Much credit to the kind people at the Dhaka airport. Was able to obtain
a visa on arrival and go through immigration and customs in about 20
minutes, no small feat given other stories I'd read. A brilliant young
man set me up with a SIM card and 1GB of data for the princely sum of
$10, enough to keep my phone functional for the 30 days I'll be here.
He asked where I was from and (to make it easier for people who would
stare blankly if I mentioned Oregon) I told him LA. He asked if I'd
ever been to Hollywood then told me his favorite show ever was Breaking
Bad. FIST BUMP! He had every episode on disc and we both bemoaned the
end of the series. Now it was time to head outside and face the
unknown. Checked the taxi rate to my hotel (1500 taka, lowered to 1300;
roughly 80 taka/$1, or about 1.2 taka/dollar). Previous research
indicated that I could do better outside the airport and, sure enough, I
negotiated a CNG for 600 ($7.50). CNGs are like tuk tuks in Thailand and run on compressed natural gas,
hence the CNG name for these small motorcycle driven, caged, taxis.
it was time to get into the real Dhaka, which involves horrible traffic
jams and continual honking. The pecking order in traffic is diesel
trucks, buses, cars/taxis, CNGs, bicycle rickshaws and pedestrians.
There are also hand-lugged carts, horse carts, cycle driven carts,
bicycle driven carts and even a few bicycles. The smog is atrocious,
much like Mexico City, Beijing or '60s Los Angeles. Smog mixed with
dust and you've got some real respiratory disease. Oh, and a large
percentage of people smoke cigarettes. The trip to the hotel took
almost two hours and we traveled less than ten miles. We were involved
in 3 accidents, but with such slow traffic, they were just minor scrapes
that didn't warrant stopping.
Finally arrived at the lovely Hotel 71 (named after Bangladesh
independence from Pakistan in 1971). The hotel encompasses the top 9
floors of an office building. I got a nice single in the back for $29,
but the street noise is still very loud. After the exhausting trip, was
only able to take a stroll around the neighborhood (Dhaka neighborhoods
all seem to have their own individual businesses; mine involves auto
accessory shops, auto repair shops and electrical lighting outlets).
Ate a little street food (2 excellent veggie pakora for 7 cents and
some sweets--the Bangladeshis, like the Indians, love sweets and they've
got an amazing variety to choose from in shops that specialize only in
sweets). Ate a wildly expensive Indian dinner at the hotel ($6), popped
a couple of Valium and the street noise disappeared for 12 hours.