Despite the age of the plane, the landing in Tehran’s newest international airport was surprisingly very smooth but even so, almost everyone clapped when the plane safely landed and that got us worried (clapping means the landing is not smooth most of the time?).
2 days before the departure has been a kind of marathon run on shopping – there were plenty of new clothes and items needed to be bought and that includes the usual packets of 3-in-1 oats and Maggi Mee (the usual suspects for Malaysians travelling abroad). As we are expected to experience winter this time around, there was shopping for winter clothes as well.
(One of the smaller sized jumbo – Boeing 747 SP – it is really, really old)
The flight that we were taking was a direct flight from KLIA to Tehran with a very aging Boeing 747. The flight was not full and we got our seats just nice and right although we did experience delayed departure due to delayed passengers. We left almost 50 minutes late from our scheduled departure. We already been warned of boredom when using Iran Air – there was no in-flight entertainment and even though there were movies on the large ‘TV’, it was in Persian (we managed to follow the story by using the English sub titles at the bottom).
Iran has been hit with the US led trade embargo and this really shows when one is taking Iran Air – the public announcement system was not working (we hear whispers most of the time), there were traces of aged plane parts (we swear we saw some parts ‘rusting’ away at 12,000 feet), the upper luggage compartment was shaking rather violently during the take off and the seats were old and uncomfortable. At one point, we even had our doubts on whether we will reach Tehran in one piece. But the pilots were good – they got us through without much incident.
(The chaos before departure – take a look at the seat covers and mind you that it suppose to be clean ones!)
The in-flight service was not that bad – the stewardesses were kind but they don’t seem to be quick in addressing the service call lights. There was one lighted up for several hours and no one seemed to be bothered. Even request for water took some time to be addressed. Despite the rather slow service, in-flight food was better than the rest although there was plenty of room for improvement.
It was about 8 hours of flight – so we slept most of the time. Whenever I had the time, I tried to watch the Iranian movies on the large screen (which surprisingly was quite easy to follow) or snap photos of the passengers or outside the plane.
Landing was smooth and immigration checking was swift and fast although there was some confusion in addressing the ‘surname’ and ‘family name’ part. We got our luggage quite fast and were grateful that it was not damaged. As we pass through the custom checkpoint, there was some commotion and all we saw was an elderly lady being taken away by custom officials. Other passengers ignored this commotion and continued with their journey. We did the same. We continued to walk and got out from the airport where we changed our money to the local currency rial and instantly became millionaires (1 USD = 9,900 Rial). We now needed a transport out from the airport situated about 50 km from the city.
Taking taxi was a bit tricky. There were 3 of us and 4 large luggage bags (excluding laptop bags, gift bags, etc). Taxis at the airport are unlike the taxis at KLIA – they are about the same size – small. We talked to one taxi driver but after looking at our luggage, he said that we need to take 2 taxis. We were about to leave and talk to the next taxi driver when he called back and said it can be done – all the 3 of us and 4 luggage in 1 taxi but he said that he needs additional payment. It was not much by our standards, so we quickly agreed. Last thing we wanted is for us to be split out in some foreign country with unfamiliar language. Somehow the driver managed to squeeze all 3 luggages into the small boot and placed one on the passenger seat.
It was a ride of our life! Reaching almost 140 km/h on the patchy, badly built highway with heavy traffic on the left, right and at the front, the taxi driver did not show any signs of slowing down…
Photos – the ageing 747 SP parked at KLIA and the commotion as passengers getting to their seats
(To be continued)