Tag Archives: Chinese Consulate

Istanbul – Chinese Visa Update

12/5 – Today was our fourth and final (we dearly hoped) two hour journey to the Chinese Consulate, to pick up our passports and new Chinese visas. While walking to the Metro, we encountered a harrowing scene – a beggar woman being dragged down the street by men in black, while her two young daughters were dragged away in the opposite direction, screaming for their mother. We’ll never know the story, but it shook me to the core, and I found myself sobbing as I walked. The crowd bustled on, as if nothing had happened. We got on the train.

We had instructions to first go to a certain bank and deposit $280 in the Chinese Consulate account. We took a taxi to the specified bank, and waited patiently until our number was called. We handed over the form the Consulate had given us. We were asked for our Turkish Tax Number. What the what??

We explained that we were Americans and had no Turkish tax number. They politely told us they could not take our money without a tax number. Perhaps we should take a bus to another town where we could obtain a tax number. Not acceptable. We talked to several people with varying degrees of English and arm-waving. We marched upstairs to speak with the manager. There was nothing they could do. The Consulate was called. Someone from the Consulate instructed us to come to the Consulate right away. We caught a taxi and arrived at the Consulate within minutes. The guard told us no one was there and the office would not reopen until 3pm. We waited outdoors in the grey and rainy afternoon. There are lots of cats here, as we have noticed throughout Istanbul, independent and seemingly well fed.

When we were finally admitted to the Consulate we found the young woman we had met on the first day. We explained the current situation, and she went Back Behind the Door. She emerged with a solution – we could give her the money directly. Great! We had the cash, in Turkish lira. Not acceptable – they needed US dollars. She told us to go back to town and change the money. We explained that we couldn’t change money, as they were holding our passports! Eventually, the young woman understood our Catch 22 situation. She gave us one passport, and held the other. We caught a cab back to town, found the HSBC bank where money could be changed, got burned with a terrible exchange rate (what choice did we have?), took another cab back up to the Consulate and retrieved our second passport a half hour before the Consulate closed for the weekend. Whew! Success!

Then we looked at our new visas. We had furnished an itinerary that said we planned to be in China for three months. Our visa was good for two entries of 30 days each. Our itinerary said we would get to China by mid March. The visa said we had to be in country before March 1. Sigh. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. Time to rework our plan. IMG_5082.JPG

Istanbul Update – the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market

12/2 – to update our visa tale, we spent Friday morning waiting at the Chinese Consulate while the Person Behind the Door perused our hastily fabricated itinerary and bogus hotel reservation ( we picked the most expensive hotel in town – why not?). After cooling our heels for several hours…. success! We were instructed to deposit $280 in the Consulate’s bank account, and come back next Friday to retrieve our passports and our two-entry visa for mainland China. Deep sigh of relief…

All roads here seem to lead to the Grand Bazaar, and we strolled through several times, not looking for anything in particular. The friendly sellers try to gauge where we are from by looking at our shoes. As we wear hiking boots, we are often pegged for either German or Australian. When we reveal we are from America (USA gets blank looks), we sense an increased desire on their part to sell us something. We are invited into many back rooms for tea.

The Grand Bazaar:

The Spice Market:

We bought some presents for the kids, and had to walk to the downtown post office where international parcels can be mailed. The postage cost more than the gifts, and they are expected to arrive in 20 days. Where is Fed Ex when you need it?


Wednesday in Istanbul – the Blue Mosque

11/26 – No rain this morning, and a double rainbow! It’s going to be a good day!image

Up early and back to the Metro for another run to the Chinese Consulate. This time, the office was open, and, after standing in line and going through two metal detectors, we got into the visa office. Although the room was full of people waiting, some with newborn babies, we walked right up to the window, slid our paperwork under the glass, and asked for tourist visas. The young woman behind the glass spoke some English – hallelujah! She looked over our applications. Where is your invitation from a Chinese official? Where is your proof that you are not a criminal? Where is your plane reservation and detailed itinerary? Where is your proof that you are a resident of Turkey? We had none of those things. We explained that we were traveling overland and that train reservations can only be made 20 days in advance, and you must have a visa to make a reservation. We explained that we were not criminals, and that Americans have no form to prove that this is so. Our Turkish visa says we are residents for 90 days. She took our passports, photos, Turkish visas, and four page applications to a room behind a door.

We sat and waited. She came back after a while with more questions. If you are retired, what income do you have per year? Who will pay for your travel? How much money do you have in the bank? We were prepared for these questions and provided financial statements. Sounded like we were getting close!

We sat some more. Finally, she came back with all our stuff. Without a plane or train reservation and a detailed itinerary of where we plan to spend each day in China, and extra copies of our passports, we were not getting visas. We reminded her about the train reservations – would a hotel reservation suffice? She allowed that it might, if it was all we could get. We sadly took our pile of papers and retreated home to fabricate an itinerary and get a (cancelable) random hotel reservation from booking.com. On Friday, we will try again.

To cheer ourselves up, we had a delicious lunch, and went to see the Blue Mosque. image The first thing you will notice is that the outside is not blue, but grey. Why did I think it would be blue?

Like the Suleiman, this is an active mosque, and we take off our shoes, and I cover my head, before entering. Tourists are only allowed in a small area, to enable the faithful to pray in peace.

The inside has some blue windows and tiles – I guess that’s why it’s called Blue? The carpet is definitely orange-red… The official name is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and the whole area where we live is called Sultanahmet.

Of course, I notice that the women’s praying area is all the way in the back, behind where the tourists put their shoes.






Although we always endeavor to show reverence in holy places, there are so many people taking selfies, including a man in the prayer area who is taking a pic of himself prostrated in prayer, that we figured, what the heck? Here is our Blue Mosque selfie:image

A Little Taste of Istanbul

11/25 – I love our little Hotel Buhara. They provide a lovely breakfast of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, hard boiled eggs, grapes, clementines, olives, yoghurt, and Nescafé. This morning we met a young man from Malaysia and a couple from Iran. It’s nice to be in a place where people have a little English and we can share friendly conversation.

Today we had our pictures taken for the visas we will need as we move east, and learned to navigate the Metro so we could get to the Chinese Consulate to apply for a visa to mainland China. An hour’s ride north to the end of the Metro line was all for naught – the visa office is only open from 9am to noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There was no indication of this on the Consulate website, and they don’t answer their phone or email. Oh well, we’ll try again tomorrow.

We took in some sights and aromas of Istanbul. The Suleiman Mosque:

We noticed that stray cats are well cared for here – welcome inside the mosque and fed by passersby. This mosque has ostrich eggs included in their light fixtures to keep away spiders, according to the helpful mosque volunteer who answered our questions.image

The female volunteers said the question they are most often asked is why females can’t pray in the same area as males. They explained that when fervently praying, they don’t want to have to worry about brushing against a man. It is more comfortable to pray with other women. The Qur’an says: “do not annoy women as to make their lives miserable.” Well said.

The Grand Bazaar:

Many people wanted to sell us blue jeans or carpets. You can buy everything from cheap trinkets to diamonds and furs. It goes on for blocks, with shops both inside and outside. I was especially attracted to the glass lamps and colorful ceramics.

There are restaurants one after another on our street, and we both love Turkish food. We are having a wonderful time here – Turkish Delight, anyone?