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Around the world in a daze


BANGLADESH | Wednesday, 13 October 2010 | Views [218]

It was only as I was trying to leave Dhaka that I realise how much I needed a break from it.

It was almost three months into my stay and I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a break and visit my cousin Kate and her husband Paddy in KL for a few days. I booked the tickets, packed my bags and was ready to go. Easy right? Wrong.

My colleagues suggested I went to the town hall to find a CNG (gas powered tuk tuk) to the airport. So I optimistically went along. But when I got to the town hall there was only one CNG. I asked him in broken Bangla if he would mind taking me to the airport. Yes he said he would mind and turned away from me.  

Never mind, I still had two hours until check in closed and it would only take one hour maximum to get to the airport.....

I tried to hail down another CNG but they kept driving past. Some men in a beat up red corolla tried to convince me they would drive me and I decided to move away from my spot.

I headed up to the main road knowing I am constantly hassled by CNG drivers there trying to give me a lift. But when you want one you can never find one. They flew past me full of passengers. I started looking for baby taxis, which are notoriously dangerous and I’d normally stay clear of but it has been half an hour and I was starting to cut things fine.

Even they seemed full and my hopes of getting away were slowly disappearing, the traffic was thick and I could feel the first drops of the next monsoon falling on my face. A sure sign even more people would be looking for transport. I started sending desperate texts to my friend Anna back at work “I’m never going to leave this goddamn country”.

I was almost in tears; my huge back pack on my back and hair out at all angles thanks to the humidity, when two men took pity on me. They said they would help me find a CNG and actually managed to hail one down for me. He asked 1000 taka, the normal price is 150. I was so desperate I would have taken it if only I had the cash on me, they don’t really do credit cards in CNGs.

Eventually they found some guy who claimed he was a private car driver and could take me to the airport. Normally I wouldn’t get in the car of a strange man but it was that or stay stuck in Dhaka, more specifically stuck on Mipur Road in the rain. I jumped in trying to decipher his number plate written in Bangla in the process.

I text Anna to panic if she hadn’t heard from me in an hour and held my breath for the next 40 minutes until I arrived at Zia International Airport.

From there life was easy, a little too easy. I walked through the “security” area and checked in. This involved a man crossing my name off a list of passengers and waiving me through to the gate.

It appeared my pilot had similar issues finding the airport and at departure time there was still no sign of the plane and no notification as to where it might be.

An hour later it finally showed and I was treated to four hours of air conditioned bliss with my book. First thing I saw after I landed was Starbucks. I don’t like coffee but it’s nice to know I can have it if I want. I felt like I was back home.

After trying to find the train station and realising I was at the wrong airport for that, I leapt onto the last bus into the city, expecting to get there in 10 minutes or so. As the other passengers started to fall asleep I realised I was not as close as I thought.

I arrived two hours later than I told Kate I’d be there but seeing her and being shown into their luxurious air-con apartment made the whole journey worthwhile. I slept better than I’d slept in the past three months under a doona thanks to the lovely chilled room.

I had three days of western indulgence with Kate and Paddy. We ate burgers, shopped enough to make my father proud and hit the bars. I didn’t stand out and no one stared at me. People spoke English and I found ANZAC biscuits at the shop.

It was everything I needed to recuperate. Hardest thing was getting back onto the plane. The other passengers started to stare at me. I felt like yelling “we’re not in Bangladesh yet, you can’t do this to me!”

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