Urban sprawl meets traffic crawl

Dhaka Travel Blog

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The Pink Palace (Dhaka; Bangladesh)

The final piece of the jigsaw came in the shape of the capital city of Bangladesh, Dhaka, for the record, a huge great sprawling city with no real tourist infrastructure to speak of, and a city which has grown up in such an unstructured way that it now exists as something of a patience test in terms of getting from A to B, let alone a handful of other blights which might stifle the progress of a city of this stature. Population growth has been colossal, and the more well-to-do area of Gulshan is most likely where a visitor would want to base themself in order to tackle the city in the sightseeing realm. For the record, Dhaka is known as the rickshaw capital of the world, and if getting around on a cycle rickshaw comes across as being too risky given the stop-start nature of the traffic, then a CNG (compressed natural gas) three-wheeler will probably be a much better bet, in terms of a cheap taxi ride in a city still not as yet equipped with its own subway network.

The Chowk Bazaar (Dhaka; Bangladesh)
As far as tourist sights go, Dhaka requires a certain amount of research prior to arrival, and this is invaluable advice in a city were traffic at a standstill spares no mercy for a tourist lacking a general sense of direction. Top of the pile in terms of aesthetic gems happens to be, for my money, the Pink Palace, a spectacular-looking building which nestles somewhere in the midst of Old Dhaka where commerce and shipyards are the order of the day, albeit in questionable hygienic standards and conditions. Another must-see is the Dhaka treasure known as Lalbagh fort, also in the city's southern area, as is the stately-looking whitewashed gem known as the Rose Garden, much more of a focus on the nature of the building itself than any piece of garden which flanks it.
Grand architecture (Sonargaon; Bangladesh)
Other places of note include Dakeshwari temple, Star Mosque, and the National Parliament House, and in between all these spots are shopping areas of such interest that it detracted somewhat from the intended nature of a sightseeing jaunt around Dhaka. On the shopping front, Dhaka is home to the world's 11th and 12th largest shopping malls on earth, namely Bashundara city and Jamuna Future park, the latter newer and more upscale, boasting an amusement park adjacent to it. For bargains galore, seek out the sprawling climes of New Market, and the clothing bargain basement zone which is a labyrinth of garments galore which are the fruits of cheap labour. Leaving Dhaka, and the best option for a within-a-day excursion is the old capital city of Sonargaon and neighbouring Pan Am City, which alludes at a Bangladesh which would clearly never have developed quite like Dhaka, and today stands as an important piece of preserved history, with its museum, lake and prominent buildings which make for splendid photo opportunities.
The 'Taj Mahal' (Dhaka division; Bangladesh)
Moving further north, and another curiosity which seemed like it had to be sought out was the Bangladeshi Taj Mahal, not resembling to any great degree the Agra original, but nonetheless a building of note which is well worth a look-in, if only for the fact that the creator established it as a means of cash-strapped Bangladeshis getting a piece of their very own Indian delight on home soil. The choice of eateries in Dhaka is as varied as you would expect for such a huge capital city, but a standout experience for sure, and one with branches in both Chittagong and Cox's Bazar, is the restaurant known as Handi, a reliable option, especially if authentic Indian-style curries are your idea of gourmet dining. Elsewhere, oddball quirks about in Dhaka, such as 1970's era double decker buses, traffic-choked streets nearby streets of far freer flowing traffic, colourful shopping streets where the wares seem to spill out onto the pavement (step forward Chowk Bazaar), and so on and so forth. All of the above might not be everyone's idea of a holiday, especially if chill-out options are an absolute must, but in terms of activities and experiences, 'nothing short of fascinating' is my overall verdict, and a surprisingly safe and hospitable society might just, if you are as lucky as I was, help that zany experience along its merry way.

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The Pink Palace (Dhaka; Bangladesh)
The Pink Palace (Dhaka; Bangladesh)
The Chowk Bazaar (Dhaka; Banglades…
The Chowk Bazaar (Dhaka; Banglade…
Grand architecture (Sonargaon; Ban…
Grand architecture (Sonargaon; Ba…
The Taj Mahal (Dhaka division; B…
The 'Taj Mahal' (Dhaka division; …
Dhaka
photo by: cimtech