Friday, 15 February 2008

Day 268 - Dhaka (Bangladesh)

My last day in Nepal was just spent doing a few odd jobs, one being a stint at the Post Office to send some bits home. Sonya and Aaldrik were doing the same so it was much easier with more than one. As with most things in Nepal, why have one person doing a job that takes just a few minutes when you can employ 10 and make it last an hour and 10 minutes. I was given a good send off on my last evening by 'Uncle' Mark from Australia, Sonya, Aaldrik and various others who joined our table from time to time. I consumed more alchohol that evening than I have done in a long time, but I still didn't drink much! I had breakfast with Sonya and Aaldrik before I left for the airport. It's always hard to leave people who have been such good campany, but we will keep in touch just in case our paths cross in the future.

There did turn out to be one very good advantage to flying out of Nepal and that was that I got to have a great view of Mount Everest (photo), or at least I assume it was as it was much higher than anything else around. The flight was straight forward enough, especially as there were only about 30 people on the flight. The worst part was the departure lounge, only one being used for all the flights. Details were on a screen that never changed the whole time I was there and boarding was done by somebody standing at the front and calling out the destination. At Dhaka it was very simple as we were the only incoming flight, so everything was really quick and I was on the road just one hour after landing and that included sorting the bike out.

The route into Dhaka was pretty simple and I was soon in for a few surprises as the road surfaces were really good and drivers even give way to you rather than just expecting you to get out of the way, bus drivers excepted. I checked into the Ramna Hotel, a much bigger place than I had expected. The floor numbering is a bit confusing. I have room 509 which is actually on the 7th floor, but is labelled as the fourth floor....strange. Once settled in I gave Mahmud a call and he said he would send his brother over the following day to help me with getting an air ticket to Yangon.

Mahfuz arrived soon after 9 and we took a rickshaw to the travel agent, which I would never have found on my own. Having agreed on the flight and the price I then had to go to get photocopies of the details of my passport plus copies of the Bangladesh and Myanmar visas, then on to the bank to cash in US dollars to get a certificate and Bangladesh Taka to make the final payment. It would have been far cheaper to get Taka from an ATM, but you have to go to the bank to get ripped off for the certificate. At last I had the ticket in my grubby mit and I can now relax for the rest of my time here. Hmm, can you really relax in the most densely populated country in the world, a country the size of England and Wales with the 8th largest population at 140 million, most of whom are all very inquisitive as they see very few foriegners, let alone tourists. The afternon was spent wandering around Old Dhaka and going down to the very hectic river at Sadarghat (photo). I stopped at a little cafe for lunch and my miming of a menu resulted in me being led to have my hands washed, oh well! I got lost in some back streets but found a ladder leading up to a textile market. Once in I was invited into a shop for tea, then shouted at for entering with my shoes on. It was a maze of stalls and took me quite a while to find my way out. People stopped me and asked questions, what is my name, country, age, marital status etc. They are all delighted and surprised when I tell them it is my first visit here, but lets face it, who would come here twice? On my first night here I got lucky with the menu at the restuarant as they had everything I ordered from the extensive menu, but on the second night it turned out that that was all they had, so I had the same again. I am back on meat too as there is very little for the vegetarian. Ettiquette isn't quite the same as at home. Knives and forks are out, belching and loud lip smacking are in. Actually most things that you would never do at home are in, playing with food with your fingers to make a nice mush, drinking the remaining liquid from a bowl to name a couple. But it is a great place for a hungry cyclist as once you have ordered a couple of dishes you keep getting free refills until you leave some is the dish. If you emtpy your dish you just get more and more. I guess they would stop if I threw up, may be I will give it a try.

Mahmud joined me at breakfast this morning. Curry and fresh chillies is not my first choice for breakfast, but the chillies wake you up quick enough, phwooor!! Mahmud gave the low down on a good route to cycle around the country, some of which involved going on roads not even marked on my map. Once he left I went out for a bike ride as the sights here are pretty out. I am back in the muslim world so being a Friday the streets have free moving traffic and cycling around has been a pleasure. Most traffic consists of the wonderfully decorated rickshaws, of which there are said to be about 600,000 of in Dhaka alone.

Thats about it for now. This evening I am off out to eat with Mahmud and a cycling friend of his so I will see if I can eat something different tonight.

Oh, I discoverd I had a puncture, a very slow one that when I repaired it I couldn't even see the hole. I discovered whilst I was in the hotel and it could have happened in either Kathmandu or here in Dhaka it is that slow. It's the first puncture since Dubai, 4919 km ago, so I can't complain.


aoiffe said...

So many photos of Bangladesh already, and as always a window into the world cultures of your epic journey. It is good to see so much of your travels.
The building that seems to have no windows - what is it?

Caff said...

Glad to hear drinking the remains of the liquid from your bowl is in - because following the operation on my right hand eating with the left was decidedly tricky and somehow picking the bowl up to drink from it was considerably easier although it evoked the comment from Harpo "did they remove your manners as well as your tendon!!" I loved having the excuse to leave my etiquette behind whilst enduring "sympathetic" nods and glances. Now I can say "well actually this is etiquette in Bangladesh!!" :-)