After returning from Nagaland, it was time to make our way down to Tripura, but not before stopping off for a few days in the most boring hill station in all of India, Haflong. To get there we had to spend a night in Lumding town, rather than go looking for a lodge we opted to try out the railway station’s retiring rooms, and for less than one pound we got a triple room, which was ironically the nicest room we tenanted in months…
The state of Tripura was to be the last stop on this epic journey through the North East. Agartala the state capital, has few sights, the main attraction being the Ujjayanta palace, which was the former royal headquarters of the Kingdom of Tripura, until it merged with India in 1949. The palace is so white it almost blends in with the raindrop hoarding clouds that linger above, a true painter and decorator’s nightmare. After you get bored of photographing skinny Indian rickshaw drivers bathing in the palace’s lakes, there’s not an awful lot to do in Agartala city, but after the food disaster of the tribal states, it was nice to simply be in a town with some facilities and decent eateries.
After walking the globe in my three year old Birkenstocks, they were on their last legs and time to be fed to Oscar the grouch. But a true budget traveller never throws anything away, it’s amazing what a street side cobbler can do with a piece of rubber and some industrial glue!
Sandal repairs aside, the real reason we were in Agartala was to arrange our Bangladeshi visas. I could find no up to date info online about the procedure of getting a visa in Tripura, the guide books are also pretty vague. Here at likethewheels, we care about informing wandering vagrants on the problems they may face when applying for visas and such in foreign countries, so here is my version of what went down at the visa office. Was it to be another bureaucratic nightmare?
Getting a Bangladeshi visa in Agartala, Tripura
First of all the visa office has moved, it is now situated in a small ally with a State Bank Of India ATM on the corner, just off VIP road. Ask the rickshaw wallah for circuit house. Their new number which I also had a quest to obtain is 0381-2324807
I had heard reports that this visa office only handed out short stay 15 day visas, a pittance compared to the two month one you automatically receive if you fly into Dhaka, so I was slightly worried about what would happen here. We were asked to sit down and wait for the visa officer, Masood. I couldn’t help but associate the name with Eastenders’ own loveable postman, Masood Ahmed. Masood entered the room with his pile of undelivered letters and explained the procedure –
deposit $65 into their bank account, return with the bank stub and completed application with three photos, wait one hour and that’s it, done. Surely that can’t be it? I asked Masood if he would issue a 60 day visa, this would be ample time to do everything we wanted without having to go through the hassle of extending the visa, he said he would ‘try’. After about ten minutes he came back with the two month visas and it was only then after he had returned the passports that he began to grill us on certain things, ”What’s your job? How do you have all these stamps in the passport? Are you a journalist? Who is funding this trip? Are you a spy?” Whatever you do, don’t let these people believe you’re visiting Bangladesh for any type of media related purposes, they don’t seem to like that. I guess what I’ve written in the content of this blog about Masood is media related, but anyway we left with the two month visas we requested in hand.
The overall procedure was a lot easier than expected, and to be fair, Masood seemed like a friendly enough guy. But I honestly believe that the duration of the visa you want comes down to one thing, the mood of Masood, thankfully we caught him on a good day…
And so that almost drew an end to what has been an unbelievable but trying trip in North East India, Bangladesh is only 3km away and what awaits over that border, Allah only knows…