Bata shoe stores are everywhere in Dhaka! Most people assume Bata is from “their home” country based on the companies’ large International distribution. Desher’s told us Bata is their own company, others said it is Canadian. In actuality Bata is based in Switzerland having been founded in 1894 in what is now the Czech Republic. The founder said, “Work collectively, and live individually”
We made it safely back and are now in Thailand. What a major difference between food, people, culture, economy, and way of living between the two countries. The country of Burma is completely the dividing line between SE Asia and the rest of Asia. Been craving Thai food like no tomorrow for last 2 weeks!
Our last night found us returning by 36 seat prop plane from the wilds of the Sundarbans, which are the world’s largest Mangrove forest. Not much security to get onto this plane!
The Sundarbans seem to be one of Bangladesh’s only un-crowded parts of the country. We found ourselves on a small freighter ship converted to take passengers for tourism. The only westerners we saw were not tourists – they work in Dhaka or they are visiting someone who works in the area.
The main point of our trip south was to stalk the Royal Bengal tigers. They are extremely rare to see and we only saw their recent footprints, claw marks and smell. We were very close to a mother and a young tiger and our armed guards gathered us into a circle and then they started stalking through the jungle, guns ready to fire. We had to hike in 2– 6 inch mud the entire way for 2 hours to reach the tiger habitat. The forest floor of the Sundarbans is a rich muddy at time claylike material that sticks all over your shoes. Furthermore much of this hike was through eerie fog with the sun barely peeking through. This made for some excellent photos!
Cramped on a boat for 5 days allowed us to meet all the upper class Deshers on board. They all speak English – upper class Deshers love to mix English in while speaking Deshy – in their music, TV and in the movies produced from Dhaka, (Dhakawood). The Teenagers on board were in love with us & wanted to spend all their time talking and being around us.
Transportation in the ‘Desh is not for the weak. What normally takes 6 hours to get to the port took 13.5 hours because there was a multi hour wait at the ferry due to a higher number of military vehicles on the road and local elections. We went the very long way avoiding the ferry and taking us right to the India border, only about 40 miles from Calcutta. At one point during our bus ride a CNG (like Tuk Tuk) swerved right in front of our bus and our bus swerved off the road and up a steep embankment. Many objects went flying to the front of the bus including most of the women’s shoes which ended up in a pile right behind the driver! I whacked my foot on the metal bar in front of me but no serious injury.
Armed guards stayed with us the entire trip – in case of tiger attacks (which happen every year), and to guard against piracy. On the final day of the trip we were warned in a local village not to try to see a certain island because in recent days there had been several pirate attacks on small and larger boats. Our guide book said you should be aware of these attacks in specific parts of South ‘Desh.
Swimming in the Bay of Bengal was also highlight. Beaches are deserted for miles and as far as you can see. Only inhabitants were tons of beautiful bright red crabs.
During our time in Dhaka we were able to experience the poorest of the poor (a disastrous situation), the middle class (not pretty) and the upper class.
Thailand is land of Smiles, but the Desh is even way more so. Some of the friendliest people I’ve met on travels were in the Desh. The middle class has it very tough, they cannot even travel within their own country due to lack of economic stature. The people are so genuine. They told us they will always remember the day we visited and we can come back to stay with them anytime. They said they will hold our visit dear in their hearts and our visit is a big highlight for them. We sat around for an hour with friends on dirt road in wooden shack on the corner drinking cha (tea). We went to their apartment via bicycle rickshaw and nearly missed getting hit by a huge tall rebar that some young Desher was having a hard time handling. It crashed to the side of our rickshaw and we ducked to the other side!
Then they took us to a private concert nearby. They had to plead to let us in and the armed guards opened the heavy metal gates and we were pushed in by the crowd before they shut the gates. We were our own celebrities in the back of the obviously very popular band. We stood on chairs and everyone in the back of the concert turned around and stared at us, and kept staring.
I found a few Internet cafes – it was like going back 12+ years ago. The monitors were recycled 13 or 14 inch screens with speed merely dialup – with many of the computers not even functioning. The few cafes we found were set back in dirty hawker markets.
So far it can be very difficult to purchase items if you don’t have the exact or close to the exact change. I bought a phone charger for $1.50 and we spent about 10 minutes waiting while the shops owner ran around trying to give us our change for a relatively small bill.
Bangladesh is the world’s most densely populated country, about 160 million people live here of which about 15 million live in the capital city, Dhaka. Bangli is the world’s 4th most popular spoken language and is also spoken in Calcutta.
This is prime earthquake country and the city is just waiting for the next big one. When it hits it will be a disaster based on the type of construction that is used in the city.
There are traffic lights at some of the larger roundabouts but these signal lights are 100% ignored. The only way traffic stops is when vehicles going the opposite direction get the guts to inch out and hopefully not cause an accident OR IF there is a traffic policemen with a big stick who walks out and stops traffic
1971 was the year the ‘Desh claimed Independence from Pakistan and became its own country after an almost 10 month bloody war. We saw the skulls in the National Museum and photos showing a number of atrocities at that time. Early 70’s were big for the Deshers. George Harrison concert and huge cyclone hit around then also. The 1970 cyclone still remains one of top 5 worst natural disasters in terms of loss of human life – over 500,000 people died.