A Press Interview and the ride through Bangladesh!

At the visa office we stood opposite the secretary in the little house. In front of us was a pot full of Stanley knives. I tried to picture that in a visa office in England. I failed.
 The friendly secretary demanded we pay him a personal ‘gift’ for his help. We politely declined.

The boss asked us in for an interview. He asked sternly whether I wore T-shirts and shorts at home, and why Adam did a degree in Philosophy when he did not now work as a Philosopher. He asked why were we in Agaltara, as there were no British companies in the area. He wasn’t quite sure what tourism was. He asked disapprovingly why we wanted to visit all of these countries.

We got the visa by 4pm and were off the next day to Bangladesh!!!

Outside the customs office two newspaper people turned up on scooters.  They had seen us in town and followed us to the border to get a good bit of copy.  So, stood outside customs, still in our helmets, surrounded on all sides, we had our first ever press interview!  There was even a photo shoot! It was bizarre being recorded, and the crowd was gathered all the way around us, not understanding a word. The press guys left, and returned later with a ceremonial scarf that they hung around Adam.  They had signed it for us with a little message.  I was chuffed.

The border took us 6 hours. This was a record. It took over two hours just to exit India. The bureaucracy-crazed lady at the desk was not going to let us leave India without an entirely fictional permission from customs. Eventually we found someone who had seen our type before and processed us in a far more friendly manner.

At the Bangladeshi customs there was the usual crowd around us, and the lovely customs officer in Bangladesh gave us lemon leaf tea and biscuits and taught us some Bangla while a big crowd watched, and sniggered at our pronunciation.
 We were off to Dhaka, and it was 3pm. We had hoped to be on our way by 10am. Oh well.

We were a bit screwed at this point.  We had no petrol, no food, no water, and no Bangladeshi money. We also had no language in common with anyone. We stopped in the nearest large border town and asked around in the banks, before unhappily confirming there was no way to change money and no ATMs outside Dhaka.

Jhillu, our saviour!

 Luckily there was really no time to panic as the next town’s even-bigger-than-ever crowd included an insurance man with some English, who grabbed us and took us off for a two hour conversation at his office, where he promptly sat us down and introduced us to every office member. He furnished us with drinks, and approached a random to change money for us. Without him we might well be sat dehydrated in a gutter somewhere. He was an excellent man.

industrial fumes at sunset

rice for sale

sugar cane

On our way again, we rode the narrow but perfect tarmac road towards Dhaka. The roads were full of scarily fast buses, zooming their way towards us. We were forced to fall of the road onto the verges approximately once every two minutes. There were very few private vehicles, but those buses really made up for it.

The ride was very rural for the most part.  There were fewer women apparent than in India, but you could still see some.  They mainly worked in the stone-breaking yards, or thrashing grain.  It looked like hard, unforgiving work (especially with your head covered).  There were occasional strict hijabs, but not many.  It seemed a fairly liberal Muslim country. 

women doing something to grain

Riding into Dhaka, the most congested city in the world, was certainly an experience. We arrived at the outskirts at 6pm. At 10pm we arrived at the hotel. It was full. A random outside gave us temporary shelter from the maddening crowds in an office.

rickshaw art!!

 The streets were jam-packed. There was very little traffic movement. The navigating was hair-raising. The buses were also hair-raising. My hair generally hovered about a meter above me.

 An hour later saw us in a fancy hotel foyer in our grubby, grubby clothing, with a penguin suited man wheeling our grubby, grubby luggage into the lift. Whoop!! It was far too expensive, and therefore exactly what I was after considering the past days adventuring. Here we will recover.

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