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Long Delayed Blog Post

Disgracefully I have not done a blog post since I visited Bangladesh 2 years ago. My pathetic excuse is down to not having enough time. But this is hopefully going to change. I’m racking my brain to come up with an interesting photography project based in London. I have a few idea’s but nothing concrete yet.

Since Bangladesh, I’ve been on a few trips – North Sumatra, Peru and Cuba. From a photography point of view Cuba was the best. The light and colours makes it a photographers playground. I would recommend visiting before the influx of Starbucks and Mcdonalds.

Aidos

A picture of Lake Titicaca in Peru

 

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Leaving Bangladesh

It is now my last day in Bangladesh. I’ve spent 16 days here and it has been one of the best places I have visited on my travels. The country isn’t blessed with as many sites as bordering India or Nepal but you do get a true sense of adventure by travelling around here.

My first impression of Dhaka is ‘what a hell hole’. So much traffic, poverty and pollution but after a while the city has grown on me. No other capital city is as hectic and busy as Dhaka, it makes travelling in Delhi feel like the Lake District.

The countryside is stunning with miles and miles of green fields and tea plantations. You also get to visit and meet villagers where they hardly see any tourists, especially ones like me.

What has made this trip truly special however is the people. Everybody wants to talk to you and are intrigued as to why you’re visiting Bangladesh. The country is very poor but nobody has a interior motive to try and extract money from you. You get a real sense of community here and that everybody is trying to help each other. Which is sadly lacking in the UK.

If you’re interested in going I would recommend the below company. This guy initially made his name by helping people FOC on the Thorn Tree section of the Lonely Planet website.

tmahmud.bangladesh@gmail.com

www.trip2bangladesh.com

I would recommend visiting before this gem of a country gets found out by an influx of tourists.

Ultimately it will frustrate you and at times it can be very challenging, but isn’t that the reason why we travel in the first place? To experience other cultures and to try and get a understanding as to how other people live in this world.

Ignore all of the above If you don’t like chillis though.

Dhaka

Dhaka



Countryside

Another terrible night’s sleep. My room was boiling hot and it feels like I’ve been sleeping in a puddle.  Ompta (my guide) bangs on the door to wake me up: I’ve overslept again.

In the space of ten minutes we’re back at the same restaurant. I’m not backing down this time I’m not going to have a curry. I order a naan bread and a fried egg. No surprise that when the egg comes out it has green chilli’s blended in to it. Again no need to spice things up, a fried egg is perfectly OK on it’s own.

We make our way to the village I’m staying in tonight. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to like it, as the further south we go the quieter everything is. The countryside of Bangladesh is stunning, everywhere you look is filled with lush green fields and lakes.

I’m staying here on my own as Ompta has to travel back to Barisal, so I will be staying with his cousin. Nobody speaks English and even my special Bangali sign language technique is failing me. After a few hours sleep I take off with my camera and head for an exploratory walk. 

I walk through about 3 villages and I’ve somehow gathered a following of about 10 people. I feel like a rock star. I get the impression the locals don’t see many tourists around here. I don’t feel unsafe here in Bangladesh, I think people are just really intrigued. 

This is really odd but there is one guy that has followed me around since I’ve been here. He has been sitting right next to me the whole time I’ve been typing this. I’ve no idea If he lives here or what he’s doing. 

I think I’m going to have to say something to him If he tries getting into my bed.

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Arriving in Barisal

I wake up to the noise of the door being knocked on and a guy shouting “Barisal, Barisal”. I’ve got about two minutes to get up and pack.

I’ve had about 3 hours broken sleep and I’m in a bad mood. I want to go back to sleep. I meet my guide Ompta (I guessed his name but I know it definitely starts with a O) for the day and he suggests that we can go for breakfast after I drop my bags off at the misnamed Hotel Paradise.

The breakfast bar looks OK, I’m secretly hoping that the menu will say imported Sausage and Egg McMuffin but deep down I know this isn’t going to happen. So the menu choices are for BREAKFAST: Chicken Curry, Chilli Chicken Curry and just plain Curry. I really don’t want a curry at 6.30am but I know It will make the guide happy If I have something to eat, so I order……… a curry.

The curry isn’t bad but I’m really not hungry so I do that old trick of hiding the chicken under the rice to  look  like I’ve eaten it.

I still can’t get over how friendly people are here. Everybody wants to shake your hand and talk to you. Bangladesh might not have that many big tourist attractions a India and Nepal but I think It’s not always necessary. The places you visit when you go away are more about the people you meet on the way anyway.

After what fells like 9 hours non stop walking, I tell Ompta that I need to go back to the hotel as my stomach is making hideous noises that I’ve not heard since I was in India about 2 years ago. I knew this would happen, the minute I gambled and tried the local food my stomach would go.

I won’t go into detail but I can safely say my diet for the next ten days will be biscuits and Imodium. Luckily I bought my own Imodium as I’m guessing if I bought them here they would have some form of chilli in them.

When I dropped my bags off this morning I didn’t really have a proper inspection of Hotel Paradise. If this is Hotel Paradise I have no idea what Hotel Hell might be like. The worst part is that the air conditioning fans don’t work and It is so bloody hot. I spend half my evening in the showers, a cold shower.

To top it off, just as I get into bed I see a huge cockroach. I’m really not in the mood to try and catch it but It will annoy me If it’s not out of the room. So I spend the next ten minutes running around the room trying to catch it to no avail.  I just turn of the light and pretend it’s not there.



Leaving Dhaka

After four days in Dhaka I leave to make my way down to Barisal. Arriving at the boat port in Dhaka I was met by about a thousand people trying to do the same thing. After bumpbling around using my Bengali sign language technique (patent pending) I finally found my boat and my sleeper cabin. And what a sight…The boat was overcrowded and the main floor must have had at least 200 people sleeping on it.  

 As we pull away from the port we bump and crash into other boats and I hear loud cracks. I’m no expert on health and safety but I’m sure that’s not a good thing. For the first half an hour of the journey I’m busy checking out the distance I would have to swim if the boat capsized and thinking would there be any way I could do it without getting my camera wet (there isn’t).
On the boat I saw the first Western faces I’ve seen since being out here. A German girl and two other guys are cycling the southern part of Bangladesh. I said to the German girl that she is bloody mad, I can only manage walking about 2 hours in this heat let alone cycling in it.A Bangladesh guy (who is with the German girl) buys me some cucumber.  I admit it’s not in the same league as a Big Mac meal but I’m looking forward it. I’m disappointed that when It comes it has got spices on it. Why would you put spices on a cucumber? This country is obsessed with spice.
About 256 conversations with the locals about the fact that live in the UK later, I go to bed. I’ve had hardly any sleep since I left London and tonight I’m not expecting anything different. Sharing with a local we have a brief conversation before we go to bed and I ask him ‘You don’t snore do you?’. He laughed and said  ‘No no no, I do not snore.’So what happens ? After about twenty minutes this guys starts snoring. Along with that and the hideous noise the fan makes I attempt to get some sleep. The last time I check my watch it’s 2.30 and I need to get up at 6am.Send more Red Bull

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Bangladesh so far

Arriving at Dhaka Airport after an 18 hour flight via Dubai my first objective was to get the essentials done.  Go to the cash point and draw out some  money for the taxi ride into town. Easy right? After two  stressful hours talking to my useless bank until my mobile ran out of juice, with no money forthcoming, cancelled card, yadda yadda yadda. I jump into a cab and make my way to my hotel, crossing fingers they would pay for me.

Asian taxi drivers! You have to love them. Every time you ask them ‘Do you know the direction to this hotel?’ They always say ‘Yes’ ( even though they haven’t got a clue).  So we spend one hour getting to the hotel, stopping every five minutes to ask for directions. 

My plans are to go and visit the Sundarban district and also go south to Chittagong and maybe the hill tract villagers on the Burmese border. The country however is in the middle of a political crisis. The opposition political party has called for a 3 day strike starting yesterday which severely restricts movement around the country. Which means I’m stuck in Dhaka for at least 3 days. 

My initial project of photographing the Rohingya people in Teknaf has fallen through due to some ridiculous amounts quoted for by local fixers. I still might try accessing this area If I can get down there. Photographing the Rohingya people is a sensitive subject here in Bangladesh. 

I have to say I’ve never been to a country where the people are so friendly. It gets to the point where it’s quite embarrassing when you have 6 people taking photos of you on their mobile phones, I guess they don’t see a white man walking around with a tripod dressed in Primani that often. What a superstar I am!

Dhaka is a city which is smelly, dirty, polluted, poor and chaotic but I have to say I love the people and the energy of the place. The traffic is the worst I’ve ever seen and I’ve even given up asking the Tuk Tuk drivers to slow down as all they do is smile and seem to go faster.

Hopefully the strikes will be over soon. If not I’m going to spend  the next 2 weeks wondering around Dhaka with a sunburnt head looking gormless.

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Street Photographer – Peter Kool

Untitled by Peter Kool
Untitled, a photo by Peter Kool on Flickr.

I’m going to be sharing the work of the best street photographers on flickr

First up is Peter Kool.



1st Blog Post

After months of trying to put my site together it has eventully happened. First of all I’d like to thank Steve from Born Digital Web Design who has put this together for me. I did try putting a site together myself, but I’ll be honest I failed as I didn’t know the difference betweens my HDMLS and my hosting servers. Technology has sadly passed me by.
With this blog Ill be sharing photography links, showcasing other people’s work, and generally blogging all things photography. The majority of photography I’ll be sharing will be reportage style and portraits.
I’m also hoping to interview other photographers and getting an insight into their work, and ways to ‘make it’ in the ever increasing tough photography world.
I won’t really be covering camera equipment. Not that I’m different to the majority of people, always wanting that slightly more expensive lens; trust me I am the same. I want to concentrate more on  what I think are the most important aspects of photography: expression, freedom and creatitivity.
Also I’d like to thank everybody that has given me the encouragement to take my photography further. Special mention to Astrid Merget  from the WPO who gave me the kick that I needed, and also my mum for opening my eyes… Much love
Enjoy