Cheap Travel: Bangladesh

by Johnny Ward

I finished my contract teaching English in Thailand, I had been in Asia well over a year by now and felt quite a home in the continent…. until I went to Bangladesh, suddenly – not so much.

Dhaka, Capital City of Bangladesh cheap travel

So here was the plan:

1) Finish teaching contract in Chiang Mai

2) Travel around Asia for as long as the money lasts on a ridiculously cheap budget

3) Get to Australia without flying after we touch down on our first destination

Sounds pretty easy, I wanted to go to India to start and then pretty much loop across the whole continent over the next year or two although it didn’t quite work out like that and rather than go straight to India I found a cheap flight to Bangladesh – and so the hardcore backpacking began :S

I roped two friends into the crazy trip (Swede and Andy), we flew from Bangkok to Dhaka, the Capital of Bangladesh – as I was semi-permanently leaving Thailand the week before so my the week before I set off was inundated with leaving parties, sad goodbyes and tearful partings so I didn’t really get time to actually plan anything for the trip to Bangladesh. Basically, we found ourselves as the ONLY white people in a 1970′s airplane on Air Bangladesh one-way to Dhaka. I had no idea what language they spoke, what their currency was, what the climate or cuisine was liked, if they spoke English, I had no accommodation booked, no idea if there was anything to see and no direction in which to travel. Oh shit.

Straight after landing the plane we were swamped by Bangladeshis, people stopped, jaws dropping, giggling, pointing, running up and touch us etctraveling in Bangladesh, DhakaIn fact, people running up to us in awe and amazement became quite a theme throughout my time in Bangladesh and I never realy got used to it although I can’t deny it wasn’t hilarious. Also, should you ever happen to be in Dhaka please walk into the middle of the street , stare straight up in the sky and point for about 15 seconds – then quickly have a look around you and I guarantee at least 500 people will be standing still looking directly up trying to see what the crazy white man is pointing at (sometimes you ave to just amuse yourself :P)

Traveling in Bangladesh, Dhaka

Traveling in Bangladesh, Dhaka

Traveling in Bangladesh, Dhaka

We managed to get some money and a ‘taxi’ (read guy cycling while pulling a homemade wooden cart) to a hotel. It was 45 degrees and I had no idea where we were going. But we went straight to the old city, amidst a lot of shocked faces, and found a hotel for around $1 a night, no air conditioning, no cold water but cheap and on a budget of 5 GBP a day that was the most important thing – besides, when in Rome…

cheap hotels in Bangladesh

My hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh

We checked in and went for a walk, wandering around old Dhaka was an experience in itself. Never in my life have a seen such an overpopulated place – it was literally difficult to walk due to the sheer amount of people; and the rickshaws were everywhere, thousands of them, pouring out of every alley, ringing their bells to tell you they are coming and you need to get out of their way

Rickshaws in Dhaka, BangladeshThe culture shock was so large and I was so far out of my comfort zone that my head was spinning, but what can you do?! So we got stuck in, we accepted that we were going to sweat, accepted we were going to be dirty, accepted that it was going to be difficult but we were seeing things that most people will never see and experiencing a country that most people will never visit – soaking up such a different culture is the reward for all the stress, and it more than outweighs the negative aspects. As it turns out, the people of Bangladesh were so friendly and open that retrospectively I was ashamed I judged their country. They were so happy that we had made the effort to come there that anyone who could speak any English would spot us in the distance and sprint to us to see if they could help – I challenge you to find that behaviour on Oxford street.

It had been nearly a day since we arrived and we hadn’t ventured to an actual restaurant yet but our stomachs were yelling out to us so we had to take a leap of faith

Restaurant in BangladeshThe photo is from second restaurant we braved. The food in Bangladesh was delicious, honestly. It tended to be quite a sweat, scented rice mixed with chunks of meat with lime squeezed over it and I couldn’t get enough. The same couldn’t be said about the drinks – the restaurant owners loved having us sit down in their place so they would rush over with some sort of milk, perhaps goat milk?, anyway it was revolting, vile, gag-inducingly sour but we had to take it on the chin, finish it and conjure a thankful smile. The fake smile was a work of art though, especially in countries where the locals are so friendly – you have to smile because they are so nice but you don’t want to smile too much or you could end up with 3 more glasses of the goat’s piss, so through trial and error you discover the tipping point and now I am a master :P

Backpacking in Bangladesh, goats on the streets

Making our way back to the room

So day 1 and 2 were under our belts we felt a lot more at ease in Bangladesh, the stress had subsided and the travel euphoria was taking over – i love that feeling. Knowing you are lucky to have the opportunity to be there, you want to savour every sight, smell, sound because you may never return to this place, not knowing what to expect with every corner you approach but relishing the excitement of it all.

I’ll chat some more about what we did in Bangladesh tomorrow – what a truly unique country.

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38 thoughts on “Cheap Travel: Bangladesh

  1. Pingback: One Step 4Ward with Johnny Ward |

  2. Luke

    Can you please tell me the name of the hotel you stayed at or any other cheap hotels/hostels in Dhaka. thanx

    Reply
  3. Mahbub Murshed

    Hi Johnny,

    Just read your article. Happy but a bit :(. Anyway you had come here and its your experience. I just wanted to know if you were visited Dinajpur(north of Bangladesh). The famous ornamental Kantaji Temple is located there. Dont miss it next time if you are across there.

    Reply
  4. Nadira

    I could not stop laughing throughout this post, specially after reading your post about “Sharing prostitutes in Bangladesh? Errrr, No Thanks” I was surprised how you have taken all your daunting experiences to a different dimension that was so amusing and constructive. I appreciate your way of seeing things just as they are- not judging or being insecured of them. And it was brave that you choose old Dhaka to live instead of Gulshan or Dhanmondi- people are more genuine in old Dhaka and posses distinctive culture other than more or less western influenced neighborhoods(which you can have anywhere in this world)

    Reply
  5. Al Bozorgi

    This sour goat’s milk you talk of can only be salty lassi, I imagine. I cannot think of any milk that is gag-inducingly salty other than yak’s milk which could only be found a few thousand miles north from where you were.

    Salty lassi is actually a delicacy to the Asian/Middle-Eastern palate. Shame you didn’t take to it!

    Reply
  6. China Bangla Community

    I was googling for China, Bangladesh travel related information and reached here on you blog. Very positive writing about Bangladesh and i am amazed by all your interesting experience in Bangladesh. Thanks a lot for sharing…

    Reply
  7. Student

    Hiya..
    loved your blog!!
    It was Interesting yet I learnt ALot (Wish school would be more like that)
    Anyway.. I want to do the whole backpacking across Asia thing.. But I honestly don’t know where to start.

    Reply
  8. Your Mom

    Feel sorry for you, man. You’ve probably landed on one of the worst parts of Bangladesh. Have you gone to Gulshan or Dhanmondi? It’s very developed there. If you want a sh!t experience, just go to Africa, not Bangladesh.

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      thanks for your comments, but there’s really, really no need to feel sorry for me bro. I had an awesome time in Bangladesh, really amazing. Also, i’ve been to more than 25 countries in Africa and I didn’t have a sh*t experience in any of them either, thanks for the tip anyway :P

      Reply
  9. IAD

    Your writing is very nice. I like it . But i think you should be more honest with it . I hope you understand what i am saying. And its seems that u love visiting our country i think u should read our history . Then u will totally understand us. And for those who want to visit bangladesh you should know we may be very poor and we welcome tourists but the bangladeshi people are very touchy about our country heritage custome . And we are very nice with friends but if you show any disgrace. Well i just want come here u dnt want us as your enemy.

    Reply
  10. flipnomad

    hey man, where did you get your tourists visa for bangladesh (do you need one) i tried to get one in chiang mai and they said that i need an employment certificate

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      i did mine in Chiang Mai mate – in some small ‘consulate’ office, it was all seemingly very unofficial and cost about $100, but got it back in 2 weeks

      Reply
  11. wordofprey

    Wow, the blog is taking off big time! I must say your travel writing prowess is growing in leaps and bounds. Hilarious and interesting post…Can’t wait to read more!

    My friend had an experience of being briefly in Bangladash in the 90s – strangely, her memories are similar to yours. She remembers being mobbed everywhere she went:)

    Reply
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  13. Joy

    Wow, looks like you had a great time in Bangladesh :)
    Being “logically” from that part of the world, i can see where you had your issues.
    How many days did you spend in B’desh?? Did you catch up on some Bangla :)

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      Catch up on some Bangla?! My head was spinning so fast from the culture shock i was struggling with English lol :P I spent almost 3 weeks there i think – took a steam boat down from Dhaka to Kulna near the Bay of Bengal, amazing! I’m gonna write about it next so i wont tell u too much now hehe! Thanks for reading Joy – have u ever made it there?

      Reply
  14. Earl

    I was laughing while reading that entire post, thinking back to my own experience there, which was quite similar of course. I remember crossing the street in Dhaka and being bumped in my legs by cars that simply refused to stop at all.

    But once you get comfortable, although I’m not sure it’s possible to get too comfortable over there, the people of Bangladesh do make it an enjoyable place to visit in the end.

    I’m looking forward to reading more…

    Reply
    1. Johnny Post author

      hey mate – did u had to Kulna and then onto Calcutta? such an awesome trip :)
      also, on a different note – cheers for the cruise ship info, im lookin into it at the mo!

      Reply
  15. Johnny Post author

    haha, very funny calvin :P you dont have time to worry about that – the fact that the country doesnt use any knives or forks is difficult enough to deal with, eating just with ur rite hand is harder than u think!

    Reply
    1. Faisal

      I don’t know why you didn’t go to places like Puran Polton, Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani. There you could find restaurants where you can eat clean food with forks and spoons. Every city of Bangladesh has those restaurants. A bit expensive in comparison to those you went, but much cheaper when you think of the European food price.

      Bangladesh is a Muslim country, normally they pray 5 times(now praying lesser), so they do ablution 5 times which more or less keeps their hand clean, this fact plus the fact that the Muslim prophet used to eat using his hands has lead Bangladeshis to eat traditionally by hand. But if you want difference, you will find, just a bit more expensive but then again expense comes with quality.

      The same goes for hotels as well, you can find nice hotels in Fokirapool, may cost you at most 20 dollars per night, I can assure you, you’d have TV, electricity.

      Reply
  16. Calvin

    You’re right about it being a place not many of people would dream of taking a vacation. The sweat, scented rice mixed with chunks of meat doesn’t fly well for me though. i mean who wants the cook’s sweat on their food? :P

    Reply

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