First of all, Emirates Airline is fantastic. The airplane is decorated with a glossy wood interior, and they served a nice meal of fruit, chicken and a bulgur type salad.
Going through immigration was reminiscent of the airline scene from Argo when they are taken into a room and questioned. Luckily, we weren’t taken into another room, but we were questioned after it came out we were journalists. To them, this translated into us doing a story in Bangladesh, which we had no permission to do so. Our liaison Shimim saved the day, and after about 20 minutes we were through the gate and officially into Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is highly populated. In fact, it’s in the top ten most populated countries in the world. The city of Dhaka alone has 20 million residents. To put that into perspective, New York City has 8.2 million residents, and if you’ve ever been to NYC you know how bad traffic is. Imagine that times more than two. One of the biggest culture shocks here is the traffic. It’s every man, woman and child for themselves. Honking is as constant as blinking an eye, and you can forget about the lines in the road. The rickshaws, baby cabs, vans, cars, and pedestrians are all sitting (or walking) like sardines scraping by each other with only an inch to spare. I’m surprised we weren’t hit multiple times. Just once in the first day, and as you’d imagine, unemployment is extremely high so you’ll have people tapping on your window asking for money. You feel so bad for these Bangladeshi people being outside and hungry in the mega humid temperatures. There are day-long hartals, also known as mass protests, the occur from time to time, and much more often during an election year, which is 2013 so residents and tourists are asked to not travel on the roads because the protests can become violent. We rented an automobile that was intended to look like an electric company van so we could make our way to our appointment with the Minister of Information for Bangladesh. About 15 percent of the normal traffic was traveling today making the bustling city a near ghost town. (A ghost town for them is still thousands of rickshaws driving and pedestrians walking the streets.) It was later when we visited a television station that we found out there were bombs that went off an estimated one kilometer from the Ministry of Information. Many were injured. None were killed thank goodness. Now the strike is over, and we’ll be sitting our way in a van through Dhaka for the coming days. Oh and did I mention they drive on the opposite side of the street like the British? They use much of the same customs and common laws of the British. Oh the amounts of tea I’ve consumed.