Six Seasons of Bangladesh

Bangladesh is an alluvial delta with lots of water.
Bangladesh is an alluvial delta with lots of water. Umbrellas are for sun and rain.

Monsoon is only one of six seasons in Bangladesh. The following is how I would describe the seasons in Dhaka.

Spring (wear yellow on February 13 to mark spring!): February 13-April 14 (20-30 C = 70s and 80s F; humidity is 60 %) or “Hot with Mosquitoes and Why Am I Sweating in February?! Oh, Because It Is 90 F!”

Summer: April 14-June 15 (30-45 C = 90s and 100s F; humidity is 85 %) or “Hotter with Mosquitoes and Constant possibilities of Heat Stroke.”

Monsoon/Rainy Season: June 15-August 15 (30-40 C = 90s F; humidity is 95 %) or “Too Wet, Sweaty, and Hot for Hordes of Mosquitoes-Oddly Not As Hot As It Was.”

Autumn/Fall: August 15-October 15 (30-40 C = 90s F; humidity is 90 %) or “Hot and Dengue Mosquito Season.”

After-Autumn/Late-Fall: October 15-December 15 (20-30 C = 70s and 80s F; humidity is 80 %) or “Hot with Mosquitoes But It Is Almost Wedding Season.”

Winter: December 15-February 12 (15-30 C = 60s and up to the 90s F; humidity is 60 %) or “Wedding Season.” Which is still mosquito season.

A beautiful Bangladeshi bride.
A beautiful Bangladeshi bride during wedding season.

As the national costumes remain the same all year round, the men wear lungis and women wear sarees and shalwar kameeses, but in winter, they wrap a cloth like a shawl and a head wrap around their head. To a Bangladeshi 20 C is cold and in the winter when the temperature can drop to 10 C, there are deaths. The Bangladeshis also find warm weather pleasant since they are used to it. Most houses and apartments do not have heating and many have only one air conditioning unit.

In my experience of two monsoons, I have been surprised. In 2012, there was no monsoon. And in 2013, it has rained but not in the torrents that I expected. I have seen worse rain storms in Kuala Lumpur and Washington, DC.

The prevailing theme (you may have noticed) is that all throughout the year, there are mosquitoes and on any day, it can be 90 degrees! I have had heat stroke in December, February, and March, perhaps because I did not expect such hot weather in those months. The result has been a rather silly collection of sun hats.

Hoi An, the Town of Tailors

This is a typical tailor's shop. I like the t-shirts this lady made for me.
This is a typical tailor’s shop. I like the t-shirts this lady made for me.

Imagine a town where shop after shop is filled with tailors waiting to make you a suit like James Bond’s. That is Hoi An near Danang, Vietnam. Some of the shops (like the one which did James Bond’s suit) are fancy inside as is the other leading shop called Ao Baba. I did not shop at either of these stores. My advice is that if you try several shops, take a photo of the shop so that you’ll remember where you shopped. Also, go to this town in December or January. I went when it was already humid and 93 F at 8 in the morning. This meant that I was too sweaty to try on clothes. Most shops are open from 8 am-9 pm. Most shops can mail you clothes later ($30/kilo) if you email them what you want copied (they will keep your measurements). Some places will let you select material and design online. The pants cost about $25/pair. Shirts cost $20-30. Suits run $140. The shops have lots of material and “samples” for you to get copied (or say that you want that collar with those sleeves etc.) plus many shops have more cloth elsewhere. Just ask. Almost anything can be made. I had sweatpants and a sweatshirt made. There are also shops which sell material including stretch and spandex (something that cannot be bought in Bangladesh). Clothes take about a day to be made but if you have a few days, then you can get a perfect fit at leisure.

A pair of handmade shoes cost $30.
A pair of handmade shoes cost $30.

The town also has shops which will make handmade shoes. Any shoe you can imagine can be copied in your size. They cost $30/pair and take about a day to make.

I also suggest that one stay in Hoi An because the town is a world heritage site (hotels run about $24/night and up) if you are there for the clothes. If you are into the beach, then stay closer to it. The beach is a few miles away from the town of Hoi An. You can also take the bus to the other major sites in Vietnam from Hoi An as the town is geared for tourists.

Again, I would go back. Beautiful town, cheap hotel, 50 cent banh mi sandwiches, strong sweet coffee, and great clothes shopping. But I’d go in January. The humidity made me not care about anything except AC and water. It is not conducive to shopping. The changing room is basically a shower curtain pulled to one side… which led to some comical experiences (standing in a hallway with the shower curtain blowing open while granny, holding baby in arm, tried to yank clothes onto my sweaty back…).

The business cards of the two tailors and show shop that I used.
The business cards of the two tailors and shoe shop that I used.

Elephant Limbo in Kenya

Elephant gate.
Elephant gate.

African elephants are huge and they cannot limbo. To prevent the elephants from eating everything, the safari camps use dangling metal rods strung up like a belly dancer’s belt. These gates are so tall that our safari jeep fit underneath with only a rattle.

The elephants look small with the mountain in the background.
The elephants look small with the mountain in the background.

Small Bites of Bangladesh – Fuchka, Phoujka, Phoughka

A plate of stuffed shells.
A plate of stuffed shells.

At every wedding, at many parties, and ideal street food, are the small balls thin dough called “foodge-kah.” These are chickpea (garbanzo) beans that are ground up and made into deep fried shell balls. The vendor will crack the shell and stuff it with a mix of chickpeas, onions, and chiles. These will be topped with shredded hard boiled egg and served with a tamarind sauce.

The vendor in Lamatia.
The vendor in Lamatia.

The guy that makes the best fuchka is located in Lamatia, Block D, turn down the road at Asia Bank. It is located on a parallel road to BBQ Tonite, my favorite place in Dhanmondi.

The vendor in his hot cart.
The vendor in his hot cart.

On Safari in the Masai Village

There is almost no way to avoid being exploited as a tourist. If we accept it, then we pay. My friend wanted to go to an “authentic Masai village” and so we did. It cost us about $25 per person. We were shown around and encouraged to contribute to the school and the well, etc. then we were encouraged to buy souvenirs. A horn soap dish and two elephant hair bracelets were the only thing my friend wanted. The chief’s son started the bargaining at $100. We did not buy anything. My advice to anyone when dealing with cash cows is to give us the feeling that you respect us. That is the best sales technique.