As part of the flight options to Bhutan, I was given the choice to either stop off at Kathmandu, Bangkok or Dhaka on my return leg. I wasn’t aware of any thing notable to see in Dhaka nor was it on the tourist radar. Given my in-laws had roots in Bangladesh and the idea of travelling should be about discovery, I was compelled to dive into the unknown. Dhaka it was then!
I don’t think I was quite prepared for Dhaka as my mind was still in a state of tranquillity from the laid back Bhutanese culture and the spiritual ambience permeating through me. As I wandered outside the airport, the chaos which ensued was an assault to the senses. I had come from the only carbon negative country in the world to one of the most densely populated place in the world. I admit that even as a seasoned traveller, the change was overwhelming but one of the main traits of a good traveller is the ability to adapt to your surroundings. I gained by bearings and jumped in a taxi to my base for the next couple of days – the Amari Dhaka.
The Amari Dhaka is based in the Dhaka’s business district of Gulshan-2 which is less than 20 minutes from the airport. However, be warned as the infrastructure is in development, the traffic can be bumper to bumper most of the time so allow plenty of time when you need to catch a flight. Gulshan-2 is very different from most the districts I had experienced in Dhaka. For starters, all the buildings are behind gated developments and there doesn’t seem to be many pedestrians on the street which was surprising given the density of the population. The advantage being that the location is very secluded to the frenetic world outside. Everyone needs an escape in Dhaka.
After a frenzied start to my travels to Bangladesh it was perfect place to unwind at the in-house gym followed by a massage at the friendly Breeze Spa. The food at the Amari Dhaka was one of my highlights. It was impeccable and meets the expectations of a 5-star hotel. I tried the famous Amaya buffet which is very popular amongst the locals. There are distinguished chefs specialising in cuisines from around the world including Italian, Thai, Indian, Japanese, Chinese and even an outdoor barbeque. Whilst on the topic about food, being in South Asia, I have never been that impressed with the desserts but I was pleasantly surprised by the Cascade Coffee Lounge in the Amari Dhaka which offered some tantalising delicacies created by prominent pâtissiers.
The Amari Dhaka was a great starting point to exploring the city. As I pointed out earlier, there is not one significant attraction I would say Dhaka is famous for. The charm about the Dhaka is people watching. Witnessing their daily routine going about their lives was fascinating for me as a traveller as well as a photographer. Amari’s concierge can arrange a driver for a day trip around Dhaka which I would recommend if you were short on time as I was. I recommend adding the following places to your itinerary:
The historic part of Dhaka has over 400 years of history. It certainly looks like it too. The best way to negotiate the narrow streets and watch the world go by is on a rickshaw. It is a street photographers’ playground.
The first thing you notice when you get to the waterfront is the foul stench. It will hit you like a brick wall. Try and forget about the smell of the Buriganga River and perceive the river as the lifeblood of Dhaka and Bangladesh. Sadarghat is the main terminal where boats or launches depart from. I took a small rowing wooden boat to explore the shores and observed the charming river life – the commuters on their daily river cross and labourers fixing dilapidated ships. This would be eventually my jump off point to the Sundarbans.
Shankhari Bazaar (Hindu Street)
This even narrower street, is made up of predominantly of Hindus in a largely Muslim city. The street is lined with richly decorated buildings, shops and Hindu temples. The district is buzzing with activity and rickshaws are constantly brushing past you. A real experience for travellers.
A Railway Station
Not only are the trains a popular means of travel around Bangladesh, they are teeming with characters and interesting subjects framed by vintage rickety trains.