Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Club Milta, Torba, Turkey.

My wife Gail and I went on a holiday to Turkey staying at the Club Milta , Torba - which is on the Bodrum Peninsula and part of the Aegean Coast. We booked with First Choice and flew from Bristol Airport on Monday 10th May 2004 returning on Tuesday 25th May 2004. We paid £562 each which included the travel insurance being upgraded to "Gold" and the allocation of Premium seats offering extra legroom.

Rather than pay a lot of money to park our friends car at Bristol Airport, we paid £45 to use the Park Farm - which is just off the A38 going towards Felton. You can park your car there at their secure site and they will then take you and your party the 600 metres to the airport. When you come back you simply stand outside arrivals and telephone them to come and pick you up in their minibus.

Our flight left at 21.00 on an Airbus A321 and was uneventful. The loading of passengers by the reps onto the transfer coaches was efficient. Our hotel was the nearest to the airport so we were only on the coach for about 30 minutes. Our hotel had 292 rooms and our room was on the ground floor, close to the stage. It was clean, with a tiled floor and a very powerful shower in the bathroom. There was a veranda with a couple of chairs and a table that looked out onto one of the gardens. There was a televison that had both CNN and the BBC World Service for English speaking guests. We had a free safety deposit box in one of the wardrobes. Our friends who booked with us, had the room next to us.

This is an all-inclusive hotel and offers excellent value for money. The food starts at 07.30 and stops at 02.00 - it is a self service affair with a canteen culture. There is plenty of variety for breakfast with two chefs cooking pancakes, omelettes and fried eggs whilst you wait. Lunch and evening meal has 16 hot food trays, a huge salad table and 5 chefs cooking meat, pizza or fish whilst you wait. There is no wondering how the food is cooked, just stand and watch. At other times the snack bar is open.

The bar opens at 10.00 and closes at 23.59 and serves all hot and cold drinks, alcoholic or not. You can have any locally produced beer - which is Efes lager, red, rose or white wine and a range of spirits. For those wanting a disco and/or more drink, the fun continues to 02.00

The swimming pool is very big and I guess is about 40m X 20m. It goes from 0.55m to 1.68m deep with a separate kiddy area. Be careful not to get sunburnt. I bought some NO-AD sun protection cream with a SPF of 45 (which is the strongest they do), cheap from ASDA . Gail thought it would be too strong for me but it did the trick. I did not get sunburnt but she did. Other holiday makers had also bought the same brand of sun protection and thought because of it's cheap price may not be effective but I heard of no bad reports.

Entertainment is provided by an animation team , who do a different act every night at 21.45 on the stage. A few evenings we had the extra entertainment of a singer/guitarist next to the bar from 19.00 - he was better than the full time entertainment staff and had a wonderful relaxed style. It is lovely having entertainment, eating and drinking in the open air. Bring a fleece jacket as it gets a lot cooler at night and enjoy sitting there, the remoteness of it all, looking across the bay to the northern coast of the Bodrum Peninsula. Everything is available on site and you soon feel to become part of a community. The entertainment follows a strict pattern and you soon recognize the links and the music. It has a flow that you get swept along with.

The beach at the hotel was very small but provided access for the watersports. I had a go with the canoe and other people used the pedaloes.

The location is rather remote but you are not cut off from the world and the hotel has it's own internet cafe which I used. It cost me 9m tr lr for an hour and they use the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser rather than my favourite browser which is Mozilla Firefox . The keyboard is Turkish so some of the keys are different and all the menus are in Turkish but the system is useable.

The hotel is very clean and the staff appear to be cleaning all the time. Their health and safety practices are spot-on. If a guest breaks a glass or something, a staff member suddenly appears with a pan and brush, as if by magic. One guy is continually mopping the side of the swimming pool. The staff work 15 hour shifts with only one day off a week but seem content and well motivated. The hotel is French owned and has a French feel to it, with French being the first language. The animation team also speak German and English.

At the welcome meeting our First Choice representative Pauline told us all we needed to know and gave us a street plan of Bodrum and Gumbet with the list of organised trips they were running. If you paid for a trip, you would get the £6 Bodrum City Tour trip free. We took the Turgutreis excursion for £8 which is on a Saturday - market day. Turgutreis is as far west as you can go on the Bodrum Peninsula and is a small fishing town with a new marina. It is very busy on a Saturday with something for everyone. Tourism is growing in Turgutreis mainly because of the marina and should become a popular resort in years to come. On the way back our coach stopped at a gold shop in the Oasis Centre . I did not go into this gold shop but looked at this shopping centre which looked trendy, new and fresh with plenty of food outlets to interest the visitor.

The Bodrum City Tour was very intersting and varied. We picked up other people at different hotels before parking on a cliff top overlooking Bodrum where our guide told us all about the history of Bodrum and what you can see from the cliff top looking over the town and the bay. We then went to Bitez for a 3 course lunch that was included in the price of the trip - even if you got it free! Bitez is a lovely seaside village and we ate at the Four Seasons restaurant, which is actually Chinese but does international food. I do not like Chinese food but they did a 3 course Turkish meal and it was lovely. So fresh, varied and tasty - it was a big change to the canteen culture at Club Milta. From there we went to the Oasis Centre where people had the chance to go into another gold shop or enjoy the site. Then we went to a leather shop that was rather pricey but they did put on a fashion show and gave us free drinks! After everyone had finished we did the return trip around the hotels before arriving back at Club Milta. I can recommend this trip as it gives you a perspective on Bodrum, which is quite like Brighton - Gumbet, which is like Blackpool and Bitez, which is like a typical Cornish fishing village.

We paid £19 each for the Dreamgirls Show in Gumbet. The price included admission, dinner, your first local drink and coach transport. This was a big change to the rest of our holiday. We may as well have been in Blackpool. The whole audience was British, the dinner was roast chicken with potato wedges and a tiny bit of lettuce and tomato. The caberet was provided by three drag artists who could never offend a grandmother. The drinks cost about the same as back in the UK. I could not recommend this night out to anyone - it was mediocre, the humour was light and the atmosphere was cheap - like an old fashioned British seaside town. If you wanted to watch three blokes dress up as women and mime to records after having typical cheap Britsh pub fayre then you would come away happy and would have not heard a word of Turkish spoken. That is not my idea of a foreign holiday - you can get that in Cleethorpes!

When you book your holiday you think the hotel is in Torba, which is a fishing village on the northern Bodrum Peninsula coast. The hotel is actually at Kaynar Mevkii, which is down a lane off the main D330 Milas to Bodrum road. You can walk to Torba from the hotel by turning right onto the main road but it will take you 65 minutes to get there. Torba has a few hotels, a few convenience stores and a harbour. Do not make a special effort to visit Torba as there are far better ways to spend your time. Do not go onto the main road and walk to the left as I did, as there is nothing but similar looking hotels as Club Milta - all backing onto the coastline. I walked for 90 minutes as far as a group of houses that formed a hamlet called Gokceler, a campsite called Alternative Camp and what looked like a fish farm.

What you want to do is take the dolmus, an 18 seater minibus than operates every 30 minutes from the hotel for the 15 minute journey to Bodrum with a fare of 1.250m tr lr. From the bus station in Bodrum you can go anywhere. The most popular model of dolmus is a 2,500 cc Peugeot J9 with a Karsan body.

I had a walk around Bodrum, it is a very busy little town with everything you could possibly want. Plenty of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. I bought a nice pair of sturdy shoes for £20 and a belt for £4. There is a large harbour leading to an expensive looking marina. Plenty of tourist boat trips were on offer at good prices that generally included a lunch on board.

I took another dolmus, which runs every 30 minutes, to Yalikavak . The fare was 2.000m tr lr and the 20km journey took around 45 minutes. It is a lovely drive across the mountains past some old windmills and down into this fishing village on the north western coast of the Bodrum Peninsula. There are a few shops and restaurants with a market every Thursday. They have built a new marina and there are some boat trips for tourists. It is not commercial and is worth spending a couple of hours and having a stroll along the beach.

I also took a dolmus to Gumusluk on the western coast of the Bodrum Peninsula. This was another 2.000m tr lr fare for the 45 minute journey across the mountains and through some poor looking villages. Gumusluk is also known as Myndos "The sunken city". The Myndos civilisation sank into the sea due to an earthquake so there is a lot of history here. It is a small fishing village with a few shops and restaurants. I even managed to buy a copy of The Wall Street Journal to satisfy my lust for a serious newspaper. Looking across the bay you can see Asar Tavsan Adasi - known as Rabbit Island.

I took my last dolmus trip to Gundogan . This town is on the nothern coast of the Bodrum Peninsula and is a 28km, 40 minute journey from Bodrum. The dolmus fare is 2.000m tr lr and the route follows the coast past Torba, through a forest then drops down along the narrow streets of the town before finishing near the beach. Gundogan is a seaside village popular with the Turks for their own holidays. There is a working harbour where fish is caught and sold. There are a few small shops, some restaurants and hotels. There is a fair amount of building work going on, mainly of hotels that will enjoy the view of this lovely sheltered bay. This would be a very nice place to stay.

We got picked up from Club Milta at 01.30 after having a wonderful 14 days and because of the location we were the last people to be picked up before the airport. We wanted to have a late check out as the usual time is at noon. We decided with the other couple that we went with to keep one room on at an extra charge of £20 so that the girls would have somewhere private to shower and change. We had the use of this room until we were all ready to leave.

My final thoughts on leaving were what a lovely spot we had been in, the sense of community that we shared with our fellow European guests, the goodness of human nature and the friendliness of ordinary people. We partied for 14 days and fell in love with Turkey and it's people.

Tesekkur ederim.

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