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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Looking beyond Chittagong

Did you know there is an armed conflict going on in Bangladesh? It certainly came as news to me. I'm still not sure about the details, but apparently locals are playing war with Myanmar. On the border, where their highest 'peak' is. Can't they go play in the ocean?

breakfast / train station

Unfortunately that means that, like in India, I need a special permit to enter any of the mountains regions located eastwards of Chittagong. As Sunday is the first day of a working week, that's where I headed first, after another massive breakfast at the Church.

In countries like Bangladesh Google is sort of like an adrenalin game: the odds of information displayed being accurate is 50/50 at best. Whether I'm looking for a shop, road... it's not there or it's closed, or something. But sometimes I can get pointed in the right direction, so it's a good starting point all the same.

administration offices

2 hours of crossing the city later - I can find some public CNGs, but not all, and I distrust buses at this point, not to mention how awfully slow those are - I find a buzzing court nested in another old British colonial building. Hundreds of busy looking locals milling around, entering and leaving dozen offices across several floors. Finding a foreign - permits issuing officer seems like an impossible task. So I sit down and wait.

It works!

typists / salesmen in late afternoon

When first person comes to ask my country name, I retaliate with a question of my own. With a bit of google translate we work out what I want and after 5 or 6 stops along the offices we seem to have found the right guy. I get a website link with application form to fill.

It asks for a trip itinerary, guide's name and contacts and hotel bookings. Seriously, why do I have to pay everything before knowing if they let me in? Except, I don't have to. Make up the itinerary, pick a name blindly - I might have to message this person later, but who cares, once I'm in - book a free cancellation accommodation.

And it's a good thing I did, as that's where the process only begins. Follow endless calls which I'm not equipped to follow. I wonder what are they talking about. Maybe they haven't had a foreigner apply this year yet and are unsure of what to do?

In the meanwhile my aide invites me for lunch; people are nice, even those who ask country - name - single? But the mental drain makes it impossible for me to keep answering those questions. It's a good thing I'm near the end of the trip and will go recharge at home soon.

rubbing shoulders with giants

Another contact of mine gets in touch with some pointers for the application; too late. But the request to make more calls later is a good opportunity to abort, to get time to rewrite the application (don't mention the conflict zones) and start again tomorrow.

Book Cafe / sunset

Quick sanity check in a Book cafe I find on Google - the more serious, western places, tend to exist in reality a little more often, and it's fairly decent even if their coffee is not as good as the cafe's in Bogura. Cafes are one of the few places where I can sit down without someone either asking my country or bringing me bill along with the order.

I spend whatever little remains of the afternoon by staking out the harbor, location of my final episode. Maybe. If I in fact can find a ship that would take me away. How do I even begin?

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