It was the last fun day of our trip, and we wound up sleeping in a bit later than intended. Luckily we were still able to make it up in time for our free breakfast, with not a second to spare. Turns out it wouldn’t have really mattered if we were too late. This was the one instant in which flexible “Turkey Time” worked in our favor.
Our goal was to visit the other main beach in Antalya, which we’d been able to see from the other side of town, but had yet to venture in that direction. Our receptionist had told us on the first day of the trip that it was really easy to take the tram from our neighborhood to the other beach, so we set out in search of the bus stop that would take us there.
Mind you, it was about 95 degrees out, at 11 in the morning. The walk from our hotel to the top of the hill to take the tram was agony. I was also trying to figure out how the tram worked. Was it a ticketing system? Was it like a bus where you just pay when you get on? The internet was really slow, and also offering very few answers.
So we gave up and got a cab.
This is where we were when me made that realization, in front of a mosque and minaret combo, in case you’d forgotten we were in Turkey.
Of course, upon hailing the cab, I had no idea what the name of that beach was. So I popped it into Trip Advisor and looked for Antalya’s main beaches. The most prominent to come up were Mermeli, the one we’d been at yesterday, and Lara Beach. So I figured it was Lara Beach.
Thirty minutes in a cab going the opposite direction later, I realize that the beach we’d intended to visit probably had a different name. Mind you, the tram to that beach would have cost us 2 lira each, whereas this cab ride wound up at about 60 lira total (35 cents vs. $10).
Well, when we got out of the cab, we realized that some mistakes aren’t mistakes at all. It was absolutely beautiful. We snagged a pair of lounge chairs, front row, right near the water. There were also options for day beds and cabanas, but they didn’t give us a price for those right away and we were afraid to ask, so we stuck with the chairs.
The one downside to this beach was the fact that the sand felt like lava. Like I realized it was hot, but didn’t realize how hot until I tried to run to the water without shoes on. I felt like I’d burnt off the outermost layer of my foot skin. And I’d only made it halfway. Defeated, I popped my shoes back on my feet, left them at the shore, and hopped in the water.
Well, at least the water felt great. It was just as salty and just as floaty as the water had been at Mermeli. It was also way less crowded at this beach, and we felt much less cramped. It was a lovely little slice of paradise. I floated in the water on my back, enjoying the waves, happy as a clam.
Until Sarah pushed me down and dunked me into the water.
Betrayal at Lara Beach.
My lungs stung with salt water for the next hour.
Once we settled back into our lounge chairs, we flagged down a waiter who brought us each a beer. We relaxed, we drank a little, we put up our umbrellas to protect us from sun poisoning. It was great.
Oh, and on top of it all, this guy game over advertising beach massages. We had no intention of getting one, but he tried to get my attention by massaging my foot. It was lovely. He was also cute. Lots of cute guys in Antalya. Dammit I should have spent the 70 lira for the massage. That’s like $13.
There was a little pier next to where we were sitting. For our next dip in the water we decided to jump off it. The adult men and adolescent boy who were currently doing so seemed surprised that we did it. I felt like that was a point for feminism. Also I like cannon balling off of things. It’s a good time.
We left the beach to head back to the hotel around 3:30. Our cab driver was the rudest person we’d met on our entire trip. First he was in a fight with some family who needed a cab ride before us. We almost took a cab with a different driver, but then he called us over to him instead. Not sure what happened there.
He made a couple of rude comments about us. Then he spent nearly the whole cab ride on the phone talking to like five different people on speaker phone at full volume. And then he didn’t even take us all the way back to our hotel, he just dumped us at the edge of the neighborhood. AND tried to give us wrong change. So like, Turkey is the nicest place in the world, and we found their biggest jerk on that cab ride.
So at this point we’re a little grouchy and annoyed with the day. Thankfully we had a bit of time to change and sit in the air conditioning and relax before heading out for try #2 at the hamam. After some cool air and fluffy blankets, we were ready to continue to the next activity.
The first hamam we’d tried to book was still closed, but we’d found another one nearby. It’s apparently 700 years old, which is kind of cool. I didn’t get any of my own photos, but I found some on TripAdvisor, so I’ll be adding them in for emphasis.
We walk in and see a bunch of naked people in towels sitting in the lobby, so that’s how we started this adventure. Good, good.
So I’d talked about Turkish baths with people who had done them before. They said it’s super awkward but it’s like something you had to do. It’s like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower, it’s just part of the deal. And the deal is that you’re essentially heated to a million degrees and then scrubbed down from head to toe by a stranger. Oh and yeah, you’re naked.
So like…let’s just take all those comfort zones and throw them down the drain, why not.
I went in fairly confident. I’d had massages before. It would probably be like that.
It was not like that.
So first they put us in a little changing room and give us some towels. We strip down and then come back out to be escorted to the hamam. It’s a million degrees and super humid, like a sauna.
We get into the room and the two people with us, a man and a woman, ask who we’re most comfortable working with. I said I’d be comfortable working with a guy–even though I wasn’t completely. At this point, they take Sarah away and put her in the room next to me. The people I’d spoken to about hamams had said they’d been in the same room as their family, so when they took her away I was like “Nooo my buddy…”
So at that point I’m told to lay down on this marble slab, henceforth known as the sarcophagus. Why sarcophagus? Because laying down flat on a marble slab makes you feel like you’re a corpse being prepared for mummification.
Until it gets wet and soapy, and then you’re sliding around the damn thing like a seal at Sea World.
Then my guy comes back. My towel is taken away, I’m fully naked, and I’m being rubbed down with an exfoliating cloth.
Again, no shoulders allowed in Istanbul. Belly dancers okay, but not everyone approves. But I can be ass-naked in a hamam and scrubbed down by a male stranger. I don’t get it either.
So the treatment had four parts. “Peeling,” which was basically just exfoliation, a salt treatment, and then a “soap massage,” and then a hair wash—which just made it really oily. And then after that, you dry off and they take you in for a thirty-minute massage. I had all four of the haman treatments with the same guy. It was really awkward. I’m not going to go into vast detail about those treatments. I’m just gonna say that Sayfir, a middle-aged man in Antalya, Turkey, now knows all my secrets.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I came out of there feeling like a newborn baby, I just really wish a girl could have worked with me. It would have been way less weird.
From the torture chamber I was brought into a little chamber with quiet music and dim lighting for my massage. The massage was actually quite nice. My masseuse was female (thank god) and she was amazing. She found all the knots in my back and got them out without breaking me, which was some sort of wizardry.
Everything was going great until I heard, through the door of my massage room, Sarah saying she was about to pass out from the heat.
My eyes flew upon. I was pinned to a table and couldn’t do much of anything, but I heard some other Americans in the lobby who seemed to be assisting her. And then I heard her go in for her own massage, so at least I knew she wasn’t dead. At that point, my masseuse slapped a clay mask on my face, told me to relax, and then left the room.
Relax. Right. My friend is in need of assistance. Here I am wondering if I could knock on the door next to me and ask “Are you okay?” in Morse code.
I finished my massage about twenty minutes before Sarah and waited in the lobby for her to be done. I was presented with a little bowl of nuts and dried fruit, a glass of water, and a cup of Turkish tea. So at this point I’m stress drinking tea and munching on fruit, glancing over my shoulder, waiting for Sarah to be released. In the meantime, the guy who’d given me my hamam treatment was in the room, making eyes at me. He refilled my tea like three times and then asked me to follow him on Instagram. Yeah, that’s what I wanted. To see that guy’s face again. Ahhhhhhhhhh.
Soon Sarah got out of her treatment and it felt like I’d reunited with my best friend and fellow soldier after a World War II battle. She’d had her own crazy experiences, but those are stories for her to tell. I’m not gonna put them on the internet for her.
We paid our balances and tipped the staff and ran away, feeling cleaner than we’d ever felt—but also weirder than we’d ever felt.
Ah the hamam. I went in saying “Well, if nothing else, this will be a good story.” I certainly wasn’t let down in that regard.
We walked from the hamam down to a gift shop I’d passed a bunch of times but hadn’t yet explored. They had bathrobes on display outside, and they were the same material as the towels they’d used at the hamam, which I’d really liked. So, with my remaining cash in tow, I bought one. Also found a table runner that fits my kitchen décor, so I bought that too. The shopkeeper was so happy for our business that he took 10 lira off my total and let us each pick out a wallet for free. He was so nice.
Mind you, through our whole shopping experience we were venting about our scrub-down. Man that was weird.
We went back to our hotel room and changed for our last dinner in Turkey. After a quick refresh, we were back out on the street and ready to seek out sustenance. Our first realization was that this neighborhood, which had been completely dead all week, was suddenly a hot spot. People were out and about. Restaurants were full to the brim. The streets were crowded. It was insane. I knew it was Friday, but it felt like a different city.
I needed to hit up an ATM, which, apparently was located on the outskirts of the neighborhood we frequented. But on our journey to find cash, we stumbled upon a cool spot with a couple of bars and restaurants. We saw one that had outdoor seating, cool live music, and a giant hookah set up, so we settled in there.
At first we were a little nervous, because it turned out the restaurant was completely out of kebabs, which we’d wanted on our last night. But we settled on chicken dishes instead, Sarah got paprika chicken and I went with mushroom chicken. It wound up being one of our best meals. First of all, the dishes came with a side of fries and a side of pasta, like they’d been reading my diary. And all three dishes were completely cooked to perfection. It was SO good.
Also we fed a nearby cat. Which attracted more cats. We had three cats staring at us. It wasn’t suspicious at all.
We topped the night off with strawberry hookah, which was refreshing and tasty, and of course, the best way to cap off our last night in Turkey.
On the way back to the hotel, I saw a juice bar that had coconuts. So I got one. And I drank it. And it was delicious, and everything I wanted it to be. HAH. Antalya. Checked off all the things on my list. And look, she was a well behaved coconut, she even knew how to sit.
Upon getting back to the room, we both showered, if for no other reason to get all the hamam oil out of our hair. Exfoliated and clean, we hopped into our double bed, cranked the air, and settled in for our last night.