Thursday, June 20, 2013

Is it safe to visit Istanbul?

Hello from Manila once again, still living a Travelife and with a never-ending series of stories to post.

Three days ago I was in Istanbul, staying at the lovely new Shangri-la Bopshorus right by the waterfront and the Besiktas pier.

This hotel has been open for all of six weeks. It’s very new and yet it was bustling and very full with leisure travelers and business visitors.


Since I posted some blog entries from Istanbul, lots of people have sent me messages via BBM, text and email asking how the situation in Turkey really is.

CNN and other international news networks have all been showing pretty graphic videos of turbulence in Istanbul, after all.

And just this morning, passing the Pasay Road gate of Dasmarinas Village in Makati, I actually saw a rally in progress.

There were red flags and a small crowd of people by the gate so, of course, I looked.

I was so surprised to see that it was a rally against the Turkish government of Prime Minister Erdogan, although the participants were all Filipino and aligned with a local labor union movement -- judging from the identifying placards they carried, which bore the name of the labor union movement.

I can’t comment on what’s been happening in Istanbul from a current affairs viewpoint as I don’t know enough about it.

I’ve read and heard the two sides of the story, and it’s quite complicated for a tourist like me to just write about this issue.

All I can tell you is that many Turkish people I spoke to want peace and order, and they want their economy to keep improving so that their own lives will become better as well.


Is it safe to visit Istanbul?

Events are changing everyday, if not every hour, so what’s true today may be different tomorrow.

However, three days ago I was in Istanbul for 48 hours and not once did I feel that I was in any danger – although I was sensible enough to stay away from the Taksim area where most of the demonstrations and activities seem to be happening.


This photo was taken quickly from the car with my phone....

From Istanbul's Attaturk airport on the way to the Shangri-la Bosphorus, though, we did pass a stream of cars with pro-government flags that seemed to be heading to some meeting or rally in the same direction.

I never saw any protesters, although I saw some smashed windows and the remnants of burnt tires on the periphery road around Taksim, which is Istanbul's major commercial district. There were young people carrying Turkish flags as they walked, as well, but I couldn't tell which side they were on.

There were lots of police everywhere, but everyone was just standing around or sitting inside buses.


This was where we were eating, the night we saw the sea of boats...

One night, however, we were eating at the restaurant of the Shangri-la Bosphorus, which is right next to the water, and we saw an entire fleet of boats pass by bearing red flags and huge portraits of the Prime Minister of Turkey.

Even without knowing any Turkish, I knew these were pro-government boats because of the portraits of Prime Minister Erdogan.

I asked one of our waiters to translate the messages on the boat, and apparently these all said something like: "The fishermen support you. Don't give up."


In the day, we avoided the streets and simply took the boat everywhere.

That's one of the good things about staying at the Shangri-la Bosphorus, by the way: the Besiktas pier is just a few steps away, and from here you can take a boat practically anywhere.

Traveling from point to point by water, there was no traffic, no rallies, and neither protesters nor police.

Just beautiful Istanbul, as seen from the boar, one fine day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


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