Thursday, November 18, 2010

Travelife Magazine Brings You the World

Hello from Istanbul, one of the most fascinating cities in the world. We've not been updating this Travelife blog as often as we would have liked because we've been very busy showing the first batch of 70 Travelife Magazine readers and friends around this city we love. It's been truly heartwarming to see and be told by our valued readers and friends who have joined us on this trip that they have had a marvelous time and have come to enjoy and appreciate Turkey as seen through the eyes of Travelife Magazine. In fact, many of them are already signing up for our other tours next year!

One minute of inspiration becomes a reality

This trip of a lifetime to Turkey began with a simple one minute of inspiration and I still -- and perhaps always will -- remember exactly when it occurred. It was during a trip to Turkey last June when the Travelife team shot a cover for the magazine -- our current October-November issue. We traveled to Istanbul, Capadoccia and Konya. After about two very wonderful weeks or so of amazing adventures in both Istanbul and Capadoccia, we were driving back from the city's Taksim area to Istanbul's airport to take the flight back to Hong Kong. Looking out at the Marmara sea and the beautiful coastline that rings the city and straining for a last glimpse of the Old City skyline with the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofia, I suddenly said to my managing editor, who was seated next to me: "Wouldn't it be great if we could actually bring people here, to this wonderful city?"

Amazing experiences with Travelife

And that's how this series of Travelife Magazine trips to Turkey began. With the help of award-winning Turkish Airlines, with its dyamic teams in Hong Kong and Manila, we created a tour with everything the finicky traveler could wish for: we covered all the major sights, but we also provided lots of finesse and personalized touches, enough comfort and excellent value. There were also world-class upgraded dining experiences for the gourmets in the group who wanted more than a regular delicious dinner: Travelife took them to Kosebasi, the best kebab restaurant in Turkey, and to Asitane, one of the most historically interesting restaurants in the world.

There was also an opportunity to drink and dance at Reina, one of the world's most glamorous bars, located right along the Bosphorus -- and some people in the group did drink and dance until 2 AM! To top off a truly exhilarating week, we arranged a private dinner cruise for our groups along the Bosphorus, sailing off just before sunset and then enjoying dinner with the twinkling lights of the city all around. This was one of the most memorable experiences for many of our readers and friends.

A perfectly-balanced tour

Lots of people in our groups told me that they usually never took tours, but they were very happy with the Travelife trip because it provided just the right balance between guided activities (which are very convenient, especially in places with language and cultural barriers) and free time to do what they wished. We tried hard not to jampack the schedule, but we also tried to ensure that we saw everything important in Istanbul and Izmir.

Of course, it's still a tour so the schedule was probably tougher than most people would have wished. But we were assuming that most people coming to Turkey for one week would like to see more sights rather than less, so we tried to at least include the major sights along with a lot of local stops off the tourist track. And in the tour scheme of things, this one was certainly much more relaxed than most tours on the market. We had civilized (and very delicious) breakfasts and we began most days at 9 am, and the pace throughout the day was relatively slow vis-a-vis the usual tours.

It would also have been nice to have a longer tour, but I was really insistent on a one-week trip to enable more people to go. Lots of people can take a week off from work or family, but longer than becomes difficult. Besides, those who can extend can just do so on their own and spend their extra days relaxing or revisiting the sights they fell in love with. These were the rationales behind our planning.

What makes us different

Furthermore, I'm sure every reader and friend who has joined us on this trip will agree that they received the kind of value and experience that cannot and will not be equalled anywhere. Frankly, the secret ingredients of a trip that Travelife plans are a passion for travel and a genuine desire to bring people with a sense of adventure to truly wondrous places. This Travelife trip and future trips will never be equaled because they are true labors of love. In other words, we created the kind of tour we ourselves would like to join, and we planned the kind of itinerary we would make for our own family or best friend.

Last week, the first batch arrived in Istanbul to begin a trip to Izmir and Istanbul; and as I type this out, there are now 70 Travelife readers and friends in Turkey -- which to me, personally, is quite amazing considering this started out as a simple inspired moment last June.

It has helped that we had a great guide and that the weather has been absolutely perfect -- so unreal, in fact, for Turkey at this time of the year. So far, I think we had one evening of rain overnight and then about a 15 minute shower one afternoon. And temperature-wise, it's cool but not cold. It's the perfect weather for walking through Izmir and Istanbul.

Bringing the world to you via our magazine,
bringing you to the world with our tours

What's on the cards for next year and the year after that? We were constantly asked this question on the trip. Well, with the great success of this non-profit promotional trip to Turkey organized by Travelife Magazine and Turkish Airlines, we're looking at formally offering more trips with Travelife next year. Morocco, South Africa, Southern India, and off-the-beaten track Japan are just some of the destinations we're looking at.

Don't leave home without Travelife

So make sure you don't leave home without Travelife -- whether it's our magazine, filled with great stories and valuable information on your destination; or by joining one of our incredible travel experiences, that are wonderfully planned down to the last detail. And just ask any of our 70 readers and friends who were adventurous enough to join us on these two trips to Turkey -- once you've traveled with Travelife Magazine, you won't want to go anywhere with anyone else.

Happiness is bringing our readers to wondrous places.
Not just writing about them.



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