Continued from … Trans Asia Express
After being in the ‘comfort zone’ of such warm company in the Trans Asia express, I suddenly felt lonely as I boarded the local Iranian train from Tabriz to Tehran. The train was called Sabz meaning ‘Green’ in Persian. It was scheduled to leave Tabriz at 17:00 and reach Tehran the next day at 05:30. After travelling in the incredibly late Trans Asia express, I was pleasantly surprised to see the train depart exactly on time!
I was joined by three middle-aged businessmen who were travelling to Tehran and onwards to Yazd. One of them spoke English well and the other two were relying mainly on him for translation. It was their first time meeting an Indian person and they were very curious about India and asked me lots of questions! They bought me tea and shared extra stuff like yogurt from their own dinner, since I was not able to find vegetarian food! Beginning from Trans Asia express, I was constantly in great company, so I was beginning to see a pattern here!
Next morning, the train pulled into Tehran railway station just before 6am. Masood and his colleagues helped me drop my baggage in the emanat (left luggage) facility. The person at the counter said ‘Oh, Hindustani (Indian) … Amitabh Bachchan? Shahrukh Khan?’ It was amusing to see him show off his Bollywood knowledge! After saying goodbye to Masood and friends, I waited in the station for a while until it was bright outside. Once I stepped out of the railway station, I felt like I had just jumped on to a moving treadmill! All the noise and chaos felt very much like India, but it was such a strange feeling because I had no plans on what to do! I knew I wanted to exchange some currency and also buy a SIM card. Just as a crossed the road outside the station, I bumped into a Metro station.
As I was waiting for the train, who just walked into the platform? Masood and his friends! They said they had about 6 hours kill until their next train to Yazd, so they were headed to the Milaad tower. They asked me if I wanted to join them. I was thrilled! We got down at Mosalla station and took a bus. Masood didn’t let me pay the bus fare! I felt so spoiled and loved! It was a great atmosphere on top of the tower with many school kids chatting away and running around! And the views are absolutely brilliant!
After taking many pictures from the top of the tower, it was finally tie to say goodbye to the wonderful men! Tehran is a big city, and since I don’t really like ‘sightseeing’ in big cities, I had planned to meet as many people as possible and spend time with them instead. Meeting Masood and his friends by coincidence had set up the mood for my first day in Iran already! Now it was time to head up to Farnaz and Gael’s, an Iranian-French couple’s house in the north of Tehran. I had contacted them through Couchsurfing and has just hoped to meet them and share a few laughs. But as I was realising quickly, Iranian hospitality totally surprises you!
Farnaz and Gael welcomed me in the their home cheerfully and though they were busy, we had a great time chatting away about our lives like long-time friends just meeting each other after a long time! I was delightfully surprised when they offered me lunch! Vegetables and rice with a lavash–tahdig! I had eaten lavash bread earlier on the train, but this method of cooking rice with a crispy bread base was just simply delicious! We discussed similarities between India and Iran over Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Farnaz really liked the tortoise keychain that I had got for them from India. I was liking Iran a lot by now!
I had two important things that I wanted to do before leaving Tehran – one was to buy a SIM card and the other was to buy a bus ticket from Tehran to Yerevan, Armenia. It wasn’t easy finding a SIM card. I took a shared taxi to Enghelab and finally managed to find a shop selling SIM cards in Aladdin shopping complex. It was a crowded little shop, but I told them I was Indian, I almost got special treatment, and got an Irancell SIM card almost without any documents! Finally I had access to internet! Even though, I had managed and actually enjoyed in Iran so long without having a phone or access to internet, finally when I did get connected, I felt a sense of comfort. I guess these are some unavoidable side-effects of the current technological status of the world.
I just had enough time to go up to the Azadi bus terminal, buy a ticket from Tehran to Yerevan, and get back to Tehran railway station at about half past seven. In my 6-bed bay, I had only one fellow traveller, a young Engineering graduate. The train left the station exactly as scheduled at 20:10. My co-traveller seemed friendly even though I initially felt a bit strange when one of the first questions he asked me was, ‘Are you Shia or Sunni?’ …. time to sleep!
Continued here … Finding my new family in Shiraz!