Tales from a Salvage Hunter

Tales from a Salvage Hunter

April 29, 2020

Our founder Andy travels the globe to meet suppliers of vintage & industrial lighting. It is really beneficial for Loomlight as it strengthens our business relationships in a multitude of ways. During these travels he comes back with many tales to tell, so we thought we'd share a few to brighten your day. They are amusing and shocking in equal measures.  

August 21st - by Andy iliffe

Today started in such a way (more about that later) that I thought now would be a good time to write some words about my time so far.

My arrival in Chittagong was a knee deep introduction into how insane this place is compared to our lifeback home in the sticks.

Passport control was the first hurdle into the country. Approaching the officer felt much the same as any other country I have entered, until the word visa was put forward to me! 

My reply of course was 'no I do not have one', however I was ready and willing for the process that ensued. When asked why I was visiting Chittagong I replied

-'for business'

and continued to assure the passport control officer that I did have an invitation however not in written format! 

He then passed me the relevant documents to fill out and sent me through to the visa banking desk. 

On route to the visa payment window I found a convenient place to fill out the forms required, which located me just in front of baggage reclaim and the X-ray for exiting travelers. The forms were relatively simple to complete, luckily I had already filled out the landing card which was handed to me during the flight. 

The second form seemed much the same in terms of the information required to obtain the all important entry Visa.

-'Excuse me sir, excuse me! What is your name?'

This I thought must be my secret pass through customs control.

A man with typically Bengali skin and frame approached, his fantastically died orange hair was work of absolute genius. Then three armed military personnel flanked left and right and the third in direct eye sight and before I had time to respond to answer the question, they were all within sniffing distance.

Of course a chap with a wealth of experience like myself knows how not to appear phased in such situations and I simply replied 'my name is Andrew' the man with such striking orange hair said

-'From USA?'

-'No Sir I am from the UK'

The military chaps drew closer and having focused on the finer details of their artillery the situation felt somewhat prickly and my next breath was very slightly deeper than the previous.

-'You know Mr Begum?'

I had no clue of the name but felt it beneficial in this situation to reply with a very confident

-'Yes!, I am here for a business meeting'

Pleased with my response I immediately focused back on the visa document and attempted to complete the date and signature...

-'Mr. Begum! He wants to see you!'

The tone became uneasy and I was now officially focused on re-calling the British Embassy phone number that I had memorized earlier after reading some rather concerning travel advice from the .gov.uk guidelines for travelling in Bangladesh.

Another man arrived with us, I could only assume this was Mr. Begum.

- 'What is your name?'

He was rather well presented...

-'My name is Andrew iliffe of Loomlight, may I help in any way?'

- 'how many bags do you have?'

- 'just one back pack and one suitcase in the hold'...

- 'Ok you take your suit case'

- 'Shall I complete my visa first?'

- 'No take your suitcase first'

- 'I have not seen it on the carousel yet'

- 'Ok pay your visa, then come back to me'

Wow, tension! The soldiers and Orange Head escorted me to the visa desk... I felt now would be an appropriate time to test my first Bengali words!

- 'Nomoshka, ek visa pleese'

It worked well! The man processing Visa seems slightly amused by my Bengali, and he tells me its going to cost fifty US dollars. The guards eased off a little and Orange Head turned his gaze from my wallet towards eye contact...

Visa complete! Back to passport control!

After a light talking to about the fact I was here for business without an invitation Mr. passport control stamped my paper with an extended window for a extra 5 days, is this a sign that  I could (unintentionally) be here slightly longer than scheduled!

As I passed through to baggage reclaim my soldiers rejoined me along with my new friend, Orange Head.

Baggage collected I was then directed towards the baggage x-ray machine where I was instructed to put both of my bags on to the belt.... Hhmmm this is not good, the contraband will undoubtedly be revealed!

Orange Head called for the x-ray operator to take his post! Sure enough...

'How many bottles??!! How many!??!'

Cripes! This is not good! Soldiers poised for a strip and search...Shit the bed!!!!!

'You can only bring ONE bottle into Bangladesh, just one bottle!'

His finger waving, I was becoming extremely worried that I was about to lose the two bottles of Johnny Walker Double Black, one Gold Reserve and the most painful being the 12 year Aberfeldy and of course the token bottle of pressed Elderflower cordial, god knows what happens when they find the 100grams of English Mustard. 

Oh yeah, there's also two bottles of Vodka in my back pack and one hip flask in my cargo shorts!


Why did I ever agree to bring this in for my contacts here! They said they would see me though the airport.  Their uncle is the airport manger of course. Everything OK they said! 

More shouting from X-ray man. 

'Hey! What is your name?' It's Mr. Begum returning...

'Andrew' I say...

'You go, you go!' 

I only need a split second to respond to that. I turned on a five pence piece and headed directly for the sliding door! I could feel soldier men's eyes burning my temple as I walked calmly but with enough speed to see me through the airport door without any repercussions! 


The air is hot, muggy and a bit smelly outside, Orange Head has a smile on his face, Mr Begum patted me on the back and we made introduction without the professional edge involved!

My contacts came over and after months of contact via SMS only, we made our first face to face introduction, which went extremely well.

We all jumped into their LPG Toyota Allion and drove into what can only be described as absolute motoring chaos. The roads were like dry river beds through which metal rails snaked. Rickshaw death traps and pedestrians (if it's possible to call them that) steering and stepping in front of buses and trucks. It sounds like anyone in control of a vehicle spends more time using the horn than the steering wheel or any of the controls for that matter.  My contact was driving like he had just stolen the car. It only took about 10 minutes to realise that this was completely normal for all road users.

Through the city all this became more intense. With elephants, naked people walking the street and random welding with Oxy-Acetylene on the pavements all thrown in for good measure.

It soon became clear that this city's economy is built on scrap, salvage and not much else.

An hour journey on the motorway revealed thousands of corrugated tin roof sheds full of everything you could possibly salvage from a ship. Huge super tanker engines, kitchen equipment, mountains of anchor chains, furniture, sheet metal, stacks of life boats, piles of fabrics, toilets, steel stair cases, thousands of miles of cables, and of course lights. Stacks and stacks of lights! Bingo...


to be continued....