Monday, August 24, 2009
Back in July we went on an 8 day package tour of Turkey. It was very much a spur of the moment thing, I've never felt any draw to Turkey, but we saw an ad in the paper and the price was so low that we took it.
I've been on a package tour before,... a 200k, 10 day trek across the Moroccan desert,... but I suspected this would be a different kettle of fish.
I was hoping for a vacation where I wouldn't have to do any thinking or make any decisions, and I got what I hoped for.
There were 38 of us in the group, A Japanese guide who spoke reasonable English but no Turkish, a Turkish guide who spoke fluent Japanese and English, 2 young couples ( I include Yoko and myself in that definition hah!), several retired couples, a couple of grandmas with grandaughters in tow (no grandsons), but the biggest demographic group was young women. Sisters, colleagues, friends.
The tour was gruelling! More than 3,000k in 6 days, so most of the time was spent on the bus. This enabled most of the group to engage in what seems to be the prime activity for Japanese on vacation... sleeping!
We hit several sightseeing spots each day, though only a brief time was allotted for the sightseeing as the more important activity, and the one that took at least as much time as the actual sightseeing, was shopping!
The shopping was done in State-run showrooms, and we were ushered in to airconditioned spaces, given refreshments, and then treated to a entertaining "performance" in perfect Japanese before being descended upon by a horde of salespersons, all of whom spoke japanese. The items were all expensive,... carpets, turquopise jewelery, fashionable leather clothes, etc
The hotels were all excellent, some luxury, several resort-style with mostly foreign groups, and a nice seaside resort with mostly Turkish tourists. Most hotel staff spoke a little Japanese, and of course English.
The food was fine. Most breakfasts and dinners at the hotels were buffets, so plenty to choose from and no need to go hungry. Lunches and some of the dinners were in restaurants, and the portions were rather small and tended towards the Japanese palate. I know the Turks eat rice and fish, but I don't believe they eat it as often as we were served it. My gripe about the food was that we never got to eat donner kebab, though every restaurant served it.
One of the most striking memories was while we were visiting Ephesus. There were thousands of tourists crammed into this World Heritage site, and I lost count of the number of different languages I heard. It was a hot day, and there were lots of halter tops, shorts, and a few men topless. The Japanese group were easy to spot. Covered from head to foot, long sleeved, gloves, hats, sunglasses, amd topped off with umbrellas. No chance of any deadly rays from Amaterasu piercing through to flesh.