18.03.2014 - 20.03.2014
The cricket had brought the masses to Sylhet and the Holy Gate was the only hotel we found with rooms available and it was expensive compared to our usual standards at 2100tk (£16 p/n). We were shown to our luxurious room with cable tv, air con, hot water and two pillows, although jumping on the bed realised they seemed to have forgotten a mattress - like wood, it was harder than any train we had slept on!
The staff at the hotel were so attentive, almost to a fault, trying to please us constantly and we found the next morning when we sat down to a simple western breakfast of omelets and sweet toast with luminous jelly-jam, we were accompanied by waiters moving things around on the table for us, watching eagle eyed. Outside we hailed a rickshaw to go to the train station to book our tickets to Sreemongal not wanting to make the same mistake as before. The rickshaw driver took us over the Kean bridge, with slow moving traffic and rickshaws helped up the steep slope of the bridge by 'pushers' who are paid a few takas for their efforts. The river we passed over reminded me of Laos with the clutches of long narrow boats against the high banks and the boatmen wearing the peaked hats so prolific in South East Asia.
Once we were dropped back at the hotel we had some lunch, and found a shop where we bought our first souvenirs from Bangladesh. We could see the traffic backing up past our hotel with everyone heading to the cricket stadium and decided it was probably time we joined the queue. The first game, Zimbabwe vs Netherlands started at 3.30pm and we had booked our seats in the front row, although sitting down realised we weren't going to see much of the game from there. Only too pleased to help the foreigners, the small gathering crowd invited us to take the seats on the top row with a good view until the seat holders turned up. The stadium started to fill up and the atmosphere was building with it, the film crews focusing on the audience to many cheers and much excitement. It was a close run game, with Zimbabwe needing just one run off the one remaining ball to win, and they hit a beauty of a six to finish. It was a great first game that had the crowd ready for more.
The flood lights were turned on and the Ireland vs. UAE game started at 7.30pm. The family next to us waving their UAE flags, although we were pleased to see many Ireland supporters (although only 1 actually from Ireland that we saw). Ireland were a much better side easily fielding, and when batting there were many 4's and 6's to the delight of the head banging drummers and crowd! We could feel the wind picking up through the stadium, circling dust all around us, some of the giant banners started to work their way loose and without warning the flood lights went out leaving only a few small points of light run by generators. In true Bangladeshi style the DJ booth instantly blasted out music, and the drummers drummed and a party started all around us while the cricketers stood confused in the middle of the pitch. Within 15 minutes the flood lights started to turn back on, and it was possible to see the dust storm building but despite the strong winds the cricketers filed back onto the pitch and the game resumed. One ball and the lights went out again and we could start to feel fat drops of rain fall. Later we heard that rain stopped play although the Bangladesh government had issued a request to local factories not to use any electricity during international cricket matches in future. As we tried to dodge the rain walking back from the stadium we got talking to a couple of locals who offered us a lift back to our hotel and as there were no tuk tuks to be found we jumped in the back of their car. A few photos and exchanging of emails later and we were back at the hotel.
We were woken up the next morning to the lovely tinkling of rickshaw bells and the occasional car horn. After a slow start we set out to find some lunch and what should have been a 15 minute rickshaw journey found us still lost after 50 minutes. Our driver was determined to help us but tiring, and he had circled back near our hotel, so we jumped out at the Yummy Hut and guessed at the vegetarian options from the cryptic menu.