Part of a trip concentrating on East Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan, North and South Korea), continuing in South Asia (Bangladesh, India) and ending on the Arabian Peninsula (Oman, United Arab Emirates).

Bangladesh

– visited November/December 2015 –

I am very keen to go to Bangladesh. And I also dread going. Bangladesh is one of these unfortunate countries that is associated nearly exclusively with bad news. An extremely low-lying country threatened by climate change and rising sea levels, where millions might one day be forced to leave their homes. Where are they supposed to go? Bangladesh is already crowded. Its population density of 1,181 people per square kilometre is the highest of any country besides city states and island nations. And there is many of them, currently more than 150 million.  

Bangladesh is known for producing cheap clothes sold in rich countries. Widespread poverty forces workers to accept bad working conditions. A fire in a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, in 2012 killed 112 workers and injured hundreds more. The fire exits were totally inadequate. These are the moments when Bangladesh pierces the usual indifference, “ahh, a disaster there”, is what remains in people’s minds. In 2013, an eight-story building that housed multiple clothing manufacturing companies collapsed killing over 1,100 workers and injuring 2,000 more. “There you go again, Bangladesh”, is what sticks.

And there is nothing to wash the bad news away. India also has widespread poverty, many problems and injustice but India also has the Taj Mahal. Something people can look up to, something that makes people dream. What does Bangladesh have? It has Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen bank jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for pioneering the concept of microcredit and microfinance. Maybe you even know his name, but did you associate him with Bangladesh? Still, the story gives a hint that there is more to Bangladesh than catastrophes and poverty.

Will I be able to unlock that “more”? I am keen to go because I want to get to know the place, to have a look, to learn about Bangladesh. To find the interesting and also the beautiful in the country. And why do I dread going? Because I know it will not be easy. Tourist Sights? Few and far between. Other travellers? A trickle, nothing more. Ease of travelling? Forget about it. Will it be stressful? More often than not.  

Visiting a country like Bangladesh can be extremely rewarding. There is a certain class of countries on this planet that see few travellers, are difficult to handle but impress with offering the unvarnished reality, without any tourist trails you are just there like everybody else. And people are often very welcoming. Glad to see a foreigner, surprised what you are doing here. Genuinely interested. I tend to have many conversations in these countries, tend to take plenty of portraits. The experience in these countries is often intense, very intense, in the good and in the bad. Bangladesh, thank you for welcoming me.

Arrival to Dhaka

I take a rickshaw from the airport into town. There is a fence between me and the driver, and fences on all sides. The rickshaw door is of course a fence. The hotel has an elevator which carries the following information: “In case of power failure you are requested not to panic. The lift will be moving again as soon as our automatic generator will start.” Returning to the hotel after an exploratory early evening walk, I notice the bright lights of the nearby stadium. A football match is on, it’s a FIFA World Cup qualification game between Bangladesh and Australia. I am late to the party but ready to go. The second half has already started, the ticket offices are closed but from somewhere a ticket arrives and for a very small price I enter the stadium. I see nothing of the game for the next fifteen minutes. There are some Australian fans on the other side but on my side of the stadium, I am the only foreigner. As soon as I take a seat, someone comes up and wants to have a selfie with me. I agree. Others see that and think that is a great idea. I am basically mobbed by people wanting to take a picture with me. It’s a big scramble as everybody wants to be first. I am kind of helpless, I try to have my camera bag somewhere secure but otherwise I let people have their fun. If someone would want to snatch my phone or wallet from my pocket it would be very easy as there is so much going on, but no one wants to do me any harm. After a few minutes a policeman comes over and checks if I am okay. “Yes, I am okay”, I tell him. At some point all selfies have been taken, my attraction has worn of, and I am left to watch the game. Bangladesh was four-nil down as I enter the stadium and loses the game by the same score. No one seems to care, Bangladesh is ranked 180th in the world ranking and people are just glad that Australia came to play, for the first time ever.

Today’s Bangladesh is a part of the historic region of Bengal. Before becoming part of the British Empire, it had at times been an independent regional empire, a leading power in South Asia and later the Islamic East, with extensive trade networks. As British India was headed for independence internal divisions, that had been overshadowed by the common rejection of the British, came to the foreground. The Hindu-Muslim divide proved to be the most potent leading to the partition of India in a predominantly Hindu India (called “Hindustan” in Hindi) and the predominantly Muslim Dominion of Pakistan. Bengal was cut in half with West Bengal (capital Kolkata) becoming part of India. As often, reality was more complicated on the ground than on a map and after partition many Hindus left for West Bengal whereas Muslims went the other way. Thankfully, and contrary to the similar partition of the Punjab, there was no widespread violence involved.

Pakistan consisted of two halves, West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) to the West of India and East Bengal (later called East Pakistan and today’s Bangladesh) to the East of India. The two halves had few things in common besides the Muslim faith, they shared little common history, spoke different languages (Urdu and Bengal) and were about 1,500 kilometres apart. The Pakistan Movement had originated in West Pakistan which shows in the name of the country. The word Pakistan is an artificial creation coined in 1933 and referring to the names of the five northern regions of the British Raj: Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan. No mention of Bengal in any way.

West Pakistan had a lot more territory but East Bengal had a greater population, 44 million to 25 million. Despite this, in 1948, Urdu was determined as the sole state language. Urdu had long been promoted as “the language” of India’s Muslims and the sole adoption of Urdu was considered a solution to the problem that West Pakistan itself had several languages. Still, it appeared totally tone deaf to Bengalis where Urdu was not widely spoken. The language of Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to receive the honour, would no longer have any importance? Protests formed immediately and eventually led to the development of a Bengali Nationalism. The 21st of February is Language Movement Day, a national holiday commemorating the “martyrs” that died in a language protest in 1952. Monuments to the “martyrs” grace every Bangladeshi city.  

The language question was finally settled in 1956 with Bengal becoming an official language but still East Bengalis were underrepresented in government (15%) and the military (10%) despite being a clear majority of the population. Economic resources were concentrated on the Western half. Pakistan descending into military rule did not improve matters. The six-point movement for autonomy of East Pakistan was launched in 1966. In November 1970 cyclone Bhola struck East Pakistan leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced. The crisis was handled badly by the government and public opinion and political parties in East Pakistan blamed the governing authorities as intentionally negligent. The following month the first general elections since independence (23 years prior!) were held. The East Pakistan based Awami League won 160 out of 300 seats. Pakistan’s president just did not convene the assembly. After a few months of gridlock, the paramount political leader of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had had enough and called for independence (7th of March 1971). He asked the people to launch a campaign of civil disobedience and organized armed resistance. West Pakistan responded with military force.

The war was exceptionally bloody and has been described as a genocide as there seems to have been a deliberate attempt to target the intellectual elites of Bangladesh. Casualty figures of the nine-month conflict vary widely, numbers ranging from 200,000 to 3 million are all quoted. Rape was a widespread occurrence. The Pakistani military was helped by Bengalis from the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan party that considered Muslim unity as more important than Bengali nationalism. Pakistani forces held the towns but Bangladeshi guerrillas, the Mukti Bahini, started to fight back and received support from India. Eventually, on the 3rd of December 1971, Pakistan lost its cool and attacked Indian air force bases. War started in both directions and ended quickly on the 16th of December with the Pakistani surrender as Indian forces had taken Dhaka. Bangladesh was finally independent.

Dhaka

I start to explore Dhaka. It is crowded and hectic. People are friendly and welcoming. The Buriganga riverfront is immensely interesting, with all the boats coming and going but also dirty and full of trash. We know many riverfronts as nice places to stroll but that is a relatively recent development. Historically, riverfronts have been places of commercial activity as the water provided easy transport. In Dhaka the river still resembles an industrial area more than anything else. Ten years earlier a city like Dhaka would have overwhelmed me but now I am experienced enough to take it as it comes.

I enter the grounds of the Ahsan Manzil, the pink palace, a tranquil oasis in the hectic city. Completed in 1872 for the then rulers of Dhaka it is as grand as palaces get in Bangladesh. The grounds are well kept and people relax in the park. As I want to leave, the security guard stops me and asks me to wait for a moment.         

The current political situation is tight. Bangladesh’s path since independence was not as straightforward as it could have been, political unity was hard to achieve and the army took power several times. Since 1991, the country has been ruled by “the battling begums” Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, who have alternated as Prime Minister. Khaleda Zia’s husband was a former president who was assassinated in a military coup and Sheikh Hasina is the daughter of independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was, along with most of his family, also assassinated in a military coup. Both allege an involvement of the other family in the killing of their father/husband. Bangladeshi politics often resemble combat more than a political discourse, confrontation is the order of the day not looking for compromise. Since 2008 and a decisive election victory the Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina has had the upper hand and democracy is backsliding. The opposition has been harassed by police. The parliamentary elections in 2014 gave an easy victory to the Awami League as the opposition decided to boycott the vote. The international community has criticized the elections. Time and again the opposition is calling for strikes to protest the political situation. One has been called for the next days and I already noticed yesterday that WhatsApp is currently blocked. I need to use a VPN to gain access.

And there is another development. The current government started in 2008 to relitigate the war of liberation from 40 years ago. The completely Bangladesh-operated “International Crimes Tribunal” has convicted several leading politicians, some of them ministers in previous governments, for the role they played in the 1971 war. As I noticed before, the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan party supported the West Pakistani forces. The trials have not followed international standards. Two of the convicted will be hanged while I am in the country. Bangladesh was long known for its lack of Muslim extremists as the country practises a moderate form of Islam. There is fear that this has changed, and that the trial of the politicians contributed to this development. There have been religiously motivated attacks and recently some of them have targeted foreigners. I am aware that one foreigner was assassinated in late September 2015 and another was killed in the same way just a week later. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility. I am not yet aware that yesterday, on the day of my arrival, another foreigner was killed.

As the police arrive, they tell me about the third death (by knife this time) and that they will be, from now on, my protection detail. For the rest of my journey, I will have an on-off relationship with the Bangladeshi police. Well, it is a bit weird to walk around town with three police officers. But it can also be helpful, navigation in the old town of Dhaka is not easy, with the officers I just tell them where I want to go and they show me the way. We head to Lalbagh Fort and on the way enjoy some tea. A short stop at the Hindu Sree Sree Dhakeswari National Temple. The officers are professional, not asking for anything from me and following me with everything I want to do. As darkness falls and I call it a day, they organize a police truck to bring me to the hotel.

I have teamed up with Adam, an Australian who came to watch the football match. We head to buy boat tickets. There is no fancy ticket office. We ask the guy from the hotel to organize a cycle rickshaw and to tell the driver exactly where we need to go. We stop at a non-descript building and find the ticket office. We explore the Armenian church with the adjacent cemetery, that is still used by a small community. The caretaker leads us around.

I try to visit the National Assembly building, my main point of interest for all of Bangladesh. Some will call it ugly but I consider it a masterpiece by the legendary architect Louis Kahn. It has a visitor program but I received no response on my e-mails. We can only see the building from a distance, in the current situation visits are difficult, I am told I should try again in a few days. We visit the nearby mausoleum of Ziaur Rahman and then we are “caught” by police. They head with us to the Liberation War Museum and later bring us back to the hotel.

I will return to Dhaka a week later and try again to visit the National assembly, again entry will be refused “due to the political situation”. Too bad, I really wanted to see that building. I visit the Bangladesh National Museum instead and at dusk I notice the flying foxes in Ramna Park. It is already too dark to take good pictures.

Ganges River Delta

We have splurged on an air-conditioned cabin for the overnight journey on the “rocket” ferry from Dhaka to Hularhat. The port is full of boats and super hectic. Some of the boats are even forced to park in the “second row”. The big boats are surrounded by many smaller boats whose purpose is not immediately clear to me. We are about to travel through the immense delta of the river Ganges. The world’s largest river delta, it stretches for hundreds of kilometres across Bangladesh and India and between 120 and 140 million people call the delta their home. It is one of the most fertile regions in the world.

The searchlight of the boat moves over the river as we glide through the night, smaller boat have to be found and avoided. Flashes of light are emitted from nightly welding in a shipyard. At some point brick kilns line the river, their chimneys and the smoke well visible in the night. We stop, even before the boat is safely secured people start to board wherever it is possible to enter the ferry. As we wake up the next morning there is thick fog which honestly makes me wonder how the small boats will avoid us.

On arrival in Hularhat we board an e-rickshaw that bring us to the UNESCO recognized Mosque City of Bagerhat. It contains several mosques built during the Bengal Sultanate in the 15th-century, of which the Sixty Dome Mosque (Shait Gambuj Mosque) is the largest. More mosques like Singair Mosque or Bibi Begni Mosque are strewn around the countryside. Once there was a city here but it all has reverted to villages. A short stop at the museum. Chunakhola Mosque is being renovated and the scaffolding allows us to climb on top. Some youths show us the way. We spend the night in Khulna.

Joypurhat, Dinajpur & Rangpur

We take a train to the Northwest of Bangladesh. The trip through the country is beautiful and the old train, with windows that can be opened, allows me to indulge in my photography passion. A lot of rice is grown, fish is being dried and brick kilns seem to be everywhere in Bangladesh. The kilns are used to make bricks and some of those bricks are in turn used to make crushed stone. Crushed stone is usually just found somewhere, stones being something in abundance in most countries. Not so in Bangladesh with its alluvial plains, time and again we see someone, often an older person sitting on a heap of brick-red crushed stone. Hammer in hand, they crush the bricks. I even spot paths and roads made from this crushed stone.   

The train is late and the end of the day nears. We take a rickshaw to Parharpur to admire the Somapura Mahavihara, another of Bangladesh’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A ruined Buddhist monastery from the 8th century, the structure consists of 177 cells and a traditional Buddhist stupa, still standing 24 metres tall, in the centre. The museum is small and contains little information.

It is already dark as we get back to Joypurhat. First thing we head to the train station to secure tickets for tomorrow. We are being met by two young guys, Mujal and Mun, who turn out to be the chief ticket controller and his assistant. They have just finished university and recently started their work. They speak excellent English and are happy to see some foreigners. Tickets in hand they bring us to a cheap but nice hotel and make sure that we have something to eat. See you tomorrow for the early morning train.

We are at the station before 6 A.M. but the train is not. Mujal and Mun receive us and tell us that the train is still far away. They invite us into the Ticket Manager Office where we can have a few more hours of sleep on some comfy benches. We’ll wake you, when the train comes. The Drutojan Express arrives around 9 A.M. We have another slow and enjoyable journey through the countryside.

We are “caught” by police again. We had no police contact in the delta but in Dinajpur an officer spots us and decides that something has to be done to protect these vulnerable foreigners. It was essentially the same story in Dhaka, we/I were not constantly accompanied by police but if officers would notice us they would take care of us and make sure that we stayed under their watch until we were back at our hotel. The next morning, we were free again until someone spotted us again.

The officers that were with us were usually very friendly, ready to entertain any wish we had (of course we didn’t come up with crazy things), never demanded any money. In fact police escorts and the transport they sometimes provided saved me money. Still, being always around with someone, being accompanied by someone in uniform can also be annoying. Communication could be a problem as not all officers speak English. I am not really worried about my personal safety, yes there have been these murders, but the real motive is unclear (Islamist extremism is only suspected) and they all hit foreign-aid workers which lived in the country long-term, making them a lot easier to follow (or to acquire enemies). I am moving around from town to town, not following any routine. I watch my surroundings more carefully and would react if I spotted something suspicious. It is my habit anyway to return another way that I came (Why follow a path that you have already taken?) and I am a bit more careful doing so in Bangladesh.

Feeling no personal danger, we try to avoid policemen, try not to be noticed. That doesn’t work in Dinajpur, we are soon spotted and asked to come along to the station. We are received by the local police chief, tea is served. We tell him our plan to visit nearby Dinajpur Rajbari, a former palace, and then move on to Kantanagar temple. Two officers finally see us off at the bus station. At Tenmailes, a crossroad village, we are received by their colleagues. They have already organized a rickshaw (normal price) for the last bit of the way. One police motorbike in front, our rickshaw and one police motorbike in the back. The late-medieval Hindu Kantanagar temple is covered with reliefs of spectacular detail. Because it is being renovated, we cannot go inside. A Bangladeshi photographer is on the site. He says we are lucky; he had been waiting for 20 years for such a blue sky and we get it on our first visit.

Rangpur has a few sights, the palace of Tajhat, the Kali Temple and Carmichael College, one of the most respected universities of Bangladesh. I stroll around the campus, chatting with a few students, admiring the old buildings and the monument to the Language Martyrs. Back to Dhaka I change buses in Bogra, taking my time to explore the run-down Mohammed Ali Palace Museum & Park. The bus station is located in a busy neighbourhood with small streets, traffic is hectic and every square centimetre of the road used by a pedestrian, a bike, motorbike or a rickshaw. Left to its own fate the bus could never move through the thicket. Four men are guarding the bus, keeping traffic away with sticks until we have reached a bigger road. After a few hours we reach the outskirts of Dhaka, a few more hours later we have reached Dhaka’s bus station, the infrastructure of the capital being totally inadequate to deal with the traffic.

Srimangal

Srimangal, in the Northeast of Bangladesh, is the heart of the country’s tea region. In town some men are drilling a hole, for a well, by hand. The drilling rig is made from bamboo and to lift the drill bit, they all hang into a rope.

I enjoy walking through the tea plantations, a bit out of town there are even some hills. I meet Jakaria, a young guy who enjoys walking around with me and practising his English. We end up in a small café, the Nilkantha Tea Cabin, which serves seven layered tea. Looks good and tastes good. Alcohol is only available in Bangladesh with a special permit that is only given to Muslims with a medical prescription. Other drinks have therefore developed. Two guys come over; they look like everybody else but their accents give them away as British. They are living in London, are of Bangladeshi heritage and currently visiting their relatives. They open their hearts how stressful the country of their forefathers is to them; their relatives are super nice but everything is so unfamiliar. They say they are glad to speak with me, someone who makes them feel more at home.

Lawachara National Park has beautiful forest, a few villages and we even see some monkeys, identified by my guide Shekhar as the Phayre’s leaf monkey. The tea at the national park café is called seven coloured instead of seven layered. Back at the hotel, the owner notices that I have a few hours to kill before my overnight bus will leave. He offers me a room to relax, for free.

Cox’s Bazar & Chittagong

Whenever I would speak with Bangladeshis about their country and its attractions, Cox’s Bazar would come up. People speak about it as if it is the eight wonder of the world. Nearly all of them have never been there, being too poor to afford holidays.

Cox’s Bazar’s claim to fame is the longest natural sea beach in the whole world. (That one in Australia is fake, being partly man-made.) You could walk along the sand for 150 kilometres. Being long though, does not mean being beautiful. Cox’s Bazar is a dirty town of 250,000 people, the town beach is in some parts even crowded, the sand an unattractive grey and an unbroken 150 kilometre stretch of sand is just boring. Nonetheless, it is Bangladesh’s top tourist destination. For reasons of decency, people go into the water fully dressed (and so do I). Life guards are on duty, rubber tubes are available for those who can’t swim and photographers offer their services to take pictures of the frolicking masses.

I rather head to nearby Maheshkhali Island with the Hindu Adinath Temple and the Buddhist Ananda Myitta Buddha Temple. The cycle rickshaw I take has no chain anymore, it has been converted to fully electrical.

Chittagong is Bangladesh’s second most significant urban centre with a population of eight million. It has few attractions though. The colonial Chittagong Circuit House has been transformed into the Zia Memorial Museum, as the former president Ziaur Rahman was assassinated inside. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission takes care of a cemetery. Otherwise, Chittagong is just a big and gritty Bangladeshi city.

My reasons for visiting Chittagong are the nearby shipbreaking yards. Shipbreaking is a sizeable business, most of the iron used in Bangladesh comes from ships. When a ship has reached the end of its life cycle it is sold and broken into pieces for scrap metal. Sounds easy but is difficult, in the end a ship is a massive chunk of metal. An area of shallow shores north of Chittagong is perfect for the task, ships are driven as far as possible onto the beach by experienced captains during spring tides. If successful, the ship will be completely outside the water at low tide. Ten, fifteen years ago, you could just visit the shipbreaking yards, stroll around, take pictures. That has changed profoundly as the yards have received bad publicity by international NGOs. Environmental concerns and the treatment of the workers are the issues. Many ships arrive with leftover diesel, oil and other harmful substances. They are usually just discarded into the sea. The work is hard and dangerous, accidents happen. I personally have a more positive view of the shipbreaking yards. They generate important revenue for Bangladesh, power parts of the economy and give employment to people in a country where this is hard to come by. I do not condone in any way discarding oil and other harmful substances into the environment, but for me that is not an argument against shipbreaking but an argument for more regulation and more government oversight. In the end, it is Bangladesh’s environment that is harmed. Working conditions are surely hard but Bangladesh is a poor country and conditions for many people are difficult. Just watch construction sites with wide-spaced bamboo scaffolding and ask yourself if that is a low-risk environment. The fact that the yards have no trouble at all recruiting workers is a clear indication that people see the work there rather as a chance than a danger, it pays well. Again, for me this is no argument against shipbreaking but for empowering the workers of the yards to fight for decent conditions and their fair share.

The yards don’t want any publicity. They have erected walls, employ guards to keep prying eyes away. Most people nowadays try to visit from boats, coming as close as possible at high tide. I will try to approach by land. There is a spot where you can overlook the yards, I will try to get there but do not know exactly where it is.

I have had a few police free days but in Chittagong things work differently. The hotel has informed the police and I am being told to not leave the hotel without a police escort. That is not the best way to start my undercover adventure to the shipbreaking yards. I confront the challenge head-on and tell the police a spot close to where I located the yards on Google Maps about 20 kilometres from the city centre. Chittagong is divided into multiple police districts and the game goes that a crew of policemen brings me to the end of their district and then hands me over to another crew. I always tell them I want to go to Bhatiary and all goes well over several handovers. Until we reach the last post and I am being asked what I actually want to do in Bhatiary. They tell me to come inside the station. “I want to have a look at the shipbreaking yards.” “Do you have an invitation?” “No, I do not.” “Then you cannot visit.” Thankfully, the police chief speaks good English and I insist on my right to maybe not go inside, but to go to the shipbreaking yards, to look from the outside. He relents and I am being driven in a police truck to one of the yards. There is a wall, there is a gate, there is security and there is a ship visible in the distance. The wall runs into the sea but the tide is low and I decide to follow the wall. There is something resembling a path. One of the policemen follows. He doesn’t speak any English, none of the current bunch of officers does, but I have the feeling that he likes my determination. At first the path is easy but then gets incredibly muddy and sticky. One of my trekking sandals breaks as it gets stuck in the mud. My police officer has done the wise things and is carrying his shoes in his hands. Fishermen and/or workers are coming the other way. The signal me to turn around. I probably would have heeded their “advice” if I would have been all alone in a very lonely stretch of mud. But with my police officer on duty, I proceed.

I reach the end of the wall and have a clear view of the ship. Half of it is already missing. I have slipped in the mud; my hands are dirty but I still change to my zoom lens to take a few closer shots. Of the ship and inside the yard. I have reached the end of this journey, there is no sense in heading further out into the sea and a watchtower prevents me from getting closer to the ship. The police officer looks at me, what do you want to do now, he seems to ask. Turn around, I signal. He is one of the people where non-verbal communication flows really easily. His deal sounds good to me. We’re not going back through that shitty mud; we are going back through the shipbreaking yard. He is gonna make sure that that works, but I have to play my part, see this as a right of passing through and not visiting and have to refrain from taking pictures. I show my acceptance by putting my camera into its bag. We change position, until now he followed me, now I follow him. As we cross the imaginary line in the mud, the guards come running. Many gestures and a few words are exchanged and then we proceed. With my eyes wide open but my camera firmly closed we walk through the yard. In a direct line of course, straight to the gate. Whereas I see no machinery on the ship, giant winches have been installed on the beach. They can pull in bigger chunks for easier handling on permanently dry ground. I also see some Excavators with grapplers to move pieces of steel. I also see a car battery lying in the mud. We leave the yard and clean our feet and hands in the same pond that the yard’s workers use.

It’s my last full day in Bangladesh and I have seen what I wanted to see. In normal circumstances, I would just take a walk to some part of town which seemed interesting. In the case of Chittagong, I have not yet been at the riverside and as sunset is approaching that seems like a good destination. I actually would like to walk but the policemen think it is better to drive. So, we head to the sunset on four wheels and well-armed.

For visa regulation reasons I cannot take the train to India but have to fly. I tell the receptionist to call the police, I would need to go to the airport. I have enough time but the officers in charge think different and freely make use of their police lights. At some point even driving on the wrong side of the road.

Bangladesh was intense but I am leaving the country more hopeful than when I arrived. Bangladesh has a lot of problems, but I have also seen a lot of enterprising spirit, of resilience, of the will to overcome obstacles and succeed.