Europe 2016: Reflection (Istanbul)

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.

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My favorite photo of Istanbul

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… 🙄

26 Comments

  1. The Turks have told me that Turkey is becoming more religious but not like Saudi Arabia. The Eastern part of Turkey is very conservative and so are some cities in Turkey. Their mindset differs from city to city. It very much depends on their background, education level, profession, where they are from, have they travelled abroad and their exposure to Western music and media. Turks who are highly educated and well read tend to speak better or good English and some are liberal.

    One of my foreign colleagues struggled to find English speaking doctors in two private hospitals, in this conservative city where we are based. I had a number of appointments at the dental school of a State teaching hospital. I had access to English speaking and highly skilled professionals (some spoke very good English).

    Turks are generally hospitable and welcoming but not as generous as the Arabs in the Middle East. Some may go out their way to help you. I think each expat or visitor will have a different experience.

    Istanbul is a vibrant city. I was there for a week and love it. I am hoping to see more of Istanbul through the eyes of a local. From my experience, there are more English speaking Turks in Istanbul. Some of them have a high level of language. Turkish men in Istanbul are so much more charming than those living in other cities. The men and women tend to better dressed and look after themselves. Yes, there are conservative private colleges in Istanbul.

    I don’t know if one can get pork in Istanbul. On one expat forum in Southern Turkey, a member posted the address of a shop that sells pork in that part of the town. A number of young male Turks have told me that they hunt wild boars in the summer and sell it to two, five star hotels in Kemer, a town in the Mediterranean city of Antalya in Southern Turkey.

    • That’s the thing. You can get pork IF you search high and low for it, I’m sure. That’s not good enough for me. I need to be somewhere where pork’s availability is a default and not a novelty. 🙄

      • 😶
        I miss crisp bacon and quality English/French/Italian sausages. I cannot remember the last time I had Chinese sausages, air dried duck and Chinese leeks from China. 😕

  2. Will you comment about the women in Barcelona too? I am curious to read about that. I always thought we were okey until I was a student in Beijing with tons of foreigners from all over and noticed the other European girls were all gorgeous, particularly the French. The Spanish… were all meh hahaha. Super nice, but not especially beautiful.

    • Hmm… it depends on my mood when I actually write that piece. I did notice that ladies in Barcelona are (mostly) hot and gorgeous too! But then I was in mostly touristy places so who is to say whether they are Catalan or just tourists from other countries, right? 🙄

  3. It is an interesting observation on the differences of Muslim culture. Each country to their own. Pork? You want pork? Come to Australia. Here got plenty 🙄

    • Yeah but you said Aussie pork has a strange taste. Still, I look forward to verifying that claim personally some time in the future.

  4. I hope I’m not out of topic.. But just to start, how’s your laosai? haha.. Ok, “wan tim” I will never have a chance to go Istanbul jor ger la, but I think the only attraction for me is the spices lor.. I will get them to blend for me, each and every spice I can see there.. Other than that, err, those buildings la, this that, errrr, mm sik yan seong..

  5. From what you described, it appears that the Muslims in Turkey are a moderate lot. We have Muslims like that here too but they form the minority I think. Turkish ladies gorgeous, eh? I think so too. They have sharp features and lovely skin. I also admire leh…

    • Maybe if you live there you will look like them too. But for me, I rather eat pork than look good if I can only pick one. 😛

  6. I like the croissant in the picture (am I out of topic?)

    I think Istanbul, the only thing attract me is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, in my wish list to go, it still like out of my top 10 range

  7. I have heard a friend telling me they are mostly good looking. This is interesting to hear about the slim and fit population too. I also noticed that the folks in Japan and especially Northern China are fit and slim too. The main landers eat more veggies than meat and walked or cycled so much. We are what we eat.

  8. I like what you wrote about the dogs and halal restaurants selling alcohol. Dogs, like any other pets, just want to be loved…what’s wrong with that? And the alcohol are in bottles…nothing wrong with that either! I think our muslim counterparts can learn (from them) to be more tolerant.

    • I wouldn’t want to begin thinking how people should or should not practice their religion. Some would consider the Turks to be deviant from true Islamic teachings so… suffice to say that I was shocked with how different it feels to be in Istanbul vs KL. 🙄

  9. I like your pastry photo too – seems like the whole display is full of different versions of croissants.
    Interesting comparisons – I hope to visit one day and make some for myself. 😉

  10. Good summary of how you feel and the differences. Now you should go to the Arab countries and write about the differences that you observe too.

    • Er… well… I’ve been to Dubai before, about 10 years ago. I guess that sort of counts as an Arab country. No, won’t go there either. ALL restaurants will be closed on Ramadan month. >.<

  11. hahaha…M’sia here got pork got pork! I m a porky person too…I can’t live without eating tong po meat and hakka pork dishes! LOL! Turkey is indeed full of gorgeous lady. My colleague once teased me for not dressing as ‘gorgeous’ as these ladies…but well, I come from a ‘conservative’ country where all my office attire below knees, y’know what-I-mean?

    • Well, they don’t dress in miniskirts too, mostly tight fitting jeans with coats and scarves. But even then they look gorgeous. When you’re hot, whatever you wear, you’re still hot, I guess. 🙄 😛

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