Bangladesh Tour 2010
Arrival in Dhaka
A country conceived in a war with Pakistan in 1971. Steeped in tragedy with no natural resources , regular earthquakes and floods, pollution on a large scale, 160 million people - most of whom live in abject poverty and squalor - and no tourist attractions whatsoever.
If all this misfortune was not in itself enough – immortalised in song during the 1970’s by a scouser.
Clearly an obvious, no-brainer choice for our next cricket tour.
I travelled down to Windsor to meet my travelling companion , Big Jerry , on the 16th March calling in on the way at the lovely Wormsley Cricket Ground to see the Groundsman, a certain Mr Tremers.
I announced myself to the automatic gate sentinel as" A friend of his from Johannesburg called Sarah " and when I arrived at the Groundsman’s hut I was told he was off sick that day with a headache.
I later found him hiding under the covers.
On arrival at Windsor a mini Addis reunion had been arranged and Son of , his mobile phone, and Herbie turned up for a pleasant few drinks with Jerry and myself.
We woke the following morning at 6am slightly groggy and made our way to Windsor Airport.
There we shared the Executive lounge with a singles group jetting off to Thailand. Seven middle – aged women and one guy, who for some reason was gulping down as much free Tetley’s Bitter as he could before their flight as called.
Our Etihad flight was actually quite empty for once with spare seats on both legs of the journey and I was able to lie down and get some sleep which made a pleasant change.
On arrival at Dhaka International in the early hours the fun started.
I got through customs relatively quickly but poor Jerry was held back there for about 15 minutes whilst a coughing and snivelling Bangladeshi customers officer checked his formalities and hurled phlegm in his general direction. This, after they made all passengers fill in a declaration form on the plane to the effect that we didn’t have Asian or any other kind of flu, before we could enter the country.
We later found that most locals have issues with the expulsion of phlegm in one form or another and I can only think this is due to the heavy air pollution prevalent in Bangladesh. Certainly, none of the locals seemed to be "hoodies".
Our hotel pick up man was waiting for us at 4am but we had to await the arrival of a later flight from London so sat in the "Arrival lounge" and it was only a matter of seconds before the ”Arrival” of the mosquitoes. Hundreds of them.
Luckily , anticipating this probability , I had liberally smeared myself with insect repellent before getting off the plane and this, combined with the strategy of tucking my tracksuit bottoms into my socks , staved off the worst effects. When the later flight arrived at about 5am local time it contained none other than Martin our friend from Addis together with his mate Duggie and a couple of other lads here for the cricket and eventually we all set off for the Grand Prince Hotel.
Traffic was relatively quiet at this time of day but when we ventured out for essential shopping some hours later after a brief sleep, the full on madness that is the streets of Dhaka was unveiled. Pavements thronging with all manner of children, cripples, beggars, merchants, ordinary folk.
Casual tipping of rubbish and building debris everywhere. Unbelievable noise.
Roads jam packed with men pulling trailers, cattle, cycle rickshaws, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, cars, and buses that had suffered so many collisions and been panel beaten so many times they looked as if they were made of papier mache.
Obviously, our first thought was to wonder if Wycombe had taken out full insurance cover on his hire car this trip.
Luckily our hotel had a supermarket next door and we were able to obtain some authentic Bangladeshi food for Jerry , who normally intensely dislikes "foreign" food, to eat in the room. A loaf of bread. A tub of Flora. Some crisps. And two packets of Kraft cheese slices. Just like Michael Palin and the authors of " Corridor of Uncertainty" I just love going native.
Since our return many have asked the same question – “what was your hotel like?”
To be honest, it was perfectly clean and tidy and I doubt whether the staff could have tried harder to make us feel at home. In our case that included I suspect giving up their beds for us, given the sparse nature of the room we were allocated which was on the 8th floor next to the staff quarters.
We were however conveniently situated for the 10th floor rooftop bar and swimming pool and it was there later that afternoon that we were greeted by our old friend Wycombe.
A minor crisis a la Pretoria occurred when Wycombe “lost” his hotel room key at the roof bar and was unable to find this despite a major search.
He resolved this problem by asking the hotel staff to “ guard his room “ while we were out, and a couple of Bangladeshi army regulars armed to the teeth were duly despatched as sentries.
Wycs had arranged to take us out to the 5 star Pan Pacific Hotel for our evening meal and at 7pm we all ventured out into the pavement madness to try and hail a taxi. This Wycombe managed, although the vehicle had more holes than bodywork, and as we headed off into the unknown we were comforted by the fact that he had been in Bangladesh already for three weeks. That is, until he tried to engage the driver, who clearly neither spoke English, nor knew where it was we wanted to go.
“ Wycombe, do you know where this place is” we asked.
“ Difficult” he replied. “Everywhere looks the same over here”. Makes you wonder how the locals get on.
Eventually we arrived in one piece despite the madness on the roads and we enjoyed a lovely local meal viz:
Jerry – Chefs salad starter and chicken burger + chips main
Midnight – Prawn cocktail starter and mushroom pizza main
Wycombe – Fish & chips.
Without of course the accompaniment of alcohol.
Wycombe declared over dinner that Alastair Cook was his favourite England player.
Our journey back to the Grand Prince Hotel was fraught, with three of us crammed into a tuk-tuk, and took over an hour for a 5km trip.
This , alas, was only a sign of things to come.
During this short tour we have been lucky enough to gain press access and at the end of each blog I am able to supply the following morning’s sports headline in the Dhaka Daily Star.
DHAKA DAILY STAR 19th March – CARETAKER CAPTAIN COOK CHIRPY AND CONFIDENT.