Saturday, May 8, 2010

So happy to be in Turkey

We said good-bye to Egypt by means of one horrible overnight train ride. Maybe we did it to ourselves, but our stubbornness refused to let Egypt beat us, but I think in the end Egypt did win after all.

After not really enjoying Aswan (feel free to ask us about it sometime), we took the train back to Luxor and hung out our last day in Luxor doing a falafel/tea tour of the city. As we've said multiple times, Egyptian food is outstanding, and the tea and sheesha culture is quite cool. Tea and backgammon for two hours in the middle of the day? What's not to like? So, overall, we had a great final day in Luxor. (We only got ripped off once - what a day!) We planned on taking the overnight train to Cairo, but did not want to take the "tourist" sleeper for $60 US each ticket. We also didn't want to take 1st Class for 156 LE ($27 US). Instead we wanted to buy a 2nd Class air-conditioned seat for 52 LE ($9). After being in Southeast Asia and India for three months we'd grown used to traveling in second class; we actually prefer it - we find it more "interesting" and it saves money to boot.

However, every time we went to the train station to buy a ticket they wouldn't sell us one. We tried multiple times but each time the ticket booth told us to just buy it on the train. It was a little risky, but we thought okay, why not? We got on the train at 9:30PM in Luxor and it was mostly empty, so we took two seats. The ticket seller sold us two tickets for 52 LE - so far so good - although he suggested we upgrade to 1st Class. His English wasn't that good; we didn't really understand what he was saying or how much the upgrade would cost so we declined. He also mentioned that we should keep our eyes on our bags which were in the luggage rack above our heads. So we shimmed our bags underneath our seats, reclined our seats and prepared to sleep for the ride to Cairo.

However, around 1AM someone woke on us saying we were in their seats. They had a ticket for our exact two seats. Somehow they were able to buy advanced tickets. We were confused, and in the confusion the guy sitting in the aisle next to us offered to start helping us. In India, we welcomed local help from people, but in Egypt we grew very wary of accepting "help" from strangers. In any event, we had to vacate our seats, but at this point the train was completely packed, I mean solidly packed, as in not a single seat anywhere. Additionally, there were people sleeping on the floor in between the cars, sleeping behind the last row of seats on the floor or sitting double to a seat. It was absolute chaos. I left Jaimee with our bags in between two cars and walked the train looking for seats. Nothing. When I got back to Jaimee our friend somehow convinced a few other guys to take turns standing so that Jaimee and I could rotate into a seat. In between we had to stand right next to the bathroom car where the door wouldn't stay shut, wafting very unpleasant smells into the cramped quarters where I was standing with three other smoking Egyptians. The mix of latrine smell and cigarette smoke was almost enough to give me dry heaves on several occasions.

When the train started to empty out, Jaimee got her own seat and slept, while I sat in a different seat with our bags piled on top of me. We actually got a couple hours of sleep. We got off at the Giza stop in Cairo, took the Metro to the central bus station, got some koshary (who knew pasta, rice, lentils, chick peas, dried onions and tomato sauce could taste so good?) and took the bus to the airport. Total cost from Luxor to Cairo International Airport: 52 + 1 + 4 LE (train, subway, bus) x 2 = $20 USD. Was it worth saving the $100 by not taking the tourist sleeper train? Or saving $32 by not going in 1st Class? Probably not. But as we don't plan on going back to Egypt anytime soon we'll never find out.

We flew into Istanbul, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Literally. Not only was the weather wonderfully cool, but when we took the bus from the airport to the Sea Bus ferry terminal (we're couchsurfing on the Asian side) they even put our bags down below in the luggage area of the bus. Now that's civilized! Granted the 20 minute ride cost 5 Turkish Lira (TL), about $3 apiece, but you know what, everyone was paying that price and it was clear from the very beginning what the price was. That in itself was refreshing.

Then we bought ferry tickets from an automated machine at the ferry terminal. Since I have to put one picture in the post, here's Jaimee waiting in line to get our tickets.

Our couchsurfing host is super nice. Even though we'd been traveling for about 24 hours straight, we stayed up well past midnight drinking Tuborg, chatting about culture, travel and Europe versus America. And we made plans to go out for brunch in the morning (i.e., soon). We are so happy to be in Turkey! More to come as we explore Istanbul and the areas of Southwest of Turkey.

1 comment:

  1. Egypt is difficult but it is just a game, many people cannot believe I traveled Egypt for five months.


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