It was a great opportunity to be a part of the World Tourism Forum 2016
It was an incredible experience surrounded by people with the same passion for travel. I’d never imagined in my life that I would visit Istanbul, Turkey for this reason. I was star struck when I saw and met the different travel bloggers reigning the social media and the digital world nowadays!
In spite of the conflict in Turkey and the recent events that shook the tourism industry across the globe, this meeting of the major tourism stakeholders undoubtedly turned the table around.
This invitation from Blogger Casting & Linkline, the organisers of World Tourism Forum, is a big leap for our team. The forum was last 04th – 6th of February, 2016 filled with loads of amazing conferences about travel. There were loads of different big names in travel and hospitality sectors. It was a great truly a great experience to be a part of this forum.
Jonathan and Kach were invited to become one of the speakers at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul to discuss the nitty gritty and their personal experience about blogging. Travel blogs are now an emerging channel to promote tourism and influence people on their potential holiday destinations and many more. In the other part of the convention centre, there was also various open discussions about the different forms of Tourism, the influence of politics and media, PR and marketing, technology, blogging and the digital tourism. Each topic was spearheaded by the leading experts in the field.
The World Tourism Forum also arranged various activities and engagements for the delegates, sponsors and speakers. We had awesome nights in the Blogger Night and Gala Party where everyone let their hair down and enjoyed the evening. The parties were flowing with awesome food and an open bar, everyone had one too many!
Our trip to Istanbul was made possible by the organisers and sponsors of the World Tourism Forum and other private organisations like the W Istanbul Hotel, Shangri-La Bosphorus, The Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Hotel Empress Zoe and Turkish Airlines, with Blogger Casting arranging for top bloggers to visit from around the world.
Kach and Jonathan stayed in W Istanbul Hotel together with the other speakers and delegates of the event.
While JP and I stayed at the Shangri-La Bosphorus Hotel on our first night in Istanbul, where we experienced the rock star welcome and an exceptional hospitality of Shangri-La Bosphorus Hotel. Both of us stayed in our very own Luxury Deluxe room with the view of the Bosphorus Strait. We were truly pampered and looked after by the whole team. A great first impression of Istanbul’s hospitality.
The lovely staff of the Shangri-La Bosphorus
One our second & third night in Istanbul, our schedule were so hectic due to the events of the of the World Tourism Forum. We were accommodated and welcomed by the Swissôtel The Bosphorus. They are a luxury business hotel conveniently located near our conference centre.
The lovely staff of Swissôtel The Bosphorus
On our last day in Istanbul, we stayed in Hotel Empress Zoe in Sultanahmet. The hotel a stone throw away from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. A charming Turkish cosy style hotel with full of character.
Our hotels in Istanbul were a good mix of different styles and types of accommodation. We are truly grateful to the staff for their warm hospitality.
We also went to around Istanbul with the awesome tour companies and restaurants in the city.
Istanbulite, a private travel specialist, showed us around the area of Taksim for a fantastic food tour. One of the popular tours of the company following the footsteps of the famous award-winning Australian chef Shane Delia. Our experienced guide Eda took us to a traditional kebab house, their kebab is to die for! It was my first time to try the famous Turkish coffee; this is highly recommended. We also tried the pickled vegetable juice and that one was interesting.
Authentic Turkey Tours, a boutique independent travel company, took us out for a day trip around Istanbul. It was a fantastic day tour with our guide Andrew & Ryan. The very experienced duo gave us loads of information about the history of Istanbul, the secret spots to see the impressive view of the city and the off-the-beaten points of attraction in the Asian and the European side of Istanbul.
On our last evening in Istanbul, we were invited to dine in Meyhane Yare and we were welcomed by the owner/manager Eray. He prepared some of the restaurants delicious specialities. It is a norm in Turkey to spend around 5 hours for a meal time and on this experience, we can see why. Our appetisers were 4 to 8 different cold and hot food on top of that we had varieties of mains and desserts too. We finally tried Raki, also known as Lion’s Milk (warning: a this is a very strong traditional Turkish alcoholic drink). Try it when you visit Turkey, just make sure you are sharing this drink with a friend.
On their final day in Istanbul, Jonathan and Kach visited one of the most famous hammams in the city, Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı. Jonathan tells us how it went!
“One of the most historic hamams in Turkey, Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı was originally built between 1578 and 1583, to serve Ottoman marine soldiers and has now reopened after seven years of intensive restoration.
An Islamic adaptation of the Roman-style baths left behind by their ancestors, the Turkish Hamam is an extension of the ritual cleansing, or ablutions, before prayer. Nowadays, most locals you meet in Istanbul will probably tell you that they rarely, if ever, visit a hamam, as the practice has fallen away and is now primarily an interesting cultural activity for tourists.
The hamam experience at Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı began walking into the grand central room, the largest of several connected domes. Fellow guests relaxed on lounge chairs around the room, known as the cooling area, having already finished their treatment. With the sympathetic restoration of the building, the internal, seating, walkways, stairs and changing rooms were all newly built in what looked like solid oak, adding warmth to the large open space. A friendly, English-speaking attendant explained the entire hamam process from start to finish and sent us to get changed upstairs, leaving everything in a private locker and changing into only the hamam waist towel. We were led from the main hall into the hamam room, a hexagonal room lined entirely in solid marble, with alcoves all around containing the bathing areas – a hot marble seat next to a large basin. First was the hot stone, lying on top of the central slab of marble in the hot, steamy air to warm the muscles and allow the body to start sweating, cleansing from the inside, out. After about 30 mins of total relaxation, I felt a tap on my foot, looking up to a large, towelled man smiling at me and motioning me to get up and move to one of the alcoves. Patting himself on the chest with one of his big hands he said, ‘Mahmut!’ I did the same, ‘Jon!’ No more words were spoken and Mahmut got down to the business of throwing bucket after bucket of hot water over my head and body, before putting on the scrubbing mitt and going about the abrasive work of removing the dead skin from every part of my body, with the exception of my privates. To be fair, there’s only so much you can ask of a man! After the first scrubbing and another round of dousing, came the most impressive part of the treatment. He took a towel shaped like a pillow case, dipped it in fresh, soapy water and with a few shakes inflated it like a balloon, before squeezing downwards to create a fountain of foam over my head and back. He repeated this a few more times until I was covered, plus, I suspect, a few more simply because of how entertaining I found it! Another round of scrubbing commenced, this time with the aid of the soap to temper some of the abrasion. One more rinse and fresh soap applied, this time to simply wash and give a basic massage the skin by hand, with no scrubbing, and finally one more wash down with hot water, followed by a final cold soaking to close the pores and stimulate circulation. From there Mahmut led me to the next room where I was towel dried from head to toe and wrapped up in several thick towels and fresh slippers. With heavy pat on the back, Mahmut said something in Turkish which assume was goodbye and opened the door into the main hall. I took my place on one of the lounge chairs to ‘cool down’ with a cup of tea.
The biggest thing I took away from the whole experience was that I have probably never been this clean before and I may never feel this clean ever again! You can also check their Tripadvisor reviews here!”
A fantastic way to end our trip in Istanbul. Our team will then head our ways to our next destinations: Kach and Jon were heading towards Georgia, JP was heading to Cappadocia and I’m heading to Amsterdam on my way back to the UK.
Two Monkeys Travel Group would like to thank all our sponsors who made this trip possible.
About the Writer
Ryazan Tristram is named after a Russian city near Moscow. The Miss Zan-shine of Everything Zany – A Photography, Lifestyle and Dual Citizen Travel Blog. She likes to travel, history, meet people & try exotic foods! Planning to explore more countries with her D.I.Y trips as a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina). Follow her travels on Facebook and Instagram.