First day in Dhaka | Bangladesh

Thankfully, our room turned out to be bug-free. Still, I wasn’t able to sleep well, unable to fully trust the room yet. I had hardly slept the day before, so the night was spent mostly in an “I’m too tired to even sleep” state. It was really annoying, and left me very tired in the morning. As such, I slept in. Conveniently, our room has a window that faces the hallway, so our room is dark. Eventually though I figured that I’d have to get up – I couldn’t hide all day in bed. I had to face the city at some point!

I was waking up slowly, reading the newspaper when someone knocked on our door. Room service. Our conversation went something like this:

I clean room?
No.
Clean room?
No, it’s OK.
I come in and clean floor?
No, we’re still in bed, we’re not up yet.
Just mop?
No.
I clean the floor?
No, we’re OK.

He then left, but I had a feeling that he hadn’t understood a thing. (And can anyone say, Family Guy episode?) Sure enough, 30 seconds later he barged in our room with a mop, and proceeded to clean the floor. He turned the fan on high and sprayed the room with at least 15 spritz of powdery air freshener, and left. Oh well.

I thought about taking a bath (since we have one, and it’s so rare, it would be a shame not to) but the water isn’t really hot enough to fill a whole bath. And the water comes out yellow and smells… Travis says that it smells like fish, but I think it smells more of mineral sewage. It doesn’t inspire a clean, fresh feeling afterward, let me just say.

By the time we were out of the room, it was time for lunch. We checked our guidebook, and picked a place that seemed nice and was close by. I have to say: compared to many other places in Asia, Bangladesh has some really good sidewalks. Eventually we found the restaurant we were after, and were greeted by the friendly owner. He asked if we would be OK with lamb, naan and a salad, and it was like he had read our mind. The food was tasty but a weird cut of meat, and was a bit hard to eat.

lunch

After lunch we decided to go to the Liberation War Museum. We were maybe 3 blocks away, but we just couldn’t find it. We walked up and down the street, nothing. In hope for help, we asked a rickshaw driver to take us there, then another, but no one knew what we were talking about.



at an abandoned building

Travis was having a real hard time dealing with the frustration of everything and was set on going back to the room. We stopped on the side of the road to try to figure out our next room, and instantly a crowd gathered around us. Out of nowhere, a “white” guy (not certain that he was actually white) showed up on a motorcycle asking if we needed help, as we looked lost. What great timing! He gave us direction to the museum, and as it turned out, we had walked right by it earlier!

The museum is, to put it kindly, low budget. The exhibits were confusing, as they were often mixed up and went back in forth on different subjects and across dates. We noticed that pictures were at times used more than once throughout the exhibits. Regardless, the museum is worth a visit. It does provide history and context for something that few in the East know about: the 1971 War of Independence, which ended with the creation of an independent Bangladesh. It documents the 9-month war between East and West Pakistan (West Pakistan now being Bangladesh, and East Pakistan now being Pakistan). It has gruesome information and pictures about the war, famine and genocide, as well wall of bones and skulls to go with it all. It’s a must-see to better understand the country and its people.

We did discover this gem at the museum, which seemed to be playing on a loop:

After the museum we were looking to do something more cheerful, and decided to go exploring Old Dhaka. As we didn’t want to walk there, we tried to hire a rickshaw. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a rickshaw to agree to take us, but we were unsure if they didn’t simply didn’t understand us or just thought that it was too far. In the midst of it all, a strange but eloquent homeless man who introduced himself as a construction worker came to talk to us – a crowd formed again. A rickshaw driver with a huge load of books stopped his bike in the middle of the busy street just to get a closer look at us. Unnerved about being gawked at, we started to walk again.

Travis’ frustration started to mount again after asking yet another rickshaw driver to take us to a specific sight in Old Dhaka. Again, he wanted to escape to the room, stomp on his hat, do god knows what else out of the difficulty level of everything. I sprung into action and asked the rickshaw if he could just take us to Old Dhaka, instead of to a specific sight. Amazingly he understood, and agreed to take us.

We started to drive along the road, and Travis said that if we turned right, then the guy had understood us. He said this, of course, just as the guy was turning left. I replied, “where is your sense of adventure?” I think maybe I hit something head on, because he had none in him today. Usually he has way more openness to adventure that I do.


We soon realized that the rickshaw driver was just driving around, taking long detours. At first we didn’t understand why, since it’s so much extra work for him (tiny man, hard work) but eventually we realized: he had taken it upon himself to give us a tour of the city. He was driving past beautiful mosques, and drove right through Dhaka University so we could see the stunning architecture. What a treat! Had we tried to ask for it, we would have never gotten it.

standing around

An hour into it, our driver had to take a break. Can’t blame him: I don’t think I could cycle for an hour straight standing, let alone with a huge load to pull all the while driving through the insane traffic. An hour later, we were back at our hotel – with a few rickshaw drivers fallowing us, just to get a closer look at us.

***

For diner we head back out, in search of a Chinese restaurant mentioned in the guidebook. I don’t want Chinese, but might as well have it while it’s there. We can’t find it though, and on the way pass 3 great looking joints serving local food. For some weird reason, in South East Asia I look at a local restaurant serving local food and I have reservations. But here, it’s like China for me: if it looks super authentic (AKA, somewhat dirty hole-in-the-wall), I’m there! We had beef kebabs tonight, which were super tender. It came with a great naan, a salad of cucumber, carrots and shallots with a yellow curry on top. Everything was so good, with the perfect amount of spice. In the end, we had too much food and dinner cost less than $2 each.

beef kebab

On our way back to the hotel I realized that being here thus far has been really easy for me. Maybe it’s because I read so much of the guidebook and prepared myself for worse, I’m not sure. Regardless, I’m really enjoying it here. It’s different. It has challenges. But it’s fun. The people make me smile. And it’s not that hard. It will probably get harder away from the big city though, but we’ll see!

street snack

As we wait for a break in the traffic to cross the street, a man tells us Canada lost today at the cricket practice. No surprises there!

***

Here are some of the things that I/we have noticed today:

  • Every time we stop or slow down, we draw a crowd. People want to say hi or talk. A few want to shake our hands. Many just want to stare. Even buying a bottle of water is a crowd-attracting event.
  • People here are really nice and friendly. They are what we call in French “bon vivant”. It’s nice to feel that locals are genuinely happy to see us.
  • Many do a double-take when they see us. Some stare. One stopped in mid walk, 1 leg still in the air with this “what?” look on his face when he saw Travis. There are a lot of jaw drops.
  • Most women we passed today stared at my ankles. My pants were long, but I guess not long enough after shrinking in the wash. From what I gather, showing forearm here is OK, but ankles, not so. Not wearing a shawl on my head seems OK as well, but a shawl around my shoulders is a great thing if not a necessity. It seems that the most confusing you can make your figure, the less people try to stare at you inappropriately.
  • I’ve hardly taken any pictures yet. I wanted to get comfortable with the place and get a feel for it first. Everywhere else thus far there have been tourists everywhere: people with cameras were not an oddity. We saw no other tourists today. I only saw one other camera. I’m not sure yet how I feel about wearing it around my neck all of the time… I may start by concealing it in my shawl or keep it in my bag. It makes for lost opportunities though…
  • For some reason, this city doesn’t feel as crowded as I though. I still feel as though I have personal space. There are some stretches of road that aren’t stuck traffic. Travis disagrees with me though: he thinks that there are people everywhere! I guess that he’s right.
  • Fresh coats of paint are going up everywhere. Everyone is painting! The guy at our hotel spent all day painting the plant potters red. We haven’t managed to figure out if it is preparation for the cricket crowd that is expected to flood the city, or if they simply love fresh paint?
  • Advertisements

    About Magalie

    Canadian girl living in Texas, off to see the world when she can!
    This entry was posted in Asia, Bangladesh, Post with photo, Post with video. Bookmark the permalink.

    2 Responses to First day in Dhaka | Bangladesh

    1. Natasha says:

      Bangladesh looks awesome. I love all the graffiti. I see that you are in Varanasi now. So so very jealous. Wanted to go there so badly while I was in India, but got sick. Cant wait to see those photos. Totally understand the not wanting to take some photos. It felt really weird in the non touristy parts of Laos. I finally just got up the nerve to ask people and was usually rewarded with a nod and a shy smile, but a few times I just got a no and moved on. It always seemed to help if you showed them the photo afterwards, they usually got a huge kick out of it…learned that from Tara and Tyler. Anyway we are home and now living vicariously through you both….enjoy your travels!!!!

      Like

      • Magalie says:

        Being home must be both exciting and difficult. I remember finding it challenging to adjust to routine, every-day life sort of stuff – so boring after being on the move all of the time! The comforts of home and friends / family offset that for sure.

        I did pull out my camera after all in Bangladesh and was surprised by the result – post to come as soon as I get the pictures uploaded. It was by far a rewarding country, I’m really glad that we went!

        Like

    Let me know what you think!

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s