Jul 9, 2013

Incredible Istanbul

Yeeee! First trip with baby on board taken, and all went well. We were thinking between Istanbul and Dubrovnik and my parents convinced us that 2 weeks in Dubrovnik with a stroller and a super hilly terrain might be a bit too much, plus they’d fallen in love with Istanbul and so it was decided. Not that Istanbul is a flat city or in any means a loosely fitted one, we managed just fine with a small travel stroller and a carrier.

fresh avocado lunch by the shore in Bostanci

We had booked a place just besides Taksim square but the demonstrations had just started escalating in there and allthough I believed we’d be in no immediate danger, a wise friend of mine said ’tear gas is a very democratic weapon that doesn’t choose its target’. So we quickly made a move over the bridge south of it.

 Our new digs were in the suburb of Fatih, described quite rowdy but at least daytime i’d say quite the contrary. We stayed at Balat Suites in their standard room 2 that is located a block behind the main building. No seaview from there but also no noise from the road or the park in front where people enjoyed themselves to the wee hours on weekends. The apartment was clean and spacious with all necessary amenities for a family. The surrounding blocks cater for everything you might need; a bakery, vegetable shop, supermarket, liquour store, general goods store (where the shopkeeper kindly brought a potty to his shop in a couple of days when we asked for it) and a couple of restaurants and cafes are just a minute from the front door. Also playgrounds are abundant around the city, we found 3 just 10 minutes walk from our place.

our 'home shore' from the Ataturk Blv bridge

Turkish people are hospitable, kind and unbelievably nice, lovely and smiley when it comes to babies. (it seemed so overwhelming at least to us coming from Finland where kids are generally unfortunately seen as a nuisanse and behaved even hostile towards…) Our baby bloomed in Istanbul, she cried a whole 3 times throughout the whole trip and became very social and smiley. Strangers would clap, smile, play with her and hold her in their laps everywhere and she seemed to enjoy every minute. Hence, our moving around the city was slow as we’d stop every few minutes to wave to someone or to receive a compliment or a local mashallah! Of course it’s everyone’s own decision if that is a joyful way to pass a day and enjoy the local culture or if it feels too invasive. We loved the effect it clearly had on our child and even though sometimes the 50th passerby who wanted to hold her could have seemed a bit tiring we thought it was worth it because she seemed so happy.

We strolled around the city, used every possible local transportation on land and crossed to asian on ferries a few times. I was astonished to see schools of dolphins jumping alongside regular passenger ferries! I’d never thought Istanbul to be a wild dolphin spot, quite a value for your 3TL boatride!
 The distances are long, we walked about 10 km each day and go nowhere by foot. Catch a bus or a tram to the desired location and walk around there. We walked a few times to different locations that seemed very close on the map (8-15 km in reality) but the city is so huge and hilly and hot and humid and…. just ended up being too tired to care when we got there. Eminonu was the closest transportation hub to us, so sometimes we walked there but mostly caught the bus as several lines went right past our front door.

afternoon traffic on the bosphorous

on the steep, bouncy Galip Dede street

 We ate well, mostly on the seafood places. Tried to always pick the one filled with locals and besides a couple misses (got my only food poisoning at a fancy restaurant in the posh neigbourhood of Nisantasi..) all were a succes. On the asian side, take the boat or bus to Bostanci, grab a to-go lunch from a local shop and enjoy the few kms walk back towards Kadiköy (catch a bus anytime you feel tired) alonf the shore and the beach. In Kadiköy there are some great seafood joints to get fresh catch of the day with a cold beer.

 In Sultanahmet area it’s best to steer clear of the empty touristy restaurants and again grab some food to go and walk into the park for a picnic. Locals seem to barbeque quite everywhere so if you feel like it, join them and buy a small portable grill, some charcoal and maybe a bag of chicken from the butcher. In Turkey everything is available so there’s no excuse not to indulge in whatever you fancy.

fishermen on the Galata bridge

At the tunel end of Istiklal street (right hand side if you’re facing towards karaköy) there’s a great little restaurant. Can’t remember it’s name and in the window there’s a display of maybe a goulash for 7.99 but you see young people entering all the time and it’s got this dark wooden interior. Try it. Great simple food, good value and a friendly staff. Polish/Italian/Turkish, who cares, the food is good!

 I’m sure Istanbul has a wonderful nightlife packed with awesome clubs and bars and is a city of romantic restaurants, great sights and excotic shops. This time we just soaked in the streetlife, got lost here and there, met lots of people and ate well. We were also in bed by midnight. Family holiday in Istanbul, very recommended.

our nightlife -shooting artsy streetlamps on a thunder night...

Apr 16, 2013

I'm up for supersaver's travelblog of the year competition, please vote :)
Wina trip with Supersaver! Parhaat tulokset hakuun "halvat lennot lontoo" saat Supersaver.fi:stä

Apr 6, 2012

back in Thailand

It has been quite a few years since my last visit to the land of smiles and I'm happy to announce that the sun is still shining :)

This time there was no schedule or plans as to where to stay, but a wish to go climbing a bit.
First stop after a quick transit in Bangkok was Krabi town for 3 days. Mellow atmosphere on the streets and a reasonably priced seafood restaurant with fresh daily catches made the beginning of holiday really smooth.

A mere hours' boat ride towards Koh Lanta lies a lovely small island of Jum. No nightlife or any commercial supermarkets, just some local businesses and one main road through the island. Quite secluded beaches, clean and friendly -this is a place worth looking into when you're willing to leave the hassle and hubbub behind and let others also enjoy the calm and quiet without rowdy drunks and fools speeding with motorbikes throughout the night.

A week in this peaceful heaven was unfortunately for me more than enough for my travel companion so we packed our bags and sailed back to krabi mainland, this time to Railay peninsula. The initial idea was to stay on Railay east but because of a really unconvenient morning flight (and in my opinion unreasonably priced accommodation) we decided to take a room next to the pier in Ao Nang and caught a longtail-boat ride to the walls every day (15 mins each way, 200bht return). This proved to be a good idea also for the variety as Ao Nang has a lot more options for leisure time and is also only 20 mins away from Krabi town, where you get great food for half the price. If you want decent stuff in Ao Nang, go to 'Family' restaurant, just off the main road.

house kitty in Family restaurant

Climbing in Railay was great, all I expected and more, lots of routes for every level and dozens of shops in which you can either enroll courses or rent just the rope as we did. We rented our stuff from Real Rock climbers, a small shop up the road from railay east beach. Great staff and the gear was well looked after.

I probably won't going back in the near future since the area really isn't my style besides the climbing at the moment but if i ever have a large family and need amenities as babysitters while I'm doing sports this is a great place.

Jan 15, 2011


Back in the philippines and on this round it's time to try out the area on and around palawan.
Puerto Princesa is the capital of Palawan and it's a charming small city with all one might need to sort out things for the travel forward. I stayed there for 3 days to start with and must say it's an easy gateway to the philipino way of life with all the amenities one is accustomed to.
More on the town and our accommodation on later posts.

Today we tried out the underwater cave-tour in sabang, about 75kms up from puerto princesa center. It's shortlisted as one of the finalists for the next 7 wonders of the world and definitely the main attraction for its area.
You can hire a car or a motorbike and ride up yourself or get on one of the jeepneys taking you on a day-trip, including a guide, transportation, lunch and the entrance fees to the park and caves. Almost every hotel and travel agent sell tickets to the trips, which are supervised by a local tourism authority.

view along the way

We booked the trip from our hotel and got picked up in the morning after breakfast. Patience is a virtue i possess only in small quantities and got reminded about the philipino outlook on time when our pick-up was 40 mins late from the scheduled departure. Luckily at 7.30 in the morning my brain is not up and running yet so it didn't ruin my mood at all.
Our guide Gigi was a true professional with great personality and seemed to like her job. She was catering to our every need, telling interesting information about any rock formation or tree we passed along the way while making jokes and keeping up the atmosphere on the jeepney (in finland we'd call it a 8-seater while here it fitted 15pax with ease...).
It was a cloudy day to start with and i was happy to have brought my hoodie along allthough all other tourist seemed to be sporting barely more than hotpants and a top.

sabang harbour

Sabang harbour was the first stop where we were loaded on typical philipino style banca-boats. The searide took about 15-20 mins and can be quite rough if you're not accustomed to it.
At the entrance of the park you'd have to fill in your details and get in line for the river boat-tour. The wait was quite long, allthough the time we were told before to enter didn't stretch too much from the promised.
It started to rain really heavily and there was quite a commotion when the guides were trying to keep the crowd organized and get their own groups into the boats. It's a good idea to wear something that dries quick, my sweater was a big mistake at this time since waiting in the rain with soaked clothes tends to get cold..


We got another guide, who also served as the boatman on the river-ride. They're excellent professional people and the informative tour with a lot of jokes cheered everyone up again.
The underground river itself is truly a marvelous place. I've never seen anything like it and the excitement floating in the dark caves with only a halogen-torch (the person sitting in the front gets to operate it to the boatman's instructions) was a beautiful and enchanting experience.

inside the cave

loads of bats hanging..

So, all and all this is definitely a trip worth making, pack up a change of clothes if you wish to arrive back dry and have a relaxed attitude towards the little inconveniences that might come your way. Another thing to keep in mind is to hold on to your snacks and all little things you might be carrying, the monkeys around the park are sneaky little creatures who expertise in jumping at you and grabbing stuff from your hand or pockets :)

for more info check: www.puerto-undergroundriver.com

May 23, 2010

Fashion, oh fashion....

I know the summer streetguide hasn't emerged as promised but honestly the absolutely crap weather besides the week i spent abroad has kinda slowed it down.
Last week i came across another great thing in spring Helsinki and that is fashion as raw as it gets. Every being capable of dressing themselves or having someone to do it for them have been strutting around in their best summerwear. It's absolutely wonderful to realize how good looking people this town holds and that they have only been submerged in the puffy stuffed sea of warm clothing, waiting to bare it all and get noticed again.
Also the graduation season is upon us and thankfully a bunch of fresh clothing designers are putting together their annual display of talent. I went to see the show by Lahden Muotoiluinstituutti last week and this coming wednesday is the taik's turn. Here are my favorites from the first one.

I was especially thrilled to see these beautiful under-and swimwear, nothing great in that genre has come out recently.

Mar 30, 2010


People seem to be a bit down about the slosh finally hitting town after a gruelling long winter. Some hope is also in the air as the first bicyclers are out and about. I'll be putting together a helsinki-guide of my favorite streets during the next couple of months, so stay tuned if you're planning to visit this coming summer. I'll leave you with some pics of a Diesel Be Stupid video shoot I had a lot of fun doing with great people!

Feb 22, 2010

belly happy :)

I visited Hong Kong first time ever last november and became infatuated instantly. Coming back this january to confirm my love and yes, I have a new favorite among many others!
The friendly people, great shopping, breathtaking sceneries both in town and up the hills make you feel instantly at home but the most pleasing thing about this new acquaintance was that good food was everywhere!
We stumbled upon restaurants where we'd be the only westeners among 300 locals, ordering whatever smelled and looked good. Finding hip lunchtime hangouts to share with the stylish saturday shoppers and indulged in long dinners in the most comfortable restaurants I've ever visited.
Since this was a holiday and I do enjoy the long wine and dine way without counting the calories I'll let you in on my favorite way of ending the day here.
You need to work up an appetite for what's coming so i'd recommend a brisk day with activities. We decided to do what every tourist in Hong Kong should do and went to see the Tin Tan buddha. It's a very touristy- though excellently run- industry around it with the ngong ping 360 in front. One can also take a hike up the hill to the monastery and buddha but we spent some dollars to get us up with the cable car -it's still a fair walk from the end station to the statue.

In my opinion it was great. The view was beautiful and the statue itself very mesmerizing, go see for yourself.
A lively afternoon of shopping and wondering around hong kong island and kowloon side beats the rest of the energy out of your body so it's time to feast!

We started the night with drinks and nibbles at Tivo, a cozy and warm bar-restaurant run by an international aqua-group. i find it great to come across a place that belongs to a restaurant group and yet doesn't seem like it at all. Being dispirited by the poor quality of Helsinki's chain restaurants I might be overly excited by this one, but nevertheless I liked it. The cocktails were well made, delicious and served by friendly staff. The barsnacks fresh and tasty and by the looks of the plates at next table the dinner menu is also worth a taste.

But we dragged ourselves away from the cool drinks and navigated just few blocks down to Bistecca, an italian-style steakhouse with lots of great beef. The decor is rustic buthershop with taste and I must say lots of heavy food is better enjoyed seated on sturdy furniture without having to worry if something's gonna tip over.

The service was very attentive and the open kitchen kept customers entertained while savoring the delicious courses. We had ricotta meatballs, linguini with clams, steak, rosemary potatoes, gorgonzola salad and mouthwatering homemade sorbet with fresh cookies. Along with a bottle of wine, perrier, coffees and limoncello the bill was just a bit over 200€ and worth every penny!
The restaurant doesn't seem to have a website of it's own but you can see the menu here :)

meats on display at Bistecca