Photos are still the best souvenirs. The one I got here of our boat driver was my favorite from the hundreds I took on a touristy trip to a village where they make pottery. While the trip was geared for tourists and the villagers are used to being photographed, they were still kind and friendly to us. I didn’t feel so milked as I have in many other “villages” around the world. On top of which, at this village, the forced shopping component was at a pit stop along the road back to Dhaka. It was a fun day out.
The bowls we got to try our hands are mainly used for yogurt.
Color, colorful, vibrant, and so on are some of the words used to describe the traditional dress of Bangladesh. It’s not only women who wear colorful clothing. Bangladesh is known for its garment industry and the clothes reflect the bounty of this industry.
Women wear sarees or shalwar kameeses. Some cover their heads and some cover their faces. Some wear all black and some wear all color.
While the traditional dress for men is a lungi (see my post here), many of the men in the big city of Dhaka wear jeans or pants/trousers instead. Men can also wear a dressier bottom (of which I cannot remember the name right now), and everyone dresses up for special days including weddings.
Hopefully, these photos give some idea of what people wear in Bangladesh.
“Where do you hear about the restaurants?” is a often asked of me when I find new restaurants to try in Dhaka. Delightfully, often I hear about a “new” place from one of my friends, jute sandals slap-slapping down the hallway. Otherwise, I let it be known that new (for me) restaurants are “my thing” and that I am a collector. Plus, whenever I am out and about, I am always on the lookout for new restaurants or advertising (yes, it does work!) about new eateries.
However, I also search online. Until Yelp arrives in Dhaka, I must make do with the following social media sites:
Dhaka Snob: Local to Dhaka and quite static. Needs to be updated. Lots of dead links.
Trip Advisor: They are the leading international site BUT it is hard to add new places and hard to communicate with headquarters. To their credit, they wish to verify a location… but that makes it hard to for me to check back and see when I will be allowed to post a review. Boo. Yelp allows easy posting and THEN verifies. Does Trip Advisor have someone go to each location? How does one get that job?
A truly talented waiter will bring not only food and drink to your table, but entertainment to your dining experience. Many of the elements of waiting tables is are the same as in acting — timing, pretend, and audience. A good flirt has these skills too. Not sleazy; just piquant. Jordan was filled with talented waiters.
My exchange with Khalil in Jordan was typical:
Khalil (stops clearing the table and looks deeply into my eyes): Wow, your eyes, they are a special color?
Me (I nod): Yes. You have to get up close to notice.
Khalil: Are you married?
Me: Not yet.
Khalil: Your husband will be a lucky man.
Khalil: Because he will wake up to your eyes every morning.
Khalil continued throughout the meal. The skills comes in delivering these lines without making it sound too cheesy. He’s used these lines for twenty years and he’s perfected his pitch and his timing. Like a perfect tango. I’ll engage. I’m happy to hone my repartee.
I was tired that night or I would have been much faster and funnier in my response… guess I need more practice. Oh shucks.
Wedding season in Bangladesh is December-January mainly because the temperature cooler (and family from abroad can make it as well). It’s been ten months since I started this blog and one of the most popular themes I’ve notice people search for is information about Bangladeshi weddings. Now that I had the honor of being invited to another one, I have more photos to show.
My friend and arrived at the community center three hours late due to other social engagements which was just in time to sit down with the bride and groom.
I know that before I went to my first Bangladeshi wedding, I was curious about what would happen. I hope to go to more weddings while here.
100 restaurants in Dhaka was my goal… I’ve now tried almost 50 restaurants (read about them in part one and two of my round ups). Many people were concerned about eating out during Ramadan (Ramzan here in Bangladesh) because most restaurants offer an Iftar (breaking the fast) menu and buffet. There were many restaurants that did not offer Iftar so we had many places to try.
The Village (8/13): Pakistani. Kebabs. Much talked about place. Food okay. Large space is good for business and clients. Noisy. Humid interior has a roof but no airconditioning in the main area. Note: Quirky interior.
Mainland China (8/13): Cantonese. The restaurant revolves at about one rotation in 70 minutes. The food is okay although everything seems covered in “chili sauce” which is fairly common in Bangladesh. Its a sweet red ketchupy sauce. Mainland China is to the north of the airport so almost impossible to get to for dinner during non-Ramzan traffic. Note: the place has a good view.
California Fried Chicken (2/13): Fast food. The service is slow, the marketing looks promising, and the food is awful. Weird rubbery dark meat with bone in the “burger” and the strawberry shake was like bubble gum. Note: also sells cakes and snacks from a separate counter.
Shing Heong (5/13): Cantonese. Average to not good southern Chinese food. Note: they plan on serving dim sum soon.
Club Gelato (3/13): Gelato and cakes. Seems promising but then the flavors are all fake and faker. Disgusting really with a chemical aftertaste. Note: serves coffee and looks like a good place to go.
Urban Spice (8/13): Indonesian. Food is acceptable. Tom Yum soup was good, though not Indonesian. Note: Decor is modern and chic.
Hotel Al-Razzaque (5/13): Local Bangladeshi. Very local place downtown Dhaka. Note: So authentic that expats are “protected” from using the bathroom.
Coopers (6/13): Bakery. Dry cakes. Note: popular with locals.
Nandos (7/13): Chicken South African style. Yup, just like in South Africa. Note: Yes, it’s the chain from South Africa.
Time Out Cafe (9/13): Indian-Bangladeshi-Asian. Note: Dhosa, wings, and noodles can all be had in their courtyard. It’s in the hip area of Banani. Young Bangladeshis like it.
BBQ at the Ascot (3/13): Continental. Note: Strange small pieces of meat. Some things okay. Some not.
Boomers (4/13): Bangladeshi Chinese fast food. Very popular with locals. Note: The pizza with sweet canned milk on top is too sweet for most expats.
@Corner (6/13): Thai. Considered by many to be the top Thai restaurant in town. Note: It is located on the top floor of a shopping mall walking past the open latrines can scare newbie expats.
The 8 (7/13): Pan Asian. Great variety. Pepper steak will make you choke from the fumes. Note: looks nice and elegant inside but the food is only okay.
Izumi (8/13): Japanese. Elegant interior. Large. Good for business clients. Note: Interior is dark. Black walls.
Kasturi (7/13): Bangladeshi. They claim to be the best Bangladeshi restaurant in the world… Note: They have an outdoor patio dining area. It is truly local food if you avoid the Indian and Chinese items on the menu.
I do try to not let my opinions be influenced by how much fun I had going out to these places. Clearly, I’m enjoying myself.
First things first: If you look different from the Bangladeshis (and even if you don’t), people will stare at you in Dhaka. And if you are an expat, you will most definitely be stared at. It’s just what people do. Usually the stares are not aggressive or sleazy. For expat men, going shirtless or in shorts will attract attention. But, expat women seem more concerned (and they get more attention) about what to wear to be modest and respectful. Here are some basic observations I’ve made. Basically, if you are covered in loose clothing from collarbone-elbow-ankle and make sure that your rear end is covered by tunic… then you will be dressed like the locals. I notice that expat women who have lived here for a few months wear what I call the “expat uniform” – a kameez (tunic top), scarf (cotton), zip off REI pants, and TEVAs. Or the equivalent non brands. The basics of what I do (much more when going outside the expat area of town) is:
1. wear baggy pants/trousers/slacks which reach to the lower calf or longer. I don’t wear pants that drag on the ground because there’s sewage everywhere so I don’t want crud to accumulate on my ankles.
2. cover the assets (bust and bum) with loose cloth with the scarf covering the bust even though my neckline is to the collarbone. Cover my bum with the long length of my tunic.
3. cover my shoulders. No tank tops. And you are welcome since you don’t want to see my upper arms anyway.
No, I don’t cover my head. But, you can read my posting about why you might want to. I also have my hair out and I don’t think it’s too sexy. Lots of the locals wear their hair uncovered. Dark eye makeup is normal for the ladies here. If you are a pale blonde and wear red lipstick, folks are going to stare (which they will anyway but maybe for different reasons). But, many expats (especially hard on young blondes) find it a hassle to not be able to go anywhere without being stared at ALL the time. ALL the time. As a life long outsider, I’ve been stared at a lot so I don’t feel bad. If they are trying to photograph me all the time, then I take photos of THEM.
One last thing, there are expats who will jog in short spandex… if you plan on doing that, make sure that you can OUTRUN the hordes who will race after you.
Quite by accident, we made it to the world famous Hashim’s. All that it’s cracked up to be. Cheap, atmospheric (in an alley between buildings and mysterious characters), and delicious! The total meal of falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, fries, fresh pita, and labneh (yogurt dip) for four people cost $10… so we made one person treat us all. She insisted! Thanks!
One of the things to buy in Amman is your name in Arabic script as a pendant for a necklace. It takes a week to get done so plan your visit accordingly. There are jewelsmiths who can make it but there is also a place in Mecca Mall. Al-Afghani is a souvenir shop in Mecca Mall. The staff will help you with your name and a week later, you pick up your pendant. Beautiful.