We all know Bangladesh is not a coma drinking party place where one joins party boat rides and wild clubbing nights. It’s hardly a place for holidays anyway. I went there to do voluntary work at a school project for a few weeks and then spend some time travelling around. Observing what life is like in one of the poorest countries, meeting locals and their problems (e.g. not having to marry some old dude before being 18), learning about culture, cuisine and couture has been one of the best experiences I have ever made so far.
The consumption of alcohol is not a big deal over there for most of the population is a) muslimic and b) broke/poor. People work, in the fields, as rickshaw drivers, butchers, barbers to feed their big families and try to send their kids to school. Instead of going to a bar in the evening men like to visit the local tea stand (women stay at home). So evening for evening me and the other volunteers followed that habit and drank huge amounts of (admittedly very tasty) black tea with milk. Occasionally we (having the status of temporary, regional VIPs) got invited to enjoy homemade, delicious food, mostly consisting of chicken, daal (lentils), rice, awesome curry sauce and yellow flowers.
Getting back to the point, the fact that it was impossible for us to enjoy some evening glass of beer or wine made me really want it after some weeks. You know humans; always want what they can’t get. Although can’t get is not quite true since the occasional merchant did sell self made spirit in some back alley for little money, but it goes without saying that I’d rather keep my eyesight a little longer.
After our NGO work in the rural North of the country and some travelling to the Sundarbarns and to the tea plantations around Sylhet we arrived in Dhaka, the capital (6 Million inhabitants). Now there we got a different picture of Bangladesh. Although the city is as crowded as the rest of the country, it’s obviously more diverse. We met some upper class arts students (with very, very long beards) and discovered lots of western restaurant and hotel chains – in which of them alcoholic beverages could be consumed.
So after weeks of daal and rice, black tea, crowded dorms, 50 cents per night hotel rooms and watering can showers (I still had sand in my hair from my stopover in Dubai) we casually ventured into the Hilton – slightly underdressed / dirty – to enjoy some hot breakfast and a small can of Heineken. Not thinking about that the beverage itself cost us 5 € / 7 $ of which we could have probably bought a whole cow / 4 weeks food supplies, toilet paper, a prepaid phone card and several restaurant visits.
Never have I enjoyed and appreciated a glass of beer more than in that moment of genuine luxury!