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Last month, I traveled to Istanbul for the first time. Having never been to Turkey or anywhere in the region, I was excited and a little nervous. Friends inundated me with tips and recommendations, but I wasn't sure how or where to start.

Staying in the historic Sultanahmet district was convenient to all the major sites, but it's overrun with tourist traps and hawkers and very short on proper food and drink. Many friends said to visit Istiklal to the north, the main stretch of which reminded me of walking down 34th street during the holidays, if every side street was full of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. There were probably plenty of cool places to hang out there, but wading through masses of people just isn't my scene.

At a mezze store (Clay Williams / Gothamist)

So, I went East. On the Asian side of the Bosphorus, the neighborhood of Kadikoy is a more down-to-earth destination, where you're more likely to find locals having tea, shopping for groceries or hanging out with friends. With the help of Senem of Culinary Backstreets, I got to explore the highlights of a side of town that doesn't get quite the attention its European neighbors do.

Click through to see photographs from my visit. One thing to note, those of you who rely on your smartphone while traveling: Google Maps is almost entirely useless there, so just wander and find what you find (it's actually fun!).

Clay Williams is a photographer and blogger based in Brooklyn. He has shot assignments for the New York Times, Food Republic and the Edible Communities titles, among other publications. Follow him as @UltraClay on Instagram and Twitter.