Money is a problem
07/02/2009 - 15/03/2009
After looking out the window from the Dora hotel a few of decided to get out of Tehran asap. You could see the smog settle over the city and could smell it as well. We did try and do some sight seeing. The Martyrs museum was close by so we decided to have a look however it was all written in farsi so we decided to give it a miss. We then walked up to the American embassy, which has now been turned into a museum now. That was also closed well to us anyway, so we went to one of the shops around the corner. If I had bought anything from that shop and got caught trying to get it back into this country, I probably would have had the police, MI5 and anyone else who deals with security round and my door.
On our way back to the hotel we noticed some strange things like the Greek Embassy was allowed to have a Christian cross on show and show it as a church. The anomaly that did interest us quite a lot was the old men who were sitting on the pavement counting through there old bottles, most notable of which were the 3 Johnny Walker red label bottles they had. I also had a shot of trying to find a decent guidebook to Iran but that proved impossible even the English book shops, where no on spoke English, had nothing. As the 3 of is headed towards the bus station we got a cab that went along the motorway, and it was an introduction to Iranian driving that I won't forget, as we drove along the motorway we seen the multiple motorbikes heading in the opposite direction, but in our lane. No one seemed to care and we just carried on trying to avoid them.
At the bus station we tried to get a bus but we had just missed one. The good thing about being very European looking and the Iranian people being very friendly we were soon on a bus to Isfahan (Esfahan) and for a decent price. I had the fun job of sitting next to an Iranian soldier who looked like he had taken geat exception to me sitting next to him. As we got up higher past the smog of Tehran, the rest of Iran was covered in Beautiful sunshine and the the glare from the sun was strong of the distant mountains, It felt like the right move to get out of Tehran as the smog seemed to suffocate the city while everywhere else was having a sunny day. After 3 hours of driving we pulled into a service stop so we could get refreshed, and those who wanted could pray. We got back on the bus and I sat down next to the soldier again, this time I realized that he wasn't well and that it wasn't be cause he was sitting next to an infidel. He seemed to be very fidgety, infact if I didn't know better I would say he was having the worst ever hangover. I offered him some water and he drank the whole lot he bought some bananas and ate some but after the second one he jumped and waved me away. Thinking he was going to be sick I moved quite quickly, but he wasn't sick he just wanted to lie on the floor, which was at me feet. I hoped that we weren't stopped for routine searches as I could already start to see the headlines form if we were.
Esfahan was a beautiful city and as soon as we arrived we started taking photos and probably took photos every time we turned the street corner. The next day we walked around town and went to good few mosques and were impressed by the quality and the standard of them. Later on in the day we headed to Imam square where we had tea on a roof tea shop. It was a good place to unwind and watch the world go by. After that we wondered around Imam Square and w were told by a few peolpe that we shouldn't probably be there tomorrow as it was the Holy Day. Hermani was returning to Iran, from France, for to give a speech about the 30 years on from the revolution and that things could get quite heated. We got talking to a Persian carpet salesman who invited us round to the Principality of Iran. We went there unsure of what to expect, but when we got there it seemed strange. There was an Iranian guy two Italian folk and a polish girl, they were talking away it was only when you got closer to them that you could tell that they were stoned or something along tat line. We felt a bit out of place there, especially considering what country we were in so as soon as we were able we left.
I woke the next day about ten in the morning and could here some chanting outside. I had a look and there was a fairly small crowd marching up the road carrying anti-American and Israel banners. I went and had a shower then I heard the chanting again this time the crowd was getting bigger. I decided to heed the advice of the people I had met yesterday and avoid the square so I tried to find an internet cafe. Well I asked the reception where to go and they pointed me up the road. I thought this would be far enough away from the square where i could walk past quietly, well it didn't work out that well. I started walking up and the place was reasonably quiet but the further I got up the street the busier it got and the more the strangle looks/ stares grew. It was only when I realized how big the army and police presence I thought I had better take a look around. I then saw all the the anti-ameican and anti-Jewish banners that everyone was carrying. There were adults covered in Nike and Levis logos carrying the banner as well as children as young as five. I felt quite uneasy at this point so I turned and headed straight to the river. As I walked around I still managed to draw a few looks, but they felt a bit more friendly. I was looking at the river when I turned round and seen I was drawing a bit of a crowd. They were a pretty nice and very interested in Scotland and they all wanted to get there picture taken with me.
The next day I headed to Shiraz to see Persepolis, the journey took about 8 hours but ar last I got to watch some Iranian films on the bus. When I got off the bus I was suddenly surrounded by about 8 taxi divers all wanting my business, I decided the best thing was to go to the registered taxi rank. I got to the hostel but I found out they had a booking problem. They only had a triple room left but they could give me a discount, it was still in my budget so I thought ok, but I would be transferred into a single room with a European toilet the next day. They also ran transport to Persepolis but it was done by the car and not the person, so I had to find 2 other people to go there which was pretty easy.
So the next day we headed out to Persepolis. The other two people who I was sharing the taxi with was a French couple. They asked the driver if they could interview him for there video diary they were making. It transpired that he had quite a lot of good jobs through oil and chemical companies before the revolution, but after that he was happy to be a taxi driver. The driver was more than happy to be interviewed and was giving some good stories. However, I felt they left the interview on a low not is when they asked why he never married, and he replied they only wanted him for his money.
Persepolis was quite amazing, it would have been awe inspiring when it was built. We spent around two hours wondering around there and by the end of it I was surnburnt. After that we went to the Tombs of Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes which were held at another temple. The tombs were carved into the rock face and had strange carving that were set around the place.
When I got back to the hostel I decided to check my money, then I found out that I had overspent and that I only had £50 pounds to get to Quetta, Pakistan. I decided that I needed to leave the next day and head to Bam. That was after I would go a buy some more toilet roll. Normally this wouldn't be that, but being in Iran this was a it more of a problem. First of all the “european” shops didn't sell any and there english wasn't to good. In one of the shops a group of teenage girls came in and were pretty good at englsh they offered to translate but I decided that I didn't need that badly. After that I thought I would try in the local bazaar. Again this took longer that expected, 2hr and having to speak to at least 6 people wanting to practice there english on me.
I headed to the bus station about 3 in the afternoon and bought my ticket, I did ask how long the bus journey to Bam took, I was told hours. It was longer than I wanted but I didn't really have much choice so I got on the bus. The time was slow in passing and we stopped every now again to allow to pray and have a toilet break. The other thing about going to Bam was that I would have to miss out Yazd and Kerman. I wasn't to bothered about Kerman but Yazd was quite a big thing to miss. So i'll have to go back there at some point.
We finally got to Bam at 3am, and when I say at Bam it was actually 1.5 miles down the road, the bus attendant had forgot to wake when we got to Bam and only remembered when we had left it. So at three in the morning I was abandoned like little unwanted puppy with no accommodation and no idea to get anywhere. So I headed to where I thought where the city centre was. With it being a Islamic country nights are pretty quiet, and there was no lights on at all. There were dogs roaming the street barking at you walked past, but as soon as you would turn round they would run away. I continued walking along the street and I heard a bang, I kept walking until I heard another bang, this time I decided to have a look around and I seen a light on and a open door. I walked towards half expecting to be confronted by some security guards with bug guns, but to my surprise the only thing open at 0330 in the morning in Iran are..........pharmacies. There two pharmacists stocking up, unfortunately none of them could speak English, after trying to explain where I was looking for i just asked for hotel and they phoned for a taxi. The taxi took me to one of the out of town hotels. When I knocked on the door there was no answer and the taxi had already driven off, I started to curse my luck. I had a look around and wondered if the hotel was even open, eventually the desk manager came and let me in. He showed the prices for the room but they were a wee a bit on the expensive side. I asked if he knew Akbar tourist guest house was he face was blank, I asked if he knew where the street was, again blank. I had to phone home as I couldn't afford to stay there and get to the border let alone Quetta. After a long conversation involving me, the desk manager and my mum I said “Akbar English” at that point the desk manager jumped into life and showed me where it was, he then ordered a taxi for me. When I got to the guesthouse the front was crumbled and I thought it hadn't been open since the earthquake some five years before. The taxi driver jumped out and banged on the door and somebody came and let me in. He asked what sort of accommodation I needed I just replied bed.
The next day I woke around midday and had a look around for someone but no one was there, I went to the front of the house and rang the doorbell, still nothing. I was left scratching my head as in what looked to be the premises consisted of a couple of tables and a hut for sleeping. I even started shouting hello but to no avail. I started to think that I had just climb into a building site a slept there as in had that sort of dream-ish quality to it. I was considering just going as I wasn't too sure how to explain it, however a voice came from a car that had just pulled up and said I take it your the person who arrived at the late hour then. It was Akbar, the owner of the house he took me to one of the tables and registered me there. He also told me what was left to go and see in Bam.
Bam might be 3,000 years old but there isn't much to see or do. Bam, was detroyed by a Earthquake 4/5 years ago now, and 40,000 of the 120,000 citizens died during it. The city was built by mud and the construction was very light but, they had heavy roofs. Now all the buildings have to conform to new building code that will ensure that sort of destruction couldn't happen again, it was quite funny to watch them rebuild the main street, the facade is what I would assume to be there before but the structure is now steel and lots of it.
Later on, the other guests there, Akbar and myself all got talking. I was lucky enough to find someone who had just come from Quetta and was heading to Kerman the next day, so I probed him for information But the real highlight was speaking to Akbar and listening to him tell stories and listen to him speak about the Earthquake (morbid, I know) I found out what why no one knew his guest house and why they refer to him as Akbar English, why the gutter water is so clean, how Bam managed to cope and his perspective on the whole night the earthquake happened. He is known as Akbar English because he taught English at high school and that's why they call him that. The gutter water isn't proper gutter water, it's water from underground chamber (can't remember there real name) that they use to irrigate the land, and that's why it is so clean. It was good to speak to Akbar, he was like the old man in the pub who has lots of stories to tell, but ones you want to listen to.