I wanted to take a trip to a strange and unpopular place. So as they say, I took the globe out, spun it around, closed my eyes, and in excitement stabbed my finger at it. My finger fell on Mexico. So, I went to Bangladesh instead. I bought a ticket and told my friends, but just before I left, the mocking starting. You know that expression of surprise on someone’s face, the sideways glances, the widening eyes, the raised eyebrows, thinking “what a knob“. In the airport I was ridiculed by a security man and his colleagues. “Dhaka? What have you forgotten there? Death? ” — they laughed.

Their fears were understandable. The bloody history, terror threats, poverty, chaos, illiteracy, dirt and corruption — an extremely dull and unexotic set of issues. And when I learned more about Bangladesh it became all the more frightening. The fact that it’s among the countries in Asia least visited by tourists didn’t help, statistically it’s almost at the bottom of the pile for international visitors. Because of this, it’s impossible to avoid the locals’ overly-enthusiastic stares at the newly arrived white man. In general, foreign embassies along with tour-guides, advise against travel to Bangladesh. They’ll kidnap and shoot you, they say. Camping is dangerous, hiking in the hills requires a permit, and in some places an armed escort is the only option. Google doesn’t suggest anything spectacular to see. I had no friends or acquaintances there either. Sounds intimidating, right?

All of the above is true, to the certain extent, but by being frightened, by refraining from traveling there, I wouldn’t have been able to see that Bangladesh actually has cleaner streets than India, that they have pavements and fewer stray dogs. That their roads are in even better condition than those of their three neighbours. Because tourism in Bangladesh is underdeveloped, people are more responsive and helpful, their hospitality exceeded my expectations and was better than I’ve come across elsewhere so far. It might be true that travelling in Bangladesh is not easy, and there is not so much to see, but Bangladesh is rich with people who are genuinely happy to welcome visitors and they may remain forever as good friends.