Monday, January 02, 2006

Bangladesh

We’re now back from Bangladesh. As you might have guessed from my lack of previous blog, I managed to get my revalidated flight the next day and obtain a visa in Dhaka – without any hint of baksheesh or bribe to oil the wheels (Bangladesh regularly features in the league of most corrupt nations). In fact the whole thing was so straight forward, you wonder why I had to go through all that stress. I was thinking about writing a stroppy letter but six of us got upgraded to Business Class on the way back so I may just let it drop and put it down to experience. Normally I don't agree with nepotism, but if your wife's maternal aunt's husband's first cousin happens to work for Qatar airlines at Dhaka International Airport and upgrades us, who am I to complain!

So first, apologies for not blogging once throughout my whole time in Bangladesh! There was a distinct shortage of internet cafes in the secondary provincial towns we were staying at as well as lack of time in our itinerary. Suffice it to say, it was very busy, with on some days visiting five to six houses a day (eating at each of these). We never slept in one place for more than a couple of days and must have clocked thousands of miles on plane, automobiles and rickshaws. At least no one got (seriously) ill, the ‘wedding’ functions went relatively well and every one was pleased to see us and made us feel most welcome.

Bangladesh can be a diverse country and your experience of it depends on how much cash you have. To keep my numeric friends happy, £1 = 114 Bangladeshi Taka at time of writing. A haircut (with beard trimming for moi) costs 50 taka, a loaf of bread 20 taka, the latest DVD about 80 taka and Harry Potter book 150 taka. So you can see being loaded with sterling means you can live very comfortably if that’s what you want.

In fact there is a word for those who work/live in the UK and own property and land in Bangladesh – ‘Londoni’. We saw some of the houses that Londonis were raising out of paddy fields and my were they lavish! Some of them looked like they were transported out of scenes from Gone With the Wind and would not look out of place in the Deep South. But the tragedy is that most will probably remain empty for most of the year as their families settle in the west and these status symbols will decay. My father told me of one such Londoni who built a small palace and only lived in it for three months before passing away – the house is now split in to three and rented out.

To satisfy the extremely wealthy, massive shopping centres have been built in the capital city. The whole of Bangladesh seems to be undergoing a construction boom (with land scarce, tower blocks are sprouting up all over the place). Boshundara City, the largest and plushest of these shopping centres, in my opinion rivals any in the UK. We spent many hours roaming through the DVD and sari shops. The DVD collection has been boosted quite nicely now.

One of the most conspicuous symbols of the secular elite life style is the Dhaka Club. I had originally thought that this was just a high-class restaurant and was shocked at the out of place decadence. The Dhaka Club was founded in British colonial times and every thing associated with the club is a throw back to those times, which includes rules such as no children and strict dress code. The members see themselves as superior to the masses and in some ways act as the new colonials with their mega wealth – probably through ill-gotten gains. Nowadays it just has a reputation for boozing, gambling and as a ‘gentleman’s’ club for the new elite. I won’t be going back – the food was not even that good.

Right now I’m getting ready for Egypt so I’ll write more about the functions and rural (read real) life later.

4 Comments:

Blogger mad as a cambridge bicycle said...

oooh bring some dvds to egypt! shukran!

8:42 am  
Anonymous Ide said...

Glad you had a good time - I was ill all Xmas still suffering now. Enjoy Egypt.

2:57 pm  
Blogger fudgebumpkin said...

Sounds good.

Don't know what Pink's talking about...

12:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the update

3:31 pm  

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