Big and crazy

Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Iran  ,
Monday, September 12, 2005

The bus journey from Kermanshah was long, boring and uncomfortable, but with air conditioning! Bonus.

As usual we were given our goodie bag which doubles as a spew bag. Up and down the mountains and the family behind us had been scoffing stuff all morning. All of a sudden everyone turned to look towards the back where a woman was shouting and waving her arms about. Her idiot son was spewing down the aisle. Couldn't be bothered using the spew bag, just chucked all over himself and down the aisle. Good one! If he'd had brains he'd be dangerous! The bus pulled over and spew boy just sat there in his own muck until the bus boy and driver marched down the back and gave him what for. They dragged him off the bus and he reappeared armed with a bucket of water and a sponge. He had to wipe up all his mornings munchies. THEN just as we thought it was safe to carry on, not too far down the road his little brother (sitting directly behind us) decides he wants to make more space for chomping and starts chucking. Lesson learnt though, they pulled out their bags and he spewed his guts up in there. THEN we made a little tacho stop where the drivers have to register their logs with the police. Some guys got on selling cakes and fruit, so what do spew family do? They buy up on cakes and more goodies and start scoffing. Thank god there were no more mountains!!

We got to the the terminal to the usual outrageous cab drivers. We eventually found our man for the right price and headed into the pollution that is Tehran. I'll never get used to the way they drive. Death on wheels, plus the car wasn't much chop either.

The hotel we wanted was full so we had to find another shitter. People had said we wouldn't enjoy Tehran and I hadn't so far but I was willing to give it a go. We went to look for the US Den of Espionage. The old US Embassy, where students had taken 53 people hostage for 444 days in 1979/1980. There were political paintings on the walls. It's been said that films have been confiscated when taking pics of this place but the murals were great and with the digitals, what could they do?? Feeling rebellious we snapped up and walked away unscathed. In fact we didn't even see anybody. The guard towers had been empty for years. Once again we were faced with the monumental task of finding edible food. Starving we eventually settled on a little kebabie. Afterwards, I vowed never to eat that stuff again. God knows what it is. End day one.

Second day, as usual it was a glorious day, full of pollution. We decided to try the Metro to get to the bazaar. For all of 7 cents we purchased our tickets and away we went. Me to the first two carriages for the girlies and Davo squashed into the rear SEVEN carriages for the men. Don't know what's worse, being stared at by the guys or being looked up and down by all the women and children. Somehow the women's stares seemed more critical......

We found a juice bar. Fantastic and ultra cheap. We dove into the sea of black flowing chadors and started wandering. It wasn't long before we were befriended by a young Iranian who took us to see a mausoleum. He gave us a big long political speech. It seems that the young folk would like George W to come in and visit with his boys. The kind of democracy they've so thoughtfully brought to Iraq. He took us to his brothers carpet shop (how unusual!) and fed us loads of tea. They were nice boys, and his brother was actually a shooting champion of Iran and had met the Australian Olympic Shooting Champ, Michael Diamond. He thought we knew him, I mean, why wouldn't we? We're Aussies too (?). We did a tour of the massive carpet section and went through the old Imam Khomeini Mosque that is used more like a major intersection. Whilst people are praying, loads of shoppers and tourists cross behind, the prayers oblivious to the traffic around them. We decided to escape for lunch to a nice park where there is a restaurant. We met a Kiwi couple there and chatted to them for a while. When we went up to pay, the finger pointed to a tip box. David used a different finger and we left. We headed over to the National Jewellery Museum that supposedly houses the largest uncut pink diamond in the world! Wooooooohooooo, girlie heaven - lots of sparkly pieces and pretty glizty things to look at. They still have dual pricing here though. 30,000 IR for us rich tourists and 7,000 for the poor Iranians. There is only one room but it's filled with loads of jewels. They have tried to insure it but it's priceless. No company can put a true value on it. Some of the things are so old, there aren't really any records of where they came from or exactly how old they really are. There are tiaras, crowns, belts (the largest jewelled belt buckle in the world), rings, earrings, necklaces and loads more. We tagged on to some English speaking guided tours which was fantastic. The pink diamond has actually been cut. Half is in a ladies tiara and the other half is in a crown that was used only once, in the coronation of the last Shah in 1967 (I think). Some of the jewellery is just plain gaudy. The opulence of it is unbelievable. Some of it is pretty ugly but the fact that the stones are so big or there are so many of them in one piece is amazing. There is even a jewel studded globe. Australia is made of rubies!! I really enjoyed it. There is only one room but we spent over two hours there! If I was in Tehran again, I'd go there. I love staring at sparkly jewellery. Luckily lunch had been good and I wasn't hungry so we found a fast food place for David. I thought I had seen other people eating nachos so we went in. We asked for it and the guy says, chips and cheese, but I thought he meant corn chips and cheese. What it turned out to be was,literally, potato chips (crisps) and cheese with some peppers thrown on top. We had to laugh!!!! We found an ice cream place to end the day.

Day three of the pandemonium that is Tehran. We wanted to go out to the end of the Metro line to see the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini. The Metro is so cheap!! Again with the separation of men and women. It's ridiculous really, the women all hang out of the doors holding up the train so that they can see if their male companions have made it onto a carriage. Consequently, the first three carriages of the men's section is jammers!! Women can actually travel on the men's section but men cannot enter the ladies sections! They are kicked off by the guards!!!! Ha!! Anyway, the mausoleum is massive! Huge! We were separated again for the entrance. You need to remove your shoes and then put your bag through an x ray security check, then I was felt up by a very short Iranian who, with a complete dead pan face, asked where I was from, then welcomed me to Iran. The very enthusiastic and excited x ray girl called me over and chatted me for a while then asked what I thought of wearing the scarf. I told her it was the way here and we should respect it. She was very happy and thanked me profusely, then welcomed me to Iran. There is a small fence on one side of the coffin container thing. One side for ladies and one side for men. The chadored ladies were going in droves up to the windows of the coffin container, hanging on to the bars, praying and stroking the glass. The men were mostly looking on and then lying down on the many carpets. I wandered around to the men's side for a look. People were most amused. They took sneaky videos of us and photographs. Well they thought they were sneaky. Soooooo obvious!!! Why on earth would you want to video a metal column? Could it be the stray infidel standing in front of it? Anyway - it's a huge place where people can come and pray, have a bit of a cry over Khomeini's coffin box and have a sleep. We left there, separately, and wandered over to the huge grave yard, which is more like a small suburb! There are thousands buried there from the Iran/Iraq conflict of the 80's. What was also interesting was that we saw lots of graves with mens' faces engraved on them but only one with a woman's figure on it, and it was just the silhouette image of a head covered with a scarf! The poor woman didn't even have identity in death. We went back to the city via the Metro again but just for a change I decided to check out the men's carriage with David. A few other local women joined me and we all got stared at for the whole journey. Getting off is just as much a nightmare as in London or Tunisia. Elbows and shoulders all the way or you'll be staying on!! We then went to see the National Museum of Iran and the Islamic Arts Museum is thrown in for free!! Two for the price of one. Very generous. The National Museum is small but has some interesting pottery and things from Persopolis. But the big draw card for us was Salt Man. This really gruesome looking shriveled, hairy thing in a glass dome. Apparently he is a miner from the 3rd or 4th century AD. He even had a gold earring! It was only one floor so didn't take long to walk around. The Islamic Arts Museum was ok, lots of nice ceramics to look at but not much else. There were lots of old copies of the Quran. We were walking down the street that night when these two young, excitable guys came up to us. Turns our they were studying to be tour guides and wanted to talk about anything. They invited us to have tea and a qalyan, so we did. One of the guys was from Tehran and the other from Yazd. The Tehran local had taken the Yazd country boy to see the sights of Tehran that outsiders don't normally see - the gay scene. The country boy was absolutely astounded! He knew there were gay people but had never met any. They live a secret life. Homsexuality is illegal in Iran.

Our final day. We got up early and bought overnight train tickets to Esfahan instead of a horrible overnight bus, and went to see Golestan Palace to kill time before our 10pm departure. You have to buy tickets for each section of the palace that you want to see, but it's not much. We chose the Ivan-e Takht-e Marmar, which is an open fronted audience hall covered with those sparkly tiny shaped mirror pieces. It has a huge alabaster throne supported by carved figures made in 1801. It was made for Fath Ali Shah who had 200 wives and 170 children!!!! Hardworking man! We then went into the Shams-Al Emarat which was the tallest palace of it's day. The last place we wanted to see was the Historic Photograph gallery which had some interesting old photos in there. There were some of some tribal ladies who I swear were men in drag! They had to be the ugliest women I've ever seen. No wonder they wanted them to cover up! I thought overall it had been well worth the $US2.20 though. We spent the rest of the day wandering round the bazaar. David wanted to try to find another prayer rug so we drank loads of tea in various carpet shops looking at loads of rugs. There were some interesting pieces but none that we thought were worth it.

It was time to get some food and head to the train station for our trip to Esfahan, another tourist trap.
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