Tea growing near Pu Mat National Park at Con Cuong, Vietnam.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Con Cuong (Pu Mat National Park), Vietnam.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Ninh Binh, Vietnam.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Busy day touring Istanbul

We had made arrangements to meet up with Lauren, one of the girls who we will be touring Turkmenistan with. She was staying on the opposite side of the Bosphorus Straight, so Ruth and I hopped on the ferry at about 9:30am to do the 20 minute ride to the other side.

Much better weather today, with a high around 19C (66F).

The ferries are almost all part of the Istanbul public transit system, and typically cost around 22 lira ($1.10 CAD, $0.80 USD) per trip.

Nice day, so we sat outside on the top deck.

Old city skyline.

Big mosque!

The Hagia Sophia Mosque.

There were three cruise ships in port.

The new city skyline.

The Bosphorus Bridge connects Europe to Asia over the Bosphorus Straight.
It was completed in 1973.

Cruise ships in town.

We met Lauren right on time and decided to take another ferry that goes up the river. Because the ferries are so cheap, it's easy to make use of them just as a tour boat. It didn't leave until 10:45am so we had a few minutes to wander around.

Lauren is a New York City girl who is in her early 40's and has been to around 75 countries. Of course there was lots of travel talk going on, including about our trip to Turkmenistan.

Fish market.

Scenery along the way.

Zoomed in a bit.

The tram and pedestrian bridge.

The Bulgarian Church.

We decided to get off the ferry at Balat and walk back down to the Bulgarian Church...

Tough to fit it all in, but the extra wide angle setting on the new phone worked great!

The interior was pretty fancy.

We even had access to the balcony.

The Bulgarian Church.

This restaurant had a nice entranceway.

Someone had decorated this derelict building.

Some kind of odd Ronald McDonald likeness in the window.

It was late morning, but we were hungry and Ruth was meeting Cheryl for a hamam spa experience at 2:00pm, so we decided on a lunch restaurant that was still serving a full Turkish breakfast at that hour.

We chose the "breakfast for two", but split it between the three of us.

We sat down, and Ruth noticed a paw poking out from under the tablecloth on the table next to us. 
She lifted it up, and this friendly feline appeared.

Breakfast starters.

Our feline friend was getting pretty bold!

They kept bringing more and more little platters of food.

Ruth and Lauren

Scenery along the way.

Scenery along the way.

We walked back over a bridge that gave a nice view of the bust ferry traffic going all different ways!

Typical Istanbul.

Park on the other side.

This scene looked a little out of place!

We met up with our friend Cheryl, and the four of us walked together to the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam, a fairly high end spa where Ruth and Cheryl had a 2:00pm appointment.

This is where we parted ways. Ruth and Cheryl went to the spa, and Lauren and I went off to do some more exploring.

Ruth has written out her own description of what went on at the hamam...

Cheryl and I arrived at the hamam and were quickly seated and given a small refreshing glass of juice. We were then given a towel and a key to a locker is a small private changeroom. You undress down to a bikini swimsuit bottom and then cover up with a the towel wrapped around you before heading back down to the main lounge area where they lead you into the hamam/bath area. Once there they pour fairly warm to hot water over you several times and lead you to a big raised marble platform where you lie down on the warm marble and relax for ten minutes or so. It sort of felt like a sauna in a way but not as hot. There are two taps and basins surrounding every side of the six sides the large marble platform with a walkway in between. There you are seated on a warm marble seat beside a basin and more water is poured over you and then they take a exfoliating mitt and rub it fairly vigorously over the majority of your body. I honestly didn't expect to see so much dead skin coming off of me but it did, this part of the whole experience was probably the least pleasant, it felt rough but not unbearably rough! You are then doused with lots of warm to hot water again. 

Next was a pretty neat thing, they take a medium sized cloth bag that has been sitting in soapy water and open the bag up so that it is full of air then wrap it shut and squeeze the air out over you which creates piles of bubbles, they do this several times so you are literally covered in soapy bubbles then as you sit there they start to massage you, starting with your back as you lean forward then on to your face and head, arms, hands, the front of your body down to your legs and feet. Once you have been totally rubbed down they take a softer mitt and wash you down and give your hair a shampoo and then rinse you off with warm to hot water once again. From there they wrap you up in a towel and take you to another room, where you are dried off and your hair is wrapped up and another fresh towel is wrapped around you and they lead you out into the main lounge area where you can relax if you like with a tea or other refreshing drink. Cheryl and I chose to have a nice hot apple cinnamon tea and just chilled out for twenty minutes or so before going up to change. They also supply a hair dryer and a few other amenities if you need them. 

Overall it was a great experience, I came out feeling very refreshed and my skin feeling super soft. It was wonderful to have done this with our friend Cheryl, as she was great company and was able to walk me through the process, although one of the women there did explain how it all worked for any newcomers. Thank you very much to Kevin's mom as she gave us some birthday and Christmas money to spend and we like to use this money to pay for things that we might not normally do.

Cheryl and Ruth outside the ancient hamam, built in 1580.

The roof of the hamam.

While Ruth and Cheryl were busy, Lauren and I went looking for a protective case for my new phone. The phone is only sold retail in Europe and Asia, but apparently not where Europe and Asia meet! So that will have to wait until we get to Thailand.

Then we sat an outdoor cafe and watched the world go by for  a while.

Typical umbrella street.

There are a lot of mosques in Istanbul!

I had a very expensive can of ginger ale. It was also very good!

I said goodbye to Lauren and she was making her way to the airport because she had booked an earlier flight to Ashgabat. We will see her again tomorrow afternoon when we arrive there.

I went and met up with Cheryl and Ruth, and we made our way back on the ferry to her apartment.

Cheryl has a scooter, so she rode home while Ruth and I walked.

Yes, Ruth is an angel!

We offered to take Cheryl out for dinner, but it was her choice and she took us to a place that does a variety of dishes that we shared.

We chose six different "appetizers".

There was lots of food for us all, plus they brought a plate of shrimps and calamari as well.

Ruth, Cheryl, and her dog Gus.

A busy day!

And tomorrow will be busy as well! We get up at like 4:30am to walk to the airport bus stop to get the shuttle to the airport. Then (hopefully!) we get on our 9:20am flight to Ashgabat where we will be met by our driver to take us to the hotel where we will meet Lauren again. The rest of the group arrives early morning the next day.

This may be the last time you hear from us for a while. Turkmenistan internet access is known to be poor at the best of times, and many social media sites are blocked. We've heard that gmail works okay, so we'll be able to update family, but have no idea if we'll be able to update this blog or not.

Nice deal on this Portable Laptop Monitor.

And in Canada...


  1. Prayers for safe travels and traveling mercies and a great new experience.

    1. Thank you Jenlee, everything for our trip to Turkmenistan went exactly as planned, we had a great adventure there. :-)

  2. The pictures are beautiful. It is a place I would love to explore. Wishing you both safe travels. Look forward to hearing more about your next experience.

    1. Thank you! Istanbul is an amazing city, full of history, beautiful old buildings with lots of architecture. Our one day there wasn't enough time even having spent several days there back in April 2022. We hope to go back again and spend some more time there, there is a lot to see in Istanbul.

      Kevin has already been posting about our trip to Turkmenistan, we had a great visit there.

  3. Fascinating place. Not sure I would like the bath experience. I did a public bath in Japan and felt so modest. The Japanese ladies were much less worried about being nude together with strangers than I was; just a cultural difference, I suppose.. Still, an interesting life experience for sure!

    Wishing you safe travels and hope it's not too long before you can check in. BTW, I noticed that in all the US news reports, they still spell Turkiye, "Turkey". Wonder if they will ever change?

    1. Istanbul is definitely a fantastic city to visit, there is a lot to see and a lot of things going on there.

      Yes, it is definitely a culture thing, I felt a little uncomfortable at first to, although we did wear bikini bottoms so we weren't totally nude but it is odd having someone give you a bath and massage with all these other women around but we were all in the same boat! It was definitely an interesting experience and I am glad that I did it.

      Thank you, everything for our trip to Turkmenistan went totally as planned and we really enjoyed our time there and the group of people we were with were a lot of fun and made the trip extra special.

      Turkiye offically changed the spelling of it's name back in January 2022 , I believe but I expect most people don't pay attention to this and will continue to spell it the old way. One of the reasons for the change was to make it easier to google it, normally if you just google Turkey, you get a lot of hits for the bird rather than the country itself.


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