Nepal is the crossroads to Shangri-la — Tibet. Kathmandu apparently comes from the word for crossroads. They are widening the roads to Shangri-la. This has resulted in the buildings being cut down the middle. These buildings remind me of the Hans Christian Andersen story about a half-chick who could not find his place in the world until he became (spoiler alert) a weather vane perched atop a house. Perhaps these half houses are indicators of the same thing on the roof of the world.
A. Spa at Home. There are several cosmeticians who come to your home for a full range of spa services. I have used only one and would like to take her with me to the end of the world. Since it is not possible, I am passing her onto you. Her name is Koli, number 01916355643. Koli does an outstanding Thai massage, as well as elaborate facials, body scrubs, excellent manicure/pedicures, waxing, etc. range. For mani/pedi she has the instruments, but I would advise having your own nail polish and top coats. If you have your own instruments, even better. Clearly, her services are much cheaper than a salon.
a. Nelos. I use them almost exclusively for blow-dry-s and for head and feet massages. All these are outstanding services.
c. Que Bella on road 13 in Baridhara. While I was not impressed with the blow-dry there, they cut my small son’s hair exquisitely (he has long hair which has to be layered). Also, they have an unbelievable masseuse. She gave me one of the best massages in my entire life. Her name is Shiba, I think.
C. Eyelash Extensions. A recent discovery, Moo has a salon in banana, immediately after Jatra. Taneem Square at 158/E Kamal Ataturk avenue, top floor. Phone 01819192208. You must make an appointment. Cost – 2500 taka. Effect – stunning!
D. Laser hair epilation. If you have ever attempted this in the US, you’d know the high costs associated. Here, Dr. Manzur from the Apollo Hospital does these services, she has a machine and has been US trained as a dermatologist. Call 01713063089. Prices depend on the area you are working on, but you can buy packages as well.
This is part two of an expat’s guide to how to live the good life in Dhaka. She said that three things make life good here. Cheap porcelain is the second part. The first part was tailoring.
II. PLATE SETS
One way to buy plates and crockery sets here is to buy from a factory outlet. Beximco is one of the biggest manufacturers and they have outlet stores in Gulshan. The brands here are Shinepukur and Monno. I personally would recommend making the trip down to New Market and buying from there, rather than from any of the Gulshan markets. It will be at least 50% if not even cheaper. You must bargain hard and promise to tell all your friends about them and generate more business in order to get an even deeper discount. Quality is the same as at the shops in the Gulshan area.
The prices range around $230 for a 54 piece set (or set for 12 people) if you bargain hard. Many people buy sets to give as wedding presents. You can have your family crest monogrammed on the crockery if you wish. Also, much of the finest bone china in the world (Wedgewood, etc.) is actually made in Bangladesh.
How to live the good life in Dhaka? I will now share some recommendations from an expat who thoroughly loves her life in Dhaka. As she says, this is because she has learned to enjoy “the good life which is affordable here.” This first part is about tailors (she also mentions porcelain and spas which I will share next time).
a. Ferdous has extensive fabric selection, including a lot of linen. They copy extremely well (400 taka plus fabric), and make tuxedos (about 8000 taka). They also make excellent suits. Located on the north side of Madani Avenue near Gulshan 2 circle. Store is on the second floor, look carefully when you drive, they have a big sign outside).
b. K L Sweden (located across from Ferdous, on the south side when you drive on Madani Avenue to DIT2 market, the store is down a side street right after the VIP Photo building on the other end of the VIP Photo sign, which is not obvious from the main road; right next to Shinepukur plates store). They also copy shirts very well and have good linen. They also do tuxes. All very good quality.
a. Best copier of western clothes – European tailor, located at the corner of road 12 and UN road, keep walking from UN road in a narrow alley, it is right after another tailor and fish store. It has a bright yellow sign. It is down the alley once you see the fish store. Cheap.
b. Best tailor of Western clothes who can copy anything, or can make them from a simple picture (he is my personal favorite of all times!) – Johny, he comes to your house, his number is 01923270358. Johny makes fabulous ball gowns and costumes (for expats there are many balls each year… Glitter Ball, etc.).
c. Shaheen, also on road 12, is a popular choice. I do not use him, I hear he has a bit of an attitude and is relatively expensive.
d. For sarees and saree blouses and petticoats – Sharonika in Pink City. Located on the first floor (need to take the escalator once inside), and then simply ask for the store, it is a bit inside. As many will tell you, local tailors have trouble making blouses for our body types and I have found Sharonika to be very good at that. Prices are, as usual, cheap. For saree bordering (must be done for each new saree you buy) is only 250 taka.
e. I have heard a lot about the Russian tailor Svetlana, but have never used her. Apparently, she is quite artistic and good, but she is very busy and often out of the country, as well as quite pricey and opinionated on what you should be making, versus what you want to have made.
Finding places can be tricky in Dhaka. As much as I’d like to show you all where things are… I thought I’d make a map of the 99 expat places instead! These places are current as of September 9, 2013. I put an extra huge marker on Goong, the Castle, because that is the number one place people ask for directions to — Road 50, House 12B — and I made it number 12 on the map! Look for the large wooden gate. Go in and enjoy.
In Dhaka, businesses rise and fall like eddies on the delta, and they often change location. So, most importantly, on my map(s), I have put the ACTUAL location, not what the address indicates. Because floor numbering varies in different parts of the world, I have only listed it if the place is not on the first/ground floor. Otherwise, I’ve called it “level” using the ground floor as the first level. As the Westin’s sign is like a lighthouse beacon in the night, I started with the Westin Hotel as number one as it is often used as the North Star. Then I divided Gulshan into four sections divided by Gulshan 2 circle. For those counting, there are not 99 numbers on the maps because many of the locations are in the same building or on the same block. Also, I have not included all 100 restaurants at which I’ve eaten. Only places people ask about.
I have tried to make sure that the addresses are correct, though not always written the way that the locals would write it, and I cannot vouch for the phone numbers except for those who do house calls, like Tailor Johny, because I did not call all the numbers! Bangladesh’s country code is 88 and for some numbers you will need to drop the zero/zed and/or the two or add them or something… it’s confusing. But that’s a whole different topic. If you cannot find the location, check back on my blog as I may have posted a photo of the actual location. Again, the official address may be different; the location is for real. Happy hunting!
That pink plastic. This and many other little things make street kitchens unglamorous and slightly un-photogenic. When I take photos for my blog, I try to take luscious photos but often, what is there, is not. Part of the “challenge” of traveling is appreciating the deliciousness in a street noodle even when eating it out of a styrofoam container while sweat drips in your eye. All while the locals either stare at you like they are watching a circus act. Or ignore you but wish that you would get out of the way so that they could also get their $1 snack of saturated fats and MSG.
In Dhaka, I rarely eat at street stalls because I’m not sure that my internal flora and fauna can hack it. I will eat at a few phoughka stands and Dhaba supposedly was set up to bring street food off the street, but the rule is to go with your gut. If there are a lot of people and the food has not had a chance to sit around growing bacteria, then maybe you’ll be okay. But if your instinct kicks in and you get a queasy feeling even before you eat on the street, then don’t do it.