Getting ready for set off
Being in Istanbul will no doubt result in taking a ferry/boat tour. There are several options and they all start at Eminonu. We got to Eminonu around 12.40pm and rocked up to the harbour to see what was on offer. Immediately a private tour company were in our faces trying to sell us tickets for the next tour. This boat would sail up the European side for 1hr and then turn around and sail down the asian side for 1hr. The cost was 10TL, we decided that this was acceptable, 2hrs for 10TL. The guy ushered us on in a hurry even though the boat was not due to leave until 1.30pm. We parked ourselves in some prime seats at the front.
Very quickly the boat started to fill up, up to the point where every passenger was shoulder to shoulder with each other.
When we took off we discovered that there was no speaker, it was a silent boat trip. We were excited for the first 20mins but then it just git all very repetitive. There were a selection of nice buildings to see but we were quite sure what they were of. Several areas that we passed looked quite interesting too, once again unsure of where they were. The great thing was that the weather was divine, we sunned ourselves while we enjoyed the breeze of the sea. Seagulls flew above us, hungrily. The boat served cold and hot beverages but no food. At this point I was hungry, trapped on a boat with no food and another 1hr to go before touch down onto land.
Make sure you are prepared, either take some light snacks with you or have some food before getting on the boat.
After arriving back we realised we were docking in a different area to where we got on. We ended up walking all the way back to see the restaurants to grab some lunch. There are a selection of restaurants all serving pretty much the same thing. We chose one that had seats available inside of the restaurant but right next to giant open doors. Lunch was a cheap affair, 4TL fish kebaps and orange juice. I think the fish was mackeral, a bit of lettuce inside wrapped in a half baguette. No frills but seriously tasty.
As we had our hamman experience booked for 5.30pm we needed to hurry back to the hotel to get ourselves ready for the afternoon.
Mehmet at the reception desk had recommended it and sorted the booking and transfer etc. As usual we were late, 5.30pm ended up being 5.50pm. The Arga manager and another assistant were waiting patiently with one car and the other group was supposed to travel by taxi, paid for by the Arga owner. There was a huge kerfuffle about wether we could trust this place, some of the girls had checked the reviews online and there were some very unpleasant reviews about the place. This put them off the place immediately and delayed us further into getting to our location. Of course there was more drama about who would sit in which car, the whole affair was just tiresome. Eventually when we got there are twisting and turning down small narrow streets we stopped outside a narrow doorway, with a sign about it and steep stairs leading into the basement.
When I stepped out the car I knew where we were and it was actually 2mins walking distance but because transfer was included in the price they felt obliged to drive us. Anyway, cautious like any traveller or female, I looked around the street and caught the eye of a few vendors watching their stalls and shops. I then peeked down the stairs of the basement before judging that all was in order and I could safely enter. On entry I could see a man standing in just his towel around his waist and the four girls sitting on the chairs with horrified looks on their faces, white as a sheet. The people running the place had very minimal English, the only woman present at the hammam then started to usher us with towls and slippers etc. Immediately a debate ensued amongst us about whether we wanted to stay and also a more detailed explanation of what was about to happen.
So basically, we were all new to the hammam experience and doing research online we managed to all picture something different in our heads. Two of the girls were just not willing to participant and made a scene about it. We tried to communicate with the people running the place but we had no luck. Eventually after playing charades for 10mins they asked a lady off the street to come in and help us translate. She came in and basically explained the process of a traditional hammam. So here we go, each person gets a small private room to undress (no clothes) and lock your valuables in, you get given a towel to wrap around yourself. The towel looked very thing and like a pattern of an Arab scarf. You put your slippers on the then go into the hammam room.
The room is all marble and hot like a sauna, it has taps and mini sinks around the sides and a huge marble block table/surface in the middle. You then bathe in the side area where there is running water in the taps and sink. Once you bathe you can lie on the marble and enjoy the heat, like a sauna. Then the masseuse comes in and gives you a vigorous exfoliation routine followed by a massage. Traditionally both men and women can be present when using and hammam and also the masseuse can also be male or female. So we had a few requests. We asked to wear our bikini's throughout the experience, until we were comfortable enough to take them off. We asked that only a female masseuse could enter the room and we asked that no men should be allowed in while we were there.
All these requests were granted. We ended up having a private hammam session all to ourselves and the lady we had was fantastic. Me on the other hand, i'm as ticklish as hell. She barely had to touch me and I was in a fit of giggles. The back massage was brilliant but the leg and thigh massage was just too much for me. I nearly kicked the poor woman in the face from having such a big reaction.
After being in the hammam it was time to head back for a nap and a recharge before the evenings events. We had the idea that we would go to see a belly dancing show. We took ages finding the place and then eventually when we arrived the show had already finished and the punters were on their way home. We were lucky that we did miss it as the punters that came out said the show was rubbish and a complete waste of money. Close call.
We used that money we saved and had a massive top nosh meal and then more drinks!