Four Countries in 2 Weeks: Turkey, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India
Day 2: Arriving in Bangladesh, country 55, and spending a peaceful day at the Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel during the political unrest in Dhaka!
Arriving in Bangladesh we walked through the very basic airport towards our first experience in the country. As we were only there for a day, we checked off “transit” for the type of visa requested instead of “tourist” to save $30. This was a mistake that cost us 2 hours of precious time.
We followed all the instructions of the immigration officer step-by-step, starting with getting a letter from the airline granting us permission to have a transit visa. We were coaxed to continue to process with each step seemingly to be the last. We flipped through pamphlets on understanding forced marriage as we waited for the officers to get back to us.
After much bureaucratic back and forth, we learned that it was impossible to get the transit visa as it would require a third party to guarantee and take responsibility of our actions during our stay. I found this to be ridiculous as no one is taking action for our stay on our tourist visa. More importantly, if they knew this from the onset, why did they direct us through all these pointless steps?
We purchased our $51 tourist visas and got our entry stamp. This may be an indication that the country is not very friendly toward tourists.
Well, country 55 complete!
All major hotels seemed to have an office in the airport and after finding the Radisson Blu, a representative organized a car to take us to the hotel 5 km away.
Little did we know, the airport ride was the closest we got to the real Bangladesh.
Peering from the van window, we saw people walking around in rags, beat-up auto rickshaws, and military checkpoints with heavily armed guards.
The poverty was rife until we entered the hotel grounds. Suddenly our chaotic surroundings transformed to a tranquil luxury resort.
After checking in and getting to our room, I called down for a car to take us on a tour of the city.
Unfortunately there is the political blockade going on. It is very dangerous outside and the hotel does not drive the van out during this time period.
This is when our plans collapsed. To affirm how serious it was, she said that every worker of the hotel risks their lives coming to work every day.
We couldn’t just spend our entire Bangladesh trip in a hotel… could we?
Fortunately the hotel was very comfortable and we were very well received. We enjoyed the buffet breakfast while contemplating our options. We spoke with the hotel who said that they would reevaluate the situation in the afternoon and see if we could go on a short tour.
So we had the day to enjoy the hotel. We swam in the pool and relaxed outside in the warm sun.
Then back in the room we watched the riots and unrest on television. It looked pretty bad. A tuk tuk driver dragged out and burned alive, countless missing persons, derailed trains, and a bus set on fire were just some of the stories covered on the news. Outside within the hotel grounds, armed military and police gathered in huddles with walkie-talkies.
We got a call mentioning recent uprisings in the area we wanted to visit, so the hotel could not release the car for our tour.
We headed downstairs and out the front gate. We couldn’t NOT leave the hotel.
Dhaka Street Tour
As soon as we left the hotel gates and armed guards, we felt awkward with hundreds of people passing in traffic by staring at us.
We only walked about 50 ft when a tuk tuk tried to get us to come on board. We couldn’t really communicate with him and a security guard from the hotel on the other side of the fence helped out by translating for us. Meanwhile a crowd of locals was forming around us. Their intent was unclear, but it was definitely uncomfortable.
We jumped in the tuk tuk to leave the crowd behind. The driver locked us into his caged cart and moved forward. Locked inside from the driver seat, I felt very unsafe and out of control, but the driver didn’t seem malicious. He took us for a short drive and almost took us downtown. But we asked him to go back to the hotel. We didn’t want to get caught in the middle of a riot.
That short ride was our only experience outside of the hotel. Strangely, as we walked back through the hotel gates with the sun setting behind us, we were content with our exploration.
Back in the hotel we browsed the souvenir shop then hung out in the Business Class Lounge. We had drinks and a light dinner before calling it a day.
The next morning, we packed up and had a filling breakfast besides a flight crew. Then we checked out and headed back to the airport. The short drive was our last glimpse into the country.
At the airport we checked in and browsed the tourist shops. Thank goodness we could still find tourist t-shirts! We enjoyed our time in the airport before taking off for Bhutan.
An underwhelming but definitely unique experience in Bangladesh! Next up, Bhutan!