Hi, I'm Corina, a female traveller from Switzerland who loves the world and who loves exploring different cultures. Usually, I'm travelling on my own what makes it easier to meet new people and to start an intercultural dialogue.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I embarked the air plane at the Dhaka airport in February 2016. With a small, outdated lonely Planet guidebook in my bag and an Hotel address to stay over night in my hand did I make my way through the arrival hall. People were looking at me in curiosity, some approached me asking where I came from and why I came to Bangladesh. "My friend lives here. Bangladesh is beautiful, she said." I answered earning a big smile from the people.
Five months earlier I was scrolling through facebook while I was planning my trip around South Asia. I had a vague idea that I wanted to visit India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. On the map there was Bangladesh next to India and Myanmar. To be honest I knew nothing about that wonderful country at that time despite that all my H&M clothes came from there. But fate stepped in. In a facebook group for solo, female travellers, called "Travelettes", a young Bangladeshi named Sakia posted a beautiful picture about her country's nature. It showed a bird sitting on a tree in Tanguar haor. She invited everyone to come and visit her. She needed a female travel buddy and didn't know an other woman who was interested in travelling around in Bangladesh. So she reached out through the internet to the international travel community! After talking to each other several times through facebook I booked a flight to the country of 1000 rivers and our adventures began.
Luckily, Sakia and I got a long very well from the beginning. Our first meeting was very funny. Since it was my first time in an muslim country I didn't know how to dress or to behave correctly. I didn't want to come off to "western", since many people have a bad idea about people coming from the west. (This is mainly due to Hollywood's exaggerating movie industry.) So I decided to wear a salwar kameez. Sakia on the other hand had similar worries. She didn't want to come off to old fashiond and showed up in jeans and a long, modern tunika. Aware of the oddness of the situation we had to laugh and the ice was broken.
We started to plan our travels right away. First I intended to stay for two weeks in Bangladesh but ended up using up all my visa days. On our first trip we took the ferry from Dhaka to Barisal, visited the Mosque in Guthia and took the bus to Kuakata. There we rode on the roof of a bus to Kuakata and went to Khulna after that.On the way back to Dhaka we visited the 60 domed mosque Shat Gombuj. Switzerland has a few lakes and rivers and boat rides are not a common way to travel. So boat rides were very special to me and I enjoyed it a lot. The second trip was with the Bindass group. We went to Sunamganj, to Tanguar haor, slept on a house boat and went to the border of India at Barikkatila. I liked that trip because it was possible to meet so many young and motivated people that loved travelling as well. You could really feel how much they love their home country and want to explore it. Then we went to the beautiful St.Martins island and the world famous Cox bazaar. One of the biggest highlights were the Sundarbans. This vaste and enormous piece of land with the many rivers is amazing. The complex eco-system with the adjustment of the trees to salty and sweet water and the protection from incoming floods were fascinating. Sakia and I joined a boat tour organized by her university. We cruised 3 days through the rivers with a wonderful group of mixed people. We laughed, ate and admired together the wonderful Sundarbans and could even spot some tiger tracks!
Meeting many different people from different cultures means a lot to me. It encourages not only to point out the differences between countries but also to ask why the differences are there. It gives a new perspective and puts things in a different light. On every trip I am interested what people feel strong about, what they are passionate about. Fortunately I was during the national day of language in Bangladesh. The celebration of Bangla and the proudness for the hard battle for Bangladesh's mother tongue was heart warming. You could feel the people's pride and happiness about beeing strong enough to fight a war to become an independent country and to underline their unique identity. Bangladesh is not India nor Pakistan and people should visit Bangladesh for it's nature and it's wonderful people to find out!
So what could the goverment do to promote tourism in Bangladesh? First of all they could motivate their own people to travel within Bangladesh. But for doing so the people need to know how special and precious their county is. Many people I met in Bangladesh, born and proud Bangladeshi, asked me why I choose Bangladesh. Sadly, they could hardly believe that there would be anything special or interesting about their home country. Local tourism could be promoted by informing their people what there is to see and experiance in Bangladesh. The country has as much to offer as every other country!
When it comes to international tourism there are a few obstacles I encountered myself travelling through Bangladesh. When I visited the beautiful little country, there have only been a few resources to plan the travels. I got an outdated Lonely Planet Bangladesh of the year 2012 and red a few articles from travel bloggers. Travellers want not only to know why they should travel to Bangladesh but how to do it as well. Information like how to travel from Dhaka to Cox Bazaar or to Kuhlna are much needed to travel planning. Luckily, Lonely Planet one of the biggest producers of travel guide books produced a new version of the guide book in 2016! That will attract many travelers. One other challanging thing was to find the sights in the city. There are surprisingly many people speaking English! I had no troubles to get around in Dhaka by asking people for directions. But it would have been nice to have some signs in English and maybe a tourist map pointing out the main attractions and how to get there. One sad thing that might turn away tourists is the pollution. Especially the beautiful places out in nature are filled with garbage like potatoe chips bags, water bottles and other plastic. There is a vaste amount of waste floating in the rivers and lying on the fields. That will turn people off. International tourist will come and visit Bangladesh for its nature, especially the many rivers, the lush green of the fields, the special animals like the Bengal Tiger and its wonderful, warm hearted people. It will hurt the eye and the heart to see such a beautiful country littered. For that the awareness of the importance of nature's protection must be raised.
The people of Bangladesh have been wonderful to me and I truly fell in love with them. Sakia and her friends took me immediately under their wing. They showed me around, introduced me to their familys and explained everything to me I wanted to know.
The nature, the culture and the people make this little country an outstanding place for travelling and I will visit Bangladesh again for sure!
সুন্দর বাংলাদেশ আমি তোমাকে ভালোবাসি! আপনার বড় হৃদয় জন্য আপনাকে ধন্যবাদ!