Saturday, July 31, 2010


Tourism, of course, is often more about attractions and events than about hotels or other accommodation. Not really something most hoteliers understand, or even want to think about.

Perhaps, for some travellers, accommodation that offers pure indulgence maybe sufficient, but then, in Bangladesh there really isn’t much such accommodation available.

Attractions, of course, come in many forms; in Bangladesh, the riverine scenery, forests, hills and beaches, ancient cities, religious places and palaces amongst them.

But for sheer spectacle, I always thought the Grameenphone sponsored Challenge of the Longest Beach 2007 would take a lot of beating. Until I discovered the custom of boat racing.

Across the country, I find, these events take place in late summer or early autumn. This year, I suppose, most will be held after the end of Ramadan, since I cannot imagine fasting to be ideal preparation for this intensely physical sport.

The sleek black hulls, anything, I suppose, up to 80 feet or more long, are driven through the water by crews of up to 100 vigorous paddlers. With as little freeboard as the average eight, more familiar around the world, there always seems some great risk of sinking in the enormous chop set up by so many paddles. The boats themselves seem often wreathed in a mist of spray.

Exhilarating is the word that comes to mind; it isn’t easy to think of many sports where so many men exert themselves simultaneously over such a short period of time.

The beautiful lines of the boats are a pleasure to see, and with the drummers, cymbalists and cheer leaders standing amidships urging the crews on, all clad in colourful garb, and the owner, or leader, upright in the bow holding a symbolic forked spear each craft in itself is an absolute eyeful. But when there are two or more...!

Keep an eye on the Tiger Tours Website, for news of the dates of the races as they become available. Be warned, however, in a country that may have invented ‘Just In time’, events may be organised at few days notice.

Forget the annual eight races like the Oxford and Cambridge near London, these races are real spectacles. Wonder why, with Dragon Boat racing in other parts of Asia this hasn’t been made an Olympic event?

They say the racing in Bangladesh derives from the Mughal Period, when Nawabs and other local rulers formed navies to combat piracy on the rivers. That may well be, but one suspects that the political necessity of the rapid passage of instructions to minions, or of those summon to attend on rulers may have had as much to do with it in an age devoid of any communication system other than word of mouth or the written message. Perhaps the mobile phone companies should consider the potential for sponsoring this ancient form of communication.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to go and watch a race from beside of a river in near future. Thanks for adding these inspirational pictures. seo