Dhaka can be a nightmare. It was for me a few days ago when I forgot all of my things except my passport and phone (which I only have for pictures and music) and got lost in the city for a solid 11 hours straight. I thought I was going to have to sleep on the streets.
Have you ever done something really, really stupid, immediately regretted it, then gone on to fix the bad decision for the rest of the day? That was my Saturday. I haven’t prayed hard in a long time, I’ve never begged on the streets, or hard to use my yoga in such a necessary way. The amount of stress going through my system was unbelievable and I’m still moving through a good amount of it.
It started Friday night, when I learned that Biman Bangladesh Airlines cancelled my layover flight to Yangon and expected me to stay in the airport overnight, which is complete bullshit (an unexpected 14 hour layover with no lodging?) Avoid the company if you can, it was an awful position to be in. But luckily, a spanish family living in Dhaka offered me to stay with them instead of a hostel, insisting that it was necessary because of the conditions in Dhaka. After experiencing the brunt of India, I thought ‘ how bad can it be?’ It was awful.
Getting lost started with wanting to go take pictures at 7:30 after doing a little yoga in the morning (I didn’t finish my practice, which is a little weird), then about 5 minutes into my short walk, I was completely lost. I hadn’t taken the time to recognize the buildings around me so I had no landmarks that I was familiar with. I probably walked around and near the building I was staying in for a solid 2 hours before beginning to panic a bit at 9 because my flight was at 12:30 and I like to have 3 hours before my flight. So I started to jog around run a little to try to cover ground faster. I stopped at 11:30, exasperated, realizing the gravity of the situation that I was in. To add to the panic, Dhaka is one of the poorest places on the planet, and lots of my walking around the city involved walking on sandbags to avoid the sewage flooded streets.
I decided to try to see if I had properly remember the address of the family I was staying with and took a rickshaw, since I was on my last resort, even though I couldn’t pay him unless he took me to the right place. He ended up taking me all the way across town in the wrong direction, until I ditched the took-took in traffic because I couldn’t pay (yeah I feel guilty, but I had literally nothing to give the man). I was so dehydrated that my mouth was completely dry and a man offered me water from a used bottle, that I only took one sip of before knowing I couldn’t drink it. I went to a stall and literally begged the vendor for water, which he unexpectedly gave to me.
I began to get completely hopeless wandering the streets, looking for anything that might help me and praying my ass off for some help. Then I met a girl named Anna, from Colorado and I literally begged her for help as well. After seeing how dire my situation was, she agreed to help me and took me to her school where she taught english, where her friend helped me to look for the apartment on Google street views. After realizing how little I could recognize, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get back by myself. Anna and I spent the next 3 hours roaming the streets, looking for anything that looked familiar. We looked through the areas for what I thought I remembered and then decided to try the different clubs in the city where westerners hang out (because the city is Muslim, there is no drinking allowed in the city). The first club was the international club, but we had no luck there. Then at the second club, around 5pm, we finally found some people who knew the people I was staying with. They made a few calls to figure out where their address was, then they drove me to their house. I will always be so grateful to everyone involved in that trip, and Anna really saved me that day! Something I really did not expect to happen. What a restoration for my faith in humanity!
So that was probably the worst day of my life. It’s so easy to say in retrospect, but the panic and fear that I felt during those first 5 hours will never be forgotten. So be careful if you ever visit Dhaka, the place is not easy to get around in. The city is a maze, the people are always trying to be helpful and will absolutely point you in the wrong direction because they have no idea where you are looking for, and very, very few people speak english.
The only things I had with me were two cameras, so enjoy the photos!