Chaotic Tehran

Leaving Uzbekistan was straightforward, we had to queue to go through 4 sets of security/immigration checks but that was about as exciting as it got. 3.5hrs later we were in Dubai to the news that Trump is the next US President. We focussed on the important things in life like getting more hand sanitiser, soap and shampoo.

We think it was helpful having an Iranian visa (instead of doing a VOA) as we got questioned before they’d let us on either flight about visas.

We flew through Iranian immigration with a barely a glance, just a straight stamp in. The bags turned up pretty efficiently given the shabbiness of the airport. We changed a few dollars to get a bit of local currency and then caught a taxi to a hotel we’d emailed and booked the day before. There is a flat rate from the airport to anywhere into Tehran; 75,000 Tomars or US$23. It took what felt like ages (about an hour). As we’d turned off the highway to head into the city we hit Tehran’s infamous traffic. Its crazy, like Delhi but with motorbikes weaving into any gap they can, or down the pavement when they cant.

First impressions were not good – chaotic, dirty, polluted and hot and stuffy (the locals are saying its cold…) It doesn’t have many sights, the main one is a museum. We couldn’t see the mountain backdrop for the classic image of Tehran because of the pollution. It’s also expensive, the cheapest reasonable hotel we found was costing us US$75 a night for a stuffy, dark, dingy room. The only hot water came out of the bidet not the shower (Marie considered it…) We quickly decided that this wasn’t a place that we wanted to hang out and decided to look to head out of town the next day. Also Marie’s chest still hasn’t cleared from Delhi yet. Its not really been a problem apart from a couple of nights of coughing, its just not clearing and wouldn’t take much to tip it into a chest infection so we’re not keen to be around too much pollution.

Second impressions were a bit better. When we got over the headaches we decided to head out. It was about 6pm and dark. We headed down the street, found and sussed out the metro and then took it to a bazaar in the guidebook. Despite it starting to close down for the day it was heaving with people. We walked down its length and then carried on down the street, and detoured down a couple of side streets on the way back.

We headed back to the hotel, as we got back to the street that we were staying off we got talking to a guy that is a dentist. He’d lived in Brisbane for part of his studies. We must have spent 20 mins talking to him on the street and he bought us lemon beer (its non-alcoholic) its palatable but not the nicest. After we found Iranian pizza for dinner, they have stodgy bases and skip the tomato base, instead giving you packets of tomato sauce to add…

The next morning we enjoyed walking down the street to a money exchange that we’d eyed up the night before, it was much more enjoyable in the cooler air with less people and traffic.

There was some confusion when we came to leave, Emma had gone down to reception the night before to pay and asked for the change in Rial not USD (more on money below). She knew that he’d given her too much change but we were too tired to figure it out. We hung around thinking they were going to call the guy who dealt with her but instead they let us go. It was only after we left that we worked out that he’d just changed the money she paid with all into Rial, they have our passport details so lets hope there isn’t a black mark next to our names when we come to fly out.

We decided to take the metro to the bus station to see if we could get a bus to Kashan. the metro is cheap and given it wasn’t yet too hot we figured we’d save the taxi fare and walk and metro it. We only had to squeeze ourselves on for one stop then thankfully lots of folk got off.

It was really easy to find a bus, as soon as we got to the station someone approached us asking ‘where?’ and basically they passed us to the next person and the next until we reached the right buses. We got taken inside to buy a ticket and hustled quickly onto the bus, we realised why when we sat down as it backed out to leave.

Money is confusing, the currency is the Rial but because of the large numbers they speak in Tomars which are a thousand Rials. So when they say 16,000 for a bus ticket to Kashan what they mean is 160,000. But buy a bottle of water and they’ll say 15,000 and mean 15,000. On what we’ve paid so far we think this makes eating and drinking sometimes cheap and we think also buses cheap – the 3 hr trip to Kashan cost us around NZ$6 each for an ‘ordinary’ bus, they also have VIP buses which cost more but the ordinary one we took was like the occasional VIP bus we’ve taken in other countries; big spacious leather seats, a snack and an on board toilet, plus seat belts which we were all made to put on. Not sure what more the VIP buses can offer.

Sorry no photos – didn’t get the camera out.

Observations:

  • People are friendly and will often speak, they all want to know where we are from. It helps that English is widely spoken. they also ask things like how old you are, if you’re married and have kids
  • Farsi is a hard language to learn – Emma has learnt to say thank you and when she says it at the end of a transaction peoples faces just light up. Now to learn something for the start of the conversation…

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