1 car, 13 days, 64 districts, 140 hours, 6155 kms
Saidi Hossain's epic trip through 64 districts of Bangladesh in a Lancer Evolution, in record time.
Ever since humanity gained consciousness, there has been a curious need for the species to explore, untethered, getting to know their surroundings. On foot, horseback, drawn carts and finally the automobile, humanity has spread all over the globe and established itself as the dominant species on this planet. While some rightly think that this was a pretty bad idea, what with global warming, overpopulation and incessant, unsustainable drain of resources bringing Earth to its knees, there are people who still value a good adventure, the thrill of the open road and the importance of getting to know the place you call home.
Saidi Hossain, owner of Rahmania Auto Works, set out with his Lancer Evolution X on an epic journey all over Bangladesh, using the road legal rally car for it's intended purpose, on and off tarmac. This week on Shift, he shares his story with us.
You finished the journey in record time. What was your route, and what was the average amount of time spent at each stop?
Saidi Hossain (SH): My route was Dhaka-Sylhet-Chittagong-Barisal-Khulna-Rajshahi-Rangpur-Mymensingh-Dhaka. The trip involved continuous driving in between districts, and during the day my crew and I covered as much distance as possible before stopping to eat and take photos at periodic intervals. Over 13 days, we didn't stop for lunch at all, relying on breakfast, dinner and tea breaks in between to get us through the day. Each stoppage lasted no more than half an hour, so we spent around that time in each district.
Any memorable driving roads?
SH: The road leading from Panchagarh to Nilphamari, via Debiganj, has to be the best road I've driven on in Bangladesh. A two lane highway with butter smooth roads, almost zero traffic, very few people, and occasionally winding left and right – with a car that has relatively good power, this road is blissful to drive on. Besides that, Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban areas, with winding roads built through the hills by the Japanese, is the closest you'll come to experiencing proper corners in Bangladesh.
What about the worst roads?
SH: Chapainawabganj to Naogaon. Continuously broken tarmac, jittery dirt roads. It was so bad that even a Lancer Evolution occasionally had trouble, although I have to say that the people there helped out a lot in crossing these bad roads.
Any trouble with law enforcement?
SH: Not at all. The police and anyone we came into contact with over the course of the trip were extremely helpful and courteous.
You mentioned stopping to eat in most districts. Any favourites?
SH: Hotel Akbaria in Bogra has the best beef and yoghurt I have ever tasted. Naogaon has the best milk tea.
Which districts or areas stood out for you?
SH: Sylhet was a big highlight, as we got to know about Baniachong village in Habiganj, which is apparently the largest village in Asia. Barisal was also a good experience despite the hectic ferry crossings – glad to report that bridges are being built to connect Barisal directly with the rest of the country, and will be open to the public soon. Barisal to Patuakhali and then directly driving to the beaches of Kuakata was a great experience, as was Bagerhat. Khulna's main town was also memorable because it is now hugely developed, yet it is clean and pristine, as if it was built the day before we arrived. Another great part of the journey was going towards Tetulia – from Kushtia to Rangpur, the roads were great, and on reaching the end of Bangladesh we realised that the place where the border to India starts and Bangladesh ends is actually called Banglabandha.
What advice would you give to other people wanting to embark on a journey like yours?
SH: Keep good people around you. Be mentally and physically prepared to drive 6-7 hours a day, for consecutive days if you want to cover the maximum amount of distance. Take a car that can be easily maintained – I took the Evolution because I know the car inside-out and it is reliable. Wash the car at the end of every day, or else the dirt and grime will ruin the paint.
Photo courtesy: Saidi Hossain