Our day began with a short domestic flight from Sylhet to Dhaka. Biman Bangladesh Airlines recommends that all passengers arrive at the airport two hours before flying, and as we had no other plans for our morning we decided to do just that. This was, in a word, unnecessary; the check-in deadline for domestic travel in Bangladesh is generally fifteen minutes before departure, and thirty if you're checking baggage. Our early arrival ensured that our luggage would be loaded first, and thus we had the longest wait for baggage on arrival.
At present Sylhet International Airport doesn't have jet fuel available, and as a result all of its long haul services operate in a triangular pattern via Dhaka. Transfer passengers are not required to disembark and clear customs until they arrive at the capital, giving rise to a somewhat bizarre situation where international and domestic passengers end up on the same plane. We decided to splurge €40 per person for business class, allowing us to enjoy lie-flat beds (and a 777-300ER!) on a flight lasting twenty minutes. On landing the crew instructed passengers from London to disembark via the airbridge, while the sizeable number travelling from Sylhet walked down the rear stairs and boarded a bus to the domestic terminal.
Jamuna Future Park
14th March 2016
Jamuna Future Park is an upmarket shopping mall located in downtown Dhaka with seven floors, over four hundred shops, and 150,000 square metres of retail space. As of this writing it is the largest mall of its type in South Asia, and the ninety-fifth largest in the world. In addition to retail the facility includes a health club, a seven-screen cinema, a bowling alley, an ice skating rink, and Carnival, an outdoor amusement park with ten rides, all of them imported from China.
The park is located directly opposite the front gate of the mall, and generally opens at 2:00pm. There were no other guests present when we walked through the gate some ninety minutes after opening, perhaps reflecting the fact that the advertised pricing puts the place out of reach for much of the local population. We'd not expected to pay European fairground prices for anything in this part of the world, but that's what was required; the coaster cost BDT 400 (~€4.50) per ride, and everything else was BDT 200 (~€2.25). We decided to splurge on a five ride combination ticket that included admission for BDT 1000 (~€11.25), covering one ride on the coaster and four other attractions of our choice. We learned subsequently that this price represented about one week's salary for those in the textile industry.
We had hoped to start with the credit, but quickly learned that it needed a minimum of eight people to dispatch. There was no point in waiting in an empty park, and given that we ended up at Tower Challenger, a clone of the now ubiquitous Funtime Starflyer with eighteen two-person swings. The programme in use was somewhat different to western models, with the car being winched to the top and kept there for a while rather than having it move up and down. I actually liked that approach, and felt that it was well suited to a ride that is mostly about height. Staying at the top for longer also gave me ample opportunity to admire and photograph the view.
After about an hour a few more guests turned up, allowing us to climb into the front seat of Roller Coaster (#2201), our second Hebei Zhongye ride in as many days. The train on this unit had the standard MCC logo on its lead car, but there was a curious modification to the sides where small pieces of white plastic had been bolted over the words Made in China. The reasoning behind this was very unclear given that there was a huge manufacturing plate on the outside of the control box giving manufacturing details and dates, though perhaps that is scheduled to be hidden too at some stage in the future.
We'd been warned of a fairly brutal ride by a friend of ours who'd beaten us to the park by a few months, but his advisory proved to be somewhat overblown; the train engaged the lift hill without a major thump, and aside from some minor shuffling in the loop the ride quality was actually fairly respectable. It wasn't smooth by any means, but it was considerably less violent than the Corkscrew at Toshimaen. It was interesting to note that the ride used almost all of its potential energy, which one doesn't often see; the train had slowed to no more than ten miles per hour when it hit the final brakes just before the station.
Our third stop was at Sky Drop, a clone of the Zamperla ride of the same name with sixteen seats, all looking out towards the main road and an active building site on the far side. The presence of three caucasian tourists quickly caught the attention of the various workers who stopped what they were doing to watch us. The ride programme used a compressed air system rather than a counterweight, and was really good, with a seemingly random pattern of drops from various heights and a few that went almost all the way to the station floor before being shot back upwards at the last minute. These were very effective, if slightly terrifying; any equipment failure impacting the upward launch would not be pretty.
The upper level of the Double Dacker misspelled carousel was roped off today, though that was quite understandable with such a small number of visitors. Unlike traditional multi-level carousels this ride was actually two completely distinct units stacked on top of each other, the second accessed by means of a staircase on the outside of the ride structure. The pair of rides looked nice from a distance but were fairly basic up close, with no soundtrack and a single design of fiberglass horse painted in various different ways.
Our final ride was on Floating Ballet, a fairly poor copy of a Safeco Salta Pro. The programme in use today was very odd; the cars rotated forwards a few times with each car gradually rising to the top. Then the rotation stopped, and the cars bounced up and down for a bit. This was followed by a few laps of backwards rotation, then more bouncing up and down with the center motor parked. It's as if the engineers made a mistake in their design, as the experience without simultaneous rotation and bouncing made it a curiosity rather than a worthwhile must-do ride.