Turkey: How to spy a Grand Bazaar bargain

By Megan Singleton

Megan Singleton visits a Turkish gem where Bond shines.

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar has gained in popularity with western tourists since scenes for the latest James Bond movie were filmed in its crowded alleys. Photo / Thinkstock
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar has gained in popularity with western tourists since scenes for the latest James Bond movie were filmed in its crowded alleys. Photo / Thinkstock

"You want leather jacket?" shouted the vendor to the obvious tourists that we were, our eyes darting everywhere, drinking in Istanbul's buzzing Grand Bazaar.

"Not today, thank you," I shouted back with a smile.

Red rag to a bull. Clearly my interaction was an invitation for more banter and the offer of apple tea if we would come and look at the beautiful jackets, plenty of designs, all colours.

But this is how it has rolled for centuries here and you need to be a quick learner.

You'll find quality goods and souvenirs and I needed two visits to be sure I'd had my fill.

The Grand Bazaar has been a trading centre for nearly 600 years. It's a huge covered marketplace with 60 streets under mosaic painted ceilings with 5000 shops and 25,000 employees jostling for your lira.

And since the release of the new James Bond movie Skyfall, it is on the bucket list of every traveller to Istanbul.

The best way to approach the chaos is with a friendly attitude and a smile. English is widely spoken, so not only will a polite "no thank you", be understood, but when the banter gets a bit much, just bring up James Bond.

This worked every time, especially on the occasion when I'd downed my hot apple tea, had tried on the soft leather jackets and decided I needed to back out graciously before they cajoled €100 out of me.

The biggest buzz word in the Grand Bazaar at the moment is 007 because smouldering blue eyes himself, Daniel Craig, filmed scenes right here. Streets in Istanbul were closed for weeks and there is a scene where he chases a baddie on his motorbike over the historic roof and through the crowded alleys of the bazaar with people ducking for cover.

Everyone has a story about how they got "this close" to Mr Bond, and they couldn't wait for the movie to come out.

TIPS FOR CONQUERING THE GRAND BAZAAR:
* On day one I went with a local guide. We were not harassed once, and with him translating on the finer points pre-purchase, we also got "local" prices. The next day was an entirely different experience.
* Take a street map, as there four main gates and 21 entrances into the market and unless you plan to drop breadcrumbs you will pop out a long way from where you went in.
* Get off at Metro stops Beyazit, Universite or Sirkeci.
* Sellers take Turkish lira and euros, but using the local currency will get you the best prices.


Megan Singleton flew to Istanbul with the assistance of Singapore Airlines.

- NZ Herald

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