Mosques and Bazars of Istanbul

We had an early flight back to Istanbul at 8:40 AM so our hotel pick up was at 6:30 AM. We got another opportunity to view the hot air balloon again! I will never get tired of this view every morning!

Those two really enjoying the view that they were there the whole morning! Do they even realize people were waiting to take photos at this spot? Luckily, we took our photos the day before or I would politely ask them to move for a few minutes.

Every day is different depending on the wind direction, the balloons didn’t get as close as yesterday but still quite a sight!

Then, we heard the sound of a violin, another guest was having a surprise proposal to his girlfriend, how romantic! However, those two who were occupying the spot didn’t move out so that the couple could have better engagement photos; they were in the background! Unfortunately, there are people who are so self-centered that they aren’t considerate on things happening around them.

After some quick snaps, we got ready to go and our driver has arrived. He was speeding the whole way to the airport, we got there at 7:30 AM and the airport was full of people. The line was awfully long and only two service counters to check-in. They were super slow too. We barely made it for our flight.

We landed Istanbul (IST) Airport at 10:10 AM and met our driver that I booked via Istanbul Airport Taxi for €60 one way. The van is luxury with a table and a wall that you can’t even see the driver for privacy. It was a long ride to our hotel due to traffic and the driver couldn’t even drive into the hotel due to way too many pediatricians…I booked the Mest Hotel Istanbul Sirkeci for its good rating and central location that we can walk to all the main tourist sights, but it has this inconveniency.

Our rooms weren’t ready yet so we left our luggage at the front desk and headed out for lunch. They saw Burger King and was craving for burgers lol. Jason and I went to the seafood restaurant – Adella Seafood Restaurant instead. It is located inside a 5 stars hotel, very upscale, with this view.

The restaurant is huge but only two tables occupied urggg a bad sign?

Hum…is this really good for the dogs and cats?

We ordered the fish soup to share, it tasted okay and the portion was large enough to share.

Unfortunately, our seafood spaghetti and rice weren’t good at all. They were so stingy on the ingredients that you can’t even see the seafood on my spaghetti dish! Yet, they charged a premium price for them! The spaghetti sauce tasted like from a can! What a tourist trap!!!

After lunch, it was time to explore Istanbul! We walked to the infamous The Blue Mosque and there was a line to get in.

The courtyard of The Blue Mosque:

Ladies have to cover their hair so we were prepared with our own scarves as headwrap. We need to take off our shoes and wear socks to walk in. The beautiful ceilings!

Huge hanging lights, the pictures couldn’t bring out the blueish of the interior due to the yellow light.

It was so crowded that it was impossible to take a photo without others in it, we gave up waiting!

We didn’t stay long because it started to smell really bad…..imagine thousands of smelly socks yikes!!! Next, we walked across to another famous building – Hagia Sophia Museum and Church. This church turned into mosque into museum.

Vendors were selling fresh watermelon, what a great idea!

There was a longer line to get in….

Inside Hagia Sophia Museum and Church:

Lots of people and smelly socks urg! We tried to be fast…..take a few photos and leave!

Done with mosques, next, we headed to the famous The Grand Bazar. There was a metal detector to walk through to get in.

The bazar looks very clean and filled with stores selling jewelry, spices, Turkish delights, and souvenirs.

You can easily get lost here, each row looks the same but if you pay attention, it has street name.

The prices were higher for the same item so we didn’t stay for long and found our way out. The surrounding streets around our hotel were all selling stuff, you can find everything here.

It was so crowded…..not something I enjoyed!

Back to the hotel, our rooms were ready. I booked a suite for $234 a night, it was spacious.

The view of a mosque from our room window.

Peter, Judy, and Jeffrey booked a family room with a terrace that has this view.

My room is more center to the mosque so the angle is better:

They booked the Turkish bath at the famous Cagaloglu Hamam at 6 PM, Jason and I opted out, I don’t like being rubbed by others. They said it was so well worth it, they felt so relaxed afterward!

I booked Hanzade Terrace Restaurant at 7 PM, it has over 8500 reviews with an average rating of 4.9/5 in Google so how can it be bad right? You can fake a thousand review, you can’t fake 8500! The location was a bit hard to find, it’s located inside a hotel. You need to ask for direction on how to get up. We walked the stairs up to the 2nd floor and took an old-style elevator up to the 7th floor. Then, walk another flight of stairs up to the terrace. The hallways looked like in a scary movie, dark, gloomy, with red lights LOL. But the good news is that it’s well worth it! Their menu, very budget friendly and huge portions!!!

We were the only ones there when we arrived so I was a little bit worried but then it quickly was full with locals and tourists! The view from our table:

We ordered the spring rolls LOL just kidding, it’s a spinach pastry with cheese. It tasted interesting.

The mushroom with garlic and butter was good too.

The sauce from the shrimp with sauce was so tasty that I can have a bowl of rice with it!

Now the mixed meat platter….huge portion that you can share with at least 2 people!!! We couldn’t believe how tender and juicy all the meat was. It was unbelievable good!

The chicken was so delicious and juicy, it was one of the best grilled chickens I ever had.

Free dessert and apple tea.

They truly deserved the 4.9 rating with over 8500 reviews, it was the best meal we had in this trip and everyone agrees! The dinner cost $249.98 for the 7 of us, excellent value for the quality of the food!!!

After dinner, we took an Uber to Hafiz Mustafa, a chain store/restaurant that is famous for baklava and Turkish Delight. The first Uber driver asked for a fixed price that is much higher than what Uber app quoted, we refused and canceled the ride. The next Uber driver was more honest, it only cost $4.5 for the ride include the tip.

So many different flavors of baklava at Hafiz Mustafa! Judy and Laili bought a box of a mix to try out. The best ones were the green roll one (mainly pistachios so it wasn’t super sweet) and the right one in that box that look like a bun, that one has crispy crust.

I got boxes of Turkish Delight with mixed flavors to take home.

Their cakes and puddings look so good, I wanted to try them out but too full 🙁

Our goodies to bring home 🙂 We ended up having hard time to finish the Turkish Delights because they were super sweet, not for our Asian taste buds.

The walk back to our hotel where the mosque was lit up with blue lights on its domes.

View from my room’s window:

Our half day in Istanbul was busy with visiting The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Museum and Church, The Grand Bazar, and the rest of the group had their Turkish bath experience at Cagaloglu Hamam. I felt that one day in Istanbul was enough to see those on my list, I don’t like super crowded places anymore as I get older. I much preferred Cappadocia in terms of scenery and the relaxing vibes. Overall, this trip checked off Petra and Cappadocia from my bucket list, both are impressive and I highly recommend them!

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