Relax, it feels safe in Istanbul!

Due to unexpected and surprising, but pleasant ways of life, I found myself in Istanbul in a period when everybody is avoiding approaching Turkey. Here I am for 3 weeks, right after some bombings, attacks and other scary events and believe it or not I find it safe and exciting. Well, the more than one hour waiting time in the line ( what line? ) , sorry, I meant chaotic crowd, at the arrival wasn’t very exciting at the airport, especially felling your comfort zone being invaded from every possible side. Skipping that part and ignoring the usual issue of this city: crazy, really crazy traffic – Istanbul has a great vibe!
Taksim square at any time of the day or night remains the central point of entertainment.

  
  
Obviously if I made my way until Taksim square I wasn’t going to miss taking the funicular along Istiklal avenue.

  

Istiklal avenue had everything that I could wish for: shops, restaurants, beauty salons, bars and a few really good cafes. 

Turkish people are good at many things, but what I certainly appreciate the most is their skill of preparing really delicious sweets . Sometimes delicious is not enough for them and then they make it also impressive. How? For instance with this enormous tower of sugar, honey and others they managed to attract quite a few customers, at least until the window to take a photo.

  The big variety of baklava certainly distracts, but it does worth giving a chance also for the local cuisine, which never dissapoints either . 

  
  

With full stomach of Turkish food and delights I’m feeling pumped to make the most of my free days in this awesome city full of varieties. Not that much interested in the touristy spots, but at least from outside it does worth checking out the Blue Mosque and the Galata tower. 

  
  

 Some other worth seeing spots are around the two above mentioned ones and with the small number of tourists in no time I checked them out too. 

  
   

  

  

While sipping a refreshing home made lemonade at a nearly empty terrace near the Blue Mosque , the waiter tells me how on a regular Sunday like this I wouldn’t be able to find a table. Now it’s different though…The number of visitors dropped so much that the staff are bored during the working hours…On the other hand the degrees didn’t drop at all, instead kept increasing, so actually I’m quite glad I have a spot with my lemonade.

  
 All energized I’m hitting the road, not too far I bump into the Basilica Cistern. 

  
   

In order to make it all complete a bazar must be included too . I head to the spice bazar at the suggestion of my just met American mate , not that much cause I want to buy any special spices, but more for the experience. We get to discover that the spice bazar is actually a kind of bazar of everything: soaps, towels, sweets, teas and of course spices too. 

  
   

 In case you didn’t know what a great advertising are Turkish sellers able to improvise , at a bazar you will certainly notice. “Everything is the best quality, the most intense and long lasting perfume, at the best price and just for you with a semnificative discount . If you have any doubts you can try it: have a bite of the baklava, a sip of the tea.” Still not convinced ? Maybe the names will make it easier. Lacking some love? At every stand you will find some love tea. Feeling weak today? Red bull tea for you. Having a boyfriend with issues? Hopefully one of these two will solve the problem! 

  
We didn’t purchase anything, but had heaps of fun! “Bazaring” it’s cool and Turkey, you rule!

  
  
  

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Trip to a Thai floating market 

   
As if the various markets going on all around the city were not enough, decided to check out a real special one. A market on the river.
After a two hours drive from Bangkok we reached this very touristy, but yet so authentic floating market, called Damnoen Saduak floating market.  

The bus drive there is way longer than spending time at the market itself, but it does worth the travel. More or less in an organized way – Thai standards – the tour guide directs us first of all to the long tail boat and in each boat board aprox 6 people. Off we go! Not more, maybe just less than 10 minutes of long tail boat ride and we had a sneak peak of the market. But that’s not all. 

   
   
Those people put out all their products to be sold and they definitely know to advertise them. In order to have a close look and literally float between “boat boutiques” we take this time a regular boat that a strong Thai gentleman is rowing around trying to avoid the boat traffic. 

  
That’s nearly impossible though, all the others trying to do the same thing. Boats everywhere, we are being pushed either from the right or from the left ,but also from front and back and our boat does the same thing to the others . Perfect location for socializing with people from the other boats. 

  
As soon as we get close to a boat full of souvenirs the seller quickly pulls the boat closer and the bargain starts. 

  
Seller: “1000 baht for 2 wooden elephants.”

Tourist: ” whaat? 400!”

Seller: ” 500″

Tourist: “350.”

Seller: ” ok”

And that’s how my friend, Jonas ended up buying his souvenirs for much much less than the initial price. Basically they accept any price you offer as long as you don’t give up on bargaining. When you give the impression that you are losing the interest they will accept your price instantly. 

The floating market is going on all day long, 7 days out of 7 and if you haven’t found what you’ve been looking for on the boats, there’s a chance to find it on the riverside. 

From clothes to souvenirs, the selection is vague. 

   
 You can easily empty your wallet, but fill your stomach. Food is present in several locations, great cooked meals or easy snacks and fruit salads, mango or coconut ice cream and my favorite of all: pancakes. 

   
 There is also an unusual attraction that I got the chance to meet from close and despite his scary behaviour , I enjoyed posing with the massive snake.

   
  
 Shopping, eating, snake cuddling, all possible at the floating market! Don’t forget sunscreen and hat, the sun is burning over there! But if you did forget, for sure you’ll find at the market! One rule: bargain rules!

Bangkok – a bit of a culture shock

I’m a first timer in the Thai capital and as expected, the adventure comes together with a bit of a cultural shock. Not as much the first evening , when I land and surprisingly the taxi driver doesn’t charge me double or triple fare. The boom is the next day, when I hit the road to explore this new city. What other way to feel the real lifestyle than riding a local bus? Now that’s gonna be a bit of an adventure!
  
What air condition, what ticket machine, what station announcement or punctuality? Not even rules, but still as chaotic as you could imagine the traffic – and frankly there’s quite a bit of a chaos – after a while I realize that I haven’t heard any honking or fights, that makes me think that those people must be having their order in the big disorder that I see.
  
However, the bus ride is endless, takes ages and people around me are sweating but with lots of patience and water you can survive it and it’s actually fun. Not many tourists opt for the local bus, so apparently I’m a bit of attraction for the locals, who give me shy smiles when getting on and off.  

I was curious to see a market that everybody has been talking about, but that didn’t impress me. Unless you are after cheap and not good quality products it’s a place to be, if you need good stuff better you go to a shopping mall I guess. In any case, checking out a market it’s one of the top things to do in Bangkok. The variety is huge: night market, day market, weekend market, food market and the list could continue. 

   
 Bangkok wouldn’t be Bangkok without the famous tuk tuks and their as well known drivers, who’s voice keeps following you everywhere : ” tuk tuk, tuk tuk”. 

   
 They all try to attract you to their tuk tuk and so kindly offer you the magnificent best price, which at first will be at least the double of the normal fare. Bargaining has never been my thing but I quickly improved my skills in such environment and proudly rode the tuk tuk around the city. 

  
The cheapest way to get around is still the taxi – cause riding the local bus is enough once – and it has air condition! 

As European ( and probably every other nation than Asian ) getting a lot of attention, compliments and smiles from all around becomes usual after a while when you just ignore it automatically because otherwise it’s just way too much to handle. Maybe it’s because it’s Valentine’s Day and you are solo in a park?! I don’t know…, but I don’t think I remember any other day of my life feeling so admired. Hilarious! 

   
 Also, you wouldn’t expect Asians celebrating love in such an intense way! I spotted dozens of romantic pals driving their scooter towards their partner with flowers, gifts or heart shaped balloons in hands. Love is in the air in Bangkok!

From my side all the love goes to the food and the marvelous pancakes I got the chance to eat every single day in Bangkok and later on in several other places in Thailand. Simply delicious and insanely cheap ! Also the street food is safe to eat, just adviseable to have a look from where you buy it. I’ve seen a few places where I wouldn’t have eaten for sure. 

   
    
 
   
 That’s Bangkok: everything happens just a step away from the busy traffic, on the street they cook and serve your meal, exchange your money, make your pedicure and offer you a massage. 

   
 Khaosan road, Silam and Chinatown are great examples for that and definitely must see spots while in Bangkok. 

 
   
  

Singaporean layover – excellent choice

When you are on your way to the charming Aussie summer, escaping the cold European winter, along the way you may end up enjoying the Singaporean stop over. I can only recommend it!Singapore looks appealing already from the window of the landing airplane you’ve been staying in for many many hours.
   
   

Finally taking off the last piece of winter clothing you have on and starting your summer vacation in the middle of December is epic. Singapore is warm and humid already in the early hours of the day, but that’s just a good reason to directly jump in one of the most famous swimming pools in the world. Not only the water is refreshing, but also the view is a buzz that will lift your energy up.

   
   

I’m talking about the Infinity pool, located on the 57th floor of the luxurious Marina Bay Sands hotel, where a room per night starts at the ” modest” rate of $400 and can reach the stars. Theoretically only the guests of the hotel can benefit of the pool, in reality if you are lucky and know who to talk to, you can find your way to the big attraction completely costless. I can consider myself fortunate in this case, because I wasn’t willing to pay insane amounts for such a treatment, yet still I was spoiling myself at this cool spot just like that, free! 

   
   
After some chill time, ready to explore the city that from above looks so interesting and diverse.

Singapore won’t disappoint anyone that appreciates quality, safety and clean surroundings. I would call it the Switzerland of Asia. It is indeed clean, safe, public transport is good and people respectful. A lot of nature at every step and no need to travel long from a spot to another.

Marina Bay Gardens is absolutely impressive, with a huge variety of vegetation and a cute Christmassy atmosphere.
  
   
    
    
   
  
Whether it comes to shopping or eating , Singapore is a good place for both. You can find from very cheap to very expensive, but in both cases you will not be disappointed. Though some areas are super cheap for eating out, it’s very safe for your stomach, I’ve tried and licked all my ten fingers a few times. Asian food is amazing and hospitality is their number one quality!
In my 15 hours layover I truly felt at the end of the day that I did explore the city and felt like I’ve spent at least a few days. 
    
   
    
   
I arrived to Singapore tired after a long flight, left Singapore refreshed to continue with another long flight, but in between I had a big smile on my face and nothing else matters…

Porto – Portugal

Arriving to the second biggest city of Portugal was from the first moment a positive experience. I was welcomed by a very generous sunshine and an even more impressive Portuguese hospitality, together with honest smiles and kind words of the locals I met on the bus from the airport to the city center. Though English is only briefly or not at all spoken by the big majority, I found it extremely easy to get around using some Spanish and a lot of sign language. In Porto wine is impossible to avoid, not that I would want to do that, and once tried it’s hard to stop drinking it. A huge variety of local and regional wines are served for as less as 2 euros per glass. No wonder that in the company of my girls on the riverside we made unforgettable memories from the very first evening already.

  
Though it’s the second half of October, while the rest of Europe prepares the winter gear, Portugal still enjoys a short taste of summer: 14 degrees at 10 pm. The view is fabulous, wine is divine, food is great for those who are not too picky?!

   
 
Speaking of food…well…Franzesinha, or Franciska – as I liked to call it, look like this:

  
and tastes like… hmm… cheesy ! It’s an absolute local dish, luckily comes with some fries – in this way I didn’t leave the restaurant as hungry. However, for who likes a toast with meat covered with a lot of cheese, might be tasty. For me: no thanks ! On the other hand, batata de carne – potato with meat- serve me, please, warm is the best! 

  
Yes, it’s 1 euro, nothing fancy but simply delicious and good before and after a wine tasting event. Wine had an important role in my two days Porto adventure and I still think about it with pleasure. Quevedo Port Wine tasting event is just one of the many going on every day in the romantic city of Porto.

   
 
Wine is not the only delicatese you bump into though. We managed to find things that I didn’t except. Fancy some cannabis chocolate?

  
Or your love life needs some inspiration? 

  
I definitely declare this shop my favorite in Porto! 

  
I was distracted several times by the great wine and the variety of chocolates, but a visit at the local market brought me back to reality, thanks to the big bunch of garlic.

  
Porto has the positive vibe, the romantic atmosphere, a convenient climate, over decorated churches and very pretty sights.

   
    
    
  
It’s the city where all you need to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Even cats do that…