Have you ever had a moment in life, where it literally took your breath away, and all you could think is how beautiful this planet is, what is the reason for the existence of the human race, and what is the purpose of your existence? One such moment in my life was a when I took a trip to Cappadocia, Turkey, in Spring 2012.
I was doing a Greece-Turkey- Dubai trip with a good friend of mine. Due to our hectic work schedules, we had only 11 days including 2 travel days for Turkey and Greece before she would go back home and I would move on to Dubai. It was my first trip to all of the above countries and I was super excited. We knew we had to do the capitals for both countries, but we really also wanted to do Santorini (I always wanted to go there with a romantic partner, but since it hadn’t happened yet and looked like it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon back then, I decided to go ahead with my girlfriend!) and I also wanted to do Cappadocia and Pamukkale in Turkey.
Since our schedule was so tight, we could only fit in 4 places out of these 5, so we planned out this itinerary: Singapore—> Athens (3nights)—> Santorini (2nights)—> Cappadocia (1 night)—> Istanbul (3nights). My friend headed back to Singapore due to her work schedule while I headed to Dubai for 5 days before I headed back to Singapore. We made all our flight and accommodation bookings online while in Singapore.
While planning, I realised that there was no direct flight between Santorini and Cappodoccia. So this is how we went about it:
- We left our Santorini hotel at 9am and headed to the airport.
- We took a flight from Santorini to Athens.
- We then had to take a flight from Athens to Istanbuls Atatürk airport.
- From Atatürk airport we had to take a 1.5 hr van journey to Istanbuls Sabiha Gökçen airport. (I was told it usually takes an hour but because there was midday traffic, we took longer.)
- From Istanbuls Sabiha Gökçen airport we took a flight to Cappadocia.
- From Cappadocia airport we took a 1hr van journey to the town of Goreme where our hotel was located.
- We finally checked in at 11pm!
That’s 3 take offs, 3 landings, and 2 hour-long van journeys. 14hrs later, we arrived to an after-dark Cappadocia. There aren’t many street lamps, so hardly anything is visible at that hour. We checked in to our beautiful cave room. Since the hotel wasn’t full for the night, we were thankfully upgraded to a bigger room that accommodates 4 people. Our plan was to go to the rooftop and chill out with some wine, but we were too exhausted and hit the sack once we showered.
We had booked to go for the hot air balloon ride for the next morning. The arrangement was done via email through the hotel prior to our arrival. The balloon company was Royal Balloons. Pickup was at 5am, so we had to be up at 4am. The next morning, we quickly showered and munched on some biscuits before our pickup arrived. We picked up other tourists doing the hot air balloon ride. It was still dark so we didn’t see the beauty of Cappadocia yet. We drove to the Royal Balloons base and had a light breakfast with hot beverages there. We were then divided into groups and took the van to site of ‘take off’.
That is when the magic started. The Royal Balloon guys were preparing the balloon. They were very friendly and were showing us around and telling us what was happening. When the balloon is laid flat on the floor, you realise it is huge. I’ve seen them in movies and pictures, but you never really realise how big they are, until they’re laying there flat on the ground next to you! The guys started the fire and soon the balloon was ready to take its flight. We had opted for a 14 pax balloon as compared to the 24 pax balloon, as we preferred to have more space and less people so we could have a good spot to admire the beautiful view and capture these memories on camera. The cost difference at that time was 30E more per pax, which I thought was worth it, cos I really didn’t want to be pushed around and fight with other passengers to have a good view.
We hopped into the balloon basket, and up up away we went. The sun had just started to rise, and that is when Cappadocia finally revealed itself to us. That view, that landscape, that feeling, that air, that warm sunlight, EVERYTHING was magical. Words cannot describe that moment. Hundreds or more balloons were also taking their flight and the sky was filled with these colourful balloons.
It’s a surreal feeling. You are overlooking such a beautiful view in the most beautiful light; it’s simply mesmerising. My friend and I were just in awe, and the 2 of us were unusually quiet. No, it wasn’t because we were tired from the travelling the day before or the little sleep we had, it was because we were overwhelmed by such a breath-taking moment, we were just taking it all in. I turned to look at her a few times, and she just had her head rested in her hands on the basket, glowing with the warm light falling on her face; she looked beautiful and at peace. That moment is so magical, you can’t imagine that such beauty exists, and your mind starts to wonder and drift away…
It made me question how these rock formations developed. It made me question how people in the past lived. It made me question how the human race is connected. It made me question if the other 12 people in the balloon with me were feeling the same warm feeling I felt. It made me question our balloon riders feelings- if he has done this so many times that he doesn’t have any feelings, or does it still take his breath away everyday. It made me question the different cultures in the world. It made me question the existence of the human race. But more importantly, it made me question my life’s existence. It made me question how little I am compared to this planet, and what I mean to the world. It made me question who I really am, and who I really want to be.It was at that moment when I knew that the life I was living was good for me for then, but it wasn’t what I wanted in about 5 years. I knew in that moment that I had given away more control over my life to other factors (particularly my job) than I would have liked to. I knew that things had to change, slowly, but surely.
The balloon guys were haggling and pulling the rope below me so that we could land safely. We were welcomed back to land with champagne and a medal each for having completed the balloon ride. I loved that we had landed in a very quiet spot and it was only our group in sight. It was a vast land with just 1 tree in view. Champagne flutes clicked and everyone was in high spirits. We took pictures and helped ourselves to more bubbly. We were all laughing and joking around and I had that feeling of pure happiness from within. That happiness can’t be described with words, one can only feel it.
The Royal Balloon guys started rolling up the balloon on ground. One of them came up to my friend and I and said something in Turkish but were signalling taking pictures. I figured he wanted to help us take a picture. As I passed my camera to the guy to take a picture for us, the rest carried my friend and I and threw us in the rolled up balloon basket. It was such a random surprise. It totally made our hot air balloon ride experience a lot more complete. Everyone can experience the balloon ride, but not many have that experience of suddenly being lifted up by some strong, young, good looking Turkish men and then thrown onto a nice soft basket!
Next up for the day was a Green Tour that we had booked. I’ll leave that post to later, but for now, more pics below from our hot air balloon experience. Enjoy!