How to Get a Visa on Arrival in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Just in case anyone ever searches how to get a visa on arrival to Bangladesh, now you will know! If you are not a US citizen, check the regulations for your country.

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I’d done some research on line prior to my arrival in Dhaka and learned a visa on arrival is possible, although the details were a bit muddy. I hoped I’d be ok given the info I read on the US State Department website, so I skipped going to the Bangladeshi Embassy in Bangkok and took off with high hopes. When we arrived, I followed the crowd and came down a staircase with a sign welcoming you to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. There are two small security gates on the right you have to pass through and the VOA arrival desk is right there, just beyond the sparsely covered “health desk.”
I stood in line for 60 minutes. There were only 4 people ahead of me. In the meantime, another flight landed and a bunch of Chinese were in line. One came in front of me waving a paper in the officer’s face. Hell no. I’ve been in line for an hour, you’re not cutting me.
A Thai airways rep came to the desk and asked if anyone had luggage. We’d been in line for so long those who didn’t need a visa on arrival were likely long gone, along with their belongings. I hoped my bag would be there when I exited.
I chatted with a guy in line on an emergency medical mission for UNICEFF to Cox’s Bazar to help out with the Roginga issue.
At the visa desk, I spoke to two different officers. They were kind, but asked a slew of questions. They even called my contact here. She said she would be taking her exams and her phone was off. I thought I’d be stuck until she answered, but he motioned for me to go pay the VOA fees. I’d planned for $50 according to the US Embassy website. It was $51, but no big deal, now I just have a bunch of small bills in my wallet. Your length of stay with a visa on arrival is 15-30, discretion given by the officer. They knew, according to my paperwork, I’d be here for 7 days. I showed him the itinerary for my flights on my phone. I guess I could have made things easier by printing it out. Luckily he granted me a random 9 days. If you want a visa for a longer period, you have to have more documents and more money. A 1-5 year visa is $160 and must be arraigned prior to arrival.
He asked if I knew how to get to where I was staying and where it was. He’d already asked if it was my first time here so he clearly knew I didn’t know the city. I explained to him a 2nd time I was waiting for my friend and she would pick me up when she was done with her exam at 2:00.
When the officer finally gave me my passport back, I was relieved. I was also a bit disappointed that my visa was just a small stamp that took up a quarter of a page in my new, big passport. Before I would have been happy, but now that I have plenty of space in there, I wanna fill it up!

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Not only did the VOA process take a long time, but immigration as well. There were 7 people in front of me and I waited for over 20 minutes. What takes so long? When I got to the desk, he said I was good to go because I already had my visa. Most places require you to go through immigration even if you have a visa. Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam require it and I have full page visas from those countries and got two out of three on arrival.
Hamina, my host, had messaged she’d finish her exams at 2:00. We landed at noon. Soon I was out the door and we met. Even though Dhaka reminds me a bit of Kathmandu, it’s always an adjustment arriving to a new place. Glad I’m not a solo traveler here and being with a local host is great.

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Enjoy your visit!

 

The Downside of the Nomadic Lifestyle

How do you envision long term travel? Ever wonder what it’s like beyond the pretty pictures and interesting photos? Here’s a bit, just a bit, about the downside of being a traveler and what people don’t realize about this lifestyle. And I say traveler in the long term sense, because that’s what I do. This is not a vacation, it’s a lifestyle.
As you may know, I got injured in Myanmar on January 3rd and had to return to Thailand. I’d been pining to come back ever since and finally made the journey from Chaing Mai to Mandalay via Bangkok Airways. Mandalay is quite north compared to where I’ve been the last few months (since I left Bhutan, actually), and I was really surprised by the heat, dryness, and vegetation. The acacia trees are reminiscent of the mesquite found in the dry areas of Texas and I even saw a few cacti of some sort. The Irrawaddy River flows north to south, basically bisecting the country and along its shores, water is diverted for crop growth. On the bus ride to Bagan, you can see green fields of rice, coconut trees, and fruit of all sorts from bananas, to papayas and mangoes, and more. While some areas are desert like, the lush green fields provide quite a contrast, and of course, the landscape is dotted with magnificent Buddhist temples. But, back to travel…
It takes time and money to get from point A to point B. The less developed the country, the longer it takes, and the more uncomfortable it typically can be. (Unless you fly this the flight from Thailand).
Life is different. People are different. Food is different.
People do things how they see fit, not necessarily in a manner that may make sense to you or us as westerners.
You sweat, stink, and can be dirty for what feels like forever. (In Kathmandu, this was definitely a never ending feeling). You may not have access to a washer and dryer. You may have to hand wash clothing, and sometimes, when the humidity is high, shit just doesn’t dry. Turn up the stench factor. One good thing about flying solo: the only one you have to worry about smelling you is yourself! ?
If you’re like me, you’re unhappy when not participating in regular physical activity and eating proper meals.
Food can be questionable and food safety is always a concern for me.
Have a look at my intake today:
Breakfast, buffet style, at the hotel in Mandalay. They had a bit of everything, but mostly Asian foods. I chose a bit of noodles, spinach “salad”, some sort of chicken made with sweet pickled onions, Indian style pakoda (or vegetable fritters), an egg, and some coffee. I filled up. We had a long bus ride ahead of us and I wasn’t sure what we’d come across on the road.
“Snack:” Some peanut bars at a rest stop. I don’t know exactly what the ingredients were, but definitely peanuts and sugar.
Afternoon Meal: “Chicken Sandwich.” OMG- worst sandwich ever. My plate had thee squares, cut into two. Crustless white bread of different sizes with something like chicken salad inside. Oh, and a few well-salted French fries. I ate it. It was 3:30 and I was hungry.
Dinner: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Quest Bar and an Oreo cookie.
Water, water, water.
So far, the places I’ve visited in Myanmar will arrange for pick up and drop off wherever you are. The bus to Bagan is supposed to take 5-6 hours, but we got picked up first, at 8 am, and arrived to our hotel around 2:30 pm. The whole trip was about 90 miles and we were on a mini bus. The roads weren’t too bad, but it was still quite bumpy and long. Not my first time traveling in Myanmar, so my expectations were not too high.
In Myanmar, food seems to typically be served out of large pots that are placed on a stand once cooked. They are refilled when almost empty from inconspicuous place out back. It was 102 degrees today. Even the semi-adventurous food lover in me did not want any mystery meals in those pots. Same went for lunch so I found a bakery with AC. I’ll pay for that luxury. A bakery. So imagine my horror when I received a sandwich made of white bread?! I have enough quest bars to get me through Myanmar, but only one a day, so I choose when I want to eat one carefully!
Despite the photos, it’s not always pretty, or comfortable, and sometimes it isn’t even sensible, but at the end of the day, I derive a huge sense of satisfaction in exploring new places, seeing new faces, and getting to know a place a bit. Every time I go somewhere new, I’m so excited, I’ve shared that before.
So here I am in Nyaung U, a village near Bagan, I’ve been waiting to come here for a long time. Tomorrow morning we have a hike up to one of the temples to see the sunrise over the plains. Bagan is the most densely populated area in the world for Buddhist temples, over 2,000 here, and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. I hope I won’t be disappointed. The Thai islands are beautiful, now that is a vacation, but Myanmar is a whole other world! ??

Love on the Run

Can there be love on the run?
Like I always say, I love my travel life and I’m not ready to give it up yet. I’m going to keep on trucking, despite my injury, and see more of this world. I thought I’d want to go home if I got sick or injured, but so far, that’s not the case. An influential factor, however, is definitely going to be budget. Now that I’ve nearly maxed out my credit card with hospital and surgery bills, I may not be able to pay it down enough to even make a dent in that total.

I’m not exactly bringing sexy to Bangkok!

“When will you go home?” A question I hear day after day…
Maybe if I’m sick or injured… Nope, not ready.
Maybe if I run out of money… Doing my best to stay on track (but will deal with my CC bill in time, I’m working on an avenue to have my medical bills reimbursed).
Maybe if I get lonely. Yeah- that’s a biggie and a common theme I’ve learned amongst long term travelers. We get lonely. Yes, you’re surrounded by people, but relationships don’t last, eventually, you leave, or the people you’ve met leave. And I’m not even talking about romantic relationships, that’s a whole other ball game and one that different people deal with very differently!

How I feel sometimes: “Leave me alone!”

As for me, I’m single and have been for a long time. Like really long. I’m so used to it I don’t even think about it much anymore BUT that doesn’t mean I always like being alone.

But maybe!

I recently reconnected with someone from my past, but he’s at home of course, in the states. The prospect of simply staying in touch piqued my interest and we’d agreed we would have regular contact. Recently, however, our interactions have lessened and I have to say it has left me disappointed. Oh- and for those of you who know me, don’t worry, it’s not my ex-husband (that ship has sailed long ago). Anyway… So yeah, the thought of having a connection with someone after being alone for so long is kind of exciting but you have to make this travel thing work when there’s someone else in the picture and it can be difficult.
I read all these stories of girls finding “love” on the road, but for me, I don’t even meet men! ? I mean, yeah, there are a million ways, but I can’t do causal hook ups or have meaningless sex and I’m so in shock by what the younger generation accepts as the norm. The younger generation- OMG, I’m so old!!! I hear and read their stories of one night stands and hook ups for fun and I get it, yes, the road gets lonely, but gee I could never participate in that behavior all the time. Some of the stories are straight up raunchy and there’s this whole concept of a lower standard, like you find certain men acceptable while traveling that you’d never get with at home. Sorry to disappoint here, but I don’t have some sultry stories of sexy hook ups or one night stands (well, there was that one time…). But one time, one traveler said she felt badly for me because that was far to little. ?

“Gelato.” That’s what the kids are calling it these days. ?

I’m not alone in this desire to “find” someone, my nomadic soulmate, a travel companion for the long haul… There are websites dedicated to stuff like this. On one, the first date is travel related and the two people involved agree upon a destination and a “who pays for what” agreement. There are Facebook groups to help long term travelers find their soulmate, or simply a weekend fling, whatever your heart desires. But I don’t know, finding someone with whom you have a connection, that to me, seems like an ever elusive concept. It just doesn’t happen, not at home, not on the road, so when I got that message from that person from my past, I won’t lie, my heart did skip a beat. ?
So what will it be? Love on the run, on the road, via email and FB messenger? From an app, or a dating website, or a Facebook group dedicated to helping people find their “nomadic soulmate?” Do you reinvest in the past, focus on the future, or forget about it all in an effort to protect the heart? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. Perhaps only time will tell. Perhaps Mr. Right will be at the next destination or perhaps he’s finally applying for a freaking passport! Maybe I can create my own travel/dating app and I can help others find love! And then pay off my medical bills! What do you think?!
Have you found love on the road? Do you have a nomadic soulmate? Are you in a long distance relationship? Share your stories in the comment section!

Pop goes the ACL.

Wow! Yet AGAIN!!! I have not updated my blog in forever. I left Thailand on January 1st as planned to travel through Myanmar. I took a long boat from Thai immigration and wasn’t sure I’d make it across but I did, and I was so excited to be somewhere new. I spent the night in that southern port town across a small bay from Thailand and began my overland trek north. I’d wanted to go by boat, but now that the roads are finished, the ferries didn’t get enough passengers to keep running. Organizing the van trip was simple, the few hotels in town will provide information and the van will come pick you up and drop you off wherever you’re going to stay in the next town.

Stopping for gas…

I spent my first full day on a small van/bus. We covered about 120 miles and it “only” took 13 hours. I got in to my hotel around 2:00 am and slept in. When I ventured out the next day, I joined up with another traveler from the Netherlands. We took a long boat to a small island that had a path dotted with pagodas and temples. Just as we were finishing up at the last temple, I hopped off a short wall and heard a loud “POP.” I was done.

Along the pagoda path.

Fast forward about 200 miles and two days of travel on different busses to Bangkok for treatment. I registered at an international hospital (one of the best in the world) and met with the orthopedic doctor. After an MRI, I was diagnosed with a torn meniscus and ACL.

I’m determined to continue my overland Myanmar journey once I’m better. I’m on a setback here in Bangkok, but one day, I’ll be able to walk again!

I made calls to my travel insurance provider, scheduled surgery, and recover now, for as long as it takes.
I’m bored in Bangkok. Laziness breeds laziness and I’m unmotivated to do any of my writing, blogs, and posts. Going out is taxing, and at best, I only care to do my PT.
Being stuck, immobile, with only one functioning leg, in a big city is no fun!
My next blog will be about my insurance fiasco!
To be continued…

The open road- I mean sky!

My friend's son' Flat Jesus and I ready to go.
My friend’s son’s Flat Jesus and I ready to go.

It has been a while since I’ve updated my blog. I was more busy than I expected I’d be once I left San Antonio and half the time, I figure nobody reads my posts anyway. Additionally, I’ve posted quite a bit on FB and I think the only people who read this are my friends from Facebook!

Anyway, here’s a brief update. I left San Antonio 5 weeks ago after packing up my house, putting what few belongings I have left into storage, and saying goodbye to friends and Basil. It took me 9 days to make it to my family in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I made a lot of stops along the way and got to see some peeps I hadn’t seen in a long time. A part of me dreaded the long journey, but looking back, it was kind of fun!

I spent 4 weeks in New England and kept myself plenty busy. As soon as I got home, I got a gym membership because I knew I needed a schedule of some sort. I spent most mornings at Planet Fitness and my days were filled with friends, family, and various excursions. I had to take a few trips to see some of my favorite places, like the New England Aquarium, Quincy Marketplace, and Fenway Park in Boston. I spent some time hiking in the mountains and even went to Niagara Falls, Canada, and Watkins Glen, New York.

I packed and repacked my bag. I constantly reevaluated the items I planned on bringing and I was eager to head out on my adventure as the time neared. People have been so fascinated by my plans and sometimes it’s just interesting to watch peoples’ reactions when I tell them I quit my job, sold my home, and bought a one way ticket to Asia. I wonder how many people actually do that…

I planned on bringing my Kelty pack as a carry on. I took it to Portland in April for a trial run and it fit in the overhead bin. I got everything packed into it like a meticulously layered lasagna and took a small back pack to easily separate my toiletries, some snacks, and to have easy access to my iPad and other in flight necessities. When I got to the airport, however, United had other plans for my pack. They said it was too big (I even tried to sneak past one of the ticket checkers), but I was caught red handed by a grumpy old lady who yelled at me. I reorganized a bit and made my way through security after checking my backpack. I fear losing it as it’s all I have left, all my belongings for an indefinite period of time!

I’m flying on a 747, but much to my dismay, we do not have individual seat back TVs or phone chargers, so I can’t catch up on random movies for 12 hours. I made sure to only get a few hours of sleep last night in hopes of getting some on the way, but I never sleep, so I likely won’t today, either. I employed the same tactic when I went to Korea and my plan backfired. I was jet lagged and sleep deprived for days when I got there.

Our flight was delayed 50 minutes. It’s not a big deal, but it seems like a lot when you still have 13 hours ahead of you. The United app would not download onto my iPad (but it’s on my phone), and without it, I would not be able to use it for the free “Personal Device Entertainment.” Shortly after we took off, the captain informed us they had to restart the computer system so the TVs in the cabin were shut down. Just moments after, an alarm of some sort went off. Different airline personnel were walking about the cabin, but it didn’t stop. I thought maybe I was going crazy and just hearing things because it didn’t seem anybody was doing anything about it. Finally, I asked a flight attendant and she said it was a smoke detector. She said it was driving her nuts. Phew, I’m not hearing things! We then hit a patch of turbulence. I don’t get scared on planes (I even jumped out of one a few weeks ago), but this was rough. I braced myself and the man next to me, whose breath I can smell from my seat, spilled his coffee. Within a few minutes, the turbulence subsided then the alarm stopped beeping. Shortly after, the movie came back on, from the beginning, “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, Part Two.” Dinner (late lunch?) is served. It’s 4:00 pm. 11 more hours to go.

Jumpin out of a plane is exhilarating, turbulence and smoke alarms are not!
Jumpin out of a plane is exhilarating, turbulence and smoke alarms are not!

As suspected, I cannot sleep. We are over eastern Russia now and we flew north of Alaska. I think that may have been the northernmost point I’ve seen yet! Dinner was mundane at best and mostly full of carbs. My keen eye for portion sizes had me guesstimating we got approximately 3 ounces of chicken at mealtime and barely any vegetables. Needless to say, I was hungry 2 hours later. Thank goodness for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest Bars. I have 12 more, I’ll ration them out accordingly over the next few weeks.

Five and a half more hours. I should stop, at this point, I’ll just continue to ramble, out of boredom and eventual exhaustion!