There’s more to come about Bangladesh because I have been offline so long. But first, a realtime post about my escape from Bangladesh.
The Corona/Covid19 pandemic causes more flight to be canceled, passengers sent to quarantines, and countries closing their borders every day. My original plans to cross over into India and exploring the Andaman Islands became moot when India closed its border, but on the 16th of March it began to look uncertain whether I would be able to return home at all. First step was to fly from Khulna (actually Jessore, where the airport is located) to Dhaka. I would have preferred the train but none was available that day. Once again, my tour guide Arafat from Nijhoom Tours saved the day, and accompagnied me in Dhaka on my quest to find a flight to Berlin from there.
I don’t like Turkish Airlines much but they had a perfect flight from Dhaka to Berlin, via Istanbul. So I booked it and went to Dhaka airport at 4:30 in the morning. But they denied boarding because I have been in Germany in the past two weeks, and they summarily deny even transit in this case.
So I checked with Qatar Airways, whose hub is Doha. Unlike Turkish’s Istanbul, they consider Doha a hub, so while entry to the country of Qatar is proscribed, transit is ok. Qatar’s remote downtown office in Dhaka is closed due to a public holiday, and anyway looks like a menacing concrete block straight out of Blade Runner this early in the morning. So I got myself a room near the airport (Holiday Express) and researched options. In the end, with some difficulty, I got the Qatar flight online and rushed over to the airport to get paper boarding passes. (Qatar loves paper.)
I got my boarding passes but again was denied entry at the gate because there were so few flight itineraries still available that I had to route through Vienna, and Austria requires health certificates from travelers. (For visitors, not transit passengers, but they obviously couldn’t read the Austrian policy document because it’s in German.) It looked like I would have to return to my rented room.
But eventually I did manage to talk the security people into letting me board the flight to Doha, if I promise to change my itinerary when arriving in Doha. That’s quite an example of how solution-oriented Asians tend to be: what would the chances be to talk European security or the US TSA into looking the other way when a formal problem like that appears? But in Bangladesh they understood my problem and solved it. Praise to you, guys.
It took two hours in Doha to indeed change Vienna to Munich. That’s in Germany, and since I have a German passport I can’t be denied entry there. Indeed it took like 30 seconds to pass immigration in Munich and nobody said the C-word. From there to Berlin was a short flight with Lufthansa. They don’t even ask you to remove liquids and stuff at the security checkpoint; flying felt easy like getting on a subway once I reached Germany.
Germany, and Western Europe in general, looks unbelievably posh, elegant, quiet, immaculately clean, and affluent, even the undesirable bits near airports, when you come from a place in Bangladesh. Totally puts our usual first-world problems into stark perspective!
I am writing this article from home. The whole thing took two and a half days during which I barely slept, so if you’ll excuse me I’ll catch some real sleep!