Lemonicks https://www.lemonicks.com Acclaimed Travel blog of an Indian couple who bring travel stories from across the globe. Sat, 14 Oct 2017 08:59:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.6 Lost and Found in Valparai https://www.lemonicks.com/asia/india/valparai/lost-found-valparai/ https://www.lemonicks.com/asia/india/valparai/lost-found-valparai/#comments Wed, 27 Sep 2017 05:40:06 +0000 https://www.lemonicks.com/?p=20209 We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.

This month’s story has come from India’s Divyakshi Gupta who takes us to Valparai. Getting lost in a forest is something I don’t want to even think of. Let us see what she has to say about it.
Over to Divyakshi Gupta.
= = … Read the rest

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We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.

This month’s story has come from India’s Divyakshi Gupta who takes us to Valparai. Getting lost in a forest is something I don’t want to even think of. Let us see what she has to say about it.
Over to Divyakshi Gupta.
= = = = =
It was nearing dusk and we were on our way to explore the forests of Valparai. This was my chance to see the lion tailed macaque and I was so excited.
Birds chirped endlessly as we rode on the curves. The forest canopy was thick and the driver seemed to know where we were going. Immersed in the beauty of the South western ghats, I looked out of the window, not wanting to miss even a second of this therapy.

We were a group of five nature enthusiasts and there was cheerful banter, exchange of wish lists of sightings we wanted to see. Our guide was supposed to meet us at a pre decided spot and we were going for an hour long walk in the off beat forest trails of Valparai known for its elephants, birds, barking deer and the elusive leopard.

I was particularly interested in the Hornbill and looked forward to this exploration since many days.
The vehicle came to a halt and we waited for our guide.

Five minutes became ten. Ten became twenty. This is when the warning bells went off in our minds and we guessed something is amiss.

The driver (not a local) was unperturbed. While we made frantic phone calls to ask the guide where he was, he calmed us down and said he knows the way and he’ll take us to the spot where we can hop off the vehicle and do the trail ourselves.

roads in monsoon in uttarakhand

Without thinking we say yes to him and off we go on the curves again. The forest is denser and the canopy thicker. Soon we are truly in nature’s lap (Read: no network zone) and to be honest, I get this sinking, something -is-not -going-right feeling.

We are dropped somewhere. ( not a person in sight) In my nervousness and anxiety, I cannot help but notice the astounding scenery around me. Straight out of Jungle book, with the cicadas singing and birds going home, chirping happily.

We walked along the stretch of the road and back and then thought its best to stick together whichever direction we go.
And then someone spotted a Malabar thrush and all the birders lost it. We chased the bird as it flew from branch to branch and tree to tree.

Then we turned, deciding unanimously that we should go back to the vehicle and not venture further into the forest. Only to find that we had actually ventured a little too far and now every curve seemed that curve and every left turn lead to a similar clearing.

The sun had begun to set and fear crept in. We realised we were only going round and round in circles and with no network it was impossible to get help.

Scary thoughts circled my head and I tried to keep calm and not think of anything negative. While another part of my head cursed myself for not reasoning.
Ten minutes later we saw a local. Heaving a sigh of relief, we rushed to him only to find he couldn’t speak Hindi or English.
None of us knew Tamil and we tried to convey that we are lost. He seemed to understand and told us to wait. He was our only hope and we chose to wait. He returned with a 20 something boy and introduced him as Anand BE, beaming proudly.

We then understood that Anand was the only lad with a BE qualification in their village and he got him to help us.
Anand promptly got to work, asking us where we were staying and how we landed here. After listening to our story he agreed to accompany us to our vehicle and we were relieved!

But then he stopped in his tracks.
“Would you like to see something, now that you have missed your forest walk?”

We looked at each other, not wanting to be in a soup again.
Anand insisted and his earnest enthusiasm persuaded us to follow him. (No other option when you’re lost in a forest).

He said it is just 2 minutes away and off we went. I was starting to get irritated and before I opened my mouth to complain, my jaw dropped.

In front of me were rock pools! I hadn’t seen something so beautiful in a long time.
Anand looked at our expressions with a triumphant grin on his face. “I told you!” he said.

lost found Valparai

The place was heavenly with green waters, fallen tree trunks, absolute silence, not a single human in sight. Like it was hidden away. One of those secret hideaways where Enid Blyton’s stories were based.
I clicked but the pictures didn’t do justice. The place was far more magnificent in real than in photographs. Getting lost was never so much fun.

Anand accompanied us till the
vehicle and honestly if it were not for him, we would probably be lost for good in the forest.

But not only did he help us back but also guided us to a ‘secret’ paradise.
Somewhere deep down in my heart, I felt happy we got lost, only to find this unheard of heaven.

= = = = =
Divyakshi Gupta is a travel blogger and blogs at www.quirkywanderer.com
She is a door lover, a mountain child who adores long road trips. Loves travelling to off beat places to discover new cultures, meet new people, find new stories and in the process, her own self.

You may also want to read some of the earlier posts on the same theme.
Kindness on the Road
Surviving America
Good deed not dead!
Lost and found

If you have been helped by someone during your travels and want to share your story with the world, feel free to connect with me in comments section.

If you want to travel places with us, I suggest you to join us on my Facebook travel page.
P.S.- This article belongs to www.lemonicks.com. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. If you are viewing this on a website instead of your RSS feed reader, then that website is guilty of stealing our content. Kindly do us a favour. Please visit our site and help us taking action by letting us know against this theft. Thank you.

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Chinese Whispers & Dumb Charade https://www.lemonicks.com/asia/china/chinese-whispers-dumb-charades/ https://www.lemonicks.com/asia/china/chinese-whispers-dumb-charades/#comments Mon, 28 Aug 2017 04:40:55 +0000 https://www.lemonicks.com/?p=20172 We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.

This month’s story has come from Ajay Sood who takes us to China. It is a kindness story with a twist. 😉 I am sure, Ajay would make you smile or should I say laugh? 😀
Over to Ajay Sood.
= = = = =… Read the rest

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We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.

This month’s story has come from Ajay Sood who takes us to China. It is a kindness story with a twist. 😉 I am sure, Ajay would make you smile or should I say laugh? 😀
Over to Ajay Sood.
= = = = =

While this is a tale of some quirks of fate that took me to Beijing, it is also a story-with-a-funny-twist about genuine help extended by strangers who did not know my language, and about what that ‘help’ landed me into. Come, join me in my journey!

Vault of Heaven option

Vault of Heaven

How destiny took me to Beijing

It was early summer, 2008. My New Zealand trip had fallen through as the unscrupulous travel agent who had connected me to the NZ DMO (New Zealand Destination Marketing Organisation) and had organised my fam, wanted me to influence my wife for her company’s MICE business at screwy terms.

I had already applied for and got my leave sanctioned.

Around then, Beijing was in advanced stages of readiness for the Summer Olympics. Globally, their PR machinery was actively telling the whole world how hospitable and prepared they were.

Together, these circumstances conspired and got me to plan an otherwise unscheduled trip to that city. For me, China, and more specifically Beijing, had always held a mysterious allure!

Beijing and Travelure, the Tourist

I was going to be in Beijing for over a week. Knowing how much the city offered, I chalked out elaborate plans by going through blogs, travel sites, querying knowledgeable people on web forums, and more.

My itinerary included both, the usual and the not-so-usual places of interest – the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Zoo, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Confucius, Fragrant Hills Park, Beijing Chaoyang Acrobatics Theatre, Great Wall (Mutianyu), Beihai Park, Bell and Drum Tower…

Additionally, I had blocked off a complete half day from sunrise to mid-afternoon for a visit to the Temple of Heaven.

The Temple of Heaven and the centre of the earth

Temple of Heaven

For those who may not know, let me share my reason for earmarking so much time for my visit to this temple. It certainly had nothing to do with the old Chinese belief that the temple was the centre of the earth.

Situated in the heart of Beijing, the Temple of Heaven is approximately four times the size of the Royal Palace (the Forbidden City). It occupies a whopping 2,700,000 sq mt area that is a shade smaller than the 3,410,000 sq mt Central Park in New York. The Chinese ruling dynasties had ensured that the abode of God was much larger than their own humble quarters!

My research had also thrown up that the local Beijing folks used the temple grounds for their morning walks and workouts. Interestingly, these workouts were different from the usual yoga and jogging we may be used to. The diverse workouts included, but were not limited to, the niche martial arts practiced only in South East Asia. Here, Kendo, Tai Chi, Karate, Kick Boxing, Jiujitsu were practiced alongside the more sedate, traditional and graceful fan dance and ballroom dances.

Also, this early fifteenth century UNESCO inscribed temple complex has some architecturally superb structures like the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the circular mound altar and the Vault of Heaven (Treasury of Heaven).

I primarily wanted to photograph all this action as well as the capture these medieval heritage monuments. So, common sense dictated that I provide myself ample time there.

My day at the Temple


I was excited.
Just before sunrise, I rode a taxi to the Temple Complex’ North Gate. While scores of local folks were walking in freely, I had to wait for the ticket booth guy to give me the ticket and my change.

Tandem workout
A walk with workouts

Once inside, I decided to keep the photography of the heritage structures for later when the light would be better, and instead chose to shoot the morning workouts action first. Like a little child, moving from one green quadrangle to another, I was gleefully capturing the strange, yet precise, routines I was witnessing. The groups of workout-ers represented all age groups. Time flew. Sometime later, a casual glance at my watch told me I had already been there for over 3 hours. It was time for me to move on and shoot the structures!

It was then that I realised the expanse of the complex.

Those days, I used to be naïve and was carrying a ton-load of camera gear. As I made my way from one structure to another, I felt my steps getting heavier. Regardless, I charged on gamely; or at least, till I had this shooting pain making its way up my left leg!

Painful Charade

Chinese whispers & dumb charade
Those kind ball room

Diligence had me complete my planned shoot. By which time, the pain had increased exponentially. I dragged myself towards the nearest exit from the complex – the East Gate. Once there, I stumbled upon this group of ball room dancers and asked them if they could guide me to a pharmacy.

Realising they did not know English (or Hindi, or Punjabi, for that matter), I switched to sign language. I was single-handedly playing dumb charades with the group, which by then had given up their dancing and had gathered around me.

I gestured by contorting my face, pointing towards my aching leg and making hand signs indicating that I needed a pain-relieving spray. Noticing their blank faces, I repeated this act several times. Voila! Suddenly, one of them seemed to understand what I was seeking!

Animatedly, that 50-something Chinese gentleman started giving me directions – hand signs, and a lot of Chinese words. While I was focussing on his direction-providing charade, I noticed some mirth amongst his other group members. Since my pain was acute, I ignored the reactions of his fellow group members and gave all my attention to those complex directions, which broadly asked me to go straight ahead, hit the main road, not take the first left, but turn into the second street on the left, walk about 100-150 mts, go up a four-storey mall to find my destination.

Profusely thanking the entire group and bowing multiple times (I fathomed that was the ritual of thanks to follow in China), I limped away.

Four Floors Up

I followed those directions precisely and found myself facing a dilapidated graying building. The electrical wires hung precariously all around its façade. The signboards in Chinese communicated little to me. In that maze of signage, I tried looking for a green cross – the usual indicator of a pharmacy – but failed miserably.

My excruciating pain settled it all. My only choice was to enter the building, look for an elevator and make my way to the fourth floor. But, as they say, trouble always strikes in ‘threes’. There was no elevator! Language issues, a limp and a lack of elevator were all I needed!

I slowly and painfully climbed to the fourth floor and my worst fears came true. I was not in a pharmacy, but was in the ‘stockings’ section of a rather run-down apparel store. That’s when I figured that acting is definitely not a career option for me. All that those helpful folks could make of my elaborate sign language was that I was looking for ‘stockings’.

Despite my pain, I just couldn’t help smiling! Cheers to the kind people on the road!

PS: Yes. I did find a pharmacy nearby. Yes. Only women manned it. Yes. I asked them to get out, bolted the doors of the pharmacy, took off my jeans and used the spray. Yes, it did relieve the pain!

= = = = =
Ajay Sood (Travelure)
Winner of OSM (Outlook Social Media) Shutterbug of the Year 2016, Ajay shares his travel stories on www.travelure.in. Besides regularly writing for numerous travel and photography magazines, he is an international speaker on travel and architectural photography. On a mission to make destinations desirable, he has already travelled to over 35 countries.

His social media handles are:

Twitter: @TravelureAjay
Instagram: @Travelure
G+: +TravelureInPix
FB: fb.com/travelure
Pinterest: @travelure

You may also want to read some of the earlier posts on the same theme.
Kindness on the Road
Surviving America
Good deed not dead!
Lost and found

If you have been helped by someone during your travels and want to share your story with the world, feel free to connect with me in comments section.

If you want to travel places with us, I suggest you to join us on my Facebook travel page.
P.S.- This article belongs to www.lemonicks.com. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. If you are viewing this on a website instead of your RSS feed reader, then that website is guilty of stealing our content. Kindly do us a favour. Please visit our site and help us taking action by letting us know against this theft. Thank you.

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Hitchhiking in Turbulent Israel https://www.lemonicks.com/asia/israel/hitchhiking-in-turbulent-israel/ https://www.lemonicks.com/asia/israel/hitchhiking-in-turbulent-israel/#comments Wed, 26 Jul 2017 04:40:38 +0000 https://www.lemonicks.com/?p=20191 We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.

This month’s story has come from Netherlands’s Jacomijn Heupink who takes us to Israel, that too during Shabbat. No one would know it better than me how difficult it could get during Shabbat. As a tourist, you might get into trouble if you don’t … Read the rest

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We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.

This month’s story has come from Netherlands’s Jacomijn Heupink who takes us to Israel, that too during Shabbat. No one would know it better than me how difficult it could get during Shabbat. As a tourist, you might get into trouble if you don’t plan in advance. Read here to know what Jacomijn’s experience was.

Over to Jacomijn Heupink.
= = = = =

When you know me and know my blog… You know that I’m a police officer and will be traveling safe. Maybe sometimes people are surprised by what I feel is safe but still… nothing bad has ever happened to me in my years of backpacking around this wonderful world. My confidence in mankind hasn’t been affected by my work, by the situations I can be part of when working. Life is good, people are most of the time sincere and helpful!! The world is a beautiful place to live in!!

So this time I am about to tell you about when I was visiting Israel. I see you thinking already.. hmm Israel. That place we only see in the news when there was an attack again in the Gaza or when there has been suicide attacker somewhere that killed innocent people and children. But Israel is also the place to be when you love to interact with people, to see that ancient old history in Jerusalem that everybody knows about or if you want to float in the Dead Sea!!

hitchhiking in turbulent Israel

So when I visited Israel I did it all! I visited Jerusalem for a couple of days before heading out to the desert to go climb the impressive Masada mountain and to go floating in the Dead Sea. Best experience yet I must say. I was so shocked by the force of it. You really get pushed out of it. But the next day, it was Shabbat .. I couldn’t get out of the desert so to enjoy this day I wanted to go to the Dead Sea again.

On Shabbat in Israel nobody works, it is like the Sunday used to be for us in the old days. No transport, no restaurant and no shops. So I couldn’t get out of the desert to go to Haifa because the buses wouldn’t drive until just after sunset. So I had the day to spend in the desert still. I didn’t hesitated about my idea to go float again, to feel that strange sensation yet another time, But the problem… no bus to go there. No other way to go there than to go hitchhiking.

On my way to the dead sea I got a lift from two German tourists but on my way back I didn’t get anything. Then I was happy to get a ride from a young Israeli couple. They just had a relaxed weekend on the dead sea too. They had a toddler at home and they needed some time for themselves!! They were on their way back home and were happy to take me with them. And I was so happy to get that ride.

I felt really safe with them. They were really sweet with each other and were a happy young couple!

After a while we were at the intersection they could stop but they wouldn’t want me to walk that last part. They were making sure that I would be back at my hotel. So they went out of their path and went that bit further making me happy! How sweet is that?

They were happy to talk to me and ask me questions about my life in Holland and why I was visiting Israel. They were of course happy to hear me talk positive about their country. I made sure they knew their actions were helping to make it an even better experience than it already was!

So when I got out and we were saying goodbye the lady made sure that I got some water. They were persistent. The shops are closed…you need to drink because weather was hot. Take the cold water and enjoy it!!

They made my day a perfect third day in the desert of Israel!!

= = = = =

Jacomijn is a Dutch travel blogger who loves to travel solo and blogs at Safe and Healthy Travel. When not traveling she works as a police officer in The Netherlands. She loves to take challenges and get out of her comfort zone to really experience the world and its wonders!! When following her you’ll get to see a yoga pose every now and then on the greatest spots in this wonderful world.
Stay Safe and Keep Healthy!!

You may also want to read some of the earlier posts on the same theme.
Kindness on the Road
Surviving America
Good deed not dead!
Lost and found

If you have been helped by someone during your travels and want to share your story with the world, feel free to connect with me in comments section.

If you want to travel places with us, I suggest you to join us on my Facebook travel page.
P.S.- This article belongs to www.lemonicks.com. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. If you are viewing this on a website instead of your RSS feed reader, then that website is guilty of stealing our content. Kindly do us a favour. Please visit our site and help us taking action by letting us know against this theft. Thank you.

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Pictures of Finland in Winter https://www.lemonicks.com/europe/finland/pictures-finland-winter-winterland/ https://www.lemonicks.com/europe/finland/pictures-finland-winter-winterland/#comments Sun, 09 Jul 2017 04:40:19 +0000 https://www.lemonicks.com/?p=19230 Pictures Finland Winter. If you search for these three words on the net, you are bound to say Wow! With an open mouth. 😀

Indeed, a dream destination!

What a fantastic feeling it is to look out of the window to see everything being bathed in white. Snow white! Snow!
If you are familiar with this sight and expression then you probably are aware you are in a beautiful place on this earth.

Finland, the Nordic wonderland sandwiched between Sweden and Russia celebrates year 2017 as centenary of its independence with yearlong celebrations. There can’t be a better reason or … Read the rest

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Pictures Finland Winter. If you search for these three words on the net, you are bound to say Wow! With an open mouth. 😀

Indeed, a dream destination!

What a fantastic feeling it is to look out of the window to see everything being bathed in white. Snow white! Snow!
If you are familiar with this sight and expression then you probably are aware you are in a beautiful place on this earth.

Finland, the Nordic wonderland sandwiched between Sweden and Russia celebrates year 2017 as centenary of its independence with yearlong celebrations. There can’t be a better reason or time than 2017 to visit Finland.

Here I show you a slice of winter wonderland called Finland.

Saariselkä

In the wilderness, surrounded by pine trees

Picture yourself waking up to the sound of wilderness, spending the day crossing the expanse in the dramatic landscapes of Lapland, appeasing your hunger for adventure. Kids waste no time in rushing outside to make their snowmen while adults dig out their winter sports equipment.

Finland. I immediately fell in love with the country and its people. The temperature was mostly subzero but the warmth in people’s heart overpowered it. The arrival of the cold, dark, snowy winter doesn’t mean life stops. On the contrary Finns not only survive it, but enjoy it! And we did the same!

Holiday Club Resort in evening.
pictures finland winter
I love this picture for everything it depicts about Lapland. Expanse of snow & forests, gloomy day and yet there are colors and life to complement that.

Doesn’t matter if Helsinki has little snow, there’s often up to a metre or more on the skiing slopes of Lapland. The snow season in northern Finland begins in November and lasts at least until May.

pictures finland winter winterland @lemonicks.com
Isn’t it a fairy land? 🙂

Santa has an office too!

Saimaa

Row houses of Holiday Club Resorts
Skating on frozen Lake Saimaa
Reindeer Safari, anyone?
What a blessing to have a Sauna on the frozen lake Saimaa:)

Helsinki

Winter in Finland varies in duration from three to seven months, depending on the part of the country, but regardless of location, it’s cold, dark and snowy. But these adjectives don’t disrupt life. Finns will get to do their daily chores and go to work or school in the morning, no matter how cold it is or how much snow has fallen. The people of Finland know how to make the most of the winter months.

Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square
Trams run only in Helsinki city and that’s the best part of it. 🙂 Ask me why? .
Helsinki Railway Station. Inside it’s so lively and warm.
These windows stole my heart on a cold gloomy evening

Porvoo

Store houses along the frozen river Porvoo
Old Town Hall of Porvoo
The frozen river Porvoo in Black & White
A street that leads to the river

Have you been to Finland during winters? Do you want to go there?

If you want to travel places with us, I suggest you to join us on my Facebook travel page.
P.S.- This article belongs to www.lemonicks.com. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. If you are viewing this on a website instead of your RSS feed reader, then that website is guilty of stealing my content. Kindly do me a favour. Please visit my site and help me taking action by letting me know against this theft. Thank you.

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Kindness is Everywhere in Iran https://www.lemonicks.com/asia/iran/kindness-everywhere-in-iran/ https://www.lemonicks.com/asia/iran/kindness-everywhere-in-iran/#comments Tue, 27 Jun 2017 05:40:04 +0000 https://www.lemonicks.com/?p=20169 We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.

Kathleen Poon takes us to Iran for this month’s story. Let us see what she has to say about people of Iran. I am excited. 😀
Over to Kathleen Poon.
= = = = =

Ancient ruins Persepolis

We had already been in Iran for … Read the rest

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We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.

Kathleen Poon takes us to Iran for this month’s story. Let us see what she has to say about people of Iran. I am excited. 😀
Over to Kathleen Poon.
= = = = =

Ancient ruins Persepolis

We had already been in Iran for five days, and by this time, my sister and I were convinced that travelling in the land of Persia was indeed a positive experience. Due to the negative media publicity about Iran, understandably there are many misconceptions surrounding this country. Every preconception I had about Iran was challenged on each day of the trip. We were delighted by the rich Persian history, architecture, art, delectable food but the one thing that truly amazed us was the kindness of Iranians, and this reality was quite evident when we were driven from Shiraz to Esfahan.

Tomb of Hafez-Shiraz

*****

The melancholic Persian songs played on the car radio lulled us to sleep. I don’t know what the songs were about but it must have been about love, lost love, heartache, or…perhaps a lost goat.

Although the car had air-conditioning, we could see the weather outside was hot. It was spring in Iran, there were times when temperatures shot up to mid-30 degrees Celsius and got uncomfortably hot. We drove past dry and rugged landscape; some areas were dotted with cypress trees but the land was arid and barren.

Our driver’s name was Mustafa and he was tasked to drive us, not only around the tourist sites in Shiraz but from Shiraz to Esfahan as well, after which we would be dropped off at our hotel in Esfahan. We didn’t interact much with him for he spoke little English but he seemed like a nice man.

Mustafa was a careful driver and took care of us during our five-hour journey from Shiraz to Esfahan. He made sure we were comfortably cool with the air-con, and every now and then he asked us, “OK?”. We gave him the thumbs up and went back to sleep.

Morris minor toycar-Mustafa’s car

Mid-way through our journey we stopped in a small town. Mustafa could not say ‘lunch’ in English but made the sign for eating, and so we understood. He led us to a restaurant and as soon as we sat down at the table, the waiters gave us the menu but Mustafa said ‘wait’. We were puzzled as to why he wanted to us wait. Nevertheless, we waited, looked at the menu which was unfortunately in Farsi and there were no pictures.

We asked the waiter for a menu in English but he could not understand us. Once again Mustafa asked us to “wait”. Wait for what? What seemed like an interminable time, we decided to go ahead to order our food and not press for an English-language menu. As long as we could see what others were eating, and if the dishes looked good, we would order the same!

‘Mustafa, we order now, we eat’.
‘Wait’, said Mustafa looking flustered, and he disappeared.

Within a minute or two, Mustafa returned to our table with a gentleman who happened to be a tour guide with a group of Italian seniors. The tour guide spoke to us in English that firstly, Mustafa would like to apologize for making us wait as he was looking for someone in the restaurant to help translate for him, and secondly, he would like to recommend the fesenjan, a local dish of grilled chicken served with walnut and pomegranate sauce!

We could not believe that he went all out to find someone who could communicate with us! We were so touched by Mustafa’s thoughtfulness that we invited him to join us for lunch. But he politely declined and the tour guide continued to translate that Mustafa’s wife had packed lunch for him and that he would eat in the car.

*****

The kindness that we experienced at the restaurant was just another unexpected thing that we encountered during our trip in Iran. Unexpected because of the general misconception that Iran is hostile towards foreigners.

Some might say, perhaps they are kind to tourists in hope to receive tips. That could be true, however, offering hospitality is part of the Persian culture and national pride, therefore many Iranians are genuine and warm towards foreigners. In fact, the driver who picked us up from the airport in Tehran offered dinner at his house with his family. However, we declined because we had only just arrived in the country, feeling excited but mostly mixed with trepidation, unsure of the situation in this misunderstood country. A few days later, the same driver mentioned that his dinner invite at his house was genuine, it wasn’t for money. If only we were brave to accept his invitation!

Not only are they kind towards foreign tourists, Iranians are well-mannered and soft-spoken. I love listening to them speak in Farsi for the language sounds wonderfully poetic and just as well that the Persian culture is renowned for their poetry. Because of their genteel nature, Iranians despise poor behavior, as such, they speak gently and respectfully towards one another. Once again, that was apparent upon arriving in Esfahan.

Mustafa is a local guy from Shiraz, and I could sense that he wasn’t sure of the route to our hotel in the city centre because he stopped three times to ask for directions. Each time he stopped to ask for help, be it from a young or elderly person, they gladly gave information. No one was rude to him or looked away to avoid giving help. Even at the traffic lights – as the lights turned green, a truck driver continued to give directions to Mustafa for additional five seconds, and yet no one honked at us!

Bicycles for rent

My sister and I found it very surprising because it is uncommon in my home country Malaysia where people are afraid of strangers stopping to ask for directions. Many Malaysians are generally not familiar with street names, they rely on landmarks instead. Also, there have had been snatch theft incidents on the pretext of asking for directions. As a result, Malaysians are more wary than usual – they either walk away or brush off the stranger.

But not in Iran.

*****

= = = = =
Kathleen is a travel writer and blogger from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She blogs at Kat Pegi Mana: Where Is Kat Going . Her friends often ask her, “Where is Kat Going”, whenever they meet for they see the wanderlust in her! Through her blog and writing, Kathleen aims to inspire people to appreciate and connect with various heritage and cultures around the world.

You may also want to read some of the earlier posts on the same theme.
Kindness on the Road
Surviving America
Good deed not dead!
Lost and found

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