Buy A Rickshaw to Go for Less Than $3,000!

For some expats, the biggest souvenir they buy in Bangladesh is a rickshaw. I decided to buy one for the blogging experience. There are many places where you can get them. Apparently the folks at River Tours will arrange a sale for you. If you want a used one, it is unlikely that the local rickshaw puller owns his own and so he may not be able to sell it to you. A colleague bought two rickshaws so I got the shop information from him.

The rickshaw shop.
The rickshaw shop.

Then I enlisted the help of two Bangladeshis. One arranged for us to go out to the rickshaw “shop” and made an appointment with the rickshaw maker for us. The shop we went to was back in the rabbit warren of streets to the north of Baridhara (it ended up being somewhere near the train tracks, for those of you who know your way around Baridhara). Without my Bangla-speaking Bangladeshi, I would never have found this shop. The shop was more of a “parts” shop and there were no shiny ready-made rickshaws for sale. That said, looking at the photo, now I see the tires on the roof.

Rickshaw Maker: Hasan

Phone: 0174059294

Address: Maria Cycle store, 97/1 Joar Shahara Bazar Road, Dhaka.

The rickshaw took one week to build, it weighs 250 pounds, and cost 20,000 taka (about $250). I paid 5,000 taka in down payment and rest on delivery as you can see from the receipt but you can pay all of it at once if you prefer. If I had bought two or more, I would have received a bulk discount (and remember that everything can be negotiated so I could have perhaps haggled to a lower price. Frankly, I was distracted by the gentleman on the right in the photo who was performing depilation in his nostrils — I could not take my eyes off his fingers!).

Hasan's number is on the receipt.
Hasan’s number is on the receipt.

I left the decoration of the rickshaw completely up to the craftsmen making it. At one point, the shop owner called to find out which name I wanted painted on the back and my friend told him to put my name on the back! I will most likely paint over it at some point. The rickshaw also has the maker’s telephone number and name painted on it. I like how my rickshaw is decorated although I would have chosen to not have guns painted on it, despite this being the tradition.

Freshly painted rickshaw.
Freshly painted rickshaw. Sells for $3,000 in World Market!

The rickshaw was ready a day early and the rickshaw maker wanted to deliver it as soon as possible. I asked why the urgency… they did not want it to get dirty. It was delivered to me fully assembled and driven by a professional rickshaw driver. Since then, it has only been driven by two people. I will mostly keep it in my future home, as a piece of installation art. Some people have suggested I take it out and give rides on it…

Yesterday, a friend recently sent me the link to World Market’s site advertising Bangladeshi rickshaws on demand for $3,000! But, theirs are not meant for actual use (it says so in the ad). Therefore it is better to buy one while in Bangladesh.

Normally, I try to post a new blog every sixth day, but because of yesterday’s rickshaw email, I decided to publish this now.

The answer to my previous post’s trivia game of “M’s Adventures moves to ______?” is: It is a country with a river famous for being the most _colorful_ in the world. Thanks to the random person on the Internet who decided to play along.

M’s Adventures Moves from Inshallah to Ojala – And Top Search Subjects

Boys of an SOS Village in Bangladesh.
Boys from an SOS Village in Bangladesh.

Very soon, I will stop blogging about Bangladesh and begin blogging with a Spanish accent. I hope. ¡Ojalá! (Which is “hopefully!” in Spanish — it rhymes with, and is used a similar way as, “inshallah” or “god willing” — and I’m guessing, comes from the 700 years of Arab influence in Spain). In Bangladesh, people often end a thought with “inshallah” and I like the segue for my blog.

I have tried to make my blog easy to find on the World Wide Web. The world of online searching, or googling, is like falling down the rabbit’s hole. You can get lost for a long long time… but never wake up wearing Tim Burton makeup. For the past few years, I have blogged primarily about Bangladesh (and yet, there are still so many things I did not blog about — like the SOS Village I visited).

The kiosk where one can buy top off Grameen cash cards closed on an Eid day.
The kiosk where one can buy SIM and phone cash cards, closed on an Eid day.

So, as I plan to switch my focus, here’s a re-cap of the most popular search terms which have lead readers to madventures.me (thank you).

Top search terms of the past 18 months.
Top search terms of the past 18 months.

Because I like random international blending, I was pleased when someone searched for, “where to eat kimchi in dhaka.”

As far as I can tell from reading Google, it will take the searchbots on Google take about six months to register my blog’s new topics and tags so perhaps I should begin to blog about the place I am moving to?

Just for fun, I’ll make it a sort of guessing game… ¿por qué no?

Clue number one of “M’s Adventures moves to ______?” is: It is a country with a river famous for being the most ______ in the world.

Domestic Help in Bangladesh

A few days, a few months, may go by, but eventually, most expats will acquire some form of domestic help. Bangladeshis have domestic help in their homes and it is a way of life here. Bangladesh is rich in human labor and affordable (to us expats) domestic help is one of the advantages (or just part of the realities of life here) of living here. As an expat, we can afford to pay our domestic workers a good salary, provide a place to live (some are live in), and the arrangement seems to work. I appreciated having help, especially my driver (mentioned him last time), but the key is to find what works for you. I will try to cover what I’ve learned about domestic staff employment but I may have to come back and update this as I recall more details (as I know that this is of great interest to some). First of all, for many expats, this will be their first experience having domestic help. For many, it is the first time, they are the employer with employees. It takes work to learn how to be a good boss. Okay, on to nuts and bolts:

How many staff? Depends on your needs/wants. I had a housekeeper who cooked and cleaned. I paid him extra for extra work helping at parties. I then switched to a part time cleaner who came three days per week.

Where do you find good staff? My advice is to ask around. Find someone who is as picky (oh sorry, as “quality conscious”) as you, and then try to find domestic help like they have. Also, keep in mind that what works for them won’t always work for you. It is easy and hard to find good employees. Sometimes, you will get accosted in your building by staff who tell you that this is their turf and that you have to hire them because they have always worked in that building. Take it as you will (or won’t). Some find this style too aggressive. Also, outside the building, there will be people coming by looking for work (everyone knows that you are new). Another thing, all the domestic staff probably know each other. It’s a network. Many are related to each other (or can bring a “cousin” who can work for you).

Interview: Yes, do. Also do a trial period. One staff I had to let go, sobbed and begged… and showed up days later to beg again, apologizing. But it wasn’t a matter of apology. It just didn’t work.

Contract? Yes, you can draw one up but your staff may not be able to read.

Live in or out? Many domestic staff also live in (all apartments have a “servant’s quarters” but mine was small. I guess free housing is free housing, but, I use my “servant’s quarters” as a closet).

Salary (including insurance, healthcare, bonus, uniforms, and tea money): Here goes… As expats, we pay double what they pay (and we don’t make them work as much) so we are attractive employers.

Driver (mentioned him last time): A driver is a skilled person and they make between 12,000-20,000 taka ($150-250) for 40 hours per week. Drivers have very loose schedules. Some work six days per week but only a few hours per day. Most are sort of “on call” and that’s why they get paid (to wait around). Average pay is 14,000-16,000. Most drivers are men. There is a school for female drivers run by an international non-profit but they also teach men to drive. So far, I’ve heard of one professional female driver but there must be more. Hopefully, your driver has a real license. Some people send their other staff to driving school and this benefits everyone.

Cook: To only be a cook is the top position unless there’s a housekeeper who doesn’t get their hands wet (these are rare). Have them make you a meal to test out their skills. Many of the cooks in the expat pool have worked for other international families and can cook cuisines from all over the world. I know of some folks who diligently taught their cooks how to make their dishes the way that they liked them. I had planned on making a menu of what my cook could make so that he could take it on to the next employer, but I never got around to it. The cook can also go buy groceries. Some can make meals for you without you having to tell them what you want, and this can be a boon to some busy people.

Housekeeper or cook/cleaner/bearer (bears your tea to you): The salary range for an expat’s housekeeper is 12,000-20,000 taka ($150-250) for 40 hours per week. Housekeepers make more than bearers and cleaners (if an employee is a cleaner or bearer only, they make less). They can also do your shopping for you and fetch your dry cleaning etc.

Nanny/Aya (or caregiver): Some families have more than one (one for each child and one as a babysitter. Why not). Some expat families even hire caregivers for their elderly family members. The salary range is lower 10,000-18,000 taka. The aya/ayah/nanny is a fixture in expat literature and the separation from the aya is the most traumatic.

Gardener: Many expats hire someone to grow vegetables for them, plus normal yard work. They get paid around 12,000 taka per month.

Dog walker: I have heard of people hiring part time dog walkers but I would guess that a full time one makes about 8,000-10,000 taka per month. Funny story, one of my friends found that her cook had been giving the dog tea… if you know how strong Bangla tea is, then you know that that dog definitely needed walks!

Bonus? Yes, a 13th month salary at Ramadan for Muslim staff and at Christmas for Christian staff. Once per year unless you want to give them more at another time (second Eid) BUT that is not the norm. This “bonus at second Eid” question is one of the most frequent questions that I hear. Plus, almost everyone gives their staff gifts of belongings like TVs, clothes, bags, computers, etc. especially when trying to organize for a move. The staff will often ask to be allowed to buy or have the things that you don’t want. Almost anything from America is a hot item. Sometimes, the staff will give you gifts. Try to not accept them as they usually can’t afford it (like a 2,000 taka sari).

Uniforms: Much is said of this. Usually something about two uniforms per year or the money to buy or have made a uniform. The amount I was asked for was (negotiable like all other prices in this country) 2,500 taka. I think that for most staff, this is a form of income. That said, some staff do wear uniforms. There is a certain dignity in wearing a uniform when at work, and that I understand.

Tea money? Many people give their staff tea money or lunch money. This is how they supplement the low wages. Tea money of 1,500 taka per month is extremely expensive tea and is more likely to be food money. To expats, $13 is nothing but I’m guessing that a Bangladeshi can buy a cup of tea for two or three taka.

Other expenses: There will be other expenses that the staff ask for money for: their children’s weddings, school fees, hospital fees, a new cell phone, etc. etc. It is up to you as the employer to decide if you want to pay it or lend it. Some people withhold some of the salary and keep it as insurance or savings for such events (make it part of the initial salary discussion). In the true spirit of “if you don’t ask…” You will get gotten but you can probably afford it. On that note, you will hear lots of “You have so much; and I have so little.” Many people will pay for the staff’s children’s school fees (what’s $120 to you when you can provide an education. It’s a form of charity).

To end the discussion of money, you (or I did) may likely pay salary + tea money + uniform + “emergency life expenses” per employee. I’ve heard some expats say, “it’s less than car insurance in the U.S.”

Other duties: In general, if you have a good relationship, your staff can do many things for you that will make life easier. I had my driver do all sorts of errands from getting my lace fixed (yes, one guy who can re-weave cloth for 100 taka) to buying jersey (very hard to buy in bolt form here) to finding a place to sell bottles. Some people actually have their staff help as “lady’s maid” and do massages, hair removal, pedicures, manicures, hair cuts, or paint mehendi/henna on you. There may actually be some people who have a “lady’s maid” but I haven’t heard of any (my friends aren’t rich enough). But, when you need to dress for a wedding and need your sari wrapped, you can have your staff do it for you (usually 500 taka at a salon).

Keys/Privacy: Some people do lock cabinets or rooms. Some give one key to the door (so the other lock can be used by you). Some keep the key to the car and have the driver come get it before they go anywhere (a Bangladeshi friend had the experience of discovering that his driver was using the car as a taxi business while he was at work.) Some people worry about stealing… and lock up their oil and flour… Many people lock up a room just because they want a level of privacy. After all, the domestic staff know EVERYTHING about you. They take out your trash.

Dismissal/Severance/Firing/End of contract: If you leave or dismiss your staff, it is normal to give them one month’s notice and pay them a severance pay in proportion to time served. Usually it is a month’s salary for each year. Even if you have to fire the staff for some reason, it’s normal to give them severance. If you liked your staff, try to find time to write them a letter of referral. They will use this for future job hunting.

At expat parties, there is an incessant buzz of talk about domestic staff. I try to not get involved. But these are some of the subjects people talk about:

“How much do you pay your….?” “Should I give a second Eid bonus at the second Eid?” “Do I give the bonus at the beginning or the end?” “She won’t leave at the end of the day and just hangs around!” “She’s lazy but she’s honest.” “Why do I need a full time driver when he just sits around for 30 hours of each week?” “I sent my driver to English school.” “I sent my cleaner to cooking school to improve her professional skills.” “How do I get my cook to use less oil?” “How do I get my cook to make food for less than 20 people?” And so on.

I think I answered most of this questions above except: The cooking oil question — I have heard people tell their cooks that they need to lose weight. Or that the cook can keep whatever oil is leftover in the bottle. Like with most lessons, repetition is important. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Banana bread made by my housekeeper.
Banana bread made by my housekeeper.

I hope that this has been helpful.

After a year in Bangladesh, I realized that I had made a mistake. When I got to Dhaka, I had the intention of hiring a woman (empowerment and all that) but instead I hired a man with a full CV (he came well recommended). What I realized after a year is that I should have hired a young woman and sent her to school to learn English, to sew, and to give massages. I could have had a tailor and a massage therapist at home. Next time!

Jewelry of Bangladesh

A necklace with pearls is typical of Bangladesh.
A necklace with pearls is typical of Bangladesh.

Men and women wear jewelry here although the most is worn by a woman on her wedding day. Or when she is a guest at a wedding.

A gorgeous earring.
A gorgeous earring.

The ladies of Bangladesh make sure that they look good when they step out. They are into shoes, bags, jewelry, makeup, and clothes with zing and color.

The necklace is in the same color scheme as the saree.
The necklace is in the same color scheme as the saree.

The expats tend to wear jewelry that is a little more muted or “matches” the outfit.

A hand made necklace of glass.
A hand made necklace of glass.

Bangla English – Tomato Tomato

Sign of life in Dhaka where many people do not "self drive."
Sign of life in Dhaka where many people do not “self drive.”

The English spoken in Bangladesh includes a few words which are different in British English and American English, plus some that are unique to Bangla English. Here are several words which are different from American English:

Capsicum – is a bell pepper/sweet pepper

Aubergine – eggplant (“BEG-un” in Bangla)

Coriander – cilantro (the leafy part of the coriander plant)

Lime – lime is lemon (“yellow limes” are a fairly rare sight here and they are a different breed)

Microbus – mini-van

There are other differences but these are the ones I encounter all the time. I’ll try to update this as I recall more.

While many Britishisms exist in Bangla, “schedule” is not “SHEY-duel” which is interesting considering that many of the words spelled with an “s” are pronounced with a “sh” sound (like “sari” or “sharee”). Plus, there are many Bangla words which I think would be a great addition to the English language. My first contender would be the expressive word for “end” or “finito!” — Shesh!

Essential Bangla — Bengali Language

Mum is the brand here.
Mum is the major brand of water here.

While a smile will get you far, as a foreigner in Bangladesh, learning a few phrases of Bangla is a good idea. I am not a linguist so I’ve made up my own system of phonetics. These are some of the phrases I have learned:

PAH-nee — water — This is the Bangla word I used most in this hot, hot, hot land.

DON-ah-bawd — thank you (foreigners like to use this but I’m told it’s not really part of the culture. I’ve seen nods of the head or a closed fist to the chest used as “thank you” and that works too).

Sah-ley-al-eh-kyum — greetings (it’s from Arabic and is how you greet people or announce your presence) — I often just say “good evening/good day/hello” and that seems to work.

DECK-A-hawb-aa — see you later.

AH-che — gotcha or yes, I’m listening to you and I understand that you are speaking. I like “gotcha” because it rhymes with the Bangla word.

EK-tah — one of (EK is one).

SHESH — done as in “enough” and “it’s over.”

LAWG-bey-nah — No need or I do not need it (useful when rickshaws try to run you over in their eagerness for your custom). This is the phrase I have found most useful.

Half a million rickshaws, all trying to give you a ride.
Half a million rickshaws, all trying to give you a ride.

How to Live the Good Life in Dhaka – Part 1 – Tailors

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).

Most tailors sell cloth as well.
Most tailors sell cloth as well.

For Men:

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.

For Women:

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.

Map of 99 Expat Places

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.

99 Expat Places Map of Gulshan
99 Expat Places Map of Gulshan

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.

99 Expat Places in Dhaka
99 Expat Places in Dhaka

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!

99 Expat Places Map Guide, page 1.
99 Expat Places Map Guide, page 1.
99 Expat Places Guide, page 2.
99 Expat Places Guide, page 2.

Rickshaw in Monsoon Photo

In the long hot rasping breath before the monsoon, my mind turns once more to images of Bangladesh. Decades ago, the only impression I had of Bangladesh was monsoon rain and flooding. Now, I have met the man who took the rickshaw photo of my imaginings.

The photographer, Zahid "Badol", with his photo of boys playing in the mud.
The photographer, Zahid “Badol”, with his photo of boys playing in the mud.

Obviously, to my vivacious and educated Bangladeshi friends, this image is so passe. “Why must you foreigners have only such images in your heads?” To which I reply, “This is not a bad image.” I see the rickshaw puller in the monsoon flood and find it an image of tenacity and perseverance. Not a bad thing to be known for, wherever you are.

A rickshaw puller in the monsoon.
A rickshaw puller in the monsoon.

Dhaka-townian’s 100 Eats and the Top Ten Restaurants in Dhaka

Finally, I reached my goal of trying 100 eateries in Dhaka (I did it in 18 months which is six months ahead of my goal). If you wish to read my previous restaurant reviews, please do: part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five. Or, read about where I find the restaurants to try.  I base my reviews on food quality, service, and price (I set less emphasis on presentation and atmosphere). Later, I’ll blog about the FAQ (frequently asked questions) that I get about restaurants in Dhaka including where’s the best sushi… but first, the top ten.

THE TOP TEN

1. Goong, “the Castle”. New name, same location, Road 50, house 12B, Gulshan — look for the wooden fortress style gate with the red and blue yin yang symbol(13/13) (Previously called Dae Jang Geum and not to be confused with the Dae Jang Geum which opened down the street). Korean palace food. A meal will run between 1,000-6,000 Taka ($12-80) per person. But worth it. The best food in town. Even if you don’t like Korean food or fish… get one of the many other dishes on the menu.

Look for this gate.
Look for this gate to find Goong, the castle.

2. BBQ Tonite, Dhanmondi (13/13): Meat on stick. Delicious outdoor atmosphere and smoky grilled meat. Delicious fresh flat breads including “rumali” which is thin yeasty stretchy “handkerchief” bread, paratha (fried bread), and naan.

3. Northend Coffee Roasters (12/13): Coffee and baked goods. Must try: cinnamon buns warm from the oven. Now they have a berry crumble that is super delicious.

4. Bamboo Shoot, Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan (10/13): Chinese. Special Chinese (scribbled Chinese characters on a scrap of paper) menu on weekends. Take a Chinese person with you and have them insist on seeing the Chinese menu. This place also serves Sichuan hotpot.

5. Golden Goose at Lakeshore Hotel, Gulshan (9/13): Continental. I had a good pizza, good naan, good salad, etc. here.

6. Roll Express, Gulshan (9/13): Butter Paper Dhosa filled with potato is one of my favorites here. The chicken reshmi roll is also good cold as a takeaway sandwich.

7. Spaghetti Jazz, Gulshan Circle, Gulshan (8/13): Italian. Closest thing to a thin Italian style pizza in Dhaka. Pasta is home made. I get my garlic and chili carb fix here.

8. Panini, Road 19 in Banani (8/13): The spaghetti with garlic and chili is made with smoked chili flakes and the scent may haunt your dreams.

9. Istanbul, road 118, Gulshan (8/13): Turkish food. Fresh cheese and freshly baked bread. Weekend buffet for 1,000 taka. Turkish. Road 118. You can’t even tell you’re in Dhaka. It’s a massive multi-world restaurant with wood fire oven, Las Vegas painted sky ceiling, and a two level castle for children. They have a creamery on location and sell fresh cheese and bread. Soon will have a level with hookah/nargile/water pipe.

10. Nirob, old Dhaka (8/13). Traditional Bangladeshi mashup or “bhorta” foods. (it’s best to get invited to a Bangladeshi friend’s home for home cooking).

RUNNER UPs

Movenpick, Gulshan Avenue across from Pink City (10/13): Ice cream, Swiss style. Also serves one sandwich type. Must try: a warm freshly made waffle with pecan ice cream and maple syrup.

Spitfire, Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan (8/13): Continental/Western food. Same good juice as Saltz upstairs. Must try: serves warm bread rolls with every meal.

Diner 360, Madani Avenue, on top of VIP photo (8/13): Diner food. Some local dishes. Inexpensive. Steak dinner for $11.

King’s Confectionery, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Baked goods. Sells chicken with curry. Must try: Donuts on a stick.

Villa Ideas – formerly Ideas Manzil, Road 79, House 19, Gulshan – food by appointment only – call or email (11/13): International guest house with private set menus – Bangladeshi, Indian, Thai, European, and seafood. All the food was fresh. The antique shopping was also fun. Unique location much like a secret garden in Dhaka. You must contact them ahead of time to arrange the menu. Owned by an expat who grew up here.

Dhaba, *** Road 10, (was on Road 12), Banani (7/13): Street food in a safe but dark environment. Try the phoughka. Good garlic naan. ***Apparently they have moved to a brighter location.

Prego at the Westin Hotel (7/13): Pizza, pasta, appetizer and a juice for $80. Insanely expensive.

Splash at the Westin Hotel (7/13): Poolside bar.

Bakery at the Westin Hotel (8/13): Good baked bread. Coffee is Illy and they have imported the South Asia Illy Italian expert. Ciao!

Time Out Cafe, Road 10, Banani (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.

Mallika Snacks, Rupayon Mall near Agora, Gulshan (8/13): Phoughka. It’s a local place and it’s more a snack place. Best phoughka in the Gulshan area. Very local place.

Le Souffle at the Bellagio (6/13): French. Must try: the red mirrored bathroom. One of the few places with a liquor license. Popular with business clientele. The most expensive restaurant in Dhaka. 6,000 Taka for dinner for one.

KFChicken (9/13) on Road 13: Batter fried chicken. The best fried chicken in Dhaka.

AND THE REST

Sakura Golden Rice (5/13) near road 118: Chinese/Japanese/Bangladeshi. Reopened and still mediocre watered down food.

Topkapi, Gulshan Avenue(6/13): Buffet. Mostly Bangladeshi and Thai food. The papaya salad was not bad and it was spicy!

Emerald Thai (8/13): Thai. Located in Uttara near the flagship Arong store but very hard to find… interior decor is elegant but the food is not Thai spicy. Made for the Bangladeshi palate.

New Cathay (8/13): Chinese. This new location in Banani, on Road 11, is modern looking but the food and the waiters are as good as they have been for 25 years.

Gloria Jean’s (7/13): Cafe with food. Nice enough atmosphere inside and a place to hang out and grab a light bite to eat. Wi-fi and perky staff seem to be some of the reasons there’s hype about this place. I’m not really into it but then I don’t need a cafe to work from.

Orange and a Half cafe (7/13): New place! Cafe with coffee, shakes, desserts, and sandwiches. Located in Tejgaon, the industrial zone. The cafe is hip looking and located in the Shanta Western building. The owners want a “western” level place. Let’s see if they can reach it. For not, it’s coffee is okay, some of the sandwiches and cakes are okay… let’s see how they do once they have been open for a while. Their goal is to match Gloria Jean’s.

Nagasaki (7/13): Japanese. This place is like stepping back in time 50 years… there are holes under the tables so that you sit Japanese style but don’t have to sit on the floor if you are out of practice. Soggy rice. Not fresh sashimi. Located out in Uttara.

Just Juice, Gulshan Avenue (4/13): Juice and sandwiches. Has a few seats out in front and is otherwise a very small shop.

Attin, Road 24, Gulshan (9/13): Arabic. Located on Road 27 in Gulshan, this is a hipster sort of place with a rustic loft feel. The middle eastern appetizers are not bad and the waiters are talkative.

Cuppa Coffee Cafe (7/13): Continental/Bangla-Asian. Located with a great view of Gulshan II circle, the people watching is the best thing about this place. Usual hit or miss with dishes covered in mystery white “special sauce” or red ketchup chili.

Baristo (7/13) – Road 6, Banani: Cafe/Italian/Smokers Lounge/Lounge. Opened in February 2013. Have the coffee while sitting in a car… this is a large place suited for large groups. Will soon have hookah/nargile/water pipe.

American Burger (5/13) – Road 11, Banani: Burgers and fries. Okay fries. Burger was okay. Small, take out sort of place with three tables.

Rush Tex Mex (5/13) – Road 6, Banani: Burgers and fries. The advertised Mexican dishes were mysteriously not available… small place with two booths. Fries were okay.

Spicy Restaurant (4/13) on Kemal Attaturk: Opened March 15, 2013. Usual burgers, kababs, banglese (bangla/chinese) stuff. Also has Wifi, I think. Has four booths (or half of the table is booth and the other side is chairs) and a table for six.

Atrium (7/13): Chinesey Bangla food. Some Indian. The lunch buffet for under 600 taka is okay. The exterior Japanesey garden and tables could be nice if it weren’t right on one of the busiest roads in the area.

Quesadilla (3/13); The quesadilla was actually okay. Not greasy and edible. The “Mexican pizza” was like a basic frozen pizza with some charred crumbled beefish added plus a few loops of green pepper. The nachos were a plate of fried wonton skins covered in brown beans, cheese, and decorated with swirls of “mexican” sauce — a slightly sweet pink sauce. The garlic bread with melted cheese was so tasteless as to be useless.

Samdado, near Westin (6/13): Japanese/Sushi/Korean. Old established place to take business clients at lunch. Note: saw a rodent skitter across the floor during our incessant wait for the bill.

Crepe-au-Lait, Gulshan, near Thai Kitchen and London Sausage House (5/13): Crepes, savory and sweet. Hip new place filled with hipsters. Note: Savory crepes were not bad. Service is slow.

Kozmo (6/13): Cafe. Hip place in Banani. Various Indonesian and other cuisines on small menu. Note: Mini chicken kebabs are cute.

Bella Italia, Gulshan Avenue (7/13): Pizza and pasta. The Penne a l’Arabiatta (spicy pasta) was the best dish. Note: It’s in the building with Royal Thai and the sign for Roy Rogers Roasters.

Dhansiri, near Gulshan 2 circle and Westin (6/13): Bangladeshi. Next to the Westin. Acceptable local food when you need have people who want to eat Bangladeshi food.

Sura BBQ, Road 71, Gulshan (7/13): Korean BBQ, same owners as Sura. Across from Soi 71. Note: It has LA style kalbi (beef rib slices). Most of the food had something missing from the flavor. Too bad. The raw fish was bad.

Do Mi Ok, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Korean BBQ. Try: the cubed daikon radish kimchi was crunchy and acceptable. There was no traditional napa cabbage kimchi served. Rest of the food was uninteresting.

Shwarma, Banani (3/13): Shawarma and mini pizzas. This place is so popular but I can’t really figure out why. The “meat” was chewy and not in a good way.

Cheng Chong, Banani north of Kemal Ataturk (7/13)): Cantonese. Fried rice was good. Corn soup was good. Will try more stuff later.

Spices (3/13): It’s the airport restaurant. They serve fresh juice and all kinds of other items.

The Village, Gulshan Avenue (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 (7/13): 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, Road 11, Banani (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, Road 11, Banani (8/13): Indonesian. Food is acceptable. Tom Yum soup was good, though not Indonesian. Best chicken satay in Dhaka. 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.

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 , Gulshan 1 cirlce (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, Road 118? (8/13): Japanese. Elegant interior. Large. Good for business clients. Note: Interior is dark. Black walls.

Kasturi, Banani (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.

New Kings Kitchen, Iqbal Tower, Banani  (5/13): Cantonese. Note: they have karaoke.

Saltz, Gulshan Avenue (8/13): Seafood continental style. Like an underworld theme park. Must try: the fresh juice.

New Mermaid Cafe, Gulshan 2 circle (9/13): Large airconditioned location on Gulshan Circle. Note: wish they had an elevator but maybe that would not be eco-friendly.

Rok, Banani (8/13): Meat of choice on volcanic hot rock. It’s a gimmick. Note: interior is more swanky than caveman.

Sajna, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Indian. Good for business meetings. Must try: Can’t think of what.

Red Shift (6/13): Cafe. Rooftop. Note: It’s a coffee shop. Enough said.

Flambe (4/13): Random menu but not much to offer. Note: some dishes okay but not a repeat kind of place.

Pan Thao, Road 12, Banani (8/13): Best Thai food in Dhaka. Note: Service can be slow… slow.

Thai Kitchen, Gulshan (8/13): Thai cooked by a Thai cook – must try: chicken dumplings steamed.

Oh Calcutta (8/13): West Bengali food – must try: Luchi/puri = fried bread. Elegant interior and good for business clientele.

Caspian, Agora building, Gulshan Ave. (6/13): Persian. Must try: Baklava bites.

El Toro, Gulshan 1 (3/13): Mexican. Must try: going on a night when they have avocados.

Soi 71 (7/13): Thai. Must try: the play room in the basement. Good for business clientele.

The Steakhouse (8/13): Steak. Must try: Australian beef medium rare.

Khazana (7/13): Indian. Must try: the naan? This place is the place recommended by Indian business clientele.

Heritage (7/13): Indian/Bangladeshi. Must try: the buffet lunch for 450 Taka? Also popular with business clientele.

Don Giovanni (4/13): Italian. Must try: fried cheese.

Wasabi at the Bellagio (5/13): Japanese. Must try: a drink at the bar. One of the few places with a liquor license. Popular with business clientele.

Arirang (3/13): Korean.

Koreana (7/13): Korean. Must try: jigae.

Sura (3/13): Korean. Must try: shabu shabu.

Best Western (2/13): Hotel food.

Cream and Fudge (6/13): Dessert. Ice cream, homemade waffles, and cake. Why don’t they serve the freshest waffles when ordered? Note: The toilet sign is out of this world…

Ichi, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Japanese. Looks like “South Pacific” inside and the ramen is too authentic smelling for me.

Cafe Italiano, Road 11, Banani (7/13): Italian. Illy brand coffee in K-cups. Good view (fourth floor) of Road 11. I could see folks hanging out to do some telework here.

Korean Guest House, Gulshan (4/13): Korean. The Bangladeshi manager lived in Korea and speaks Korean.

Olive Garden, Road 24, Gulshan (6/13): Chinese. Bare bones interior but clean. Why go? To laugh at the plastic pandas in the aquarium.

Melange, Gulshan (4/13): Who knows? It’s a melange! Looks like a brothel inside.

Royal Park Hotel, Gulshan (7/13): Sri Lankan. They have a buffet. It’s okay food. Don’t order pizza.

Sky Room, Kemal Ataturk, Banani (3/13): Not sure what the cuisine was… some of the salad was so awful smelling that we worried it might be poison.

Chang Pei, Kemal Ataturk 22, Banani (1/13): Chinese. The place is lit with a weird dim green light. The ladies’ room is labeled, “SHI…” because someone rubbed off the arms on the “E.”

Maple Leaf at Sweet Dreams Hotel, Kemal Ataturk 60, Banani (2/13): Whatever-you-like cuisine. This is located in a 24-hour hotel with only men waiting on the leather couches… it took 90 minutes for our pineapple juice to arrive, the glasses covered in plastic wrap. The glasses still had the tidal marks of juice up the sides of the glass from the rickshaw ride (I’m fairly sure that there was no cook or kitchen at the “restaurant.”)

The title of this blog post is a tribute to the Washingtonian’s annual roundup. As they say here, “shesh”… done. I am done. From now on, I’ll only eat at the places I like. Reshmi chicken…

Reshmi chicken from BBQ Tonite in Dhanmondi.
Reshmi chicken from BBQ Tonite in Dhanmondi.

Happy, Healthy, and Educated Slum Kids – ABC Charity School

A brilliant smile of health.
A brilliant smile of health.

A toothbrush is a small sign of hope. But, at the Eglal’s ABC Charity School in Dhaka, the fact that the kids brush their teeth every day, get fed every day, and get an education every day — is a tiny sign of hope. The children at the ABC school all live in the slums of Dhaka. These children are lucky that they, once they get admitted to kindergarten, will receive a bilingual education, free health care, free lunch, daily showers, uniforms, toothbrushes, and mentoring through high school and, hopefully, beyond.

It only costs $250 to sponsor one kid for one year, and all the money goes to the school. The volunteer board, the volunteer teachers, and so on, do not take any of the money. There are a few staff who do get paid, but mostly the donations go directly to the education and welfare of the kids. While there are a plethora of charities to throw oneself into in Bangladesh. I chose this one. Visiting the school allowed me to see how little money it takes to provide a bit of protein and vegetables for a healthy mind. Food for thought.

Education in Bangla and English from kindergarten!
Education in Bangla and English from kindergarten!

Another thought is how well run this place is without the bureaucracy. When the school and board members realized that some of the children (many who are being raised by one a single parent) had to leave school to go work, the school put into place an incentive which when paid to the family, keeps the kid in school. So basically the kid’s job is to go to school. How nice is that?

The school goes through the eighth grade, after which the children are place in high schools. These graduates come back to teach at the school when they themselves are not in school. One young woman says that her hope is to go on to university after which she wants to return to run the ABC school.

These girls are so eager to learn.
These girls are so eager to learn.

The ABC school was started about ten years ago by a teacher at the American International School Dhaka. She has returned to the U.S. but her students now have “pen pal” skype sessions with the slum kids of the ABC school. How cool is that?

One egg a day. The kids can eat more rice and vegetables but protein is expensive.
One egg a day. The kids can eat more rice and vegetables but protein is expensive.

It is said that they more you give, the more you will receive. I hope that the kids at the ABC school get way more than I have given them.

Parents picking up kids at the ABC school.
Parents picking up kids at the ABC school.

Dancing at the Bangladeshi Wedding Holud

The groom is carried in on friend's shoulders.
The groom is carried in on friends’ shoulders.

At a Bangladeshi wedding holud, or bride or groom’s party, there will be entertainment. Both skits, video skits, and dancing. If you get invited to get dressed up and dance in a wedding holud, say yes! It was great fun. The groom’s holud includes the groom’s party welcoming the bride’s party with flower petals and party favors and appetizers. Next time, I’ll talk about typical food at holuds.

Purple and orange are popular colors and match the petals to be strewn on arriving guests.
Purple and orange are popular colors and match the petals to be strewn on arriving guests.