Entry Info

As I mentioned at the beginning of the previous entry, Istanbul is the meeting point of Asia and Europe. In other words, it's the city where all travellers on the Eurasia circuit get together. Because of this locality, there are many cheap hostels running and the more hostels that open the more they compete; eventually, the quality of hostels soars high. In fact, at hostelworld you can find many hostels which got more than 85points with the reviews. In my experience, if the hostel has more than 85points, they don't fail me. But there are too many nicely reviewed hostels to check out. Therefore, using Istanbul as a prime example, I'd like to describe my way how to choose hostels which meet my taste.

At the very first, I don't mind staying in dormitory rooms. Ideally, I prefer a 4 bed dorm room as it's quieter than the bigger rooms but it depends on the price of the rooms. What's more, a very important feature of the dorm room is that I give my top priority to sleeping in the mixed (both sexes) room. Mind you, I don't intend to chat up any beautiful girls. I hardly find attractive girls in the dorm rooms anyway. The reason why I choose the mixed dorm is, to avoid the men snoring so badly. You know some people are just as terrible as noise pollution. They even void my ear plugs. In contrast, most ladies are very quiet at night and I can sleep comfortably in the same room.

Ratings are probably the most informative factors. I usually start with checking about "Staff" value because I believe staff are the core to characterise the hostel. Although hostels can't compete with the decent hotels for their materialistic features such as the buildings and facilities for the cost issue, they can improve their soft services by their own hospitality. As I wrote before, such as Niras at Bangkok, Yashin's at Gyoreme, some people at nice hostel were very kind and willing to help travellers. In a way, they are the concierges for backpackers. Though they are quite frank and friendly, their kindness are on a par with the personal services from 5 star hotels.

Next point is, "Cleanness". You might think that cheap hostels cannot be clean but unexpectedly there are quite a few spotlessly clean hostels. Some hostels have dedicated cleaning staff who sweep the floor all day long. Luxury and cleanness are totally different; a simple room with bunk beds is comfortable enough providing the room is cleaned carefully. Maybe you should accept the cleaning lady entering your room in the late morning even if you are sleeping. It's much better than the messy room left from the cleaning schedule.

"Location" really depends on the city. If the city is small and everything is within a walking distance, it would be great to have the hostel in the central area. On the other hand, if the city requires using public transport all the time, not sticking to the location makes the choices wider and more valuable. For instance about Istanbul which is divided into the downtown and old city, I booked 2 hostels, each of them are nicely located in their own area.

Last but not least about the ratings, for me "Fun" should be low. Do you think it's strange to prefer lowly rated hostels? It's because of the clientele. Unlike Asian budget travellers, a significant number of Western travellers are crazy about drinking out and they are always talking about night clubs and pubs at the cities. The hostels which got high "Fun" rate are usually so called party hostels where the party animals congregate and sometimes staff lead their travellers to their local pubs. However, binge drinking and making noise are not my taste at all. In order to avoid this kind of people, I would often choose the less "Fun" hostel. As a result, I met some nice people who enjoy travelling itself and it was my pleasure to talk with them with some alcohol.

The reviews are just for extra information. I usually don't care about good reviews but bad reviews should be of concern. There are kind of inevitable accidents such as overbooking and broken something and I don't mind about them. However, if you find any security incidents happening often recently, you should consider using the hostel very carefully.

In terms of prices, I don't really care. Basically, the dorm rooms from hostelworld are reasonable enough. As you might have already understood my character, I'd rather choose a better hostel with some extra charge than stay at the cheapest yet dingy hostel. As a "first class backpacker", I'd like to stay at first class hostels.

Considering all of the factors above, the hostels I choose to stay at Istanbul is Chambers of Boheme and Agora Hostel. If you check out hostelworld, you'll see these hostels perfectly match my criteria. The hostels actually hit my spot and I can't state which is better.

Located off the street of the main shopping street Istiqlal downtown, is Chambers of Boheme; a Bohemian design boutique hostel as the name indicates. The ground and first floor are used as a stylish café and their breakfast included nicely brewed coffee from the café. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to bring our own food, I liked sitting on a classic sofa at the café and using my PC.

Agora hostel at the old city area boasts their ocean view terrace at the top floor. The breakfast buffet consists not only the basic foods such as bread, cereal, and egg but some rare foods for budget hostels like a variety of hams and homemade brownies. Besides, the area has many other hostels as well as some reasonable restaurants and I didn't find it difficul to eat out well.

Even though we say dorm rooms at budget hostels in a single word, there are actually so many types around the world, weird Japanese hostels, party hostels, boutique hostels etc. I recommend you check with yourself about your preference and follow the basic rules. In addition to this, it's sometimes interesting to stay at places different from your taste. Especially, after Istanbul, I mean Europe is the hottest area of hostels. I suppose even just browsing hostelworld and looking for hostels would be a great fun.

Entry Info

The bridge between Asia and Europe is literally Istanbul extending on both side of the Bosporus. Although I'd considered paying a visit to Pamukkale, a famous resort for the hanging limestone and the hot spring spas, I decided to head for Istanbul with Shin and Tomoko as I wanted to stay at an urban city rather than a remote touristic site. After 10 hours sitting on the night bus, we were very excited to see the spires of the huge mosques, which is arguably the touristic symbol of the city.

Istanbul is divided into the Asian side and the European side by the Bosporus and many tourist attractions are concentrated at the old town located at the south part of European side separated by a small inlet, the Golden Horn. The northern part of the European side is regarded as the new town with modern buildings and shopping streets. Since I'd been looking forward to staying in this city, I'd booked the accommodation 5 nights in each area; that is 10 nights in total. However as I arrived earlier than the original plan, I needed to find bridging accommodation and I decided to stay at a (in)famous hostel Tree of Life mainly targeting the Japanese budget travellers in the Middle East.

Just 10 minutes on foot from the Blue Mosque, Tree of Life is on the top floors of a multi tenanted building located at the back of the main street in which the tram is operating. Climbing up to the 4th floor by stairs, we reached the reception and it was the classic example of a Japanese hostel. There were dozens of Japanese travel guides and comics on the bookshelves and whenever I called into a room somebody was reading those books and smoking cigarettes. Incidentally, the staff working there was not the proper employee of the hostel but a long term resident who bartered his accommodation fee (and a bit of daily allowance) for the post of caretaker. According to him, the owner lives in a different place and come to the hostel occasionally. Despite the gray colour in legal terms, it's an absolutely win-win solution for the budget travellers who want to reduce their daily expenses and the owner who wants to reduce the personnel expenses. It could be an exemplary business model.

The biggest attraction of the hostel is its price; only 8 EUR per night is one of the cheapest in Istanbul (For your info, the hostels I booked by hostelworld cost 15 EUR per night). What's more, cooking the meals with the other Japanese travellers would reduce the food expenses significantly. I can recommend this hostel as the best for the budget travellers needing to make their expenses as low as possible. Besides, there are piles of Japanese travel books and by luck you could possibly meet the people who have traveled the actual place you intend to go. This hostel is very suitable for making your travel plans.

Nevertheless, I have to tell the truth that it was not my taste. I'm afraid of speaking ill but the atmosphere was quite dingy. The people staying there looked in a way very typical Japanese travellers who had become tired of their life and escaped from Japan. At Seven Heaven of Dahab, I met a lot of Japanese but most of them were totally fascinated with scuba diving and even none divers looked enjoying their own lives. In contrast, the people at Tree of Life, they talked like this "Uh, I feel bored. What am I doing today?" They can find so many interesting things around them! Yet they are actually very nice people and our communication was very smooth. I suppose we know how to talk in Japanese manner pretty much. Besides, one more thing I should mention is the hostel is not really clean. I know for the price I must not complain it but it looked very difficult to keep the hostel clean with only the amateur caretaker.

I have to emphasize this again; it was just not my taste. If you seek for other Japanese travellers and information (providing you speak Japanese of course), you should at least consider staying at Tree of Life. Speaking for myself, I was positively trapped by the Japanese famous comic series and couldn't go to the bed until I finished them all after 4:00 a.m. It may sound bizarre, coming to such a far city from Japan yet I was absorbed in reading Japanese comics. But I reckon it was the life in a Japanese hostel abroad.

Well, I'd like to introduce the hostels I booked by hostel world too. But it takes long again and therefore to be continued. I'll write about my tips on hostelworld too on the next entry.

Entry Info

The Roads of CappadociaGyoreme National Park and Rock Site of Cappadocia is registered as the "mixed (Nature and Culture)" world heritage which is in fact quite rare among number of world heritage sites. Pillars of strange shaped stoned around there, the surroundings look totally in another world. I heard that some parts of Cappadocia were used as the sets of Star Wars Episode1. In fact, I could possibly believe if someone presented a photo of Cappadocia as "from another planet". The local people had been living inside of the rock caves until recently and there are still many caves remaining over the area.

The accommodation at Gyoreme

The Roads of Cappadocia>What's more, an interesting thing about Cappadocia is that you can sleep inside the caves. Besides, not only the expensive touristic hotels, there are some reasonable backpackers hostels available too. At this time, we stayed at "Yashin's Backpackers Cave" which is reviewed in avery good manner at Although Shin and Tomoko, who were travelling with me, hadn't booked there, the owner, Yashin, kindly gave us a three bed private room. Yashin knows everywhere about Gyoreme since he's been brought up there. Restaurants, tour info, Turkish Spa etc., his advice(with discount!) helped us a lot. I found 20TRY(15USD) per night with a deliciously cooked breakfast was very reasonable. Though the quality and cleanness of the facility were not as good as the decent hotels', their personal service and hospitality could be on a par with the 5 star luxurious hotels.

As the weather was bit tricky, Cappadocia in early May was a kind of off season in Turkish local tourism. In fact, there were a few European groups at the accommodation and Gyoreme town didn't look very busy. However, quite a few Japanese tourists were walking on the street. Besides, they were not backpackers, but ordinary tourists who used huge tour buses and went to luxurious cave hotels with spa and pool. I knew Turkey is one of the favourite destinations among Japanese tourists, but when we thought about it carefully it was the middle of a Japanese holiday week, the so called the Golden Week. We have to be careful for that we could lose the sense of days easily during the long journey.

Pros and Cons of package tours

The Roads of CappadociaIn terms of package tours, I don't really like them. In fact, because of that I'm bad at travelling with groups, I'd rather choose travelling alone. Nevertheless, so vast is the area of Cappadocia of which a number of famous spots dotted within several ten kilometres radius that we were encouraged to join the local tour. The tour was so-so, just as we expected. In fact the guide efficiently took us through many places, which were not really reachable as a personal tourist, such as the underground city and the old monastery but "the efficient guide" was bit argumentative as he hurried us when we wanted to stay longer whereas he remained longer where we didn't care much. I know he had to make his pace for "the greatest common good" of the all participants but I painfully realised that I should avoid the tours attempting to cover a lot of places. Probably, the best way is chartering a taxi and asking the driver just to take us to the entrance of the places but the budget no longer allowed the ordinary backpacker to do so.

My best form of travelling

The Roads of CappadociaTherefore, for the near spot, disregarding to the efficiency we decided to go there by ourselves with the local bus info from the accommodation and a rough map from a guidebook. Following to the advice from the local people and the intuition of travellers, we made headway to the destination. If I'd travelling completely alone, I could've been a bit worried about daring this kind of adventure but my amiable fellow travellers could change the situations drastically. Even losing and recovering the way became a sort of fun. Speaking so, I suppose a couple travelling together is a kind of ideal form. Though sometimes they have to overcome the ordeals, as far as the couples I know looked keeping their distance moderately and enjoying themselves travelling together.

The Roads of CappadociaAfter walking on the wild land with strange stones, finally we arrived at the destination. This mushroom shape stone is a kind of icon of Cappadocia as the photo of it is overly used on every guide book about this area. Not caring about the geologic instructions, the different layers which were eroded blah blah blah, we were just stunned by the shapes of the stones which were different from the ones around Gyoreme central. Incidentally, we found out from the view on the stones that we didn't use the proper paved roads but just wandered along the local farm roads. Thanks to not being led by an experienced guide, we could enjoy this type of adventure. In these days, I strongly believe that travelling is not just having fun at destinations but it is literary 'travelling', I mean the whole process of going to and coming back from the destination is an entertaining part of travelling.

The Roads of CappadociaOn the way back to Gyoreme, we were challenged by going back on foot as the bus didn't come soon. When we came there it took less than 15 minutes by bus. So it should take no more than 1 and half hours even on foot. It would be pleasant walking as the view on the street was quite nice even though we'd already walked more than 3 hours. After walking 30 minutes under the intense sunshine on the early May, we were called by the local guys driving a car. They asked us "Where are you going? You can come with us." It's very kind of them indeed. "To Gyoreme!", we replied and they gestured "Come in." Thanks to them we skipped a one hour walk. Although I could've had a bit of serious concern if I had been alone, we had three people and they were two. Considering the locality, we judged it wouldn't be very dangerous. Though sometimes it sounds bit tricky, the kindness from the local people always cheers me.

Like this and that, we spent 5 nights in Gyoreme. The next destination will be Istanbul the bridge between Asia and Europe. At last the travelling on the Middle East is close to the end.

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