The surprises of Bangladesh. We have lived through so many horrors in Bangladesh: war of independence from Pakistan, famines, floods, but never been there. Now there are signs of hope. Yes, they have their downsides: the garment industry has murderous fires; the growth of Dhaka has demanded millions of bricks and laid waste to much countryside. But women's migration to Dhaka and earnings in factories have changed the status of tens of millions of women as we know from The Economist. There is so much to see, and people are so friendly! The group was much surprised and pleased. The long cultural history and diversity of religions was another surprise, and the quality of hotels and food.
How was your Explore Tour Leader?
Jackie Mullen is a very exceptional woman and must be your best Tour Leader. She has the patience of a saint and the determination and endurance of an ox. She's also kind, perceptive and responsive, which makes her able to relate to everyone - the group, officials, agents, hotel staff - to the advantage of the group. Jackie is great fun to be with, very knowledgeable on development and the countries of the tour, and works hard for ethical tourism. This included not only concern for the environment but inspiring us to respect local culture, so that we didn’t, for instance, photograph inside Buddhist temples, dress inappropriately for the activities of the day or give money or sweets to begging children. Jackie gave us a very good time from Dhaka to Kolkata.
What tips would you give to someone else booking this tour?
"Pack layers of clothing! And consider a land-only tour. We had an extra three days in Dhaka, and an extra three in Kolkata: Dhaka helped us rest from the flight (we are senior citizens); Kolkata offered great interest. We travelled October - November. Dhaka was warm in October, as was the journey to Sikkim. Sikkim and Bhutan varied, as we kept crossing very high ridges, so layers of clothing were helpful. Temples limited the amount of flesh we could expose.
Warm outer garments were welcome for the heights. Take plenty of hand sanitizer – use it or wash your hands thoroughly with soap before eating anything. (I didn’t have any problems, others did.)
Dhaka has appalling traffic jams, but that was the worst inconvenience we suffered. The river trip was beautiful. "
Do you have anything else to add?
"I think the only Muslim buildings visited were the Lal Bag in Dhaka. Maybe that's the only one possible but it seems a pity.
Congratulations on comfort: food, hotels, even buses!"