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Istanbul is like a Cadbury Favourites box (all you Kiwis out there – you know what I mean). Every corner is a hidden gem awaiting to be discovered, bursting with overwhelming flavours and colours. Offering different styles of architecture and vibes. Even though we spent 7 days here, it felt like we’d only just scratched the surface of this beautifully chaotic city.

This lively city is knitted together by narrow streets which are intricate cobwebs of cats, cars, and people, ebbing and flowing in a chaotic harmony. As we were there during summer, people were driving with their windows down, sharing their music with the passerby, or when they were stuck in traffic (which was often), they exchanged friendly conversations with older gentlemen who were chilling out on their front porch (so basically just on the footpath).

We marvelled at how lively the city is. On any day of the week, people meet up at cafes and restaurants, sitting outside and chatting.

Night time transforms the city into another world. Restaurants, pubs, bars, and streets are buzzing with people of all ages, dressed up, drinking, laughing, eating, and enjoying each others company. Again, doesn’t matter what day it is, people seemed like they didn’t have to work the next day!

The only real quiet that we experienced was in the mornings when the streets were empty and many cafes and restaurants were still closed. As we have learned from our new local friend Betül, that things don’t get going until about midday when people meet for brunch. 

Fun fact: kahvaltı – Turkish breakfast, which is more like a brunch, comes with many mezes (side dishes) and a big bread basket. The impressive spread is leisurely enjoyed over 2-4 hours where people would snack, sip tea, and chat – sounds epic right?!.

As you may have guessed… this is one of Bua’s favourite meal times in Turkey.

Wherever you are in Istanbul, you can never miss the call for prayer from the majestic mosques that are integrated throughout the city. We were really taken away by the serenity and quiet beauty of the ancient architectural masterpieces.

On many occasions, we, alongside locals, would take a rest inside a mosque, sitting on the soft carpet, relaxing into the tranquil atmosphere. 

Grand Mecidiye Mosque

Wedding crashing | Grand Mecidiye Mosque

Blue Mosque

The Great Camlica Mosque | Turkey’s Biggest Mosque

Ceiling of Camlica Mosque

Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque

At Suleymaniye Mosque, we met Betül who became our friend and a window to the Turkish way of life and Islam.

The three of us spent the day walking and eating through Kadikoy. Engaging in an epic cultural exchange that lasted into the night. A Thai Buddhist, Turkish Muslim and Agnostic German, happily discovering how similar we all are, our love for K-drama (except Tilo), Turkish breakfast, and most importantly cats. Stripping away all the labels, at our essence, we are all human with hopes, dreams, struggles, and joy.

Food – Where do we even start?! Istanbul is so far our best gastronomic experience… and our bar is not low as we have been to Sri Lanka, South India, all over Thailand, and eaten our way through the vegan scene in Bali. Naturally, Kahvalti (Turkish Breakfast) is the star of the show. There are many cafes and restaurants offering full vegan Kahvalti or vegan options, and so even with our plant-based diet, we leisurely ate our way through all the meze (small side dishes) and bread. 

Talking about bread, Simit – an Istanbul staple was our beloved daily snack. A Simit a day keeps the doctors away – we convinced ourselves while chomping down on the chewy yet crunchy crust with softer bready dough. This cousin gives Pretzel a run for its money… It might even win the race (sorry Germany). All we can say is Istanbul’s food scene was heaven on earth. 

True Owners of Istanbul… 

They are the true kings and queens of Istanbul. Almost every shop, resaurants, stores, have a bowl of food and water outside for these beautiful creatures. And as for a bed… just like royals, they do whatever they like! 

Basilica Cistern

Golden Horn Bridge | Connecting Europe to Asia

Grand Bazaar

Our daily excursions



  • Hanging out with Betül; we absolutely loved getting to know her and learning more about the Turkish way of life and Islam.
  • Public transport was so convenient, and nothing beats travelling via the ferry – absolutely stunning view!
  • Of course, we can’t not have cats in our top highlights! Do not confuse them with street cats, as these beautiful creatures are extremely well-loved in Istanbul. Most of them could pass as breeder cats who are well-groomed, well-fed, and you know it, spoiled. They sleep, walk, and chill wherever they like!
  • Culinary delights; sweets – hands down Baklava at Karaköy Güllüoğlu; savoury Gözleme (a savoury Turkish pancake stuffed with a variety of toppings.)



Due to rapid inflation, it was hard to find the exact entrance prices for sights. Often when we arrived at the sight, the entrance price was quadruple of what had been posted a few months earlier.

But really, our main challenge was time! There are so many things to see, varied neighbourhoods to visit, epic foods to try, and we just didn’t have enough time!

We honestly wish we could have spent months just exploring and eating our way through Istanbul.

Istanbul left a stamp in our heart. Be sure that we will definitely come back!

Castle on a hill