Istanbul is a world in itself and it keeps growing. We arrived for a two-day stay on our way to another destination. It has been a few years since I actually stayed in this ever-growing bustling metropolis, and so much has changed.
Entering Istanbul through Istanbul Atatürk Airport, proved to be a very hard affair.
There were almost 1,000 passengers in front of us and though the immigration process for most passengers was going on very fast, it still took us a good hour to cross the immigration service. It was also very hard to find which luggage conveyer belt had our bags. There were so many planes landing that the information panels could not keep up with showing the flight number and airline in time.
That done, it was time to brave the incredible traffic jam leading to the city, and precisely for this reason, I picked a hotel near the airport rather than one in the city centre. One can take any mode of transport to downtown and spend the day there, and when it is time to fly out, there is no stress and extra heartbeat if one is stuck in traffic.
I needed to do some shopping, so the closest to our hotel was Istanbul Mall. While on the way, the taxi driver showed us at least three smaller malls, among which are a famous outlet for luxury brands and a mall dedicated to anything related to weddings.
Istanbul Mall was quite big and fascinating, however not as huge as Central World and Siam Paragon in Bangkok, Thailand. It was interesting that the food court was one with very high quality restaurants and coffee shops, and the variety was mind-boggling. And while the Turkish people were looking for western type of fast food joints, we were searching for authentic Turkish menus.
The best part is that there is always a glass of tea after food, and if lucky, you will get a piece of Turkish delight (famous Turkish sweet) with it. Prices in the mall were of course a bit more expensive than downtown, nonetheless very good compared to European prices.
Language remains a big challenge in Turkey. With a colossal number of tourists arriving every day, it is quite disappointing that English is not well spoken here. As always, sign language remains the only mode of communication.
A few years ago we had a road trip in Turkey, and on any road we drove on, I was reminded of how advanced this country is, compared to some oil rich countries with very bad roads. Turkey remains one of our favourite destinations.