Off the Radar Destination – Overland Journey from Bangladesh to England
Meet the third traveller in our Interviews Series on Off the Radar Travel Destinations! Last week we spoke to Mahtab and Mashida on their travels to Borneo and prior to that we had travels in Cape Verde, Africa.
This week, we have with us Zeeshan Khan – journalist, writer, traveller, history lover, and amateur photographer. He is originally from Bangladesh, but has lived in Australia, Canada, Mauritius, Switzerland and the U.A.E. In 2011 he did an almost entirely overland trip from Bangladesh to England via India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Italy. He talks to us here about this amazing journey and the publishing of This Old World – which is an extended photo essay across his travels of Eurasia, along a well travelled route between Southern Asia and Western Europe.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your travels
Hi, my name is Zeeshan and I am an aspiring writer. I am currently writing a travelogue called ‘A right to Passage’ and have recently put out a travel photo book called ‘This Old World.’ Otherwise I am a journalist and am with the Dhaka Tribune.
My travels….well I have been travelling independently since I was 16, when I took off to go backpacking in India after my O-levels. I was blown away by the experience and became obsessed with overland (surface) travel ever since. I went back to India the next year, and travelled the length and breath of it, by road and rail. I have done a few different routes since then, I travelled from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Bali in Indonesia overland, from London to Casablanca, Morocco overland, across Australia overland and from Dhaka to London, almost entirely overland.
Why did you chose to do this journey?
When I was 20, I remember looking at a large wall map in one of my classes at University and thinking, ‘its quite a straightforward route,’ and began dreaming of doing such a trip. At the time I had no idea that this was already a well travelled route and that many people from Bangladesh and England drove it, all throughout the 50’s and 60’s. I originally wanted to do it by motorcycle, and in fact sometimes imagine i will try that someday! I almost did it once when I was 26, and then for nearly 10 yrs it sat on the back burner while life and all its entanglements happened, as it does.
What mode of transport did you use for the journey?
Trains, buses, cars, rickshaws, boats, ferries … and I was forced to fly in some parts.
Where did you stay?
I most stayed in backpackers and budget hotels, although some nights were spent in bus stations, others on trains, buses and one night I was adopted by an Iraqi family in Iran! In cities where i know people, I was put up by friends.
What were your favourite and most difficult parts on this journey?
The best part of the journey was no doubt the people, who showed me extraordinary kindness along the way. I don’t know if its just the way these cultures approach travellers or if its the way the road looks after people that are at its mercy. Its hard to identify favourites – Iran was certainly an eyeopener and a treat, as was Pakistan. The hard parts were Western Pakistan, where there was a risk of kidnapping or murder, and surprisingly, Greece and Italy, where I was mistreated by the authorities for being brown-skinned! I was caught in an earthquake in Van, Turkey, which was terrifying. I witnessed people dying, buildings collapsing. I was stuck in the town for 3 days with no electricity, phone lines or ways out.
Few highlights of this journey
What were some of your favourite dishes/food there?
Ah the food! I loved the food on the Western border of Pakistan, Pashtun food, almost all meat, and deliciously prepared. The food in Urfa, Turkey was very interesting, and there are these open air diners where you make your own meals. Fessenjun in Iran is an interesting dish, and in Greece I enjoyed this layered meat pastry like thing.
What have you learned about yourself and/or about people in different countries?
Oh thats a big question! I learnt far too many things about myself and about people to be able to put down in a short answer. Its why I’m writing the book, incidentally! I can say this – everything you thought you knew about Pakistanis and Iranians is wrong, and its best when we don’t overestimate ourselves.
What’s next on the horizon for your travels?
Next on the horizon is this trip I want to do from Malaysia to Europe via Beijing and the then the Trans-Siberian. Alternatively a trip from the north to the south of Africa could be very exciting!
Zeeshan – We wish you the very best in your travel adventures ahead, and look forward to getting our copies of ‘This Old World’ and your Travelogue – ‘A Right to Passage’ once it’s published
Can I just add that the hardest part of this interview was having to choose few images from 600+ stunning images of this journey ! If you want to see more from Zeeshan’s Eurasia overland journey, you can find them here
UPDATE – Gallery of a few images from Zeeshan Khan’s amazing overland journey, click on image to see larger version of each picture
This post is linked to #weeklypostcards hosted by Travel Notes and Beyond