Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cappadocia - Heaven on Earth


Even if you're new to my blog, you'd realize very quickly that I tend to love to use adjectives and throw around 'incredible' 'awesome' 'wonderful' 'amazing' and all those jazzy, cheesy, cliched words like there's no tomorrow.

I mean it when I say it though. Because I think it's so important to see magic in the mundane.

The problem comes when I experience something truly, truly spectacular that touches something deep in my heart. The words I always use seem to not be enough. And Cappadocia is one of those instances.

So, here, I'll post pictures. I'll give information. And I'll even throw in some tips. But this is one place so dear to me that describing it in words seems superfluous. And pictures just can't do it justice. Like true love, you have to experience it to know it.

But to help you in your journey if you do decide to make it, here's mine.

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TRAVEL

We traveled from Istanbul to Cappadocia via Turkish Airlines and arrived at the Nevsehir Airport where our hotel arranged for our transfer.

We arrived at 8am the first morning, stayed for three full days and two nights, and left on the last flight out at 10pm on our departure day.

I think 3 days/2 nights is the bare minimum to see what Cappadocia has to offer. I could have happily stayed for a week.

LODGING

We stayed at the Kelebek Cave Hotel that is situated in Goreme, and which I recommend fully. Two thumbs up and even toes too. My girlfriend was raving about it, and seeing that she's gone back THREE times, I knew I was in for a treat.

It's a family run business, and I love how passionate the owner is, not only about his family home (the hotel), but also about the sustainability of the town and how active he is in its' preservation. You get to learn all this because he is always around. Service-wise, they are welcoming, friendly and helpful but never intrusive. Here is where I truly experienced the famed but not often forthcoming 'Turkish Hospitality'.

You get to pick your room when you make the reservation, and we chose Room 15, which I really loved because even though it was carved into a cave, it still had huge windows and sunlight. AND we got to use the fireplace because it was freezing at nights. 

Breakfast was so yummy that the hubs and I couldn't stop ourselves from going for thirds and fourths. Their cafe/restaurant is available all day for you to order coffee and cay - for free! too. We spent many hours there petting the cats and soaking in the brisk, cold sun whilst enjoying the stunning view of Goreme town.

The owner of Kelebek is also co-owner of one of the most reputable hot air balloon rides in town, as well as day tours. If you stay here, you get a discount off the tour/ activity rates.






ACTIVITIES

Hot air balloon ride

Obviously, one of the most recognized and photographed views of Cappadocia is the sight of hot air balloons at sunrise. We did it with Butterfly Balloons because it was affiliated with our hotel. Again, highly-highly-highly recommended. We were lucky to have Captain Mike, who's TRAINED most of the hot-air balloon pilots in Cappadocia. He's funny, experienced, a breeze to fly with (pun so intended). And though we'd only signed up for a one hour flight, we were blessed with such good weather that we cruised for another twenty minutes more.

The ride was magic. I can't say more because it makes me emotional about how lucky I am to have experienced it. Please go. Please try. Even if you have a fear of heights (which the hubby has), you get over it very quickly because it's breathtaking. And you forget your fear (according to the hubby, who speaks from experience because he almost chickened out at the very last minute, and only stayed on because his fear of being ridiculed far outweighed his fear of death).





History and Adventure tour

It's been too long, so I forgot the actual name of the company that we went with. But like I said, we made all the bookings and arrangements with our hotel and it was perfect. It was a small and cosy group. Our guide was knowledgeable and kind. We got to hike a bit, walk a lot, see sights, take photos, eat home-cooked organic lunch in a farm. All the good stuff, really.







ATV

I'm still not sure how I feel about tearing up the pristine roads of Cappadocia on an ATV, but we did it. And it was pretty fun. I highly suggest that you wear your most disgusting clothes to do it though, because somehow your hair and jacket and clothes and nose will trap all the sand in the world. Truly. Since it was done on a whim, on the spur of the moment, we just walked into one of the many offices which had these quad bikes outside, and signed up for one.



Goreme Open Air Museum

Must-see. Must-see. Must-see. That's all. MUST. I can't write anything more informational than what a million other people have done. So I won't. I'll just use my powers of persuasion to say 'JUST GO!!!' and rent the audio tour thingy. It's worth it. Pinky promise.





Uchisar

Uchisar is another village in Cappadocia. It houses the Uchisar Castle which can be seen from almost every angle we turned when we were in Goreme. So when we met up with our friends, who had driven into Cappadocia from Istanbul (9 hours drive!!!!, if I remember correctly), we caught a ride and went up the hill together. It was really, really nice.



TIPS

1. Bring and wear hiking shoes. The real kind. Hubby and I were so proud of how we were wearing sneakers of the sports kind for the very first time in years. Still, ugly and rugged hiking shoes would have probably been better suited to Cappadocia's terrain. You will want to explore so much by foot.

2. Manage your dining expectations. Other than breakfast at the hotel - which was SUPER AWESOME! - all other restaurants we had lunch and dinner at were just ok. Nothing spectacular. Attempts at asking friends on Facebook for help were also met with nothing better. This is a place to be at one with nature and the world. Forget food for a bit.

3. GO! Just go.













Resurrection



It's been a while, hasn't it?

Well, life and laziness happened, so I'll do away with the excuses and niceties and jump right back where we left off, cool?

The hubby and I moved to Athens in January this year and I tearfully left behind my beloved Istanbul and tore my body (never my heart, never) away from all the precious, most beautiful friends I made in those short two years.

It was rough. And still is. All the expat ladies know what I'm talking about. Life in a new country is toughest in the first six months. Okay, let's be real and say a year. It's a time when you're all alone in a city whilst your husband is busy working his ass off to prove his worth to his new company. I don't speak for those with kids, of course. I speak for the just-a-wifes'. The house is silent with only your thoughts to accompany you. You try to not sink into a state of 'i'm such a poor thing' because you know you're really lucky. You go out and try to maneuver the city but sometimes the groups of people laughing and talking to each other makes your heart hurt so bad because you think of all those that you miss and love. You reply 'Life's GREAT!' to people who message you because you know that's what they want to hear or you don't even bother to reply because there are some days when it takes too much energy to lie. And the incessant questions of 'have you made any friends yet' make you just want to write a self-righteous spiel on the difference between acquaintances and friends and how you prefer the wonderful company of yourself, and are not desperate enough to randomly 'make friends' just to be with someone. Then you feel bad because you know they mean well.

This is not a rant nor am I feeling sorry for myself. 

It's just a rite of passage we who choose our lives must go through. 

Because the rewards are enormous. And anyone who's asked me THE question, even in my deepest moments of loneliness, I'd tell without hesitation that I would never have it any other way.

Because once those dark clouds pass, and as long as you work on yourself to be grateful for every single little thing that makes you happy, the rainbow and sunshine comes. And when it comes, the scene is spectacular.

We've moved from Shanghai to Luxembourg to Istanbul to Athens. I know not what Athens will bring, but if there's one thing that my memories and this blog will show, is that every single move brought me more joy than I could ever imagine, by far surpassing the anguish of every single farewell. 

I've met the most incredible people who feature so prominently in my life that I cannot imagine how life was before them. I know the little alleyways of streets of cities that so many skim through. I've played host to loved ones who come to visit, and know that I made their holiday that much more awesome. I've taken up new hobbies. Had all the time in the world to smell the roses and get to know and love myself a little better. And almost every single day, I do something for the first time. Because even shopping for groceries can become an adventure.  Trying exotic food an everyday occurrence. Every hello rife with possibility.

After all, isn't it true that you appreciate the sun more when it's been cold for too long? And that reunions are sweeter because of goodbyes. And that life's so precious because there is death.

I have so many stories to tell. So many.

Which is why I'm writing again.

Welcome back to my life, peeps. :)


Monday, September 9, 2013

2013 - the year I didn't stop

2013 has been by far one of my best years yet. I know I say that about every single year that goes by, but yeah, 2013 could hands down be the one I've enjoyed the most.

Maybe it's because of the progress I've made with my Ashtanga Yoga practice (do click the link to read about it or else you won't understand the next few sentences). Sometime last year, I went to my first yoga class, and was so far away from touching my toes. I never could have ever imagined being able to be able to finish the primary sequence, let alone the intermediate sequence in this lifetime. But then I started practicing Morning Mysore daily as prescribed, and voila, my body's showing strength I never thought possible.

2013 also marks the year of non-stop traveling. My favoritest thing in the world. I love everything about it - the destinations, airports, hotels, airplane food, local food. I even love the scent of a freshly (sprayed) clean plane that greets you as you walk into the aircraft. And I love throwing open the doors to a hotel room to see if it was everything I imagined, or more. I love listing down all the must-eats of a destination, take a picture of the plates as they arrive, and tick them off my list as I savor each bite.

Maybe that's it. 2013's been a year when I found and actually got to LIVE my passions. Traveling almost every month, and practicing yoga every single day. 

In January, I headed to Luxembourg, where I was greeted by the snow, and gifted with Nike kicks that I promptly put on, and folded my legs into Padmasana.




Then in February, I headed to cold, cold, Paris. Which was a winter wonderland and so much more. I ate, loved, laughed, sang, ate and also went into Ustrasana (Camel Pose) at the Louvre.



March saw me at home in KK. Making a must-eat list for mummy and daddy to provide me with, while I spent my time buried in the neck of my beloved niece. Yoga was done sparingly because the stomach was full at all times.


I didn't go anywhere in April, but was lucky enough to have my baby bro visit me in Istanbul. We had SUCH an awesome time. I did lotsa yoga, but my fave pic is one that Bryan took of my back - I am so rocking my new yogini body! Leggings are of course from Blackmilk.



Ah, May was quiet. It was a month of extreme yoga activity but no photos.

Then June came. I went to London. You know what's better than traveling? Traveling with a bunch of people you love and can be totally comfortable with. For me, that's my family. And I got into Urdha Dhanurasana at the Tower Bridge.



In July, we went back to Hubby's hometown, Biarritz. The highlights, were of course yoga everywhere. On the beach. At the lake. At the house. And lots of food. And wine. Hic.



And I also went to Bilbao. And ate a lot of Pintxos. Drank a lot of wine. And mimic-ed the spider at the Guggenheim Museum.



Soon, I'll be headed to Barcelona. I plan to do the simple Padmasana at the Sagradia Familia if I can't get into Sirshasana (headstand).

And right now, I'm also fervently researching flights and Sydney hotels because I'm dying to do the Setu Bandha Sarvangasana with the Sydney Harbour bridge as a backdrop. 

2013 ain't over yet, and I plan for a list as long as this one to close the last four months of the year!



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Because it's my Daddy's Birthday

What better way to restart this blog than to celebrate the special day of one of my biggest fans? You see, this has always been a place where I could be as unabashedly mushy as I wanted openly to my beloveds. Not one to show overt physical public displays of affection, I always preferred the use of words and pictures. Superlatives I love, like 'love', 'awesome', 'best', 'super', 'wonderful' et all might sound cliched to some, but to me, they mean exactly what I feel. And these words I string together last forever, and you can read them over and over, because when distance makes hugs impossible, and time makes wonderful experiences just far-away memories, the written word and photos that captured a special moment shared can make you relive a time when everything was absolutely perfect.
So, today, because it's my super-est beloved-est awesome-st Daddy's birthday, we take a tour in the house of memories that we built together in 2012. And we relive how loved and lucky I felt every single time we were together. And we see this as an auspicious start to the foundation of more and more memories we will be building together in 2013.

Here's to us, daddy dearest.

My trip back home. This is our fave japanese restaurant. 
Our family doing what we love best. Eating. Together. 

You must be able to tell why I love this picture. Two of the most amazing people in the world, who I love soooooooooo much. Looking absolutely beautiful, contented and happy. In my hometown. 
This is bliss.

I write to show my love. Daddy cooks for us to show his. 
And his cooking is phenomenal. Lip smacking, thumb curling, yummy yummy, filled with love.

A prelude to one of the most beautiful holidays we've had together. And I love how we looked as we anticipated fun, but not realizing just how much joy we would have. 

 Ah. Here we are. Somewhere in between Turkey and Greece. My entire birthday week. With my most loved ones in the world. Me, lucky? Yes. Very.

Looking at this picture, I realize I don't remember us ever swimming together before. 
It's thankfully never too late, and I'm grateful that despite us 'knowing each other' for more than 33 years, we still get to experience plenty of firsts together.

 My birthday foot massage. On a boat in the Aegean sea. 
I couldn't have asked for a better present.


Meet Sophia. Our family's newest love. The new girl in Daddy's life. :D

Ahhhh. And here we are. All your kids and grandkid. In Hanoi. 
Reminiscent of yet another superbly awesome year-end family holiday together. 

 And this, is recently. And perfectly signifies what Daddy's always, always, always been like. He surprise-visited me when I was visiting Luxembourg. Taking almost 6 hour long train rides from Amsterdam for the first time in his life. For just one night.

Thank you daddy, for always being there when we need you. 
Thank you daddy, for loving us the way you do. 
Thank you daddy, for showing us, with your actions, what generosity and kindness of heart means. 
And thank you daddy, for letting us be who we are exactly. 

Happy birthday today, and decades to come.

Friday, August 10, 2012