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.

7 Best Restaurants in Dhaka

Vegetarian bulgogi at Dae Jang Geum. It is made from yellow beans.
Vegetarian bulgogi at Goong. It is made from yellow beans.

***Updated October 27, 2013*** I’ve tried over 100 restaurants in Dhaka. These are the seven that I keep returning to. I have now made a map of them so that you can find them. Read my reviews of the others here: roundup part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five. Or, read about where I find the restaurants to try. In very clear order, here are the seven best:

1. The best restaurant — Goong, the Castle, road 50, house 12, Gulshan (look for the wooden gate. Previously called Dae Jang Geum until another restaurant named Dae Jang Geum moved in on the same street. Also, not to be confused with the Dae Jang Geum in the mall downtown). Korean palace food. Best sashimi in the country. If you want raw fish, get it here. Great vegetarian options as well (vegetarian bulgogi called Kong Bulgogi is Chef Kim’s bean product which almost tastes better than meat). If you want to eat at the best restaurant in Bangladesh (even if you don’t like Korean food), then this is the place for you.

2. BBQ Tonite, Dhanmondi: Meat on stick. Delicious outdoor atmosphere and smoky grilled meat. Some of the meat dishes like “reshmi chicken” are incredibly spicy even to a Bangladeshi. The “Kandahari chicken” is not spicy. Great freshly made flat breads of which the “rumali” roti or “handkerchief” bread is my favorite for it’s thin stretchy warmth.

3. Bamboo Shoot, Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan: Chinese. Special Chinese only (written in Chinese) menu on weekends. Take someone Chinese and insist on seeing it. This place also does authentic hotpot (boiling pot of soup in which you must cook your own food) and it may be the only place in the country.

4. Roll Express, Gulshan: Flat bread sandwiches. Dhosa. Fuchka/Phoughka. It’s a popular brunch place although they do not serve American style brunch. This is a good place to take new visitors or newbies to this part of the world. There is a nice courtyard as well. They do have fresh juice and other menu items but I tend to stick to the “reshmi chicken roll,” “paper butter dhosa,” and “fuchka” as these are good introductions to the food of South Asia and Bangladesh.

5. Spaghetti Jazz, Gulshan Circle, Gulshan: Italian. Only some of the food is good but try it out. Very dark interior lit with candles so it could be considered romantic except that you’ll usually run into other people you know there.

6. Spitfire (and Saltz above it is a seafood place), Gulshan Avenue, Gulshan: Continental. Fresh rolls. But service is excruciatingly slow.

7. Istanbul, road 118, Gulshan: Turkish food. Fresh cheese and freshly baked bread. Weekend buffet for 1,000 taka. But apparently dropping in quality.

A large crepe called a dhosa.
A large crepe called a dhosa.

Plus, one coffee shop: Northend Coffee Roasters. This place is better than most coffee shops in the U.S. It is run by an expat couple. For those who like a “do-gooder” feel, this place also does philanthropic/development work in their staff development style, and goods sold (khanta blankets are made of old sharees by women as a form of income). Or just come for the cinnamon rolls and atmosphere.

There are some others that are okay like Diner 360 and Dhaba. Lastly, I have intentionally omitted Le Souffle/Wasabi at the Bellagio because their food is sometimes good and sometimes bad. I cannot recommend a place that is unreliable. Also, the Prego at the Westin Hotel is not good enough for the price.

Again, these recommended places are on my map. Enjoy!

Restaurants in Dhaka – Part Five

80 down… here are 61-80. Read roundup part one, part two, part three, and part four to read about the previous 60 eateries I’ve tried in Dhaka. Other than word of mouth (!), read about where I find the restaurants to try. I also scout for new places when I’m out and about and I welcome recommendations.

The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.
The lunch buffet at Istanbul is only 1000 taka.

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.

Ideas Manzil (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.

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

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

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

Istanbul (12/13): 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.

Topkapi (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 (10/13): 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.

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

Attin (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 (8/13) – 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 (7/13) – Road 11, Banani: Burgers and fries. Okay fries. Burger was okay. Small, take out sort of place with three tables.

Rush Tex Mex (7/13) – 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 (5/13); 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.

Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.
Istanbul restaurant bakes their own bread including this round bread called a simit.

I’m encouraged by the emergence of new places. I’ll blog another time about the best places where I go more than once. Go out and explore!

Deep and Superficial in Cambodia

One of the many visual delights of Angkor Wat.
One of the many visual delights of Angkor Wat.

Cambodia may well be the next Asian tiger with its combination of world heritage sites, tragic history, burgeoning business recovery (everything in dollars and riel), and hands on service industry. I recommend visiting the killing fields, not so much for the site itself (there are many all over Cambodia) but because the audio tour is well informed and one of the most humane. The narrator makes you aware of the past plus kindly asks you to contemplate humanity and how to be humane to it.

The depressions of the killing the fields with the stupa in the distance.
The depressions of the killing the fields with the stupa in the distance.

Then go to Angkor Wat and think about the wonders of what people can build in the jungle. The place is worth seeing at dawn or sunset. It will be hot at almost anytime you visit. It costs $20 to get in and that’s not bad for a world heritage site.

Stir fried instant noodles for $1. These stalls move all over town. A meal for a buck!
Stir fried instant noodles for $1. These stalls move all over town. A meal for a buck!

The town of Siem Reap (Siam Conquered) is very touristy but if that’s what you want, then go for it! There are still enjoyable things to be had. The dollar massages are still done well, the fruit with chili salt is still refreshing, noodles for a dollar (seems like it all costs a buck) are still greasy and yummy, the shopping still good (though not as cheap as to be dirt cheap). Surprisingly the prices are not as low as you might expect. A pair of “hammer pants” or ali baba pants cost $7! (I bargained down to $4). It is not expensive but not the prices expected. Everything is quoted in U.S. dollars but the locals can give you change in both dollars and riel, or a combination of both.

The night market in Siem Reap. Very geared for tourists.
The night market in Siem Reap. Very geared for tourists.

The Khmer people are graceful, sweet, and affectionate. Visit Cambodia for the people.

This little girl hacked away happily at this coconut with her machete.
This little girl hacked away happily at this coconut with her machete.

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.

Bangladeshi Wedding Holud Food

Sweet fried dough - jalalopies.
Sweet fried dough – jalalopies.

The snacks and meal at a Bangladeshi wedding “holud” involve some standby favorites like “phoughka” which are fried dough balls filled with chickpeas, vegetables, and spices. When the same ingredients are chopped and served as a “mix” it is called “chop-puhti” which alliterates.  Bangladeshi samosas are called “sringhara” and they are often served as well.  Bangladeshis have a serious sweet tooth so jalalopies (fried sweet dough much like funnel cake) are another popular staple at weddings. The holud will have a start time of 7 p.m. but will not start until after eight (this is Bangladesh after all) and often closer to nine.

Chopped appetizer.
Chopped appetizer.

Somewhere near 10:30 p.m., the food will get served. Dinner is usually biryani with chicken, beef curry, vegetables, chapati, raw cut vegetables, and a sweet rice dessert.

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.

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.

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.

A Monsoon Wedding in Bangladesh

A happy Bangladeshi bridal couple.

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.

Groom poses for photos as he cuts the roast.

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.

Children are welcome at weddings even late at night.
The bargaining begins…

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.

The groom takes his bride and she acts demur.