Istanbul Day 1

Continued from Mumbai Day 4.

Got up at 5 this morning, packed and got ready. It hasn’t hit me yet that I will be leaving India today. I’ve been here for more 3 weeks already. I don’t remember what a normal Western city feels like anymore. Mumbai comes close, but not quite there yet.

Checked out and ready to hit the road.

A taxi gets called. The hotel bell man said I should pay around 500 to 600 INR, or go by meter. I get into my taxi, and there is no meter. I ask him how much it will be, he said 675. Well, that’s a bit higher than what I would like to pay, but I just want to get to the airport. Fuck it, let’s go.

It’s early in the morning and traffic has not yet started. Yeah, we ran this red light like no body’s business. Red lights are followed during the day when there’s other traffic, but not at times of light traffic.

My driver asked if I wanted to take the sea link, and that there would be a toll associated with it. 75INR. I’ve gotta pay more now? Roohi had told me about this sea link last night. She said that it was one of the more recent roads built in Mumbai and how by taking it, it bypasses 20 minutes of traffic. Well, I wanted to see what this sea link is like, so I told the driver, sure, why not. There wasn’t any traffic at this hour.

The sea link. It’s an elevated highway over the ocean that bypasses the city.

Hello and goodbye, Mumbai.

It was at this time that my driver asked me which airline I’ll be flying on. I told him that I am taking Emirates, to which he replied that the airport that we are nearing does not have Emirates, and that Emirates is at another airport, which is much farther away.

My first thought was, shit, did I not specify the right airport to go to. Then I thought about it, and realized that I am in India, which means my driver is trying to cheat me. When he picked me up earlier, he had asked me which terminal I am heading to, domestic or international. I told him international. Then I also remembered of the research I did on Mumbai airport. The domestic and international terminals have separate entrances and it takes quite a bit longer to get to the international terminal.

My driver was trying to pretend that domestic and international terminals are two different airports so that he can extract more money out of me for driving me to a farther airport, which is just the international terminal of the same airport. Fuck you asshole!! I told him that there is only one airport and that it’s just two different terminals of the same airport. Plus he already knows that we are going to the international terminal. Knowledge is power, and my statement shut him up.

These slums are even worse than the other ones that I saw. At least the other ones had two floors.

Rickshaws! They are only allowed in the suburbs in Mumbai.

Finally, we reach the international terminal and I pay my driver 675 plus 75 toll fee for the sea link. Is the bridge really 75 rupees? It may be lower and he may have just quoted me a higher price. Anyhow, I paid the money, but reluctantly because I know I paid much higher than what a local would have paid. How fitting that my last taxi ride on this India trip ended with a quintessential Indian taxi experience, getting fucked over.

The Mumbai airport kind of sucks.

Found a lounge.

At least I get to drink for free and use free wifi. I kept on getting attacked by swarms of mosquitoes while here. This entire airport is filled with mosquitoes!! Lame.

Hard to imagine I am leaving India…

More Rowan Atkinson? The flight was also filled with several mosquitoes. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a flight with actual many mosquitoes on board. When I saw them, my thought was that my odds are good at not getting bitten since there were so many other targets on board.

Those none rectangular food containers suck. They are not space efficient, and because all three sides are different length, you can’t take off the lid and stack it under the container! Industrial design fail!

Just reached Dubai. I sat bitch in the middle section of the plane, so no photos of the approach.

Burj Khalifa, formally known as Burj Dubai, in the distance. That’s the tallest building in the world.

Pretty pimpin airport.

I hate Ed Hardy.

I’ve never had it before. I thought about getting it, but the service was slow so decided against it. Something about Dubai. Almost everyone who works in this airport is an imported worker. South Asians, SE Asians, Africans, etc. None of the actual Dubai residents do the bitch work. All the guys in the traditional outfits are spotless. How the hell do you keep white spotless? They also have extremely well manicured fancy facial hair patterns. Very douchey. Yeah, I said it. These guys are probably almost all privileged since, well, they are. Actual permanent residents of Dubai are often very privileged and account for only 17% of the population.

Anyhow, so these guys have fancy facial hair, spotless white outfits, and a nose turned up high. But, this is what I noticed. They wear sandals for their shoes, and all of their sandals look like they were bought for $5 somewhere. The shoes that they wear all look cheap and totally out of place with the rest of their outfit. It was odd.

Food and toys. Don’t need anything else in life.

Yes! Paul! Love Paul and their tough teeth breaking bread.

Graft is a problem here. Oh yeah, a lot of the temporary workers here in Dubai are Indian…See the connection?

Tuna salad sandwich. That dessert was awesome. I wish we had a Paul in Austin.

Just took off.

That is one tall building in this pretend fantasy city.

The Worlds. These are man made islands right off the coast of Dubai that are arranged to resemble the land masses of the world. The islands are sold for people to build their homes on. As you can see, almost all the islands are empty. The World is literally sinking back into the ocean, just like how the whole concept sank with the economy.

Free beer, sure.

About to enter Iraq airspace.

Once in a while, this image would pop up on the screen showing the direction of Mecca for people who want to pray.

I am above Turkey now.

Reached Istanbul, but we are put into a holding pattern for close to 30 minutes due to air traffic.

Istanbul!!! The haziness is from my dirty window.

I spot the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

They love orange roofs here.

Reverse thrusters on.

As an US citizen, I need to get a visa upon landing.

Canadians get screwed.

Why call it a Visa. Why not just call it tariff? I go up to the window, and the lady had a whole book of stickers in front of her. I give her my passport, she asks for $20. I hand over $20 and she puts this sticker in my passport. Yup, that’s it.

I landed, and I am supposed to meet my friend SO in the airport. Her flight from Berlin shows up about an hour after me. Since my flight arrived late, she was actually just 20 minutes behind me, and I met her at the luggage claim area. It’ll be awesome to travel with a friend after being alone for so long!

Found a grocery store on the way to the subway station.

Makes good drunk food.

Reached the subway station.

1.75 TL per ride on the subway regardless of distance. The vending machine doesn’t give change back, so I really paid 2 TL. Fuckers.

Yes, the train is here!

No! The train leaves before we could get on.

Fortunately, another train comes by within a few minutes.

We got on at the terminus stop, so it was pretty empty. It eventually got filled. Nice clean subway trains. Plus, not everyone is staring at me nonstop like how it was in Delhi.

Look, it’s Istanbul. It looks so….modern. For such an old city, it looks decidedly modern. Look, it’s so clean. I arrived here thinking that it would be a little old and run down because it’s such an old city. Nope. Feels kind of like Rome, except cleaner. I can’t believe I am not in India anymore. India is just so filthy dirty, this feels so odd. I think any place would have felt really clean after India. By the way, not sure if I had mentioned this, but India is fucking dusty. I used to clean my glasses every morning in Austin. I stopped doing that in India, because it was pointless. 5 minutes out on the street and I’d have glasses that are caked in dust.

It finally dawned on me that I am no longer in India. I am not constantly getting hassled. I can’t just go out to any restaurant and get Indian food. I can’t go out and see the “Cluster Fuck!” just by going out of my door. I miss India already.

We got a taxi to take us to our hotel. We could have taken a tram to get us closer, but then SO would have to pull her luggage on cobblestones, and we know that doesn’t work very well.

Drove by an Audi dealership.

Our driver drove us to a hotel. Nope, it was totally wrong. We give him the name of the hotel again, he calls someone and asks for better directions. Here he is stopped, and leaves to go ask for directions in a store. Our driver comes back with a bashful smile on his face.

Found! If you look at the previous photo, to the right hand side, you’ll see the bright lights of our hotel. Our driver had stopped to ask for directions literally as our hotel sat right in front of us.

Clean and quiet. This feels nice, this feels normal….well, except that you still can’t drink the water here. Ugh. I miss the Trident already.

It’s dinner time, and neither of us have had dinner yet. We walked out in search of food.

Pretty cool looking truck.

Found a neighborhood restaurant and bar. My first Turkish meal!

Of course, some Turkish beer first.

Crappy lighting, but chicken kebabs.

Eggplants, really popular here in Turkey.

Raki!!! Anise flavored liquor. Comes out clear, but when you add water to it, it turns opaque. My friend RF introduced this stuff to me for the first time while we were in Marfa. I didn’t like it then, but this time, I realized that this stuff is growing on me. I found this drink to be quite enjoyable.

I am so much more relaxed when traveling with friends. Being out of “Cluster Fuck!!!” India helps too. I’ve got plenty of time here in Istanbul, so I am going to slow down and take it easy. Famous words…This will hopefully feel more like a vacation, where India was actually work.

Hat shop!! We took a quick stroll after dinner to get a quick look at around our neighborhood.

BAM!! Blue Mosque!! This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Istanbul. The first time I saw photos of the Blue Mosque, it just looked so out of this world to me that I had to come see it. I can’t believe something magnificent like this exists. This is a short maybe 5 minutes walk from my hotel, and I am really excited to see it tomorrow in the day time.

It’s much colder here in Istanbul. It was hot in Mumbai, and it’s dips down into the 40s here at night. Time to break out the jacket.

To be continued at Istanbul Day 2.

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