So I made this known on facebook, but I did not have the smoothest trip between Hong Kong and Dhaka, Bangladesh. When I arrived at the Hong Kong airport, I was told that my itinerary reference number was not the same as my itinerary confirmation number, but no one could explain the difference. But the itinerary I had from United was different than the itinerary Thai Airways had. Their itinerary had me out on a flight the next morning that physically couldn’t make the connecting flight. It was a flight that arrived in Bangkok at 9:30AM to make a connecting flight that left for Dhaka at 9:15 AM. WHAT?!?!?!?
The airline was actually super helpful and put me on a flight to Bangkok the night before and I got to spend the night in the lovely Bangkok airport. In all seriousness, it’s actually one of the nicest airports I’ve been to. While I had to go through security once I landed and they confiscated my bug repellent(!!!!) they have little lounge areas with leather couches that seem almost tailor made for sleeping. I got a better night sleep there than in many a hostel or sleeper train before.
Fortunately, all of the hassle was worth it when I flew to Dhaka and my good friend Yoshika met me at the airport. We got into a CNG and headed off to her apartment in Gulshan, the “posh” expat part of town. The nice part of Dhaka looks like the average parts of Bangkok, which is to say that its clean enough and very crowded. We spent the afternoon lazily walking around, spotting the newly cleaned Gulshan Lake, and getting ice cream!
The next morning I slept in just a little bit and took of to old Dhaka, the main part of town. It was about a 45 minute ride away and as you got closer and closer, you could see the roads becoming less maintained and the area getting poorer. Now I never made it to the slums of Dhaka, but you could have fooled me. Old Dhaka is certainly the poorest and dirtiest place I have ever been. Most of the roads are dirt, and even more seem to be mud. The main river that runs through the town, the Buriganga, is a polluted pea green.
The old town, however, is not without its charms. Since the roads are such a poor quality and the citizens are so poor, there are very few cars. Many times while walking through the busy streets, the lack of technology actually made things eerily quiet. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere so busy, yet so quiet. It was almost peaceful. Almost. Also, I’m not sure if it was because of Ramadan or the culture or what, but there were only men wandering the streets. Since I am also a man, everyone was very friendly and wanted to talk to me and know hoe a crazy white tourist ended up in Dhaka. I made my way through town, passing the river, Bangshal St where they supposedly make rickshaw art (but I never saw any) and then up to the New Market – a rundown but evidently newer multi-story market place.
That night, Yoshika and I cooked for ourselves and I got to show off my fancy cooking class skills and I made the papaya salad that I learned to make in Vietnam! And it was actually kind of successful! The following day, I realized that it might be my only day in the foreseeable future to sleep in, so I took full advantage of just having a lazy day, doing some laundry, and wandering the expat area. I ended the day by meeting my brother’s friend Karina out for dinner. She was a local so we ended dinner by running some gruesome errands. We went to a nearby market where she bought some chickens. Not chicken, chickens.
WARNING – THINGS GET GRAPHIC!
I was clearly the first Westerner to ever step foot in the back alley slaughterhouse and the workers there were endlessly fascinated by me as I took pictures of all of the happenings. As you enter, it looks like an abandoned warehouse and you walk by goats and chickens, presumably in line to be slaughtered. Since it was 9 at night, there were also people sleeping on the concrete next to the livestock. As we went deeper into the slaughterhouse, we came to the chickens. The workers selected some choice chickens and without any pomp or circumstance, they swiftly chopped off their heads. Now, the saying goes “ran around like a chicken with its head cut off” and now I know why. They threw the decapitated chickens into an empty barrel. Then, all you could hear was the ominous thumping of the flailing headless chickens against the inside of the barrel. After 2 minutes, the thumping stopped and the workers knew it was time to start cleaning the bird. Needless to say, even on my sleepy day in, I still got to get some good local experience.