THIRTEENTH MOVEMENT: BANGLADESH
I woke up at 03:48 this morning and decided to stay up since it was close to the time I set my alarm to go off (at 04:20); I got ready, packed my bags, and went downstairs at 04:55 to take a taxi (that I had arranged the previous day with the hotel reception) scheduled to pick me up at 05:00; when 05:15 came, still without a taxi, I demanded the money I had paid yesterday (for the taxi service) back from the hotel, which they thankfully gave me; eventually an unmarked car (driven by one of the hotel’s employees) showed up, but I was already set on taking a tuk-tuk to teach the hotel a lesson in providing quality and timely service, as well as a lesson about consumer choice and forces in the free-market (I know Laos in a communist country, so the free-market is probably a foreign concept to the hotel staff). I walked away from the hotel, and the unmarked car, and found a tuk-tuk a short distance down the road which I then used to take me to the airport. At the airport, I checked in without a problem (they didn’t care that I was lacking a Bangladesh Visa), and then spent most of my remaining Laos kip on iced tea and coffee (I needed to rehydrate after last night anyway) while I waited to board the plane. Then the time came and I entered in to the Laos Airlines operated aircraft, I took my seat, and the plane soon took off; this flight transported me to Bangkok International Airport (official name is “Suvarnabhumi”) in about an hour; I then exited the plane, walked to a transfer counter, received my boarding pass for my follow-on flight (they actually asked about my Bangladesh Visa and I told them I would get it on arrival; then I showed them my exit flight reservation to Nepal), and then I walked to my departure gate; after waiting for about an hour, I boarded the flight to Dhaka; the flight lasted over two hours and was pleasant enough with an in-flight meal (I had a chicken and rice dish with a cold shrimp and potato salad, an unidentified strange dessert, and bread and butter), movies to watch, and free beer.
After landing in Dhaka (at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport), I walked to the Visa counter, bought my Bangladesh Visa (they didn’t even ask for proof of a follow-on flight or if I had the $500 USD I’m supposed to have access to in order to get in to Bangladesh), was escorted to a special Visa Immigration desk (no long line for me), and then was escorted to the baggage claim carousel – the man escorting me to all these obvious places was hoping to get a tip for doing his job (I’m assuming that’s his job since he is an employee at the airport), but I didn’t have any cash on me, so I told him I couldn’t pay him and I didn’t need nor request his help; the escort then walked away to find another foreigner “in need of help” and I waited for my checked bag to arrive on the carousel; once my bag arrived, I walked through customs (they didn’t care nor notice me until I was trying to hand off my declaration form to someone . . . I’m not advocating smuggling contraband in to Bangladesh, but it doesn’t appear too difficult to do so) and then walked to the nearest ATM, which rejected my card; so I walked out of the airport and walked toward the tallest buildings I could see; immediately, I saw strange and colorful happenings in this poor, run down, and trashy city (there is a lot of trash everywhere): I watched a man cross the street on his elephant, I saw vehicles (mostly manual and auto rickshaws) travel down the wrong side of the road against chaotic traffic, I found piles of freshly stripped cow and goat hides laying on the sidewalk (still bloody), I viewed several men butchering meat on wood blocks out on the sidewalks, and I carefully avoided piles of manure and puddles of stagnant water and blood. I found out later that all the butchering and bloody hides were from cows (mostly), goats, and lambs that were slaughtered this morning and were now being prepared for great feasts tonight in celebration of Eid-ul-Azha (the “Feast of the Sacrifice” which commemorates the willingness of Abraham (“Ibrahim”) to sacrifice his promised son, Ishmael (“Ismail”), to fulfill God’s command – Bangladesh is dominantly a Muslim country with ninety-percent of the population following Islam). While walking on the road I stopped at three banks I found on the way, the first two also rejected my card, but the third worked. With cash now, I approached an auto-rickshaw (those little things you see all over the congested streets in India, though I understand Dhaka has the highest concentration in the world) and – after getting help from locals who understood English better than the driver – I settled on a price and entered in to the cab, which was a metal cage; we took off down the road (they drive on the left when following traffic laws in this country) and this proved to be one of the more frightening experiences in my life (the roads really were chaos and the driver almost hit a couple of children that had blindly darted across the street); luckily, I made it safely to my hotel; I paid the driver, checked in at the hotel’s reception, and then was shown to my room.
After a short rest in the hotel room, I walked upstairs to the roof to view the cityscape; I took the elevator down and walked outside to explore the city. Since it is Eid-ul-Azha, almost every single shop was closed today. I wandered the streets, coming across more piles of bloody animal hides (people would come up and purchase some; I imagine it’s a cheap way to get leather), men butchering their meat in the sidewalks (I saw one guy dressed in white with blood stains all over him standing next to the street while holding a long knife and looking intensely in the distance – it was a mad image to behold and he looked like he could be a serial killer), and more pools of blood and bits of flesh and guts on the streets and sidewalks; there were also a lot of mats that were used to put the fresh meat on, but were empty now, with most of them in the dumpster (I saw two people pulling discarded pieces of cattle, covered in flies, from a dumpster that I’m assuming they were going to salvage for food; I also watched a man collect small bits of bloody meat in the street gutter, which I assume he was salvaging for food as well – this is a poor city). There was one section of sidewalk that still had living cows on it (they were munching on food provided in plastic buckets) and I talked with a young boy and his older relatives (whom the cows belonged to) for a short while; they told me that most people were having their celebration feast tonight, but they were waiting until tomorrow, which means that they will slaughter the cows tomorrow morning at 06:30 (luckily they are in the minority and I’ve been told that most of the city will be open tomorrow despite the feast lasting for more than one day). I then walked around some more along the winding roads, getting a nice overview (and smell) of the city, before heading back to my room in the hotel. I traveled back to the roof during sunset to take some more photographs of the cityscape before heading back to my room to retire for the night.