Monthly Archives: April 2015

Not Bangladesh in the centre of Dhaka

There are a few guys in Dhaka who organise “the parties to be at” in Dhaka.

The last one of those parties was last week at the pool in one of the most expensive hotels in Bangladesh – Westin. (You can actually see the hotel from our living room, but the picture is too dark.)

Most of the local girls were swimming in shorts and t-shirts. Guys were not as you can imagine.

There were a bar, a photo booth and djs — everything like a standard party. Except for when you left the building you will see rickshaws, beggars, people sleeping on the streets and lots of garbage. And yes, girls cannot walk on their own once it gets dark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ITCypedAcY

Elections in Dhaka

This week we have local elections and therefore got a day off on Tuesday, woo-hoo! People of Dhaka get to choose two mayors (one for south Dhaka and one for north) and somebody else. All foreigners were advised not to leave their houses because of possible danger.

Remember the crazy posters? Well, it got worse on the day before election. Btw, see the teapot candidate? Apparently, women participating in elections only get routine-connected symbols.

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The streets were empty on Tuesday, because all the vehicles were banned from the streets except for rickshaws. Unfortunately I don’t have my own pictures, because, like I said, it was strongly recommended not to leave the house.

Our maid though showed me something interesting the day after election. Look at her finger. This is the mark one gets after voting so it would be impossible to vote multiple times.

photo

Nevertheless everybody is compaling that the election was not fair. Attendence was very low and representatives of the current political party won.

Newspapers are full of terrible stories about violence againds some reporters and even foreign observers.

FUAD concert

Last week we went to a very nice concert.

I was told that FUAD in Bangladesh is like Justin Timberlake in the States. He was the first one to start making pop music here. (Pretty sure that JT wasn’t the first one, but that was the comparison!)

IMG_5230As you can see, I had lots of fun :) Music was great and apparently these are the covers to  traditional Bangladeshi songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p02P7ttmK_M

Wish they played once again, but the guy was leaving to New York. This concert was definitely a great experience!

Old Dhaka tour part 2

Just to show you that I was still following the tour even though the scenery around me was so interesting. An example of the British colonial architecture (you see the column?)

IMG_5255Then we took a boat along Buriganga. Just no words.IMG_5257 IMG_5258 IMG_5260 IMG_5263 IMG_5264IMG_5267IMG_5265

Here is also a couple of videos

http://youtu.be/VTfmadTHMbc

http://youtu.be/I4awfLz9vmc

This man was one of the two smiling people I met during this tour.

IMG_5268A couple of other examples of European architecture in Dhaka. The buildings were built in the 18&19th centuries in French tradition and were owned by the Hindus that left to India when the situation here became unsafe for them.

IMG_5269 IMG_5272Like I mentioned before, the most interesting things happened while we were walking from one sight to another.

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One of the kids is holding a cricket bat. Cricket is a national sport here and right now Bangladesh is playing with Pakistan which is very important considering the recent history. So far Bangladesh has been winning and everybody is very excited about it. (Unfortunately, I am not a sports fan!)

IMG_5280 IMG_5277The final part of our tour was the palace that was turned into the fruit market. But to get there we had to go through the spice market. There is a lot of chilies, ginger and garlic there. Being Russian I have seen a lot garlic in my live, but not so much chilies!

IMG_5283 IMG_5284At the fruit market it was the first time when I saw paan. These are leafs that people in Bangladesh chew to get high. Haven’t tried myself and didn’t talk to anyone who did, but if I do, will let you know!

IMG_5292Thankfully, people in Bangladesh enjoy being photographed.

IMG_5295And here is my goat friend that I met at the market at the end of the tour!

goat

Hope that was enough pictures 😉

Old Dhaka tour part 1

Like I said before, Dhaka is enormous. The ride to the Old Dhaka from Gulshan takes about an hour on Friday, which is a common weekend, but on a regular day it can take 2-3 or even more hours.

Every Friday the organization Urban Study Group invites everybody interested to join for a tour in the Old Dhaka. The Group consists of some architects and volunteers who are working on protecting old buildings in Puran Dhaka (Old Dhaka).

Last Friday I joined the tour and it was pretty intense. One thing to understand about Old Dhaka — even the locals don’t know it very well unless they live there and a woman wouldn’t go there alone even during the daylight.

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Tours change every Friday, but some buildings are still visited almost every time (from the words of those who it it a few times already).

This tour included a visit to two Mughal Caravanserais in the Chawkbazar area, a couple of 18th&19th century mansions of the former Hindu Zamindars and the palace of Ruplal Das (which was turned into a vegetable market).

All these buildings are in a very sad condition, 100 times Belgrade I would even say. And I personally was more fascinated by the people, how they live and what they do, so below you won’t find many pictures of crumbled buildings, but mostly people and surroundings of Puran Dhaka.

One of the funniest things you notice walking around Dhaka is many posters of some people with random objects on them.

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They are candidates for the upcoming election. Each of them has a symbol and all these symbols are very simple. So far we were told that the fish and pumpkin guys will most likely win. (There was also a couch guy, I would think that he has good chances too!)

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As you can see, each poster is in its own plastic bag. Plastic bags actually sort of prohibited in Dhaka, will tell a story about it some other time.

political guys

Here is a look from a rooftop we climbed at to check out the view to one of the Caravanserais. Fairly speaking, the view over the Caravanserai specifically wasn’t that spectacular, but the overall impression was very strong.

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While climbing up the stair we even spotted somebody’s rings (hey Copenhagen!)

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Others though don’t seem to need any gear to exercise.

old dhaka guy

Btw, do you see people just standing and looking? That is a very common view. Staring is much more common in Old Dhaka, but still not as bad as I expected it to be. Most of the people will stare at you with a pretty grumpy face and even if you smile back at them it doesn’t help — they won’t crack a smile. I wonder if it is because of their hard life or for some other reason.

In-between we also visited a soap factory. And this was intense. Have a look for yourself.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8d0RHHn8oO4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kxApPzMHOc

Do you see little kids working there? Well, according to the law kids cannot work until they are 16, between 16 and 18 they can work, but only with a doctor’s approval. Here it was a different case. From what I heard these kids make about 100 taka a day or, according to a different source, 1200 taka a month.

Final look

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The second part of the tour including a boat ride, crumbled buildings of British and French architecture and more local faces comes tomorrow. Stay tuned!

First restaurant visit

My first restaurant visit was to the place called Attin, which serves “authentic Arab food”.

It was totally not bad, but by the local standards extremely expensive.

We shared a plate of appetisers for 1500 taka

IMG_5198It was very tasty and came with unlimited very tasty (again) bread. The pineapple juice cost 180 taka which is A LOT for a pineapple juice here.

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I also decided to try shrimp, because the seafood here is supposed to be super great. And these tiger shrimps looked very pretty

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… but unfortunately didn’t taste as good as they looked. They weren’t bad, but just not something I would go back for. And yeah, the dish cost 1200 taka.

But the appetiser plate is definitely worth a return visit!

Gulshan 2 circle

Dhaka is enormous. I am living in the most expat-heavy area called Gulshan. Gulshan in divided into two parts — Gulshan 1 and Gulshan 2. Both parts are considered to be classy, but Gulshan 2 is more classy than Gulshan 1.

Yesterday I was waiting for a friend at the Gulshan 2 circle, which is the centre of Gulshan 2. It is a roundabout and a very common place to meet people.

Here is a little video of what I have seen and heard (well, you don’t get the air pollution and some smells).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMxH6gS020A

Did you notice all the honking? Yeah, it is pretty crazy.

Visit to the local beauty salon

For a week I have been looking for a place to shape and dye my eyebrows.

And finally! (It is definitely not a popular procedure here.)

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This is the owner. She was born and raised in Bangladesh, even though her family is Chinese. Then she lived in the US for about 10 years and came back a year ago.

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That is the lady that actually did my eyebrows. She used a thread and it was the first time I got it done this way.

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Here is a funny fact. They don’t have eyebrow dye, so it was all done with the regular hair dye! And of course I was asked to be taken a picture of!

eyebrows

And the lightening was so bad, so it was pretty hard to see if it actually worked and what the colour was. But it did!

More beauty adventures to come!

Local sweets

Doing my homework on the country, I learned that Bangladeshi sweets should be absolutely great.

So I decided to try.

There was a nice man in a local sweets shop

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And plenty of sweets to choose from (this is a half, I would say)

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So I got a small box and just picked up random stuff

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And…it wasn’t very good. How Jade would say: “There is a reason why this local stuff is not popular worldwide”.

The three of us could only manage a bit and nobody was excited to finish the box

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Some of it was too sweet and some of it had no flavour, some tasted like very sweet cream and some was just like bread soaked in syrup.

My local friend told me though that there are more sweets and that they are great, so there will be more sweet news.

Star gooseberries and formalin

Those who know me, know that I love fruit. And that I eat a lot of fruit. Therefore I was so much looking forward to discovering all the local fruits that one can find here!

But! Once here I was told to express cautious and buy fruits and vegetables only at the “big” stores and not at the markets or street stalls, because of formalin, which is a strong solution of formaldehyde.

Apparently it is a big problem here and everybody is concerned about it.

For example, I bought some funny berries (in a “big” store) that everybody is referring to as “local gooseberries”. They are called star gooseberries or leboir in Bengali. When I brought them home though, our cook (yes, we have a cook) told me that I should first put them in a bowl of water, add bit of vinegar and let them soak for about an hour before eating.

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When I asked him why, he said that all the fruits and vegetables, even before cooking, should be soaked in water and vinegar to clean them off the chemicals.

That is a sad story.

Here is a sour story, because these star gooseberries are very sour and look like this

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