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A tale of two towns in southern Turkey; High life or beach life, two neighbouring resorts offer the best of both worlds, says Matthew Wells.

Nestling in the midst of the most attractive part of southern Turkey lie two cities, side by side, which between them can offer the best of everything this fine country has to offer, and all for a bargain price.

I am talking about the Aegean coast resort of Bodrum and Gumbet. Only a stone's throw between them, the first is a delightful harbour which is widely acknowledged as one of the prettiests resorts in Turkey, the latter a white shimmering beach with an exc ellent nightlife.

Thanks to Turkey tour specialist Allegro Holidays, I was perfectly situated between the two. Staying bed and breakfast in the TMT Altay Hotel, a small family-run property just 300 metres from the sea front and a short walk from Bodrum centre, this deligh tful property provided the perfect base for me to explore.

On the first morning I headed into Bodrum, a mass of whitewashed buildings, narrow streets, an adorable harbour and a wealth of shops, bars and restaurants to suit every taste. And the first thing I noticed is that the area is a mecca for serious shopaho lics.

The labyrinth of covered streets all seemed to lead to a bustling bazaar selling leather goods, hand-made rugs, gold and silver trinkets and unusual jewellery. In terms of prices, suffice to say that if you're into haggling and you have a handful of Turk ish Lira then you've got some serious purchasing power. Even if you're not a seasoned haggler, a bit of barter and banter will net you some brilliant bargains.

My own personal purchases included three Calvin Klein shirts for pounds 10 and a Prada bag for my girlfriend for pounds 4 - all original of course!

One thing shopping does is make you thirsty but this can soon be rectified by a seemingly endless number of small Turkish restaurants. The locals favourite thirst quencher is a strong coffee which is guaranteed to clear the most painful of hangovers whil e putting a few hairs on your chest.

If you're not in the mood for bargains or strong coffee, hours can be whiled away exploring the streets of Bodrum. It is amazing how frequently and how dramatically pieces of ancient civilisation can suddenly confront you.

Two major attractions I stumbled across include the 13,000-seat amphitheatre and the Mausoleum, which once held the body of the ancient city's greatest ruler, Mausolus. His 20-storey burial chamber began a fashion and gave a new meaning to the words "tom b" and "excessive".

The major plus point for the adjoining resorts is that as soon as your feet start to feel weary, you will never be far from Gumbet, or as the locals affectionately know it, Bodrum's beach.

A narrow bay with a gently sloping sandy beach which slides into clear blue seas, this area is perfect for pure relaxation and taking in the rays. Sunbeds are readily available, as is the every type of watersport you could care to mention. However, I fou nd that lying in this little part of paradise and barely moving a muscle until the day started getting cooler was the only way forward.

At night, all minds in Bodrum and Gumbet turn to food, wine and entertainment. For a mere pounds 10, you can enjoy a meal for two including a starter of iama bayildi (cold baked aubergine, onion and tomato) followed by a main dish of succulent sea bass ( head still attached to rest of body if desired) and finish with cool melon. To my delight, a fine bottle of wine or two was also included in the price.

All the restaurants around the harbour in Bodrum served delightful food with a unique atmosphere and a large dollop of free hospitality.

If you want your atmosphere fast and frantic, a small walk down the road to Gumbet and you are confronted with the very best in Turkish and international entertainment. There are bars, restaurants, shops and discos.

Happening nights are a daily event, so a relaxing evening in Bodrum would not leave you thinking you have missed the action.

If, like me, you don't like walking, getting from place to place in the resort itself is a piece of cake. Dolmus, which are little buses, run regularly with connecting services to all neighbouring suburbs and villages. Failing that, you can take a taxi o r stick with public transport and catch "cek cek", a sort of tractor-pulled golf cart.

If you really want to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of the market or the overall peacefulness of the beach, you can sail away from it all on a Gulet - a locally built Turkish sailing ship - where you can sunbathe out on the waves and drift peacefully past the beautifully scenic coast.

I only went on the Gulet for an enjoyable one-day cruise but for the more adventurous, seven night stays are available which includes a daily sailing itinerary and stopping off at the odd harbour to visit the landlubbers and grab another bargain or two.

After an enjoyable week comparing the two resorts and a day on the open waves, I finally decided it was time to visit the Turkish baths.

If you are willing to work hard for your pleasure, then the baths are for you. I was subjected to steam, enough water to swim in and a personal bather-cum-masseur who made Geoff Capes look like Twiggy and turns pummelling into an art form.

I'm pleased to say that after one hour of pain, I was still alive and totally relieved of stress - not that the previous seven days hadn't already played a major effect.

Bodrum and Gumbet are a perfect destination for any type of holiday. You can make it a non-stop haywire party atmosphere or spend seven nights totally relaxing. Take my advice, grab the best of both.

TRAVEL FACTS

A break to Bodrum and Gumbet with Allegro Holidays costs from pounds 209 for either seven or 14 nights stay with child prices starting at pounds 129. There are no flight supplements, and free child places and group discounts are both available for select ed dates. All flights are direct to Bodrum, departing every Monday from Manchester Airport.

Bodrum cruise and stay packages, which include seven days sailing on a Gulet, followed by seven days in three star hotel accommodation, starts at pounds 389 for a two week package. One week cruises are available from pounds 359.
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Author:Wells, Matthew
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 9, 1999
Words:1075
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