Getting to Know Dhaka

Spending four months in Dhaka offered me a glimpse into everyday life in this city.


Getting to Know Dhaka

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Tammy Ann on July 8, 2001

When asked to name the best part of traveling to Bangladesh, the answer has to be getting to know the people. Accepting an invitation to visit in someone's home means sharing tea and sweets or a meal while discussing such diverse topics as international politics or the poetry of Khalil Gibran.

Must-do activities include taking a rickshaw to get where you want to go, shopping for everything from spices and skeins of yard to suitcases and textbooks at New Market, and touring the National museum where visiting foreigners might prove as much of a draw as the exhibits. If you're lucky, you might even encounter a wedding procession - complete with a horse-drawn carriage and a marching band of musicians - as you leave the airport.${QuickSuggestions} Things to be prepared for and aware of: * Foreigners can draw a lot of attention ranging from sideways glances to head-on stares. Keep your wits about you and know where your wallet is at all times.

* Beggars will not be shy about approaching you and touching you or pulling on your sleeves - even when you're stopped in traffic in rickshaws, scooters, and cars.

* Be aware that on days designated as "hartals" (or strikes), you do NOT want to travel anywhere. The parties calling the hartals take a dim - and often violent - view of people who do not adhere to the no- travel policies.${BestWay} Walking in Dhaka can be an adventure. Even traveling one block can mean dodging rickshaws, scooters, cars, buses, cattle, and of course scores of people.

For short trips around Dhaka - from a couple of blocks to a couple of miles - a rickshaw is the way to go. The rickshaw consists of a platform-type seat attached to a large tricycle and can accomodate two adults. Best of all, the rickshaw doesn't contribute to the air-pollution problem.

The three-wheeled, brightly painted scooters are good for intermediate-length trips around town. Two adults can fit, but make sure to duck your head climbing in and out. Be prepared to smell like exhaust as the two-stroke engines put out the fumes.

For longer-distances take a car taxi, available either air-conditioned or non-air-conditioned. The air-conditioned version does not cost that much more and the ride serves as a respite from the heat and humidity.

With so many forms of transportation, you might want to ask a local for advice on the best way to get where you want to go. Better yet, unless you speak Bengali, get their help in negotiating prices and giving directions to the driver.


Dhaka Sheraton

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tammy Ann on July 8, 2001

We spent a weekend at the Dhaka Sheraton as a mini-vacation within our longer four-month stay in Dhaka. Coming up the driveway to the entrance of the hotel, you have the feeling of entering an oasis of sorts made up of well-manicured grounds. This effect continues through to the swimming pool and surrounding gardens. Even if you decide against taking a swim, you can sit poolside and enjoy tea or a snack at the pool cafe.

Our room, which had a king-size bed, was clean, comfortable and air-conditioned. The room came equipped with a coffee-maker, cable television, and bathroom amenities such as shampoo and bubblebath. The Sheraton has its own water-purification system, so brushing our teeth and even drinking water from the tap was safe. (You can''t say that about many places around Dhaka.)

The Bithika Restaurant has excellent food and service. We especially enjoyed their buffets for the variety and quality of food, which incorporated Bangladeshi dishes and tastes along with more Western fair.

Billing itself as the country''s only five-star hotel, the Dhaka Sheraton gives you what you would expect from a hotel in this international chain. While you do not get a taste of the "real" Dhaka, you do get a luxury hotel with friendly and professional service.

Dhaka Sheraton Hotel
1 Minto Road
Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1000
+880 2 861-1191

Santoor

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tammy Ann on July 8, 2001

When you want to splurge on a fine dining experience, Santoor lives up to your expectations. Opened by the owners of the neighboring Chili's (no relation to the American restaurant chain), Santoor offers an intimate and luxurious atmosphere with taste-tempting Indian dishes.

From the time you sit down, expect to be waited upon by a team of servers. We started with the vegetable fritters, which were delicious. We then had a korma and a biryani dish - also delicious. The dishes were nicely seasoned for our tastes. However, for those who do not welcome a lot of spicy-heat, include a healthy portion of the cooling yogurt-based raita with your meal. (You might also want to have a large glass of water handy!) We ended the meal with dessert, rashomalai and golab jamon. As expected the desserts were sweet with the subtle flavor of cardamom.

Based upon our experience at Santoor - and our experience was not unusual according to friends - we highly recommend Santoor for those seeking top-of-the-line dining in Dhaka.

Santoor
Mirpur Road Near Kalabagan
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Aarong

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tammy Ann on July 9, 2001

Four floors of high-quality handmade goods await you at the flagship Aarong store, so successful it has spawned several satellite locations around the world. While each floor of the store is air-conditioned, bring your walking shoes because there is no elevator. Also be aware that the prices here are not negotiable and might be more than you would pay elsewhere in Dhaka. However, the quality of items here is top-notch and well worth the price. In addition, Aarong accepts most major credit cards.

The first floor (located on the second floor of the building) houses items that include women's fashions such as salwar kameez (long tunics over loose pajama bottoms), shoes, and silver and pearl jewelry. On the second floor you will find a sari for every occasion: silk, cotton, and the traditional and unique Bangladeshi jamdani weave. The third floor houses men's fashions such as silk punjabis (long tunics), lungis (plaid cotton sarongs), shirts, vests and shoes. The fourth floor has handicrafts including brass items such as candlesticks and knick-knacks, macrame items, handwoven baskets, and even dolls.

Top off your shopping expedition with a snack of tea and samosas at the cafe located on the top floor overlooking the intersection of Mirpur Road and Manik Mia Avenue. Enjoy watching the traffic go by and the view of the Parliament building down the way.

Aarong

Dhaka, Bangladesh

New Market

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tammy Ann on July 8, 2001

No matter what you're looking for, if you want to get a feel for shopping like a local, New Market is the place for you. Think of it as a cross between an open air mall and a flea market. From the moment you enter the main gate your senses are overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes that you'll find there.

Finding what you need and comparison shopping are made easy as the shops and stalls are arranged by type of product or service. Need a suitcase? You'll find no less than ten stalls side-by-side selling bags ranging from new to slightly-refurbished to seen-better-days. Want a new 22-carat gold necklace? You'll be dazzled by the displays in the jewelry shops. Perhaps you just want a tea strainer. No problem. Stop by one of the many odds-and-ends tables and stalls that line the marketplace. In addition, you can find books, eyeglasses, sewing material and notions, toys, sweets, fresh fruits, vegetables and spices, electronics, hairbrushes and barrettes, saris, and almost anything else you can imagine.

"Let the buyer beware" is good advice for shopping at New Market. Namebrand knock-offs such as Rebok and Bolex abound, as do items labeled as namebrands that are actually cheap imitations. Also be prepared to bargain, as paying the asking price isn't expected. Just know going in that foreigners will probably pay more than locals.

You will want to take your own bags to carry home your purchases since shopping bags are not routinely provided.

New Market
Mirpur Road
Dhaka, Bangladesh

National Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Tammy Ann on July 8, 2001

Visiting the National Museum was a two-for-one experience for me. On one hand, I learned a bit more about the country of Bangladesh and its history. On the other hand, as a foreigner I almost became an exhibit myself as Bangladeshi families from other towns and villages would send their children over to see the "bideshi mae" or "foreign woman"!

Some of the exhibits at the museum included: * Flora and fauna * Archeological items such as tablets, pillars, doorways, etc. * Furniture, fabrics, clothes and armor from the various ruling dynasties including the Moghuls

Perhaps most moving is the exhibit on the War for Independence, which included pictures, artillery, documents, and even a torture-chamber.

While some of the exhibits were a bit dusty and some of the items have seen better days, visiting the National Museum will provide you with a glimpse into the history of Bangladesh and the pride upon which the country was built.

National Museum
Shahbag
Dhaka, Bangladesh

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