Category: Dalyan

Packing it all in – in defence of package holidays

Travelling Coral.

Package Holiday Coral.

Are you a traveller who plans their own itinerary or a package holiday fan?

I ask because I want to know what defines a traveller.

I started my blog, Travelling Coral, to document my first round the world trip in 2011. It turns out I like this blogging malarkey, so I carried on. I like travelling, eating and I like package holidays. I love to have the sun on my back and writing about where I have been, what I have eaten and I like writing about other stuff too. It is my therapy.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with a package holiday.

The beach bums

When I was on a tour in SE Asia, we stopped a few nights at Langkawi. The resort I stayed in was full of long-term travellers and beach bums, who were just like my brother. Because he had lived on a remote island in Thailand for a few years he had a travellers superiority complex. Like the people at Langkawi he viewed tour groups as fake travellers, unlike themselves, the true travellers.

The digital nomads

We are all digital nomads. I can text on the bus and read my email in a cafe. I can work from home or someone else’s home. I can write my blog in Birmingham and Brisbane.

The travellers that describe themselves as digital nomads mostly work in Chang Mai. The package tourist is everything they wish not to be associated with and don’t we know it.

Travellers sleep on the floor/dorms

When I reluctantly let my brother stay in my home for a couple of nights he refused the bed. He slept on the floor and made a big thing about it (saved me washing sheets). He moaned about how unhygienic western toilets were preferring to squat and wash rather than to sit and wipe.

He sneered at every aspect of my life. My kids (too much of a drag, man) my house (still wanted to stay there) and like those languishing in Langkawi, thought westerners who chose to go to work and pay taxes were somehow inferior to him. My package holidays were nothing like what he did (drug dealing and cadging cash off the mothership) he was cool and I was not because he travelled and I did not.

The Carry On Brigade

Then there are the travellers who have lived on the road for six years with backpacks that they carry on to planes. Like carry on is the only way to travel. Self proclaimed digital nomads that never check their bags. They boast that they only carry seven days of clothes, yet manage to pack in the ipad/applewatch/macbook air and a mirror camera whatever that is. They write e-books about it and feign disdain at people who for whatever reason book a package holiday.

Sexy travellers

You will see this same group of bloggers featured in the top 10 sexy travellers lists (no one likes an old frumpy traveller do they?) selling online courses to enable you to have a six figure income on the road. If I were making a six figure income on the road I would upgrade to first class travel and check in my luggage and not work out of a café in Chiang Mai.

Not all of us can carry on

The type of people who respond with ‘oh we never go on packages’ when I mention on their Facebook Page that there is no way I could travel from Birmingham airport with carry on only.  It always gets weighed and the limit is 5kg, so no I can’t, package holiday or otherwise.

I have travelled with carry on only. Twice from the UK, both times with Easyjet out of Gatwick. Once they insisted that a tiny sling purse counted as a second item of hand luggage and I had to put that in my bag. Crazy, but rules are rules. #jobsworth .

*update

In Australia last year (August and September 2016) we travelled carry only on domestic flights to Tasmania/Darwin/Alice. Checked in online and hoped we were not stopped at the gate. I am more pro carry on now. Also had to dump 11kg of clothes in Melbourne as I overpacked for the 4 month trip.

Not a travelling snob 

While I go on package holidays I rarely have anything in common with most of the passengers on my plane. Particularly those with names on their t-shirts who clink on all the duty-free they can and buy perfume and makeup in the sky, I don’t really get them at all.

I genuinely hope that they are not in my hotel. I do. That is not me being a snob, it is me being me. I would not want to spend a week with a bunch of saga louts nor a bunch of toffs who snort coke. It is not who I am. I do like meeting new like minded people and as such have made friends with ambulance drivers, tube drivers and someone big at Weta on my travels. I am interested in people but not ready to fill my life with buckets of booze and karaoke. Except for that one time in Krabi. We don’t talk about that.

When I go to Turkey the ‘I have my name on my t shirt in case I forget who I am in Bar Street’ brigade get on the big packed bus to Marmaris, while I and my family are the only ones on the minibus to Dalyan. Phew. Dickhead Dave, Saucy Sue and Peter the Plonker who had beer for breakfast at the airport pub may visit Dalyan to wallow in the mud for the day at some point, usually as part of a transfer deal with the tour company, but that is it.

I get my Dalyan with the locals and the Dutch who have made it their second home. I watch the sleeping Dalyan Dogs and live like a local.

Husky on Ice

I go have a beer with Fatih, say hi to his mom Rose (one of the best cooks in Dalyan) and Aycut and his jeep, that frequently breaks down, gets our business every time. When he gives lift to random strangers and pops to see his mom when taking us on a trip, that is a bonus. The rep for my hotel invited us to his family home. The owners of Metin, the family run hotel we stay at, entrusted me with their daughters passport renewal forms. That is how we do package.

What we don’t do is lie on a sunbed, work on our tan, eat English breakfasts, drink Carlsberg and stay in the hotel complex. We catch buses and go for long walks. We get lost in thunderstorms, narrowly avoid being struck by lightning, get woken by earthquakes and run the bar for Fatih when he joins in the water polo match. And yes some days we may swim and sleep because we can. Because we are on holiday.

In Malta we got the cheapest hotel and were out all day exploring by bus. We went there to sus out whether we would want to live there. We don’t. Another package because it suited us at the time.

Our first All Inclusive was in Marrakech, which we loved. Our second in Tunisia, we hated. Before that it was usually self catered to keep the costs down and meant that I didn’t have to dress for dinner.

And that is the point. We do what we want to do. If Carlsberg and chips is your thing, good for you, enjoy. Just don’t call me a snob for choosing not to.

If sitting in a cafe as a nomadic blogger in Chiang Mai is your thing, great. Go write that book about how you travel with only one pair of knickers and flip flops. I won’t buy it.

None of us are superior to anyone, tourist or traveller or staycation lover. No, not at all. It was a digital nomad, What’s Dave Doing,  who gave me the best advice when I was planning my first big trip. Supportive and informative. He is still travelling (slowly now) and I am pretty sure he checks his bags. Dave goes home and sees his family and likes western toilets and comfortable beds, but will sleep on the floor if he has to.

Sorrento here we come

Next week Phil and I are off to Sorrento for a week. I went to Thomson Holidays, after some research on the interwebs, and booked a package holiday.

Yes I could have booked it online. I didn’t because there is only one travel agent on my high street now. Use it or lose it, be it butcher, baker or holiday maker. The staff there are lovely, remember my holiday disasters and know why I don’t do cruises.

Sorrento is a holiday. A much needed holiday after a downsizing house move, a bereavement and every other weekend visits to a hospitalised terminally ill mom/mother in law.

And I will not be taking carry on only. I am packing a posh frock, and some real shoes. I will take sandals and linen tops and trousers and jeans and shoes and as the weather is warm in the day and cool at night, some scarves and a cardie. I may even pack my trusty kagool.

Housesitting in Melbourne

In a few months we are off to Melbourne to house sit, travel in Australia a bit and then after three months there, we go to New Zealand for a month. I sketched out a plan on the back on an envelope, went to STA, and now flights are booked and not much else. I have no idea how we get from Sydney to Brisbane yet. We will work it out. That to me is travelling, a mix of part planning and part seeing what happens.

Packing light

This was my packing for Greece in 2014. A seven day unpackaged holiday, where we flew to Crete,  took a night ferry to Piraeus,  had a day in Athens and then cruised to Santorini for a couple of nights. All the others dragged their huge suitcases to their hotel and stayed in one place. At the airport on the way home I asked some of them if they had been to Knossos. They asked me what Knossos was. #sigh

I pack light. This wheeled backpack from Ikea is just over the measurements for hand luggage on most domestic flights from the UK. And while we travelled light, it was over 5kg.

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Package versus DIY

Before booking the Sorrento package, as an experiment, I checked out skyscanner and various booking websites to see if I could organise a break cheaper than the package. I couldn’t. I could get cheap flights and if I had wanted to backpack in hostels, I probably could have just beaten the prices. Room only in modest hotels were around £80 per night. I could have got a 7 night all inclusive package for £600 if we had been able to go this week. We couldn’t due to work and family commitments. For less than that we have 7 nights half board and, as Sorrento is renowned for being expensive, that is good enough for me.

Spend my tourist dollar in the community

When we go to Sorrento are we going to lounge around the pool? Probably not. We will catch the train to Naples and find the pizza James Martin raves about. We may take a water taxi to Capri and explore the island. Visit Pompeii and Herculaneum at the very least. We will use public transport where we can and maybe take a trip to a farm and make pizza. The food walking tour looks fun too. I like tours, I like meeting like minded people and sharing the experience. Phil and I also like going off on our own and exploring.

What is important to me is making sure some of my tourist dollar is spent locally. Booking a package and eating only in the hotel, it isn’t. If I am AI and never leave the complex, only RIU and TUI make any cash. In most cases Thomson and Thomas Cook have bed blocked the hotel for a knock down price and the staff are paid the minimum wage.

In Malta we ate in a family run pizzeria and bought pastizzi from the pie shop. We used local buses and put our money into the economy.

This was almost impossible to do in Tunisia and boy did it need the tourist buck. Even our taxi driver worried for us when he took us to Sousse. It was a country in crisis. So sad now that those hotels, the main source of employment, lie empty.

An ex work colleague once moaned to me about her holiday in Kenya, how dirty everything was outside her hotel. She was horrified at how the locals lived and she didn’t want to see that. I explained to her that while tourism may offer the locals employment, the big hotel chains offering AI deals are in effect, stealing the business from the local small traders. And it doesn’t make any difference what the business is, holiday, retail or the coffee shop. Ask yourself why McDonald’s pop up in almost every resort and city now? Why, when in Melbourne, would you choose a Big Mac over the many wonderful burgers this city offers? Think where you spend you money, please. If you spend it with a local independent, the money stays in the community.

I do sometimes steal McDonald’s wifi though. When a bed bug ridden Maltese hotel charges for it.

Find the family business

This is why I seek family run businesses when I can when travelling. At home I choose indies over Costa and the corner shop over Tesco, Meatshack over Maccie Dees. If I stay in an AI or half board I make sure I get out to the local businesses be they cafes or tour companies and use them. For my forthcoming Australia trip I am using Aussie based tour companies and where I can, family run companies such as Melbourne Coastal Touring and West Oz Active.

Travelling with grannies and children

When the children were young, we almost always booked package holidays. It was easy, my children learned to swim in the sun, made holiday friends, and I had peace of mind. Both Phil and I had stressful jobs and all we wanted to do then was flop. We did once take our then 3-year-old daughter island hopping in Greece, with 50 something granny aka Travelling Sylvia leading the way.

Santorini post card

We found accommodation as we got off the boat. The owners held photos of their rooms for rent and took us there on the back of mopeds. Of course now we use booking apps but I still see rooms for rent signs in Greece.

Holidays at home can cost more than a package

I also have unpackaged holidays in the UK, using small independent Bed and Breakfast accommodation. When our Nile trip was cancelled in 2011 we took a tour around Wales and stayed in some excellent rooms. It cost nearly as much as the Nile cruise though, with food and petrol on top of the £80 or so a night accommodation.

And that is why package holidays are popular, they are mostly affordable. That is what many people want. If they have busy lives and only two weeks off to have a break, most people will probably choose what is generally a safe and predictable option for a holiday. Eat, drink, relax. And so do I, sometimes.

Yet now I have travelled more I choose packages that will offer me the adventure and independence I prefer.

We chose Sorrento because we have never been before, it offers a variety of things to see and do and because we needed a break. It was cheaper than 7 nights B&B or hiring a camper in England and I am saving my dosh for our Antipodean adventures.

The point of this post is not to praise package holidays, nor denigrate people who take them. I have friends who for environmental reasons won’t fly. My carbon footprint with three long haul flights in the past 5 years is huge. I do my best to balance this with using public transport and walking as much as possible. I don’t waste food. I turn off lights and use environmentally friendly products. I am not perfect nor strive to be.

Love them or hate them

Package holidays are like Marmite, love or hate them I suppose. But don’t think you are superior if you call yourself a traveller not a tourist. Because I will see you at Pompeii and at Knossos, at Hadrian’s Wall and on a beach in Krabi. That is what people who are interested in the world do, tourists and travellers.

I am a traveller, a tourist, a holiday maker who wants to see the world, feel the sun on her skin, taste new food, discover new places and people and return to places I love. Package holidays have made the world accessible to people who would never had left the comfort of their own back yard otherwise. Who knows, one day they may push past their comfort zone and go further, go independently and go travel. Or they may just sit by the pool and work on their tan, because that is what makes them happy. Who am I to judge?

So don’t judge me. I like package holidays. Sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travelling Sylvia – what my mother did on holiday

I am still wading through the pile of photographs, both mine and my mothers. Hundreds of them, mostly being thrown away before we move house.  Mom kept all hers in labelled shoe boxes. Duplicates and bad photos. Stored for decades and never shared. Organised clutter.

Occasionally I find ones with real significance. To discover that Mom had taken a photo of a church, that years later I chose as a place to scatter her ashes, was moving and very comforting.

Santorini church

And then there are the ones that make me smile. The ones that capture her personality, the things she did on her holiday. The maddening things and the silly things, that remind me of her and of happy times.

My mother liked to go on holiday. She was a school teacher, in the days when a six week holiday was a holiday for teachers too. She took full advantage of those extended holidays.

Mom often went on a whim, and travelled solo often.

One Christmas, when this celebration was still a big deal for me, she announced she was going to Bulgaria, to a ski resort.

And had Christmas dinner with strangers.

Watching people ski.

Wearing appropriate ski resort wear.

Having her picture take with characters.

And riding on fast things.

Then there was the time she went to Croatia just after the war for independence. And Turkey, always by herself and always making friends. mom 1

Turkey – getting muddy.

She went to Greece a lot, usually with her sister in law, Brenda. Brenda was a carer for her husband, who had MS, so this was a welcome break for her.

One year they went to Tunisia.

They did like dressing up.

And riding Camels.

She generously took me and my family on holiday too. I am glad I have those memories and will be keeping these photos of happy times.

Even when she took us long walks and we got lost.

In Spring 2011 I went to Dalyan with my husband. Mom hadn’t come because she was struggling to get  travel insurance due to her illness. We had been there a day when I got a text from my son.

nan says she will meet you in the market on sat

As I said she did things on a whim.

Our last holiday together was in 2011.  I booked a lovely house overlooking the river at Fowey, with a balcony where she could people watch.My mom enjoying the peace and quiet

This is what my mom did on holiday.

She also climbed into cages with tigers in Thailand and went on a micro light plane in Dalyan, not found those photos yet. Look out for part two.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Insurance and not so natural disasters

I renewed our annual travel insurance policy today.

As we went abroad three times and had three breaks in the UK in 2013 an annual policy makes financial sense to us.

This time I was offered ‘additional cover’ for unknown or unpredictable occurrences.

I asked the agent, does that cover stuff like getting stranded in Majorca when a volcano erupts in Iceland.? Yes he said, that is what we usually give as an example. And being evacuated from an island in Fiji because of a cyclone? Er yes. And what if there is a civil uprising in the country you plan to visit and you can’t go? Um, yes. Ok then, I will take that extra cover as all of those have happened to us.

I am not sure he believed me. And I never told him about the two earthquakes in Turkey or nearly getting struck by lightning. Also in Turkey.

And still we got insurance cover.

Lots of reasons not to travel (see reasons not to travel). Many more to Go travelling while you can.

Dalyan. Don’t feed the turtles, do eat the cake.

Lycian tombs near Köyceğiz
Lycian tombs near Köyceğiz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A post by Bohemian Travellers prompted me to reflect on the recent trip I made with my family to Dalyan. This was the fifth time I had visited Dalyan and doubt that it will be the last. What, the whole world out there and you go to the same place five times, I hear you say?  Yup. I used to think that going to the same place over and over again was dull and boring too. It’s not. I am not going to make an apology for this, for here’s the thing, Dalyan does that to you. It calls to you and soothes you. Going to Dalyan is like going home.

There are a lot of British people who have made Dalyan their home. One quite famous one, but I will come back to that. And this year I didn’t meet one British holidaymaker for whom this was a first visit. Yet it has not been transformed into a resort where you can get English Beer for breakfast. Dalyan has hardly changed in the 9 years I have been going. Indeed, A Proper Holiday was first published in 1996, yet if you read it now you would still recognise that Dalyan is the fictional Karput. If you go, add this to your reading list.

The other main European tourists are Dutch, and Dalyan is increasingly a destination for Turks escaping Turkish city life. When you get off your plane in Dalaman, don’t worry, those fellow passengers with names on the back of their t shirts will be heading off to Marmaris or Ichlemer. Not Dalyan. Audible sigh of relief. The last three times I have been, my party have been the only ones heading to Dalyan.

That is not to say that Dalyan is dull or only for the middle aged hiker, retired couples, or families, it is for everyone. It is just not party central. It is for travellers and tourists who want to experience Turkish life. Bars will gear up for the football matches but there is no rowdiness, Turkey just loves football. There are cocktail bars, swish restaurants, cafes,  5 star hotels, 2 star hotels and even a camp site. There is a fantastic market every Saturday with everything from genuine fake watches to fresh fruit and vegetables. My number one tip about the market is check out the jeans. The quality is amazing. Number two tip is haggle.

Yet Dalyan is all about the river. This is where it all happens. If you want a day out, go to the river as there are hundreds of boats to take you to Koycegiz Market, the mud baths, Sultaniye and Iztuzu (Turtle Beach). Or take a rowing boat to visit Kaunos. Some scenes for The African Queen were filmed in the reed beds of the river.

English: "Kaptan" June at the releas...
English: “Kaptan” June at the release of a rehabilitated loggerhead turtle at Iztuzu Beach Nederlands: “Kaptan” June bij het uitzetten van een gerevalideerde onechte karetschildpad op het Iztuzustrand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what is the deal about feeding turtles? Remember that famous person I mentioned? Meet Kaptan June. She is the reason Dalyan has remained unspoilt. In her fight to protect the turtles that lay eggs on Iztuzu beach, she with a little help from David Bellamy successfully stopped any building on or near the beach.  The turtles now have a new threat as increasingly tours to feed the turtles are being advertised (shame on any holiday firms that offer such trips). The boat will stop and lure in turtles to eat chicken. Chicken is not the natural diet for a turtle. And the turtles are also coming from the sea to the fresh water of the river to be fed, which is also not a good thing. We all love to see the turtles as that is what Dalyan is famous for, so instead of taking a trip to feed the turtles, get a dolmus to take you to Iztuzu and visit the sanctury where you will see turtles and learn about the dangers that they face then go tell everyone you meet in Dalyan not to feed the turtles!

And the cake? Go eat cake at Dalyan Iz.

If you want to find out more about what to do and see and eat in Dalyan, please contact me. If you have been to Dalyan I would love to hear from you.

 

9 reasons not to travel

Staff at the local travel agents will never recommend any where that they are going on holiday to me and my family. This is because they know about our track record for holiday disasters.

These are those I recall off the top of my head, in no particular order.

  1. Kalymynos: the sinking pedalo, when we are rescued by a speed boat
  2. Ibiza lilo adventure, when Tim floats out to sea and Phil has to scramble over a rough sea bed to save him
  3. Majorca: the Thomson Dream nightmare, planes are grounded because of a volcano and we endure a 48 hour journey home by boat and coach. The boat is over crowded and there are no cabins left, or so they tell us……
  4. Grand Canaria, thieves who stole a camera and cash from our coffee table, while we were in the same room
  5. The Hotel California experience, trapped in LA by Qantas grounding all planes in October 2011
  6. Florida, losing our 9 year old daughter in Church Street 
  7. Dalyan, an earthquake and a very near miss by a lightning strike
  8. Egypt Nile Cruise, the holiday that never was due to the coup and playing the waiting game to get a refund from the travel agent
  9. Fiji, evacuated from Bounty Island in a cyclone. This was the only time on our RTW trip that the FCO contacted us.

From: suvaconsular@fco.gov.uk

> To: coral
> Subject: Tropical Depression affecting Fiji

> Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 23:51:20 +0000

>
> Dear British Citizens,
>
> A severe flood warning remains in force for major rivers, streams and low lying areas of Western Viti Levu This has caused major flooding and has closed roads paticularly in Nadi Town and left both locals and tourists stranded.
>
> Should you wish to seek urgent consular assistance or know off any british nationals in need of urgent assitance please do not hestitate to contact us on the telephone number (679)3229100 or (679)3304746.
>
> In light of this adverse weather conditions, we will be grateful if you can confirm yuor safety and well being in Fiji. The Consular team would like you to monitor the latest situation on the Fiji Meteorological Service website: (www.met.gov.fj) or www.ukinfiji.fco.gov.uk for further update.
>
> Kind regards
> Consular Team.

Of course this won’t stop us travelling. Off to Dalyan again in 2 weeks time. The mission to take Mom to all the places she loved, begins.

PS just back from Dalyan. We had another earthquake. This prompted us to recall other holiday disasters….

10. The shoe bomber incident which meant we could not bring the wine we had bought in Kefalonia  back to the UK. We sold it around the pool and gave it to the reps.

11. The hurricane in Kefalonia that kept us in the hotel all day. I love storm watching so this was a treat for me but lots of moaning from others that they couldn’t sunbathe or use the pool.