Dhaka City, capital of Bangladesh
There is no place like Dhaka City. There is no city where the rich and poor living so near to each other and where the differences between the "haves" and the " not haves" become so clear.
There is no place I have seen which is so chaotic that even the police doesn't care about the traffic mess.
Dhaka City has a long and turbulent history. It has grown to the 9th largest city in the world with over 13 million official residents (only God knows how many more live there).
After arrival I found a small and cheap hotel. The first thing I wanted was to breath!
The Lalbagh Fort was the place to be. Located next to the river, this is an oasis of peace and quietness. Until the street vendors found me! Here's more about the Lalbagh Fort, a must visit in Dhaka
The next day I took a rickshaw. These guys do really hard work for very little money. I went back to the river and took a little boat on the heavy polluted water. There is a lot of activity on the water and it has been like that for centuries.
The old town is certainly very attractive, if you can handle the smells and the enormous amount of people. However, Dhaka has a very new and modern area too where you can get almost anything. This part of Dhaka was also the only part in Bangladesh were I found other foreigners, mostly people working in Dhaka City for either humanitarian organizations or international businesses.
The country has suffered heavily over the centuries. For that and many other reasons there is a Dhaka Martyr Monument, for all those who suffered in one way or another. It is another very quiet and peaceful place.
You won't have to starve too. Plenty of cheap hawker food is available, local Bangla, Indian,. Chinese and Western food can be found in the numerous restaurants. But, there's NO need to eat western, local food is great.
Amongst things to see are the earlier named Lalbagh Fort, Sonargaon, the old town With a trip on the river, the National Museum (a must visit), zoo and botanical gardens. The New Market on Mirpur Road in Dhanmondi, just west of Dhaka University is an interesting place to visit. Almost anything is here for sale. If you intend to buy, check some different stalls, to get an idea of the price and bargain then down.
Where to Stay
Dhaka has a wide array of hotels and guesthouse. In every price class you will find a hotel all over the city. The cheapest places are to be found in and around Old Dhaka.
Getting there and away
There are three main railway station in Dhaka, and numerous bus stations. There are also almost everywhere bus and train ticket sellers, should you want to leave, use them to collect your ticket. It is by far the easiest way.
For the eastern part of Bangladesh, use: Sayedabad bus station, the western part of the country is mostly served from Gabtali bus station. These bus stations are almost a city within a city and it can be difficult to find out where you have to be.
Bangladesh Railway also runs a regular train service between Dhaka and Calcutta (Kolkata). Dhaka has domestic air links to Chittagong, Sylhet, Cox Bazar, Jessore, Barisal, Saidpur and international air links to major cities around the world.
And yes, you can cycle in and outside the city. Be prepared for some serious adventures in the cacophony which is called Dhaka City.
Use the cycle or motor rickshaws. It seems there are more rickshaws in the city then people (well, I know I am exaggerating but there is no place with so many of them). They're cheap, they know everything and can go anywhere. There are plenty of buses too, but they can get messed up in traffic jams.
Other places I visited in Bangladesh:
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Sonargaon - Panam Nagar
Only 29 km away and a great day out of the turbulent city, Sonargaon has a lot of archeological values but it's also a good way to meet some amazingly nice locals.
The centuries old Lalbagh Fort is a must see in Dhaka. It's an oasis of peace inside the hectic city. The buildings are beautiful preserved and worth an afternoon visit.