My London-KL rail odyssey

On 5 August I started my 17,500km rail journey from London to Kuala Lumpur. It took a lot of planning, hence my Travelogical blog had been neglected. I hope whilst on this journey I can blog about the places I had meant to write about before – Istanbul and Sinan the architect, Ramadan in Istanbul, Haarlem in Netherlands and my previous trips to Bangkok and Chiangmai. So much to do, so little time.

Here is the first of my column about the rail odyssey in the New Straits Times in Malaysia:

http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/08/162924/rail-odyssey-big-prep

I have also started a new blog to share all my adventures with you:

www.londonmalaysiarailodyssey.wordpress.com

 

 

 

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Up, up, and away in Cappadocia

By Nooraini Mydin

I have always wanted to experience a hot air balloon ride and one of the best places in the world to do this is in Cappadocia, Turkey. When were told Universal Balloon would collect us at 4.30 a.m. for a dawn liftoff, I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to get ready in time that I slept with all my clothes on.

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Our balloon being “fired up.”

We had a little breakfast at the company’s headquarters near Göreme National Park before being driven to the site. Like little children we were all speechless with excitement to see our balloon all fired-up and ready to go.

There were 12 of us in the balloon, distributed in the four corners of the basket with the pilot, Furkan Yazgi in the middle. Furkan was very friendly and accommodating, turning the balloon around so we could all get to see the sunrise. I was worried I might be told off for tethering my little baby Samsung camera to the balloon rope with a gorilla pod but thankfully I wasn’t and now I have lots of short videos of the ride.

We flew for an hour, reaching heights of up to 900 meters and at times dipping down so we were almost scraping the tops of the fairy chimneys. The incredible moonscape of the Göreme National Park makes for a magical experience. I don’t think there can be a better place to have your first hot air balloon experience than Cappadocia.

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Cappadocia’s “moonscape” from my hot air balloon

Furkan expertly landed the balloon close to the truck, as we hang on to the ropes, crouching as Furkan had taught us. Immediately the crew lifted the basket with us in it while Furkan gave it a small blast to help lift us onto the truck. Then the crew busied themselves laying the table with glasses (great husband material), non-alcoholic champagne and medals for all of us. That was a lovely surprise for me (obviously I didn’t read the itinerary properly). Why should I, all I wanted was to ride on the balloon. The rest were extra and a welcome treat indeed.

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Our charming from Universal Balloon, Furkan

Universal Balloon has four balloons with a capacity of between 8 and 20. Personally, I think the smaller capacity balloons are better. I’d hate to have to jostle for photographs with too many people. All their pilots are fully licensed and their crew are friendly and super-efficient.

 

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My baby Samsung tethered to the rope of the hot air balloon.

Cappadocia

Cappadocia’s landscape is like fantasyland, from the fairy chimneys to the underground dwellings, the churches and cathedrals inside caves, 5-star hotels like the wonderful Gamirasu Cave Hotel in the village of Ayvali, built in the cavernous caves and luxuriously furnished. It’s a family-run hotel and its owner, Ibrahim Bastutan was born in this village and makes a point of getting to know his guests.

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My comfy four-poster bed at Gamirasu Cave Hotel in Cappadocia

All the staff are warm and friendly. The food at Gamirasu was excellent, whether you order was local or Western cuisine. The breakfast buffet was amazing with unexpected extras like halva tahini, a sesame-based sweet that you can spread on your bread and honeycomb. The bread was soft and delicious. What a shame we had to leave so swiftly.

 

 

Turkey – a great country

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What a treat to come home to this after a hard day’s touring

Turkey is a great country to visit. It offers so much to holiday-makers: sun and sea, culture, arts, history, archaeology, cuisine; you name it, there’s something for you wherever you decide to stick the pin on the Turkish map. Istanbul is fantastic for first timers to Turkey; it gives great value for a short city break in terms of the amount you can do and the food is also fabulous and cheap as well.

Is Turkey safe?

Forget the rumours about Turkey being unsafe. I lived through the IRA bomb threats in Central London in the 1990s and we all went about our lives as normal; the same with the Turkish people today. Life goes on and we should NEVER let our lives be dictated by cowardly terrorists anywhere.

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With our guide, Baki from Travel Shop Turkey.

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Lovely Turkish lady in the village of Ayvali, Cappadocia

The Turkish people are warm and welcoming. Even those who cannot speak English would at least smile at you or point you in the right direction. Visiting the beautiful mosques doesn’t cost you anything (unlike the temples in South-east Asia and Japan that will take a hefty chunk out of your budget). And the shopping is heavenly.

For information on travel to Turkey, Go to Turkey, the Turkish Culture and Information Service is best.

My trip was organised by: Eco Turkey and their local partner, Travel Shop Turkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bejewelled treasures exhibition at the V&A

This wonderful exhibition closes at the end of March 2016. Not too late to catch a glimpse of the opulence of India’s maharajas.

Read all about it in my article in The Star:

Treasures of the east

2. Diamond turban jewel made for the Maharaja of Nawanagar

 

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Midnight sun in Pyhä-Luosto

After enjoying the mystery of the Northern Lights at this popular winter destination, Nooraini Mydin heads for Pyhä-Luosto in Finland in summer to check out the wonders of the Land of the midnight sun.

Midnight sun

 

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Reindeer herding in the Midnight sun

After the reindeer calves are born in May, reindeer owners who breed these animals in the wild, have a big task herding the animals to identify and mark their calves. Read all about it in the article published in The Star.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=nooraini+mydin+midnight+sun&rlz=1C5CHFA_enGB530MY544&oq=nooraini+mydin+midnight+sun&aqs=chrome..69i57.6521j0j4&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=119&ie=UTF-8

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Nasi Kandar – a Penang creation that Malaysians love

Nasi kandar is a breakfast rice dish that is my all time favourite. Here is my article published in Roads & Kingdoms today:

http://roadsandkingdoms.com/breakfast/revisiting-a-favorite-breakfast-half-a-century-later/

 

 

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Roti Canai – Malaysia’s favourite food

Here’s my piece about the roti canai published in Roads & Kingdoms:

http://roadsandkingdoms.com/breakfast/sometimes-you-need-to-go-where-everybody-knows-your-order/

 

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