Our overnight flight was operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines, an airline not generally known for its punctuality. Nevertheless it arrived only fifteen minutes behind schedule, landing in Sylhet at the gloriously uncivilised hour of 6:30am. When ground personnel realised we were planning to buy visas on arrival we were sent to an office to wait while the remaining passengers cleared formalities, but that wasn't much of a hardship as it contained comfortable chairs and a television playing unintentionally hilarious pop music videos.
After a while a member of staff turned up and escorted us to the airport bank branch so we could pay the fee of USD $51 per person. With that out of the way the remaining paperwork was handled rapidly, and the friendly officer called our hotel for us to arrange pick-up. As no driver was available immediately a local was found who agreed to bring the three of us into town for BDT 3000 (~€34). This was almost certainly at least five times the going rate for a journey of about twenty minutes, but it wasn't realistic to negotiate under the circumstances.
The driving standard was crazy by western standards, albeit considerably less so than Mumbai. As expected there were an enormous number of tuk-tuks, though just about everything seemed to be fuelled by CNG so the air quality was actually reasonable. It was a very pleasant surprise to discover that our rooms were ready when we arrived, allowing us to check in and freshen up, and we regrouped in the hotel breakfast room to recharge.
Dreamland Amusement & Water Park
13th March 2016
Dreamland Amusement & Water Park is located on the outskirts of Sylhet, around an hour by road from the city centre. The car park was almost completely deserted when we arrived some ten minutes after the posted opening time, but the ticket office was staffed and we were able to buy admission to the dry park for BDT 100 (~€1.10). The water park was behind a separate gate, and thus we didn't see it up close, but satellite imagery reveals a wave pool and a small selection of tube slides.
We were the only guests present, and given that it was hardly a surprise to find no rides moving at all. Nevertheless we wandered over to the coaster, where we found several members of staff working on something at the base of the lift hill. A brief enquiry indicated that the ride would be opening in about thirty minutes, giving us a window of time to explore. The park was shabby and a little overgrown, but the rides present were actively interesting. We spotted a pirate ship with bucket seats, a paratrooper, and a wave swinger, all of which had no restraints at all. An inverted monorail, a ferris wheel, a carousel, a rotor, and a 3D cinema completed the roster.
It wasn't at all obvious how to buy ride tickets, so George struck up a conversation with a security guard to try to find out. Once our intentions became clear he pulled out a mobile phone and spoke to someone, and a few minutes later the seller came to us. Roller Coaster (#2204) cost BDT 60 (~€0.70) per ride, and given the low price we decided to preemptively buy two each. Operators were summoned and our motley crew walked back to the ride together.
Though we didn't know it at the time we'd actually stumbled across one of two known installations of the family coaster from Hebei Zhongye Metallurgical Equipment Manufacturing, a prolific Chinese manufacturer whose name is dreaded by many seasoned enthusiasts due to the vast majority of their rides beingextremelyrough. The other family coaster was scrapped after a derailment in June 2007, and it's probably just as well that we didn't learn that until the next day!
That being said, the ride actually wasn't dreadful. There was a horrendous thump as the train engaged the two parallel chains on the lift hill, and a snap to the side at the base of the main drop, but the rest of the layout handled moderately well. The highlight was a long slow turn at the top of the lift that gave a pleasant view of the local countryside and a nearby river. Each car had a loose T-bar that didn't lock, augmented by seat belts that the operators advised us to ignore, but both were honestly unnecessary; the layout had laterals but no airtime, meaning that one could not come out of the car by accident (provided that the train remained on the track...).
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