RIVERS, RICKSHAWS & RICE PADDIES – SYHLET BANGLADESH

Bangladesh is a wonderful country, I love its amazing hospitality, food and the natural beauty that is so unique. 

But to be honest Bangladesh is in a mess, yes there are some truly beautiful sights and the food is delicious but the country is in a state of transition. You can see people walking around rural, muddy streets with the latest iphone whilst just beside them a man wearing a longi (sarong) is trying to herd his cattle across the road. It truly is an interesting mix of old and new technologies, cultures and customs side by side.

Our round the world trip inadvertently began in Bangladesh as there was a big family wedding and my parents were already there on a long holiday.

To sum up the journey in one word it would be, stressful! As we descended into Syhlet the view from the plane was slightly unnerving because all we could see was water.  The land is largely flat, green and mostly submerged in water from the many rivers, the rice paddies, ponds and swamps that are the life line to the country. At times it was actually difficult to spot any dry land.

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Being awake for 22 hours was not fun plus travelling with family who have four children, two of whom are disabled and carrying 22 pieces of luggage made the journey particularly difficult. But somehow we managed to scrape ourselves off the plane and into Syhlet airport at 11am local time. We were all pretty much like zombies by this point, not having slept or eaten well, but little did we know the fun was just about to begin.

Being Bengali and having family waiting for us we thought we were ready for the busy arrival lounge. I mean how difficult could it be to find family members and get our luggage into a car?

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Instead we were met with a stampede of people speaking an alien type of Bengali, all looking to make a Takka or two, it was like we were being chased by hyenas on a hot and sticky afternoon.  Then in an instant we were separated, I don’t know how but I managed to loose Ru. With my mum holding Ava and dad with some strange guy, who later turned out to be a family member, dragging us to a car, I was left panicking. Thankfully moments later I saw him already at the car with a whole bunch of other people I didn’t recognise. This has got to be the most chaotic and stressful arrival I have ever had in my life.

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The city is loud with the constant beeping of cars, bells ringing on the brightly coloured rickshaws and motorbikes zooming through the utter chaos on the roads. With the sun beating down on your head, the taste of dust in your mouth, beggars tapping on the car window and petrol fumes filling up your lungs, it was all quite overwhelming.

Syhlet is a really interesting city, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It is growing rapidly and haphazardly, with most of its funding for buildings coming from Bangladeshi’s that have moved abroad. New towers and gated mansions are popping up everywhere and sadly in a city where space is a premium, most of these homes are empty. With no planning regulations, homes are crammed together with barely enough space for a mini taxi to get through. In some cases, homes are built so close that you can even pass a bag of sugar across.

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It is only when you step out of the main city that you see the real beauty of Bangladesh which lies in its various shades of green. The land is lush, from the deep green mango trees, tea gardens, to the lime coloured ponds and the dark green rivers. The small brick roads lined by rice paddies and ponds that lead to heart of villages is quintessential Bangladesh. The silence of the village is tranquil, seeing the cows and goats grazing in the fields, hearing the birds singing and to be able to see thousands of stars light up the night sky is truly beautiful.

 

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In the two weeks that we’ve been here, we’ve spent a few days in the village which Ava absolutely loved. Right after breakfast she was out chasing the goat and hens, playing with baby chicks and getting me to help her pick fruits from the trees.

Most of our time has been visiting family, attending wedding events and trying to cram in some sightseeing. To be honest it’s not been the adventure that we’d planned as we are constantly dragged from one family home to another.

I’ve also spent the good part of a week sick in bed from food poisoning and a nasty cold. Although I’ve read time and again to eat food that is piping hot when out, the one time I take a chance I get horribly sick. On the plus side this has given me a few days inside to get potty training done and dusted. So I guess there’s always a silver lining somewhere.

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Our time in Bangladesh has been eye opening, challenging and with a lot of fun too. This is the land of our parents and therefore our heritage. This is the land they left to seek a better future and more opportunities. It’s strange because in a weird way we have come full circle. Although we are not seeking better prospects in the same way, we are seeking rewards of a different kind, to better our lives through gaining richer and more fulfilling experiences.

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