Let me preface this by stating that I’ve taken multiple trains in Thailand and rode the third class carriage in Sri Lanka, so I’m not entirely new to the Asian train-travel experience. However, as we often say living here, this is Bangladesh! No country on the planet can outstrip Bangladesh for eccentricity, inefficiency and overcrowding. Our train experience was no lent even more credibility to this assertion.
We arrived at the airport station platform approximately ten minutes before the train was scheduled to depart. Bangladesh is not known for its punctuality and, as a result, the train was more than an hour late. In the meantime, we were swarmed by literally hundreds of curious, gawking, camera-phone wielding Bangladeshi men all wanting to watch the ever-exciting and delightfully entertaining spectacle of a large group of white people waiting for a train.
On a related side-note, if you ever wish to experience life as a celebrity, come to Bangladesh. You will have intrusive photos taken paparazzi style almost every day, especially if you happen to be a member of the female species. You will be quizzed over and over and over again with an assortment of the following questions:
1) What is your country?
2) What is your job?
3) How long have you been in Bangladesh?
4) Do you like Bangladesh?
5) Are you married?
6) Do you have children?
7) Can you get me a job?
8) Can you get me a visa?
At first these conversations are not inherently annoying but after the fiftieth cross-examination in broken English over the span of a half an hour, it does become rather tedious. We all had dozens of these conversations while waiting for our train.
As the train finally arrived at the station, all hell broke loose. I haven’t played a full contact sport like that since my American football days in high school but I was well prepared! I literally served as a fullback, elbowing, shoving, tripping and biting (well…not actually biting) my way through the aggressive, screaming, pressing crowd with all my strength. Danielle’s shoulder almost dislocated in the process and we, to my great chagrin, lost the bag containing our supper in the frantic scramble.
Once on the train, despite the fact that we had purchased seats in second class, we found our seats occupied by angry Bangladeshis unwilling to move, almost leading to a physical altercation. Ah, the joys of living in Bangladesh!
After the seating issues were sorted and our group was settled comfortably in our carriage, the remainder of the both train trips was, for the most part, enjoyable. With the exception of the frequent cockroaches scuttling around the floors, ceilings and walls and a rather large old crone who wordlessly decided to rest her ample right butt-cheek squarely on my lap for a half an hour, the train was a positive experience.
Taking the train in Bangladesh proved to be the very essence of an adventure. It pushed me and Dani to the limits of our patience and traveling endurance, but in the end, we are glad for the experience. We would do it again in a heartbeat.
More to come tomorrow!