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When I told people I was going to Bangladesh, the usual reply was ‘why?’ or ‘what’s there?’, coupled with a quizzical look. It is indeed an ‘out there’ destination, often overlooked due to its proximity to India, a tourism magnet. Hasan Raw, the owner, efficiently handled all the booking details and was always prompt in that regard, an indication of attention to the client.
The Glory of Bangladesh tour was excellent, providing insight into the country’s history and culture. Its core interest for me was covering the country’s three World Heritage Sites [Bagerhat, Sundarbans and Somapura Mahavihara]. The tour provided so much more.
The streets of old Dhaka are reminiscent of those of old Delhi. Our Dhaka hotel, Hotel Civic Inn, was chosen for its ready access to the airport. It was a good hotel, including two things we saw very little of in other places: a proper shower and coffee/tea making facilities. Its location in Uttara is not in a tourism part of town.
We had two boat journeys of differing character. An overnight on the Paddle Steamer Mashud [the class of ships better known as the Rocket] was a chance to appreciate a mode of transportation from bygone days. It was so slow we had to hurry our tour of Bagerhat the next day but that’s travel.
The second boat experience was two nights on the Seagull as we visited Sundarbans, the crew becoming our extended family, the cook somehow preparing fine meals from his simple kitchen. Having the room at the front of the ship, it was my first sleeping spot ever without a floor.
There were other great sites like Puthia with its many temples to Krishna and the allure of Panam Nagar, a street of wealthy Hindu cloth merchants, now a stunning set of ruins.
Two train journeys provided another way to travel, the scramble to get on the second train, the 709 Parabat Express, making you fell like a local. Our time in park settings was where Bangladesh kept more of her secrets, the elusive Bengal tiger only seen via a paw print, good photographic chances re most birds, wild boar, otter and the like quite difficult.
The time in Sreemangal among the tea plantations was peaceful. The selected hotels were fine, most of them just one nighters. The van transportation was good though the availability of seat belts was a concern on a couple of occasions, bearing in mind the crazy passing of some drivers.
The drivers were all good, a tip of the cap to Mubarak who was with us the most of the time. If this was not enough, there are three more areas that confirmed the excellent nature of this trip. Be prepared for some very rough roads, all part of the experience.
We visited five villages, all very different and full of people happy to return your smile or nod of the head. Even more striking was the very engaging nature of the Bangladeshi people. Anywhere and everywhere, we were asked where we were from and how did we like Bangladesh. In almost thirty years of overseas travel, I have never been asked to take so many photographs of people or allow a selfie [or two or three]. The friendliness of the Bangladeshi people made the tour a more rewarding experience.
Last and not least, Faisal, was a great guide. He knew his stuff, he added little things like the brick making stop and gave us insight into the wonderful food of the country. His Christmas Day impromptu dance will cause me to smile whenever I think about it. His affable nature and smooth handling of operations made the trip a 6 out of 5.