Guide book – no, local currency – no, map – no, knowledge of the language – no, accommodation booked – no, injections – no… this was my check list as I flew from Bangkok To Dhaka, Bangladesh’s underdeveloped capital. To say I was unprepared would be a bit of an understatement, but it all works out in the end, right? Hmmm…
After a long day trekking around Dhaka where my first memory was eating curry with my wrong hand and getting scolded by the ‘restaurant owner’, we were handed a life-life – a Bangladeshi draped proudly in an England football shirt came bounding over to welcome us to his country in English (a rare talent in Bangladesh, and my Bengali was a little lacking), and then later that evening, to his house.
After having dinner with his extended family, he insisted on walking us back to our hotel. Thanks to my serious lack of preparation for this trip, we had ended up staying in a hotel in ‘Old Dhaka’, where running water and electricity were at a real premium. Air-con had yet to be introduced to Old Dhaka and the 40 degree heat was overbearing.
Anyway, Raul (our Bangladeshi friend) called one of his friends to meet us. He took great pride in being new friends with seemingly the only white people in Dhaka (certainly in Old Dhaka). We had some tea and then went back to the lobby of our hotel. There, we chatted with Raul and his friend who happens to be a female. We chatted for 30 minutes or so, told him we’d meet for lunch the next day and headed up stairs to our room, dodging rats and cockroaches quite successfully on the way.
I went to sleep around 11am, and I was in a deep slumber until I was awoken by the most aggressive pummelling of my hotel room door. “WTF is that, what time is it, 4am”?!!?
I jumped up, pulled some clothes on and tentatively opened the door to my room when a loud Bangladeshi guy burst through the door, followed by 3 of his big, burly friends! Flash lights in our face, shouting in a language I knew nothing of. This was not good.
After a few words were exchanged, nothing was understood and I was pretty terrified. One of the guys with a Government badge went and dragged the hotel manager up to translate.
“You are with a brown girl, tonight, with a brown, Bangladeshi girl – where is she!?”
“Huh?! It’s our mate’s mate, what’s going on”
“You’re having sex with a prostitute, it’s illegal. Why you do this in my hotel?!”
“What are you talking about? We shared a coffee left”
“You lie, you lie, this is big problem in Bangladesh, big money”
They proceded to search our room again – cartoon style. Looking under the bed, then in the cupboards, then under the sheet on the bed (I think you would have noticed the her under that mate – genius). They then imformed us that if they find her we will go to prison and have to pay a fine. “How much?!” I asked. “If she’s beautiful, very much. If she’s not so beautiful and fat, not so much”. Ok, good to see the justice system is working nice and fairly then.
After another couple of minutes they realized she wasn’t in our room (good work Sherlock), they apologized and left within 20 seconds, leaving me and my mates to go back to bed very thankful she wasn’t there, and wondering about what the rest of our time in Bangladesh will entail!