THE BIG D - DAY ONE
It was near complete darkness outside the plane window as we made our descent into Dhaka. The airport is north of the city and I thought we must be approaching opposite the city lights. I began to see a few street lights and only a few house lights. Within a minute of landing it became clear I misjudge our approach. We were passing over the city. I could see more and more houses barely lit up from the street lights. Individual house outlines became visible. It also became visible that Bangladesh would be a unique travel experience.
It took about twenty minutes to process the visa on arrival. None of the five people in front of me had a hard copy of their return ticket or hotel accommodations even though they are stated requirements. It took a phone call to find the waiting tuk tuk (called CNGs in Bangladesh) and I was on my way to the B&B style accommodation. We passed through a line of people fifty feet long and five people deep waiting on the shoulders of the road for other passengers to arrive.
The B&B is an apartment unit in the BLANK neighborhood. The area is about two miles north of Gulshan the upper class neighborhood. There's a local bazar in the neighborhood and the area is relatively nice, I'd guess it's safely middle class.
The first morning I hired a tuk tuk to take me to the sights in Old Dhaka. On a Saturday morning the drive is quick - instead of an hour and a half, it takes forty minutes to cover the less than ten mile difference. The first stop was Dhakeswhari Temple, the Holiest Hindu site in Bangladesh. When I hear 'est anything I start to anticipate something special but this temple was pretty basic. The four cenotaphs across from the entrance were a little underwhelming and the prayer room was basic as well.
From here it's was a short ride to Lalbagh Fort. It's described as a fort that's never been completed…but there's so little fortiness here I'd say it's better described as a fort that's never been started. There's s tomb for Bibi Pari, one of the sultans daughters. The sultan took her death as an omen and stopped construction. In a far corner is a large gate. On the walk back to the entrance / exit I went through the small palace area. Some guns, armor, and tableware.
Next stop Tara Mosque, aka Star Mosque for the blue stars inlayed on the white exterior. An imam unlocked the door and I was able to get a closer look. Similar to Dhakeswhari Temple, the mosque was a bit smaller in size then I anticipated although it was a much more impressive sight up close. The white tile radiated across the courtyard and the blue stars made for a distinct design.
I had my second meal of the day across the street a block back at Nanna Biriani. I order the Morog Polao, a Bangladeshi national dish and their version of Chicken Biryani. The chicken was decent but the rice stood out. It tasted much closer to the coconut type rice served in the Malay Nasi Lemak dish. The rice was much sweeter and softer than the rice included with the Indian Chicken Biryani dish.
I utilized the tuk tuk for one more ride to Shankhari Bazar. The Bazar was lined with the typical shops, however, Ganesh and a few other Hindu statues were on platforms in the street. At one of the statues men beat drums as another felt the music and made an offering gyration. I walked down Islampur Road, another major commercial street to the Banglabook Bazar. Book vendors have stacks of study guides stack up on sidewalk stalls. Most of the books look old and I wonder whether the learning materials are relevant. The only place I've seen a similar book bazar is Calcutta - it must be shared Bengal cultural thing.
Islampur Road leads to Sadarghat Boat Terminal, Dhaka's main ferry terminal. Large ferries are lined up next to one another offer rides up and down the Buriganga. The thing for tourists to do is hitch a ride in one of the small dhows that transports citizens back and forth across the river from North Dhaka to South Dhaka. The boat is a bit wobbly. We make it to the other shore, I take a few photos, and we had back to the terminal. The river is busy, mostly with people going from one side to the other, although I did catch a glimpse of the ship building and repair operations.
Less than a five minute walk from the Sadarghat Boat Terminal is Ahsan Manzil, a former palace, turned slum, turned museum. The museum occupies both floors of the palace with rooms dedicated to weaponry, portraits, history, etc. The most impressive rooms - the billiard room, the dining hall, the drawing room, and the dance hall - were those reflected the period design when royalty last lived in the palace during the early 1900s.
It was then time for another tuk tuk ride to the Motijheel Road area. This is one of Dhaka's main business areas, at least from a domestic perspective. I came here for another Bangleshi specific meal, Vuna Kichuri, at Ghorowa Hotel & Restaurant. The Vuna Kichuri was closer to Biryani I've had before than the Murog Polao I ate earlier, although it was very spice. Buried within the rice was a piece of chicken.
I walked around the Motijheel Area then hired another tuk tuk and returned to the hotel.
In the evening I went to Golshan for dinner. Another local meal of beef kebabs and naan.
I returned to the hotel and met one of the owners. The hotel is a quasi not for profit. The owner is involved with an orphanage and helps place children with jobs in the tourism industry.
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