Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Khulna by Motorcycle

“We’re going to take a tour of Khulna,” said Ashib.
“Great!” I replied.
“By motorcycle,” he added.
“Any questions?”
“Is there a helmet?”
“Yes. For the driver.”

I was aware I’d be taking a tour of the city, but a motorcycle was not the mode of transportation I had imagined.

After changing from a skirt into pants, I apprehensively climbed onto the back of the Honda Hero.

Weaving through traffic into spaces that moments ago hadn’t existed and seconds later would disappear we made our way to the center of town. All the while I’m worrying that I may leave a knee cap behind on the wheel of a rickshaw, break my elbow on the side of a bus, or worse hit the ground without a helmet. The exhaust stung my eyes and throat and I could feel the heat of it on my legs. My toes were cramping trying to hold on to the footrests. I was not relaxed.

I tried to keep track of where we were going and how to get back - make a right at the Great Wall paint shop, exit the roundabout to the right, head left by the main traffic circle. It was no use. After viewing the dark banks of the river, being trapped amongst rickshaw drivers, men pulling bags of cement on carts, and fellow motorbike riders at a train crossing, and then ducking through alleys I had no idea where I was.

The streets were organized like the inside of a department store. There was a block dedicated exclusively to the sale of bicycle. A narrow road had nothing but gold jewelers on both sides. Fruit vendors and toy stores had their own sections, and cell phones could be found around the corner.

At one point we ducked into an indoor mall. I thought it might be reasonable to park, but instead we cruised through on wheels - barely squeezing by displays and people.

Over an hour later we made it safely back to the guesthouse. It was time to get my bags and go to the bus. Surprise, surprise! We were getting there by motorcycle. Unenthusiastically I watched as they strapped my roll-aboard suitcase to the back of the bike. Then, wearing my backpack and holding my purse, I squeezed in between the driver and the luggage. At this point I was actually looking forward to the peace of the dusty, mosquito infested bus.

But my bus was delayed. It wouldn’t leave for another four and a half hours and during that time I’d be getting on the bike again.

All that being said, the motorcycle ride and the wait for the bus were the most authentic Bangladeshi experiences I’ve had so far.

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