The afternoon began with. A international government agency staff member, who will remain nameless, and I were dropped off near downtown Dhaka, which is a story in of itself. Head on over to GoBackpacking.com
to read my article on insane Dhaka traffic. Our plan – to stay overnight in a hotel, began after settling into our hotel rooms in the well known Hotel Al-Razzaque. It really troubles me trying to understand why this hotel is well known since it offers very little to remember.
View from the hotel’s rooftop
Together my friend and I uncharacteristically sipped half the bottle of Smirnoff in anticipation of our upcoming aimless walking around downtown. Even just to walk, being under the influence is risky for all the obstacles we would dodge along the way. Now when you combine drinking and old dhaka the mind becomes a video game, like Super Mario if you will.
In a giddy mood we stumbled along the streets, taking in the Old Dhaka atmosphere. The people around us continued with their day. Bengali’s manned their shops, whether an actual storefront or out in front of another store.If you walked down one alley you could find religious ornaments, or fabric along another. But outside the shops mobile vendors sold everything from the catch of the day to the latest counterfeit DVD’s.
We made frequent stops to inquire about the food items being sold on the street. At one point my friend’s eye caught a peek at black industrial rubber bands sold by a street vendor. This is how fashion is made so for pennies he bought a handful to wear as bracelets. We attracted a small crowd and I enthusiastically snapped “PR” photos. If you ask me, the photo below belongs on the brochure of the big government agency in Bangladesh. I kid.
A Government Agency Staff Member interacting with the locals.
We returned to the hotel for a Smirnoff refill. We left the empty bottle in the room for a last hurrah around Old Dhaka before it became to dark to find out way back. Along the way we filled up on betel nut and strange white paste to serve as the alkaline.
Areca nuts are chewed with betel leaf for their effects as a mild stimulant, causing a mild hot sensation in the body and slightly heightened alertness, although the effects vary from person to person. The effect of chewing betel and the nut is relatively mild and could be compared to drinking a cup of coffee
Now slightly stimulated we continued on unlike this street who would clearly rather be home in his bed. I think Ramadan fasting got the better of his that day.
From all sides of us we could hear the call to prayer coming from mosques all around us while the sun set. People rushed home, often stuck in traffic, to arrive as soon as possible to break the Ramadan fast. Now I remember but just a block away I found one of many free bathrooms available. A security guard pointed to wall, and that’s where I went.
We also turned back towards the hotel for our own meal at the hotel restaurant. Along the way we stopped to watch a salesmen announce the health benefits of leaches. See the red buckets below for more details!
It wasn’t long before we became lost in an indoor market. As the only foreigners out that night we were pretty special. The photo below is one of those really corny snapshots you would find on an NGO’s website showing them saving the world. Except these guys were saving us, pointing us in the direction back to the main street.
We knew we were back on the right street when we passed this group playing backgammon, or something like that.
Still, we had now idea how much further it was so we picked up some sort of spicy fried meat that looked like a genius idea at the time. Then a rickshaw to take us back in the pitch black, unlit Old Dhaka streets to our hotel’s restaurant. Outside the hotel the dark street remained busy, as it was the height of Iftar – breaking of the past.
We slowly found an empty table at the hotel restaurant for some eating with our hands dinner of biryani.
At just under 10PM I hiked up 5 flights of stairs pasta half a dozen men praying on a rug outside my door and collapsed onto my bed. I woke up full of regret at just 3AM next to an empty bottle, plagued with a sharp headache and slight fever. I vomited out my guts and constantly released erupting liquid from a second opening of my body. Was it the Smirnoff? Street food? Biryani? Juice? Dirty plate?
I like old dhaka city.
Yep, very few places like it I think.
Ruhid Hasan says
I live in Old Dhaka
Thanx for Pictures i need those
Damn, you guys were roughing it in the old city. Whoever said hotel Al-Razzaq was ‘special’ was taking you for a ride (never heard of the place and I’ve lived in Dhaka all my life). In Dhaka there are either 5 star hotels such as Westin, Radisson, etc.,…or some middle tier ones such as Hotel Purbani in the commercial district of Dhaka. It’s never a good idea to walk around after a night of hitting the bottle, but areas like Gulshan, Banani or Baridhara are much more upscale and trendy neighborhoods to be in.
I meant there’s upscale 5 star places and lot’s of really crappy hotel choices that should never be open to the public. Then there are a handful of middle tier places to choose from.