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Where I’ve been
It’s been a month of exploring two cities as I hop my way back to my homeland.
Revisiting Istanbul is never a bad idea, which is where I found myself at the start of the month. Before I went I was having some doubts regarding surging Covid-19 numbers, and I was wondering if I should cancel my trip. It had gotten into my mind to go back to Southeast Asia and Australia via Istanbul. I figured I just keep making my way east from the Western Balkans. Things change quickly in these pandemic times, and all of a sudden Eastern Europe was seeing a spike in Covid numbers, while some countries in Southeast Asia started reopening. Thailand reopened with only a 1-day quarantine requirement, as long as you were travelling from a small selection of countries. Turkey and Albania (where I had previously been) were not on the list, while Greece was on the list. Urgh. I should have just kept going overland from Albania into Greece.
I worked out that if I cancelled my bookings and went to Greece I would have been just as much out of pocket, so I kept my Istanbul itinerary. I’m glad I did because I had forgotten how great Istanbul is. It had been nine years since I was last here, and I’m pretty sure I said I would come back more often when I was last here.
After spending two months in the Balkans, it was a shock to the system to see how crowded and busy Istanbul was. I felt like I could walk around cities like Zagreb and Tirana without ever bumping into anyone in a crowd (a great place to be in these pandemic times). I am usually in my element in these bustling megacities, but this time I was a bit edgy in big crowds. At least everyone was wearing masks everywhere, which was not happening in Europe. Turkey felt more culturally in line with Asia in the mask-wearing department.
Originally I wanted to visit some neighbourhoods along a metro line that had opened since I was last here, but I decided to not use the metro or visit crowded spaces while here this time. After seeing the crowd entering the Hagia Sophia it felt like the right thing to do.
There is so much to see here that I had more than enough to do by walking everywhere.
I’ve been to Dubai twice before on brief (and sweaty) stopovers. Those trips were not long enough to get a feel for the city, and I said on my last visit that I should spend a month here. My travel plans finally aligned so that I could spend some time here. I stayed here for three weeks, which was close enough to a month. And being here during November was perfect timing for the weather.
I spent three weeks here because the UAE was one of the countries of origin where you could visit Thailand with only a 1-day quarantine. The only catch is that you had to be in one of those approved countries for a minimum of 21 days. I couldn’t just fly to Dubai from Istanbul, and then fly to Thailand. I had to launder my travel history for three weeks, so here was my opportunity to stay in Dubai for a while.
Dubai is currently hosting the expo, so they have been taking the pandemic seriously. You have to download a health app, and a covid test is done at the airport upon arrival. Everyone is wearing masks here as well, inside and out.
I visited the expo, and with this extended visit I have been able to visit different places at leisure instead of rushing around in one day. I will post a full trip report and where to stay in Dubai guide.
I’ve now arrived in Bangkok where I will do a 1-day quarantine, and if I get the all-clear then I will be free to go. So far I’ve only seen Bangkok from the back of a taxi as I was whisked to my quarantine hotel, but that was enough to put a spring in my step. Good to be back in Thailand.