Iran – Tehran, 06 June 2009

So, we arrived in Tehran after a slightly harrowing flight on Air Arabia. Well, it was just kinda choppy. Immigration was somewhat hilarious. I don’t think they see Singaporeans much. My research says that Singaporeans do not need a visa, but when we  got up to the counter, the guy told us to fill in some forms for a visa-on-arrival. Not a big deal. So anyways, we filled it up, and gave it to the guy. Then, he brought out this big book, and started flipping through it (I kid you not!), and I think he finally found the section on Singaporeans or something, and then suddenly said, “well, you don’t need a visa!”

So, we proceeded to a counter and try and get into Iran. Same problem – guy asks for our visa. We decided to stand in the same line, and we ran back to the counter to get the guy to explain the situation to him. After that, we were all set.

We had planned to stay at Firouzeh Hotel. B had e-mailed them, but they didn’t reply. So we tried our luck. Our first experience with Tehran driving was nothing short of crazy. The guy was going at like 120 km/h, while on the phone, while trying to read the slip of paper with the hotel address. And when he pulled up at the traffic light, I looked to the right, and basically saw the Iranian version of Jean Girard from Talladega Nights – The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (Unrated Widescreen Edition)
– he was like sipping a coffee while waiting for the light to change, and continued driving with coffee in one hand. It’s really remarkable how they can navigate some of the tight roads and corners at full speed!

Seeing Tehran for the first time was memorable. I guess I didn’t know what to expect. After reading all the news reports and mania associated with Tehran, I guess I just wasn’t expecting it to look that much like any other city in the world – skyscrapers, incredible concentration of human beings, and traffic. It’s remarkable how we imagine crazy things about places, fuelled by the media, and then it looks so normal. I think that’s why I travel – just to remind myself about the world that we live in, and how it’s not that different for people, even as it is different. I think it does help dispel misconceptions we have of other people, and helps us remember that they are people, too.

We arrived at Firouzeh Hotel, which was located in south Tehran, and real cheap at 12 SGD per night. If you are looking for comfort and nice bathrooms and all, skip this place. It’s situated in an area with lots of car workshops, so be prepared to get stared at. But having said all that, do stay for the guy who runs the place – he’s awesome. He’s super helpful, and will arrange pretty much anything for you. Staying there definitely made all our travel arrangements so much easier – he helped us book our train tickets to Esfahan.

Anyway, after setting down our bags, we went hunting for some nom nom, which was some sort of pizza place further down the street. It’s pretty interesting watching traffic from there. The buses were segregated into male and female. We also took the segregated metro train to the Central Bazaar, as we wanted to take a look at it. We wound up going into one of the small shopping malls, just to check out what’s on sale in Tehran.

Well, that was about all we did that day. The sun was setting, so we just ended up packing some excellent kebabs with rice from across the street, and had the delicious food in our room.

Tehran's Jean Girard

Jean Girard of Tehran 

Transport and Traffic in Tehran

Traffic in Tehran

Tehran Bazaar

Tehran Bazaar

Tehran Metro: Women Only

Metro: Women Only

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