We left the shady streets by Rambutri Wat,Banglaphu, on the mini bus for the airport at 2 pm. We have a flight to Kathmandu thru Dhaka on GMG airlines, which will require an over night stay in Bangladesh. After last year we decided we preferred this over flying to Calcutta and going overland thru Bihar to Birganj. We all remember what happened in Birganj last time? (check ‘Escape from Birganj’ in the
archives if you missed it). At the airport we’re greeted by the news of a 2 hour delay. The airport is full of pilgrims en route to Mecca for Haj.
We are now at the Zia international airport in Dhaka. The flight briefly touched down in Chittagong where most of our flying companions, predominantly Burmese monks and nuns, alighted. The airport was so small that there wasn’t even a tractor for the luggage trolley. Two men unloaded the bags and pushed it to the terminal by hand. As we took off the flight attendant included Allah among those she wanted to thank for the flight. There was no booze offered and the non-veg meal was mutton. Descending into Dhaka was unlike most capital cities. Hardly any lights, especially compared to the endless sea of lights that is Bangkok.
Our arrival in the airport gave us little to be reassured about. The official sent to collect the transit passengers was confused that we were 9 and not 7 passengers. After a trek across the airport together, he tells me privately that he has to go secure our luggage and we are to sit a and wait for him for about 25 minutes, then he leaves. Apparently it’s my job now to herd these cats into a group. As we wait there is a lot of yelling nearby, airport personnel speaking down to their peons with contempt in their voices. It just a bunch of chest thumping. A cloud of mosquitoes is biting us. We enquire if the wine we bought at Thai duty free can be brought onto the flight tomorrow, as its getting too late to drink tonight. It is in a tamper-proof plastic bag, and our guy assures us it can.
He painstakingly records all our ticket info. It doesn’t feel like there is a system to all this, yet they do this three times a week. There is still no sign we’re going to our hotel, even though it’s 12:30 a.m. already. After more passport stuff at an immigration officer’s desk, we’re finally heading out the door, and a Scottish guy insists he needs his luggage. There’s a negotiation. ‘A half an hour’, our official says! David, speaking the sentiment of the group, says he wants to go to the hotel, and the Scot is overruled..
At long last we are on our way, joining the rusty hulks of buses and wildly decorated transit trucks on the way in from the airport. We end up at the same place as last year. It’s 1:45 a.m. Thai time; twelve hours hotel to hotel for an1.5 hour flight.
The room is actually much better then last year. Not trusting the assurances of our airport facilitator we push in the cork and enjoy the wine. There is a construction site next door and some poor sap is unloading sacks of cement until 3. In the morning we’re rushed thru a cold scramble eggs and cold toast breakfast. The Scot tells me last time he went thru a transit stay with Biman Air it was three days before he could get a flight. That’s why he tried to insist on his bags. The newspaper reports a bad cyclone is expected the next day. Luckily we’re leaving today, not just arriving: a major calamity is about to happen.
At the airport we get our hand luggage scanned, and the security guy thinks he has a bust. Pointing at one of our innocent entourage he shouts”you have a wine bottle! That is not allowed! ” She says she doesn’t even have a water bottle. He was tipped off, but got the wrong guys too late.
The cyclone will turn out to be the worst storm to hit in 20 years. Thousands are killed and thousands more will die from water borne diseases. Millions will lose everything, their houses, their crops all their possessions. They have had half the country flood this year already, twice.
Makes one feel pretty small indeed for whinging at such inconveniences as late flights and poor service.