TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL

TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
TURKEY 2016 // ISTANBUL
This being our 2nd time in Istanbul, we really didn't have a need to go all out photo fine art crazy. If anything, we just wanted some much needed downtime and leisurely sightseeing. So we stayed a week. Took our time, woke up late, overused the hostel's resources. Caught up on Game of Thrones. Chatted with even more Internationals.

Like in 2008, we stayed in the European side of Istanbul. But 8 years ago, we were all about hitting up all the major tourist sights with our friend, Ricky, so we stayed quite close to the Old City. This time around we opted for a much different neighborhood, get a feel of another side of Istanbul. The Galata/Karakoy area seemed like a young, hip part of town. Streets lined with really cheap restaurants and cafes, unassuming tiny shops, various nooks and crannies. And that's before we even hit up the massive commercial shopping avenue of Istiklal Cadessi!

In addition to roaming the narrow, busy hipster streets with wide-eyed wonderment, we set out on a massive foodie adventure of sorts. Something we never really did the first time around in Istanbul. We sought out the best Baklava, the best Kumpir, the best Iskender Kebap, the best Islak Burger, the best Rice Pudding, the best Turkish Coffee.

Of course all that while visiting some old friends: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace. And I tell you what, only a few vivid details of these historic treasures pops into my mind from 8 years ago. It's amazing (and kinda sad) how much the mind forgets! So we visited Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque TWICE to doubly make sure it'll be harder to forget.

It's quite refreshing to see the trendy side of Istanbul. Reminds me of Austin back in the day when the new and the old seemed to live harmoniously together at one point. I firmly believe this is one of the reasons why we loved this 2nd visit way more than the first. Loved it so much Vince actually envisioned his future self living in this city!

--

When: May 2016
Temp: 60-75F
Stay: Downtown Istanbul Hostel, $9 per night for 8 bedroom dorm.
Transportation: Tram/Train. 4TL per trip.

>> Istanbul Museum Pass: 5-day pass. 80TL. Valid for one entrance to the following - Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul Archeological Museums, Museum for the History of Islamic Science & Technology, Istanbul Great Palace Mosaic Museum, Chora Church Museum, Rumeli Hisarı, Yıldız Palace, Galata Mevlevihanesi, Istanbul Fethiye Museum. (We've visited in BOLD.)
>> 2 Hour Bosphorus Boat Ride: 12TL.
>> Galata Tower: 25TL. Panoramic views of Istanbul and Bosphorus.
>> Also Visited: Blue Mosque, Istiklal Cadessi, Taksim Square, Grand Bazaar.


-jin-

TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE

TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
TURKEY 2016 // PAMUKKALE.
Travertine fail.

They were nothing like what the posters had promised. No pristine bright blue waters filling the terraces to the brim. Every single travertine - all dry!

Except the man-made ones, but what's the point?

Nothing like crossing an ocean, flying into Istanbul, flying to Kayseri, taking a van to Cappadocia, catching an overnight bus to Denizli, then hopping on a minivan to Pamukkale - only to find out the hard way that every terrace dried up. The hot spring water redirected. My excitement crushed. I don't think I've ever felt this so disappointed about a tourist sight falling short.

But ya know, not all was lost. This way, with no water, the travertines actually looks like the 'Cotton Castles' that Pamukkale is known for. Everything is just so insanely white. Yah, it was still a nice dreamy vision.

The city itself doesn't have much to offer. It's so small and full of restaurants and hotels geared toward tourists. I can see why most people only do day trips here. We were probably the 1% who decided to stay overnight, all for photography purposes. Glad we stayed an extra day, because our 2nd visit to the travertines ended up being a photo gold mine, despite no water. Once we've hiked to the top of the mountain, rounded the corner - lo and behold - an expanse of dry travertines with no tourists. We even walked upon them, taking our photos with ease, not having to fight for elbow space.

Overall, I wish there was a website that tells you whether or not the travertines are full. That be nice. Otherwise, I would have redirected our travels elsewhere in Turkey!

--

When: May 2016
Temp: 60-75F
Stay: Sahin Hotel, $35/night for private room.

Bus ride from Cappadocia to Denizli: $55/person.
Entrance fee to Travertines: $30/person.


-jin-

TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA

TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
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TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
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TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
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TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
TURKEY 2016 // CAPPADOCIA.
The land of Fairy Chimneys and sunrise hot air balloon rides. Cappadocia/Kapadokya is every bit as charming as everyone says it is! V and I woke up very early for 2 days in a row to catch these hot air balloons in their pre-dawn flight. (Opting out of riding in one due to the expensiveness, but those who've ridden it says it's worth the $$$!) Our 'cave hotel' is located on the side of a small mountain in Goreme, making the 20 minute scamper up to the top quite convenient. It's absolutely magical, seeing these balloons float over the fairy chimneys, whilst the sun peaks over the faraway mountains, the sky slowly changing hues of pinks to oranges.

Totally worth waking up at 5am for!

Goreme isn't very big - in no time we knew our way around. And it's super cheap here! The sole reason why we decided to stay a week. Mainly to catch up on work and to wait out the rain which lasted a few days. During this time, we've met a handful of people in our hostel, most notably a woman from Uruguay, who's been traveling nonstop for 7 years! Yowzers. My wanderlust hero. Her never-ending travels pretty much confirms my suspicions - there's no way we could see the world in just a year or 2! Oof.

Aside from the fairy chimneys and hot air balloons of Goreme, we did a few mini hikes around the area to Pasabag and The Open Air Museum to see various other fairy chimney shapes, in addition to taking the 'Green' tour. It's an all day, exhausting tour - but it's nice to learn about the lengthy history of the area. The underground city tour is one of the many interesting highlights included with the package - it's actually quite cool.

Traveling to Cappadocia is no easy feat. We took a 1.5hr flight from Istanbul to Kayseri, then hopped on a van provided by our cave hotel. That took another hour to Goreme. But once here, it's an instant visual feast! Fairy chimneys galore!

--

When: April 2016
Temp: 50-70F
Stay #1: Divan Cave Hotel, $60/night for private room.
Stay #2: Terra Vista Hostel, $8/night for 6 bed dorm.

Green Tour: $60/person. All day, lunch included.


-jin-

ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM

ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
ISRAEL 2016 // JERUSALEM.
Jerusalem was more of a pilgrimage rather than a fine art photographic journey for me. I didn't really have a need to take pictures other than show proof that I was actually here! And it felt good to put the camera away for a bit and just look. And feel. Feel the overwhelming religious history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in one of the world's most oldest cities.

A little downtime from the adventure-filled Jordan trip was also on the agenda in Israel. Doing short stints of sightseeing and exploring per day def helped on that path to mental recuperation. And the fact that it was Passover, many places closed down really early anyway (or close down all together!) and went Kosher, so finding beer and bread was like a needle in a haystack. The same gameplan in Jordan was also followed in Jerusalem: wake up really early, travel to certain sights, spend time at sight, then scamper back to the hostel to wait out the hottest part of the day. This usually meant we made it back in time for free breakfast. This also meant we had an uber long stretch of hours to kill before evening time.

Which we productively took advantage of.

While Vince worked remotely away in his makeshift office in the lounge, I did things like napped and showered and caught up on photog projects from past travels. That alone was one of the main reasons why we stayed a week in Jerusalem. It bothered me to have all these photos queued up - at least 3,000 images! - and not enough time to research upcoming travel destinations! So it felt more like crunch time during those downtime opportunities.

With the gift of time came along the unexpected plethora of fellow travelers we've befriended. And honestly, my favorite part of our Jerusalem trip. I don't think I ever made this many friends at a hostel other than the time I lived in those residencias in Spain. It was refreshing, if not reminiscent of my college days or Spain days, to easily talk hours on end or even get into odd adventures with these fellow wanderlusters with no care in the world. Literally, no care - no 8-5 job, no errands, no appointments, no nothing.

This is why I love traveling. And this is one of the many reasons why I love this particular hostel. But Israel is a pricey place! As much as I want to stay here longer - Israel, you're taking all my money! It was time to move on to the next country!

--

When: April 2016
Temp: 60-85F
Stay: The Post Hostel. (~$27 for 10 bed dorm, ~$30 for 8 bed dorm.)

Places we visited: Mechane Yehuda Market, Old City, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall, Mount of Olives, Temple Mount, Dome of Rock, West Jerusalem.


-jin-

ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI

ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
ISRAEL 2016 // DEAD SEA + EIN GEDI.
Siraj, our boisterous English hostel roomie, swooped in one Saturday morning with a spontaneous proposition: He'll rent a car, we'll all go to Ein Gedi, do some waterfall hiking. Him, Vince, Marcela (the Polish roomie in our 10 person room) and me.

In a few hours time, we were in that rented car with our swimming gear and off on a 2 hour roadtrip to Ein Gedi, with Siraj taking the front seat. Siraj, we collectively found out the hard way, is quite the aggressive driver. Borderline loony driving skills, really. Think most of us spent the car ride fighting off dizziness and nausea. But despite all that, we somehow still marveled at the passing, arid desertscape, watching it transform into the soothing Dead Sea scenery. That Dead Sea. It's all kinds of serene. With a hazy (salt?) cloud looming over the waters, filtering the harsh sunlight. We stopped at a cliff to take in the Dead Sea serenity for a quick minute before getting back on the road.

Now I'm fairly certain we got to Ein Gedi in 1 hour instead of 2, somehow making it in one piece, thanks to Siraj. Or thanks to God - I don't know who to thank! But nevertheless, ready to see the waterfalls that Siraj made a big fuss about. Only an hour or so hike up the mountain. In the heat. At high noon. Double oi. Luckily, there were many little waterfalls along the upward climb, each time we stopped to cool off in the waters and shade before moving on. My kind of hikage. In a few hours time, we were back down the mountain and wondering what to do next.

The Dead Sea. It's just right there! Yeah, why not?

There are a few places along the Dead Sea to enjoy the waters, just that most of them cost money to access the beach. Which kinda blows. Luckily, about 30 minutes south of Ein Gedi there's a free beach. Ein Bokek. It's not the nicest beach and it's quite crowded. But, it's free. Spent a solid hour or so, floating around in the waters and hanging out on the beach by the time dinnertime rolled around.

Floating effortlessly in the Dead Sea is quite the mixture of feelings. On one hand, it's amazing how freakishly easy it is to just float. No fear of drowning here. On the other hand, that high salt content is quite fierce. Every open skin, cut, scratch - you will instantly feel with a vengeance. It stings beyond what you'd expect. Stepping out of the waters is equally just as interesting. A layer of white, flaky salt residue appears on your skin as you're drying, the swimsuit hardening along the process. It might take a few douses underneath the open-air showers to feel somewhat clean.

But to say that you floated on one of the saltiest and lowest places on Earth? Cross that off the bucket list!

--

When: April 2016
Temp: 50-80F

Car Rental in Jerusalem: Middle East, 190NIS/day, only certain cars are allowed and insured in Palestine.
Dead Sea Hike/Waterfall Mountain Trail: Ein Gedi, 1.5hr drive from Jerusalem.
Free Public Dead Sea Beach: Ein Bokek, 2hr drive from Jerusalem.


-jin-

JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM

JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
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JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
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JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
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JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
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JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
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JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
JORDAN 2016 // WADI RUM.
Why is everyone so interested in Wadi Rum? And how much can you really do in the middle of the desert? We had to see for ourselves. So we booked a 1 day excursion (finding it hard to justify to stay any longer as we are not hardcore adventure travelers) and hopped on a 4 hour monotonous bus ride from Petra to Wadi Rum. Once there, it was straight into the bed of a truck, straight into adventure, straight into Bedouin country. And right away it was clear why Wadi Rum is so, so popular.

The dramatic landscape.

It's quite cinematic with the red hues and irregular rock formations. You never know what desert scene is coming up, every turn equally surprising and different from the last. The random pack of rogue camels seems to complete the fascination. In between traversing the desert, we occasionally stopped to hike through canyons that are lush and green. We even "snowboarded" down a sand dune and lunched in the shade of a mountain.

But at night was when all the magical things happened. The faint silhouette of the majestic mountains against the dark sky, sounds of night creatures in the far distance, the subtle glow of the moon bathing everything below. All this just immediately outside our tent. Enveloping us in the middle of nowhere. Perfect spot for stargazing. Unfortunately I passed out right after the traditional Bedouin dinner.

In the wee hours of the morning I could hear Vince troddling about outside our tent. For quite awhiles, it seems. Finally, he awakes me with a giddiness in his voice, "Babe! Wake up! You have to see the stars! You can actually see the Milky Way!" I threw the blanket over my shoulders and scurried outside, where he shows me a faint strip of an intergalactic dust cloud.

Ok. Not as colorful and dramatic as the galaxy dust clouds I've seen in Lake Titicaca of Peru, but I can still appreciate the night sky here. At this hour - 4:30ish? 5ish? - the moon has already descended, the sky lit up with at least a billion twinkling bright stars. As far as the eye could see. Quite dreamy stuff.

Was it worth coming out to Wadi Rum? Oh, heck yes. Undoubtedly. But a full day of the basic package was enough for us. We've actually met a girl in our Amman hostel who's done a horsebacking tour for a week in Wadi Rum. A week! Wow. Just goes to show they cater to anyone! There are even niche tour packages for mountain climbers and hikers. So whatever your heart desires, they got it. You'll leave satisfied, no matter what.

--

When: April 2016
Temp: 50F LOW / 80F HIGH
Tour Company: Rum Stars (55JD/person. 1 Day + 1 Night. Jeep Tour and Bedouin Camping.)

Bus ride from Petra to Wadi Rum: 7JD/person. 4 hour.
Taxi from Wadi Rum to Aqaba: 25JD. Find people to split cost.
Bus ride from Aqaba to Amman: 6JD/person.


-jin-

JORDAN 2016 // PETRA

JORDAN 2016.
JORDAN 2016.
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JORDAN 2016.
And thus starts Jincent's Non-Stop World Travels!

For at least an entire year.

I'm beyond excited! If not whole-heartedly relieved to live this kind of nomadic lifestyle on a much longer stint. (My husband's reasons are slightly different from mine, and I may even let him blog his perspective on here. It's always good to see both sides of the story!) I've touched on the Why's in past travel posts years ago, and I would LOVE to go into more depth about it in a future post, but til then - sit tight, kindred spirits. =)

--

So, why Jordan? Because things were getting a lil too hot for our liking in Egypt. If we had started our world travels 2 weeks prior, then it wouldn't have been a problemo. But we like to travel somewhat comfortably, if not smart, and the weather sounds reasonable in The Middle East. There, we began our journey.

Petra is much more of an adventure travel than leisure travel, as is most of Jordan. Be prepared to spend a lot of money on tourist sights. Be prepared to walk/hike A LOT through rough terrain. (This is not an understatement!) Bring a hat and plenty of water. And be prepared to have vendors constantly try to sell you stuff. (But they're polite and unaggressive, unlike other countries we've visited. A simple 'No, Thank you.' is good enough for them to leave you be.)

The 3 days we've spent at Petra were utterly exhausting. I ain't gonna lie. But the picturesque canyon views makes the hours of hiking/climbing well worth it. If done right. We woke up quite early everyday and began our hikes to various parts of the canyon around 6:30am. Mainly to beat the heat and the crowds. It's much more leisurely this way, with way more photo ops in the canyons, as well as with the camels hanging out in front of The Treasury. Not to mention an unobstructed view of The Treasury itself. Around 10am is when it gets stupid crowded around The Siq, making picture-taking a horrendous experience. By this time, we are already coming back down from our various canyon hikes and heading back to our hostel to wait out the hottest part of the day until dindin time.

There. Our not-so-secret way to enjoy Petra. A much more leisurely approach, but isn't that how it's suppose to be? To feel connected, body and soul, on all levels of travel and culture without feeling the weight of tourism? When stripped down to the basics - it's an amazing experience. The stunning desert canyon formations. The incredible history of past civilizations. The centuries old relationship between the two, nature and human. It will all mesmerize you in an instant. I promise.

--

When: April 2016
Temp: 60F LOW / 80F HIGH
Stay: The Saba'a ($30/night for private. Center of town. To the Visitor Center: 15min walk, 5min by Taxi.)
Transportation: Taxi, 2-5JD. (Haggle if you have to.)

Treasury Night Tour: 17JD/person, ~2hr.
2 Day Petra Hikes: 55JD/person.

Walk from The Visitor Center to The Siq: ~25min. Rough Terrain.
Walk from The Siq to start of The Monastery 850 step stair climb: 30-40min. Rough Terrain.
Hike up the 850 step stair climb to The Monastery: 30-40min.
Walk from The Siq to Royal Tombs: 10min.
Hike from the Royal Tombs to view The Treasury from above: 30-40min.


-jin-