Dear the Bangladeshi people,
I decided to pay you a visit last December 2015 after reading about the history, culture and beauty that you have and despite the ‘sensitive’ times where a total travel ban was placed due to the killings of two foreigners, I chose to ignore such ‘warnings’ because I was eager to see you. As a solo female traveller, I am more than aware of the ‘risks’ and ‘dangers’ of traveling alone especially in a country that reflects the very example of “being -off-the-beaten-track.” However, my mind turns away from such sensationalized, unjust and unnecessary warnings often placed by countries that feel like they are always right.
I was blown away by your beauty, your history, your warmth and hospitality and above all- your genuinely kind people who have showed me nothing but kindness throughout my trip. And….this is how I fell in love. My trip around the country was incredible and memorable and I was excited that 2016 is “Visit Bangladesh” Year since I want other travellers to experience you as well.
After my trip, I was left sadden since despite wanting to return to your beautiful country, there is a high chance that December 2015 would be my last trip to Bangladesh. I also felt sad when I thought about how the sights and sounds that I’ve experienced during my time in your country, the people that I met and chatted to and the way that your country has embraced me so would one day- (fingers-crossed) disappear due to waves of development and globalization. The changes brought on by challenges and unrest, be it religious, social-economical, political and/or regional, also made me felt even more grateful for my time in Bangladesh.
The recent attack inside a posh cafe ( located in a upscale neighborhood and often visited by expats) which left more than 20 foreigners dead is the last thing that you need Bangladesh. Once again, a travel ban will result in people steering away from the beauty and calm that you possess. I am very sadden by the latest attack on your soil and my thoughts and prayers are with the Italians, Japanese, Indian, American and other locals who perished in this cowardly attack- an attack on humanity and an attack on Islam.
Being 90% a Muslim country, I was greatly moved by the deep peace that your locals had shown me as well as being welcomed by all. I stood on holy land in one of your most well-known Shrines, watching on and becoming mesmerized by what I saw. Your religion teaches all to embrace differences. Your religion teaches us about peace and I was able to see all of this. So for those who will call your country a cradle for terrorism, I strongly disagree since the very people who carried out such attacks in the name of Allah is NOT a TRUE MUSLIM. He taints Islam and he will be punished. DO NOT LINK ISLAM WITH TERRORISM. MUSLIMS ARE NOT TERRORISTS!
I thank the police force for their efforts and response to this attack and above all, I thank them for protecting me twice last year during my time here. I was escorted under their heavy watch since they were concerned about my safety. Such adorable people!
Bangladesh, it was great to see police presence in train stations however to prevent or better respond to any potential future large-scale attacks especially on foreigners, upgrade more security in places such as airport, bus stations, train stations, busy tourist sites, up-scale neighborhoods (cafe+restaurant), embassy areas, transit points, popular hotels etc. For travellers and expats, avoid all popular areas and really localize and blend in with the people so that you minimize risks and experience the real side of this incredible country!
From goofing/chatting/laughing with the locals to drinking cha (tea) at the food stands to praying alongside the Muslims to playing crickets with the local teams , I will always cherish and feel honored to see you Bangladesh. No matter what happens, you will always have a special place in my heart and above all, I will definitely feel that colorful chaotic energy again— since “Life CERTAINLY happens here.”! My love for you- stay strong as always- stay proud and know in your heart that there is someone who is very obsessed with your country- Bangladesh!
PS: I will upload my memories of Bangladesh in the coming weeks.