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Published: March 1st 2012
Kids in the bow on board the Rocket
Some kids playing in the bow on the Rocket
The Rocket, palaces and two world heritage sites
This blog entry is about the second half of my journey in Bangladesh. If you would like to read about the first half but haven't yet you can follow this link.
First I'd like to write a little about the traffic in Bangladesh. If I am to describe the traffic in Bangladesh the first word I come to think about is 'nightmarish', and after that the words 'noisy', 'crowded' and 'scary' come to mind. A bus ride could be described as a series of chicken races while honking the horn like crazy. To give you an idea of what it is like I have shot a short film from inside a car. The film is really bad, I know, but it really is the sound that is important here. How many times does the driver manage to honk the horn in 14 seconds? Try to count that if you can...
A few days before I left on this trip a friend asked me if I’m ever worried about my safety when I travel to countries in the developing world. I answered truthfully “Not really. Most of the time I feel quite
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Therefore most of the land in Bangladesh is farming country
safe”. I don’t think I really got the message through to my friend though. So I will try again here on the blog, this time with an example.
I stayed a few nights at a hotel in central Dhaka. The area around the hotel is quite busy with lots of people everywhere and a lot of traffic in the street. It’s a bit noisy, slightly run down and I also noticed a few beggars hanging around. Across the road from the hotel there was a market with stalls side by side all along the street. Late in the evening when they close down the market the merchants pull tarps over the goods, secure it all with a rope and go home and sleep. When they come back in the morning they untie the rope and folds down the tarp and open the stall. It is so safe in central Dhaka that the only thing they need to keep thieves away is a tarp and a rope. That would never be possible at home.
I hope the person who asked about safety reads this because I think the question was based on a misunderstanding of what people really are
The central shrine in the middle of the complex is breathtaking
like in the developing world. They may be poor but they are for the most part very honest and it is safe to travel.
After having spent almost a week in the southwest part of Bangladesh I headed west because I wanted to explore a few architectural and archaeological gems in that part of the country. First stop was the town Paharpur and the World Heritage Site Somapura Mahavihara
A thousand years ago Somapura Mahavihara was a Buddhist monastery. The monastery was abandoned sometime in the 13th century and today there are only ruins left. The size of the place is impressive even today and in its heydays it must have been something extraordinary. The central shrine in the middle of the complex is breathtaking even though it’s only fragments of the original temple standing there today.
Next place I visited was the town Natore. There I wanted to see the seven rajbaris
they have there. A rajbari is similar to a mansion. The rajbaris in Natore was once the home of a rich and powerful family. But the family must have fallen on bad times because the rajbaris are today in a sad condition. The buildings have been
Somapura Mahavihara was a Buddhist monastery. The monastery was abandoned sometime in the 13th century and today there are only ruins left
abandoned for a long time and are administered by the Ministry of Archaeology. One or two of the buildings has been totally destroyed by fire and there are only walls left. The others are in such a state of disrepair that they can not be opened for public unless they are renovated. But I still enjoyed walking around among the buildings, even though they have seen better days. The photo I have put up on the blog doesn't do the rajbari justice. Please follow the link above to the Wikipedia article for better shots.
After leaving Natore I started making my way back towards Dhaka. I then passed the town Bagerhat
, a small town with an astonishingly large number of old mosques. The town was founded in the 15th century and the founder not only had a town build but also erected more than 300 mosques in and around the town. Many of these mosques are still around today and can be visited.
When I walked between two of the mosques I walked on a narrow village road. I then realised why I keep seeing brick factories everywhere. This road was paved with bricks. So one of the
Chili getting dried
The food in Bangladesh can be a bit spicy sometimes but not to the extreme like it can be in Thailand or India
things they use bricks for is to pave roads. The bricks on this road were red so you might say I walked on the Red Brick Road, somewhat less famous than the one paved with yellow bricks
By now I had to return to Dhaka to get ready for my flight back home. I went to Dhaka on a passenger ferry called the Rocket. There is not one The Rocket, there are five of them. They are paddle steamers built in the 1920-ies. These ferries are, in spite of their age, regular ferries and are used for transport between various towns in the district Barisal Division and the Capital of Bangladesh.
I had booked a first class ticket on the Rocket and that was a pleasant experience. What it is like travelling in second class on this boat I don’t know but I can say for sure that for a tourist the third class is not an option. The difference in price really isn’t very big but there is a huge difference in the accommodation style. In first class you get a bed in a compartment, a common room with a big table and access to the front deck of the
The rajbari in Natore
One of the seven rajbaris in Natore. A rajbari is similar to a mansion.
boat. In third class you get to sleep on the floor if you are lucky enough to find a space large enough to lie down on. When I went into the third class section on the ferry my thoughts went to how animals are being transported. I felt ashamed when I took some photos of the third class because I thought people would be offended. But the only reaction I met was one man who jumped up and wanted to see the photo. He was really happy to see both himself and his daughter in the photo. He asked me to zoom in on him and called for the daughter so she could come and look at the photo too.
I was rude taking a photo of the passengers in the third class. Well Bangladeshis can be rude back so maybe I evened the scores that day. It is a bit rare that westerners visit Bangladesh. Therefore I actually became a bit of an attraction for the locals everywhere I came. People came up to me and wanted to talk. Mostly the questions were limited to "What is your name?" and "What country do you come from?". Those who
The main mosque in Bagerhat
didn't know English, and they were quite a few, just stared. This staring is annoying and when they sit and stare when I eat or when I am in my hotelroom it is rude.
When I came back to Dhaka I spent two days on seeing the sights there. One of the places I went to was Sat Gumbad Mosque. The mosque is from the 17th century and is one of the oldest Mosques in Dhaka. I happened to come to Sat Gumbad Mosque during the Friday prayer. At that time the mosque is a busy place. More than a thousand people gather there. They fill up the mosque, the courtyard and people even pray on the road outside. It was interesting to see that.
One of the other places I visited in Dhaka was Ahsan Manzil
, or the Pink Palace. The palace was built in the 19th century and was once the home of the wealthy Nawab family. Today the palace is a museum and on display there are photos, furniture and other artifacts that used to belong to the family. Inside the museum it was not permitted to take photos. That was a pity because I wish
Inside the main mosque in Bagerhat
I could have been permitted to take a photo of the grand staircase inside the palace. That staircase was amazing.
The last place in Dhaka I am going to mention here on the blog is Lalbagh Fort. Lalbagh Fort might one day become a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is today on the tentative list, a list where candidates for the real list can be found. Lalbagh Fort was built in the 17th century. It was meant to be both a palace and a fortress but was for some reason never completed. Today it is a nice place to take a stroll and to get away from the noisy city.
Much of the short distance transport in Bangladesh is done by bicycle rickshaw. They often load these so high with goods that they look like they could fall over. The rickshaw-wallahs (wallah = the guy who peddles the rickshaw) have a very hard job. It is painful to see how hard they work and know how little money they actually make each day. Often their salary is as little as the equivalent of 1 USD a day.
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