Istanbul, Turkey


It’s probably the best Muslim-majority city I have been.


On my way to Egypt, I had a seven-hour stopover in Istanbul, so I thought I might as well go and see the city.

Turkish Airlines actually offer free tours with meals and transport, but on this particular day, they weren’t going to go to any of the main attractions, and so I decided to go out on my own. It’s not costly anyway.


The city is quite easy to navigate, and most people seemed to speak some English. The metro was very easy to use, and the main tourist attractions were all rather close to each other.


The food was nice, too. I even bought an oriental cushion for me chair.


I was a bit disappointed at Hagia Sophia, considering the fact that it’s usually considered an ancient wonder. Or perhaps it’s just because it’s not that easy getting a good photo/look of it from the ground.


The Blue Mosque, on the other hand, was amazing.


It may not look that good because the weather was pretty bad, but it was amazing in person.


It has also got some European buildings.


And a lot of other mosques look nice.


Something Byzantine.


The Grand Bazaar was a bit uneventful.


Giza, Egypt


The first thing to visit in Egypt was of course a pyramid.


The Giza pyramids are technically not in the Egyptian capital of Cairo (though it’s within its metropolitan area), but the city of Giza, on the west bank of the Nile.


They are three pyramids that are quite close to each other, and in fact quite close to urban areas.


But they weren’t that old – this, the “step pyramid”, is much older at around 5000 years old.


One will find it extremely easy to get a donkey or a camel ride around the areas, and they are in reality keep getting pushed to you.


Near the three pyramids is this statue. Within walking distance of two of the pyramids.


As you can see, one of the three pyramids is a little far.


Where you can see everything.


Going to tourist attractions in Egypt is indeed an extremely irritating activity. You get pestered a lot with loads of vendors and people enticing you to a donkey or a camel ride. They literally push their products to you, drop them, and ask that you buy them.


You can enter one of the great pyramids.


And some would tell you it’s a gift or that the service is free, then ask for money. You wouldn’t necessarily know whether they have overcharged you either, as Egypt is ridiculously cheap. Cheaper than Mexico.


Photos are typically not allowed, at least not without paying extra, inside pyramids and temples.


I was offered to take a photo with the donkey and literally carried up to it, taken somewhere, then was asked to pay 200 Egyptian pounds.


Dug deep to make it more difficult for Angelina Jolie to steal things.


Those camels kept shitting and peeing.


One of them kept pushing me to buy a headdress, and I refused, instead going for someone else who did not annoy me, as an attempt to promote good behaviour.


There are some monuments near the pyramids.


I was taking a selfie and this guy just randomly popped into it. When you experience something like this, be sure to get angry and tell them off, as in the end they will always try to get money from you for unsolicited “services”.


Jerusalem, Israel

After reading this blog post, you may wish to review the current travel warning I have on Israel. Despite the initial two-state resolution issued by the United Nations, it is at the moment not possible to visit Jerusalem without going through Israeli security. The city of Jerusalem, including the supposedly Palestinian East Jerusalem, is firmly in Israeli control and officially an integral part of the State of Israel. The Old City is firmly within the city of Jerusalem, and even when one is to visit from the Palestinian territories, one would still need to pass through Israeli security to get to east of Jerusalem. It is not possible to access the Old City by air, land, or sea without first touching Israeli soil.


At the heart of the old city, is the bridge connecting to Temple Mount. It is the only possible entrance for non-Muslims. Muslims can access Temple Mount via other gates with less security that are guarded by Israeli soldiers. I do not know what would happen if you simply claim to be Muslim without “looking” like one.


The Jewish quarter is likely overall the best area in terms of historical buildings.


Streets are reasonably wide and tidy.


In the Christian quarter, the main attraction in the church where Jewish moral leader Jesus, a pretender to the throne of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah, was supposed crucified and buried. This thing was supposed to be where his tomb was.


Somewhere not very far was the way to crucifixion, and here he supposedly met his mother, the “virgin” Mary.


The Armenian quarter, sometimes considered a part of the Christian quarter. The most unique thing about it was the abundance of posters about the Armenian genocide.


The Temple Mount, where the mosque is at, has few buildings.


Likely the most iconic and impressive structure in the Old City.


Near the Jaffa gate is the Christian quarter at the Tower of David. By the way, one does not need to go through security and there is no gate that closes to the Old City itself. Tourists of any or no religion can also access the Old City via many other gates, contrary to what some other sites have claimed.


The church were Mary supposedly died. Clearly hearsay, of course, since the papacy has decided in the 50s that Mary had indeed flew straight to heaven instead of dying, thus being the only living saint.


Only Muslims could enter the mosque, but non-Muslims can take photos close to it.


In Mount Zion, where Jewish moral leader and pretender to the throne of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah had his last supper.


The Muslim quarter is mostly a collection of street markets.


One interesting thing was the posters around the area showing Jesus’s lineage. It’s very interesting as it claims that Jesus comes from Adam and David, thus the heir to the throne. But if Joseph wasn’t actually his biological father, how would that make any sense whatsoever?


The walk of shame.


Some sultan built this in the Temple Mount.


Very small place where Jesus was supposedly buried. Huge queue to this.


Looking over both the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.


The tomb of The King David of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. Lots of people praying there.


At the Western Wall, lots of soldiers visited us. They behaved like tourists, wearing the free kippah for tourists and taking selfies and stuff. You would think being Israeli Jews, they would’ve visited this before.


I heard that there’s a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord, but you don’t really care for music, do ya…?


The Western Wall is a sacred place for Jewish people as it’s supposed to be the only remaining part of the destroyed second temple (which used to be on Temple Mount).


The rock where the pretend King of Israel and Judah was supposedly crucified.

All these “Jesus did this and that here” claims reminded me of Verona where they had a balcony and a tomb for Juliet of Romeo and Juliet.


Anyone can enter and touch the Western Wall, although males and females get different parts. You are supposed to enter with your head covered, and they do offer free kippahs at one of the entrances. There is a lax security check going into the area.


A market.


Cuenca, Ecuador


Cuenca is a UNESCO heritage site and one of the major tourist attractions in Ecuador.


The cathedral – once again, a rather distinct design. Apparently, they stopped building it after 60 years as they found that it would sink.


A broken bridge, washed away by the raging river.


Cuenca celebrates its own independence day and there were many of these people walking around, often taking photos of themselves. They were supposed to wear gloves but somehow none had gotten them on.


Apart from the historic centre, the Pumapungo complex is a must-see in Cuenca.


I was indeed impressed by the beautiful downtown – unbelievably well-maintained, looked practically new. It’s also rather easy to walk around, even all the way to the airport.


The Pumapungo complex is around half an hour of walking from the city centre. It’s got wonderful gardens and even an aviary.


And on your way there, you get to see pretty buildings like this.


Whilst the museum and the theatre were the more visited parts, another thing to go to Pumapungo for is the Inca ruins there. Not anything that interesting but it’s totally free and relatively close to the main square.


There’s also Wi-Fi in the city centre, and even a “library” with no books but chairs and desks for one to just hang around.


Giving me Disneyland’s sleeping beauty’s castle teas.


The river. There were streets of stalls selling artwork, food, and other souvenir for not only their independence day, but also their day of the dead.


Ingapirca, Ecuador


Ingapirca was the second capital of the Inca Empire (after Cusco). It is now a small archaeological site next to a small town.


The main structure – not that easy to take a good photo of it, as you can’t see the whole thing standing close, while you’d be too far when you’re able to take the whole thing in.


The grounds near the site. It’s quite close to where the bus stops – one needs to take a bus from Cuenca terminal to Canar terminal, then change to the only other bus to the Ingapirca terminal. It took me around 2.5-3 hours and $5-7 each way to get there. The buses go all the time, so one isn’t required to get there early in the morning.


On the way, there are many other ruins, but I didn’t go to any of them. Perhaps with more time, it’d be wise to sort of go on a road trip to visit all of them.


Entrance was $2 for foreigners – a Spanish-speaking guide for big groups gathered outside the entrance included.


It’s possible to see the main building without actually entering the park, but why not?


Whilst the ancient city wasn’t particularly extensive, it’s also worth going around the Sun Valley just behind it.


Overlooking from the submit of the Sun Valley.


The site wasn’t difficult to navigate at all, but the Sun Valley involved a bit of hiking – just around 1km, but remember it’s really high in elevation and so it’s not as easy to one might assume.

Galápagos, Ecuador


The Galápagos is a collection of islands around 1000 kilometres from Ecuador mainland. It’s known for its unique biospheres due to its geographical and social isolation, so much so Charles Darwin was inspired to develop the theory of evolution based on evidence found on the islands.


First thing first, a warning: do not book a tour before hand. I got a tour from Galasam, paying almost $800 for 4 days (apparently already cheap), and felt like it was a complete rip-off (I’m pretty sure all the tour operators sell the same products in the end tho).

For two days, much of the “tour” involved walking to beaches like the one pictured above. And trust me, they weren’t anything compared to the Caribbean or Thailand. I didn’t want to swim anyway so I just ended up hanging around for hours.


This salt farm was another stop on the first day. Been there, done that. Not impressed.

The guides also by default assume you speak Spanish, and most didn’t speak English terribly well.


Apart from taking us to a beach, they likewise took us to this “natural pool”. It’s like, c’mon. Most people would disagree with me probably, but honestly I regretted going to Galápagos, wasting all that time and money. I’m not a biologist so I can’t tell the subtle differences between the animals, so to me I felt like there was nothing I hadn’t seen before.


Although of course the unique thing about it for the average tourist is how accessible wild life is everywhere on the island.


And they aren’t usually afraid of humans.


The famed Lonesome George, the last of his kind.


It takes like an hour to get to the main town. The airport is on another island, and Santa Cruz is basically on the other side of the other island.


My recommendation would definitely be to book tours after you get there. They even give you better equipments, and you get more options in what to eat when not every meal’s included in the same restaurant (where I needed to walk 15 minutes for, and was expected to go on my own even on the first night).


When we went to Isla Isabella, we even had to pay for the two short boat trips to the main boat transfer (two hours of hell across the turbulent sea, by the way). I wasn’t told and was under the impression that it was an all-inclusive vacation (it’s supposed to be), and so I only bought $10 for the extra tax (which I was told to carry only the day before), and had to rely on the kind heart of my fellow travellers to pay my fares.


All the planes seemed to have my initials on them.


Difficult to tell but it’s a shark. I didn’t even have to go on a boat for that.


Once again, I was literally just on the rock next to the beach.


Mating season sees the males with a bit of colours.


White teeth sharks. I was satisfied with this so I didn’t even actually snorkel. I’d swam with sharks before anyway.


Lots of cacti.


Marine iguanas were always trying to get the sun.


A natural hole.


The sea lion moved a bit to pose for us better.


Quito, Ecuador


Quito is the highest capital city in the world and boasts one of the first UNESCO heritage sites I think. Its historic centre claims to be the best preserved one in Latin America. The metropolis in itself is one of only two (the other being Mexico City) Latin American capitals to have been founded by Native Americans.


Unfortunately, I wasn’t really impressed. It was fine, but I guess I had already been to way too many Spanish colonial towns to find it special. Also, many areas looked quite deprived.


I wouldn’t say “skip it”, since if you’re going to Ecuador, you’d need to pass through Quito anyway, but I wouldn’t spend more than a day in the city + Midad del Mundo. In fact, you may even want to spend more time in the latter.


One really interesting thing was how obsessed with KFC they seemed to be…There’s like one KFC in every block!


One major difference between Ecuadorian towns and Mexican towns I reckon is that in Ecuador, they don’t necessarily centre around the main square. There usually are several “centres”, although this also means they may be more challenging to navigate. They’re all quite small and walkable tho.


It’s also possible to walk up the hill nearby to look at the city.


But I couldn’t be bothered.


The cathedral – looked quite unique. Not the grand design I’m used to seeing.

Midad del Mundo, Ecuador


The models of indigenous houses.


The Middle of the World monument.


Midad del Mundo is a “city” (more like a small theme park) not too far from Quito, on the equator. The equator is actually around 5km wide, but they do have a thin yellow line here showing you where it is at a given time.


The view from the monument. It’s $7 to get access to everything, and it’s definitely worth it. Even considering the 2-3 buses and 2-hour travel (around $1 only I think, but I’m not entirely sure).


The park has a planetarium (pretty crappy), a hall about the French, a hall about Ecuadorian artifacts with impressive technology – they give you an iPad and you use it to scan photos, then a 3D model will pop up and it will start telling you about it, although of course in the end they just want you to buy their 3D virtual map postcards and animated Christmas card with an app, several restaurants and colonial buildings (presumably newly built) and of course souvenir shops, life-size models of houses of different Native American tribes, the monument which is in itself a museum of its own history and a science museum with lots of buttons and experiments to play with, a chocolate museum, a beer museum, a church and a Virgin Mary gallery, a train car, a playground, animals etc.


The line.


The animal.


Who said Hong Kong’s not relevant globally? It’s only one of three oriental cities with a sign there, the others being Seoul and Tokyo. Singapore who? Shanghai who? And there’s only one other Asian city (Jerusalem).


I highly recommend this place, honestly the biggest surprise of my trip.