From Shiraz to Esfahan..a toy beetle on the car dashboard :-)

Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Way

In-between moments can be just as memorable as grand finales. This week, share a photo you took on the way to something else…

I seldom take photos when I’m on my way to a destination. I don’t take photos from the window seat in the plane because I have always preferred the aisle seat. I have taken a couple of photos during long car journeys but the photos usually don’t turn out well. So in the end, I’d rather sit back and relax, enjoy the scenery and hope that my memory i.e. becomes the “camera’ :-)

However, there are a few photos, by fluke, turned out well, and here they are :-

Ladakh – dominated by Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges

Ladakh – dominated by Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges

Traversing through Chang La Pass to Pangong

Traversing through Chang La Pass to Pangong

From Shiraz to Esfahan..a toy beetle on the car dashboard :-)

From Shiraz to Esfahan..a beetle on the car dashboard :-)

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Palaces and Museums of Tehran: Part 1

We arrived in Tehran in the evening, feeling tired especially after an 11-hour flight from Malaysia (including transit time in Dubai). By the time we exited the airport, we came across heavy traffic leading into Tehran. It was Friday, the weekend was already in full swing and locals were out and about (weekends in Iran are Friday & Saturday). A journey which could have been an hour to our hotel turned out to be 2 hours. All we wanted to do was check-in to the hotel, unpack, shower and go to sleep.

The next morning I woke up bright and early, feeling excited about our first day out in Tehran. I drew the curtains, half expecting to see snow-capped mountains in the distant – admittedly, scenes from the film Argo were etched in my memory – but only the backstreets of our hotel :-) I chuckled and thought to myself, get a grip, Kath, you’re here to see the real Tehran, not based on a Hollywood movie which incidentally was not filmed in Iran!

After breakfast, our guide Rana met us at the hotel lobby. Rana is a young tour guide who has been doing freelance tours in the city for the past 5 years. She speaks very good English and she is learning Italian at the same time.

Our 2-day itinerary in Tehran was pretty much everything that was palaces and museums. Initially, I had some reservations about the itinerary, mainly, for two reasons: Is that all there is to see in Tehran, and would we get bored hopping from one palace to another (likewise for museums)? Fortunately, Rana changed our perspective as she made our tours lively and light, so there was no room for boredom.

We had also mentioned to her from the start that we did not want to be rushed from one stop to another because we wanted to understand the history, gather some insights about a place and to soak in the atmosphere of wherever we were…and have time to take photos too! Rana was very delighted as she felt the same because she wanted us to see and experience what Iran truly was, outside palaces and museums. So, as we spent 2 days with her, she happily showed us places which were not in the itinerary; brought us to restaurants which only locals go (including an ice-cream parlour) and shared some personal insights about life in Iran.

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The first palace we visited was Golestan Palace – ‘Gol’ in Persian means rose – therefore literally means Roseland Palace. Golestan is the oldest historic monument in Tehran, consisting of royal buildings in an ancient citadel, and was formerly official residence of the royal Qajar family from the late 18th century till the early 20th century. Then, from 1925 till 1979, Golestan was no longer the royal residence as the Pahlavi royals built their own palace at Niavaran. Instead, Golestan was used for formal royal receptions including important ceremonies such as the coronations of Reza Shah Pahlavi on the Marble Throne and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the Museum Hall.

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Here are some of the attractions inside the Palace:

Marble Throne (Takht-e-Marmar) which is made of yellow marble from Yazd Province. The throne with elaborate and detailed marble carvings was, unfortunately, surrounded by glass panels to prevent damage which made it difficult for us to admire the ornate carvings up close and to take a picture due to reflections from the glass.

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Decorative tiles and mosaic patterns were something which I was looking forward to see in Iran, and I got an initial preview of it in Khalvat-e-Karim Khani terrace which has a small throne and less ornamentation compared to the Marble Throne.

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The finest stained glass windows in Golestan is the central room of the Building of Wind Towers (Emarat-e-Badgir)

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The Golestan Palace complex consists of 17 structures comprising palaces, museums and halls, and it had went through 400 constructions and renovations over many centuries. We only visited the interesting ones, some of which we were not allowed to take any photographs inside, such as Talar-e-Berelian (Hall of Brilliance) known for its mirror work and chandeliers and Talar-e-Salam (Reception Hall) exhibited Iranian and European paintings alongside gifts presented to the royal court.

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Since Golestan Palace complex is housed inside an ancient citadel, then the hubbub of commercial activities is outside the citadel. The Grand Bazaar (Bazar Bozorg) is walking distance from Golestan. I had read somewhere that the Grand Bazaar has lost much of its historical importance since commerce in the city has moved to the northern part, however, the bazaar is still active for the locals, travelling merchants, and increasingly for tourists. It was good to know from Rana that the Grand Bazaar was not set up purely for tourists unlike the Grand Bazaar in Instanbul (I have yet to travel to Instanbul).

Sadly, we were not able to see this historical market in action because it was Saturday, and all shops were closed.

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We walked a little further and came across another bazaar which was smaller and shops were opened.

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It was time for lunch and that meant it was time for Persian food! Before arriving in Iran, friends who have heard about the wonders of Iran (the ones who didn’t ask But…Why Iran?) have warned me about the possibility of gaining weight during this trip because of delicious Persian food. And they were absolutely right :-)

Rana recommended us to try tahchin, a Persian upside-down layered saffron rice and chicken slices – a mouthwatering dish seasoned with yogurt and egg yolk mixture, and garnished with barberries. Yummmmmmmmmmm!

We could not finish the dish as the servings were huge, so we asked for a doggy bag. The tahchin was too delectable to go wasted – we wanted to finish it even if it was within the confines of our hotel room for tea time later!

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Writing the last paragraph on Persian food makes me crave for it now…hmm, I can’t focus. I have to continue this later ;-)

If you have missed the first post on Iran…read But…Why Iran?

Note: My trip to Iran was done with Homafaran Agency via Iran Traveling Center

Broken Bike

Kat:

For this week’s Photo Challenge..capture something broken.

Reblogging an old post from 2014 with the same theme, here’s a broken bike in the old Latin quarter of Panjim in Goa – Fountainhas.

Originally posted on Kat Pegi Mana:

Whoa, what happened here? Found this motorbike abandoned on a sidewalk in Fountainhas, the old Latin Quarter in the city of Panjim, Goa. Apart from the missing rear tyre, my guess is, the bike is broken – from the way it was left callously on the sidewalk like bad rubbish. No use to the owner anymore.

(This post is linked to Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Broken)

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But…Why Iran?

I had decided in Feb to travel to Iran in early May. It was only for 8 days – a short trip – enough to see Iran as a first-timer though I have later learnt that the average time a traveller spends in Iran is 2 weeks. My sister was interested to join me on this trip. We did all the necessary research in March: organized a private tour through a travel agency in Iran, booked our flight tickets and applied for travel visa.

In all my travels, friends have always asked me about my next destination, and I’m usually happy to oblige. But for this trip, I was slightly reluctant to share because I knew the questions that I would get for the unusual choice of country. It’s the country which has a bad reputation in the West and there aren’t many news media releases which state the good stuff about Iran. As the departure date drew closer, I tried to avoid the inevitable question but I couldn’t. I knew I had to face it.

[BEFORE IRAN]

Friend: Hey, we are going to have a gathering on 1st May, will you be around? Oh wait a minute, it’s a long weekend..let me guess, you will be travelling during that time?

Me: Yeah, I will be travelling at that time. I can’t come for the gathering, sorry…

Friend: I’m so jealous! Where are you going this time?

Me: Iran.

Friend: What, Iran?!

Me: (with a big grin) Yep.

Friend: Is it safe??

Me: Oh yeah, absolutely. …I have read a lot of travel articles about Iran and there are no issues travelling there.

Friend: But…why Iran?

[AFTER IRAN]

Colleague: Hey, I heard you were away recently. Did you go for a holiday?

Me: Yeah, I did.

Colleague: Where did you go? Did you have a good time?

Me: Iran.

Colleague: Iran?!

Me: (with a smile) Yep

Friend: Is it safe??

Me: Oh yes, it is ABSOLUTELY safe. It’s a beautiful country. I had a great time.

Friend: But…why Iran?

The inevitable question was But, why Iran? The answer I gave to my friends before the trip was that the country is very rich in history, art, architecture, and incidentally I have a great interest in these topics. I might have wavered a bit in explaining to them..after all, I haven’t experienced the country yet and especially with the negative media publicity, one can only wonder.

However, after spending 8 wonderful days in Iran recently, soaking up rich Persian history, architecture, art, deliciously yummy food, and the generosity and hospitality of Iranians, I was able to reply to that question with greater conviction that Iran was a positive experience.

Friends and colleagues may or may not be convinced yet how Iran could be contrary to what they read or see on the news (my parents were pretty cool about our trip – thank God for having travel in the family genes!). Hopefully this upcoming series in my blog, will help to give the undecided travellers (or sceptics) a glimpse of what Iran is like.

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There was A LOT to experience throughout the 8-day trip. Rather than diving straight into details in this post, let me share with you first some highlights from the trip… :-)

Palaces and Museums in Tehran

Mosques and Mausoleums in Shiraz

Ancient city ruins of Persepolis and Necropolis

Mosaics and Frescoes in Esfahan

Armenian Cathedral in Esfahan

Beautiful flowers and gardens of Iran 

Look out for post on Palaces and Museums in Tehran next week!

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Travel Theme: Vietnamese Hats

(This post is linked to Where’s my backpack? Travel Theme: Hats)

Vietnamese hats are so unique and I don’t think I have seen hats anywhere in the world which look exactly like them. It’s as if Vietnam has trademark these conical-shaped hats ;-)

Here are images of Vietnamese hats from my visit to Ho Chi Minh City in 2011:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Enveloped in Greenery in Iran

What does enveloped mean to you?…

I was in Iran recently and never knew that this country is enveloped by greenery. I had a misconception about this country, always assumed that the landscape would be dry and arid all year round, therefore I was pleasantly surprised to see many parks, gardens, trees and beautiful flowers everywhere in Iran.

We were walking to Sa’dabad Palace in Tehran, a palace built by the Pahlavi dynasty. The Qajar monarchs first lived in the palace in the 19th century. Over a period of time, the palace complex expanded and Reza Shah lived there in the 1920s while his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi moved into the palace in the 1970s. After the Iranian Revolution, the Sa’dabad Palace was converted into a museum.

It was a slight uphill 15 minute walk from the main gate entrance to the palace. Taxis are available for those who wish not to walk but we chose to walk instead as the weather was not too warm. In fact, there was a slight breeze which made the maple leaves to rustle in the wind. I bet the compounds are magnificently beautiful during autumn :-)

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Sa'dabad Palace, Tehran

Sa’dabad Palace

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