Sundarbans diary – Leaving Bangladesh

In the fifth and final episode of her travelogue, Jennifer Nandi comes away admiring the simplicity of Bangladesh country life

A village pond with a mugger/ marsh crocodile


JANUARY 7, 2010
We come away from Bangladesh with an impress free from agitation of mind or spirit. This glowing effect devoid of conflict or commotion lasts us throughout our travels. This feeling was nourished by our soft-spoken team on the boat, by their generosity, their eagerness to please, their pride in their spotless vessel, the care and attention we received. And now driving through the countryside from the port of Mongla on our way to Jessore, the feeling settles nicely like a warm tea cosy. We pass villages that are clean, their surroundings well-attended. Even though on occasion village-life abuts the main road, there is a surprising lack of strewn garbage. Cows are not the hazard they are in India, where their aimless wanderings even on National Highways is a given.

Village scene in Jessore, Bangladesh
We stop at a fish market and are at once welcomed by the local people. They see us watching birds and ask whether we are conducting research. They witness our moment of high drama when we spy a small group of Grey-headed Lapwings. Our pleasure gratified by this serendipitous find, we invite them to look at the bird books. Ken shares his binoculars with them but the gesture is greeted with more puzzlement. If it’s your first time, it’s not easy to peer through field glasses. It takes some getting used to. They sheepishly pass the binoculars around and then, unrewarded, back to us. Our enhanced enjoyment of the ordinary puzzles them.But they are friendly and proudly show us their fish, sticking their fingers into the eyes and gills in a bid to show freshness of produce. They graciously make way for us to leave and wave goodbye enthusiastically.

At Bagerghat, 17th century architectural wonders at a UNESCO World Heritage site

En route to Jessore, we stop at Bagerhat to visit the country’s UNESCO world heritage site, the Shaat Gumbaj or sixty-dome mosque and other 17th century mosques built by one Jehan Ali Khan. To me, they all look the same and hold little architectural appeal. There is also a 16th century Hindu temple whose corbelled arch is a load-bearing feature – an architectural projection from the face of a wall to support weight, adding an interesting dimension to the temple. But what we really like is our unfettered access to walking in the surrounding villages. The people are again warm and friendly. They shyly peer at Ken – European tourists rarely come to this part of the world and he does cause quite a sensation. Sometimes local visitors from the cities ask that we be photographed with them. Yet the interest is not as undesirably prominent and in your face as it is in Rajasthan.

The corbel arch of a 16th century Hindu temple

Our flight to Dhaka is on schedule and we celebrate the end of our Bangladesh experience with a bottle of good red wine at the Hotel Westin’s fine Italian restaurant.


JANUARY 8 
The next day we use the hours before our flight to go on a guided city tour. Traffic is horrendous but we do get to see Dhaka to get a sense of the place. At the airport we face a few hours delay before we return to more eating at the Oberoi’s superb Thai restaurant. And, of course, there is always more re-packing to be done for the next leg of our journey, this time to the Indian side of the Sundarbans.


Missed the previous episodes of Jennifer Nandi’s Bangladesh travelogue? Read them here:


Text and photographs by Jennifer Nandi. All rights reserved.

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