Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hitting bottom…the lowest point in my travels

Though I will probably never make it to the summit of Mount Everest, I was able however to make it to the lowest point on earth The Dead Sea. It’s 423 meters (1,388 ft) below sea level, earth’s lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea is 377 m (1,237 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world.  It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 67 kilometers (42 mi) long and 18 kilometers (11 mi) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River. Luckily for me I was already in Jordan and the dead sea is only about an hour away. The dead sea is also a world heritage site and it borders Israel as well.
Since it was the end of November it was a bit to chilly for me to get covered in mud and run around in my bathing suit. I will return there before I leave Jordan though for sure. The hotels that are right on the dead sea are a bit pricey to stay the night  but you can pay a small fee to use the beach and facilities and just take a day trip there. They also charge you quite a bit for a dead sea mud bath. Why pay for that when you and your friends can smear mud all over each other then take a dip in the sea and wash it all off, its more fun that way anyway don’t you think?
Thermal waterfall in Ma'in
I did stop in Ma’in (thermal waterfall) for a bit of water fun though. The air was chilly but the water was a very warm about 105 degrees. It starts off much hotter 150 + but because it is a waterfall it cools significantly before it gets to you. I felt really naked because the water crashes down on you and tries to take your swimsuit with it. Also the local women there go swimming with all their clothes on ( hair scarf, shirt, pants plus the hajib over covering). I wanted to take a picture of them but it is forbidden to take photos of women here. Ma’in is only about a 15 minute drive down a long winding road from the dead see and worth a stop if your going that way anyway. It costs about 15 dollars to get in but you can spend the day there. There are changing rooms and picnic benches available but it is first come first serve. The best time to go was before noon as it became very crowded with locals after that. Also try not to go on a fri or sat as that is their weekend. There is a lovely hotel there that you could enjoy lunch or tea at if you wished. Again staying there was extremely expensive at more than 300 a night.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Once you have a destination in mind google any festivals or fairs that might be coming up in that city. Most times that city even has a web page you can check out. I also like to check to see if there are any UNESCO world heritage sites in the area.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Follow the marble brick road: Antalya, Turkey 10-7 to 10-10

The bus ride was only about 3.5 hours, seemed longer though. To get here we just asked the hotel shuttle service or you can take a taxi or a mini bus to the otogar/bus station. From there ask any bus company the price/departure time to the city you want to go to. The bus does usually stop several times for bathroom breaks and the price to use the bathroom is 1 lira/50 cents. Our bus fare was 20 lira pp, using Pamukkale bus company service.

This is one of the main streets by our hotel in the new part of town. Everything was in easy walking distance shops, restaurants even a nearby park. If you wanted to venture farther out there were plenty of taxis or buses at your disposal as well.You will pay less money for everything the farther away from the main street you go.

One stop designer shopping in new Antalya. It's always fun to look and people watch. There was even an ATM machine right next door. I prefer to use the ATM and pay the one time fee instead of the point of service fee my bank charges for using my visa card and some small shops don't take credit cards.

Easy not to get lost, just followed the marble brick road back to old town and our hotel. We found our room using, a no fee website.

Shopping in old town Antalya, you can find some good deals especially since the season was over and they wanted to sell their stock. Don't forget to haggle and usually you can get an even better price if you buy more than one item.                                                                                                       

There was even a small spice market with an interesting pyramid display of spices. I got some saffron for 3 lira a gram. They also made up a special tea concoction that was delicious combination of hibiscus and apple tea.
Antalya a large city by the sea and we were staying in "old town", the hotels were actually small family run guest houses. Old Town was in easy walking distance to the main rd, which had many shops and restaurants, even a park. We found many smaller shops and quaint, cozy places in old town itself which we also enjoyed. Definitely bring rain gear especially if its later in the season. The do sell umbrellas but I prefer a rain poncho and they didn't have those. From the hotel you can book a day excursion they have a variety of activities from white water rafting to a turkish bath.

We were supposed to fly back to Istanbul on 10/9 but the flights were all delayed due to inclement weather/severe thunderstorms. I had never been stuck at the airport before and thought "your not a real traveler until you get stuck at the airport". This mentality quickly wore off and after 8 hours there and 4 trips to the unfriendly counter person they finally re-ticketed us for the next day. We were lucky to find a room at the same hotel for the night. The next day we were watching the news and saw that another airline at the airport that night actually over ran the run way and skidded into some rocks. We were able to fly out as planned on 10/10 to Istanbul, but since we unfortunately didn't have travel insurance and the connecting flight that we missed was not affiliated with atlas jet we were unsure how much they were going to charge us to get another flight. I did call the airline but they gave us a price of 300 euro for 2 ppl, so we decided to go directly to the airport and maybe they would give us a better price. The airline thankfully gave us a price of 200 usd to change the ticket, this is about half of the quote given to us on the phone.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Whats a gulet anyway? Blues Cruise 10-4-11 to 10-7-11

                                                                                                                                                                        The yacht company picked us up promptly at 9:30am and took us to the harbor. We were excited and curious to embark on our voyage. Neither of us are very familiar or comfortable with boats so this should be interesting.
Blue Cruise Itinerary This 4 day/3 night is the perfect length of time for someone to "try" out the yachting experience. For those of you that already know you are a sailing enthusiast there are also week long adventures. If you are lucky enough to travel with a larger group of family and friends you can charter your own gulet. Seems like about 16 ppl can sleep on one and the price was about 400 usd a day to do so.
For just a few ppl on a limited budget the cabin rental option was much more affordable. It costs around 180 usd pp for this but that is not including beverages or alcohol. They do let you bring snacks and a few btls of water aboard though.

We stopped at various small ports of call and there were not any huge cruise ships in sight. You are not the only gulet in these ports though and most times we took a small zodiac into these crowded ports. Not to difficult to get on and off of but when you factor in the choppiness of the waves it was a little daunting at times. Also you never know who your shipmates are going to be, you could get stuck with a hard partying group or they could be stuck with you. We had an eclectic mix of German, Turkish, Australian, Canadian, American, UK and Jordan and in such  cozy surroundings we all meshed into fast friends.
The Captain followed the itinerary posted on the companies website, however there is a note that says subject to change depending on weather conditions. You could see ppl paragliding but we were only at that port an hour or so so weather didn't permit us to try it. The main attraction is swimming, you can swim in most every port we anchored at. I think they should post a daily schedule so ppl can follow it because the days. If I dressed for swimming we went to town and vice versa. I of course had to strike a "titanic" pose on the bow of the ship.

The waters of the Mediterranean sea are truly amazing. They are not just blue, they're a combination of cerulean, azure, turquoise and indigo. In the evening even the surrounding mountains take on an eerie blue hue similar to that of the blue ridge mountains. Most of the water was warm but at one of our stops it was bracingly chilly from the naturally fed springs. On board the yacht there is even a bin of snorkel gear for those that wish to snorkel. The water is very clear but its also very deep in most areas and I didn't see much when I tried it. People even swam to the nearby rocks, climbed up them and jumped off. I was happy just to jump from the top of the steps.

One of our stops was "Butterfly Valley", the zodiac dropped us off on the beach. You could pay a small fee to hike inland to see a small waterfall  and see a butterfly or two. It was about a mile in and we were only there for about an hour. I sat on the beach, walked along the shore and collected some colorful rocks and enjoyed a cold drink from one of the vendors on the shore. There were 4 ppl that did the hike, 2 were in their late 50's but fit and the other 2 were in their 30's. They did not make it all the way to the waterfall and saw maybe 2 butterflies.

There even was a "Rock Bar" literally made from rocks and you had to
climb some narrow steep rock stairs to get there. It was not a bad beach just anything you wanted to use towels or anything you had to bring with you from the boat.

The forward sun deck was a lovely spot to view the sunset or try the national drink of "raki" an anise flavored alcohol.

My favorite spot on the yacht, located on the rear deck. Perfect for lounging about after a long hard day of swimming and exploring.

The crew slept here at night and passengers could sleep on the upper padded sun deck if they wished.

Several vendors came up to the boat with crafts, scarfs, jewelery. This one was actually making a crepe like pancake and served it with the topping of your choice.

 Breakfast was simple yet tasty and very Mediterranean. It consisted of bread, cheese, olives, mortadella, tomatoes, cucumbers, turkish sausages
and hard boiled eggs with turkish tea or coffee. Lunch was vegetarian dishes and dinner was either grilled fish or meat and fruit for dessert. Plus there was afternoon tea with crackers or cookies.

This was an old castle atop a hill with a quaint village below it. We had 2 hours there and we explored the quaint village.There were several buses of tourists there as well as a lot of other yachts.

Turkish island with Greek island in the back ground. We were able to go swimming at this point. There was also a jet ski that came around in case you wanted to rent it to go for a spin.

One of the many quaint villages we got to explore. There was shopping and restaurants but no ATM machine.

Pirates cove, the bow of the boat got so close we all thought they were going to run into it. Unfortunately no swimming was allowed here. It would have been neat to go inside. In the evening after we anchored a water taxi came by and said there was a pirate disco ship if anyone wanted to go party on it. A few younger ppl were going to go but when the water taxi came back to pick them up no one was around so they missed the boat.

A really terrific swimming spot where the water wasn't so deep and you could see some interesting things if you went snorkeling. They said there was some broken pottery on the bottom with small fish about.

We got off the boat in Demre one stop before the final destination. Olympos was to be the final stop but there was no bus station there and we were going on to Antalya. All in all it was an interesting excursion, more relaxing and laid back than a large cruise ship. I'm glad I did it but I'm also glad I didn't do a week long cruise. If you do go for the week long cruise do the Bodrum to Gokova route, there is more to see and do.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is it snow? Is it sand? No, it's Pamukkales, "Cotton Castles" 10-03-11

We took the free shuttle to the entrance of the cotton castles", you have to take your shoes off at this point to protect the calcium deposits. The calcium deposit covers everything and spills over making a magnificent frosting effect on all it touches. It is solid and not slippery in most places and the water cascading down it is warm, even extremely warm in some areas. They boast not one but seventeen thermal springs, some are only lukewarm while others are almost boiling. Some areas do have a softer silty feel to them "gel" they call it and it was definitely all uphill. It only took about 15 min to hike to the top and then you can spend your time exploring. There were even people in their swim suits wading in the small pools. The healing properties of the pools due to the high calcium content are renowned for its effects on skin and circulatory conditions. There is even a gift shop a museum and an ancient pool. Its about 20 lira pp to get into the travertines and an extra fee if you want to swim in the ancient pool or see the museum. If you just want to wander around the ancient mineral pool its free which is nice but I would recommend taking a dip in the natural thermal spring, another 20 lira pp. You can see heliopolis and necropolis at this site as well. It was an awe inspiring, spiritual, ancient place to visit no wonder it is now one of the world heritage sites. UNESCO World Heritage Site list

  Here's a local legend-a local girl was so ugly that no one wanted to marry her and she decided to commit suicide.  She threw herself in to one of the natural pools at Pamukkale and was transformed in to a ravishing beauty.  Naturally a passing noble man decided to marry her and they lived happily ever after.

The only down side-there was no shuttle back to the hotel and we could not find the foot path so we took a cab instead of walking and it was another 20 lira.

We got back to the hotel around noon, grabbed our luggage and headed to the bus station for a 6 hr ride to Fethiye. We had booked a 4 day "gulet" cruise and had to be on board early the next morning.              What's a Gulet anyway?

TIP: To avoid the "snow" blind whiteness try to go there in the late afternoon, also by then most of the tour buses have left and you will have the place practically to yourself. We went around 10am and the sun was really glaring for most of our pictures.

10-3-11 Fethiye, Turkey

After yet another long bus ride we finally arrived in Fethiye. We checked into our hotel at Club Turkuaz, which boasted it by the beach. There was in fact a shuttle to their private beach but we got there to late to go. The hotel also said there was a mini bus/dolmus every half hour into town. We took a short walk to the main road and waited, waited and waited some more. No bus that we could see so we went back to the hotel for dinner. Dinner was buffet style but it was rather boring , non descript and bland. Our room was clean and had free wifi but only local turkish TV channels so early to bed as tomorrow we set sail. I would say this hotel was to far from the city center and far from the beach and not worth staying there because of the inconvenient location.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Long travel day to Bodrum, Denzili and Pamukkale Turkey 10-01-11

We had planned out our trip thoroughly, or so we thought. No sooner did I buy the non refundable airfare tickets online I found the other destination I had been searching for. I was googling on my phone and did not get a good result but when I tried it on the lap top sure enough it popped up. We did contemplate not going to this other destination but then thought, its just a few hours away by bus and who wants to spend 8 days on a gulet anyway. What's a gulet anyway? So, we took a short 1 hour flight and amazingly they even fed us, its nothing like the chintzy service provided by US airlines. Arrived at bodrum airport, which is in the middle of nowhere. Thank goodness altlas jet provided a shuttle to the nearby bus station. From the otogar/ turkish for bus station, you can see the line of different bus companies and start at one end working your way down until you get the price and time acceptable to you. I thought they would all be the same, the first one wanted 75 lira pp but the 3rd one only wanted 40 lira pp and it left an hour earlier. We had just enough time to grab a cold soda before our journey. About 5 hours later we arrived in Denzili bus  station where we took a dolmus/mini bus to Pamukkale, they dropped us off about a block from the hotel it was great and only 3 lira pp.

We had just enough time to check in and head down to the restaurant before it closed.he hotel was charming and quaint, had a family feel to it like you were staying at your aunts guest house. They have a free car service to the travertines (cotton castle) and they even take you to the bus station as well.

 I asked for a room with a big bed and was delighted to find that even though it was a double one of the beds was huge-dibs on the big one I proclaimed. After all a big girl needs I big bed I justified my greed to myself.

 The rooms were spacious for once and clean as well as having a coffee/tea maker which is indeed a rare find. The hotel even put a handy map and attraction guide in the room so you can plan your stay. The hotels that had previously been literally right on top of the travertines have been torn down as this is now a world heritage site, but you could see the glowing white of the travertines in the distance. I wish I could stay another day to  have a mud/turkish bath and visit more ruins, next time I will surely plan on it.

We had just enough time to go down to the hotel restaurant before it closed. It was alfresco with seating either on the patio or deck overlooking the pool. At first I thought the price was a little steep, that is until the food came. Dinner was home cooking at is best and it was an all inclusive soup, salad, 3 veggies, bread and entree for about 15 usd pp.

Tomorrow the "cotton castles"