Tuesday, April 21, 2009

101 Bangla traffic for dummies

Bangladesh is the country of hierarchies, and this is no different in the traffic situation. In the cacophony of tooting, no one will hear your engine coming, so you must toot too, and preferably louder than the rest. A beautiful example of this was a very clever bicycle rickshaw wallah who had three bells in a serial connection. He only needed one ringing motion of his finger to trigger an immense amount of annoying noise. Other (lazier) wallahs chose to opt for complete electronic bells, with automatic ringers, on their three-wheelers for the extra oomph.

In fact, according to our own SPSS analysis, there is a 96.736 % correlation between tooting capacity (measured in deciBel) and traffic obedience (measured in time it takes for obstacles to remove themselves from your path) within the city of Chtitagong. There is, however, some variance in the data, which can be accounted for the policemen with large sticks (cm). These men position themselves amidst the congested traffic crossroads (red. not great for life expectancy) where they wave around their wooden objects that appear to have much more ruling power than the now redundant traffic lights. Variance within the variance is still being investigated but we predict that it may be accounted for by personal relationship to the man waving the stick, possibly measured in the amount of cups of tea drunk together.

To pave the way through the banani*) of bangla traffic, we have written down some insider tips for beginners. Please be intimidated by the current noise pollution coming out of your screen, it is the healthy fear one gets while taking a dodgy bus. We have yet to find a toot-free spot in Bangladesh.

*) pronounced boh-nah-nee means thick forest

- to buy tickets, one has to go straight to the counter and pay with cash (officially paying with visa is a possibility, however in reality, power cuts prevent any such transaction)
- please get in contact with your life insurance to check whether flying with Biman in conflict with your policy
- inflight, you must make yourself at home: calling is no problem during take off and landing (if you get that far), smoking is allowed only in the toilet, and waiting for air hostesses is a waste of time when you can help yourself to entertainment at the kitchen

- don’t stand in front of the tooting device… EVER!
- the rocket’s obedience (on the water) is extremely high, little boats don’t wanna get in the way of this bad boy
- two person cabins can fit at least your family and extended family and maybe an extra grandma or two (make sure to pay deck price for all of these)
- don’t be tempted to order the full English lunch (this will be by far exceed the price of your entire journey, and that of your extended family)

- punctuality is not the train’s forte, be sure two show up at least two hours after expected departure to avoid being dumped at a landfill by the wrong train
- bring ear plugs as the toot replacement (loud bangla music that skips tracks as it is played from a pirate CD) will knock your socks off
- don’t be tempted to order mojo cola, it is a major mojo killer

- two seats per person is not a luxury, neufert standards have no place here
- there is a hierarchy (of course) of seating (the back is to be avoided at all costs unless rollercoasters are your cup of cha) in order from pretty uncomfortable to ridiculously uncomfortable: driver (private fan and fancy leather seat), two seats, one seat, front public bench next to driver, sitting on someone’s lap, having someone else sit on your lap, standing, hanging on to the bus, sitting on top of bus (now illegal in Bangladesh unless you work for the bus company)
- when you get out at the bus station don’t walk to close to the bus due to possible projectile vomiting
- don’t open your window if the person in front of you just projectile vomited at the bus station, they may do it again

- never pay more than half of the suggested price minus 5 TK (for a true local)
- if you need an extra seat you can always snuggle up next to the driver
- to get a CNG make loud caveman noises and gesture in an impatient and rude manner, perhaps accompanied by the words, “come, come”
- don’t expect the driver to know the address of your destination, get out at the largest intersection of that neighborhood and find a bicycle rickshaw

- most comfortable mode of transport in all terrain
- female riders are expected to use the amazone seat

- try not to feel to guilty about the 60 year father of 10 who is sweating away in front of you to get you to the destination you could have probably walked
- an accepted gesture is to get out at steep inclines to lessen the load
- don’t ask for the price, just pay 20 TK
- if you want to culture shock, offer to ride the rickshaw yourself with him on it

- don’t be fooled by the pile of wood on that cart, you can easily jump on with at least four or five persons
- these bicycle carts are extremely suitable for transporting sowing machines

- if you want to test your obedience level, stick out your hand, close your eyes, and just walk, inshallah!
- If you choose life, never cross without a buffer of three Bengalis in front of you
- forget sidewalks, you’re a part of the traffic flow now whether you like it or not
- because honking is not part of our natural vocabulary, bang on the hood of a car or CNG for extra recognition


  1. I love the modes of transportation visualization and the helpful tips for the different vehicle types. Funny AND informative

  2. close your eyes, and just walk, inshallah!Can't possibly go wrong!