I read so many Turkish hammam horror stories online from other travel bloggers that my curiosity got sufficiently piqued: I just had to volunteer myself on the naked altar of the body scrub sacrifice for the greater good of this blog (I know, tough…) – a rather painful and awkward experience by many if not all accounts. Tales of buck-naked merciless scrubs in crowded rooms, with nude masseuses getting to second base with prude North Americans had me sort of worried as I stepped inside Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami in Istanbul, not really knowing if the tales were true. Thankfully, I quickly learned that the Turkish hammam experience can be a blissful, relaxing and absolutely beautiful one. Without further ado, here’s how I found myself naked as a jaybird with a bunch of other women from all over the world in the center of Istanbul.
I walked – nearly cycled right into, to be more precise – the Banker Han Hotel looking rather scruffy, dirty and disheveled (my usual self since converting to bicycle touring really!), half worried that I was going to get the “eye” for showing up all hobo-like in this very trendy new hotel in Istanbul. Instead of that, the staff came right outside to welcome me and it wasn’t ten seconds before I was handed a cup of tea and offered a seat at the reception with the staff who kindly asked about my travel. Some places are just so cool and hip and welcoming and perfect, and Banker Han by the Sofa is absolutely one of those gems.
2015 was a year of great changes for me: in the span of just a few short months, I lost a family member as well as my long-term relationship, amongst other things. Traveling became something that I both dreaded to do by myself and needed to do all at the same time, and I fortunately came to the simple realization that what I needed above all was to change how I traveled. So I swapped my backpack for a bicycle and everything suddenly clicked into place.
– Teşekkür Ederim, he says to me.
– … Techek ….huh? I reply with a foggy mind, having not slept for the greater part of the last two days as I commuted between Bangkok and Istanbul via Oslo.
– Just remember this: tea, sugar and a dream. Teşekkür Ederim. That’s “thank you” in Turkish.
And indeed that’s pretty much what I will remember of Istanbul. Cup after cup of “çay”, Turkish delight by the bucketful and a dreamy city filled with wonders (and people, lots and lots of them!) – a transcontinental city that is the confluence of East and West and a place I wished I’d had more than a week to visit. I kept busy exploring and admiring everything I could lay my eyes on during my short stay and wanted to share with you what I discovered.
Istanbul is a wonderful but hectic city and I arrived straight from Bangkok after a 40 hour commute, already frazzled by the pulse of the Big Mango. I was looking for a bit of a retreat on my first few days, a place where I could lay my head in peace while curing my jetlag. I found just that and much more at the beautiful Sumahan on the Water, a boutique hotel located on the greener, maybe less visited Anatolian side of the Bosphorus, the less harried and quieter Asian shore of Istanbul. It truly was the perfect introduction to this vibrant city.
Back with another video update! Some people have been telling me recently they enjoyed the way I didn’t sugarcoat anything, so I guess this one goes out to you my dear friends! Watch me lose my mojo just a little bit as I cut my bicycle tour short in order to arrive in Bangkok on time for some business. I’m also getting ready to leave South East Asia after nearly two years and not getting a whole lot of sleep in the process. I was mostly very tired, and potentially a little hormonal, hence the tears.
Bangkok is possibly the city I commuted through the most those past two years, yet I haven’t really talked about it here. I love Bangkok. And it was obvious from the first few times I went that it was a very vegan-friendly city – just search for the little red on yellow “jay” flag at the entrance of cafeteria-style Buddhist eateries. These are convenient and cheap and sometimes delicious, but their emphasis isn’t on health and great ingredients – most of the time you’ll find MSG-laden overcooked slop. What really started exciting me those past months however, as well as all the fantastic rooftop bars in Bangkok, is the sheer quantity of hip, health-minded and vegan friendly or even vegan-only eateries that offer a slightly more upscale dining experience and deliver an extensive and exciting range of cuisine putting forth quality organic ingredients and innovative cooking styles.
While budget travel is generally my daily reality, I still have an appreciation for well-designed spaces and beautiful interiors. I do come from a fine arts and design background, after all. So when I found myself in a position to review Maduzi Hotel in Bangkok, a wonderful hotel that combines finesse, elegance and excellent design, I jumped on the opportunity to experience one last taste of luxury on the tail end of a whirlwind two year South East Asian adventure and visit one of the best hotels in Bangkok. I thought I deserved it! Here is the lowdown on this little gem.
I’m sitting in the departure lounge with tears rolling down my face, staring blankly at my telephone screen, knowing he is also online, right there at the other end. Part of me would like a few last comforting words, but I can’t seem to think of anything to write that won’t make me look like the desperate mess that I am. What is there to say anyway? We’ve said hello and goodbye briefly a few weeks ago – and perhaps that was all a huge mistake – but this really should not be what the magic of the journey of self-discovery I have been on those past months amounts to, in the wake of a 20-month South East Asian whirlwind adventure. Yet, here I am, balling my eyes out and feeling like I’m back to square one.
Remember Myst, the 90s computer game set in a beautiful fantasy world where you could get lost in the different “ages” and discover all sorts of magical stuff for hours on end? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you that I have found the island of Myst: it is in Bangkok, Thailand, on the bank of the Chao Phraya River in what is dubbed “The Green Lungs of Bangkok”. Not only that, but it also has an enchanted tree house where I got to spend a few days – an eco-friendly project exquisitely crafted out of sustainable and reclaimed materials amidst the jungle, a mere seven or eight km away from the downtown core of Bangkok.