Mingalarbar (pronounced in a sing song-y way “Ming-ga-la-ba) is the cheerful greeting you hear at every turn in Bagan, but this time it was a warning. “Miss. There is a cobra in there. In the back. He lives in the brick wall right there!” A young, maybe 10-year-old kid with his colorful school bag strapped to him had just warned me as he followed me on his old gas-fuming motorbike. “Really? A snake? Cobra?” Hoping my one word questions would prove he said the wrong thing.

“Yes, do you want to see?”

“If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

My hometown of Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents; it’s the perfect blend of both Asia and Europe, with an Asian side that’s full of ethnic vibes and exotic, colorful bazaars and a European side that’s newer, more modern and hip.

During its more than 2,000-year history, Istanbul has been the capital of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Now Turkey’s most important city from a cultural and economic perspective, it’s also the fifth-largest city in the world by population. It’s a city that offers something unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else in the world, and I’m excited to share my favorite places and bits of travel wisdom with you, below.