Ephesus and Pamukkale

Today, we headed out of Izmir by bus in the morning to check out Ephesus. After about an hour and a half, we arrived to the main bus station in Selcuk, to then change to a dolmush van to Ephesus. Just after about 10 minutes, we arrived at the gates and started our tour of the amazing ruins left at Ephesus.

While I’ve seen a lot of Roman ruins by this point, these were quite impressive. Amazingly built in 10th century BC, this is a remarkable remaining site of amazing architecture and buildings, this society impressed all people by its amazing structures, precision buildings, and amazing infrastructure.

It was a hot day, but we went through the entire city walking along the streets seeing the sewage system, Roman baths, the Library of Celsus, and all the administrative office type buildings. The layout is so amazing to see how they designed cities that were completely functional and similar to how we live today.

After a full day checking out the ruins, we got on our bus a little earlier to head to Pamukkale a little earlier so we could get settled. Arriving in Pamukkale was amazingly efficient despite having to change buses a few times. We were dropped off near the village center, and we walked around to find our hotel which was a little hard to find, but we finally found it. We checked in by seeing my name on a key at the front desk. So we got into our room and settled in and went out front to relax by the pool.

This little town was really cute, and as soon as we started walking, we saw the huge puffs of calcium clouds on the mountain towering over the village. It looks like the entrance into a snow ski resort with snow everywhere. We got a good dinner enjoying the weather and people watching at this backyard type venue. We had a lot of great food, and then walked around in the evening exploring this little village.

The next morning, we got up and got ready to go to the calcium pools for the day. We hiked up the mountain and at the point of where the calcium starts, you take off your shoes and walk through the waters up the hill. They are all terraced down the hill, and the water was coolish/warm, and supposedly has some medicinal qualities to it. We went in a few pools at the bottom, and continued our way to the top to enjoy the view looking down from the mountain.

Once at the top, we had fun watching all the Russians make the most ridiculous sexual poses in front of these calcium clouds which we’d been warned about before. It was absolutely hilarious to see all these selfies and poses happen.

At the top, we got another great view of the village below, and all the beautiful cool blue colored travines. At the top, an old pool still exists with fallen statues in the clear blue spring waters. It was expensive to get in, and completely flooded by the Russians, so we continued up to the ruins of the arena/stadium for yet another great view of the vast landscape below. Again, I was impressed by the scale at which these buildings and stadiums were built so long ago. It’s truly awe-inspiring.

We then took our time leaving the park by hitting up the calcium baths and doused ourselves in calcium sands like I did at the Dead Sea. It was funny to get muddied up and hopefully it works to heal whatever :)

We then got back into town and relaxed for the evening over a good meal and rested from the day.

The next morning, I headed out for Kusadasi and Robert was heading back to Istanbul to see the city before going back to Texas.



After a long bus ride to the city of Antalya, we walked around and explored after dropping off our bags at the bus terminal. We got the world’s slowest bus into the city center and walked around taking in some beautiful views that Anatlya had to offer. It’s right next to the water, and has huge mountains that make for a really incredible landscape. It was really hot, and walking around got tiring quickly. We found a nice place for lunch right on the water, and then continued walking around the various promenades, stopping for ice cream of course, and continuing on looking at all the shops. We then made our way back to the bus terminal to get our bags and headed for the airport.

Our flight was a little late and I was getting tired. It was  quick and easy flight however, so when we landed, we got put into our van to the hotel. The drive was long, because Cappadocia is quite out of the way.

The hotels here are all cave hotels, hotels made from the old caves that were living areas of civilizations passed. Our hotel was called Shoestring hotel, and was perched up on the hillside and luckily one of the first hotels to be let out.

We got into our room, and while we had to duck to get through the Flinstones style entry, the room was basic and comfortable for what we needed.

The next morning, we spent recouping from the long day yesterday and walked around the town. We found an excellent place for lunch, called my Mother’s cafe, and it was the best food I’d had in Turkey. I tried the clay pot of roasted lamb, and it was absolutely delicious. After our filling lunch, we walked around the area and saw shops selling everything souvenir like, as well as rugs. I liked one rug shop, and wanted to see if there was something good that I could find, but nothing spoke to me.

That night, we met up with a group from our Turkish trip which was great fun. It was one of their birtdays, and we celebrated it with a beautiful dinner in a great room. I had so much fun with everyone, it was a great time. We ended up staying there for hours.

We then turned in for the night as the next morning, we were going to be picked up at 5am for our hot air balloon journey over Cappadocia.

That next morning was EARLY. We got up around 4:45 awakened by knocking at the door. It was the driver telling us he was waiting. So much for the 5:15 pickup. What became very frustrating with our entire trip was anyone and everyone would tell us anything and everything of what we wanted to hear. Promises were made and just as quickly broken, prices not exactly as they say, and it was literally exhausting have to debate every last thing with everyone.

When we got into the van, everyone sitting there either was annoyed at having to had wait for us, or they were zombies from being awake so early. We were quickly driven out of the town into the fields just about 20 minutes away. Already, our balloon was being filled, but no one said anything to us. No introduction, no information about the balloon, nothing about safety etc.

As the balloon filled up, we were then told to get in the basket. I wanted to make sure I got a good spot and so I went ahead and got near the basket. They helped me in and I quickly found that the early bird does not get the worm. The basket is divided into quarters, and I was stuck in the middle–exactly the spot that I was told to avoid. You have a roof overhead, and you get only one vantage point. Luckily, as everyone filled the baskets, we were off and the couple in our basket was easy to maneuver around to take pictures from anywhere in that basket I wanted.

As we left Earth, I had no fear or anything. It was a really strange but secure feeling being lifted up to the skies. The wind swept us away and it was quiet and smooth with shots of flames firing to keep the hot air filled in the balloon. It really seems like such a rudimentary contraption being in a balloon filled with air. As we rose above the mars like landscape of colored wavy mountains, we got to our peak height of 6000 ft, and we were looking down at all the other balloons flying around. We saw the sun climb over the mountains behind and light up the land below inch by inch.

After about 45 minutes, we started to get lower and lower, and the precision of this guy driving was incredible. We came over this restaurant where workers for the company were sitting and we combed the tables by just inches. We then landed and had some fake champagne and got certificates for our flight. The landing was incredibly smooth and again, I was amazed at the precision and skill he had piloting the balloon.

We watched the balloon deflate and got back into the vans and were brought back to our hotel.  We then arranged for a driver for the rest of the day and went to the Underground City.

This was a little bit disappointing since we didn’t have a guide and everyone else was in groups of tours which made maneuvering throughout the caves a real struggle. Nothing was really labeled, so we wandered around crouching and tried to avoid claustrophobia from setting in. After going through the maze, we left and went to a pottery shop that offered me to try my hand quickly at making a pot. The work there was really beautiful, and we walked through looking at all the different designs of hand painted items. I even found the ‘hand made items’ that I’d seen all over Jordan, so who knows really where these are truly made, and who really paints them. It was sad to have another reminder that you cannot trust what anyone says especially in a gift shop.

After a long relaxing lunch near the water, we went by another stop on our way back to our hotel and hiked up to the top of this abandoned cave town to look out at the vistas above. It had been a long day, so we were ready to relax again at the hotel before our flight that night to Izmir.

Lycian Cruise

The next morning we had our breakfast and got packed up to go to the Alaturka office where an Australian named Rebecca had helped us earlier getting all our plans sorted for the next week. When we arrived, of course we were the first ones and sat waiting for others to arrive on time.

In came a family and about 10 kids and I immediately thought, oh no, what have we gotten ourselves in for? Luckily, they were on another boat and not ours.

Eventually, others started to trickle in and it seemed like an interesting mix of people.

We bought snacks and food to have in case the food wasn’t enough and I am thankful we did. A vegetarian breakfast and lunch with meat for dinner did not fill me up with energy. I honestly don’t know how vegans or vegetarians are able to derive enough energy from leaves.

Anyhow, we were shown aboard and got situated in our gulet, an old turkish wooden ship with sails. It reminded me of the goonies ship that they sailed, yet ours was engine powered and much much smaller.

Our room was cute. It was with two twin beds, a working hot shower and toilet with bidet! It was plenty of space though tight. They said we would be sleeping outside anyways so we wouldn’t be in our rooms much because of the heat.

As we set sail, everyone started introducing one another, and it was a great mix of people of all ages, countries, and professions/life stories. The fun thing is how we all quickly connected through this fun adventure through the southern coast of turkey together.

The blues of the water gave new meaning to turquoise, royal blue, and aquamarine. I’ve seen a lot o oceans, seas, and bodies of water that have various colors, but these waters rivaled those of the Great Barrier Reef, yet had such different terrain surrounding. You could look in the water and see straight down to the bottom of the ocean floor, no matter how deep. It was really amazing scenery.


Making friends on the boat was easy, and of course, travelers tend to click with one another quite easily. There were people from Australia, Canada, US, Turkey, England, Scotland (living in Spain), all together doing various activities and enjoying each other’s company. We would stop at various inlets and swim for a while, playing with the floats, jumping off the boat into the fresh cold water, and chat at our heart’s content laughing, joking, and living. These moments are those that I cherish with other travelers, those moments where you can’t keep track of time because you’re engaged in a camaraderie that feels like nothing can break the bond. We quickly formed this bond, and it lasted our entire trip and even after the boat ride with dinners and random meetups. I’m confident I will see most everyone again in some part of the world, and hopefully several in Austin :)

Our first night, most everyone slept out on deck, but I wanted a good rest so I went into the cabin and slept like a baby until hearing the breakfast bell the next morning. The rocking and engine noises of the boat kept me soundly asleep which is incredible, because usually I am such a light sleeper, any noise would keep me awake.

As we approached the blue lagoon, an offer came aboard for us to paraglide off one of the highest mountains, over 1900 meters tall, you would be running off the 1800m runway. As we watched tons of paragliders dot the sky like ice cream sprinkles covering a cone, Robert and I decided we would take the plunge and go for a ride of our lives.

We were taken off the boat while they were anchored, and sped us to the beach where we got into an unmarked van full of strangers. Against all rules of the book :) As we were slinging from side to side climbing up this huge mountain on treacherous roads with no guardrails, we were told to pick a card, any card. I picked the Ace of Hearts, and happened to be sitting next to my pilot for the jump. He didn’t say much, but I did find out he had been flying since 1998 and his schedule is 7 days a week, 5 times a day, 4 months a year. This made me feel pretty confident in his abilities to land me safely back to the ground.

We finally made it to the top after about a 40 minute drive, and quickly were strapped up with a backpack that our pilots then attached to us. We weren’t really told anything, and before I knew it, the Chinese girl had already run off the mountain with her pilot, and I was thinking, wait, are you going to give me a countdown or something? We continued to wait which was starting to make me nervous, and as I turned to Robert to see how he was feeling, he looked very relaxed (maybe just comatose looking at the mountain runway to nothing below). We were apparently waiting for wind to pick up, and suddenly, the other paragliders got back into the van and drove off to a lower landing. That made me more nervous, but my pilot said wind would pick up soon.

Before I knew it, Robert was running with his pilot and they were off. I was the last one left behind, and my heart was pumping. Then he said run run run run! And my camera turned on, and watching the playback now, it’s hilarious as it shows my little feet trying to run without traction until we are finally airborne. Catching wind and lifting off is exhilarating and while I was really uncomfortable with feeling insecure of where to put my hands and how to hold on, etc, as soon as we were flying I began to relax. I was watching Robert’s pilot and suddenly, his glider started spiraling down. We then basically followed along for the next several minutes. The pilot then got out the GoPro camera and started taking pictures and video, and I’m so glad I got them as they really turned out incredible.

While filming, he started a spiral himself that put such gforce upon me from us falling that I was almost breathless from the pressure. It was like a rollercoaster, one that I didn’t need to ride again, but was fun nonetheless. I really enjoyed the peaceful calm of floating back down with the incredible blue waters and onlookers that looked like tiny ants crawling around on the white sands below.

After a good half hour of our descent back to earth, I was given instruction number 2. When I say stand up, stand up. As we coasted back to the beach, I was looking for a place to land, and they were landing literally anywhere they fell. People walking on the promenade were watching us come in for landing, and my pilot was skillfully aiming for a clear spot on the beach. I then heard him yell stand up stand up and my feet touched the ground with no pressure whatsoever. It was amazing–I watched the paraglider behind me, and as they land, they landed on top of a trashcan making my pilot laugh saying he wasn’t as experience. I’m really glad I drew the Ace of Hearts.


We then landed in KaÅŸ where we had lunch off the boat (because I needed to have some meat), and walked around this quaint town. We enjoyed the scenery, took some pics and were back on the boat within a couple of hours.

Getting back on the boat, we recounted our story of the float down and looked at our photos and video to share with everyone. That evening, I wanted to learn Backgammon, and the Turkish guy on board taught me. It was an interesting game that I think I may start playing if given the chance.

Each night we danced on board with great music, and this night especially, we all jumped in at the end of the night, again enjoying everyone’s company.

The cruise was definitely a highlight and when it was over, we were sad to leave everyone and we all connected on Facebook so we could post pics and be in touch afterwards. Traveling with facebook is definitely different than I traveled as a student years ago, and it’s great that you can now keep in touch with all these people around the world so easily. Afterall, you never know when paths can easily cross again.


Bodrum and Fethiye

Arriving in Bodrum at night, I got the HavaÅ¡ bus toward Bodrum to meet Robert at his friend’s house. I was let off after a complicated dialog wth the bus driver not really knowing whether or not he understood where I wanted to be let off.

Luckily, my phones data allowed me to text and coordinate which way to walk to Robert and I was only a few minutes away.

I was glad to be in a home for a couple of days to rest and plan our trip.

We went to Bodrum after a great turkish breakfast and ended up planning a bit of our trip with the idea of going in a circle to hit all the sites. We then took a bus into town and spent the day strolling along the streets filled with all sorts of shops that led to the beach.

We spent the afternoon walking around enjoying the beautiful scenery and planning out an exciting itinerary for the rest of our time in Turkey. After confirming tickets, and playing phone tag with a guy in Istanbul who had given me information about a boat cruise, we finished an amazing itinerary for seeing and experiment the best of Turkey.

We then had dinner and headed home as the next morning, we would head for Fethiye to begin our journey around Turkey.

We took a bus to Fethiye after all and arrived after our journey to the bus station where we waited to be picked up by our hostel. We checked in and headed to the fish market for a fresh seafood dinner.

Wandering around the market we happened upon a restaurant being run by a family. The daughter offered for us to come eat where we pick out our fish together at the market, and they cook it for us.

The woman was short with brown hair and had a fun sarcasm that made us laugh. She lead us to the fish counter where we picked out a red snapper and two shrimp and prawn for dinner.

I was excited after eating a lot of meat since being in Turkey, to get some seafood for a change.

After strolling along the shopping streets we got back to the hostel to rest before our trip on a gulet along the Lycian coast of Turkey.



Flying into Istanbul was great–you see the entire city coming in and fly above it to get to the airport (coming from the east). The city was much bigger than I expected as the expanse of the city was quite incredible. The cityscape was really stunning with the land being encapsulated by beautiful waters of the Bosphorus. After landing, I got a bus into the city to Taksim Square where the place I booked was supposedly near. Nearly 30 minutes later hoofing around the streets with all my stuff, I finally found the apartment style hotel. I got checked into my little room and met my flatmates, an Iranian family of 3 visiting with their sun who is currently living in England. They were really interesting to speak to about the current way life is like in Iran–sounds pretty incredible!


That night I headed out to explore Istiklal street, a main shopping street near Taksim square. It’s such a lively street that’s pedestrian only, but such great people watching and shopping of course. Great food, great desserts, and great browsing stores, shops, and everything. It was great fun.

The next day, I made my way down the hill. The streets were cobblestone laid, winding in all sorts of directions, which made for an easy walk downhill to the river. Bakeries, cafes, patisseries all lined these streets that it was so hard not to stop at each one and choose a new goodie to try.

Once I reached the bottom of the hill, I started across the bridge to the other side with most of the sight seeing places. The first mosque I saw, I went ahead inside. I always am amazed at how grand and huge religious places are. How important religion was to so many societies that pushed people to erect the most impressive expressions of honor through architecture, art, and ideas.

I then made my way to the Spice Market and enjoyed taking pictures of all the beautiful spices and colors, and then made my way to the Grand Bazaar. Talk about a shopping experience. This place was rows and rows of small streets that created a maze of Turkish delights :) The colors, fabrics, metals, slivers, golds, silks all took my eyes, and I spent the rest of the day going through looking and curating my own purchases of really great items. I found a beautiful ceiling chandelier with globes that I picked out to match. The colors were so entrancing that I spent probably a good hour trying to determine the best use of colors and shapes for my own chandelier. The Macedonian guys running the place were very courteous and patient with my OCD to make just the right combination of lamps for me. What really sold me, is how they showed me (along with so many other lamp shop owners) that you could stand on the glass to prove its strength. However, the other shop owners said beware of Chinese ones, because the glass is thinner. So I asked would they stand on the lamp on its side, and no one would, except for these guys as they vowed their glass was pure Turkish double laden glass that had the incredible strength. Once he tilted it on the side, and the glass didn’t break, I was sold :)  I made my way back with all my lamps and started packing up a box to ship back home.


The next day I headed back the same way by stopping by the post office to get an idea of shipping costs and size limitations. I was gathering quite a big amount of new clothes both from Turkey and Jordan and now the lamps, along with my artwork from Cambodia that I was really happy to let go of. Hopefully there will be no issues with the shipping. (UPDATE: It has already arrived stateside just a week later despite being told it would be at least 3 weeks for shipping arrival!)

I then made my way down the same path down the hill towards Sultanahmet and started my tour of sights again. After seeing the New Mosque and Blue Mosque, I had some lunch and went for Topkapi palace where I found huge lines waiting to get in. I opted to skip and just do the next day, as I was tired from all the walking, so I went to the beautiful botanical gardens and took a nap. I don’t believe I’ve ever been able to fall asleep in a public place before like that, and it was incredible to be lying upon the grass feeling the temperate breeze, and resting with all the other people who gather in the park for doing just that. (Excluding the homeless).

After a refreshing nap, I walked along the road next to the river all the way back to the bridge, and headed back home for more amazing food and rest. Each night I loved walking over to Istiklal street and do the walk towards Taksim people watching and café hopping. It’s so funny/strange what ideas you have about the layout of a city before arriving, the direction of how it would work, and then compare it to what the actuality is. For some reason, Istanbul has been completely different than I imagined in way of layout and topography near these sites.

The next day I headed down again this hill taking different streets exploring different corners of the city. I made my way to the grand Galata Tower lookout, and went to the top to get sweeping views of the entire city. It was really beautiful to see the hills and buildings all merging into waves of colors throughout the landscape. Istanbul has 18 million people, and it shows. The expanse of the city is quite incredible when seeing it from above. The odd thing is the buildings are not really so tall, so it is just a densely populated city with houses like San Francisco–each street, very Victorian looking houses peer down creating walls of colors and architectural shapes with breathtaking views of the bosphorus strait below.


I then got down to Sultanahmet again, and made it inside the Hagia Sophia mosque which was breathtaking. I love Arabic calligraphy, and they had so many amazing pieces being shown here that I really wanted to learn how to write in Arabic. The lines created beautiful designs and looked so impressive, that I looked at each work, studying the curves and lines trying to see details of words hidden within. Of course, since I cannot read anything in Arabic except the letters B-E-N, I didn’t see much :)



After Hagia Sophia, I went back to Topkapi Palace and viewed the rooms of the Sultans that lived here, entertained here, and ruled here. It was the main center of the regime, and the beautiful rooms and architecture stated as such. While everyone raves of Topkapi Palace, I’m not sure if it was the crowds that took away from the experience, or just being a bit museumed out, but after I saw Moses’ supposed cane, a few more works of calligraphy and some Sultan outfits, I kind of lost interest of the rooms. It was a lot to take in, and without having a guide map or anything (which is a major problem here in Turkey–you buy a ticket to enter a place, but then there’s no informational guidemap or brochure to help you get started to what you’re looking at.)

I feel like I got a good look at Istanbul and tomorrow, I’m meeting up with Robert from Texas, and there we will begin to explore the rest of Turkey!