October - November 2017
  • Day9

    Egypt

    October 15, 2017 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    After an early wake up call, we were on the bus at 3am heading to Ankara International airport, for the next destination in our journey - Cairo, Egypt!
    The flight was a little under 2.5 hours & we arrived to a beautiful morning. First impressions - Wow! - Istanbul was exotic but Cairo is ancient! There are 20 million people living in Cairo & it is a thriving, throng of humanity & culture. Only one word accurately describes the traffic in this city - crazy! You indicate with your horn & there are no real line markings on the road, so it is every man for himself! Roads that might comfortably hold 3 lanes of traffic in Australia, hold at least 5 here!
    As our hotel was not ready until midday, our buses carefully navigated the traffic to the famed Egyptian Museum of Antiquities - wow, wow, wow! This museum is so full of antiques & ancient artifacts that it cannot hold them all! A new museum is currently under construction, directly opposite this important treasure, & is scheduled to open in 2018 - we will have to come back for another visit then. The current museum is breathtaking, although cramped with pieces in boxes stacked haphazardly everywhere. With new artifacts being found on a daily basis, this facility is bursting at the seams & our guide (a local Coptic Christian & Archaeologist), informed us that there are multiple warehouses around the city, stacked high with pieces that have never before been seen! 🤤
    The history held within the museum's walls dates back to at least 2500 years BC! Tutankhamun's artifacts are all stored & displayed here. It was absolutely mind blowing! There is a definite sense that being surrounded by these ancient artifacts is just 'normal' for the local Egyptians.
    We stopped for lunch at a boat docked on the Nile River, before heading to our hotel (Barceló Hotel) for an easy afternoon. The Nile River is surprisingly filthy (that's the last time I'll be purchasing Nile Perch) & boy does it flow; like really fast!
    At 6pm we were on the bus again & heading to our boat cruise dinner on the Nile where we were entertained by a Belly Dancer & a Twirling Dervish, the latter of which was absolutely mesmerising. How he spun for at least 10 minutes without getting dizzy was beyond me 😁.
    We were asleep within 5 minutes of our head touching the pillow, just after 10pm.
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  • Day8

    Turkey

    October 14, 2017 in Turkey ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    Today we explored the Gallipoli region further, including visiting the British, French & Irish memorial sites at Cape Helles & V Beach.
    We learnt so much about this region & its significance in history, including the roles of all countries involved. The blood shed & lives lost is incomprehensible.
    We had little knowledge of the fact that the British/Irish & French forces suffered even greater losses than our own on 25th April 1915 at V Beach (located on the opposite side of the Gallipoli Peninsula from ANZAC Cove), where they were slaughtered after disembarking from the SS River Clyde. Historical recounts of the day indicate that it was an absolute bloodbath with the water at the beach turning red with the blood shed there.
    Again, a very moving & educational day.
    We made the 4 hour journey back to Istanbul, stopping on the way for a late lunch at the little fishing village of Gallipoli (Gelibolu)! We enjoyed a delicious & traditional fish sandwich (fried sardine) before treating ourselves to a turkish coffee & baklava in a gorgeous cafe/patisserie.
    We are off to bed early tonight (back at Akgun Hotel), as we will be up at 3am tomorrow in order to catch our flight to Cairo.
    We might be a bit quiet for the next 4 days or so as we will only be accessing WiFi in Egypt & Jordan due to the data roaming being limited (& extremely expensive) in these countries.
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  • Day7

    Turkey (Gallipoli Peninsula)

    October 13, 2017 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    We drove 4 hours from Istanbul to Gallipoli today. We stopped for lunch just outside Eceabat, a small town overlooking the Dardanelles Strait, before heading to Gallipoli.
    Approximately 75% of our group were in full WWI Light Horse ceremonial dress, as we had a number of wreath laying ceremonies scheduled with the Australian Consulate Military Attache & Turkish Officials. We visited ANZAC Cove, Shrapnel Valley & Hell Spit before laying wreathes at Lone Pine; Turkish 57th Memorial Park; The Nek; & Chunuk Bair.
    The work done by the Turkish Government to preserve & maintain the National Park, monuments & the Gallipoli Peninsula in general, is nothing short of incredible. Everywhere we went, the Turkish people welcomed us with open arms & wanted to shake our hands & take photos with us.
    It was a very moving day, & the trip back to Eceabat, where we caught a ferry to Canakkale, allowed us to reflect on what those brave young men went through in order to secure our freedom.
    Interestingly, there was a great display that we explored at Eceabat, on the waterfront - it has a life size model of the trenches, as well as a 3D walkthrough map of the Gallipoli Peninsula which gave a really good birds eye view of the battleground & region. Well worth a visit if you are in the region.
    We spent the night in Cannakale (Iris Hotel) in preparation for exploring the region further tomorrow.
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  • Day6

    Turkey

    October 12, 2017 in Turkey ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    Today we visited the beautiful Topkapi Palace, built in the 15th Century. We spent the morning taking lots of photos as the location is stunning; perched on a hilltop overlooking both the Asian & European continents & the Bosphorus River. In addition, the palace buildings & grounds were exquisite and meticulously maintained. It was Instagram gold!
    Lunch was organised for us in the same precinct & involved a private showing of handmade rugs & the silk rug making process. Of course, then came the hard sell - only this time we were prepared! 😁
    The next stop was the Turkish Military Museum before we headed to the Grand Bazaar - & boy was it grand! 5000 stores; 19 entrances & 22 exits - it was a maze you could get lost in for days!
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  • Day5

    Turkey

    October 11, 2017 in Turkey ⋅ 🌙 14 °C

    We arrived in Turkey from Singapore at 5.20am, with a flight time of just under 11 hours. There was approximately 90 of us (Australian Light Horse Assn. members) on the flight - a really diverse bunch with ages ranging from 8-90! The rest of the ALHA group (approx. 90 more) will connect with us in Israel in a week or so.
    Once we had cleared customs & collected our bags, the group was split into three & we were allocated to Bus 2 with Kelvin Crombie; historian, guide & author (amongst many other talents).
    We were on the road by 7.30am, with our first stop being the famed Spice Markets where we were swindled out of an obscene amount of money for authentic turkish delight, tea & spices! It is here that we learnt a number of valuable lessons, best summarised by the Penguins of Madagascar "just smile & wave boys; smile & wave" 😁. Needless to say we will be enjoying authentic turkish tea & delights for the next 6 months!
    With our wallets markedly lighter, we were back on the bus & heading to the ancient Hippodrome, home of the beautiful Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia. The photo opportunities, architecture & history here were incredible! After lunch we boarded a boat that took us on a two hour cruise on the mighty Bosphorous River where we learnt so much about this ancient & diverse city.
    We were well & truly ready for a shower & a good night sleep by the time the cruise finished. Thankfully, our accommodation (Akgun Hotel) in the old part of the city had both bases covered.
    Sitting in bed reflecting on our first impressions of Istanbul, the word that keeps popping up is Wow! It is an incredible city of approximately 20 million people spanning two continents - Europe & Asia! Essentially, the centre of the world, quite literally, for Millenia. It is nothing like what we are used to at home in Australia - in every way, both good & bad. We found survival instincts we never knew we had (or needed) - they kick in pretty quickly, as it is an "eat, or be eaten" way of living.
    We witnessed everything on extreme ends of the spectrum - poverty & wealth; humankind at its best & worst; ancient architecture & relics alongside contemporary & modern structures - even a Synagogue, Mosque & Church built alongside of each other & sharing the same common wall! We fell asleep thinking about how blessed we are to have been raised & live in a country as wonderful as ours.
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  • Day4

    Singapore

    October 10, 2017 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We are currently sitting in Changi Airport awaiting our flight to Turkey & have plenty of time to kill - the perfect time to note down what we got up to today....So, first up, we packed our bags, checked out of our great little hotel & left our bags with staff before catching a cab to the CBD; we were off to 1-Altitude Bar for a personalised tour with Santiago - the friendliest Columbian tour guide you could ever meet - & he's lived in Brisbane!
    1-Altitude is the highest alfresco bar in the world and the view was incredible! The weather today was pretty good too & it allowed us to see right into Malaysia & Indonesia! Santiago pointed out all of the landmarks & gave us a wonderful overview of the history of Singapore plus some tips on where to go & what to experience. It was facinating & insightful.
    Once we were armed with all of this new information we headed off to Chinatown to experience "the best chicken rice in Singapore" at a little store called Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, hidden within the Maxwell Food Centre (Hawker Centre). The queue was 30 deep (a good sign that the food is good) but moved quicky & it was essentially our first time trying an authentic Singaporean dish - it wasn't bad, although the little dipping sauce on the side incinerated our tastebuds - hokey smokes it was hot!!!
    After lunch we wandered around the corner for a quick photo opportunity, capturing a shot of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum.
    Next stop was Arab Street - an eclectic mix of old & new world charm & plenty of arty boutiques & cafes with a Middle Eastern flavour - we stopped at the Selfie Coffee shop in Haji Lane for a, you guessed it, Selfie Coffee!
    From here we walked to the famous Raffles Hotel where we ducked in for a refreshing Singapore Sling (as one does in Singapore 😁) - it was pretty good, although for $31SGD, it should be! This was our final experience in Singapore & we wouldn't have done anything different. Next stop - Istanbul!
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  • Day3

    Singapore (Sentosa Island)

    October 9, 2017 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We had a bit of a sleep-in this morning & had breakfast at around 8.30am - with everyone else 🙄😃; breakfast in Singapore consists of many different options - think curries, noodles & plenty of fried things.
    After our bellies were full, we caught a cab to the beautiful Mt Faber, where our Day 3 adventure began...we were heading to Sentosa Island!
    We boarded our very own cable car carriage for the journey to the island - the view was spectacular! On arrival, we switched to the Sentosa Line and did a loop of the island before alighting at Merlion Station and heading down to Universal Studios. Once in the park we headed straight for the rides & knocked off The Mummy; Battlestar Galactica & Transformers pretty quickly before we headed to the Waterworld show after lunch. Our favourite ride was Transformers - the effects were awesome!
    Walking out of the park in the afternoon we marveled at the stores in the precinct - a junk foodies paradise! - Herschy's, Reece's, Candylicious & Krispy Kreme to name but a few!
    The next stop was the Skyline Luge attraction - we had so much fun here! We flew down the winding course, avoiding all of the "Sunday drivers", before catching the ski lift back up to the top of the hill & doing it all again! Possibly my favourite part of the day 😁.
    We finally boarded our cable car & headed back to the mainland. We were so knackered now, but dragged ourselves back to the hotel via the MRT - when did we become so old? Lol!
    All in all it was another great day exploring this part of the world. Tomorrow we will do a quick victory lap of this green & active city before packing & preparing for the next leg of our journey - Turkey.
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