Discovering Dhaka the Capital of Bangladesh
Before arriving in Bangladesh, I didn't know what to expect. There was little I could find online about travel within the country, and for the most part, I felt it would be intimidating to be a solo female traveller.
Each new encounter, my perceptions of the city and of the country changed. Despite practically not being the easiest country as a traveller, I am so grateful to be here and to receive the support of so many on this journey.
Here are some places I saw over the weekend (by the way, that's Friday and Saturday here to align with the Muslim prayer date).
Sadarghat Port & Pink Palace
If you think traffic on the roads is crowded in Dhaka, the port along the Buriganga river is no different. There are all sorts of good being transported into and out of Dhaka - it's the pulse of the city where water meets land.
There were people selling food, repairing ships, carrying around furniture... everything was considered day-to-day activities for Sadarghat port.
I observed hundreds and thousands of watermelon being tossed out of a large cargo ship and onto many little boats. The coordination and speed of this all was incredibly interesting to watch.
The Pink Palace, Ahsan Manzil, was contrasting to the harbour. A surprisingly calm place lied in the middle and heart of Dhaka. The Ahsan Manzil was the official residential palace. This palace is one of the first places that will show up if you try to "see" Dhaka from a tourist point of view. There's an interesting museum on the inside (unfortunately no English) but it was a nice break after busy moments on the habour.
The market was set up 1954 as a shopping complex. This was a fascinating place, not your typical fruit stalls gathered under a nice shelter kind of market - this market was alive with endless stalls selling everything from expensive jewellery to cheap everyday household items. Navigating inside was truly a maze.
Immediately after arriving a torrential downpour of rain came down. It felt like a storm was coming and it was interesting to watch as people quickly took shelter and the stalls were shifting and being covered in only a moments time.
And as always, I'm excited to continue exploring the food of this country. It seems that most typical meals centre around a heaping pile of rice, served with curry, daal (lentil soup), fried vegetables, and many other dishes with meats and fish.
A proverb I heard was, "rice and fish make the Bengali people". And it seems true, at almost every meal, some sort of fish dish is offered to me. But equally quickly, I am also learning about the street food, tea culture, and ways to eat - always with the hands!
Fuchka is a popular street food item in Bangladesh - it's essentially a hollow, fried crispy chip and filled with this mixture made with potatoes, chickpeas and onions. There's a nice sauce that's both sweet and spicy.
While Dhaka has been a good starting point into Bangladesh, I still feel far removed from the realities of other people in this country.
I was worried, yet excited to see with my own eyes a country that feels a little bit forgotten, shadowed by its neighbours, and in the limelight for the humanitarian crisis of the Rohingya people. The plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people is stated as the fastest growing refugee crisis.
While the refugee crisis makes my heart feel heavy and saddens me to see a much grimmer and cruel reality of what humans are capable of doing, the purpose of my travel is to explore the stories that bring to the world voices of hope. We must all do what we can, in the small part of the world we occupy, to pave a better future for the generations to come.
Have you been to Dhaka or other parts of Bangladesh before? Would you consider going?