My first memory of learning about Bangladesh had to do with one of its devastating natural disasters. According to the news reporter there were so many waterways in Bangladesh that putting dikes around them all would take one hundred years of continuous labor. This statistic boggled my mind.
The second story followed years later, from an expat. Her memories were about Bangladesh’s never-abating heat and humidity; the frequent power failures (she would drive around in her car for hours just to be in a space cooled by aircon); the cockroaches and the rats; the dirt and the noise; and the Bengalis chewing paan, incessantly spitting red globs all around them, or emptying their nose on the pavement.
With these images and stories I stood on the border of Bangladesh, which we crossed for practical reasons: to get our Land Cruiser shipped to Singapore during our 3,5-year overland journey from Europe to Asia. I had no expectations about encountering an interesting culture or enjoying this particular part of the journey. The images I carried in my head were too discouraging.
We stayed for seven weeks. The above-mentioned issues certainly are part of life in Bangladesh and we saw and experienced them all. But, as traveling has shown us so often, there is always a side to a country’s image different from the one presented to the outside world.
In Bangladesh this was no different.
Bangladesh – A Surprisingly Beautiful Country
We discovered a country with incredibly hospitable people and were invited to stay in various homes. Dhaka, the capital, is thronged with traffic, among which some two million rickshaws and their pleasantly jingling bells dominated all other noise and sounds inherent in a major city.
We learned about the country’s rich history, visiting numerous ruins and restored buildings, palaces, rajbaris (mansions of the British era) and places of worship, among which Buddhist monasteries, Hindu temples, and mosques. Bangladesh turned out to be a fantastic country, in particular for culture and history buffs like we are.
Traveling to Bangladesh
We feel that Bangladesh ranks undeservedly low on the average traveler’s itinerary. Why? Because people don’t know about it? Because of its general image, like I mentioned above, is too discouraging? Who knows.
It’s a cheap country to travel in but those who seek comfort and have the means to pay for it, they can find that too. Quite a few people speak English and it’s easy to travel with public transport because that’s what the average Bengali uses as well.
Creating Following Roads & Rivers in Bangladesh
I’ve always enjoyed putting together scrapbooks and photo albums but when we started our journey in 2003, and starting taking photos digitally, those hobbies disappeared into the background.
After having written so many articles and stories about our journey I was ready for a new challenge. I love Coen’s photos and I know many followers of our journey do to. So I figured, why not do something with that? Here is the result.
I thoroughly enjoyed creating a photo book about Bangladesh. Selecting some 175 photos of the more than 1300 that we took and writing the descriptions brought back many good memories: places, landscapes, people, encounters. Coen’s trained eye not only as a photographer but also as a graphic designer gave the professional touch to the layout of the book.
Part of our travel is about sharing lesser-known places in the world with anybody who is interested in learning about them. We talk about places that we feel are worth getting to know, and often show the flip side of the average media coverage of countries outside our comfort zone. Hopefully this photo book will shed a positive light on Bangladesh, encouraging you to go check out the country for yourself.
To the people we met, the friends we made in Bangladesh: thank you our friends, for opening your homes for us, feeding us, showing us where you live and how you live. The memories are profound and beautiful. We hope one day our roads will cross once more.
For books we read and contributed to, check out our Bookshop.