One of the best things about travelling through Bangladesh is without doubt the people. As the country is not well travelled by white people, the sight of one is the highlight of peoples year…literally. Once spotted by a local that local will do one or all of the following things; stop and stare, cry out, “Hello! What country?”, offer their assistance. There are a two particular people that stick out from my journey through Bangladesh.
Milon (3rd from the left) met me on the street and helped me out for the afternoon.
I arrived into Khulna tired, hungry and disorientated. I’d had a long day. After departing the Rocket launch I’d caught two buses to get to Khulna. I hadn’t eaten all day, I was exhausted and I was finding Khulna very confusing. Nothing looked like anything! There was no place that was noticeably a restaurant, in fact nothing looked familiar. I desperately wanted to find food and internet so I ventured out into the streets in search of these two things. It didn’t take long at all to be noticed. Milon walked towards me,
“Hello, excuse me,” he said ” can I speak to you?”
“Um, yes,” I replied, although my stomach grumbled at me.
“I am a university English student and I would very much like to talk to you.”
I saw this as a chance for some local interaction and also a speedy way of finding the two things I desperately needed. “I’m looking for food and internet,” I told him.
He looked at me with joy. “Yes! I can help? Can I just change? My house is right there, come with me.”
Next thing I knew I was walking into a small, cramped, dark Bangladeshi house. My new friend, Milon, told me nine people lived in this house. A few of them were home, and while Milon got changed I chatted to them. Mainly about cricket and Ricky Ponting.
Milon took me to a local restaurant, which I never would have found without him. I stuffed my face full of curry and rice while Milon watched on proud to be sitting with a white person! He then took me to an internet cafe, which once again never would have found without him, and he eagerly asked to become friends on Facebook…how could I say no.
Hanrey with his stamp and coin collection
I met Hanrey on the side of the road. I’d just found my way out of a tea plantation in Srimongal where I’d been cycling without a good idea of where I was exactly. When Hanrey saw me he said, “Don’t go in there. Dangerous. Murder. People go in and never come out.” It was a little shocking to be told this so abruptly. I hadn’t felt in danger in the tea plantation but I was glad to be out if what he was saying was indeed true. Hanrey soon asked me to his house for tea. I was soon to find out I’d stumbled across a interesting person. Hanrey and his parents are the only Christians within miles from anywhere. He was excited to hear that I too was a Christian. Hanrey brought out his stamp and coin collection. It was incredible! He had stamps from close to 100 countries!
Hanrey’s stamp collection book
His coin collection was the most interesting thing though. Not only did he have coins from many countries but he also had a small tin of coins from Bangladesh when it was under British rule. What an amazing thing to own! It was fascinating. I realised just how much this collection meant to him when I said I had some Malaysian coins on me and that I would send him some Australian money when I returned home. His face lit up and I knew that for this sweet man who lives a simple life here in Bangladesh this was his passion. I was honoured to help him build his collection with a few more coins.
Old Bangladesh coins from the era of British rule
When travelling it pays off to meet locals and spend time with them. Its a great way of seeing a country and understanding its people that little bit more. And in a country like Bangladesh, you will make that locals day. Don’t be afraid, make a new friend!