Back in the high-life again

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Flag of Iran  , Tehrān,
Friday, November 4, 2011


This morning we woke up with the intention of stuffing ourselves full of breakfast ready for not eating properly for a couple of days. Marcin crashed early but I stayed on the net and did some homework. We couldn't get cash until we were hundreds of miles into Pakistan so the idea of the rush to the border was looking a lot less likely.

Over breakfast while we were chatting with the Australian couple who had recommended the place, I decided to ask the informed manager if he knew any way to transfer cash. Of course he did but it would take several minutes. We finished up and talked to him more to see if this was actually true or a proud boast that would come to nothing. We’d had a lot of advice that had also come to nothing so we were slightly more dubious this time. It seemed he had a friend in London, we would have to transfer the cash to her and he would simply give it to us out of the till as soon as it went through. She would forward the money to him which would take months but he didn’t mind as he was helping us out. We began the process over the internet. Relieved that our problems seemed to be behind us we decided to cancel the transfer at the embassy and visit the Armenian club. We walked back out during the day, taking tourist type pictures as we went. We were still objects of fascination but it was a more reserved atmosphere than in the smaller towns, tourism was rare here but not unusual. We got into the embassy with more difficulty than before and got moaned at by the diplomatic police for taking pictures. Once we were in we were told the staff were on full alert for an upcoming riot. It was the anniversary of the Iranian embassy siege and we were advised to stay well away from the area in case we got caught up in the carnage. Of course, nothing happened whatsoever.

To our surprise, considering we were just the wrong side of filthy we were indeed admitted directly into the Armenian club with no blagging involved or required. I was almost disappointed. What was the point of eating somewhere that I was allowed to enter? There were looks of horror as we went in from the guests eating their lunches but the staff were friendly to us and ignored my muddied clothes and our wind-damaged faces. We told them we were simply making inquiries about coming back later. We left to go back to the man on the door and he told us we could drink there but only if we brought our own booze. We asked if he could get us any and he made a call and "regrettably" could only offer us wine or whiskey. We went for Scotch which was only about the same price as at home. We now had money, booze and had earned back a whole day on the road. We headed slowly back to the hotel, picking up other bits we needed and put our illegal Scotch in the fridge very proud of ourselves and looking forward to burning through it later. I checked my Emails and then Marcin insisted he wanted to see the tower, the 5th largest in the world. I had little interest in it but he made a sad face so in the end I agreed to go. We rode out through the insane traffic of Tehran, the craziest driving so far on this trip. It wasn’t as bad over the weekend but was still awful. There was still daylight and we got a few pictures on the way but when we got there I have to confess, the tower was impressive. We had to get tickets to go to the top and then we had to wait to be allowed in to go up to the observation deck. While there we met three Asians we had seen in the hotel earlier. We all got chatting and decided to meet up in the hotel lobby later for a discussion on the intricacies of human interaction within a foreign sociological environment or about motorbikes. The sightseeing was unremarkable but they had metal detectors to make sure you’re not carrying anything dangerous like a knife. I was so I just put it in the metal tray and passed through the detector, nobody even bothered to check the contents of my pocket that I’d emptied out right in front of them so that was ok then. The view was impressive, the town is huge and stretches on way into the horizon but the top deck was full of modern art which translates to Christmas tree lights stuck to a blue wall. As we do, we chatted with everyone and made a bit of a nuisance of ourselves but randomly people came up to us and chatted, asked as about ourselves and even gave me a handful of assorted nuts which seems to be a custom here. I don’t care, I like nuts.

In the lobby a security guard was driving a Segway, he wouldn’t let me drive it but he let me stand on it. They’re quite cool, I definitely need to have a proper go on one. For those that don’t know, they’re a self balancing pair of wheels on a horizontal axel. Very surreal to stand on an electric device that does your balancing for you.

So the ride back was a bit worse than the ride there. It was dark by then and the traffic was heavier and a little angrier and it’s angry and heavy at the best of times. More annoying my GPS is not working at all and Marcin’s didn’t help very much so we had to take the long way back to the hotel. Once we had our bearings we went out to get some food in the part of town we knew. The night before we had had sandwiches but the place was closed so we went to another. I had a vegetarian pizza which had no tomato sauce but it did come with two sachets of ketchup and Marcin had a kebab which turned out to be mince in a plastic tub with a ton of bread. We were both unimpressed but no longer hungry.

Finally we went back and had a glass of whiskey and coke. After that we went into the lobby to write blogs and play online. That didn’t last long. An Italian guy joined us nervously and then a New Zealand guy joined us far less nervously and we all chatted for a while about motorcycles. When he left our new Asian friends came back, a couple from Indonesia and a 20 year old Chinese girl travelling alone. We had presumed they were all together but apparently not, the young girl had latched onto them and followed them around all day.

We all hung out in the internet cafe at the side of the lobby. One of the staff caught on that we had booze so then he came to join us but refused a drink, the guy on reception joined us too and was clearly a seasoned alcoholic and drank like the drinks were free... which to him, they were. The Indonesian couple were artists as it turned out, going from country to country getting people involved in projects which demonstrate reactions or basically just get the population involved in doing something interesting. They had videos and they were doing some very cool things. The young Chinese girl was strangely interesting but very strange in an interesting way and 20 minutes of talking to her gave me a headache. A few others joined in and we ended up stuck there until well after 3am and it turned into a bit of a party. That night we slept like logs for a change.
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