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Talking Location With author Anne Hamilton – Bangladesh

20th April 2017

#TalkingLocationWith… Anne Hamilton, author of “A Blonde Bengali Wife“, talks about her Bangladesh

Anne Hamilton - Bangladesh

Tea Shop

Blog panelI fell in love with Bangladesh half way through my first visit, way back in 2002. Fifteen years later, after about the same number of return trips, it’s become my second home. Reaching from the River Ganges in the Bay of Bengal right up to the foothills of the Himalayas, Bangladesh isn’t the well-trodden destination of its Indian and Nepalese neighbours, but it’s far more than the country of violent monsoon, immense poverty and squat toilets that we imagine – if we think of it at all. 160 million friendly and hospitable people in a space the size of England and Wales might not make for a restful or secluded visit, but it makes for great trip-fiction.

A Blonde Bengali Wife, a humorous (I hope) travel memoir began life as my diary – that of a hapless NGO volunteer; a way of processing my experiences and trying to show the other side of this endlessly fascinating and frustrating country. The title is a bit of a misnomer (I’m barely blonde, not Bengali and no longer a wife) but the book takes you on my first haphazard journey, and honestly, not that much has changed.


National Monument of Bangladesh

You fly into the chaos of Dhaka, where you’ll feel like an extra in an old-fashioned epic (think The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel without the glamour). Even if you stay in the upmarket suburb of Gulshan, your local coffee shop probably won’t have any coffee. It will have the fancy-looking machine, but you can bet it won’t be working and you’ll end up with a tea bag or a Coke. Far better to head down the road and round the corner into the slightly less salubrious area of Mohammadpur (visit the Louis Khan designed Parliament whilst you’re there) and pick up a glass cup of sweet tea from the cha’ stall and a deep-fried samosa or shingara from the shop next door.

Getting anywhere in Bangladesh is like running a marathon in slow motion with ever-changing start and finish lines. Whether you want to explore the higgledy-piggledly, ghats of Old Dhaka (strong stomach recommended) where Ahsan Munzil, the Pink Palace, or Lalbagh Fort are situated, or you want to escape to the villages, it will take you A… Very… Long… Time… The only thing in perfect working order on a bus will be its hooter, and trains trundle through squatter settlements with fare-dodging passengers perched on the roof. The land is waterlogged but lacking in bridges, so boat trips – think rusty ferry not slim-line yacht – are inevitable.

Bangla Landscape

Bangla Landscape

You won’t find the eighth wonder of the world or many luxurious hangouts but the traditional lifestyles and the vibrant landscape are priceless substitutes. Local people will welcome you with delighted curiosity, food, and marriage proposals – and this is a country that works on tenuous connections so if your neighbour’s sister’s cousin lives in Chittagong, get their name and home village before you leave and seek them out!

If I was asked to put together an itinerary, of course I’d cheat and suggest reading A Blonde Bengali Wife – it’s all there (still) – as my favourite places are now to do with friends and memories as much as the physical place. Sylhet, in the north east, is home to the tea gardens and pineapple plantations, and St Martin Island, in the Bay of Bengal, close to Myanmar, is a tropical island of boat-builders, fresh lobster plates and golden sand. Cox’s Bazaar is the longest sea beach in the world, Sunderbans National Park is a world heritage site, and in Kuakata, you can watch the sun rise and set at the same point. Way off the beaten track – if that can be said of a community of a million people – is Bhola, considered behind the times even by the rest of Bangladesh, and home to ‘my’ charity, Bhola’s Children. Staying there, alongside fifty exuberant children, whose disabilities don’t matter a jot, is like being cocooned in a magical haven.

Anne Hamilton - BangladeshIf you’re the kind of traveller who decided to come here in the first place, you probably won’t want to leave. As a frayed old banner in the Parjatan travel office says: Come to Bangladesh before the tourists do.

Thank you so much to Anne for sharing “her” Bangladesh. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and via her ABBWwebsite and to find out more about Bhola’s Children, click here. And of course you can buy her book here

For more books set in BANGLADESH, just click here

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  1. User: Barbara Khan

    Posted on: 21/04/2017 at 3:17 pm

    Oh this sounds wonderful!! I am a blonde Pakistani wife, lol. Well, I’m a blonde American married to a Pakistani. I too am trying to write my memoir. I will read yours for inspiration.


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 01/05/2017 at 3:26 pm

      Hope you really enjoy it!!