On our second morning in Dhaka, we stepped out of the hotel at 10.30am, our appointed time, but there was no sign of Abdul. We walked up and down the street, eliciting stares from everyone. Some asked if we were looking for Abdul. We went back inside the hotel and waited another half an hour. Outside again, we still couldn't see him. The thought that we would have to find someone else who wouldn't have his expertise crossed our minds. He was now 50 minutes late. Another cycle rickshaw approached.
"You look Abdul?"
After his opening gambit he claimed that Abdul had telephoned and he wasn't working until the afternoon because he'd overslept. We didn't entirely believe this story, Abdul had seemed so reliable the day before, but perhaps it was true? How were we to know? We had chores to get done, such as the bank and we needed to buy a SIM card. This driver knew where we needed to be and so we eventually agreed for him to take us.
While we were at the phone company building Mike saw that Abdul had arrived and there was an intense looking exchange of words going on outside. Lots of gesticulating and head shaking from both parties. We went and joined them outside, it transpired that the new man was an impostor after all. A chancer, prepared to spin us a line to get some lucrative tourist business. Abdul swung into action, he was none too happy about this situation and relieved that he had caught up with us.
Next stop the railway station, to buy tickets for Rangpur, a destination with Hindu temples nearby. Abdul warned us to keep a close grip of our belongings.
The booking offices were in a line to the right of the entrance hall but none of them had a single word of English - all in Bengali script. Mike joined a random queue and asked for 1st class tickets to Rangpur.
"Window number 8 Sir", was the prompt reply.
We both stood back, away from the lines and realised that it's not just the Bengali letters that are indecipherable, but they don't have our numerals either.
Fortunately loads of help was at hand and we were shown queue number 8. I looked around the station and saw the only piece of information about trains with English written on it. It was a timetable. I left Mike and went to take a closer look. Unfortunately, in the 'holyday' column the Rangpur train had a day off - the day we wished to travel.
I went back to Mike and he left the line. Time for some replanning. Neither of us wanted another night in Dhaka, but where else to go? In the end we chose Sylhet. The region where the Bangladeshis in Britain come from. We would be able to visit tea plantations, which would give us the respite we needed from the smog of Dhaka. Mike rejoined the queue at window number 8. There were more people now, and they weren't behaving like 1st class passengers. They bumped and jostled behind us and tried to push in.
Finally, we bought our tickets for the following day and got back to Abdul outside. He was with three women, they were begging, and one of them was cradling a young puppy in her arms. Abdul indicated that we should give them some money because they lived on the street.
"We don't want a puppy Abdul", I said,
"we're not buying it are we?" I joked.
"No, no problem."
He turned to Mike and whispered that 10 Taka would be enough. (That's about 10p). Mike gave the girl with the puppy the money, she smiled gratefully and we clambered up onto the rickshaw. As Abdul pedalled away I became aware of something warm touching my feet. I looked down and the large eyes of the puppy looked up at me.
"No, no, I've got the puppy. Abdul, we can't have a puppy. Please ask her to take it back."
Abdul spoke to her and she reluctantly retrieved it.
After we'd settled back onto the road Abdul asked if we'd like to go to the Liberation Museum. This was on our 'to do' list. This provided an account of the bloodshed that preceeded the birth of Bangladesh in 1972. I was completely ignorant of the events and found it informative and unbiased.
From here we visited the pink fortress. This consisted of a small museum, a mosque and a mausoleum set in surprisingly tranquil, well maintained gardens. There were even roses in bloom.
After such a hectic, full on day, we were ready for an early supper and bed. Abdul dropped us off at a restaurant just round the corner from the hotel. We bade our farewells ensuring that he was quite clear on the times for the following morning, we didn't want any confusion when we had a train to catch.
We found the restaurant and were shown upstairs to the VIP seating area. As usual, we weren't sure exactly what we had ordered but we thought it was beef shish (the one on the skewer which we're served as a starter in the UK) and chicken biryani. The food arrived and I had a chicken leg in a pool of grey sauce. The chicken tasted fine, and Mike's shish wasn't like what we would have at home but was ok. The dhal was excellent, as well as the naan bread and the rice. As the waiter came over to check how we were finding our meal, I felt something land on my forearm. I looked down and found a small cockroach there, it must have dropped from the ceiling. I quickly flicked it onto the floor and spent the rest of my meal looking up, and down for any other vermin. I did spot another cockroach as it approached along the edge of the table, so my vigilance paid off.
Although this sounds truly disgusting, and it did put me off my meal, this type of event is not uncommon in less developed countries than our own. Mike and I once ate a meal in a restaurant in India where rats ran above us in the suspended ceiling, we could make then out as it was made of translucent plastic.
As well as hoping you're nowhere near food at the moment, I'm wondering if you're enjoying the blog? If you are please feel free to share it with your contacts. I apologise for the lack of photos. I'm experiencing technical probs with uploading them at present. It may be that I have to put them on Facebook for now and do a full photo gallery of Bangladesh on the website when we get back. I will post them on our Facebook page, Motorhome Life. If you 'like' the page you will see my posts on there.
Thanks for reading,
Ali and Mike xxx