Staying at small hotels when traveling is the best thing ever, here’s why

I learned a new word the other day. Scintilla. Which means, a tiny spark of a feeling. Beautiful, isn’t it? Ever since, I’ve been dying to use the word properly, somewhere relevant. And when I got the green light from my editor to write about the hotels I stay in when I travel, I found an opportunity to use this word in a proper relevant context.

That’s right, a tiny spark of a beautiful short-lived moment is exactly how it feels to stay in small mid-range hotels. You see, hotels are not just a bed to sleep at night. They are much more than that. They are a collection of stories and experiences, a platform where travellers pass by and stop for a while, leaving their own stories and memories. When you think about it like that, hotels are no less than storybooks. And the small hotels? The stories formed in these small hotels are just cosier than the ones in five-star hotels.

Here are a few reasons why staying in small hotels is better than you think.

1. Easy on the ol’ wallet

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

To get the obvious out of the way, small hotels don’t take a toll on your wallet. Most of the small hotels are priced cheap to mid-range. There’s no point in paying a hefty sum of money to stay in a hotel if you’re planning to just spend the nights over there and go exploring the entire day. But of course no harm in paying for a bit of extra luxury either. No one’s judging.

2. A cosier environment

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

Small hotels offer you something that high-end hotels won’t. A cosy homely feeling that you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll find fellow travellers as you crammed in a small lobby or small rooftop makeshift eatery that’ll serve you authentic local delicacies. Or the receptionist who’ll always greet you with a smile and go out of his way to help you travel a bit easier in the region.

3. Authentic cultural experience

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

High-end hotels play it by the book. The more or less same amenities and the same experiences everywhere but in a different style. That isn’t the case with small hotels. Most small hotels are located in a local neighbourhood, run by the locals, offering the best of the local cultures. If you truly want to experience a region, try staying in one of the small hotels for the best authentic experience.

4. A story to tell

Staying at small hotels-HiFI Public

There’s always something different about each of these hotels you’ll ever stay in. Each one has a different story to tell and a different experience awaits you in each one. I’ll never forget the lovely 2 AM conversation I had with the front desk clerk of Chinatown Inn in Kuala Lumpur. Or that one time I slept in and the family that runs Bich Duyen Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City cooked me a warm breakfast because it was too late in the day to find breakfast in the city.

These are the experiences that don’t go on your Instagram. But these are the experiences that make travelling worth your time and money.

I call myself a traveller when in reality, I really haven’t travelled much. But in this short span of my travelling journal, I have come across experiences that I’ll cherish forever and stories that I’ll keep telling every day. If you’re travelling somewhere new, don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Because when you open yourself up to the new and the different, that’s when you truly travel.

The lost art of boat making in Bangladesh

The art of boat making is an ancient craft and one of the oldest living technologies in the world. The intricate craft of boat making is an essential part of the rich tradition and culture of Bangladesh.

Being a riverine land, boats were, and still are, an integral part of the rural life of Bengal. From the Moyurponkhi nouka of the prince from a faraway land or the Shampan of the fearless sea explorer, boats have been a crucial element in our folklore, folk music, and mythology.

The rich boat-building heritage and skills have been passed down orally, for thousands of years. However, those tales and skills are now on the verge of extinction with the advent of motor boats.

Bangladesh once boasted the largest fleet of wooden boats, exceeding over a million. These boats used to come in all shapes and sizes, with different functions and designs.

Here are some of the most famous boats from Bangladesh that you should know about:

Shampan

Indigenous to Cox’s Bazar and Kutubdia area, the Shampan was a large sea boat of Bengal with a triangular mast. Throughout history, many songs, folk stories, and poetry have been influenced by this beautiful vessel.

Shuluk

Indigenous to the Kutubdia area, Shuluk was the only known large sea boat of Bengal with a double mast. Although this boat was widely famous in its time, the Shuluk is now entirely extinct. Back in its days, this large watercraft was used for transporting salt and other cargo across the sea.

Goina

The opulent Goina was a dream houseboat which sailed on the narrow channels of the Padma river in Rajshahi. Goyna translates to ornament and much like ornaments, it’s beauty was a standout. Used by the Zamindars (landlords) for leisure, the Goina had a harmonious balance between elegance and performance.t

Chand-Nouka (Moon Boat) 

The arches of the crescent moon are reflected within the curving lines of the chand-nouka. These moon boats still dot the coastlines of Southern Bangladesh. The mid sized fishing vessels sail out to the open sea with the tide, only to return with the next. In earlier times, the celestial shape of the chand-nouka, allowed the boat to sail in either direction, although now, with the introduction of the engine the primary utility of the shape has forgone

Corpai

Starting its journey from the river banks of Potuali in Gopalganj Sadar, the illustrious Corpai treads along the native waters of the Modhumati River. A true symbol of the working class, the Corpai boat transports grains, rice, and heavy cargo.

Malar

One of the largest riverine boats of the country is the malar boat. Made on the banks of the Padma and Brahmaputra in the heart of Bengal, these majestic boats were primarily used for transportation of cargoes including livestock. With one of the most recognizable shapes, the malar frequently shows up in paintings of typical Bangladesh riverscape. The last remaining large sized malar boat has been converted to be used by tourism purpose by Contic cruises. The large red orchard sails outlined against the blue sky is a sight forever lost in Bengal.

Podi

A cross between a river and seagoing boat, the Podi which is found in the southern Khulna belt, is one of the few unique boats that have adapted to the saline water. Squat and wide, the Podi was specially made for carrying heavy cargo through the tidal rivers of the Sundarbans. Originally the Podi boat was used by the golpata gatherers during their seasonal foray into the mangrove forest. The golpatas, being the primary material for thatching in the southern belt, was then sailed back upstream with the tide.

Cultural preservation

Fortunately, Friendship, a non-governmental organisation, is saving Bangladesh’s boat building heritage from extinction through its activities on cultural preservation. Their activities include helping to create a sustainable livelihood for the boat builders. The organisation also documents the ancient techniques of boat building and raises awareness through exhibitions around the world. Handcrafted replica of model boats which serve as a record of boat building techniques can be purchased to further support their efforts.

Additionally, our heritage of boats and boat making is so rich that Bangladesh National Museum has an entire separate gallery dedicated to boats of Bangladesh. Do check it out when you can.

 

Facts, figures and photos are sourced from Friendship.

The Food Ranger, Trevor James recently visited Bangladesh and our hearts could only take so much!

We Bangladeshis love to host guests. Especially if they are foreigners, we love to show them around our culture. In fact, we take a certain pride in it. And if the guest is a celebrity traveler and food enthusiast like Trevor James, a.k.a The Food Ranger, you can only imagine our excitement!

That’s right, Trevor recently came to Bangladesh and hopped on a culinary journey of trying pani-puris at TSC to dipping his wrists in bowls of Mejban beef in Chittagong. And goes without saying that he absolutely loved the Bangladeshi cuisine. (I mean, come on! Who wouldn’t? Right?)

Okay, who is Trevor James?

If you don’t know who the Food Ranger is, here’s a little schooling. Trevor James is a traveler and a photographer from British Columbia. He travels all around the world trying authentic local cuisines and making food videos. His YouTube channel offers a unique window to the street foods around the world. His fans tune in to watch him biting on tacos in Mexico city to trying handmade noodles in Chinese streets. And so far, his unique style of video making and traveling has earned him features in The Guardian and The Forbes.

For the love of food!

On January 21st, his fans on Instagram discovered him, to their surprise, in Nirob hotel, munching on 20 types of bhortas! A quick stalk revealed that he was in Bangladesh for two weeks and would try everything from the local street foods in Puran Dhaka to authentic cuisines of Chittagong.

We knew our food is the best in the world, we just needed this validation!

Behind the scenes photos from his social media accounts showed him traveling in the lanes of Puran Dhaka, searching for Biriyani, sharing home meals with Bangladeshi families, eating Mejban beef and gushing about it and so much more!

Until he releases his official Bangladesh videos, it’s tough to say exactly what food he tried but its safe to say that he was not disappointed! I mean, he did say he’d come again! We sincerely hope Trevor visits our small country again for the love of its food. We knew our food is the best in the world, we just needed this validation!


An evening of musical ecstasy at Jazz Planet 2.0

A group of young musicians playing the saxophones, drums and guitars with their eyes closed. The tunes flowing from their hearts through their bodies and out of the instruments. An awestruck crowd around them, moving their bodies along with the music as if in a trance.

An evening full of jazz, melancholy and joy.

We’re talking about Jazz Planet 2.0, which took place on February 1st, in Gulshan North Club.

A sold-out show, co-hosted by Planet X Inc, Jazz in Bangladesh, Gears for Ears and Verve Bangladesh, the event featured the SeeSaw Quartet, Robert Russell Trio, Imran Ahmed Trio and ended with a twist of Bengali folk.

A musical journey

At 7pm in the evening, as the small but enthusiastic crowd settled with coffee in their hands, the event opened with the SeeSaw Quartet. Rahin Haider took the crowd over with his saxophone as we found ourselves tapping our feets at the classic tunes of jazz. After a magical opening performance by the SeeSaw Quartet, came the Robert Russell Trio, with Robert Russell at the keys.

The crowd remained glued to his individual performance. And his group took us through a musical journey that had components of Asian, Middle Eastern and Classical Jazz music.

An evening of musical ecstasy at Jazz Planet 2.0

The final attraction of the show was none but the Imran Ahmed Trio. Their performance centered around modern jazz, latin music, flamenco and gypsy jazz. What started as a mellow performance, soon took the crowd over with an electric energy as the performance was coming to an end with touches of gypsy jazz.

With a surprise twist at the end, the event closed off with two of the most delightful Bangla folk songs from Hasan Raja’s musicals.

“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes.” 

In a dull and hectic Dhaka, we long for getaways that saves us from the old dining out habit on weekends. In a city that lacks enough theatres, performance art stages, musical shows and all things that cater to the soul, we hope that Jazz Planet will return again with all its magic because we can not get forget the smell of coffee with the sound of jazz.

4 Bengali traveling myths that are completely wrong

Traveling is something we Bengalis love to do. We might act a bit old school when comes it, but you would rarely find a Bengali who doesn’t fancy traveling. Back in the day, our parents would probably start planning for a tour six months before a vacation starts. Now, in the age of information technology we fancy eating street food in Bangkok one fine morning and we might find ourselves doing it the next weekend. And yet, few old timer traveling myths still remain embedded in our habit.

Here are 4 such traveling myths that are completely wrong.

Myth 1: You need to buy plane tickets months in advance to get the best deals

Wrong. This might have been true ages ago when air traveling was not as frequent as it is now. Back then, airlines would hike up the ticket prices at the last minute because options were so few.

These days, it’s the opposite. With so many budget to high-end options, airlines scramble to fill in half empty seats as the date of departure comes close. Moreover, if you try to book a ticket months ago, you are most likely to see the static prices rather than dynamic ones. The ideal time to book your air ticket would be 4-5 weeks in advance.

Myth 2: Packages know best

While some packages might offer convenience once in a while, in most cases packages will rip you off. And the offers are almost never the best you can get. Comes with the added hassle of doing everything by the package terms and conditions.

If you try and explore by yourself, chances are you’ll cover the trip with half of what the package programs ask of you and get more out of your traveling.

Myth 3: Duty Free is a good bargain

This is a very common myth among those of us who frequent in airports. Duty Free items means that they are not taxed. However, it doesn’t mean anything about retail prices. There’s a higher chance that you’ll find the same goods at a much lower retail price in local market.

Myth 4: It’s a good idea to change your currency at the airport

4 Bengali traveling myths busted 2

Almost never. At airports, the transaction fee is built into the exchange rate percentage. And that means you’ll get a bad rate at airports almost all the time. It’s better to change your currency from your bank before traveling. Or do it in a local money changer once you reach your travel destination.

Everything you need to know about the elections and what happens after

It’s election day. If you had cast your vote, congratulations! You have successfully exercised your democratic rights. Just in case you were wondering how the entire electoral process works in Bangladesh, we got you covered. Here’s a quick roundup:

What is the type of Government we have?

In Bangladesh we have a parliamentary democratic republic.

How many seats are there in the parliament?

In the parliament or the house of the nation, there are 350 seats. Among these, 50 seats are reserved for women. The rest of the 300 seats are for elected candidates from 300 constituencies across the country, including the to-be prime minister.

When will a party win?

A single party or a coalition of parties can secure win if at least 150 out of the 300 seats are won by them. The winning party or coalition will then go on to form the government.

Everything you need to know about the Elections in Bangladesh and what happens after
Your vote matters, thank you for voting! Image: Brainscape

What is a Hung Parliament?

If a party/coalition cannot get 150 of its candidates elected, it will be declared a hung parliament.

In that case, the party/coalition will have to form alliance with some of the other elected representatives to secure 150 seats in total.

What happens if no party/coalition secure 150 seats?

If no party/coalition secures 150 seats at all, then there will be another election according to EC rules. And in the interregnum, the country will be run by an incumbent government.

How is government formed?

The president of the country is largely a ceremonial figure who is elected by direct votes from the 300 members of the parliament.

The president appoints the leader of the winning party/coalition as the prime minister.


The prime minister then forms the cabinet from the elected members of the parliament and forms the government.

What is cabinet?

The cabinet of ministers is the collective decision making body of the government under the Prime Minister’s office. 90% of the cabinet ministers should be elected MPs of the house of the nation. The rest 10% can be technocrat ministers.

Who are technocrat ministers?

Technocrat ministers are ministers who are not directly elected members of the parliament or even not directly affiliated with the ruling party/coalition. Technocrat ministers are often elected based on their expertise on the relevant fields.


Aquaman: A strong comeback for the DCEU

When we sat down to watch Aquaman, right after its release in STAR Cineplex, little did we know that Jason Momoa in an orange suit would deliver such a glorious chapter in the DCEU.

After Justice League and the countless behind the scenes drama that constantly mar the DCEU, fans can be excused for being a little sceptical about its next instalments. But let us assure you, Aquaman is not your average DC flick. It is perhaps the first decent DC movie in years. For fans of Jason Momoa, the actor, you’re in for a treat.

The Premise

Aquaman: A strong comeback for the DCEU 5
Nicole Kidman as Queen Atalanta

Aquaman starts out being straightforward. No drama, no twist, jumping straight into the story. The childhood of Arthur Curry and the conflict between Atlantis and the surface world. The immortal story of a journey of a king to claim his rightful place. Aquaman delivers all of it in a skillful method. Aquaman is surprisingly true to its comic origins. Yet, so very original that it brings a fresh flavor to the entire comic book movie genre.

Technical aspects

Aquaman: A strong comeback for the DCEU 6
Amber Herd plays Queen Mera

Director James Wan can be lauded for his mastery with the camera in the dynamic action shots. 2 and a half hours of explosive action, chase scenes and underwater world exploration did not deliver a single moment of boredom.

The massive world of Atlantis that was built for the movie is absolutely praiseworthy. A fresh perspective to world building was much needed for fans of pop culture.

The 3D experience of Aquaman’s underwater world in STAR Cineplex was one of a kind.

The Verdict

Aquaman: A strong comeback for the DCEU 7

A DC film that in our humble opinion, delivered. Finally.

Aquaman was more than just a comic book movie. It was a Sci-Fi adventure, a treasure hunting mystery, a journey of a king, the mythical tale of becoming of a hero. James Wan’s visual masterpiece passes every test with flying colours.

With a 4 out 5 rating from us, Aquaman breathes life into the DC movie universe. And crafts the path for a better class of DC movies in the future.

Aquaman is playing in Star Cineplex as we speak. Click the button below to secure your seat in the next show.

Paying attention to flight safety instructions: Why it matters

We often hear people saying that they prefer cars over aeroplanes because aeroplanes might crash. That fear, however, is misplaced and as irrational as it gets. Chances of a plane crash are much lower than a car accident or a lightning strike or a shark attack for all that matters. In a survey done by the American National Safety Council in 2015, they found that an average American has a 1 in 114 chances of dying in a car crash. While in the case of aeroplanes, the chance is 1 in 9,821. Sadly, no such data exists for the Bangladeshi counterparts but it is safe to say that the numbers would probably look similar. The fear around planes is understandable, however. For when an accident happens, it is usually more fatal than a regular car crash. Accidents do not happen very often. But with proper air travel safety ensured, the chances of a fatality are much lower even if the plane crashes due to an unfortunate event.

Ironically, whenever we get on a plane, the most ignored part of the journey is usually the safety instructions by the cabin crew. Here’s why you should pay more attention to them next time on:

Switch off your mobile phones/Turn on airplane mode

Why you should pay attention to flight safety instructions

During every air travel, the cabin crews instruct us to turn off our mobile phones, especially during take off and landing. These warnings are often overlooked as we keep talking on our phones or using it even when the plane is taxiing and taking off. This simple rebel act of not caring enough can cause serious fatalities as the mobile phone signals often interfere with the radio signal communications between the pilots and the ATC. Slight gaps in information exchange can lead to serious disaster. Keep this in mind the next time you’re not switching off your mobile phone following the instructions. Your life may as well be in your own hands.

Following the emergency procedure instructions

Why you should pay attention to flight safety instructions

So, you’re sitting in your seat, all strapped up, waiting for the plane to take off and the cabin crews are blabbering and making weird hand gestures and all, boring right? Life savers actually. Do pay attention to what they are saying, how to use the oxygen mask, how to put on the life jacket, where the emergency doors are and how to open them etc. In case of an emergency, you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you don’t know what to do just because you weren’t paying attention. Those boring blabbers and weird hand gestures can save your life.

Seat belts are your best friends

Why you should pay attention to flight safety instructions

It’s best to wear seat belts all the time even when the lights aren’t on. If the lights are on, do not open your seat-belts in mere disregard. Even if the plane isn’t in a crash, a serious turbulence can throw you off and injure you and other passengers. They are there to keep you safe. Use them. It doesn’t hurt.

Keep calm and wait for the plane to stop

Why you should pay attention to flight safety instructions

This is perhaps the most complained issue about our air travels. Please, wait for the plane to come to a full stop before you unbuckle and start getting your overhead luggage out. This is serious as most of us tend to ignore this one. If the plane is still moving on the runway by the time you’re walking about with your luggage, waiting to get out, there is all the chance in the world that if the plane skids or anything happens, you will be one of the firsts to suffer from an injury whereas if you were seated with your seat-belts on, you might be saved! Why take our chances for granted, right?

Some Basics

Even though most of these will be covered by the cabin crew’s instructions and best if you follow their words, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared with a bit of a heads up. So here are a few basic air travel safety on a plane journey:

1. Always keep wearing the seat-belt when the lights are on. Best to wear them all the time.

2. Keep your dining boards up and towed during take-off and landing.

3. In case of a drop in the air pressure, oxygen masks will most likely come out. Wear yours first before helping others. In case you’re travelling with a child, wear yours first and then help the child wear it. This is important because you may last a maximum of 15-20 seconds without oxygen and if you collapse, you cannot take care of the others.

4. Always follow the crews’ instruction to locate where the emergency doors and life jackets are in case of an emergency

5. Do not carry sharp objects, inflammable objects and canisters in carry on.

Despite all the fear and concerns, Air travel is still the safest medium to travel. If you aren’t convinced, look up the stats on Google. Numbers do not lie. Stay safe and Happy Travelling!

These 4 apps will make traveling a lot easier

Travelling isn’t like it used to be before. You set out with a paper map in your hand and face things as they come your way, that’s not only old school but time consuming, to say the least. And there are so much to see and so many things to do in a new place that it baffles our minds.
Thankfully, the age of information technology is upon us and as always, it boils down to mobile apps.

Here are 4 apps that will help you plan efficiently and get the best out of your next travel destination:

1.Google Trips

4 apps to make your travelling easier

It’s safe to say that you can trust Google with your eyes closed. Google has rarely gone wrong with their ventures and Google trips isn’t one of the odd ones. Google Trips is a simple, straightforward app that stores your ticket and hotel reservations from your linked Gmail account, your day plans and your saved places all in one place. It also recommends you nearby points of interest and places to eat.

Google Trips also offer customized day plans with routes mapped out for you. Simply brilliant.

2. Culture Trip

4 apps to make your travelling easier

Culture Trip offers detailed reviews and blogs from professional travelers and travel guides. Want to learn how to travel like a local in a new place? Culture trip should be your go to. Culture Trip’s blogs are simply the best thing for you if you want to truly experience a new culture.

All you need to know about a place will be available to you down to the last detail. From guides to the best locations to where you’d find the best street food stall, Culture Trip has it all.

3. Lonely Planet

4 apps to make your travelling easier

What started as a small venture by a traveler couple, quickly turned into a global travel guide that’s known all over the world. Lonely Planet’s travel guides are detailed, has reviews from locals and other travelers and an interactive map that shows you exactly where all the points of interests are.

Lonely planet offers the best-verified insights to a location and the city guides are really all you need while travelling.

4. TripAdvisor

4 apps to make your travelling easier

From the best hotel deals to the cheapest flights from different airlines, TripAdvisor covers virtually everything travel related. TripAdvisor certified hotels and restaurants are considered the best experiences by travelers all over the world. You’ll find reviews and recommendations from locals and seasoned travelers. And the TripAdvisor forums are insanely helpful in planning out your travel itinerary. Ask away anything you want to know and you’ll definitely get a reply.

These days TripAdvisor has become more like a traveler social media that lets you create a profile, a travel timeline, share your pictures and stories and a lot more.

It’s November, the perfect month to see the Himalayas from Panchagarh!

Sounds too good to be true? Welcome aboard this week’s travelogue that will take you on a journey all the way to the far north of Bangladesh, Panchagarh. That isolated corner of Bangladesh is the only place in the country where you can view the Himalayas from.

If you are, like me, broke to the bones and cannot afford a trip to Darjeeling or Nepal to bask in the magnificence of the Himalayas, fret not. Panchagarh is the hidden gem of Bangladesh’s travel scene and an exciting destination that has a lot more to offer than just the Himalayas.

Getting to Panchagarh

Buses to Panchagarh leave from Shyamoli every night. Hanif and Nabil Paribahan are two of the most trustworthy services in this route. Both AC and non AC buses are available and the tickets will cost you 1200 TK and 600 TK respectively. This will be one of the longest bus journeys you’ll ever take in Bangladesh, so prepare accordingly. Of course, the bus will stop on breaks two times on the way so there’s nothing to worry about.

The bus will drop you off in Panchagarh town in about 12 hours. By the time you reach there, it will be well past 7. Have breakfast in any of the local hotels. Take a minibus or an autorickshaw to Tetulia, the last border town in Bangladesh to the north. It’s a 1.5 hours ride from Panchagarh. If the weather favours you, the Himalayan mountain range will be visible on your way to Tetulia.

Where to stay

It’s November and it’s the perfect season to see the Himalayas from Panchagarh!
Tetulia Dak Bungalow

In Tetulia there are two mid-range tourist hotels and two government rest houses. To stay in the government rest houses, you must take prior permission from the officials. You can get the clearest view of the Himalayas from the government rest houses. Right behind the rest houses, there’s a river and on the other side of the river is the Indian border. At night, you can see the border lights lit up and BSF guards walking around.

Kangchenjunga!

It’s November and it’s the perfect season to see the Himalayas from Panchagarh!
Himalayas, or Kangchenjunga as the locals call it. From Tetulia

6AM in the morning is the perfect time to view the Himalayas as the sun rays fall directly on the peaks and that gives a clear and spectacular view of the mountains. Beneath the mountain range, you can see smaller hills and tiny lights flickering on and off. That’s Darjeeling. At night, you can often see tiny spectrums of car headlights running down on the spiraling roads of Darjeeling.

Although October-November is the perfect time to see the Himalayas, often it is not visible due to bad weather over at India. In case you’re unlucky this time, don’t worry. The daughter of Himalayas also has magnificent tea gardens, ancient historical ruins such as Maharaja Dighi and one of the smoothest and most beautiful roads in the entire country. Panchagarh won’t disappoint you at all.

November, perfect season to see the Himalayas from Panchagarh
Panchagarh has some of the most beautiful roads in Bangladesh to enjoy a drive.

The Himalayas are a magnificent sight. It cannot be boiled down to a few words of appreciation in an article. And we’re not even going to try. Pack your bags and head over to Panchagarh to see it for yourself. Let us know how it made you feel.