It is probably fair to say that Bangladesh for various reasons isn’t on many people’s wish list of places to visit but ironically that is one of the main reasons we wanted to visit. It was extremely refreshing and rewarding to travel around a country, unspoilt by mass tourism and to have the opportunity of experiencing and observing the many facets of Bangladeshi life in such a natural and personal way.
We wanted to see as much of Bangladesh and its people as possible to help us develop a more balanced view of the whole country so opted for a three-week tour. Bangladesh Unbound was the perfect solution as they were able to accommodate our specific requests on places to visit and smooth the way by booking internal transport, accommodation and travel permits to Chittagong Hill Tracts and Sundarbans.
Before arrival, Farjana was very helpful and answered my numerous questions promptly and honestly. She met us on arrival and payment was straightforward. During our stay, she was constantly in touch making sure everything was OK and occasionally making changes if something wasn’t to her liking e.g. Upgrading us to a better hotel at no extra cost when the one we were booked into didn’t meet her standards. When my husband developed an eye problem she quickly arranged an appointment with an eye specialist who dealt with it very competently. Farjana also managed to secure tickets to England/Bangladesh Test Match when ours failed to materialise to which my husband is extremely grateful. It was a pleasure to meet up for a meal on our last night reminisce on our holiday and hear about her plans for the future.
Our tour was too long and varied to write a full account but highlights include Old Dhaka, I loved it, the Sundarbans, such a privilege to spend 3 days on our private boat in such a pristine environment with such a lovely crew and so few tourists. The walk along the empty beach following the recent tiger prints was an experience!
Visits to different Chars, Puthia, Srimangal and the Rocket and train journeys were all lovely. As we are interested in wildlife the visits to Baikka Beel, a bird sanctuary, and Lawachara Forest with gibbons and monkeys were extra special. As someone interested in indigenous people the whole of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and its varied tribal population was amazing and last but not least was the visit to the Manipuri Ras Festival. The costumes and dancing were spectacular and Farjana ensured we got front row seats. It was a privilege to attend a Hindu festival and mix with all the local people enjoying themselves.
Possibly the biggest highlight was the Bangladeshi people. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiling, friendly faces eager to have their photos taken and to take ours. Our numerous visits to homes in towns and villages and the sharing of food or a cup of tea gave us a chance to meet ‘real’ Bangladeshi people and a chance to begin to understand this relatively new nation.
A word on security. We decided to visit despite the July bombings in Dhaka, security concerns with visiting cricket teams and foreign office warnings against visiting CHT. We were so glad we did. At no time did we feel at all at risk or in danger. It felt like one of the safest countries I have travelled to. Our whereabouts were tracked by security personnel whilst in Chittagong Hill tracts but our guide had a very good relationship with the police and at no time did this feel oppressive or uneasy. It was almost reassuring, we even got invited to the police station to meet to ‘chief’ we almost had the whole area to ourselves-what a treat, beautiful people and scenery which made our image of Bangladesh complete.
Lastly. A big thank you must go to our guide and driver who made our travels so memorable, comfortable, enjoyable and informative. Liton, our driver, for remaining so cheerful throughout those long journeys and his skill at safely negotiating the Dhaka manic traffic. I hope your wife enjoyed her sweets.
Arafat our friend and ‘fixers’ for so many days. Thank you for all your background knowledge, introducing us to your friends, your little treats and making the unexpected happen to like the visit to the hospital ship whilst visiting a Char and his company for the test cricket and delight in a win for the hosts.
In summary, if you want to visit Bangladesh, go now and I thoroughly recommend Bangladesh Unbound for their professionalism, local knowledge caring attitude and commitment to clients.