I’ve been putting this off for a couple of weeks now, trying to figure out how to write this. The thing is, after two weeks of procrastination, I got nowhere nearer to figuring out how to write this appropriately. So I guess I’ll just… write this on a whim, spontaneously.
I’m going to write about what I feel of my trip. And I think I’m going to split it into two posts. I’ll start with Istanbul today…
Istanbul is, to date, the most shocking city that I’ve ever visited. Maybe because I’m a Malaysian (country with Islam as official religion and being obese as national pastime) so my observations differ compared to American or other European travelers. Instead of noticing how fragrant the spices were, or how friendly the people were, most of the time when I was wandering around, my attention was occupied with observing things that seemed bizarre to me. Things like:
- The white people notice the cats, but I notice a lot of dogs. Folks here love dogs apparently, including Muslims! I’ve seen on a daily basis, hijab wearing aunties and skullcap wearing uncles walking their dogs all over the city. This is a very far cry from those folks back home who either want to kill dogs or do not hate dogs. Here, they love dogs.
- People in Istanbul are extremely fit and well built. You can hardly find fat people here. Trust me, I know what I’m saying. After all, I had trouble trying to buy a pair of jeans for myself. If you are a guy here and you want to buy pants that are more than 32 inches, the floor staff WILL give you stares that would make you feel like digging a hole and jumping into it.
- And the ladies here, they’re absolutely gorgeous! I don’t think I’ve seen a female here who looks… ugly. I’ve seen gorgeous ladies, fat ladies and ugly ladies in Malaysia. I’ve seen gorgeous ladies, fat ladies and ugly ladies in America. I’ve seen gorgeous ladies, fat ladies and ugly ladies in Tokyo even! Istanbul, nope. All slim and gorgeous babes! Now, of course, I’m talking strictly about looks, physical appearances. I’m talking about eye candy, about people watching. I’m not talking about looking for a girlfriend or a soulmate. If you’re going to preach about inner beauty, now is the best time to keep it to yourself unless you want to be a moron.
- Can you imagine a halal restaurant selling beer and whiskey? In Istanbul, ALL restaurants carry the word halal, yet most of them carry alcoholic beverages in their menu. According to a restaurant owner which I chatted up, “the food is halal and the alcohol is stored in bottles. They are not mixed up, so what is the problem?”. My first meal in a Istanbul restaurant, I’ve seen a group of Malaysians coming into the restaurant because it says halal on the signboard, then upon seeing alcoholic beverages on the menu, got up and left.
It was interesting for me to see how Istanbul defines modern Islam. Sure, you can’t find pork here, folks go for prayers in mosques five times a day, alcohol is only for tourists, but… it just feels, completely different with Kuala Lumpur.
But I imagine it would be extremely disconcerting for some Malaysians to experience this, seeing fellow Muslims who behave quite differently from what they are used to. I guess my advice to Malaysian Muslims who want to visit, just… try to read Turkey’s history. Read about Kemal Ataturk. Just… try to understand that Turkey, although officially a Muslim country like Malaysia, they’re just… not the same…
I know, some of you would probably accuse me of sounding like a prejudiced and racist bigot, but I’d like to think that I know what I’m saying. After all, I’ve spent time with Malay colleagues in the US, I know the “struggle” is quite real for some who are more… conservative.
But what about me? Did I like this city? Would I want to come back for more visits? Would I like to live here?
Well… I do like this city and think it is a good place to explore. I did not regret one bit coming here. But no, I will not want to live here. Why? First, language barrier. Not many people speaks English here. Those who do, usually wants to be your “new best friend” or “long lost relative” if you know what I mean.
More importantly, I love my pork too much. Actually the language is not a deal breaker. After all, I’ve been living in Penang for 8 years and still speak no Hokkien, but I’m still alive. But, no pork, man. No pork is a deal breaker for me. No no no no… nope… Sorry… 🙄