Old Dhaka and New Market

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June 29th 2013
Published: June 29th 2013
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Hello, the monsoon has begun and the rain is amazing. An umbrella makes you feel like you are at least protecting yourself a bit, but the rain comes from every direction and I am wet in no time. Add to this that the most frequent mode of transportation is cycle rickshaw. The rickshaw drives give you a piece of plastic to cover yourself with, however when they hit a pot hole or the car next to them hits a pot hole it is really a waste of time.

I went into Old Dhaka with the VCC students, a student from Simon Fraser University and the VSO volunteer. We hired a van and driver from the university to carry the 7 of us around and it was a good thing. The drive from Uttara where we live to Old Dhaka took about 60 minutes in the traffic that is Dhaka. At one point on the journey we passes these strange little enclosures on stilts just off the road. They are apparently available for rent and you take your best girl or guy and rent the place for a romantic interlude, if you do not have anyone, a partner can be provided for an extra cost. There is very little privacy in these places so I am not too sure how often they are used!

En route to the old city, we passed by Dhaka University and the palace of Prime Minster. The University is enormous and covers many blocks. The palace was not visible from the road way however there were very impressive gates that appeared to be white marble, they could just be white concrete - from a distance and through the rain it is not possible to tell.

Old Dhaka dates back to the 1600's in some cases. The streets are narrow and there are rickshaws and people everywhere. A small opening in a wall leads to a maze of buildings and dark alley ways. And there are people everywhere. Sadly, the rickshaw art shop was closed for the holiday. One of the artists has been painting rickshaws since he was 12 years of age and currently has a show of his work in a gallery.

New Market is a complex system of plastic covered stalls on the road way and then into buildings on either side of the street that go on for three floors. The stores inside the buildings are not big, but they sell everything. There were at least 10 stalls selling flip flops and other plastic shoes, stores full of wedding cloth and saris, costume jewelry for every occasion and everyone wants to bargain. Sadly it was too wet to allow us the full experience. Jim, the VSO volunteer has been to the market on several occasions in the past year and still has not seen it all. I noticed for the first time the number of women begging on the street. Apparently they are controlled by gangs. They are quite aggressive and will hit you to gain your attention. I also noted many people that were either arm less or severely disfigured. I am not sure what the cause of the injury was, possibly construction accidents, for the children it could be deliberate, it is hard to say.

From the market we went to Gulshan, this is the part of town with the Westin and Raddison Hotels and many of the embassies. We went for lunch at the Mermaid Cafe and enjoyed "safe" fish from the ocean near Cox's Bazar in the south. In all it was a fun day, lots of sights to see and enjoy.

I hope you are all well and enjoying the summer. Take Care, Shirley

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