A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

Istanbul to Chicago to Zeeland!

Home sweet home!

This morning we got up and had breakfast in our hotel, then took the 45 minute taxi van ride back to the airport. The views of the city were really cool, I especially liked when it just looks like a sea of rooftops. So, of course I couldn’t resist some window pics!

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The new Istanbul Airport (I believe opened in April) is pretty amazing. It almost seems more like a high-end shopping mall than an airport. Right now it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, which I assume is why it took so long both times to get to hotels (in opposite directions), but there’s plenty of room around the airport so I assume hotels will start going in.

Just to enter the airport, you have to go through security just like you normally would to get to a flight gate area. Then you have to go through it again to get in after you have a boarding pass. For this flight to the US, we also had to go through THREE security checkpoints to enter our gate (it was glasses off from. the walkway) - twice our passports and boarding passes were checked, and then all of our luggage was hand searched and we were patted down. Then they checked again as we boarded, and in Chicago, we had to show our passports to get off the plane! Crazy! - we didn’t encounter anything like that anywhere else, or even in Istanbul when we went though for other flights on this trip.

We did find out upon arrival at the airport that our flight was delayed 2 hours, and after we went to our gate it got delayed another 30 minutes. While Turkish Airlines is wonderful in-flight with care packages (slippers, socks, eye mask, earplugs, toothbrush and paste), food (2 full meals the longer flights and sometimes a snack, but even a full meal on a 1.5 hour flight!), and beverages (sodas, juices, beer and wine all included at no charge, and offered frequently); they don’t seem to do so well with on-time flights, being helpful when their delays cause you to miss a flight, or getting all of your luggage to the final destination on time.

We landed in Chicago at about 8pm (9 in Michigan), and by the time we deplaned, got through customs and immigration, and got the shuttle back to the hotel we parked at, it was 10:00/11/00. So we got home a little after 2 and probably weren’t in bed before 3.

Our bodies are all out of whack on time, so we were all up by 7:30! I foresee naps in our future! ;)

Posted by Rowlandfamily 05:13 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Phuket to Istanbul

On our way home!

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Our taxi van picked us up this morning at 8 to take us all to the airport. Nudi will be flying back to Bangok and going to her dorm because, although she is on summer break right now, she’s part of a club that has activities going on, and a group of foreigners coming soon that she will help around. It was really hard to say goodbye to her again, and we really hope to see her again soon!

The Phuket airport is really small - think GR Ford or maybe even smaller.

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The rest of us took a 10-hour flight to Istanbul. When I booked it, we were supposed to have a brief layover, then continue right to Chicago, but they changed our flight out of Phuket so that we landed in Istanbul too late, and apparently only one flight/day goes from Istanbul to Chicago. While initially I was less than thrilled with that development, in hindsight it’s kind of nice, breaking up the 10 hour flight and the 11 hour flight, and allowing us to sleep in real beds in between. It also allows us to adjust to the 11-hour time difference we’ve been on in increments, though I’m sure we’ll still be feeling that for a few days.

After we got checked into our hotel, which was NOT right next to the airport, as advertised, since the new airport has opened (it took us 45 min or more), we went and walked around a little. It was 7:30 or 8:00 pm by then, so the temps were in the mid to high 70’s - the coolest we’ve experienced in long time, and it was great. We weren’t terribly hungry - while there are things Turkish airlines could definitely improve on, they are really generous with food and drinks, and fed us full meals twice on our flight. However, we didn’t want to just sit on our hotel room, so we stopped at a place that had semi-outdoor seating and got a small pizza to share and sodas, which came to about $8 total.

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Tomorrow we fly out of Istanbul about 2:00pm, but because of the 8-hour time change, will land in Chicago at 5:30pm Chicago time. Excited to be home, but, after 25 days, 3 continents, and 6 countries (including the US), the travel big has bitten, and I am ready to start thinking about our next adventure! :)

Posted by Rowlandfamily 09:25 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Istanbul - June 22

Yep, I said Istanbul. Not Bangkok.

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As I begin writing this, it’s 4 am in Michigan, and 3 pm in Bangkok ... our flight should be landing any minute. Unfortunately, we are not on it... which is how I also know that it’s 11 am in Istanbul, Turkey.

Last night when we got to the airport in Dubrovnik, we could see that our flight to Istanbul was delayed 35 minutes, which was a bit concerning being that Istanbul airport is huge and our layover was only scheduled to be an hour and a half. When our delay went to 1 hr 15 minutes we really became concerned, but were still optimistic.

I’m sure our plane must have still been on the runway, if not at the gate, when we arrived... but they told us we were too late. They did offer to put us up in a hotel, but first we had to walk back and forth a million times, standing in line only to find out we were at the wrong place, or at times, in the right place, but “now go back to where you last came from, then come back this way...” - it was a bit confusing, not helped by the language barrier.

Finally, after an hour and a half (by now it’s 3:15am local time, 2:15 Croatia time) we had shiny new Turkish visas (which were procured as easily as showing our passports and handing over $120 American dollars), boarding passes for a flight that leaves at 8pm tonight (Turkey time - we will arrive in Bangkok at about 10am Sunday), had made it through customs and immigration (both also very easy, especially when you have no luggage), and were put on an airport shuttle bus with about 25-30 others in similar predicaments (not all from our flight, I don’t think).

We then drove, and drove, and drove... for an hour and a half! I heard someone ask the bus driver why we didn’t get a hotel near the airport. I think the answer was that they were all full. That seems hard to believe, in a city the size of Istanbul - maybe some just aren’t open (or aren’t up for a busload of impatient travelers?) at that time? My weather app says we’re in Silivri.

By the time we got to our rooms, it was starting to get light outside - here are pics from Tim’s and my balcony when we arrived. You can see the Black Sea on the left. Then a pic later off the hallway balcony - this hotel is a “water park”

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Before sleeping, I had to get ahold of our Bangkok hotel to let them know that we will be arriving 18 hours later than planned; Nudi, to let her know what’s going on and NOT to go to the airport in a few hours; and the tour company for the one and only tour we booked so far - to the floating market, which we were/are really excited about. We were supposed to do that first thing Sunday morning, but since we’ll still be on an airplane.... Thankfully, I heard back from all 3, and we were able to move the floating market to Monday.

So now, we have a day in Istanbul. I see there are city tours that leave from the airport that Turkish airlines will provide free to us, but since I assume the rest of my family is still sleeping, and we need food and have an hour and a half (or more in the daytime?) ride back to the airport, I’m not sure we’ll be able to make one of the times work.

I do know that once we leave the hotel, we are again cut off from communication, since our Croatian SIM cards don’t work here and Istanbul airport offers free WiFi for one hour... AFTER they text you a code. Hmm..if our texting worked, why would we need their WiFi?! In a real emergency, I could put my US SIM card back in and pay Verizon’s charges...but not planning on any emergencies!

It’s crazy that I was just feeling really proud of how smoothly everything has gone so far. Since Natalie and I planned the entire Croatia portion of the trip, and there were LOTS of little details, means of transportation, and Airbnb’s, I assumed somewhere along the way there would be a glitch (such as, “I’m sorry, you can ride this ferry, but your luggage can’t!”), but there wasn’t - everything went extremely smoothly. So it was a little shock to have a glitch now. However, it could be so much worse - all will be fine, and on the bright side, we get an extra day and a long shuttle “tour” of Turkey!

Later addition: when we all got up and showered, we headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant, which is windowed on 3 sides with beautiful views of the Sea), where there was a buffet. I was a bit leery of all the unknown food, but hunger won out so I tried it and it was really good. We were also told we will stay here at the hotel until 4, when we will be shuttled back to the airport, so the kids might go enjoy the pool a little. I’m thinking a nap sounds good - I didn’t get much sleep this morning!

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Posted by Rowlandfamily 03:13 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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