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A Peaceful Land on Earth

... and the crime scenes.

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From Goreme to Pamukkale, August 30th - 31st 2012

Turkey's crime rate remains lower than most of Europe and North America, ... says The Rough Guide to Turkey. ... female travellers are probably safer on their own than in other European countries.

Here's what Insight Guides Turkey has to say:
Turkey has an enviably low crime record. This reflects Turkish society: restricted access to guns, low incidence of drug use, respect for law and order, and, most important of all, close-knit communities and enduring family ties. Foreigners and tourists are regarded as guests, so are very well treated; in normal circumstances you can expect the police to be polite and helpful.

Tourist areas are regularly patrolled by special Turizm or Foreigners' Police, who should do their best to help you and should speak some French, English, German or Arabic."

Inevitably, there is still some crime, especially in urban areas ... bla, bla, bla. Insight Guides spent the next two paragraphs explaining the crime possibilities.

You have heard how I was lured to get off my bus and follow another tour group at Nevsehir Bus Terminal. Weird was it also that someone had called Barbara telling her that I cancelled booking a tour through her whereas I never did. Is that a crime?

Nevertheless, gentle people were also in that crime scene. First, the staff of Suha Turism at Nevsehir Bus Terminal, despite his lack of English, he made sure I got back on the right bus. Upon my terrible late arrival at Kemal's Guesthouse, Barbara welcomed me exactly as described by Insight Guides: very well treated, as a guest.

Barbara became to me a ... how do you say it? Godmother? When I met a stranger, Barbara gave me her concern and wisdom. Hence, I remained safe.

"When you arrive in Pamukkale, stand your ground," Barbara reminded me also. "Make it clear that you are not joining any tour and you want to go on your own. Have you booked a hotel?"

"No, I'm not staying overnight in Pamukkale. I'll take a night bus to Istanbul, because my flight back to Jakarta is that following day." I replied.

"Then you must make it clear also that you aren't booking any hotel. Otherwise they will pull you, come on... come on... " Barbara pulled my sleeve. "... come with us, come with us. Like that. Especially when they see you are traveling alone. They do that to locals too, you know. When I and Kemal went to Istanbul, people forced Kemal to buy carpets. Kemal replied, 'Why should I buy things I make myself?' "

"Oh! Do they try to lure locals also?"

"Of course!"

I prepared myself for the worst, for the scene on Nevsehir Bus Terminal to replay itself. But, I must have dinner before hopping on the bus.

Food in Goreme seemed slighter expensive than in Istanbul. In Istanbul I could get a super full meal for less than 10 lira. Here, prices range from 13 to 15 lira. The good thing is that all restaurants in this area has their price menu hung in front of the restaurant, making it convenient to decide. I walked further away from Kemal's Guesthouse, taking a new path which I hadn't been on, in an attempt to venture but also to seek for better choice of price. Who knows? Never lose hope.

See? 10 lira, said the menu in front of the restaurant. Cool!

"I want this." I pointed on the menu. It said "Turkish Kebab..." something I don't remember.

Thinking that my budget per meal in Turkey was 15 lira, whilst the meal was only 10 lira, I took one cup of ayran from the refrigerator.

To my surprise, I was charged 14 lira. How could ayran be that expensive, I wondered, as it wasn't my first time buying ayran. But the man at the cashier couldn't speak English. I was already a few steps away from the restaurant when my curiosity drove harder. What if the cashier had made a mistake? Who knows I can get my money back. Never lose hope.

So I turned back and approached the waiter with whom I had placed my order. He spoke English.

"I'm sorry. Please don't be mad with me."

"Fine, fine. What is it?" the waiter was smiling gently.

"How much is one cup of ayran?"

"One lira."

"One lira? Uhm, this one..." I pointed on the menu in front of the restaurant. "... is 10 lira. So ten plus... "

"Oh, that kebab is finished."

"You mean the kebab I had wasn't this one?"

"No, it wasn't. It's finished already."

"But why didn't you tell me so when I ordered?"

The waiter said nothing.

"Why?" I repeated.

The waiter kept silent.

Is that a crime?

Hah, at least the dish was yummy and most important, it didn't break my budget of 15 lira per meal.

Inside the bus to Pamukkale, another surprise was yet to come. Someone was sitting on my seat!!

"Excuse me. My seat is number 34." I showed her my ticket.

But someone poked me from behind. I turned my head. She tapped the seat next to her signaling me to sit there.

"No. My seat number is 34." I insisted. I didn't want to give up my seat which I had painstakingly reserved for the sake of the window view. The seat that lady told me to sit on was not a window seat. Furthermore, what if the passenger with that seat number comes?

The lady behind poked my back again. She tapped harder on the seat next to her.

"No. I have reserved for this seat."

Suddenly I heard women's laughter. Huahahaha!! The lady on my seat got up. A fat woman sitting next, also got up to give way. That was lady was sitting by the aisle.

Until I laid my butt on seat number 34, the laughter hadn't died down. The bus attendant passed by. The lady who sat on my seat patted on his back, said something, but he shrug his shoulders and walked away.

I felt furious. Look. Someone has taken my reserved seat. I demanded my right. But people are laughing now.

"What's so funny?! What are you laughing at?!"

They laughed louder.

"Hey! Do you laugh at a foreigner?!!"

The fat woman next to me said many things which none I could understand.

In front of me sat two guys. The older one said something in Turkish (I bet) and all the ladies fell into silent at once. The younger one turned his head to me,

"There are two tickets with the same number. She has got the same number as yours." -- in English.

"Oh! Okay. But what's so funny about that? What are you laughing?!"

The young guy replied nothing to me. I heard him talk to the guy next to him, and that older guy nodded. Maybe the younger guy had translated my words to him.

It wasn't until the next half an hour that I began to realize how impossible that young guy's explanation was. If that lady who sat on my seat had had the same seat number on her ticket, she should have been shocked when I said that seat was mine. She didn't even take her ticket out or take a look on my ticket. Normally that's what you'd do when you find somebody declaring your seat, isn't it? Why did that lady on the opposite row behind immediately poke my back and required me to sit next to her? And, because I insisted on my seat, that lady had to move out. Where did she move to? To the empty seat where I had been told to sit on. So?? Actually that was, her seat? Actually these ladies know that their pal was sitting on my seat?

When the bus attendant passed by, why didn't she argue with him, if she really deserved my seat?

Did they know from the bus attendant that the name registered to seat number 34 was a foreigner? Thus they thought a foreigner could be fooled? And then when they found out that it's actually a female but hardheaded-stubborn-fearless-foreigner, they laughed at their own wrong prediction? Aaarrggghhh.

My awaited moment came. The beverage cart was rolling my way. Now, I'll make more than before.

"Kahve," I said.

The bus attendant gave me a paper glass and a plastic bag containing a sachet of coffee, plastic spoon, and tissue paper. I kept that plastic bag in my pocket bag. When the beverage cart rolled back my way, I handed my paper glass and asked for juice.

In an instant the fat woman next to me mumbled. I heard "kahve" being mentioned several times. The bus attendant shook his head and poured juice into my glass. Through his look, I read, "It's okay." He handed me the glass with honor, just as described by Insight Guides.

When the beverage cart returned, this fat woman asked for another glass of juice. Her second one. Hmmpphh! What's the difference? Or so now you have just understood that you can have two glasses of drink? Is this your first time on a night bus? Poor you. Hmmpphh! While looking sharp on her glass of juice, I sniffed as hard as I could. From that moment on, she quit squinting at me. Hmmpphh!

Actually, she did better. She faced the other way, and turned her back on me. Like this. For the whole night.

Pressed hard to the much-struggled-for window, I congratulated myself. "Happy window sightseeing, my dear!" I kissed the window glass, unwillingly.

To make matters worse, this fat woman never got up from her seat when our bus made a stop at a rest area. On my way from Bursa to Cappadocia, I sat by the window also. But my seat-mate always got off at every rest area. It's not that I wanted to buy something at the rest area. I just wanted to go to the restroom. Or at least take a look at the vicinity. Hence, this time I had to excuse myself. Like unloading tons of sack, she got up from her seat... but...

Pong! Pong! She tried to knock off the armrest on her left. She mumbled in a sulking tone. Pong, pong!

A gentleman from behind gently lifted up the armrest, as light as lifting a feather. Phew. Mrs. Fatty's butt is released.

Back on the bus, I had to excuse myself again for she was sitting again. Once again she pulled her load up in slow motion -- and sour face. If she hadn't been grunting endlessly when I first sat next to her after the previous lady moved away, if she hadn't mumbled when I required for juice after having coffee, I would have felt sorry for her. Most people in such shape don't actually want to be so. And not few of them are actually sick. Maybe she is, too. Ah... but her grunting sound is still clear in my head. What wrong have I done? I just wanted my seat. I paid. The same price.

Good morning, Turkey!

For a countless time have I seen sunrise, but none has ever been the same. Neither was this one. The view wasn't really next to me, so it was rather difficult to capture. I have never seen sunrise twilight with little pinkish clouds scattered along.

The Flaming Mountain of Turkey? Aha.

In the end, my fight for this window seat and on top of that, being pressed flat to the window glass, was all worth it.


"You. Pamukkale, Pamukkale." A few seconds later I got it that my bus attendant meant I should get off here in order to go to Pamukkale.

With a few others, I got off. My new-found Hong Kong friend was there, too. Well, she said she was going to Pamukkale too. So if this is the wrong stop, at least I will have a-friend-in-lost.

Before I could conclude for myself whether I was on the right trek, a minivan stopped by. An English-speaking guy got off. The moment he opened his mouth, Barbara's words ran back and forth in my head. Stand your ground! Stand your ground!

Everyone standing there who happened to be all foreigners, agreed to join the guy. Wait a minute!

"How much is the fare?"

"Free. It's free!"


"It is!"

It's really hard for me to believe that there's something without a price in this world. Why would this guy be so kind picking up a bunch of foreigners for nothing? But on a quick thought, staying here alone looks worse than hopping on this minivan with a bunch of other foreigners to wherever. Even if at the worst I don't get to Pamukkale, it would be anyway a place I've never been to -- but with company.

Along the way, this gut repeated over and over that it's absolutely up to us whether we decide to join their tour to Pamukkale once we arrive at the office.

"Oh. So they are into offering a tour. Apparently." I said to myself. See? Nothing's without a price.

At the office we were ushered to gather around a huge wall map of Pamukkale. The English-speaking guy explained the tour itinerary and the tour route. It cost 50 TL including entrance ticket and lunch. I thought the itinerary sounded interesting.

"Now, who would like to join?" asked the guy.

I raised my hand. Only me. How funny. Just now I was the only one who hesitated getting on the minivan. But now I'm the only one signing up for the tour. I watched the others' faces. All seemed confident that they are not joining. I turned my eyes to the guy. Is he upset? Imagine, after picking up a bunch of people, only one is willing to join the tour! Isn't that a lost?

But no, he didn't look upset at all. On the contrary, he kindly showed the way towards the entrance gate for those who preferred touring Pamukkale on their own. We were also pleased to use their restroom. For free. I mean, in public restrooms, it usually cost 1 lira per person.

I was told that a bus will fetch me within half an hour. The bus -- it was another minivan actually -- came an hour later. But that didn't matter at all. While waiting, I and my Hong Kong friend were ushered to the restaurant next door. Rachel ordered Japanese noodle, I ordered coffee milk. I already got my breakfast at the rest area, so I didn't want to spend more money for a meal. But because I was allowed to use the restaurant's computer and connect to the internet, for free, I thought it would be rude if I did not order anything. Oh yeah, this restaurant has free WiFi also. I and Rachel befriended each other on Facebook using this free WiFi.

Guess what! Rachel's noodle and my coffee turned out free! Ah, if I had known.

In front of the restaurant there was a wide bench, exactly like the ones in Xinjiang. I climbed up and sat crossed leg on it, feeling slightly homesick for Xinjiang. Xinjiang was a peaceful land on earth, just like Turkey.

Post Script

When I heard my friend's story who traveled Europe as an independent traveler (Meaning, not joining a tour from home country), I felt how different Turkey felt to me concerning safety. All the mentioned above are the only crime scenes I had experienced. If there had been anything more than that, I'm sure at least Barbara would have reminded me of that thing as well. I do pray that Turkey would stay forever as stated by The Rough Guide to Turkey: safer than in other European countries.

Posted by automidori 03:15 Archived in Turkey Tagged people turkey turkish

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