Bangladesh Tour 2010

A mis-guided tour?

Woken up in our room at 4.30am – is that someone calling me?

“ Allah , Allah , Allah “.

No sorry, my mistake. Just the daily call to prayer from the local mosque 8 floors below. Just our luck to get an eastern facing room!

Oh well, we do have an exciting day in store. As the cricket doesn’t start till tomorrow, I have arranged a Dhaka Tour for Jerry and myself. No expense spared in fact - for an extra 500 taka ( £5 ) we have availed ourselves the services of an English speaking Bangla guide , which should ensure we see all the sights and have no communication difficulties.

Yeah, right. We set off from the hotel at 9.30am and at first all goes to plan. We are taken to the Sandarghat boat terminal and explore a couple of paddle steamers. The river is quiet with only a few boats and we later learn the reason – the water workers are on strike. Bloody typical. Worse than British Airways!

Then, we are taken to a pink palace – which is a very impressive Moghul building, but does not open till 3pm.

As it is only 10.15am clearly our guides timing could have been better.

“ We are helpless – it is closed, “ our guide helpfully explains. “ Where would you like to go next?”

Being something of a novice on all things Dhaka I request him to choose and over the next four hours we see – A Hindu temple : a brickworks out in the country that calls to mind how the Potteries must have looked 100 years ago : a cement works down by the river : and a fun fair called Fantasy Land which looks as if it contains all the dangerous rides since banned from the UK eg Wild Mouse.

Finally – the National Martyrs Monument to the freedom fighters killed in the Bangladesh war for independence, which is very impressive.

By this time I am losing it with the heat and crowds and commit an almighty gaffe. Apologies, no offence intended.

“ I cant remember for some reason , was the war against India” I ask our guide. Schoolboy error. Try Pakistan!

Our tour ends with a request to our driver to call at the “ Ticket Office” at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium to buy match tickets for Day 1 tomorrow.

Unfortunately the “ Ticket Office “ , which is a concrete structure resembling a Mexican jail in a spaghetti western with bamboo bars instead of metal on the windows , is empty and unmanned. We later learn the tickets have not been printed yet. We return to our hotel giving the driver the rest of the afternoon off to find that the Grand Prince Hotel has been annexed by the Barmy Army.

There is a Barmy Army flag flying outside the entrance to make this occupation official. Deep joy. They set up and arrange extra tables on the rooftop as we watch.

“ What do you think that is” I naively ask Jerry. “ A bar? “ He suggests.

Wrong again. It is a sales counter for Barmy Army merchandise.

One side effect of the occupation is that black market beer is now on the menu at 180 taka or £1-80 per small can of Heineken , which to be fair isn’t too much over the top compared with the going black market rate.

We dine at the Grand Prince tonight and the menu is both impressive and amusing.

Mutton brain – sounds like Steve Maclaren.

Shag meat – must be the main course rather than a starter.

To drink – Milk Sheikh, which sounds like something you might find in a paper cup at Eastlands.

And of course the ubiquitous Heineken.

We enjoy a beer or ten on the rooftop bar which becomes the pattern for the week and usually at our table are myself, Jerry , Wycombe

( when he has returned from sharpening his pencil ) Five – O and two mates of Caddys called Pat and Task , James, Martin, his friend from Bury called Duggie, and a lad from Worsley, Manchester called Gaz. The latter pair have been adopted into the Addis Army with Gaz also being given his official nickname of “ The Diplomat “.

The reasons for this will become clear in later diaries.

Feeling rough we arise at 8.30 am for the cricket. I have been uneasily nursing a hangover since the call of Allah at 4.30am. I understand now why Muslims don’t drink alcohol.

Skipping breakfast we head to the ground in cycle rickshaws. The correct fare for a local would be 10 taka ( 10p ) for the quarter mile journey and the rickshaw drivers seem delighted to find that the Brits staying at the Grand Prince are unaware of local customs and rates and are tipping recklessly.

The Sher-e-Bangla stadium is a concrete dustbowl surrounded on the outside by furniture shops and on its perimeter by an open sewer. Goats are grazing on the sparse greenery which in some places manages to force its way upwards out of the dusty ground.

In comparison , the Melbourne Cricket Ground looks picturesque. It makes me feel physically sick to admit this.

We have match tickets today for the VIP stand, purchased at the cost of 500 taka ( £5 ) from the Grameen phone shop last night.

So, what do you get for your money in the VIP stand?

All day shade. A side-on view of the cricket ( as championed by Bob Willis ! ) unrestricted by bamboo framework, which is prevalent in all the other upper enclosures. Two “ English “ toilets. A plastic chair to sit on. And that’s about all folks. It’s the 100 taka seats for us tomorrow.

During the morning session we watch Tamim Iqbal tear England’s attack apart with a wonderful innings including several massive sixes, each one seeming to have a higher elevation of the bat than the last. Swann in particular suffers greatly.

I am by now suffering greatly as well and need to use the toilet. Badly. I go off in search of this luxury to find that the door is jammed open – so if you have a sh*t, half of Bangladesh will be watching – and also the flush mechanism is broken and the bowl is consequently blocked and already filled with a maelstrom of swirling excrement.

Oh well. Close your eyes and think of England. At least there is a copy of the Dhaka Daily Star in lieu of toilet paper to clean up with!

Bangladesh finish the day on 300+ but have lost too many wickets to make a decent total – or so we think!

They would have lost more wickets if Alastair Cook had held his catches today and we can hear the collective groans from the press box as Wycombe, Rodney White and Derek Pringle get ready to sharpen their pencils for the inevitable character assassination.

Back to the rooftop bar for lots of Heineken with the gang and a lively discussion with Wycombe over the increasingly emotive language employed in his newspaper articles.


Midnight xxx

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