Despite its small size just 37.31 km² Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, offers a varying selection of experience to discover excitements of Asia. My impression on Colombo the first time I discovered the city is totally different from my expectation. Not expecting much of moving around the downtown, but it turned out to become a worthy exploration in its own right. And once again, the diverse culture of Asia always fascinates me in its own way.
I’m always fascinated with details. There’s a beauty in simple things that we might miss when we just look at it in a glance.
Technically, I shoot using my Fujifilm XT10 camera with XF35mm f1.4 lens attached most of the time. I really love how this fix lens can deliver a sharp and clear image, especially when you take a close up shot.
For me, there’s an art of ‘notice the unnoticed‘ in photography. We tend to ignore a lot of things around us because they are not extraordinary for us. It’s very different when we travel somewhere, to outdoor nature for example. The beauty of landscape will be something that instantly please our eyes.
However, if we want to look at those ‘not-so-interesting’ things differently, we might be able to get something nice from them. For example, a cup of coffee, flowers in your garden, your toy collection, your watch, raindrops on your car window, pile of books on your desk, anything. If you adjust your angle right, or if you can adjust their placement right as well, you will get something different from those ordinary, orthodox things.
Even though we might not always be able to turn every single regular stuffs into pretty things just like magic, looking at details of objects that we see in everyday life might be able to train our sensitivity towards ‘photography-material’ scenes.
I still remember there’s this one time I uploaded a pic that focuses on a pair of sneakers that were worn by someone on a train. “It’s only a picture of shoes, but why does it look pretty?” said someone in my instagram comment box.
It’s an exercise for me, especially for the eyes. This helps me to think, what angle that works for different objects.
Taking this into philosophical approach, to see things closer means we force ourselves to understand things better and to see things from a different perspective. The question is, do we want to look closer to our surroundings?
I never imagine in my life that I would travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh. But I did travel there, December 2015. I was part of the training team given the responsibility to build my organization’s partner capacity. When I was assigned for this task, I had a mixed feeling. I did not really have a clear idea of what Bangladesh looks like at that time and I convinced myself that it’s not part of top destinations for taking some leisure either (need to remind myself that the work should be the top priority, but I couldn’t help myself thinking about the destination). However, I was excited anyway because I never visited the country before. First experience will always be something to anticipate!
So, skip to the travel day. My first impression when I set my foot in Dhaka was this feeling of traveling back to the past. I don’t know whether this is valid or not, but there’s this nuance of Indonesia back in 90s for me. I’m aware that Bangladesh is part of LDCs (Least Developed Countries), but I’ve read some article that they’re working hard to crossing over from that category to be eligible with the criteria of developing country.
I had around four days during my work trip in Dhaka. Most of the time, we stayed in the office building for workshop activities from morning to evening. To be honest, I didn’t prepare myself to explore the city since the beginning. I knew the schedule would be quite packed and it’s not a solo traveling kind of thing so I did not want to mess my team’s schedule.
Surprisingly, our host-country organization actually told us when we arrived there that December 16 is a national holiday in Bangladesh. It’s celebration of Bijoy Dibosh, Victory Day of Bangladesh. Hence, our host offered us whether or not we want to visit the downtown for sightseeing. OF COURSE, LET’S GO!
I wasn’t so sure about the area, but my remaining memory told me that we visited this public space nearby the Bangladesh National Parliament House (locally known as Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban). A lot of people were hanging around in this area, wearing clothes in red and green that represents Bangladesh national flag. Not spending so much time there, we continued visiting Aarong to buy some local souvenirs (just like normal tourist). Aarong itself is a social enterprise from BRAC, a well-known NGO based in Dhaka that empower local people in the country. Kudos for BRAC!
So, where are the street scenes?
Well. During our way to the downtown, the traffic was really bad. My colleagues and I assumed it was because of the holiday, but the driver said it’s just like everyday. It’s “normal” traffic. Oh well. Coming from Jakarta, I shouldn’t complain regarding the situation.
Traffic jam is not a good news, but on the other side of coin, I could use the extra time to take some pictures from the car!
One of the most eye-catching scene is the three-wheeled rickshaws. It’s very popular in Dhaka and became the country’s trademark. Millions of people use these rickshaws to commute. Even Dhaka has a nickname as the rickshaw capital of the world. So, taking a picture of rickshaw in Dhaka is a must!
Other than that, taking random snapshots of Dhaka from a (slowly) moving car is very fun. The street scenes are unique, colorful, sometimes chaotic, but it just gives beautiful dynamics. Again, the look of the environment, especially the buildings, will give you this vintage and old-fashioned atmosphere which can take you travel back the time. At least that was what Dhaka did to me.
Looking at the pictures that I took with all the limitations, I wish I had more time to explore the streets of Dhaka in a more proper way at that time (not sure about the safety level though). Nevertheless, it was still fun and became a memorable experience for me!