Having travelled to India on my last visa run, I seek an alternative destination. What have I been craving in Bangladesh, that I may be able to experience elsewhere? The answer - the opportunity to swim.
Construction in the heat and humidity at times has been utterly exhausting. Despite living only moments away from the peaceful Atrai river, as a woman in Bangladesh I must be fully clothed to go for a dip. Walking back through the village dripping and slipping through the mud is of course highly amusing, particularly for my neighbours, but a change from this norm would be welcomed.
So, I book a flight to Thailand and land in Bangkok at 6.30am. I am running on no sleep and still reeling from the seven-hour overnight bus from Dinajpur to Dhaka the day before. With my body in a delicate state and my brain a little frazzled, I don’t think to check as I pick up an innocent travellers backpack and ignore the fact my own is only moments behind. I breeze past security and head for my hotel. As a treat my mum, a.k.a. my saviour on many a foreign adventure gone wrong, has booked two nights in a glorious hotel in central Bangkok, with a rooftop swimming pool overlooking the city, minibar (full of delights I can’t afford) and king size bed with crisp, clean, brilliantly white sheets.
I am too early to check in so not to waste a moment I head off in a taxi to the Bangladesh Embassy to apply for a new visa. I’m first in line and hand my passport over, perfect service. When I gather my things I walk 200m to the main road and jump back in a taxi, bound for my hotel, en route to a full day of swimming and siesta. Now so far it appears my Thai adventure is the perfect way to unwind, but things are about to take a turn.
When I pull up to the reception alarm bells start to ring as I realise my bag is unzipped. I can’t seem to locate my purse (a large, currently unrecognisable makeup bag that holds my entire life in its belly). I take a deep breath and try not to panic. After three attempts at unpacking every item I am resigned to the fact that one very skilful human being has relieved me of my security net… a serious amount of Bangladesh taka and Thai baht, my visa cards, driving license, immunisation cards, UK SIM card and more devastatingly the irreplaceable contact details of all those I have met over the last three months.
Who should I call first… my bank, the police, the Embassy (perhaps a little extreme)? No my mum, she’ll be able to fix my mess. She picks up the phone after the first ring, “Jo, Jo! Are you alright, where are you, who are you with?”.
It turns out, when I picked up the wrong backpack and left my own, the airline rang my home (5am UK time). On hearing that my plane had landed and I was no longer at the airport, having left my belongings circling the conveyor belt, her worst (and constant) nightmare was realised… I must have been abducted and was most likely being trafficked at this very moment somewhere across South Asia. After reaching this conclusion she informed my sister in New York of the terrible news, who tried to remain calm and insist that I was a formidable girl, unlikely to have been ‘escorted’ away without a fight.
I assume my actual news of the theft was somewhat of a relief.
With all parties informed I now had to endure the longest day of my life. I returned to the scene of the crime, but no luck. I borrowed a free ride to the police station to report the morning’s happenings. I cancelled all my cards and requested emergency cash funds from VISA, and hustled my way back to the airport to return the semi-stolen luggage. At 11.30pm I finally unlocked the door to my beautiful room, too tired to check out the free samples or turn on the television to be reunited with the BBC.
Over the next two days I was a prisoner in my own hotel, stranded without any money to wander the backstreets of Bangkok. When I finally received my Western Union transfer the only option was to book a flight to the southern islands for some lazy beach days.