press kit for me and gave me the email address of the PR Director of the hotel.

The next day was a total waste. We did nothing all day long (this KILLS ME because when I travel, I like to out of the house for a minimum of 12 to 13 hours so I can see everything). Around 4pm, we left the house and went to Beyoglu area to see the movie 2012. I really wanted to see a Turkish movie theater and my cousin took me to an old style theater. The movie theater looked (and probably was) an old theater, you purchase tickets with assigned seats. There is an intermission (which shocked me) and during intermission, a popcorn vendor walks the aisles and sells popcorn and soda. The funny part about the intermission was that it is completely abrupt. At one moment, it could be mid-sentence, the movie simply shuts off and the house lights go on. I was shocked.

Later that same night, I met my friend Ayla, who works for Reuters in Istanbul, her husband Simon and some of her friends for dinner in Beyoglu. That was a fun night, two journalists, a musician, a news caster, a woman who works for the British consulate and me. A few of us ended up going to a secondary location for a beer after and that was nice too. I met the leader of the gay and lesbian movement in Istanbul, he runs an online newspaper for the Gay & Lesbian community in Istanbul. I found that to be pretty interesting since homosexuality is frowned upon in Turkey (even though their biggest music superstar, Bulent Ersoy, had a sex change operation years ago).

On Sunday, once again, we woke up late and left the house very late. This time, headed to the Asian side of Istanbul (which I prefer) we went to visit my other aunt. This aunt lives six months in Florida and six months in Istanbul. I prefer the Asian side because I feel it is more civilized. The Asian side is far less crowded and people are little more modern. You also will not see as many women in “sheets” (as they say in Istanbul, they call Burka’s sheets). The religious people tend to live on the far more crowded European side of Istanbul.

Today, as I write this, it is Monday and I am doing my best to get some work done. I am at Mado, a popular Turkish cafĂ© (which is awesome, btw) but their internet connection is failing. I am about to cross the street and head to Starbucks. Starbucks are plentiful here, not quite as much as home, but there are two within close walking distance from my aunt’s condo.

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