Today we decided to head to the markets to buy traditional Bangladeshi clothing. After a few days of walking around, I was wanting to buy a few salwar kameez in order to “blend in” and have something more shape confusing.
To get there, we had to hire a “baby taxi”. These are what we sometimes call “tuk tuk” or rickshaw elsewhere in South East Asia. In Dhaka though (and other parts of Bangladesh as well), these have been equipped with gates and bars after a spell of bag snatching. The bars ensures that nothing can get in or out while the doors are closed – it does create a nice peace of mind.
On our ride over to the market some beggar kids came to our doors, as they normally do. This little boy was holding his baby sister, with a lovely round face and big round eyes. They were asking for 2 takas – roughly 3 cents. The boy then walked around the baby taxi, bent down by my door and proceeded to pet my food, whilst begging. And then a weirder thing happened: the boy then started asking for chocolate – non-stop. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, and so on. It felt strange to me that my having chocolate on my person came across to him as a possibility, considering how hot it was outside. Regardless, we said no with smiles, explaining that we didn’t have any. To our surprise, he flashed us a big smile, started waiving and saying “bye bye” over and over again before walking away. We couldn’t help but laugh.
He then came back, with two more kids. The chocolate charade started again, and after a session of “bye byes” and “goodbye” they all asked for handshakes! They shoved their tiny hands through the holes over and over again, to get as many handshakes as possible. Even though they didn’t get tikas or chocolate, they seemed beyond happy – and so were we. It was just about the cutest thing ever!
We finally arrived at the New Market, just before noon. I was a bit nervous about arriving so late, as the market is supposed to be closed in the afternoon on Mondays. Thankfully it was open and full of life.
It was surprised to find that most stores were selling fancy, elaborate fabric for saris, especially wedding saris. There were even a mass of wedding jewelry stores – clearly this wouldn’t be the cheap place to buy what I was after (as suggested in the guidebook).
In the middle of stores selling head scarves and night gowns, I found the stores selling salwar kameez. My instincts were right: prices much higher than expected. I tried to find stores selling plain ones, or just the tops, but I wasn’t able to. So, I bought two 3-piece outfits. I wasn’t able to bargain much, but I still managed to walk away with tops, pants and carves for less than $30 Canadian.
After my successful purchases we decided to cross the street to Chandni Chowk Bazar to find Travis a nice men’s shirt. He was able to find a nice, beige tunic which looks really classy on him.
Our successes soon turned to a string of disappointments. My chicken biryani lunch looked like someone had eaten the meat off the bone first – and we got overcharged for it. We then tried to buy a bag of clementines, but the seller was asking way too much for it. Then we tried to get into a baby taxi to go to the train station, but everyone wanted way too much for the ride. This was weird: usually here they do not want to talk money until you’ve arrived at your destination, but this time, everyone was really up front about the cost. We decided to walk instead. For the first time here, I got really frustrated: I felt that everyone was trying to take advantage of us. It felt so unusual for Dhaka, and I was disappointed. It was so unlike what we had experienced thus far!
Eventually we did get a rickshaw driver to take us, and we paid him half the asking price of the other guys (which was still much too much, we know) and he tried right away to give us change. When he realized that we did not want any change, he was ecstatic.
By the time we got to the train station though I wasn’t feeling too well – I think that lunch wasn’t agreeing with me. I stayed on the side while Travis attempted to get us tickets.
While our guidebook says that the station is organized, it is anything but. Officers told us which line to stand in, but there was no one at those computers. In fact, it looked like only 1 computer was working for the 8 or so lines, and no one knew how to cue up. Everyone was crammed together, shoving, trying to get to the front of the line. People were yelling their desired destination, hoping to get tickets. Eventually, a local guy noticed us and offered to help, but was only able to get us tickets out to Srimangal for the 17th – we were hoping to leave tomorrow. Apparently tomorrow is yet another holiday (not in the guidebook) and tickets were sold out for the next few days… at least we have a departure date!
Back in the room I took a nap, and felt better afterward. I tried on my outfits (you can’t try them on in the store), and thankfully they fit well. On is by far nicer than the other: it will be my “dressy” outfit. I’m happy with my purchases, and while I can’t wear them every day, it should work great to reduce the intruding stares!
Feeling lazy, we had dinner at a restaurant just outside of our hotel. We had delightful grilled chicken (1/2 of a full chicken each) and naan, and it was super cheap at just over $1. Travis bough himself a Mars bar as a treat, it was the same cost as dinner!
Back in the room I was working on editing photos when I got super itchy – I had been bitten. It was itchier than a mosquito bite, and while moving around I found a bed bug on my pants. Travis killed it promptly, but we were confused as to where it came from… three nights and no bugs, and now one? All I could think of was that it was in the clothing we bought, which I had laid out on the bed earlier that night. It still didn’t make any sense to me, but I really hope that it was the only one and not at all associated with our new clothes. As a precaution, Travis is sleeping in my bed tonight.
Today wasn’t as good of a day – I am less enamored with Bangladesh today. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day.