Bangladesh, more than a name on a clothing label
We fought hard to go to Bangladesh: after 5 visits to the embassy in Kolkata (more on that soon) we finally obtained our VISA.
It’s hard to put in words what has driven us to this country which name we only knew from our clothing labels and news bulletins about collapsing factories.
Was it the fact it was an unspoiled territory? (Only few tourists visited before us so we didn’t need to worry they had made a bad rep for all of us). Was it the great unknown? A bit of both I guess.
We had no expectations and all we ended up with was kindness. Already at the border we noticed people with flickering eyes asking us where we are from and if we were here for business.
Being from Belgium was a blessing: we haven’t done anything in the past to dissappoint them. In fact: everybody knew us because of the Belgian glass. Apparantly almost every bus or train used it in their windows.
Being a tourist was a gift: it has put a smile on many faced because most people only come for business (or should I say cheap labor).
It turned out that was the reason the embassy was so hard on us: they couldn’t believe we wanted to go just for sightseeing. Luckily we were able to convince them of our good intentions: it would have been a shame not to have known what Bangladesh is like.
Two beautiful examples of a country whose people didn’t hesitate to help us out whenever they could:
- The family we met on the train from Rajshahi to Khulna. They followed our rickshaw to the hotel to make sure we were safe and paid our 80 taka ride because we only had a 1000 taka note and no change.
- The restaurant owner at the border (when going back to India) who insisted on giving us both food for 100 taka less than needed because we ran out of money while leaving the country. He ended up thanking us for coming multiple times and couldn’t stop waving at us when we left.
For a people we know most of them have so little, they give back a lot.
It was warming to see how much pride they take in their jobs (from the rickshaw driver to the man carrying bricks off a big boat and the cook preparing us breakfast) and how they brightened up when we took their picture.
Bangladesh has a lot to offer: lush green tea gardens, a dynamic university town next to the Padma river, stunning Hindu temples, a vibrant capital city and small beach villages.
We intentionally “missed out” on a few of the biggest tourist attractions, and here’s why:
- Sundarbans mangrove forest: it was quite expensive and we didn’t feel much for boating through mangroves again (we already did in Colombia).
- Cox’s Bazar (the world’s longest natural sandy sea beach) sounded a bit too much “Costa Del Sol” and “tourist trap” for us (plus we are not big on beaches). Instead we went to the smaller fisher village of Kuakata.
- Chittagong Hill Tracts: the only thing we really wanted to see as well but had to skip due to time (and negative travel advice due to political conflict).