Friday, June 22, 2012

The End is the Beginning is the End is the Beginning

Finally it came to an end..
3,5 months is over. I am at my home sweet home in Istanbul now sitting next to my mom. Of course I am sad that it is finished but i am also excited for what might come in summer as i will be spending 2 months here in Istanbul. So every end is the beginning is the end is the beginning.. Let's rock'n roll baby! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Here I am..

Here I am. Back again. Where it all started 110 days ago.
I stayed at Antonio’s place in the last 2 days of trip in Mumbai and I was alone this time. It was the perfect occasion for me to think, reflect, organize my thoughts, organize my pictures, plan my Istanbul days even a bit.

Now looking behind :

110 days, 7 countries, +2500 pictures, countless new friends, old friends, rickshaws, cows, monkeys, rats.. 

I met with many beautiful people who will surely leave a big mark in my life. I met with some jerks too. I had great times that I thought I was dying out of laughter. I had down moments as well. I was super happy mostly but got really sad & sick also. More than anything, I learnt a lot. More than anything else, about me, myself & I.

There is too much to say but way too difficult to explain..

All I know is that it was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am glad I used it. I spent a lot of money but every penny was worth at the end. I want to organize my thoughts a bit better and have a proper conclusion of this trip also of this blog. I have my flight back home in a couple of hours and I have to work on the pictures now..

Back to where I started. Mumbai!

So, it really is coming to an end.
They say : "Time flies by.." but this time it flew by with the "speed of light".

I remember like yesterday, i was here in Antonio's place in Colaba, planning my trip to Hyderabad, then to Hampi, then to Bangalore and so on..

Since then, 110 days passed, i visited 7 countries, took more than 2000 pictures, met with countless people and left a great number of memories behind. I tried to keep some alive thanks to this blog but of course there were so many moments that i forgot to write or simply didn't feel like writing.

I would like to make a good summary though.
Today i am alone in Colaba at Antonio's place and i have the perfect conditions to think. Nice house, drinks, music at the background and a good amount of time. Now i am thinking and organizing my summary. Pictures, blogs, memories. It is easy to tell, difficult to explain though.

But i am happy that i am back where I started.. and where i will finish.. So only 26 hours left in India, last 26 hours of the trip. Can not still believe it. 

Good Old New Alipore..

New Alipore is where a bunch of AIESEC Interns live in Calcutta.. and it is the name of one of the most lively and fun places in the city.

My first night in New Alipore & Guys with the shirts from Thailand. 

2.5 months ago when i came to Calcutta, i stayed at this place. I met with Eduardo, Bruno, Pedro, Allison, Willian, Vivian and some Brazilians that i can not remember the names of.. By the time passed, some left, some others joined. This time the team was different but it was the same kind of fun i had 2.5 months ago. It was Badr, Pedro, Sameer, Ronami, Lucas, Sam, Vivian, Maggie, Roxanne, Daniella and Bruno this time. Most were not living in this house but it was the hub for intern meetings, great dinners, interesting discussions as usual. 

Pictures in the Elevator

This time i witnessed Pedro's farewell. He has been living in that house for more than 9 months and he left Calcutta for good last Friday so i was there for his farewell dinner. Or i witnessed Roxanne having a tattoo and i decided not to leave her alone in this important decision so i got one as well. Or i got super sick with the exhaustion of the hot weather and not eating at all but i was taken care of Jimit's mom in the very best way. So these 10 days had a lot of unforgettable moments for me..

Pedro leaving Calcutta & Roxanne getting her first tattoo (me too!)

I am so happy when i meet with such people, smart, intellectual, fun, full of life, i feel younger and also hopeful :) and New Alipore never deceives me. This time also, we got drunk, we had interesting discussions until the sunrise, we ate good food, we had fun and we were happy. 
Self-pictures in front of the computer with Thai t-shirts 

I had my doubts in the beginning but i was happy to conclude my trip in New Alipore in this way, so thank you once again guys for being my family in Calcutta and i hope to see each & everyone of you in another part of the world. Take good care until then.. 

My last night in Calcutta (Olypub) 

Varanasi.. Reloaded!

It is by far my favorite city in India.
Ganges, the Ghats, Pilgrims, Sunset, Boat rides, Pujas, Horse carriages, Cows, Monkeys, Garbage, Dirt & Dust everywhere, all together in some sort of harmony, Varanasi is one of the most interesting places one can see in India and most probably in the whole world. Being one of the oldest cities in the world and hardly changed since the first civilizations, Varanasi can be considered as a Timeless City. It seems like even if you come to this city 50 years later whatever you would see will not be different at all. 

Varanasi by the Sunrise & Example of a graffiti all around the ghats

I was there 3 years ago, i travelled alone, met with some fellow backpackers and spent 3 great days by the Ghats. This time it was different. Guys in Kolkata already planned to go there for the weekend and i decided to join them in the very last minute.

Morning by the Ghats & Sameer, Badr & I enjoying the company of buffalos

In India, you need to arrange the train tickets way in advance if you want to travel in a good spot however as it was a last minute decision and as i didnt have any train tickets, i had to buy a "general quota ticket" which means that i had to travel 16 hours on a small compartment with a lot of people sitting on the ground or maybe even standing. However i didn't do that. 

The others already booked the sleeper class (2 triple bunk beds in a compartment with fan) so i joined them in their tiny compartment. As there were 5 of us for 4 beds, we had to squeeze. On the way to Varanasi, it was Roxanne (CA) and Sameer (CA) sharing one tiny bunk bed. On the way back, it had to be different people and at some point, it was me and Ronami (BR) .

On the way to Varanasi & Ronami and I sharing the bed on the way back

After a long but bearable trip of 14 hours, Maggie (CA), Roxanne (CA), Lucas (BR), Ronami (BR), Sameer (CA), Badr (MR) and I arrived in Varanasi. Having no place arranged, we arranged a ricksha and ended up in a hostel in the south part of the city. It was way too hot and we were walking by the ghats, during the day the city was like a ghost town as everyone was at home or at a shady place.

Puja for Ganges at the background & Boat trip at night 

In these 2 days, we were by the Ganges, walked around the Ghats, took 3 boat rides (sunset, sunrise and travelling during the day), tried to check the non existing temple, watched the PT & DE game (which i lost a bet of), wander around the main market and in between, rested in the Brown Bread German Bakery. (A place where had the best continental food especially cheese in India).
Relaxing in Brown Bread German Bakery

It was a short trip with 2 long trips, especially on the way back we had a delay of 4 hours, stopping in a couple of places for hours without having any explanation. Considering it was around +40 degrees and we had only 2 small fans to cool us down, it was not easy to survive in the trip. However we made it! 
Good Morning Varanasi (we are still sleeping) & Going to the train station on a horse carriage

Monday, June 11, 2012

Live from Kolkata..

As i didn't want to take the bus ride from Kathmandu to Darjeeling, i decided to stay in Kathmandu for a bit longer and fly to Kolkata directly. I had friends here, had a place to sleep, that is why i decided that would be the best to do instead of travelling alone.

OK i dont want to be a spoilt kid, but it has been 3.5 months already and i think it is time for me to go home. I had a great trip, met with cool people, had reunions with my old friends, travelled a lot, learnt a lot but yes i admit i think it is time for me to go home now..

This weekend with the friends from Kolkata we went to Varanasi - my second time- i loved the city again. I guess it was a great place to finish my India trip, from now on my destinations will be Kolkata and Mumbai until my flight departs on June 20th 05:30 am from Mumbai airport.

I will write more soon about my Varanasi trip.. 

Bus Adventure (?) in Kathmandu...

After the sad news, I literally collapsed and I would be looking forward for a long bus trip to be alone and reflect a bit. That is why I decided to go to Darjeeling from Kathmandu with a 14 hour journey.. I always loved bus rides or train trips as they are the best to have some time of your own, to witness nice sceneries and to think. However this one didn’t start as it was expected.

I arranged the train ticket via the hostel I was staying. I went to the bus stop and in a very short time, I spotted that I was the only foreigner among 100+ people. I was looking for someone to guide me to the bus, I waited in the waiting area for 15-20 mins and finally a weird guy showed up and he told me he would bring me to the bus. After a search of another 15 mins, we could finally find our bus which was a local small minibus filled with luggages inside and outside. It reminded me of the documentaries or the pictures I saw about India.

Again maybe it was one of my "paranoid" moments, but my gut feeling was certainly not good, this guy was sitting next to me talking about how lonely he was and how much he wanted to have a life partner, asking me very intimate questions about my private life, I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy ride. Plus, after one hour of the scheduled departure time, the bus was still standing at the bus stop waiting for more passengers. 

Finally I decided not to take the bus. It was going to take minimum 14 hours only to the border (another 4-5 hours to Darjeeling). A weird person sitting next to me..  Yes in many cases, I am quite open to adventures and new experiences but this one would be way too much so I decided not to take the ride and instead fly to Kolkata..  There was no flight available the day after the bus trip adventure, so I had to stay in Kathmandu for an extra day which I could never complain about because the rooftops or garden cafes of Thamel are just perfect places to kill time, write, charge & recharge yourself.

So Kolkata, one of favorite cities in India, I am going to see you soon!

My Grandmom.. Canim Anneannem..

I learnt the sad news just by a facebook status update from a relative. And in the first couple of seconds, I couldn’t realize that it was my grandmother. Yes it was unfortunately true that she passed away 3 days ago after staying in the hospital for a couple of days. My family didn’t tell me anything not to make me sad as I was faraway. If I knew she was in the coma, I could have simply got on the first plane and be back in Istanbul to see her for the one last time.

Was it expected? Of course not, however after my grandfather passed away in 2003, she gave up on life. She was always talking about my grandfather, she stopped eating, she lost her energy for life so maybe she was hoping for this day to be with her beloved one. .

Canim biricik pamuk anneannem benim. Senin o guzel yuzunu son bir defa goremedim, o incecik bedenini son bir defa saramadim belki ama biliyorum mutluydun aramizdan ayrilirken.. O cok sevdigin dedecigime kavustun sonunda.  Nurlar icinde yat, mekanin cennet olsun biricik anneannecigim benim. Seni cok seviyorum ve cok ama cok ozledim.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Nepal : same same but different than India..

-From May 30th to June 2nd, 2012- 

I had no clue what Kathmandu would be like but I wouldn’t guess that it would be that much alike with India. The airport, the crazy traffic with scooters, tuktuks, cars, the dusty roads, all reminded me of a mid-size city of India.

On the way to Nepal in Delhi & Our First Evening in Kathmandu 

It was an intense and a bit shocking experience in the beginning for the guys, but they could get used to it in the second day already. Onur managed to book a very good hostel right in the centre of Kathmandu, the touristical area called Thamel and thanks to my high school friend, Ozge who is working there in an GSM operator company for a year now, we could enjoy Kathmandu and the other ancient cities around.

 Bhaktapur Durbar (main) Square & Bhaktapur Pottery Square 

With the car & the driver she provided, we went to Bhakdapur (one of the 3 capitals of old Nepal along with Kathmandu and Patan) we visited Nagarkot to watch the scenery however the rain and the fog avoided that unfortunately. We were in the Monkey temple, Boudhanath Stupa temple, Pashupathinath temple where the Hindus were being cremated and the ashes were spread over the Bagmati river. This was truly a very impressive moment to watch the ceremony and the cremation.

Enjoying the Nepal sceneries from Nagarkot & Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath) in Kathmandu

Apart from that, we were happy to hang out at the roof top cafes or bars of Thamel. Drinking local beer Gorkha, enjoying fruit shakes, smoking nargile, the roof tops were a cool spot to conclude the guys’ holidays.

I really didn’t want this adventure to finish, didn’t want them to leave, especially after what I heard about my grandmom in our last day. But very unwillingly, I had to say bye to my 2 favorite road trip allies in Kathmandu on June 2nd, Saturday night. 

Perasa Perasa, how can I thank you?

Himmm.. Let me think. She hosted me on & off from April 9th to May 30th,

I truly think Bangkok is my third home thanks to this girl. I had been to North Thailand, Islands of Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos and I could always come back to Bangkok knowing that I have a home there. She provided me a room even with a private bathroom and hosted me in the best way possible. I will never forget her hospitality and I will hope to see her again in Brussels, in Istanbul or at another corner of the world...

Hope to see you soon P.! 

Bangkok - Phuket - Phi Phi Triangle

-From May 21st to May 30th, 2012- 

Due to the expensive accommodation in Hong Kong, we shortened that part of the trip and decided to stay in Thailand longer. 
Hey Bangkoook, Nice to see you again! 

So on May 21st, one day before my holiday we flew to Bangkok and stayed again in the centre, “the backpackers area” Khao San Road. The night before my birthday, we were wasted in the Khao San street concluding our day at Burger King and foot massage afterwards.
Dinner at my usual place : Villa Cha Cha & Concluding the night with foot massage! 
30th Birthday Celebration on the Roof of Bangkok : Sky Bar, Sirocco!

Hello 30! ;) 

Those who watched Hangover 2, can remember this place :

That is where I celebrated my Birthday thanks to Onur and Hendrik.  I wasn’t expecting any kind of celebration or ceremony but I received a small cake with my name on it with people singing Happy Birthday along. I was kind of shy but I was really happy to be on top of Bangkok on my special day.

Perasa, my Thai friend, also visited us on my birthday 

The next day we moved to Phuket but it was a big big disappointment. 
After my birthday, along with the heavy rain we got on the way to Phuket by bus. The 12 hour road trip was tiring mainly for the guys and we reached Phuket very early in the morning greeted by rain. Not sure where we would be going, I heard positive things about Kata beach so we stayed there in the first night.  The sea was crazy with huge waves, we could only swim for ½ hour and it started raining again.

The best part of Phuket was the food and the drinks by street Auto Bars 

The second day we wanted to move to a more lively area the famous Patong beach, it was even a bigger disappointment for me at least. I assume the guys could enjoy a bit as they went out at night, however I was too tired and I didn’t feel like going out at all. So I can only describe Phuket as a big disappointment.

Finally in good old Phi Phi but the guys didn't have much to do but sleep as it was raining constantly 

I was happy to bring the guys to my favorite island, Phi Phi again. This would be my third time but I didn’t hesitate even a bit because I only had good time in this island. The guys agreed with me also, first day we could enjoy the beach and the large waves again in the Long Beach. I wanted to take them to the Sunset viewpoint or to the Snorkelling tour but the weather was not on our side. Right before both activities, it started raining like hell. We had nothing to do but to drink Singhas and eat spring rolls in these times.

Paddy's Resto & Drinks before Slinky

With these 2 guys, I could actually discover the “Nightlife” of Phi Phi. For the first, we walked to the other coast of the island, which was only 10 mins away from the main coast and there we found ourselves in the most lively beach nightclub you could ever imagine.
Slinky, full of young backpackers, was one of the most crowded places I had seen on that island. In fact I was wondering where these guys were staying during the day. With the nice beaches, small town centre and the night life, Phi Phi experience was again very good however it would be much much better if my 2 guys could enjoy it more without the rain.
Bye Bye Phi Phi, i will certainly miss you!! 

Our last one day in Thailand was in Bangkok as usual full of shopping and bargaining in Khao San Road. I bought so much stuff –mainly for myself- that I had to buy another luggage and asked Hendrik to bring it back to Belgium. With the tshirts, the shawls and other small gifts that we bought, we were ready to say bye to Thailand and head to Kathmandu..
Farewell Dinner & Drinks to Bangkok in Sukhumvit