Friday, July 8, 2016

Istanbul: Hippodrome Sultanahmet nearby to Blue Mosque and St. Sophia in Turkey


Hippodrome of Constantinople was built as a horse racing track (Chariot race) during Byzantine Empire. The word hippdrome comes from Greek. Hippos means horse and drome means (path or way). However, Hippodrome was ruined down when the Ottoman Turks took over the city in 1453 and turned it into the Capital of Ottoman Empire. 

Hippodrome has transformed into a beautiful park in Sultanahmet at Istanbul, Turkey. You are able to see some fragments of the original structure which are  surviving at Hippodrome until today. There are Walled Obelisk, Serpent Column, Obelisk of Thutmose III and German Fountain. Hippodrome is a short walking distance from Blue Mosque and St Sophia which are located in Sultanahmet area. It is highly recommended to stay at a hotel in Sultanahmet area since all the historical sites are situated there such as Blue Mosque, St Sophia, Hippodrome and Topkapi Palace too. 

All you need to do is to enjoy strolling at the Hippodrome park in Sultanahmet at Istanbul, Turkey. Vehicles aren't allowed in Sultanahmet area. Thus, you need to walk a lot to visit all the historical sites there. 

Do NOT get frightened when seeing street dogs at Sultanahmet. The locals told me that these street dogs are well fed and have been vaccinated, which are funded by the government and the local NGO there. The street dogs are normally fed in the evenings so, they normally sleep in the daytime. Although Turkey is a Muslim country, the locals prove they are animal lovers including dogs too.

Colouful Tulips can be seen all over Hippodrome and Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey
Colouful Tulips can be seen all over Hippodrome and Sultanahmet in Istanbul, Turkey

Colourful Tulips are planted in Hippodrome and Sultanahmet at Istanbul, Turkey
Colourful Tulips are planted in Hippodrome and Sultanahmet at Istanbul, Turkey

Healthy street dogs are well-fed and vaccinated by government and NGOs at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Healthy street dogs are well-fed and vaccinated by government and NGOs at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Walled Obelisk at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Walled Obelisk at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Obelisk of Thutmose III was brought over by Theodosius, the Great from Egypt in 390 and placed it on a marble pedestal until today at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Obelisk of Thutmose III was brought over by Theodosius, the Great from Egypt in 390 and placed it on a marble pedestal until today at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Obelisk of Thutmose III (front) and Walled Obelisk (back) at Hippodrome of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey
Obelisk of Thutmose III (front) and Walled Obelisk (back) at Hippodrome of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey

Serpent Column was to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians which was located in the middle of the Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Serpent Column was to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians which was located in the middle of the Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

German Fountain was built originated from Germany to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor WilhelmII's visit to Istanbul in 1898 at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
German Fountain was built originated from Germany to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor WilhelmII's visit to Istanbul in 1898 at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

German Fountain's octagonal dome has eight marble columns and dome's interior is covered with golden mosaics at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
German Fountain's octagonal dome has eight marble columns and dome's interior is covered with golden mosaics at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Fontaine Guillaume (William Wilhelm German Fountain) at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey
Fontaine Guillaume (William Wilhelm German Fountain) at Hippodrome in Istanbul, Turkey

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Istanbul: Sultanahmet & Taksim Square in Turkey Introduction


Traveling to Turkey wasn't in my top list. I wanted to travel to Russia, Eastern Europe, Spain, Iceland, Vienna or Germany but they were too costly and over my budget. At the end, we decided to travel to Turkey after watching some beautiful shots on documentary shows.

We arrived at one of the biggest and busiest international airport at Istanbul Ataturk Airport. Then, we headed immediately to the Immigration area once we got out from the plane. The queue was as usual very long and slow moving. It wasn't happened due to peak traveling seasons or festive holidays. A friend warned us about the slow processing at the Immigration area before our trip, so we expected it would take between an hour to two hours from the Immigration area to the baggage area right before we could walk out to the Arrival hall of the airport. 

As we walked out the arrival hall, we were welcomed by the private shutter service representative who drove us to our hotel in Sultanahmet which was about 30 minutes ride due to slow crawling traffic on the streets.

Istanbul is well-known for the worst traffic congestion in Turkey and probably, in the world. You can get stuck on the traffic for hours without moving at all during peak hours in the morning and evening, every day. Thus, it's highly advisable to take metro (subway) around Istanbul to avoid being caught in the traffic. 

Although most of the population is Muslim, Turkey is a secular country and everyone has freedom of religion and beliefs. There are minorities practicing in Judaism and Christianity living in Turkey for centuries. As such, Turkey's history of religious tolerance has set an example of living in harmony with different religions to the world.

When you're traveling to Istanbul, it's highly recommended to stay at hotels in two different places in order to experience the lifestyle of these places. All the main attraction sites like, St Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace are located in Sultanahmet and it's not easy to be accessible by vehicles so, you should plan between two to three days hotel stay within Sultanahmet. All these attraction sites are situated near to each other thus, you just need to walk around Sultanahmet. 

Once you have finished visiting the attraction sites in Sultanahmet, you should plan for another two days hotel stay within Taksim Square. If you plan to take a taxi, you can find many taxis waiting by the road side. Most of the taxi drivers do not use taxi meters so, negotiate to the agreed price before getting into the car. The journey takes between 40 minutes to an hour depending on the traffic condition. Taksim Square is situated in the European part of Istanbul which is considered the heart of modern Istanbul city. 

We decided to extend our trip for another two days stay at Taksim Square since our group tour covered Sultanahmet (in Istanbul) and outside of Istanbul like, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Kusadasi and Canakkale. All these areas outside of Istanbul aren't accessible by public transportation thus, you can either to engage a private tour or to join group tour.

The bird's eye view of Istanbul which is the most populous capital city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center
The bird's eye view of Istanbul which is the most populous capital city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center

Metro (subway) is running on the busy streets of Istanbul city in Turkey
Metro (subway) is running on the busy streets of Istanbul city in Turkey

The most convenient and reliable Metro public transportation as Istanbul is well-known for the most congested traffic in Turkey
The most convenient and reliable Metro public transportation as Istanbul is well-known for the most congested traffic in Turkey

Friday, June 3, 2016

Siem Reap: Bayon & Angkor Wat Temples


This is a continuation post from the previous travel post to Siem Reap in Cambodia. We continued our group tour to Bayon and Angkor Wat Temples after visiting Tra Prohm Temple, which became popular in Angelina Jolie's movie called Tomb Raider.

These temples are located nearby in Angkor Province of Siem Reap in Cambodia. However, it's not a short walking distance to each other thus, you should arrange for private transportation or participate group tours.

Bayon Temple is located to the North of the famous Angkor Wat Temple. It is a Buddhist temple with Hindu elements on the structure. It is built around 1190AD by King Jayavarman VII. Bayon Temple is famous known for its huge stone faces of the Bodhisttva Avalokiteshvara.

Angkor Wat Temple is the most popular attraction sites to visit in Siem Reap. Angkor Wat Temple is built by Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD. This is the most astonishing architectural achievement as the structure is still surviving until today.

It's mandatory to purchase one day entrance ticket with your photo attached on the ticket to all temples in Angkor Province in Siem Reap, Cambodia
It's mandatory to purchase one day entrance ticket with your photo attached on the ticket to all temples in Angkor Province in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Province map shows Angkor Wat Temple and Bayon Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Province map shows Angkor Wat Temple and Bayon Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia

The entrance gate of Bayon Temple in Angkor Province of Siem Reap, Cambodia
The entrance gate of Bayon Temple in Angkor Province of Siem Reap, Cambodia

A closer look at the entrance gate with the stone face of Bayon Temple in Angkor Province of Siem Reap, Cambodia
A closer look at the entrance gate with the stone face of Bayon Temple in Angkor Province of Siem Reap, Cambodia

Another stone face can be seen at the rear of the entrance gate of Bayon Temple in Angkor Province of Siem Reap in Cambodia
Another stone face can be seen at the rear of the entrance gate of Bayon Temple in Angkor Province of Siem Reap in Cambodia

Bayon Temple at Angkor Province in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Bayon Temple at Angkor Province in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Bayon Temple in Angkor Province of Siem Reap, Cambodia
Bayon Temple in Angkor Province of Siem Reap, Cambodia

Bayon Temple is a popular attraction temple to visit in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Bayon Temple is a popular attraction temple to visit in Siem Reap, Cambodia

More face stones can be seen on the tower of Bayon Temple at Angkor Province of Siem Reap, Cambodia
More face stones can be seen on the tower of Bayon Temple at Angkor Province of Siem Reap, Cambodia

A closer look at the stone faces on the towers at Bayon Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
A closer look at the stone faces on the towers at Bayon Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
A full view of Bayon Temple with its stone faces on the towers at Angkor Province in Siem Reap, Cambodia
A full view of Bayon Temple with its stone faces on the towers at Angkor Province in Siem Reap, Cambodia


Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Two Khmer Lion Guardians in stone are placed at the entrance of Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Two Khmer Lion Guardians in stone are placed at the entrance of Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia

The head of a naga beside the entrance of Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
The head of a naga beside the entrance of Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia