Saturday, March 14, 2009

The (wrong) Bangladesh Express

This was a day to remember. Magnus was still feeling a bit bad in the morning, a combination of being ill and having to wake up early probably. After a phone call with Hubert Endtz, who gave us some helpful medical advice, we decided to go for the railway station as planned. We packed all our stuff in the car, and managed to squeeze ourselves in as well. All went well until the driver missed the final turn. We arrived five minutes before the train was scheduled to depart. The train was already there. While looking for the correct coach (extra 1), the train decided to start moving. What followed was a scene that resembled that of the opening of the Darjeeling Limited. Except that Bill Murray was lacking. With our flip-flops we ran to a door opening and jumped into sardine “7th” class…

…only to find out a few minutes later, that this wasn’t actually the train to Chittagong. A helpful man told us not to jump out of the train just yet (“accident!”). There was a lot of movement in the train, and a lot of yelling. We were hoping to be able to transfer on the next station. Wishful thinking. The train conductor wasn’t amused. He stopped the train, and kicked us out…

…at a waste area and in a slum. Interestingly, that confirmed the theories that slum areas tend to grow around railway tracks. People looked out of the train to see us. Some had never seen such tall and white people, certainly not when just kicked out of a Bengal train. After a little scenic sewage walk, we managed to find three bicycle rickshaws drivers who bolted off back to the railway station. While buses were crashing against the roadblocks, cars were honking constantly, us trying to hold on to backpacks and guitars on a shaky rickshaw, our wallahs deciding to take the quicker but chaotic highway, and Laura dropping her flute and pack on this highway, a local passenger of another rickshaw smiled to Diederik, and said:

“Welcome to Bangladesh!”

Not knowing what we were to do next, after getting on the wrong train and getting kicked out, we just enjoyed the ride and appreciated life in all its glory. We’ll see. Inshallah. We managed to get to the railway station alive. We didn’t have enough change, so we gladly overpaid the rickshaw drivers who risked their life for us. Laura decided to take a quick look at the platform: just to check when the next train would be leaving (scheduled half a day or a day later). But to her surprise, the Bangla station announcer casually slipped the word “Chittagong”. How could we have thought that our train would arrive on the official time. Of course it was an hour late, so we were now five minutes early to catch the train we were supposed to take in the first place.

The train was extremely comfortable. It had air conditioning, drinks, and a wonderful view to the countryside. It took us about seven hours to get to Chittagong. We were able to get some sleep, and had a good laugh about a day we’d probably remember for a long while. This is a strange country. Or, as Cecile Endtz put it:

“Never a dull moment in Bangladesh!”


  1. What a great experience u had ! U see how do we honor our foreign guests :D
    I'm pretty sure if it was us, I mean Bangladeshi they wont stop the traing ;)

    Take care and hope u will catch the right train on the way back to Dhaka, cheers !

  2. Heyyy Lau, Died en Magnus,

    Wat gaaf zeg al die avonturen! Mooie foto's en verhalen! Ik kan niet wachten om alles van dichtbij te horen! Gaat het ook goed met het onderzoek? Liefs vanuit het Amsterdamse! XX