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, it’s OK.
I come in and clean floor?
No, we’re still in bed, we’re not up yet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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: