Category: South Asia

The Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta of the river Ganges. It is a mix of closed and open mangrove forests, land used for agricultural purposes, mudflats and barren land, and is intersected by multiple tidal streams and channels. Four protected areas in the Sundarbans are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Sundarbans are shared between India and Bangladesh, I visit from the Indian side as tours are easier to organize and a lot cheaper. […]

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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. […]

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Writing about the Maldives is writing a tale of two countries. One is the Maldives of the tourists, where people lounge on the beach in revealing (western) swimwear, drink alcohol and eat pork. The other is the Maldives of the Maldivians, where people go to the beach and into the sea fully dressed, where alcohol and pork are forbidden and frowned upon. For decades, these two countries coexisted with only limited contact and only a few employees of the tourist resort would straddle the line. Since 2009, the two worlds have started to mix. […]

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It is my fourth visit to India and I have got a fairly good grasp of this complicated country. There are aspects I love and aspects I greatly dislike. I have never been that far south. The state of Kerala is well-known for two reasons, first its natural beauty, especially the backwaters, a series of canals and lakes where tourists visit on houseboats, enjoying and (most of them unfortunately) destroying the environment. Kerala’s other claim to fame is a long history of communist governments. […]

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Delhi comes as a shock. It starts with the taxi ride. To avoid all trouble, I take a prepaid airport taxi and still the guy tries all the time to talk me into bringing me to a different hotel (he gets a commission for that). And he drives badly, I can’t imagine him going around Delhi for long without causing an accident. As soon as we are closer to the centre and I know where I am, I leave the taxi, I rather walk. Old Delhi is too much for me, it is all full of people, the poverty is pervasive, people live, eat and wash themselves on the street. On top of all that comes the weather, it is hot and sticky. I have reached my air-conditioned hotel room and I have trouble convincing myself to go outside. […]

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