man-made waterfall

Singapore was  Jurong Bird Park, with its enormous artificial waterfall inside an enclosed atrium, shopping at the huge 24hr Mustafa department store where Mike scored a couple of T shirts,  a laser light show  at the bay, and an evening  restaurant meal  on the waterfront ( where large TV screens showed a football match with the Wallaby) and the world’s largest ( or something) ferris wheel.

Istanbul  is amazing, and Turkish men generally delightful (women don’t seem to be about much).  I doubt that we would have found our ‘hotel’ without the aid of the taxi driver from the airport – who  keyed in the address into his mobile phone in one hand, while reading the address from a piece of paper we gave him in the other as he sped along the highway. The driver’s inattention to the road along with the fact that he didn’t speak english  slowed down Mike’s attempt at conversation. Eventually the taxi driver phoned the hotel and got instructions from them (while driving of course).  We then wandered around the winding and hilly streets of the area around our hotel, which was about 15 minutes walk from the major attractions of Aga Sophia, the blue mosque etc at Taksim square, and many young turkish men with the same pitch – hello, where are you from – oh Australia, I have a cousin who lives in ….(any capital city). I would like to show you around because we Turks like to help visitors to our city. ….eventually it turns out that he would like to teach us about carpets. No doubt they hear the bit about magic flying carpets almost every time they try this pitch, but they laugh delightedly as though they have never heard it before.  On our second day we decided to leave Taksim square early in the afternoon to rest back in the hotel in the afternoon so we could make the most of a boat tour/meal/entertainment evening that we had booked. We were to be collected by a bus from our hotel shortly after 7:00 as part of the package.

The bus didn’t arrive until 8:00pm, and then spent another hour working its way through an appalling traffic jam, with traffic virtually at a standstill in all directions.  No traffic lights, just a perpetual game of chicken as vehicles pushed past and squeezed through impossibly small spaces. At one stage our bus gained a little time by cutting diagonally across the footpath corner.  By the time we arrived at the waterfront the boat had gone and people were pretty cranky – some had been on the bus for 2 hours. The boat id come back to collect us, and after some haggling we were assured that we would not miss out on any food, and that the entertainment would go for later than normal to make up for the later start. We were told that the  problem was the gas used in the demonstration – which was the first we knew that there had been a skirmish at Taksim square – heavy handed police broke  up a peaceful demonstrations with tear gas.  Our evening’s entertainment out to be a good night. On the bus going home,  the driver couldn’t find our hotel, and we could see he was driving around in the wrong area. Unfortunuately we didn’t have a map with us, but we did have the address which didn’t seem to help much . Our driver drove off to collect another driver, and for a while the combined efforts of the two still wasn’t getting us any closer. I remembered that the easiest directions were to turn off the tramline going past the Grand Bazaar at the corner with the AKBANK building, so after stopping at a bigger hotel to find someone who could understand English instructions we finally made it home after 1am.

The next morning we were supposed to be collected  by a prepaid  shuttle bus to take us to the more distant airport for our Belgrade flight.  The hotel owner had wanted us to use his friend – a private taxi , for nearly  4 times the price. He said that the shuttle buses weren’t reliable, sometimes they didn’t come, and people would  miss their flights.  When the shuttle bus hadn’t arrived an hour after the scheduled time we were starting to get anxious, especially after the previous night’s escapades. The delightful man at the hotel counter would regularly ring the company for us to find out what was happening , and was regularly told they we two minutes away. After several calls the pitch changed to 5 minutes away.  By this time ( an hour after the scheduled pickup time)  we started to think that we had done our shuttle bus money at best, and would miss the plane at worst.  As it turned out all was well  – guided by the hotel employee who had been making all our phone calls on our behalf  we walked to a nearby intersection where the bus was waiting for us, and getting on the plane was non eventful.  Pegasus airlines have a delightful safety procedures video, subtitled into English, with small children playing the part of the air hostesss and the pilot.

Our first stop in Belgrade was the nearby Tesla museum – not very big, but nice explanations/demonstrations of the pros and cons and safety issues  of high and low voltage current, which made sense at the time but which I have now unfortunately forgotten. Apparently high voltage can be quite safe, as was convincingly demonstrated as we let high voltage sparks fly to our fingers.

In the evening I went to a small restaurant for an early evening meal  (Mike feeling unwell and staying at the hostel)-  and  tried the menu of the day consisting of a lovely chicken and vegetable soup, salad (which turned out to be a huge amount of finely shredded cabbage with vinegar on it), slices of coarse but tasty thickly sliced bread,  and goulash – chunky generously sized beef cubes in a thin broth with mashed potatoes. It was a huge meal – far more than I could eat – for the princely sum of 450 dinars ( there are 125 dinars to the Australian dollar –so the meal was $3.60).


  1. Jenny says:

    Goodness! I hadn’t expected to read that kind of news!

    While some of the adventures weren’t antincipated, and probably far from fun at the time, you at least have some intersting stories to tell!

    It was a big relief to hear that the boat came back for you!

    Maybe you should always have pen and paper with you in case you need to draw pictures to try and communicate!

    Keep having fun! xxoo Jen

  2. Jenny says:

    ps. Liam wants to know if it hurt getting electricuted?

  3. Anonymous says:

    No, but that’s because it is a different type of current to the type that is in houses.

    Apparently the electric shocks that are bad news are the ones that are low frequency, like the currents used to in our houses. The sparks we got we from high frequency current, so they didn’t hurt, but if they had been the same frequency as household current they would have hurt.

    So the obvious question is “Why is household current always lower frequencies instead of the less dangerous high frequencies” Apparently if they increase the frequency the current is more likely to jump to places where it’s not supposed to go to (such as people’s fingers).

  4. Bernie says:

    Hilarious! finding someone who could shut up Mike had to be a major achievement! We had similar problems with the driver finding our hotel in Istanbul – and sounds like we ended up staying in the same area as you.
    End of term looming on Friday – the three Spanish classes are meeting at Blue Anchorage, in an attempt to escape U3A’s “morning tea”. Happy travelling! xx

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