Out of the left hand-side of the plane I could see the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas.
To get to Bangladesh from Kathmandu all you need to do is to head west for 45
minutes or so turn south west and then you'll reach Dhaka.
You can't really miss it has a population of over 21 million and overall a
population of 150 million (World Bank).
I started to worry.
What was Bangladesh going to be like?
My British-Bangladeshi friends and colleagues back home had told me of the great hospitality and the warm welcome I would receive.
Others said it is a menacing place and I should be careful not to be kidnapped.
Would the people be as conservative as some of my friends are back home, or dare I say it, as liberal as some of my mates are back in London?
As the pilot started to descend the airhostess handed me a transit form to fill in.
Before I could hand it back she was half way up the aisle passing out forms to scruffy Nepalese migrant workers transiting their way through Dhaka to some low paid menial job somewhere in the Middle East or Malaysia.
On the way out of Bangladesh the plane was also full of Nepalese workers returning home from an overseas contract.
They only looked as if they had had their clothes washed and didn't seem to have gained much else.
I finally caught the eye of the stewardess and I explained I was going on chutti - holiday - to Bangladesh and that I would be staying for 3 weeks.
Her face lit up!
She handed me another form then sat down beside me to help me complete it.
Sometimes a big smile, Glaswegian, and stuttering Nepali works wonders. Bangla, like Nepali, is derived from Hindi.
Across the aisle sat a group of Bangladeshi businessmen returning
from a conference in Kathmandu.
They all eagerly told me where I should go, what I should see,
what was good to do.
I couldn't do it all, so the stewardess wrote out a list for me.
A good start I thought.
As we descended, the captain announced our arrival to
Shah Jalal International Airport.
Her authoritative almost charming voice put me at ease.
A female captain.
Well that dispelled one of my preconceived perceptions of
the lack of opportunities for women in Bangladesh.
Out of the window I could see rows and rows of smart apartment
blocks like neatly stacked piles of shoe boxes colored at each
end where the size and brand should be.
Twenty years ago was the last time I was at Dhaka Airport.
Back then it really was 'going out to the airport.'
The airstrip was surrounded by paddy fields and the terminal consisted of: a windsock, two tin shacks and a step ladder, well nearly.
The new terminal was bright and airy and apart from having to wait 30 minutes with some Muslim pilgrims, one from Kuala Lumpur who had a passion for the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott, for a huge ledger to be completed with all our details; arrival was easy.
By the time I went to pick up my luggage - the carousel was bare.
A guy beckoned me over to the Lost & Found Office and low and behold
there was my bag.
He pointed me to the pre-paid taxi rank.
Welcome to Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh there are more tigers than tourists, in the three weeks I was there I only saw 12 other tourists and even then two of them were unconfirmed.
In the Sundarbans the mangrove forest in the south there is approximately 440 Bengal tigers with a liking for human flesh.
So being so rare, just walking down the street would cause much amazement.
"He's got a head and two legs."
"That's one more than I've got."
Comedy takes over where tragedy has lost its nerve.
I was going to see great wealth and observe even harsher poverty and suffering.
To be continued.
Shaun Hughes Enjoyed the read
Fergus Anderson My writing has also been published at: http://www.puffinreview.com/content/content/red-chillies-and-cornhusks-f-harvey-anderson