It’s Not Racist If You’re Already Asian

This blog entry about the events of Saturday, June 04, 2011 was originally posted on June 06, 2011.

DAYS 2-3 (PART 2):  “[We should go to the Asian side,]” Meg suggested to Chinese-American Jeff and Filipino-American me.  “I feel like you two should feel at home,” she joked.

“I’m not even going to call you a racist for that,” I said, smiling.

Istanbul’s Asian side lies on the southern shores of the Bosphorus strait, a quick drive across the Bosphorus Bridge in Ortakoy, or a 15-20 minute ferry ride away from Galata.  We chose the latter after the four of us (Alex included) snacked on little fried fishes, made fresh in the local fish market

“So is the Asian side sort of like Staten Island?” I asked former New Yorker Meg to put things in NYC terms.  (We thought of the Bosphorus Bridge as the Verrazano Bridge.)

“Yeah,” she answered, agreeing with the comparison.  “Everyone says, ‘Come over to the Asian side, it’s not that far,’ but when you get there, it sucks.”

One boat took us to the main ferry port on the Sultanahmet side of the Golden Horn waterway, where we transferred to the ferry to take us into Asia.  Meg and Alex had been there before, but for Jeff and me, we wondered exactly how different it would be.

“We’ll probably get there and they’ll start rolling out the dim sum carts,” I joked.

“Instead of backgammon, there will be mahjohng sets everywhere,” Jeff added, laughing.

In no time, we had been transported to another continent and immediately we saw not much of a change, except of course, the big “YANG MING” cargo barge near the shipping cranes.  At one point it looked a bit like Germany until we continued on the ferry to the main shore port.

“Welcome home, boys,” Meg greeted us.  Jeff and I posed in stereotypical two-finger Asian fashion, followed by a more racist pose, holding our eyes in squints (which is less racist if you’re actually Asian, according to the unofficial rules of comedy).

We arrived on a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the area near the ferries where many family-friendly activities were going on not too far from a big demonstration for the Turkish Kommunist Party.  “Who’s that supposed to be, like Genghis Khan?” I wondered about an unlabeled statue nearby.  The area was also full of vendors selling random things like in the European side’s Grand Bazaar.  We strolled for a bit with ice cream before heading into the pedestrian alleyways of the Selimiye district.

“Isn’t it so different?” Alex joked, commenting on the fact that it wasn’t much different than the European side, maybe just smaller and much less crowded. 

JUST LIKE MY LAST TOUR OF ASIA (much farther east), which was very much a culinary tour, this latest jaunt into Asia also involved a lot of eating.  (That’s what Asians do, they eat.)  Sure they had the same stuff that you could get on the European side — like my favorite midye dorma (lemon-drenched, rice-stuffed mussels), and the equally delicious midye tava(deep fried mussels) — but we added yarim kokoreç (spicy chopped intenstines) to our palate this time, the perfect food to eat with a couple of Efes beers.  After our pit stop, we simply strolled around the area, browsing in shops and food vendors selling different types of fish — some with the gills pulled out to prove their freshness (picture above) — olives, dried fruits, fresh chicken, fresh honey, stuffed aubergines (yum), and red wine-looking fermented beet juice (tastes like the pickle juice you do with a pickleback shot).

“Look! Take a picture of the Asians!” Alex instructed me, pointing out the only other group of eastern Asian-looking people around.  I was quick to do so for it actually was an exciting novelty; Asians were not only an anomaly on the Asian side, but in Istanbul in general.  (Jeff was surprised there was no big Asian immigrant community, nor a plethora of Chinese food take-outs like in any big world city.)

Eventually we made our way to Viktor Levy, one of Meg’s go-to places in Istanbul’s “Staten Island,” another sexy place with outdoor seating and their own line of wines — the reason to be there.  We had a couple of glasses while snacking on even more food amidst the stray kittens, having pleasant conversation about travel and being Asian.  “[My parents travel all the time but they bring their own food,]” Jeff told us.  “[Forget the local stuff, they eat Chinese food.]”

Night fell and we meandered back to the ferry, but not without more food, including a bag of Ruffles flavor-engineered to taste like Burger King Whoppers (they really do), and some meat-filled pastries for the ride home

“Yeaahhh… I like Asia,” Jeff said, feeling quite satisfied.

We’d actually just missed a ferry and killed the 20-minutes waiting for the next one with chais.  We wondered if the ferry gate attendant would remember us leaving after just missing the last one, so he could let us in for free.

“Are you sure that’s the same guy?” I wondered.

“Man, that’s like reverse racism!  That’s definitely him,” Jeff told me.  “And that’s not the whole every Turk looks alike thing either.”

“Well, it is Asia,” Alex joked.

“Yeah, [Jeff] looked at that guy and it was like looking into a mirror,” I said.

WE HAD ONE MORE QUICK DRINK back on the European side, before we all turned in for the night — the end of a long, but casual day of touring, eating, and drinking.

“Thanks for translating all the ‘Asian’ today,” Meg joked, wishing me goodnight.

“Yeah, you had a real Asian and a real Chinaman, too,” I told her with a proviso: “That’s not racist if you’re already Asian.”

Next entry: Easy Riders and Hard Ons

Previous entry: Teenager Talk On The Sexy Side Of The City

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Comments for “It's Not Racist If You're Already Asian”

  • Greetings from Goreme in Cappadocia!  More to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/07  at  12:11 AM

  • fiiiiir-ssssssttttt!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/07  at  12:22 AM

  • bring those whoppers chips back home

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/07  at  02:15 AM

  • ODB - You can get those chips at 7-11 b.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/07  at  04:55 AM

  • Beet juice keeps the skin tight… And none of us are getting any younnnnngerrrr…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/07  at  10:31 AM

  • Now I’m drooling. Damn you.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/07  at  09:07 PM

  • hey erik - good blog action!  looks like a great trip.  for some reason most pictures will not load for me….
    btw, any chance you will be in chicago the first or second week of july?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/08  at  06:24 AM

  • Scott: I’ll be in Chicago 6/20…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/09  at  08:08 AM

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This blog post is one of nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Jive Turkey," which chronicled a trip through the Eurasian country of Turkey.

Next entry:
Easy Riders and Hard Ons

Previous entry:
Teenager Talk On The Sexy Side Of The City


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