I already wrote about my transit adventures in Dhaka, Bangladesh but want to provide some additional details here, including a review of the transit hotel provided by Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
There are some jet bridges in Dhaka, but we landed at a remote gate. Downstairs, a private van for business class drove off just as a beat up jalopy pulled up for everyone else. There was only one bus and everyone had to squeeze in. It was sweltering outside and there was no working fans (and certainly no a/c) on the bus.
We drove for several minute around the perimeter of the tarmac before pulling up to the terminal. Passengers streamed out and I began looking for the visa on arrival desk. Thankfully, a well-marked desk sat just to the right of the terminal entrance.
My form already filled out onboard, I proceeded to the cashier to pay my visa fee. But upon examining my paperwork he asked me if I was in transit and when I said yes, handed back the arrivals form and instructed me to proceed upstairs to a transit desk.
The story picks up here in my The Police Chase After Me in Dhaka post.
The Hotel Room
After my dinner with friends of friends, I returned to the transit hotel around 1am, called Skylink. A boy named Yousuf who probably was in his teens or early 20s welcomed me, took my passport, and escorted me up to my room.
The room was pretty sad–one-star quality at the most. A lumpy bed in the middle with a nightstand, a lumpy chair, and a wardrobe with refrigerator. The bathroom had…sewer issues. The only time I stepped into it was to use the toilet.
Meals are included in the transit accommodations and I was asked what I wanted for dinner. A very disappointed look spread across the Yousuf’s face when I stated I was not hungry. He insisted on bringing me a mutton dinner, but I resisted: I was not hungry at all.
Suddenly the power went out. Rolling blackouts are common in Dhaka. That presented a huge problem because neither my computer nor phone nor portable charger were charged…
Yousuf assured me the power would be back on in less than an hour. Just moments later the fluorescent lights flickered on, but I learned that the lights were on a special generator and there was no backup generator to power the wall outlets.
I asked to be woken as soon as the power came back on, but Yousuf vetoed my idea and said, “No, you need to sleep.”
“I wish I could, but I have to work.”
“You can work tomorrow, for now you need to sleep.”
“I have a 10hr early flight to London tomorrow and cannot risk there being no power onboard. I need this charged and I need to work tonight. I’ll go back to the airport now if necessary.”
“No, don’t worry. I will charge your laptop and phone overnight.”
“We have a separate generator downstairs. I can plug in your computer there.”
I was exhausted by this point. Noting that all sensitive info on the computer was behind three firewalls, I relinquished my laptop and phone. Yousuf promised to wake me up at 6am.
With no phone alarm or laptop to wake me up, I was left totally at his mercy. I was not about to touch the sheets and blanket in the room, but did fall asleep with my clothes on laying on top of the bed. By the way, it was still over 90ºF out and the room was sweltering.
Very early I awakened, though I had no idea what time it was. It was light outside. Fearing it might be 7am, I walked downstairs to the lobby where I saw, based upon a battery-operated wall-clock, that it was only 5am. I noticed my laptop and phone fully charged on the hotel’s front desk and took it back with me upstairs.
Internet was slow, but I was able to work for a little while. Youef did knock on my door at 6am to make sure I was awake. I asked if he could bring breakfast right away, which he obliged.
While not the fancy room service breakfast of the Park Hyatt Vienna, the egg + toast + banana was fine:
I wanted to leave at 6:30a, but Yousef said we had to wait until Biman called the hotel. That was annoying, but I was productive and went back to work. By 7am, no one had called and I began to get antsy (for good reason, as it would turn out). I told Yousef that I was leaving if no one called by 7:15a. Thankfully, moments later Biman did call and I was invited to board the van downstairs.
A van with a Biman logo painted on it was waiting outside (next to the “Amann” hotel, not to be confused with an Aman…). We took off for the airport, driving for about eight minutes before we hit a string of traffic. The driver took a turn down a one-way street (you guessed it, going the wrong way) and we proceeded, against traffic, toward a back entrance to the airport.
We reached the airport gates, the driver nodded tp the guard, the guard nodded back, and the barrier was lifted. This little trick had saved at least 20-30 minutes sitting in traffic.
Pulling up to Terminal 2, the driver pointed toward the entrance and instructed me to go inside, waiting for me to physically step into the airport before taking off.
The check-in experience would be absolutely chaotic, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. Just note this: unless you really are on a shoestring budget, you want to avoid the whole Biman transit experience. Simply pay for a tourist visa and book yourself a room at the Le Meridien or Radisson just down the street from the airport. I took one for the team at the Skylink, but won’t do it again.