#aegeanodyssey2016 Athens Life Goes On

Thank you all for the well wishes! We are all ok. 

The next day, properly rested, in our new hotel we recovered and got back our bearings. The situation was not too bad:

  1. We are safe
  2. We have money 
  3. We are insured
  4. The view from the rooftop in our hotel was absolutely wonderful!

  

We are lucky we have friends to help us in the UK High Commission as well as in Athens. Even luckier that we’re Bruneians cause our overseas missions are always so kind and helpful!

As mentioned in previous post, we moved from our current Airbnb and checked into a new hotel in the safer Syntagma area. 

I mentioned the cancellation to the host, but did not officially cancelled it yet. As you may remember my camera was still there.

My situation was particularly not complicated as I’ve only withdrew about €120 at the ATM, and I have probably about TL200++ left so its all about less than BND400.

I lost credit cards, IC, driving license, my favourite and most precious SupaSave card hahaha.

Just to clarify, all our bags were zipped close and put in front of our bodies. The pickpockets were very very skilled. There was nothing more we could have done. This was something that we couldn’t have known.

So what does one do when faced with this kind of predicament?

Life goes on.

  

The next day, we went walking about Athens. Tinos, our local friend joined us as well. He is our Google Map. Haha.

But first, breakfast!

   
  

   
This place, Zolotas, I think that’s what it’s called has THE BEST COFFEE!

Athens has an amazing coffee culture. Tinos, drinks coffee everytime he sits down haha. I don’t blame him, coffee here is so yummmmm!

On this day we went to the following places:

1.  Bank of Greece (their Centralbank) heheheh took plenty of photos too for mostly the irony.    

   
2. Building on Panepistimiou that we’re not sure apa. (Tinos was not sure 💆🏻 he grew up in Beijing)   

 
Owls everywhere! This is cause owls are the symbol for Athens. 
 
3. University of Athens

Continuing our walk along Panepistimiou, we arrived at the University.   
   
I don’t understand the graffiti on these buildings. I appreciate street art but feel seeing them – haphazard – on beautiful 18th century buildings – they are an eyesore.

There’s no semblance of art, just rage and anger. The further u getfrom the city centre, the more rudimentary and menacing they get, reflecting the feelings of the people there.

It’s very intriguing. 

4. Library of Athens

At least I think it is the library. I wouldn’t want to climb up a winding staircase to borrow books but that’s me.    
   
5. Cheese Pies

Greeks love cheese and in the mornings, they love to eat cheese pies! 

 
This is so delicious and nyaman to eat with coffee!!!!

6. Parliamentary Building     

 We wanted to do a group photo with the guard but the military guy there yelled at us. Apparently cannot. Mesti one by one. They should put up a sign.

7. Concert Hall

Looks decrepit but apparently still in use. 

  
  
8. Acropolis

Wow! Finally made it to the Acropolis 😭😭😭   

    
    
             
  
Sayangnya Tinos didn’t really know much about  the history of the Acropolis so we couldn’t really ask a lot. But the view was breathtaking. And the feeling of being there is simply marvellous.

By the way, I know its not fair to compare, we think Turkish Govt is so much better at preserving their national heritage sites than Greece. 

We think it’s very sayang.

9. Acropolis Museum   

 What a wonderful museum! Pity I couldn’t take photos inside.

It basically exhibits collection of items excavated from the Acropolis and what it tells us about how people lived back then.

10. Shopping around Plaka  
    
 Fun!

11. Dinner at Psarras

         

   
   
    
 Greek food is so delicious!!!!

Seriously I love it. It’s hearty, healthy and full of flavours.

After dinner, we went back to our Airbnb to get my camera. With Tinos leading the way in front, as we went by foot, we really saw the social problems plaguing the city.

Homeless people were everywhere, taking up the streets as their homes. Some areas are so unsanitary and dark, and you can feel that it was getting more and more ghetto the further u get from the city centre. 

We can see that most of these homeless people are actually not from Athens or even Greece – perhaps some are refugees from neighbouring Syria from their facial features. 

We finally arrived to the Airbnb, tried to open the door and to our shock and horror, there was someone in there! 

OH MY GOD. That bitchface landlord actually rented out the apartment thinking that we had vacated the place.

There was one guy, American, plus 2 girls. Seriously????? We didn’t take photos cause isn’t it scary that there is a person in the place where you are supposed to be staying????? 

Thankfully my camera was ok. We retrieved it and got the hell out of the place.

💆🏻💆🏻💆🏻💆🏻💆🏻💆🏻💆🏻💆🏻

That stupid host!!!!!! 

Thanking the current occupants and apologising (why am I apologising its our apartment?????) we went out, and suddenly we saw lights blinking outside from inside. 

Of course cautious, plus our experience in the area had not exactly been that wonderful, we slowly opened the door. 

There were 2 men outside peeing AS IN PENIS OUT on the very building we are in. One in clear view, and another hidden. Like, WHY? I don’t know for sure what they are planning but I trust my instincts and can tell u that I am so glad there is many of us (including 2 guys) and not just us girls.

💆🏻💆🏻💆🏻

We all quickly went away from the place, never ever to return again. Apa nya orang INDA MASUK GURIS.

You would think that this drama is over. But it’s not. When I got back to the hotel, I immediately emailed Airbnb and lodged a formal complaint. I also asked for a refund in the resolution centre.

As sad I was to say, drama to be continued next day. Stay tuned! 

#aegeanodyssey2016 Athens 

Inda ku minat.

This is a case of first impressions are always wrong.  

We arrived at the airport thinking, wow! Athens is so modern. They had a fabulous airport, the immigration guy was nice, place had great facilities and everyone spoke great English.

I withdrew some Euros from my ATM in anticipation of the activities we will be doing.

There was a lovely modern Metro, and it would take us straight to our Airbnb in Thissio station.

We took that and boy, did we wish we hadn’t!

Between the last 2 stations- Monastiraki and Thissio, the Metro suddenly became very crowded.  

When the Metro came, we went on, and as we went down, my travel mate Ariffin thought like someone took something from his pocket. 

He realised his passport was missing.  

I was scared but thought ok, maybe in his bag. Let’s check further once in the apartment.

Then we walked out and after walking a while Gdah realised her wallet was missing. Then my sister checked her bag and realised her pouch was missing, and to my horror, my wallet was also missing!
We all now realise that we have been pickpocketed.

Trying to keep calm, we carried on walking to find our Airbnb, but the area was glaringly very ghetto and we all felt very unsafe, with no money, and one of us with no passport, in this increasingly menacing city.

We arrived to our Airbnb and strategised our next move. We needed help from a local.

Thankfully we knew one- Tinos, an old friend of a friend! We gave him a call.

During the hour we all pulled every contact we had and tried to get as much info we could about out predicament.

I now have no money, no cards and I needed to contact our banks immediately to block our cards.

I also needed someone to wire me money so I can survive here.

Thankfully my sister’s cards were intact so we were able to send money to her accounts.

However, the passport was much much much more complicated than we expected.

Tinos brought us to the nearest police station where the police slammed the door in our faces because we were disturbing him and he refused to take our reports. 

  
 
But after a while he was more cooperative and told us that there is a station specific for tourists.

We grabbed 2 cabs and there we went.

It was soooo hard to find, nestled (hidden) in shoplots.

   
 Here the police are more cooperative and could speak English.

We all lodged reports. At this point, we also have gotten in touch with the nearest high commission in London.

For your info, since there is no Brunei mission in Greece, we needed to liaise with the mission in London.

We need to:

  1. Lodge a police report
  2. Forward that report to the office of the Brunei High Commission in London
  3. Send them our itinerary
  4. Write a letter explaining that we needed emergency papers for passage back to Brunei

Once done, we regrouped again and spoke about our Airbnb. I mentioned the area looked a bit dodgy and perhaps it’s better if we moved. Thankfully everyone felt the same way and we set out, with the help of Tinos to find an hotel, which is in a safer part of Athens, we settled with Astor Hotel near Syntagma Square.

By this time it was close to 9pm and we havent eaten since breakfast on the plane. Hunger was starting to kick in.

We quickly took our bags from the Airbnb but since I did not come with them, they forgot to pack my camera. Ok, so we decided to get it the next day. It was late, we were hungry, and we certainly need rest.

At that point we were so so so tired! Awake since 4am, and had no food!

Tinos brought us for dinner and it was wonderful!

   
    
    
  
We ate so much! 
Felt so sleepy after dinner. 

I thought that was such a long day! I was missing the views of beautiful Cappadocia, the lovely friendly Selçuk.

Athens had not been good to us but I was hopeful that we’d have a nice time there.

But it only got even more bizarre.

On our walk back, one one street, we bumped into about 30 men wearing black, in helmets and carrying baseball bats, ready to freaking kick some ass.

I was so freaking scared like who tf are these people????????

We walked as fast and we could back to the hotel and suddenly out of no where, a bunch of policemen in full riot suits ran towards where we saw the men in black.

How crazy is that????????!

We managed to arrive back in the hotel and the next day, on the news rupanya that was a real riot!!!!! Read about it here.

The worst thing about this story about Athens: it’s not even close to being over.

To be continued! 

#aegeanodyssey2016 Cappadocia blows our minds!

I have to say, Cappadocia must be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. But yesterday I was a zombie.

 
After our flight from Izmir to Istanbul, we caught another flight from Istanbul to Kayseri at 1155am.

Arrived at Kayseri airport at 1am followed by a one hour and a half drive to icy Goreme – so we finally checked into the hotel at 230am. #zombified   

 Upon arrival to the hotel, Kadir our host reminded us that we booked a balloon trip and I asked will it fly today? He said YES! 

It’s not windy, there are no clouds and a flight is happening, we need to get ready by 530am.

SAY WHAT? 530am is in 2 hours time! 

Ok nevermind. We tried to get some sleep and got ready by 530am.

It was so worth it!

    
   
    
    
   
  
Nothing nothing nothing nothing in this world is like Cappadocia when covered in white fluffy ice! It is seriously the most awesome thing I have ever seen and this is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had!!!

My fingers and feet were icy and numb but I dont even realise! Hahaha! I cannot exaggerate the cold.

The flight lasted 45 minutes and because this is winter, it costed us €110 only ❤️

By the way winter travel is a low season and everything is heavily discounted. 

   
    
 
When we come down we have champagne because we are still alive. This is a tradition. To our delight it’s sparkling grape juice instead of real wine. Haha. Though too cold to drink cause I was FROZEN TO THE ASS!!!

Needless to say, after that balloon ride all of us were on a high, and don’t know what was wrong with us, instead of resting first, we decided to forge ahead and agreed to join a tour at 9am. 

But first, breakfast.  

But then all the operating tours are full so our host Kadir, who runs the hotel said he’d become our guide. So yahoo! Private tour!!! 

We went to the following:

1.  Panoramic view of Goreme. 

Goreme is the town where we are staying, and home to plenty of cave hotels. Our guide Kadir was born and raised here, and he said, most of the cave houses here were converted to a hotel. Once that happens, the government will provide another house outside of Goreme. This is because construction within Goreme is prohibited due to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.  
   
2.  Underground city of Derinkuyu

This is similar to the Cu Chi Tunnels of Vietnam. The locals built it, to shelter themselves from enemies, and the city actually connects to other underground cities via tunnels.

  

It is definitely not for the claustrophobic.

  
    

It stretches down up to 8 floors down and families live there sometimes for 3 months or 6 months.
   
 

Some doors and stairs were so narrow I had to double down.

We clocked in about 3000 steps on the Fitbit so the place is actualy huuuuge. 

3. Cave Church near Belisirma

   
   
Don’t remember much but this was created before the Christians were expelled to Greece. It’s now abandoned.

4. Lunch at Belisirma

Belisirma is a village and the Melendiz River goes through it. The men there caught the fish that morning, to serve to us. Eeee nyaman!

Btw we’re supposed to hike down here from the cave church buttttt it was freezing and well, we’d rather drive hahaha.

 P  
Line caught trout! So yumm!

    
    
 Mercimek Corbasi (Lentil soup haha!)

5. Panoramic view of Ihlara Valley 

   

   

   
   
Kadir told us that George Lucas came here. Wanted to make one Star Wars movie here but was turned down by the Turkish Government.

Anyway, at this point the snowing just stopped so we played around a bit in the snow. Haha sakai.

6. Nars Crater Lake

  
So beautiful! This was a volcano but it erupted leaving this crater and became a lake. 

By the way there are no more active volcanoes in Turkey.

7. Panoramic view of Pigeon Valley

Pigeons are an important part of Cappadocian culture. As they are an agricultural economy, they rely on pigeon droppings to provide them with fertiliser. This is why it is considered  bad luck to eat them.

 So many pigeon houses here! It is said that the evil eye design is based on pigeon’s eyes.  
    
   

8.  Uchisar Castle

   
This is the highest point in Cappadocia- u can hike up too. Kami inda.

That was the end of our tour.

At night, Kadir helped us to book a treatment at the hammam. Bear in mind we were awake since 5am. Another great thing about winter time, there isn’t a lot of people so our hosts were happy to send us here and there hahaha.

Anyway the hammam was fabulous!

I was scrubbed and cleaned and followed by a massage and by the time it was over, I was ready for bed!

   
 
Sorry no photos inside haha.

For dinner we enjoyed this pottery kebab made by Kadir’s wife! Soooo good!!!

     

 
Slept finally at almost 10pm and now here I am! 

We are going for another tour today but later at 1030am. Now it’s almost 9am but none of my travel mates are awake. Hungry!

#aegeanodyssey2016 Leaving Selçuk and Walkabout Izmir 

The day began with a goodbye.  


 Checked out from the Villa Dreams II, our fabulous accomodation in Selçuk. 

Our host, Rejab kindly sent us to the train station cause actually we’ve been looking for it since we arrived hahahahaha.

  
It’s just temporary station while the build  a proper one.

  
On the train, sampit berabis dalam dunia. It was so full and we didn’t have any seats. Then there was this woman who had a stroller on the train, sans baby and refused to fold it to give more space for other people. Annoying jua tu dalam dunia.

Long story short a nice old man gave me some space in front of his seat. I put my bag there and sat on it while talking to him. He asked me if I’m arab, if  I’m muslim, and where I am going.

Hehe bless all nice Turkish people :)

Anyway, the landscape in Izmir is very reminiscent of Kings Landing.

  

Funny I only thought of Game of Thrones at Izmir, instead of Ephesus.  

Arrived at Basmane, feeling squashed and famished!

So we looked around for a place to eat. And boy did we eat!   

    
 After makan, it’s shopping time!

We went around looking for a market haha. Hashtag #bruneians.

   
    
    
    
    
 Teehee! 

Just a nice market. 

We changed money too and got good rates.

Then rushed back to the airport, by train yakni walking while carrying the 10kg baby on my back, by the time we arrived at the station, I was drenched in sweat!

  
Basahhhh.

But those few minutes of sitting down were like heaven!

   
   
Then checked in – SunExpress airlines this time back to Istanbul in time to catch a flight to Kayseri.

Now we’re in the airport – 10:37pm. Flight is at 11:30pm. I’m so kalat mata haha. 

#aegeanodyssey2016 House of Virgin Mary, Ephesus, Temple of Artemis, Sirincę Köyu, Isabey Mosque and Selçuk Cottage Industry 

Today was a fuuuuuuuuull day for us! We booked a tour of Ephesus with Apasas, under recommendation from Rajab our host at Villa Dreams II (do check them both out, we love them!) 

One of the best things bout our hotel is the breakfast by the fireplace:

  
Sorry no makeup yet hahaa.

 
Deeeeeeeelicious breakfast typical ofnthe Aegean coast. 😍😍😍

With breakfast like this we are ready to conquer the day!!!!

Let me introduce you to Mira:

  
Our guide is Mira, who is an expert in weaving stories together and making everything so interesting! We learn so much from her!

Though we booked a tour of Ephesus, Mira managed to squeeze in so many many side trips on the way. 

1. House of Virgin Mary

  
Actually no one is 100% sure if the Virgin Mary actually lived here or not after the death of Jesus. However, St John did, and they think she would follow him. 

It’s just outside gates of Ephesus. Small place, we went inside where photos are not allowed. The place was found by some people from an American society who were staying in Selçuk, based on a book written about a bedridden and disabled woman’s stigmata/dreams/visions. 

She (a Roman Catholic nun) actually dreamt/had a vision that she met the Virgin Mary there, and she described the house in vivid detail. The guys in Selçuk thought, since they’re there, lets check it out and they found the house in ruins. 

Crazy thing is that she’s from Germany.

It was reconstructed and restored, with details based on the book. 

Now it’s a Christian and Muslim shrine, and people have pilgrimage there all the time. 

There’s also a wishing wall. 

  
Found a sweet wish, to always have rezeki and healthy parents. Amin.

2. Ephesus 

OUR FAVOURITE PLACE!

Ephesus is an ancient Greek city, and recently, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

 

The Gym at Ephesus


It was cold!!! And it’s supposed to be warmer in this part of Turkey 😂 I don’t understand this warm warm business so far everything has been quite freezing.

This is the entrance to Ephesus. Mira told us the story of how the inhabitants learnt that they used to build columns as a whole piece but then during an earthquake, they break and they have to make a new one. 

  

So since disease is rampant back then, before you get to enter the city, u need to go to the gym. Why? To get cleaned up! Haha.

   
   
Plenty of famous Greek gods here. Nike and the swoosh, Hermes at the hospital, Fortuna and crowd favourite, Medusa as well.

   
This was the toilet. Sajuk jua jubur tu. So they actually had slaves to warm up their seats first before they sit there so it will always be warm during winter and cold during summer. 

 
This one is a brothel. According to our guide the ladies in a brothel back then were educated. So they can talk to u about  pretty much anything. Only the rare 99% would be interested in the more obvious sex trade. Hahaha! She’s funny kan!

   
Down to Ephesus we go! This walkway behind me was supposed to be a boutique road where rich people go shopping. 

   
 
Here they do the parliamentary meetings. See the stairs, decorated with lion’s feet, symbolic of power. 

Same like us in Brunei, VIP sits in front, and more common people enter from the back.

  
Then there’s the library, next to the Trade Market! This library is the highlight of Ephesus and we can see why. Photos really do it no justice. It’s actually so huuuuge.

  
Then there’s the Odeon, a concert hall that can hold 25,000 people. 😳 the acoustics were amazing! I can stand on stage and speak normally, and 25,000 people can hear me. 

  
The hangout place for people, or for the ladies from the brothel to wait for sailors to come from the harbour. Me waiting for my sailor haha.

3. Temple of Artemis

 

single column of Temple of artemis, with Isa Bey Mosqu and St John’s Basilica in the distance.

 

Love this photo where 3 religions are featured in 1. Paganism from Temple of Artemis, Islam in Isabey Mosque and Christianity at St John Basilica in the back.

  
Cute ducks hanging out there haha.

4. LUNCH!

   
    
    
    
   
For lunch we had wonderful mezzes and stuff made by the ladies from a carpet weaving school. 

5. Sirinçe Köyu 

This is a shopping village. In this village, there was a man who made all the jewellery for the movie Troy. 

Haha we love him and we bought some jewellery as well. He offers the best price too!  

He also offered us a ride home (I think cause we hang out at his shop too long hahahaha)

 

We got ourselves sultanite rings! It’s green indoors and when outside, it changes colour to pink! Awesome!

  
Bought it as if someone held a gun to me or something hahahahah!

(No worries that’s just an antique and certainly not loaded.)

Also while we were there, it snowed! I have a video! Will upload on Instagram.

  
And we bought rose jam! And pomegranate stroop!

6. Isa Bey Mosque

 

One of the oldest and most impressive mosques in Anatolia.

Lonely man doing his Isya. 

7. Selçuk cottage industry 

We were also brought to places where they show us how they make pottery, carpets all by hand.    

   Pottery. Hrm, interesting I suppose. Hahaha. Difficult to relax when you are surrounded by ceramic and known to be highly accident prone hahaha.
 

Carpet making n the other hand was super interesting- the teachers showed us how they do the carpets from choosing silk cocoons, to weaving it, to eventually looming the carpets.

    

   
These beautiful carpets go from €200 to €100,000 depending on design, labour, etc. They are considered antiques in 10byears and their value appreciate the longer u keep them.

Then there’s Selçuk’s leather industry, where they showed us their latest collection by doing a fashion show hahah.

 Teehee!

Ok I’m so sleepy. Might edit this post with new photos. But it’s 10pm here and omg I can barely keep my eyes open! Good night! 

#aegeanodyssey2016 Walkabout Selçuk 

My first time with Turkish Airlines! Was expecting u know, a budget sort of service but actually, was so surprised that the 45 minute flight came with entertainment and a meal in a picnic box.   
       I napped on the plane and arrived at Izmir today at about 2pm local time and was very surprised to see a fabulous airport! It’s huge, clean and super new. So new in fact that they haven’t even secured advertisers for their billboards, which was still displaying nothing.

Upon exit, was hoping that there will be an information counter or something like that cause I wasn’t really sure how to get us to Selçuk which is where our hotel is. But nada. 

In the end kalah kalahan, we approached an taxi and duii, only €60 (TL160) meaning we only need to pay €15 each (TL40). Hahaa.

   
    
 The drive was so scenic and beautiful! Plus we were blessed with an amazing sky and weather.     

The drive actually reminded me a bit of Rome. But we love our taxi driver!

We passed by the sea and I think he could see how excited we were so he stopped to help us take photos.     

    
He mentioned that the island in the distance is actually Greece 😍

Beautiful view of the Aegean Sea.

We checked in to the hotel, which is actually a villa and to our shock and horror it is on the highest hill in the whole of Selçuk ahahahahahahahahahah.

The view however is something else.

   
         

Fabulous! The host is very nice and friendly and Villa Dream II is so homey and comfortable.

Hung out at the room for a while and after sufficiently freshened up, we set out for a walkabout.

   
    
    

   

Selçuk is a quiet town, more inclined towards the slower version of life. We saw cats, plenty of orange trees, and we even can pick the fruit off the tree. 
Hungry,we googled for restaurant recommendations and a pide place stood out in particular: Selçuk Pidecisi.

     
A family place, in Selçuk Pidecisi, this gentleman makes all bread and pides by hand.
My first authentic Turkish meal, we overordered as you can see:
1. Oven Tile Meatballs

   
2. Turkish Coffee  

  
3. Oven Tile Chicken

  

 4. spinach Pide  

  
5. This salad came with our food

  

 6. Lahmacun

  
7. More free bread which came with we assume the meat 

  
8. Tahini Pizza

  
This one was a special on the house treat❤️

So lovely

  
After dinner we walked more before we went back to the villa by shuttle and here I am trying to stay awake.

  
It’s 9.10pm.

And first time I’ve actually lied down in the last 48 hours haha.

Ahhh those little things we take for granted. :)

Tomorrow: a tour of Ephesus, the old city.

#aegeanodyssey2016 The tiring wait in an airport

Hi guys! 

   
    
   
After a super long 11 hour journey, we are FINALLY IN ISTANBUL!!!!!!!!!

Some of you may know that this is one country I’ve always wanted to go to all my life so I can’t tell u enough how excited I am to be here!

What I don’t love is zzzz all this waiting around in the airport. Haha. It’s winter so the airport is warm. 😖 I want to go outside in the “aircond” but then it’s too cold hahah. 

Our next flight is to Izmir then a quick train ride to Selçuk. 

What will it look like? 

Looking forward. 

For now ciao!