Michael P

old dhaka wandering
November 15, 2008, 11:14 am
Filed under: touristy stuff, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

My friend Lauren that i met at church back in September, had never been to Old Dhaka.  Yesterday we made the trek down there.  Almost all of my wanderings around Dhaka have been on my own, so it was nice to have a companion for once.  It was also interesting to see how a western woman gets treated by the locals.  I was astounded at the amount of whistling, cat calling, and people yelling “sexy” as she walked by.  I thought the people staring at me was annoying, but i can’t imagine what it must be like to get that treatment everyday.
We started off on Bangsal Road.  This is the bicycle road that i went to a couple of week ago.  Unfortunately most of the bike shops and rickshaw artists were closed.  Luckily, just as we were walking away a kid chased us down and showed us some rickshaw art he had.  He knew what we were looking for.  We ended up following him back to his families shop and i purchased a ridiculous bollywood movie scene on a vinyl sheet.  usually this would be put on a rickshaw, but it will sit on my wall for years to come.  It was a little bit more expensive than i was hoping (about $7.50), but overall i’m happy with it.
rickshaw art
After rickshaw art we walked to Banga Bazar.  It’s a big market that many foreigners come to to buy cheap clothes.  It’s where i found those emirates flight attendants a couple of weeks ago.  All the stuff was really ugly so we didn’t buy anything.
On the way to lunch we found some really disturbing posters.  I don’t understand why you would want this.
After lunch we went back to the dock i went to the first time i came to old Dhaka.  I ran into the tour guide that ripped me offer a while back and declined his services this time.  I really wasn’t happy to see the guy and i think he could tell that he’s not my favorite person in the world.
After much wandering we found the Armenian church.  It was built in 1781.  Its off on a really quiet little street in Old Dhaka.  The gate was locked, but a driver waiting outside rang the bell for us and a guy came out to let us in.  It was pretty cool to be in a church in the middle of dhaka.  when you’re in the chapel you don’t feel like you’re in Bangladesh anymore.  There are lots graves, i’m not sure of who though.  The church isn’t used anymore.  There is a caretaker named Father Martin but he was in Kolkota, so we didn’t get to meet him.


on another note, there is a large group of doctors coming today to setup a temporary clinic in the north west corner of the country.  I inquired about a week ago if i could go along and kind of forgot about the whole thing.  Today Pastor Ayub informed me that we were leaving tomorrow (today) at 3pm for the trip.  I’ll be gone for a week.



weird dhaka adventure
October 28, 2008, 4:53 pm
Filed under: touristy stuff | Tags: , , , ,

today the weather was really nice so i decided to get out and do stuff.  it’s like 75 and sunny and you can tell that everyone is in a better mood now that its not sprinkling.  I decided to make my way to gulistan and try to get to Bangsal street.  Bangsal street is also called bicycle street.  it’s where all the rickshaws come from and where you can get rickshaw art.  the rickshaws here are really colorfully decorated so i wanted to try to buy some stuff to take back to the states with me.
I started the day with catching a bus south.  it ended up taking over an hour to get to gulistan even though it’s only like 15 km away. the bus was 22 taka instead of 250-300 taka for a CNG.  it was really uncomfortable though, so i’m not looking forward to taking another one.

I kept asking gulistan khotai (where is gulistan) to people on the bus and finally someone told me to get off.  i didn’t know where i was and i ended up wandering around for a long long time.  But i enjoyed being lost because it made it more of an adventure.  I eventually found myself in a part of old dhaka that sold tons and tons of powertools, gaskets, o rings, generators, drive belts, and anything else you can imagine.  the maker side of my started thinking about how much i missed making things and i saw lots of good materials for making a nice rotating coffee roaster.  But getting all the stuff back to america would be a pain, so i decided to not get anything.

I eventually got hungry and found a little place.  i sat down then a guy sitting near me called me over and asked me if i spoke english.  He invited me to eat lunch with him and his business partner.  Another example of bengali hospitality.  His name was shadif and he was in the steel tubing business.  We had curried potatoes, curried beef heart, and roti.  It was pretty good.  His friend picked up the tab, even though i tried to pay.

Then i went with shadif back to his store.  We discussed all the countries he traveled to and i talked about what i was doing here.  he spoke like 6 languages; urdu, pashtu, bangla, english, arabic, and hindi.  I feel so lazy a lot because i only speak on language.  after cha with shadif i decided to journey on.

I eventually found bangsal road and was happy to see lots of bikes, bike parts, and rickshaw art.  you can get custom rickshaw art here, so i might look into that later.

Then as i made my way back to the main area of gulistan to catch a bus or CNG i saw a large group of people surrounding some westerners.  i was curious to see what was going on and then i started talking to them.  it was a group of emirates flight attendants that were in dhaka for one day on a layover.  I followed them around for a little bit.  for there 24 hours here, they decided to buy clothes.  They were getting in a huge argument because some bangladeshis were “helping” them carry the clothes they were buying and were trying to charge them 3000 taka for their services.  That’s an outrageous number.  Eventually their driver came.  I asked where they were going.  they were headed to the radisson.  its kind of near where i needed to go, so i asked if i could tag along and got a free ride that saved me around 200 taka.

Then i went out to the freeway and got a CNG to coffee world and now i’m here, drinking an ice mocha.  Its nice to have unexpected days like this.

Thinking back about today, I realized how different my day was from the flight attendants.  They all looked at my like i was crazy when i said i’d been here for 2 months and that i’d be here for another 2.  They had a terrible experience where bangladehis were ruthlessly cheating naive foreigners out of thier money.  I’ve had my fair share of these experiences, but it’s days like today that i will remember about being here.  Wondering through the streets of old dhaka and random people that have far less money than i do paying for my food and really showing me what bangladeshi culture is like.  Its about hospitality and sharing, not trying to make a few hundred taka from confused tourists.  it’s too bad that from now on these 24 hour tourist probably won’t have nice things to say about dhaka.

dhaka exploring
October 1, 2008, 8:02 am
Filed under: touristy stuff | Tags: , ,

I was supposed to teach this morning, but the students are at a seminar north of dhaka until saturday night. so i decided to go exploring a little. My foot was feeling better. I was thinking of taking a local transit bus. But then i decided against it since i don’t really know which bus to catch, its hard to tell if the buses are transit buses or buses that go outside of dhaka, and you have to run and jump on the bus while its moving. The last part would be kind of hard on my foot. I got a taxi and tried to get to a market called Banga Bazaar. The driver didn’t know where that was, so he just dropped me off in the general area of where i thought i wanted to go. Dhaka is a lot quieter right now because a lot of people(1/4 of dhaka) have gone back to their villages for Eid, the celebration of the end of Ramadan.
When i got out of the taxi i just started walking around and taking pictures. i was on a busy street with lots of guys selling fruit, toys, clothes, and pretty much anything you can think of. Here’s a guy that was selling lungis.

There were lots of guys selling pineapples.  It’s pineapple season here.  It’s pretty much the only seasonal fruit that is in season right now.  Bananas are good all year long.  Most of the pineapple is good, but once i got some that was salty.  it was quite nasty.

Then this Bangladeshi guy tried to get my attention and started following me around. He was trying to be my tour guide for the day. I decided to give in and he gave me a tour of the area. We first went out on a small boat and saw the stuff going on out on the water. because everyone is trying to leave Dhaka the boats going up north were absolutely packed. The whole dock we were on was filled to the max with huge boats. The boat below carries 5000-6000 people. There were like 10 other boats like this. All the people buy food on the dock, set out a blanket on the floor of the boat, and eat/sleep for the 5-10 hour boat ride.

Once we got off the dock we started walking over to Hindu Street. This is where the majority of the Hindus live in Dhaka. Although it was really small, it was probably my favorite place in Dhaka so far. There were a couple of Hindu temples and a bunch of craftsmen making various things. They made bangles, which are white bracelets carved out of conch shells, drums, tombstones, and the coolest was the sculptures.
These guys made huge sculptures of Hindi gods and goddesses. Also, what i liked about this street was it was really narrow and didn’t feel like any other part of Dhaka I’d been in.
While we finished looking at hindu street i noticed that i had a fat, painful blister on my foot that i broke. it makes sense since i haven’t been walking on it much for the last 6 weeks and now i started walking on it a lot. We went to get some lunch, then i decided to take a CNG back go uttara. The tour guide kind of gaffed my on the price of the tour. I should have guessed that i’d get ripped off when he said i’d pay afterwards. Oh well. At least now i know the area a little better so next time i can go around on my own.
Besides my blister, my foot is doing pretty well. i walked on it quite a bit today and the bone really didn’t hurt that much.