Cows in the Funhouse
And I Walked Into India
My Very Own Personal Armed Guard
Dance Party in Esfahan
And onto Tehran
First Day in Iran
Crossing the Border into Iran
A Travel Companion for Iran
From Greece to Turkey
December 09, 2003
And onto Tehran
Mozumi and I left Tabriz the next night and took a train to the capital Tehran. The train was luxurious, with mattresses on the berths and yummy food.
Japanese travelers are serious budget travelers; you wouldn't think they'd be so concerned with saving a buck considering that their country is the richest in the world, but many of the backpackers are. They stay in the grungiest, cheapest places, and will take an uncomfortable 20-hour bus ride over a 10-hour comfy train ride, if they know the bus ride will be cheaper. Lucky for me, the bus and train from Tabriz to Tehran were the same price.
They keep each other informed on places to stay by the guestbooks that are kept at the budget hotels they stay at; big blank notebooks that are filled with maps, bus schedules, visa advice, tons and tons of useful information, if you can read Japanese. Which of course, I can't. English-speaking foreigners don't bother to write in these guestbooks which leaves us to be slaves to the Lonely Planet, which can be out of date and useless at times. So essentially, I was relying on Mozumi as he had the low-down on where to stay, and of course, the Japanese-Farsi phrasebook.
He took me to a grungy guesthouse with dirty sheets, stinky toilets and whose other two occupants were traders from Afghanistan. One had a glass eye and the other only had two teeth. They looked at me strangely, which didn't surprise me, as it didn't seem like the place that many Western women stayed at. These guys and the place in general freaked me out, and so I asked Mozumi to tell the drowsy reception guy that we wanted to be in the same room. He said it was against the law for him to rent a room to an unmarried couple. "But we are married!" I protested, hoping this would give us a room. The guy looked at Mozumi's Japanese passport and my Greek one and just snickered.
We eventually talked the guy into putting us into adjacent rooms. I went down the hall to use the bathroom, and when I finished my business, the two traders were in the hall, joined by another group of scary looking guys that watched me walk back to my room. I like to save a buck too, but not at the cost of being too scared to use the bathroom in my hotel!
I told Mozumi that I was moving going to look for another hotel that I felt more comfortable at. He was into the romance of staying in a hotel with glass-eyed traders and bedbugs, so he stayed, and I went solo, parting ways with Mozumi.
Tehran. A big, tangled metropolis with the best donut shop in Asia. I never thought I'd be eating donuts in Iran, but that's what I had for breakfast every morning. The owners were very friendly and had me over for dinner a couple times. I had an enjoyable four days in Tehran-walking around and checking out Iran's biggest city, until I came across the former U.S. embassy. It's now covered with anti-American graffiti, so of course I pulled out my camera and snapped away. All of a sudden, a group of big and bulky soldiers ran out and demanded why I was taking pictures of a high-security military training camp! How was I supposed to know that's what they did with the U.S. embassy? So they took me in for questioning, but let me go when I told them I taught little children. That seems to work in this country for some reason...........