It’s that time of the year for our family holiday. After much consideration, we decided to go to Istanbul. I have always wanted to visit the ancient city, and Aliaa was very keen to explore it with me.

We booked Turkish Airlines as it was a direct flight, despite the price being a bit higher compared to Qatar or Etihad.

  • Airline: Turkish Airlines
  • Flight: TK061
  • Depart Date: 25 Nov 2017
  • Depart Time: 11:55PM
  • Arrival Time: 6:20AM
  • Price: RM4,491 (Adult), RM3,673 (Child)

Our TK061 flight had some issues and it was delayed for 2 hours. We had to stay inside the plane while they did the fixes. Apart from the delay, I find the overall flight to be satisfactory. The food was good. And the flight attendant even gave my daughter some toys to play with.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Istanbul Atatürk Airport looks decent. The immigration officers didn’t look very friendly and took their own time in processing each passenger. As we exited the baggage reclaim area, we saw our names being displayed at the arrival area. Our airport transfer guy was there, along with the portable wifi device guy.

Wifi rental in Istanbul
Wifi rental in Istanbul

I rented the portable wifi device from All Day Wifi. It was USD52 for 7 days. Given that I made the booking just 3 days prior, I am impressed that they were able to accept the booking.

Our airport transfer provided by the hotel was a comfortable mini-van. The journey from the airport to the hotel took about 30 minutes. Well, it was a Sunday morning hence traffic was smooth.

Sirkeci Mansion Hotel
Sirkeci Mansion Hotel

Our hotel in Istanbul is the Sirkeci Mansion Hotel. The total booking for 6 nights was EUR445.50 (RM2,180). The hotel reception staff were really friendly. He showed us 2 rooms for us to choose from, and later gave us an explanation of the hotel services.

Breakfast at Sirkeci
Breakfast at Sirkeci

After checking in, we had breakfast at the hotel. They had a decent spread. A mix of Turkish food and some western selection.

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia

In the afternoon, we went out to explore the nearby areas. It was a short walk to Hagia Sophia. The view was stunning. I didn’t realise it was just opposite the Blue Mosque! The Hagia Sophia was completed in 537CE and served as a church until 1453CE. After conquering Constantinople in 1453CE, the Ottomans converted it onto a mosque. In 1935CE it was made into a museum.

Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque

From Hagia Sophia, we walked to Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque. The mosque was built in 1616CE by Sultan Ahmet 1 to reassert Ottoman power after being defeated in the Ottoman–Safavid War with Persia.

Inside the Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque

It was Zohor prayers time and I decided to join the congregation. It’s interesting to see how they take wudhu (purification process prior to prayers) in the cold weather!

Sultanahmet Sosyal Tesisleri Restaurant
Sultanahmet Sosyal Tesisleri Restaurant

We had lunch at Sultanahmet Sosyal Tesisleri Restaurant. The restaurant, despite looking like a typical touristy place, served excellent food! We had a nice view of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia from the restaurant.

Sultan Ahmet Square
Sultan Ahmet Square

After lunch, my daughter Sofia went chasing cats at the Sultan Ahmet Square, also popularly known as the hippodrome area. The stray cats in Istanbul are surprisingly chubby with nice fur. The square was the site of a hippodrome, a massive sporting arena, during Byzantine era. What remains of the hippodrome are now the obelisks and minor ruins.

Basilica Cistern
Basilica Cistern

As we were walking back to the hotel, we noticed the queue to the Basilica Cistern was rather short. We immediately joined the queue and visited the cistern. Built in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian, the cistern was recently made famous by Dan Brown’s book Inferno.

Old Ottoman Restaurant
Old Ottoman Restaurant

In the evening, we had dinner at Old Ottoman Cafe & Restaurant. It was rated highly on Trip Advisor (8th out of 11,500 restaurants in Istanbul!). The staff were really friendly the food good as advertised.