My first whole one!
Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
135Trip End Ongoing
We were pleasantly surprised by the luxuriousness of the Indian bus. It was aircon'd and had really comfy seats. Perhaps the journey wouldn't be so bad after all. They even gave us breakfast! I actually couldn't eat mine. Extra spicy dhal is a bit much at 6am!! Nice thought though.
The border thing was a bit of a faff. They made us all get off and unloaded our bags, then took everyone's passports and told us to wait. We waited and waited and waited. David went to investigate and lucky he did because he found our passports in a room on their own. So we took them and suddenly someone was leading us to the Indian passport control office where the guys there took forever to write all our details in triplicate plus more. Then wrote a big story in a book on how we were crossing over to Bangers of our own free will and where we had stayed in Kolkata. Whatever. Then we walked through some gates and whiz bang we were treated like royalty. Sometimes being the minority has it's advantages! The Bangladeshi officials just waved us through and we found ourselves handing over our passports to someone else who filled out papers, got things stamped and led us over to a waiting room. Not long after we were all loaded into cycle rickshaws and taken off to another wonderfully comfortable bus. This one with even larger armchair-style seats!!! Way to go! They provided us with water and sweets but no lunch. We had to pay for that ourselves. Can't have everything!
So far, I'm liking Bangers. Lots of staring people, but we got that in Pakistan and Iran so I'm used to that now. Unlike Pakistan the men aren't wearing the shalwar and I haven't seen too many women covered. It's bloody hot outside and the landscape is green.
We got dropped off in Dhaka god knows where and tried very hard to find out hotel on our own. We were getting Pakistan flashbacks because everytime we stopped to look at our very inadequate LP map, a few people would stop to help which would then grow to about 50 people or more at any one time. All as helpful as they could be but none could point us in the right direction. We were dripping and my bag was getting heavier and heavier by the minute. We finally gave up, found a rickshaw with what sounded like a reasonable fare and rode off to our hotel that Andrew had very kindly booked over the internet for us. We would never have found the place on our own. The LP map is shite.
We were completely rooted so showered and had a quick wander round to find some food. We weren't expecting too much from the food and had been warned already that it was very far from a gourmet's paradise. Not too bad though, beef curry and chicken byriani. Everyone we encountered was curiously friendly and amused by our presence and everyone seems to know at least two words of English. Bangers is still looking good at this point.
Andrew found us in the morning for breakfast and the guys at the hotel told us that the aircon bus at the end of the street would drop us right at the ground! Brilliant! The area we were staying in wasn't exactly party town. In fact it's bloody boring but when Andrew had made the booking the cricket was going to be at the National Stadium, just a hop skip and a jump from the hotel. However, we'd discovered not long before heading over that the venue had been changed to a place outside Dhaka.
At the ground there were loads of people milling around with your usual lot selling Bangers headbands, flags and other paraphernalia, even Aussie flags! We created quite a stir walking over to the ticket tent and felt like we had most of Dhaka staring at us purchasing our tickets. They wouldn't sell us the cheap tickets (30 Taka = approx 0.43 US cents). We had to buy the more expensive seats at 300 Taka (about $US4.20). As we walked round to find the gate we got loads of waves and hellos from all the security types. Always good to keep on the right side of the law. Never know when you'll need them.
We got led over to a caged off section where there were a load of other whities. About 20 in total I think. I was quite surprised. I didn't think that many people would bother to come all the way over to Bangladesh to watch cricket! Quite a few turned out to be volunteers living in Dhaka and working with NGO's in various areas of health and government and there was a bunch of people wearing the same shirts. We found out the shirt people had come on a tour with a one man band who just does cricket tours.
I was quite excited (I know, I know, getting excited over cricket). But it's my first ever live international test. It's cricket in the sub-continent too which always proves to be interesting. From watching on tv and listening to people's stories, they're very, very enthusiastic about their cricket! It's also not your everyday thing to do - come over to a slightly off the beaten track country to watch cricket. Bangers being ranked about 9 out of 10 and Australia ranked 1. I wondered how the Bangladeshis would be if they lost. Hell, I wondered what they would be like if the unthinkable happened and they won!!! Everyone said the test would be over in three days in our favour (the rules allow five days), giving us time to see a bit more of the country besides the insides of a cricket ground! Bangladesh have beaten Australia once before but that was a one day game in Cardiff in 2005. Totally different game. They do, however, have home ground advantage this time and about a million supporters screaming BANGLADESH, BANGLADESH, BANGLADESH!!!
The Bangla team ran away with the game the first day. Every one was gob-smacked. Rumour has it that Ricky Ponting had said a while ago that he didn't think it was worth coming over to play because Bangers weren't a good enough team. Eat Bashar's shorts Ponting!! (Bashar is the Bangers captain). Even I could see that Australia were tired and not their usual selves (such a cricket expert - not!). They had flown in from their tour of South Africa only three days before and had not become acclimatised at all. How could you? It was soooooo hot. Must have been about 35 degrees and about 60% humidity in the shade! It was very apparent that they just didn't want to be here.
Personally I think they had their heads too far up their own bottoms and thought they could just waltz in, swing the bat a few times, take a few catches and be done with it. Well, hellooooooooo boys!! Wake up and smell the stagnant water pools!! Looks like they'd have to put some work in! I did pity them slightly though. Playing cricket out there in the heat. I hardly had enough energy lift my arm to drink water!
Hot just doesn't describe it. We melted into our seats. I thought someone would have to come and pour me into a bucket to get me back to the hotel. I forgot to mention that I was back to trousers and shalwar tops. The men here are plentiful and they don't often see white women, especially those with blonde hair (strawberry honey for those that want to be technical), freckles and blue-ish eyes. The most flesh they ever see is that exposed when Bangla women wear saris. Shorts and a cute little top just wouldn't be appropriate.
When we left the grounds after the day's play we were mobbed yet again. Lots of shaking hands, hellos, signing autographs, staring and following us (P.S. all male following). It was all quite unbelievable. Our mate Tadek had been here (not for cricket) about 6 years ago and he said he always had crowds of people following him. You've got to see it to believe it!
We were pretty drained after our fun, heat-filled day so had a quick bite, discussed the day's results (me adding a few words of wisdom here and there - ha!!) and that was it.
Weather watch - hotter than a very hot day
Apparently the pitch was a batsmans paradise and the Bangers batsmen were taking full advantage. By the time we managed to get them all out they had scored an enormous 427 runs. Not only is that a fantastic score for just a day and a half's play but a huge achievement and confidence booster for Bangladesh. Australia batted extremely badly so a very tense afternoon was spent with Australia struggling to hold on. They were 6 wickets (men out) and only had 90 runs! Disgraceful for such a high ranking team (also bloody embarrassing!).
Once again when we left the grounds we were surrounded by enthusiastic men and boys wanting to say hello, shake our hands and generally walk in the wake of the visiting white Australians.
During dinner David and Andrew both relayed their lunchtime exploits. As they walked outside the grounds they had hordes following them all the time! The pictures are hilarious!! Especially with Andrew over 6 ft towering above everybody! They had decided to change their names today just for a bit of variety. Andrew decided to sign as Dean Jones and David as either Steve or Mark Waugh or Alan Border.
Weather watch - bloody hot!
We moved positions within our caged section and all the guards were pretty friendly. They couldn't speak great English but were eager to try and also very happy (perhaps too happy) to pose with me for photos.
Australia managed to get a score to keep them in the game, so Bangers had to come in and bat again. Our new seating positions were ideal for tv appearances so as I'm a media bitch I made sure I got up as much as possible, waving my flag frantically and whistling a lot. I thought it would be a good way to let people back home know I was ok too (no, not just because I wanted to be on tv!). For a test that's supposed to have been over in three days, we should be cleaning up now. But we also need to bat again. This might even drag out to the whole 5 days which is a bummer really because then we then have to get down to Chittagong for the next test not leaving us any time to get a good look round the city.
We'd heard through the shirt-tour people that there was a big do on at the Australian High Commission on Thursday (Day 5) which the Aussie cricket team were rumoured to be attending. It was a bit much for us to spend on dinner compared to eating locally (500 Taka each - approx $US7 each, we usually spend about $US3 for both of us) but it was a bbq buffet which sounded too good to pass up plus the added bonus of photo opportunities with team members. We all decided we'd be in so Luke, leader of the shirt people, got us tickets.
Weather watch - have I mentioned hot before?
Poor old Andrew wasn't looking too flash and he couldn't get all his brekky down. He said he hadn't slept much either. A day in the baking humidity trying to enjoy cricket just didn't seem achievable for him today. Mid-morning he sat bolt upright and said quite calmly, 'I think I'm going to throw up.', and off he ran with his hand clamped firmly over his mouth. I sent David outside to see if he was ok and he said he was doubled over praying to Mecca. What an awful place to be sick!! Probably had a crowd of about 60 round him now too! About half an hour later he resurfaced looking a little better. A few minutes later a young man appeared with no less than four doctors in tow!! All us tourists were highly impressed (and amused!). It was quite a show! Eventually he convinced them he was ok and retired to the back of the stands to lay down in the breeze. He had the police and guards looking after him and the nice young man whom we dubbed Mr Muscles (real name Suman) checked on him regularly taking him water too. They were all really sweet. Well, he did say he wanted to shed a few kg's whilst away. Needless to say he didn't see too much of the cricket that day.
We disposed of the Bangers batsmen quite quickly (that's more like it!) but still needed a fair few runs ourselves to win match. At this stage it could go either way. Even though the locals are enjoying the game immensely they are still inclined to think Australia will win. The guards keep saying to me '....when Australia win....' and I say to them, if Australia win then I will celebrate, but if Bangladesh win I will also celebrate. Lets wait and see when the match finishes. Then they all smile and say how kind I am. Isn't that sweet!
By the way - my new name is Luchee. They can't seem to get their mouths round Lucy so when I sit up the back and speak to Sumen and all the police and guards, they all call me Luchee. They've also mentioned how much they all like me but I am much too skinny. One guy even said he thought I was attractive. 'Oh, thank you very much. I'm just going back down there to sit with my 'husband'.' Don't want to lead the poor chap on.......
Mind you, the Bangladesh High Commissioner in Kolkata called me Lucky so I suppose Luchee isn't too surprising.
I have also made a new little friend who is one of the special guards in the actual player's pavilion. He spotted my camera and wanted me to take a couple of photos of him in his uniform. He was really funny and said that he wanted his picture taken with a certain 'scenery' (the building in the background) so went and positioned himself, saluted and I took the snap. I've now got his address and will forward the pics on. Won't his Ma be ever-so proud! (he also calls me Luchee).
My efforts to become a Bangladeshi TV super star had paid off and each day the guys in our hotel would tell me how many times they'd seen me on the box waving my flag!! How cool! My very own fan base!! We'd actually even made the front page of the local village newspaper!
Weather watch - damn hotter than hell!!
It was definitely an edge-of-the-seat last day as Australia had us all wringing our hands and grinding our teeth watching them scrape their last runs together to finally win the match. When the winning run was achieved we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. All the locals, police and armies of various types were great and congratulated us with handshakes and well wishes. They very, very nearly won! I even got a souvenir! I swapped my Aussie keychain for a Australia/Bangladesh 2006 one with the head of security!
Weather watch - steamingly hot!
With the weather so hot, I'm surprised we don't all emerge from the grounds 5 kilos lighter every day!! It's like a sauna!
That night we were all looking forward to a few coldies. David's would have to be lemonade. We had met some other sound Aussies at our hotel and all made our way over to the Aussie High Commission for the celebratory bbq!
It was a huge night! The beers (and lemonade) were going down a treat and I ate as much as was humanly possible for me. The food was fantastic! Chicken kebabs, big fat juicy prawn curry, fried rice, Greek salad, lasagne, beef patties, little steaks, what more could you want!!!! A few of the more social members of the cricket team turned up, Adam Gilchrist, Jason Gillespie, Andrew Symonds, Stuart McGill, Nathan Bracken, a new guy called Mitchell Johnson, Michael Hussy, Stuart Clark, a few members of their support crew and even the world famous Wasim Akram!! Those that couldn't be bothered to turn up missed out!!!
One of my only claims to fame is that I used to stack at Coles supermarket in Chatswood (Sydney) with a very young Adam Gilchrist about 15 years ago. I let him have some dinner and a few relaxing ales and then hit him with it. He didn't actually remember me specifically (Understandable. I stacked in Health and Beauty and he stacked at the other end of the supermarket in drinks) but remembers my friend Midori. He was great fun and we ended up chatting for a while and having a few bevvies together. He said when the team are in the changing rooms they often reminisce about their first jobs. We also managed to get a photo in with the Mullet (Jason Gillespie), although minus the mullet now. I discovered he is actually from Flagstaff Hill, not too far from my home town of Hallet Cove!! A very tired and bored David finally dragged me, Andrew and Scottie back to the hotel at about 2am!!. For a dry country, there's plenty of alcohol around if you know where to get it!!
The cricket was over and I was hungover so no need to get out of bed too early!!!! But it was Bangladeshi New Year and I wanted to see something of the city.
We managed to make it out before lunchtime into the extreme heat of the New Year's day. Oh my god, it was so hot. Not so great when you're feeling a little green!
We walked to Ramna Park where all the entertainment was going on. It seemed that Dhaka's entire population of 14 million (yes, 14 million in Dhaka alone) were out in the streets and parks celebrating their special day. It was quite over-whelming at times. We spotted a park cricket game and David headed over to have a bowl. No sooner had he gone than I was surrounded by a small circle of men and boys who had come to say hello and stare. The small circle grew very quickly into about 50 people squashing closer and closer to get a good look at the strange sweaty white woman with sliding down glasses. Shit! Where the hell was David!!!! This is what I mean by over-whelming. With so many people around all the time their concept of personal space doesn't exist. They were fine though and just wanted to talk. I've found people's English to be much better than expected. As soon as I said I wanted to go the boundary of the circle parted like the Red Sea and I was free once more. David had finished playing and couldn't see me for all my royal subjects.
We walked around the park stopping for photo shoots with our fans, chatting and just taking the amazing amount of people in. Everyone was out in their finest. There were some lovely saris around. I took a photo of one couple (they never smile in their pics) who then ran after me with their business cards, each with their own photo! Pity it's in Bangla!! Eventually we made our way back to the hotel and found everyone cooling down after their adventures.
The cricket had been great fun and David appears to be cured. At least he is now immune to Hep E!! There were some boring moments for me but the friendliness of the people and their enthusiasm never failed to keep me entertained. There are loads of people here. It's the most crowded place I've ever been and it's very, very dirty. The food isn't the best but we've had some nice beef kebabs. The traffic is complete mayhem and very scary at times but so far we've made it through unscathed. I've never seen so many cycle rickshaws either.
The guys at the hotel say that Chittagong is pretty, cooler and less crowded. We're on a morning bus tomorrow to find out.
If you would like a blow by blow account of each day's cricketing by David, click here