Tourist's view of the Bangladesh Market


In the Netherlands where I am from, markets are a very festive matter. There are weekly markets where people can buy clothing, fish and bread but those markets are usually a bit quiet. However, when for example the queen celebrates her birthday everyone seems to clean up their attics and garages and they try to sell their old goods to people who might need it some day. At those “rommelmarkten” or flea markets you will find things like old children’s bicycles, mirrors, old toys, vases from the 1960’s and old photo frames which sometimes, if you are really lucky, still have a photo in it. I always associate markets with old goods because, that is what I am used to at markets.

At the company where I am doing my internship, Tourism KZN, I met Yogan Naidoo (BSA) and he asked me to help him with a new project that he was working on, The Bangladesh Market website. I expected the Bangladesh market to be the same as those in the Netherlands; however, when I first looked at the website, the market didn’t seem to be anything like the markets that I am used to back home.  The website looked really interesting and the pictures that I saw made me curious about what the market really looked like.

Before going to the market I heard different stories about it. It was very lively, there were lots of fresh produce and someone told me that I had to keep an eye on my bag (clearly the last statement was made by someone who never actually went to the market, as I never worried about my safety when I was there). After much planning it was finally time to go to Chatsworth and see the Bangladesh Market!

I was really looking forward to the trip and even though I didn’t feel so well that day I enjoyed myself very much. Regardless of the advice I got and stories I heard about Bangladesh, I decided to go to the market with an open mind.

The market was everything I imagined it to be and more. I felt welcome at the market and it was indeed very lively and busy and as I walked around it felt like a completely different world. I could believe that I was in India for a while.  The atmosphere of the market definitely makes the shopping experience at this market really enjoyable, with all the fresh fruit and vegetables and the smell of the delicious spices in the air, you can’t help being taken away by it. Most of the vendors sell clothing, fruit and spices but, there was one stall where I took a step back. It was the stall where they sell the sheep heads. Being Dutch I am not used to things like this and I needed a short moment to get used to what I saw, but I remembered my “open mind” theory, and realized it was all part of the experience of the market.

Something else that I noticed was that it is a very close community and everyone knows each other and I got the feeling that people who visit the market do not only come to buy some spices and do some shopping. It seemed to me that the market is also a place for Chatsworth people to meet and socialize with each other.

Although the atmosphere and friendly people at the market do make it a really fun experience, I must admit one of my favorite things about Bangladesh are the prices of goods, they are really low. That surprised me a lot because, in the Netherlands the prices for fresh fruit are quite high, for 1,5 kg. of oranges we would pay about R34 but at Bangladesh I paid R5!  A big difference and now I regret not buying more stuff. However, this is a good reason for me to visit the market again and I am sure that when I come back I will notice and see different things than the first time.

It was a great experience to visit this market. It was so authentic and the opportunity to interact with the local people was really nice. The Bangladesh market is a unique market and it is impossible to really compare it with other markets, at least the ones that I have been to. I feel like I have experienced the real community in South Africa and I am very happy with this experience. It is something no one can take away from me and to fully understand what it is like, people just need to go to the market themselves. It’s a wonderful experience.

By: Mijke Machielsen on the 9th July 2009