I’d spent the past day and a half searching for solutions. A refund on my flight was not an option. Instead, should I return to Myanmar after two days? That would be enough time to taste a few local foods, experience the world’s most densely populated city and its equally dense traffic, and to add Country #72 to the slowly growing list.
But what about the Sunderbands? I’d first been attracted by the thought of observing Bengali Tigers in their natural habitat.
And besides that, how about the chai? If I shortened my trip, I’d never make it to Srimangal to try their world famous Seven Layer Tea. I’d also promised a friend I’d bring him back a sampling of authentic teas.
Then, of course, I had to take into account the riverboat odyssey. I’d taken overnight boat journeys to Norway, Greece, Turkey, and Russia, but never had I traveled on a boat deemed the most dangerous in the world. There was only one time and place to fulfill that bucket list item.
It was with those thoughts in mind that I buckled up the straps on my well-traveled rucksack and stepped into the blazing sun.
Never mind changing my flight. If I really found myself in a dangerous situation, I could hide in the comfort of my hotel room, book a ticket, and leave whenever necessary. As I always remind my family in the off-chance an emergency occurs, “We’re only a flight away!” Same was true this time around.
Only this time, only a few knew where I was going.
I told my coworkers and ended up reading articles about polluted streets and expat-targeted bombings.
I told my landlord and ended up watching a CNN broadcast about the country’s war with his own.
I told my mom knowing she was numb to my jet setting into uncharted, unsafe, unfriendly scenarios and wouldn’t think twice except to wish me good luck and tell me to be safe and that she loves me. She had my itinerary so at least if need be, someone would know my exact whereabouts.
Other than that, I told no one.
I sat on the plane and watched clouds go by. With a row to myself, I happily reclined with feet up during the first half of our trip while fluffs of periwinkle were enhanced by the sun’s shadow. The propeller’s hum outside the glass numbed my ears and calmed my nerves. Past the rotating blades, the sun gradually lowered, highlighting the sky and clouds with a superb neon glow. It was too spectacular to let pass without an attempted photograph. Reaching for my camera below the seat in front of me, I noticed a shadow pass near my bag but thought it to be my own. I caught the strap of my camera, tugged gently, and positioned the lens to capture minimal glare and window residue. Attempts were not well met, so I soon gave up and decided to enjoy the ever-changing light in its own moment rather than attempt to capture and save it for later.
As I sat in a zen-like state watching the sun set from above the clouds, I felt a tickle on my toes. Squirming a bit, I ignored the sensation. Not ten seconds passed before it happened again. I looked down.
The shadow I’d ignored earlier was a dark mahogany color with six legs and two rather large iridescent wings. I shook my foot hard, but it clung tight. Trying not to yell nor to offend anyone watching who might try to dissuade me from the killing of living beings, I slowly picked up my shoe and smashed it three times over. Queezy but satisfied, I turned away and again watched dusk’s accentuated beauty outside my window.
As I did, my view became interrupted by a long yellow body. Perhaps an adolescent hoping to enjoy the view, this roach sent my stomach flipping a million miles a minute and earned itself a loud ‘smack’ from the leather-bound journal sitting on the tray in front of me.
I left its dilapidated body on the carpeted wall and shifted to the right, away from its new resting place.
Three of the 5 friends I made en-route to Dhaka Bangladesh with Biran Airlines:
Cockroaches are apparently able to survive nuclear explosions and live for days without their most vital body parts attached (yes, without their heads!) Therefore, any encounter is a brutal fight or flight ordeal and I had to do my best to ensure no flight was had. In this particular case, we were already soaring at 40,000 feet. What more could a roach want?
Before the flight was up, I’d singlehandedly done away with five pests and was left simultaneously proud and disgusted. If any good was to come of a cockroach infested seat, it was that the majority of the flight was spent distracted from fears which had been previously instilled regarding my final destination. I arrived eager to get off the plane and in to fresh air, away from those little buggers.
While I stood at the airport’s immigration counter and awaited approval for a visitor’s visa, I felt a tickle behind my ear. I reached up and tucked my hair back. When hand met hair, it also met something hard. I did my best to keep calm but instinctively closed my eyes in an over-dramatic show and winced at what I’d just discovered. Pinching thumb and pointer finger together, I grabbed hold of a squirming body and quickly flung my hitchhiking friend onto the counter in front of me.
The two Border Patrol Agents looked at the roach, at me, and then at each other.
We three looked down at the roach between us. I shook my head quickly from side to side, dreading the idea of having more pests trapped inside the curly nest of hair atop my head.
“No. Way!” I nearly yelled. “They’re everywhere!”
“Welcome to Bangladesh,” they replied, pounding the stamp into my passport.
“Enjoy your stay.”
And with that, I was off.
This is only the beginning, and as you can guess, the best is yet to come! Stay tuned for more tales of a solo female traveler in Bangladesh! There’ll be more bugs, boats, and plenty of tea for all!