Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Listening to Omen

29/10/09

I watch for the omen, so carefully, scared that I will miss the hint from God in a blink. I knew it is about the right time and the right place, once you missed it, bye bye.

Yesterday was a hard day, with the news of suicide bombing in a guesthouse in Kabul Shah-e-Nau, where the guesthouses are located, it scared me a bit. Andy from CouchSurfing (I knew him through VirtualTourist Singapore gathering) sent me an email advising me not to go at this time; the other ChouchSurfer from Bamiyan who I wrote to request host replied my mail saying this is not a good time. I am not sure if these are omen, I mean the emails, and the news.

I regard getting the certification letter easily from Malaysia Embassy is a hint of go, but after yesterday news, I am not so sure. So I went to the Afghanistan Embassy yesterday morning, full of hesitation and uncertain. The officer accepted the application without a question of reason visiting the country, not even look through the form before the approval. Paid 25 Euro for the visa, and almost right after that I have regretted, asking myself why can't I wait.

Yesterday was a tough day, concentrating to listen what is happening and what shall I do, I went back to my friend's house while waiting for the visa to be processed, so tired I fall asleep on the sofa.

It was not so crowded when I went back to the Afghanistan Embassy at 2pm. Some one trying to talk to me in Farsi (The language is called Dari in Afghanistan), I replied with my very limited Farsi vocabulary, or most of the time just 'na midunam'(I don't understand). There are some Afghan there, one of them is a teacher who teach in Bamiyan University, it surprised me a bit as I thought there wont be any higher education in the country as it suffers from war, he speaks good English.

I was concerned if I shall wait after the election, as everyone said the situation will get worsen before the election; but then it will be winter soon, and who knows it will be any better after the election? I was surrounded by the Afghans in the embassy, most of them refugees, who born in Iran, but still with a refugee identity. They shall leave Iran after graduating from school. Some of them speak a little bit English, but too obvious they have an uncertain live.

So why shall you wait for the election, are you a journalist? The university teacher asked. No I am a turist (tourist), I told him. So just go! The winter will step in soon and it will be so cold by then. But what about the safety? I am concerned if it is more safe to travel before or after the election. He smiled and said, you know thing only happened once or twice in a month, not everyday.

So I have Afghananistan visa in my passport, and my confidence boosted a bit after coming out from the embassy. I looked Afghan for sure, the teacher told me if I am in the town of Hazara, no one will suspect that I am a foreigner; and by now seems that as long as I skip Kabul, Herat, Bamiyan and Mazar-e-Sharif are in low risk to visit. Everyone from the north supporting Kanzai, they said the government is good.

I went home and found Kausar's email in my mailbox. Emailed him to ask about the better time to visit the country as he knew Afghanistan well, shall I go or shall I wait. Just go and don't wait, he replied in the email.

So I am heading to Mashhad, perhaps tomorrow night. Repacking and leaving all the unnecessary thing in Tehran, telling my friend to dispose them if they don't hear from me after a month time, but I have a good feel that I will be back.

Planning for next

28/10/09

To apply for an Afghanistan visa in Iran, you need to have a 'surat pengesahan' from Malaysia Embassy. So yesterday I went to the Malaysia Embassy in Iran.

Was a bit worry if they refuse to give me the letter. Surprisingly, after a long interview, the letter is in my hand.

It was so warm to see people from home, speaking Malay which I have largely forgotten, but still with a feeling of familiar. The Malay secretary seems so lonely in Tehran, without knowing Farsi after two years, telling me I can call his number if I have problem, even have no problem also feel free to call.

And I went back to Afghanistan Embassy with the letter. Met an Afghan who know a little bit English at the Embassy, he told me my feature looked like Hazara, people from the central part of Afghanistan; But it reminded me on the Hazara in The Kite Runner.

Woke up this morning and read that another attack in Kabul near a UN guesthouse killing three UN staff. Start to think if I shall extend my Iran visa and visit Afghanistan after the election on 7 Nov; or forget Afghanistan and proceed to Iraq Kurdistan area. No one can predict if the situation will get better or worsen.

Wanted to meet a Malaysian who just overland from Tajikistan to Iran via Afghanistan but seems like he is not checking his mail. Still unable to find any travel insurance that cover me. If it is a go, leaving Tehran on Thursday night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Another day in Iran

26/10/09

6th day in Tehran, 23rd day in Iran. Time to sum up Iran trip as exiting the country soon.

Iran has a long history, but the sight seeing appealed so so to me. Yazd has good old city but sexual harassment is not uncommon due to the conservative society. Shiraz is known for its ancient Achaemenid empire of Persepolis, burned down by the drunken Alexander the Great; despite some fine stone mural, we were harassed by two local tourists from the Baluchistan area. Esfahan is known for its romantic square, fine mosques and bridges, perhaps of my high expectation it turned out to be an okie place which I don't really passionate in venture more; spectacular bridges stood over dried river due to the construction of dam, quite pathetic. Near Kashan there is an interesting village of Abyaneh but the public bus only runs on Friday and the taxi is too expensive for solo tourist like me, I missed that village. Qom is a religious city but I was stopped from visiting the Holy Shrine of the sister of 8th Imam. Tehran has a fine archaeological museum which we expected more exhibit; aside from that it is a large city with heavy traffic, large population and air pollution, perhaps just like other large city.

But I love Iran, so much so much that I can't tell with words; perhaps I will cry the day I need to leave.

I was first touched by the Iranian when I was in Hafez Tomb in Shiraz. People come from all over the country to pay respect to Hafez, the poet. Our friend who is a local told us, whenever he has question, he came to Hafez. A lot of Iranian touched when they read the poem, with tears, including both genders. I stood there without a word, how can there be such a romantic nation, who spend time in a tomb, read and weep. I can't tell how touched I was that night, seeing the insight of the Iranian heart, soft and tender, contradicting with the real world they are living in.

None of us know how is the feeling living in the real Iran, where hijab is compulsory for female, where walking with the opposite sex can end up in the police station, where modern music is prohibited, where there is no freedom of religion, where any man without serving military cannot obtain a passport. Everyone here is always careful, careful in talking about the politics and religion, careful about their everyday life in the public, careful about expressing their comment and views. I thought it is too exaggerate, but there is a real case where someone was stopped from leaving the country just because he left some anti-government comment in facebook, and that is it! We have no way to imagine how cruel is that, the only dream that keeps the Iranian from living is the hope of leaving the country, may be the boy will kill himself.

You can't imagine how desperate the Iranian wanted to leave their country. They are all so tired with the current situation, some still go on street but others stay ignorant. Tehran stays nervous after the riots, people apologies for the chaos we saw on the TV. I thought they are young generation who wanted freedom due to the influence of the western country, but it is not true, the 50 years old man I met in Yazd told me he stopped praying in mosque since 30 years ago, after the revolution.

It is a great experience traveling in Iran, different from any other trip. Too much of opinion and thoughts sharing. Iranian are not Pakistani, Pakistani don't care about their country; Iranian loves their country so much, you see people complain about the government with tears in their eyes, most of them are well-educated and very knowledgeable, one of the reason US still dare not invades Iran. Iranian are nationalist, they are certainly different from Afghan or Iraqi.

Too much good experiences here, camp in the desert, dance in the public, pee in the castle, learn to sing a Farsi song, plenty of lunch/ dinner invitation by people who we know a minute ago, hitch hiking, secret party, alcohol, test opium of the best quality, picnic, sharing of Taoism, music music music, chai chai chai (tea), and yes, friendship.

p/s: pardon me for my English and excuse me for my laziness to write. If you are interested in any particular thing about Iran, just drop me a line.

The biggest sun

I know there is some mistake in "the biggest sun" as there is just one sun.. but anyway .. this is the biggest sun I have had in my life up to now, at Esfahan of Iran.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Party

16/10/09

After hearing so many times about the secret party, I had a chance to attend one myself yesterday night.

It was held in a garden far from the town, girls are all without head scarf, with tight jeans and shirt (too bad it was too cold else everyone will be in their miniskirt and tube), we have plenty of alcohol (wine produced by dates), a lot of good music and whole night dance. And yea, people have body contact when they dance, just like any other country that we are familiar with; and yet it is Iran, an Islamic country.

Iran has two faces, one in the bright and one in the dark. One too conservative and one extremely open. They asked me if I am a Muslim in the party, ironically in the non-Islamic atmosphere around these who the country's leader wanted them to be a Muslim but they themselves don't want to, I said yes.

It was about 4 am when the party ended. We went for an early breakfast, eating sheep face and bread. I really enjoy myself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kharanagh之行

在Kharanagh那个沙漠中的小村庄,我们在沙漠中兀起的石壁边睡觉。清晨醒来后在灌木丛后撒了泡尿,天已亮但月亮仍高挂在空中,冷风吹得我赤裸的臀部发凉。昨晚抵达十天已经暗下,没有察觉我们其实睡在干枯的河床,清晨石壁上历史的遗迹清晰,我想起在巴国时有人告诉我,这种石块的画痕是冰川的记号,那个时候这个地方很冷很冷,冰川嵌在山谷中央,自冰河时期就在,日照时融成滔滔一条河,滋润附近的村庄。那个时候一切是不是很绿很绿?村民还建起高架桥横跨过流水,他们可以从这一边走到那一边。

Kharanagh的土城堡现在是一座美丽的废墟,里头意外的大,布满错综复杂的小巷,阳光稀稀落落。城堡内的小房以前住满人,一定非常热闹。人和人在窄窄的小巷中擦肩而过,可能认识也可能不认识;孩子们在小巷里奔跑,喝着大人的叱骂声,婴儿放肆的哭,和着牲畜的粪便味;尽是熙攘,尽是声响,尽是生气。才几百年的时间,冰川完全融化,河水干枯,露出单薄的河床。

我们在城里找水。M没有过问的将最后一口水给了那只叫Bell的胆小狗,我们气结。城里有座被警察封掉的客栈,隔壁似是有人家,一条水管稀稀疏疏流下水。M攀过客栈的墙进里头偷水,O站在水管下用脏水洗下体。M将水一罐罐的从门缝中传过来,O嚷,偷两颗pomegranate!M将满书包的pomegranate传过土墙,他才翻过土墙,被警察用铁丝拴住的门就坏开了。我们经过那头黑骆驼进入城堡,我几乎是跑过去的,M说它会吐口水,而且吐得很远很远,我可不需要这么好的润肤液。

我口里嚼着酸得可以的pomegranate,将籽都吐了出来;O将籽都吞了进去,她可以吃的东西很多,包括苹果核,和所有绿色的植物,从叶到茎。

那天我们搭便车离开。坐在开蓬的小货车后,风啪啪的吹,所有人的脸都被风吹得走形,所有人手脚冰冷。

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some updates

13/10/09

In Shiraz and traveling to Esfahan tonight. Intended to travel to some small villages but too lazy at the moment. Was traveling with a psycho russian girl, she was very direct yet very fake, always pretending and acting, yet I like her so much because she is so fake. She steals everything whenever she has a chance, raisins, nuts, bread.. whatever you can name. I never met such kind of person before. But too much can be too tiring, we had been traveling for around one week, we met in Yazd. Will have more stories, hopefully if I am not too lazy.

Take care.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Poor Afghani Malaysian

Hui and Ko said I looked poor with my shawal kameez when I was in Pakistan. Yesterday their opinion was proved by a Lahori who study in Iran.

We were sitting at the bench waiting for the custom office to be opened. The Lahori girl told me, you should change your shawal(the baggy pant) as soon as you reached Iran.

Why?

You look like Afghani! Only Indian, Pakistani and Afghani wearing shawal. And with your look, just a typical Afghani!

Ooo..

Actually, even in Pakistan, your clothing are so out of date, only villagers wear that.

Har?

Yea, so better you change it or people will think you are no manner. They will said 'pelu' behind you, it means people who has bad manner..

=S

p/s: Afghani look so much like chinese, small eyes, brown skin. I also think I look so much like an Afghani.. bo bian

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Attacked

07/10/09

Right after I said I like Yazd, I was attacked in the afternoon when I was on my way back to Kohan Hotel, which located in the old city.

Iran is well-known for its hospitality of the Iranian and its notorious sexual harassment towards foreign women traveler, both get proved today, but I will only talk about the latter in this chapter.

It was around 3pm in the afternoon when I was on my way back. Today was an okie day, I bought a long pant with 4.6 dollar in the bazaar, a lotion with 3 dollar, get my fruit shake and sandwich, visited masjid jameh.. followed by an unknown but successfully get rid of him, and I was walking on the small alley back to the hotel when I heard the sound of motor engine behind me.

I turned around and saw a guy on his motorbike heading towards me, he has his hand extended preparing to grab my butt, I immediately siam (siam: hokkien, pardon me I can't find a suitable word in english) and catch his shirt. He was so fast on his bike, I have no way to run as fast so I have to let go his shirt, shouted and chasing behind him. Finally of course he ran-away after his failure attempt and I writen down his number plat in Farsi.

Passed by the police office for tourist but they were closed. Will try to report the case later in the evening. So angry. I have heard the same thing happened to Haru chan who stay in the same room with me in Hunza, she said she experienced 2 times of sexual attacked in Iran, one grab on butt and another on breast. But she concluded: one thing that I have learn is, take it easy.. Made me faint, that's why those culprit only choose Asian as target..

Bypassing Kerman

07/10/09

Seems like there are too many bypassing..

I am already in the old city of Yazd, today is my 2nd day here. I like Yazd, including the hotel I am staying, it was a traditional hotel made by sun dried mud bricks, Yazd is said to be one of the oldest kind of city in the world. It costs me 50000 rials for a bed per night including breakfast, slightly more than 5 dollar. The dormitory is just a small underground room/store room, imagine the room for a maid or slave centuries ago.. the cheapest you can get, but hell the atmosphere on the ground is great, relaxing garden will a small pond, iranian music, breakfast with tea, nan and 2 eggs.. not that expensive after all.

Yea bypassing Kerman. The couchsurfing guy in Kerman that I contacted did not reply my email. Arrived in the city by overnight bus to save money, checked out the cheapest hotel in Lonely Planet but it was fulled. The cheapest musafehkhune (cheap hotel) I can get is 17 dollar, it is definitely too much for a place like Kerman. So I am forced to move.

Ko and Hui arrived have worse experience at Kerman, they arrived one night earlier than me. They arrived in town at night and cannot find any cheap place, the taxi driver sent them to the police station and after that with the police they went to five star hotel. They were charged 5 dollar for the taxi and the five star hotel manager asked them what the hell they are doing in Iran if they have no money! hahaha

For me, too lucky I have 2 legs which work well for me. The taxi driver wanted one dollar for the 2 km distance to the town. I looked at him and think he must as well go rob. The petrol in Iran is so cheap, <0.2USD for a litre, and 2km distance is just 30 minutes walk. So I walked with my backpack the whole morning.. Iran is a country blessed with oil, I was told that every single day they have news on discovery of new oil field.

But no one speaks english, and it makes travel in Iran hard. So I bought a Persian/Farsi language book last night, hopefully it helps. Will stay in this old city for a few days before moving on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One leg to the other

Crossed from the sub-continent to the middle east..

Iran is a whole different world from Pakistan..

- Men no longer wearing shawal kameez; but western shirt and pant

- Women are in black chador, no covering of face needed but hijab (head covering) is compulsory

- Couples holding hand in the public

- Women smoking qalyen (smoke with water pipe)

- Almost no english, only Farsi/ Persian

- No more doodchai (milk tea); iranian drinking sweet tea by putting the sugar in the mouth before sipping the tea

- No more 2-3USD bed/room; but 6-7USD bed

- modern, clean, expensive

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bypassing Bam

05/10/09

Reached Iran yesterday morning, escort by the police for the whole morning and noon.. spending too much on transportation because we need to pay for the police! and they made us change from this car to that car to this car to that car, as if some bandits are following behind us and we do that to distract their attention. I am not sure if it is lucky or stupid. Passport was hold by police and was unable to sneak away. All police don't speak english so we had hard time communicating, anyway there is no choice at all for us. Called my CouchSurfing friend, Oudi and got him into trouble. We went to police station to register and later on immigration officers went to his house. He was a professional dental technician (making false teeth) so he promised for some free false teeth. The night was peace and I went out with his family and friends. Iranian life is relax, I tried smoking qalyen too and had some pokara, but it is too cold for me even in this town near the desert. It is too embarassing that I cannot cook. This morning Oudi cook breakfast for me in his workshop (I slept in his workshop) and told me no one will marry an Iranian lady that do not know how to cook. Will have lunch with his wife later in his house, I believe it will be a good lunch.

Rest enough in this border town, going to Kerman today bypassing Bam.

Salam world, I am already in Iran

Salam world, I am already in Iran!!

First of all:
1. No facebook.
2. No mandarin in computer. So if you are writing in mandarin, sorry I can't read.
3. It is 4.5 hours behind Malaysia time.