Dhaka

In my quest to visit everywhere, next up is a place I didn’t imagine myself visiting – bangladesh.

I’m just visiting for the weekend, as it was a convenient stop off on my way to my actual destination – Bhutan.

Saturday 20 April 2019

Landing in Dhaka at 2am wasn’t the original plan. The plane timetable changed, which was rather unfortunate.

But luckily we landed ahead of time (I’ve been checking the schedule and this plane has arrived 1-2 hours late every day for the past week!).

I was one of only two people buying a visa on arrival (for USD$51). Although a bit cheeky that they only gave me 6 days. It’s supposed to buy you 15-30.

It was hot. And chaotic. The airport is old. And smelt like Asia.

The hotel were picking me up. Very lucky, as i couldn’t spot a taxi stand. Despite being 2am, it was packed everywhere.

My hotel isn’t too far from the airport, only 15 minutes. I arrived around 3am and can sleep for the next 6 hours!

I was picked up at 10am for an adventure around the city.

Being a Saturday, the traffic wasn’t too bad. On a weekday, apparently it’s awful. 18 million people live in this city, making it the fifth largest city in the world and the third most densely populated city.

Our first stop was a flower market. I was clearly an attraction, everywhere I went I had crowds of people gathering around me to watch me. I was even given a flower headband – how nice.

And a fruit and vegetable market.

We popped into Dhakeshwari Temple. The most popular Hindu temple in the city. It wasn’t too exciting. No elaborate carvings or statues. Just a large hall. And an area for weddings. There were goats, tied up. Waiting to be killed. Not nice. One of the men wanted to show me how they do it. Absolutely not!!

Then through crowded streets, into Old Dhaka.

We went to Lalbagh Fort. This area houses a mausoleum and a mosque, surrounded by a large park. Construction began in 1677 and some of the buildings were never finished. The grounds were full of local, young couples. This is a popular spot to hang out, as there aren’t many places to go – and they can’t take boyfriends/girlfriends home.

I was stopped a few times for photos with people. And a school group. But nowhere near the amount of hassle as I get in India – it appears not everyone has a smart phone and is obsessed with selfies as much here.

We had lunch looking over the park. There was nothing vegetarian, let alone vegan on the menu. So I had to order off menu. I asked for just vegetables in a curry sauce. What I ended up with was curried vegetables, a huge pile of rice, Dahl and mashed potato with mustard and chilli. A ridiculous amount of food!

Colourful cycle-rickshaws line every single street. There are so many of them. Every traffic jam is a whole line of them. There are around 500,000 of them out each day.

We went on a cycle rickshaw for a short distance through the old city. The streets are narrow (cars can’t get through). I felt guilty. It’s so hot. And the man has to cycle along. But I was told that this is the way they earn money. If no one takes their cycle, they don’t earn anything.

We went through the chaos of Chowk bazaar. And past a building which was on fire in February. It’s just been left as a shell of a building – 70 people were killed here.

We ended up at the Sadarghat. A boat terminal area, on the Buriganga River.

Here, small, flag wooden boats crowd around the edge of the river. Dwarfed by the old paddle boats/ferries next to them.

We went on one of the small wooden boats. It was very wobbly. Particularly when a motor boat passed next to us.

Along with the rest of the city, the river was also hectic. Boats everywhere. Small wooden boats. Large cargo boats. And people swimming.

We got off on the other side of the river. At a boat making / repairing dockyard. Very random. Men banging on ships all over the place. A few goats and children running around.

Then back into the small wooden boat, to head back to the Dhaka side.

We ended up next to the paddle boats. Some of these paddle boats are over 100 years old. And they still run. Going up and down the river to different places in Bangladesh. And some to Kolkata! We went inside a few of the boats. Some were getting ready to leave – hectic, people laying across the ground everywhere, getting ready for a night trip. Market sellers hanging into the open windows. And people running up and down selling fruit / crisps / betel nut.

I gathered quite a crowd. We went up a few floors of the boat, I had people following me everywhere!

We also went in a boat that has ‘first class’ cabins. These are expensive at around £100 for a nights sail.

Out of the ferry area and back into the narrow maze of streets. The Shankharia Bazaar, and Hindu street are full of narrow shop houses. They were built narrow as when they were built, taxes were due on the width of the building. So instead of being wide, they were narrow and long.

It gets the name from the bangles which are sold here. Made from conch shells, they are worn by married women. It’s bad luck if it breaks.

Next up, we went to the Armenian Church, built in 1781 when Armenian people were in the area. Now there are not very many left. It was a bit of a random stop.

For the last stop of the day, we walked through the grounds of Dhaka University. Old brick buildings, built when the British people were here – and used as a military base.

Then, for the long journey back to the hotel. It took around an hour and a half from old Dhaka. And arrived at 6pm, just before sunset.

I watched the sunset from the roof, in the pool.

And was too tired to do anything else for the rest of the day.

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