Framing Block Prints in Bangladesh

A block framed with a background of fabric printed with the block in the frame.
A block framed with a background of fabric printed with the block in the frame.

For the creative person, Bangladesh is a wonderland of fabrics and possibilities. Much to the amazement of some of my Bangladeshi friends, some of us buy the wood blocks to use as artwork. I will have more of these made to give away as gifts in the future.

A framed box with four block prints on sale at Cezanne Gallery in the UAE Mall in Gulshan.
A framed box with four block prints on sale at Cezanne Gallery in the UAE Mall in Gulshan.

The Secret Shop of Dhaka

Carved wooden doors.
Carved wooden doors.

A treasure trove packed into a riddle. Villa Ideas (formerly Ideas Manzil) is a guesthouse (ranked high on TripAdvisor) but it’s also a shop and a restaurant. They have set menus and the food is freshly made. It’s good. We went for lunch and to shop, and the staff at Ideas Manzil had decorated the table with flowers, textiles, and silver salvers. There is a wood carpenter, a leather worker, and a weaver on staff. The range of what one can have made seems endless: leather bottle holders, leather coasters, wood doors, carved fabric hangers… plus all the stuff to buy: boxes, brass, jewelry, Bhutanese textiles, Nepalese rugs, Bangladeshi folk art, lamps, vases, carved wooden walls and spandrels on carved columns (family crest carved into the wood — why not?)…

One of the guest suites.
One of the guest suites.

One must make an appointment to shop here. The proprietor says that he will open a retail corner but… can it remain interesting? Finally, will this place last? Will it remain interesting once my friends have bought all the treasures collected over a lifetime?

Also, does a fabulous job on meals which must be ordered in advance.

The table set for lunch.
The table set for lunch.
Some of the goods for sale.
Some of the goods for sale.

Wedding Season Again in Dhaka – The Bride’s Holud

Flowers decorate the entrance to the holud venue.
Flowers decorate the entrance to the holud venue.

It’s that time of year again when the Bangladeshis get married. I am lucky to have been invited again. A year ago, I went to a combined holud which I described in an earlier blog. At the bride’s holud this year, the bride was carried in on a palanquin. While the groom was absent, his family and guests attended, carrying gifts. I will blog more about the next part of the wedding later… right now, I need to go to dance practice!

The "mishti" or sweet pots.
The “mishti” or sweet pots.

Italian Lace Made in Bangladesh

Fine Italian lace and linens made by nuns… is a popular shopping item. If you live in Dhaka, then you’re lucky again because much of that “Italian” stitchery is done in Bangladesh, and you can buy it from the source. The Carlotta sisters run a school for orphan children in Dhaka one of the skills they teach the girls is how to stitch the embroidery in a linen or cotton table cloth.

Italian lace.

The nuns live in a nondescript brick building and one must make an appointment to buy anything from them.

One Year of Madventures.me – Still Mad for Food and Adventure

Madventures.me is one year old. One year ago, I started this blog in preparation for new adventures in food and travel. One year of great food and travel in Amman, Copenhagen, Dhaka, Doha, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Krabi, Luang Prabang, Mumbai, New Delhi, New England, Singapore, and many more.

I started this blog to share some of my adventures with family and friends. As I’ve blogged, my blog has evolved into a source for providing information on restaurants in Dhaka, shopping, and how much one can do in Bangladesh. As a blogger, I’ve been enormously happy when readers from all over the world visit my blog. Thank you for stopping by… from almost the entire world:

Map of visitors to madventures.me in the first 11 months.

As my readership expands beyond people I know, I’m curious about what leads readers to my blog. So here are the top search terms people have searched for in the past year:

Top search terms on madventures.me.

Tivoli Amusement Park Open for Halloween

An otherworldly park caught in the spirit of Halloween.

Tivoli is almost open all year round. This fall they are open for Halloween. The park is great and I enjoy it in all its moods and costumes. The park fills a whole city park and is smack in the center of the city. Lots of things to do, eat, and buy. Enchanted tourism!

The gate of Tivoli. Enjoy a walk around.

Buttered Bread in Denmark

Four halves: potato, pork roast, fish filet, and “vet’s night snack.”

Open faced sandwiches are called “buttered bread” in Denmark. I have some favorites. It is harder and harder to find a place where you can buy ready-to-eat sandwiches but there are still a few places where this can still be done. One goes into the store, takes a number, and when it’s one’s turn, one orders “four halves” or however many sandwiches one wants. Then you can order them by name if you know what they are called (only some have special names like “the vet’s night snack”) but mostly, you can point.

Gravad lox sandwich made at home.

One can, of course, make sandwiches at home. I love the Danish open face sandwich because just like Peking Duck or a Korean Bulgogi lettuce wrap, there is something about the alchemy of certain flavors together that play my taste buds like a xylophone.

Where to Buy Household Stuff in Dhaka

Shopping directly from the artist’s studio is the most unique experience (but more about that in a later post) for acquiring household goods. Otherwise, since there is no Ikea, Target, and Pier One in Dhaka, these are some of the main stores where expats buy goods for the home. Plus clothes, gifts, etc. Here is a list of some of the places where I shop.

This handmade bowl and carved table are from Tayabuzzaman Topu’s studio.

Arong: A chain with many outlets. Located in Gulshan 1 and Uttara, etc. Like a Pier One. Everything from curtains, doohickies, clothes, shoes, plates, etc.

Jatra, 60E Kamal Ataturk, Banani, Dhaka-1213: On Kemal Ataturk. A place to get saris, hand made paper, rugs, bracelets, gifts, doohickies, etc.

Aranya: Same as Jatra and located in same building.

Decor Idee: Rangs Arcade, 153 A Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan 2: A custom made 70 inch long fabric hanger for 3,300 Taka. They text messaged me when it was ready at about 10 days.

Probhatina: Down in Dhanmondi somewhere. Lovely soft material and other items. Mostly Clothes. A little snooty shop.

Kumudini: on Gulshan. Several stories high and sells clothes, cloth, and some household stuff.

Carlotta Sisters: In Bashundura. Call to make a reservation. They are nuns who teach students to make lace. Tablecloths, aprons, runners, napkins, etc.

Then there are the markets: DIT 1, DIT 2, and New Market. And the “malls” like: Bashundhara and a place next to the flagship Arong in Uttara. Lastly, there are the roads: Road 11 in Banani is filled with shops and restaurants. The markets will give you the “local color” more than the newer stores.

A salesman at New Market.

The Art of Flirty Waiters

One of many charming waiters…

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.

Me: Why?

Khalil: Because he will wake up to your eyes every morning.

Bearing fruit…

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.

Talking smooth…
Serving sweets…

I was tired that night or I would have been much faster and funnier in my response… guess I need more practice. Oh shucks.

With smoke and mirrors…

Cover the Assets – Expat Dress in Dhaka

The expat uniform.

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.

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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.

What’s My Name in Arabic?

The front of the Al-Afghani shop in Mecca Mall.

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.

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