সোমবার, ৩০ নভেম্বর, ২০১৫

Bangladesh History, Language and Culture

History of Bangladesh

Bangladesh was formerly East Pakistan, a constituent of the original state of Pakistan created by the British in 1947. The two halves of the country were separated by miles of Indian territory, creating an almost certain recipe for political tension.

Disputes over language and political power came to a head in 1970, when the pro-independence Awami League won an overwhelming majority in what turned out to be East Pakistan's last general election. The Pakistani army blocked the Awami leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, from taking up the premiership.

The Awami leadership announced East Pakistan's secession, after which the country was rapidly consumed by civil war. The war lasted for most of 1971, and was brought to an end by the intervention of India, which forced Pakistan to surrender. During the next 20 years, the country was overtaken by a succession of military coups along with frequent impositions of martial law and states of emergency.

However, since the beginning of the 1990s, civilian parties have established firm control over the government. Bangladesh's geographical position and topography make it vulnerable to the regional climate, especially storms and flooding, and the government has been forced to make repeated requests for aid from the international community. July 2004 and months following that date bore witness to some of the worst flooding in Bangladesh in years - 800 died as a result, millions were left homeless or stranded and 20 million needed food aid.

Bangladesh Culture

90% Muslim, 9% Hindus and 1% Buddhist and Christian minorities. Religion is the main influence on attitudes and behaviour. Since 1988, Islam has been the official state religion.

Social conventions
In someone's home it is acceptable to sit crossed-legged on cushions or the sofa. If a visitor wishes to bring a gift, money must not be given as it may cause offence. Religious customs should be respected by guests. There are severe penalties for possession and trafficking of illegal drugs. Some drugs-related offences are punishable by death. Local women should not be specifically photographed unless it is certain that there will be no objection. Women should wear trousers or long skirts; revealing clothes should be avoided, particularly when visiting religious places. Dress is generally informal for men, though modesty must be maintained. Same-sex relations are illegal.

In rural areas, people are becoming more used to tourists; however, permission should be requested before photographs are taken of individuals. Do not photograph military installations. 

Language in Bangladesh

The official language is Bengali (Bangla). English is widely spoken, especially in government and commercial circles. Tribal dialects are also spoken.
Source: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/bangladesh/history-language-culture

রবিবার, ২৯ নভেম্বর, ২০১৫

About Bangladesh

India’s sleepy eastern cousin, Bangladesh slumbers gently under monsoon skies at the mouth of the Jamuna River, one of the world’s great deltas. Formerly East Pakistan, this intriguing backwater gained independence in 1971 after a civil war that still plays a major role in the national psyche.

An influx of tourists was predicted following independence, but this has yet to materialised, meaning visitors have Bangladesh’s many and varied attractions to themselves. Those attractions range from Mughal palaces and gleaming mosques to palm-fringed beaches, tea-plantations and jungles full of snarling Bengal tigers.

Bangladesh’s frenetic capital, Dhaka, was once the main port for the whole of Bengal, and its rickshaw-crammed streets present a faded mirror to Kolkata across the border. Dhaka is a city of rain-washed colonial buildings, gaudy film posters, docksides thronging with boats and the constant cacophony of car horns and rickshaw bells. It can be a shock for the senses, but the blow is softened by friendly, inquisitive locals and delicious Bengali cuisine.

South of Dhaka, the Jamuna River breaks down into a tangle of jungle-choked waterways as you enter the Sundarbans, one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger. Here, as elsewhere in Bangladesh, the best way to get around is by river – legions of boats ply every waterway, from tiny coracles to the paddleboat ‘rockets’ that chug between Dhaka and Kulna.

The south of Bangladesh is something else again; tropical beaches give way to forested hills that hide a host of Buddhist and animist tribes. Then there’s Sylhet, in the heart of tea plantation country, where foreign remittances have built a miniature version of England amidst the monsoon hills.

Above all else, Bangladesh is place to leave the mainstream travel map. Let the crowds mob the beaches of Goa and the forts of Rajasthan; in Bangladesh, you won’t have to queue to be amazed.

Come to Bangladesh before the tourists do!

So said the sign outside Zia Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh!

It’s certainly true that whilst many third world nations are being opened up to ever more intensive tourism, Bangladesh, is lagging behind. The infrastructure of the country is primitive in many respects: hotels of high standard are rare outside the capital, Dhaka; transport is fraught with frustrations and discomfort; facilities and entertainments are limited; public toilets are hard to find- and if found are probably best forgotten!

To make things even less appealing, the electricity supply is notoriously unreliable and intermittent- particularly during the appallingly hot and sticky summer season when even the minor luxury of a ceiling fan may not be available.

All this makes the destination seem somewhat unattractive to the tourist intent on having fun and relaxation!

It’s just all too much hard work!

But then, not everyone is seeking a sequence of pleasant, voyeuristic experiences whilst on holiday. And if a little discomfort is acceptable then there is something quite unique and wonderful to experience on a visit to Bangladesh.

And that something is the people!

Bangladesh is a populous state- perhaps 167 million in a land area that approximates to England and Wales combined, and much of that under water! The great majority of these people are eking out a life in significant poverty and under huge pressures and yet there is a level of affection and respect for visitors to be found here that would be difficult to equal anywhere in the world.

And it is amongst the poorest of the population that the greatest warmth is to be found: amongst the simple village folk of the countryside and even in the grubbiest slums and busties of Dhaka city. To meet these people, to live with them for a time, to eat with them and to share something of their lives is to receive a blessing that will stay with you for ever.

There may be only one bed for the whole family to sleep on, but as a guest you will be invited to sleep on it while the family use the floor; food may be scarce, but you will be served all that is available whilst your hosts wait until you are finished. If it is too hot someone will stand behind you with a fan- and remain there for a whole night unless you dismiss them.

In every way you will be treated as that old fashioned archaism, ‘the honoured guest’.

Similarly, whilst the richer shopping centres of the city may be as impersonal as our own, in the poorer bazaars of town the experience is different. A battered stool is quickly brought out for you to sit on as you look over what a shop has to offer, even a coke or cold water can miraculously appear at your side. The shopkeeper gives you immediate attention although he appears already to be serving another 5 Bengalis and if the prices have been over-inflated to take account of your presence, a bit of robust haggling is only greeted with cheerful acceptance. Anyway, you only have to turn to an innocent bystander to find out what the going rate truly is. Most Bengalis are much too polite to tell a lie and will delight in taking your side against any excessive avarice by a shopkeeper.

The occupants of tiny road-side tea shops will invite you to sit amongst them, and buy you tea if you do. The travellers in battered and overcrowded buses will create space where there is none and sometimes even offer to pay your fare. Children will tug your sleeve and point with concern to the bank notes peeping from your breast pocket. Young men will chase up from behind to return the umbrella- or the wallet- you have just dropped

And yes, there are rascals who you have to watch out for and thieves who might snatch your handbag and run, and the surly and the ungrateful and the downright unpleasant; but I think there are not so many in Bangladesh as in some parts of our own nation. And if I had to choose between walking home at night through the back streets of Dhaka city or Glasgow or Edinburgh then I would have no hesitation in choosing Dhaka as the safer option.

There are some visitors who will find the seas of faces in this overcrowded and unselfconscious nation far too intrusive. It is difficult to adjust to the strangeness of having people stare at you closely without let or shame. And there is no doubt that familiarity by apparent strangers can escalate alarmingly if you open up for even a moment.

But perhaps it is our own isolationism being exposed here, our western need for the personal space and anonymity that enables us to keep others at a manageable distance- and thereby seriously limits us in what we are able to both give and receive.

In fact, it is only when we as visitors relax and allow the people of Bangladesh to draw close and receive us wholeheartedly, that we may ourselves receive the rich blessing that this poorest of nations is able to offer.

And also perhaps, it is then that we may begin to relearn as westerners the lost joy of caring for the stranger in our midst.

Source: http://mikepapa.blogspot.com/2013/08/come-to-bangladesh-before-tourists-do.html

Australian Celebrity FAM trip to Bangladesh as a place for Meaningful Travel

The Journey for the FAM trip began 6 months ago when Experience Bangladesh director in Australia got China Southern Airlines, mg media communications on board to put together the rockstar team of Travel journalists from Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Sun, Get Lost Magazine, Mind Food magazine, FairFax, Escape Ltd. and Australian Travel.

Experience Bangladesh in the US, Bangladesh, and Australia with the help of their partons/sponsors like Pan Pacific, Ajiyer, Jatrik etc. made this a “idea” a reality after months of planning and contingency plans rolled out by the Experience Bangladesh teams.

Here are some excerpts of memorable conversations between Experience Bangladesh and the journalists through out the trip:
Joanna, like each of the journalists sat next to me on the road trips for 2 hrs to ask about the essence of Sustainable living in Bangladesh and why Experience Bangladesh does all that they do every day. Sarah attempted to explain concepts of ancestral energy in the villages that is the anchor of “Meaningful Travel” and laid out the steps of spiritual awakening that travelers experience to the core.

As she walked through the villages of Tangail and then met the women in Sundarban, she whispered, ” I see what you meant by feeling the generosity of spirit and the innocence of the people” that moves you.
Paul Sheehan used one phrase throughout the trip whenever he spoke to me, “I am feeling very protective of you”. This was his way to showing what he later understood as “Maya”. By the end of the trip he hugged the Experience Bangladesh team and said, “I feel Maya for you.” As he used his intuition to find the path back to the boat from Laodep, where we went to meet the women from the MRDI project, he commented, “Now I understand why you are so passionate about highlighting Bangladesh and why its so important to preserve the way of life of these people.”
He enjoyed the trip to the fullest, always the first to join a dance mob, the last to leave the table after relishing every bite on his plate, the first to start a conversation with strangers and the one who asked the most difficult questions on the group : )

 Helen Anderson sent us an email raving about the National Assembly Building and how envious her architect friends were of her for going to the land where this magnificent structure stood. Our Experience Bangladesh got to work in a heart beat and Samad pulled out rabbits out of his bag of tricks making is possible for all of us to not only visit the Parliament Building, private tour and all, but also managed a luncheon in the auspicious compound. The parliamentary session chamber was a “goosebump” experience for all of us. Throughout the trip, Helen bonded with the team asking deep philosophical questions about what sustainable tourism meant for Bangladesh. We found ourselves simply saying, “Its all we have got and the ONLY way we can practice tourism”.

Gillian Cumming talked about her love of gourmet cooking. She stopped us dead in our tracks when she casually mentioned making “Gulap Jamoon” from scratch 30 years ago. This is just a small example of the calm and elegant feminine power she holds and used to roll out the endless news inserts and magazines in the past 17 years. She quickly took down a recipe of our traditional beef curry that takes 2 hours to cook and smiled, “Now I have something authentic to cook for the gathering as soon as I get back!”

The trip to Sundarban was about a lot more than l”ooking for the tiger and finding the jungle” as my friend Daleep Akoi calls it. Visiting the MRDI project where women that used to rely solely on fishing in the Sundarban, selling “Gol Patha” indigenous palm leaves and honey catching, now sell artistically embroidered goods that is a safer profession, gives them access to additional revenue and helps them preserve their mangrove forest; opened their eyes to what sustainable living practices looked like in the everyday lives of the people of Sundarban.

The Wild Team Project in Chadpai was equally rewarding with a live demonstration at the exact site of where the night patrol guard the village from tigers. We had an enthusiastic volunteer of the First Response team act as an actual tiger!
Our wildlife experts Najm Sheikh and Bachchu bhai took us out at the crack of dawn for bird watching and called out names of birds from their calls.

The trip ended with a farewell dinner at the Australian High Commissioners’ Mr Greg Wilcock and Ms Wilhelmina van Beers, for a night of partying hard, live music and a lot of dancing!

Source: http://www.experiencebangladesh.com/travel/australian-celebrity-fam-trip-to-bangladesh-as-a-place-for-meaningful-travel/

শনিবার, ২৮ নভেম্বর, ২০১৫

Five things about being an expat in Bangladesh

I know all I write about lately is what it’s like being an expat, but I hope you’ll forgive me, as it’s really the hugest thing in my brain-meats going on. Living here is a constant juggle in my head of the cultures I grew up in and the culture I’m living in. The older kids are asking really great questions lately, and I find that only part of the time do I ever really have an answer that I feel 100% about. So it goes — you live and learn.
So here are ten things about living in Bangladesh — obviously, Dhaka is my frame of reference.
1.  White people are a novelty. Suddenly, I get in part why as foreigners we are stared at so much — we are really foreign. We stand out. Over 98% of the population is Bengali, so yes, the tall white guy with the shorter Asian woman, traipsing around Dhaka with their three kids definitely stand out. But now, when I see another foreign space, I feel a sense of kinship with that person, the “hey, we’re both not from around here. I get it. I really do.” It’s sort of imbued in every nod or smile hello.

2.  Social status is no joke. When we go out to eat or pop into a store to buy something, it is not uncommon for the wait staff or the store employee to turn on the air conditioner or fan to blow directly in our direction. I joked to Josh that as long as we live here he may never have to open a door or push an elevator button — at his school, faculty members are revered in ways not seen in American schools. We are treated well, and many times uncomfortably well. I want to shout that I am able to and happy to carry my own groceries and change my own light bulbs. We hired a nanny to help us with the kids and some household chores, so that I may devote more time to my own work as a doctoral student, and she calls me “Madame,” even though I have asked her to call me Casey. No go. She calls Josh and refers to him as “Boss,” which is more amusing to me, because really people — I am the boss of this household! But this is further indicative of the social strata we’ve stepped into. (I have another blog post brewing on our experiences thus far with having in-home help and how we have approached this — hint, it’s not easy for the soul, that’s for sure!) Me, I am having a hard time reconciling the fact that we are living comfortably in a huge city with amenities galore. I was just a poor grad student this past summer! Now, our nanny calls me madame. And we have a nanny?! What is this.

3.  The voices inside your head are relentless, but they do simmer down. When we first moved here, and definitely to an extent now, I found myself constantly translating — not just language-wise, but everything. I learned what the going rate for rickshaw rides were and what foreigners were charged. I learned how to pay for rickshaw rides with confidence. I learned how to figure out what something was worth, and whether or not it was worth buying. I learned about the different neighborhoods in town and how sometimes in order to go right, you have to go left for awhile and make an illegal u-turn, in front of a cop. What’s a tiffin? It’s something like a snack, or a lunch packed for a kid, in a cool container. Constantly translating and figuring out where to go. This got exponentially easier when I learned three really important words — left, right, and straight. This, combined with Google Maps, has helped me navigate everything easier.

4.  Everyone wants to touch your kids. This is the biggest cultural shift I have had to manage, and I’m still struggling — we all are. Matthew lately has been more significantly uncomfortable with all of the staring, and Lindsey too has grown more cognizant of her personal space. People are fascinated with our kids, because of their genetic mashup as well as just that they’re kids. Kids can be fun and it’s fun to coo at a baby or chat and play with a kid. Lindsey and I have had discussions about the differences in how people treat each other here versus in the United States. I’ve told her that if she doesn’t like someone’s friendly head-pat, she can say nicely, “Please don’t touch me.” The thing I struggle with is the concept of personal space here is not what I am accustomed to, nor are the kids accustomed to. There’s a balance between being assertive with respecting one’s body and being openly dismissive of a common cultural norm (of how adults and children interact). It’s an ongoing struggle.

5.  Good lord, the food. THE FOOD. And the tea. How on earth did I eat before coming to Bangladesh? I don’t think we have had a bad meal since moving here. Everything tastes so wonderfully vibrant and delectable. I am loving how spicy the food is (the kids are slowly adjusting), and tea! I’ve always liked tea, but I absolutely love the tea we got in Srimangal before we left. I haven’t missed coffee much at all, because… tea!

মঙ্গলবার, ২৪ নভেম্বর, ২০১৫

Boats in Bangladesh

I love boats! I’m not sure why, but I find them fascinating, and love being on the water. There’s nothing quite like sitting in the sun and watching the world pass by. With over 8000 kilometres of navigable waterways, and a colourful and bewildering assortment of different sea-faring craft, Bangladesh is a pretty great place for boat enthusiasts.

Here are the some of the boats that I saw in Bangladesh.

Cheers, and happy sailing!


P.S. One of the above boats carries sand… See if you can find it, and check out how low it is in the water…

Source: https://joeliscurious.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/boats-in-bangladesh-3/

সোমবার, ২৩ নভেম্বর, ২০১৫

Transport in Bangladesh

With a population of 160 million people, Bangladeshi transportation comes in all shapes, colours, and sizes. Find yourself a seat/platform/cage, whack some wheels on it, and you have yourself a rickshaw. All aboard!

 Cycle Rickshaw!
These are everywhere, and are the default mode of transport for short distances. Old Dhaka is full of them. I walked a kilometre along Cycle st (Bangshal rd), before I found a gap in the rickshaw traffic jam and could cross the street! They also have some pretty gnarly artwork. Pretty cheap fares, around 15 – 30 taka. No extra charge for a third person, luggage, or cattle if you can all fit



I think van means anything with a flat wooden platform.


CNG stands for compressed natural gas. These are great for longer distances. Cram as many people in as possible. Great for weaving in and out of traffic and for playing chicken with larger vehicles, such as buses. No extra charge for the cage.

Battery/Auto Rickshaw


These things are battery powered, and despite their appearance can actually go pretty quick. More room than a CNG, and there is no cage, so you can hang out the side.


Another Tempo?
Bamboo Van?
This thing is so overloaded that I have no idea...
Horse cart

Pretty popular with the Bangladeshi domestic tourists as far as I can tell. I think these go from Gulistan crossing in Old Dhaka to the Sadarghat and back.



Pretty common way to cross rivers. These photos are from the Sadarghat in Dhaka. 2 taka set price.


Ferry and Launch


Some of these are huge, and carry a lot of people. Like lots of people. Many routes run overnight.


Moto boat


These are bigger versions of the rowboats, normally used if the river is really wide. They row a short distance, and then turn on the motor. These photos are from the Karnaphuli river, in Chittagong. About 5 taka from memory.

The Party Boat

Get there, get on board, and get amongst it.


Bangladeshi trains are great. They are pretty comfortable, and not too crowded. There's a constant stream of buskers, beggars, and hawkers selling food, so they're never boring, and are a great way to see the country. The first 4 photos are from the Paharika train, from Chittagong to Sylhet. We had 1st class chair tickets.
These two photos were taken on the train from Dhaka to Kolkata. I was in the cheapest class. It was only half full, and even had a clean toilet! And they let me hang out the door too.
There are also some other forms of transport in Bangladesh that you're probably already familiar with.





Bangladeshi bus rules
1. If less than half of your passengers are vomiting at any one time, you're not going fast enough.
2. Rickshaws, motorbikes, other buses, cars, animals and small children are a blight on gods green earth, and must be destroyed at all costs. 10 points for hitting any of the above
3. Horn
4. Suspension is for pussies, and maintenance is for girls.
5. Any object in front of you MUST be overtaken, regardless of oncoming traffic. It is your sworn obligation to god and country. Bonus points for blind corners.
6. More Horn
7. If you arrive at a blind corner and have somehow failed to find another vehicle to overtake, you are a disgrace to your country, your fellow bus drivers, your father, his father, Cox's Bazar, god, and all of humanity. Taking the corner on the wrong side of the road whilst loudly honking your horn is the least you can do to attempt redemption.
8. HORN!!!
9. Don't stop to let passengers on or off. Slow down slightly, and speed up just before they grab the door handle. You are a soldier in the war on obesity.
10. Horn.
Looking worried, Barisal to Khulna bus
They're actually not quite that bad… Sort of… The minivan we caught in Samoa when we were playing at the 2010 jazz festival is still the worst bus ride I've been on. A drunk driver, up on 2 wheels at times, and he wouldn't stop despite frequent protests.
The Bangladeshi drivers are pretty reckless, and Bangladesh does have a high rate of road deaths. Although a large proportion are made up of the passengers and drivers of smaller vehicles, such as rickshaws, that are hit by larger vehicles. You are actually statistically more likely to die on the NZ roads than the roads in Bangladesh, when you factor in the number of people travelling every day, and the size of the population. That fact is completely unverified; I just did a quick calculation on my old Nokia travel phone when I was feeling nervous on a bus ride. It made me feel better.

A Danish girl in my hostel here in Kolkata told me a story last night, about a particularly suicidal bus driver in the Indian mountains. Everybody on the bus, Indians and foreigners alike, were scared witless and shaking. Except for one Buddhist monk, who was laughing. He said to her 'The worst that happens, is we die!'… Monks aye.

#instagram, #zen
Buses in Bangladesh are frequent, cheap, convenient, and are definitely an adventure! There is a lot of overtaking and swerving, and they're not always that comfortable. I'm only 170cms, and my legs would often be hitting the back of the seat in front. Try and get an aisle seat, or a seat in the back row. I found that when i sat in the middle seats, I didn't get much air when we went over a pothole. If you want some serious air, sit over the axle. My head sometimes almost hit the roof, no kidding. Normally I put my pack on top of the bus, or in the side compartment, but sometimes I had to buy an extra seat. No worries tho, it's cheap, and actually more comfortable than sharing your seat. Buses don't stop that often, so don't forget your mum.
I'm blessed with the ability to sleep almost anywhere (my claim to fame is falling asleep during the opening act when Motörhead played in NZ), and I actually managed to doze off on most journeys. There is a never ending procession of hawkers selling newspapers, blankets and delicious food, and if you're really lucky, you'll get to share your already limited personal space with a grumpy Bangladeshi woman, her luggage, and her coughing and spluttering (but cute) sick kid.

I avoided the Dhaka to Chittagong highway, which is apparently a death trap. The other routes are normally clogged with traffic, so you can't actually go that fast. I caught the Bagerhat to Barisal bus later than intended, when it was getting dark. It wasn't full, and everybody looked really worried. I put my hood up and tried to look inconspicuous. Best to avoid travel at night. Be prepared for some scary moments, and don't sit on the seat up the front next to the driver, as it's the most dangerous in a crash. Also, if there is a kid in front of you, close your window, as they tend to vomit out of theirs, and you don't want splashback. I'd use the buses again tho, they weren't really that bad. I spent over 35 hours on the Bangladeshi buses, and I'm still here.

The only thing I'd do differently, is that if i ever catch another bus that looks like this..

…i.e full, and it gets on one of these…

… a vehicle ferry

I'd get the hell off the boat to 'take photos', and get back on when it reached land. If something happened to the ferry, and when the bus is that full, especially bearing in mind that there are bars over the windows… Anyway…
I actually have to admit that I really enjoyed them. I met some nice Bangladeshis, and saw some great scenery. I had an Indiana Jones moment when the bus drove off with my luggage and I had to jump on. The bus wallahs are cool too. They hang out the door, yelling the name of the destination. 'Barisal Barisal! If someone wants to get on, the bus wallah bangs once on the side to signal to the driver to stop, and twice to go. A surprisingly efficient system! Except, when the bus wallah is preoccupied with laughing at the strange foreigner sitting by the door, who forgot his scarf and is freezing, you may have to run and jump. Our bus from Bandarban to Ruma Bazar had a long line of convicts chained together, and a couple of armed guards, the bus from Cox's Bazar to Chittagong had a prison cell style cage door between the driver and the passengers, which thankfully was kept open, and it's pretty common for people to get on carrying what appear to be cans of petrol. The buses in Bangladesh were an experience!

I'll leave you with some pictures of my favourite Bangladeshi buses.


Khulna bus
Khulna bus II
Moju Chowdhury Hat to Chittagong bus.
Local bus, Chittagong
Bus, Old Dhaka
Bus, Old Dhaka
P.S. You can actually ride up on top along with the luggage. It's technically illegal, but the rule isn't enforced, even though people are killed by low hanging power lines and branches every year. I didn't try it. Good enough excuse to go back!

Source: https://joeliscurious.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/transport-in-bangladesh/