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Big and busy Bangladesh, Dhaka

Most of my readers, not that I have many, probably live in Scandinavia. We all know the busy and hectic days before Christmas, when everyone is walking and driving around looking for those last gifts. If you take that kind of «chaos» and multiply it with about 40 000, add 30 degrees, weird smells and lots of sounds – then you get Dhaka. The capital of Bangladesh which is not just considered a city but a megacity and it’s the 5th most populated city in the world – and by far the most hectic.

This place was not in my original plan, but due to a flight cancellation I had to spend two nights here. The bad thing with this is that I lost two days of organization in Kathmandu, Nepal. But I try to think positive and it’s always interesting to visit a new country and city, even if it’s just for a couple of days. And interesting it was, trust me.

Cars, rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles and people EVERYWHERE! Just to get from the airport to my budget hotel, a distance about 5 kilometers, took almost 2 hours in a taxi. The traffic was congested, slow but hectic and aggressive at the same time. I truly admire the people driving in these conditions.

I didn’t really have any idea where to stay in Bangladesh, so I took a hotel somewhere between the «old town» where the most tourists go and the airport, since I didn’t want to stay too far from the airport having an early flight when I leave Dhaka. Dead tired after a long day, I went straight to bed ready to explore this megacity tomorrow.

I soon found out that I was staying in an area where foreigners and western people are VERY uncommon and I didn’t see a single one in my almost two days here. But that didn’t leave me alone, rather the straight opposite. I couldn’t even walk 5 seconds out of the hotel in the morning before a big crowd of 20-30 people started to gather around me and follow me. At first a little uncomfortable having all these people watching and following me, where they going to rob me? It was clearly I was not a local being tall, white and with my long blonde hair and blue eyes. It turned out they were just extremely curious and wanted to talk to me. And trust me, they did. Everywhere I went people looked at me, stopped me, shook my hand, asked lots of questions, took pictures and, a bit odd, touched me. Even though not everybody hear speak English, they all knew one word: selfie. Selfie is the new autograph and I guess I was in at least 1000 selfies this day. Everyone who stopped, approached, talked or even looked at me were men. Women are very conservative here and I guess also a bit shy. After a day walking the streets here, talking to random people, participating in pictures I was dead tired. That being said, it also gave me lots of energy since they were all just friendly, positive and curious. The hospitality of the Bangla people are among the best I’ve witnessed.

I always try to «live in the moment», but right now there is something big on my mind. Literally big. Actually the biggest mountain on earth, Mount Everest. Tomorrow morning I fly to Kathmandu in Nepal, spending one day there for some organization before we leave for the 15 day trek to and from Everest Basecamp.

I must admit, in addition to being super excited, I’m also a little nervous. I know it doesn’t help to worry and worry will never change the outcome so I try not to do it since it’s only a waste of energy and it will increase your stress level. But at the same time, if what you do, whether it’s your job, your hobbies or how you live your life, doesn’t make you the slightest nervous – does it really mean something to you? And is it really worth it?

Magical Myanmar

There are not many beautiful places left in this world, where there aren’t a lot of tourists. And it makes sense; there is a reason places are crowded – because they are beautiful and great destinations to visit. If a place doesn’t have a lot of visitors, it’s probably not as nice. Very logic. Though there are still a few exceptions from this rule and Myanmar, or former Burma if you like, are one of those.

Being one of the world’s most secluded and isolated countries for many years it’s pretty obvious that things are a little different here. The former government didn’t want any interaction with other countries what so ever, whether it was about making business or letting foreign people visit. Some things they obviously could not keep out, such as importing cars and commodities like oil for energy. But besides that, this country has managed to run pretty much by itself. It can probably be discussed if that’s good or bad. It has been a dictatorship so democracy is pretty new here. Also, tourism is very new here. I struggle to find exactly when Myanmar opened their borders to visitors, but I’ve heard anywhere between 5-10 years ago.

With its rough history of dictatorship, isolation and civil war, it’s understandable that this country is poor, but I guess their future will be bright – or at least brighter. And for what reason? Tourism! Tourism and travel is a massive industry that’s getting bigger and bigger for every year, driven by peoples desire to travel and also by the fact that China (with about 1,4 billion people) are getting more and more people in the middle class which means they can afford to travel – and they eager to do so. So a lot of money  from travelers will be spent in Myanmar from now on. It’s a beautiful and diverse country that easily is competitive to the other Southeast Asian countries like Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Here you have perhaps even more history, culture and architecture – in addition to paradise beaches which at the moment are so to say empty.

Once again, as so many times on my trip, I’m grateful coming from and living in Scandinavia. I would not say no corruption, but significantly lower, and there are also so many other things worth mentioning. Just to be able to breathe fresh air, have four seasons, no war and a social security system. Things we take for granted every day. The possibility to create your own life and pursue your dreams. A lot of research shows that if you are born poor (or rich) anywhere in this world, there is a big chance you will get poorer (or richer). In the western world this is just looser-mentality and an excuse for being lazy, but I do understand kids growing up in remote small villages here without electricity, education and contact with the rest of the world. They don’t exactly have the same possibilities as we do in the western world, where most people can get education and affect their life a lot more.

I’m not going to go into detail of where I went and what I did in Myanmar as I find those kind of articles extremely boring to write (and read). I prefer to tell my story, view, thoughts and anecdotes when I travel. Though, I can say this country has a lot to offer as a traveler. Amazing architecture, big busy cities, small cosy villages, paradise beaches and it’s very cheap and safe to visit. Since tourism is pretty new here the people are a lot friendlier than other countries, in my opinion. They don’t rip you off with higher prices, it seems like they just want to help you and make your stay as good as possible. And they smile, a lot.

After 6 weeks in inland Southeast Asia with about 35-40 degrees every day, I rounded off my Myanmar visit with 3 days at the ocean. There it was a little «cooler» with 30 degrees and a gentle sea breeze and of course the sea itself to cool down in. Sometimes things doesn’t always go as planned. I was supposed to go straight to Nepal to prepare for the trek to Everest Basecamp, but due to canceled flights I’m now off to Bangladesh for two nights and from there I will go to Kathmandu. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is a so called «megacity» and it’s actually the 5th most populated city in the world and is said to be the most hectic one. Time will tell.

 

Hanging around in Hoi An

Going from a Long Island Ice Tea, to a bottle of still water can be a big contrast and change. Comparable to going from the hectic Ho Chi Minh to the ancient town in the countryside of Vietnam; Hoi An – or as I would call it, the Venice of Asia.

On TripAdvisor it’s ranked the 5h “best” place in Asia which hints that it should be somewhat nice here – and it is. I never really trust those surveys, but after spending 2,5 days here I can confirm that it’s really nice and definitely a “must-stop” if you are traveling through Vietnam. There are some OK beaches here, which is always nice, but the thing Hoi An is famous for is it’s ancient old town, which is also an Unesco World Heritage – and those places usually are pretty nice. The old town itself has no traffic, which is big contrast to the rest of Vietnam where there are lots of hectic traffic and scooters everywhere.

On the other hand, there isn’t really a lot to do here. Some tours in the countryside, cooking course and an island tour for snorkeling etc. (did not tempt after Australia since every snorkeling would be worse than it was there) so I just spent the days how I like them; relaxing, working out, enjoying the weather and the vibe. Also met some funny people on the bus here so we were a group of 4 representing Togo, India, Germany and then myself. Will definitely keep up with the funny Indian guy, since I’ve decided to go there after Nepal. It wasn’t in my initial plan, but I just found out that it’s now possible with an online VISA to India. God bless the future and technology!

Now, another bus, before I plan to change the way of transportation.