Early in the morning, on my way to World’s End, deep in the hill country of Sri Lanka, near Haputale.
On the top of Little Adam’s Peak, Ella Rock in the background, deep in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka.
I’ve been watching a lot of news lately, and it makes me sadder than it usually does. My beloved Bangladesh is in trouble; once the shock of the factory collapse had subsided, the hartals and streetfighting resumed, this time with more fervor than before.
I fell in love with a lush and green country, and it tears me, to watch it fight itself. I fell in love with busrides through fields, farmers working under the sun, children playing by the roadsides and markets around the busstops in villages.
I found people so friendly, it got on my nerves, and damaged my calm (at no fault of theirs, only mine). Everywhere I went, I was greeted with smiles, handshakes, curiosity, and laughing children. It gets a bit much, 24/7, but I cannot fault their enthusiasm for foreigners, this is a country where you’re undoubtedly welcome.
One experience that will forever be with me, was the honeycomb hunting trip in the Sundarbans. Never before had I had such an experience; and I don’t expect to see its like anytime soon, it’s the sort of experience that’s rapidly disappearing from planet Earth.
But Bangladesh is still very untouched, except for my Sundarbans trip (and a visit to the Danish embassy), I never met a single foreigner. Though it’s low season, and a time of political strife, I think it’s remarkable; it was a very interesting experience, a very immersive one, even if a bit lonely.
So far on this trip, I’ve visited: China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. And from this list, for anyone looking for an original time and a selfmade adventure, nothing beats Bangladesh.
I came to Natore to see the nearby town of Puthia, strewn with old temples, mosques and ruins. Alas, a hartal was on, so busses didn’t run, and rickshaws were in hiding, in fact, the whole place felt closed (which to be fair, is what strikes are about).
Undeterred, I asked the receptionist if he knew anyone with a motorcycle who’d drive me, for a fee of course. While I went to sort out traintickets for the following day (because Bangla trains are awesome, and always run), he found someone, and I was introduced to Babu.
Babu was a healthy looking gentleman, portly I guess, with a red motorcycle… Mounting his steed, we raced to Puthia, stopping only for passing thunderstorms, and buying sweets for children (and me).
In Puthia, the first obligation, was to stop for tea and biscuits, and being introduced to everyone from the area (when accompanied by a local, the attention is the same, but they all try conversing instead of staring). The people to greet me, included my guide for the day, an older gentleman, who walked me around the corner, and started the tour with the Shiva temple; all the statues sadly defaced by Pakistani troops in 1971, a running theme.
For the rest of the midday and afternoon, Babu would drive us around, taking in the sights, ruins, temples and mosques. At one of the mosques, waiting till prayertime was over, I signed their guestbook, as the first foreigner since the middle of February. I visited Puthia on April 24, one of the highlights of Bangladesh, in all the guidebooks I’ve read.
After a wonderful and tiring day, we stopped for very late lunch and some friendly talk, which sadly took a nasty turn. Unfortunately, the guide asked for my choice of religion (or lack thereof), and got so upset, he refused payment.
After late lunch, which Babu paid for, like everything else during the day (any attempt by me, was met by loud protests), he took me on a private tour of Puthia, taking me to meet his father and uncle-in-law (a lot more tea), respectively the town’s most prominent businessman, and the region’s leader for the biggest political party; followed by a visit to his friends.
At the end of the day, I was dropped by my hotel in Natore, after a free day in Babus company; ready for an evening of reading and eating candy (no Babu).