During my dozens of business trips I was able to explore a bit around, after and next to work. Part I of my best memories below.
So different and so alike. I met so many nice and warm-hearted people there. From colleagues to house staff and the odd person I interacted with on the streets. Still difficult to accept I will probably never return… I was not able to say goodbye properly after my illness got diagnosed. A big thank you to all.
Mostly I arrived late in the evening, so you see nothing but some lights. But when I didn’t … it became clear how much water and water ways were surrounding Dhaka. During the rainy season you could see the cement factories submerged as well. Always a good idea to arrive during the day at your destination… at least once.
ARRIVING AT THE AIRPORT
I would say the first culture shock, but that is not entirely true. The first shock was on my first trip at the stopover at Abu Dhabi at the gate for the Dhaka flight, when all of a sudden I realized that it was ME that looked different and everyone is watching my every move (see also my earlier post on being an albino in Dhaka). After traveling back and forth for some times I could tell by the way a whole bunch of passengers are completely disorganized and in complete chaos trying to get onboard first, that that must be my flight to Dhaka. Still don’t know why though… maybe cabin storage space?
And then you arrive at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport... the signal to switch to a different mode.
If you are lucky, the plane stops at the gate and not the tarmac. In the latter case you would be picked up by one of the buses (the one that works), where you get squeezed in and get transported as sardines in a can while you can gaze a the moving ground beneath your feet through peepholes in the floor. It only happened once for me. Interesting experience…
You then get confronted by the segregation of Bangladeshi and Foreigners/ Business Travelers and at times strange questions from the otherwise friendly customs officers (see one of my previous posts).
If you have decided to travel with checked in luggage – which I didn’t anymore after the first time – you can enjoy the erratic baggage handling process while being eaten alive by the mosquitoes.
And then you arrive at the exit. The heat and moist hit you every time. The first glimpse of Dhaka is an iron gate with people clinging onto it… Welcome.
PATENTED DHAKA TRAFFIC
What can I say? Fascinating, never-seen-before, archaic and heavily congested most of the day? It reminded me of the first time I went to Bangalore more than a decade ago.
TRANSPORT, AN ART
But also the “vehicles” or modes of transportation fascinated me: first and foremost the bicycle ricksha’s, the school “buses” painted in blue and the recycled and overly scratched and dented public buses which appear to have been imported from India.
It must be a national sport: How much can you stack of anything – really ANYthing – on one car/ boat/ … while it still can move and won’t tilt over? Resourceful daredevils.
ANIMALS ON AND NEXT TO THE ROAD
I am just not used to see live animals on or next to the road, unless it is on a leash. On a nice Friday afternoon I needed to get out and see something different than the office or the apartment, so I asked the driver to take me around. When all of a sudden I saw an elephant on the other side of the road. An elephant in the center of Dhaka???? I asked my driver to turn around to have a closer look. We could only do a U-turn a mile or so further and when we almost got back I didn’t see the elephant anymore. The driver asked a police officer. At this moment I really hoped I had seen it correctly so the officer would not think my driver was stoned or something. But sure enough… there it was…