Saturday, 30 August 2008

Out and about in Gulshan

Gulshan is the Dhaka suburb in which I live and Saturday is the day to get out and do things as on Friday most businesses are closed (like Sunday in the west). The main christian church services are also on Friday as people have to work on Sunday. One of the most memorable sights this morning was following a man in shirt and longi/sarong with a large basket balanced on his head. Inside the basket were about 12 fully grown chooks (chickens), their legs tied together in the centre with their beaks and red combs dangling over the edge. He was yelling in Bangla as he walked slowly along, no doubt trying to get people to come out and buy them and have fresh chicken for dinner tonight. I didn't have my camera with me unfortunately but I did earlier in the day.

First I went to the Swedish tailors shop, that had been recommended to me by another teacher where I am getting a skirt copied, one in navy and one in a grey-green linen. Total cost for fabric and making is about $30. Here is the shop.
Then I went next door to the china shop. There are lots of these around that sell full dinner sets or just individual plates or bowls. I think they sell left overs or seconds from orders they make for the big name shops in the UK, US or Europe. Any I got 2 Asian-style bowls for 200 Taka or less than $3 in total. Here is the shop.I always take a stroll through the vegetable market where they always try to sell me vegetables. I did buy some - lettuce, spring onions, eggplant, cucumber, capsicum plus the stall holder through in a handful of green chillis. They also have onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and strange looking cauliflowers plus lots of other green vegetables, many of which are types of gourds/marrows. I think I need some kind of vegetable guide to work out what they are and how to cook them. The people are friendly and not really pushy. They ask you once, and point out the vegetables you might want and if you say no and keep walking they hassle you no more. It is crowded but I don't feel intimidated or unsafe, even though I had my camera out hen I was there. Of course you always get accosted by young children or women beggars. Commonly too there are men begging that have limbs missing. I just have to be hard and ignore it as once you give to one the rest will swarm around as well as remembering for next time you are there.
As part of the market there are also fruit stalls. Pineapples cost about 25 Taka (30 cents) each, while mangoes are about 50 Taka (80 c) per kg.
There are also many stalls that sell fabric, there is pile after pile of brightly coloured fabrics - some plain, some striped and some in floral designs.
You can buy the fabric then either go to the tailor sitting at the front of the stall to get the garment made,take it to the row of tailors sitting nearbyor you can take it to a tailor elsewhere. All the tailors use treadle sewing machines. I have not seen one electric one. Mind you it makes sense with electricity so unreliable. In my apartment, every day I usually have no electricity for one hour in the afternoon and then for one hour at night (usually 8 - 9 pm). The latter is not an ideal time as it means no TV, no internet, no reading and no lighting in the lounge room. So now I've got into the habit of watching a DVD on my laptop during that time. So far have watched The Queen, the new Indian Jones movie and the Valley of Elah.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Inside my apartment

As promised, here are some pictures of the inside of my apartment!

This is the living/dining room that you walk into when you come through the front door. The big windows (with the uninspiring blue curtains) and the balcony outside have views across the lake. It is a huge room!

This is the lounge room that has a TV in the corner but you can't see it in the photo. I also moved my desk in here, as it along with the bedroom are the only 2 rooms with air conditioners.

This is the main bedroom, my room. Note the mosquito net over the bed. It also has a/c.

The view from my bedroom window, out across the lake and to the buildings and trees on the other side.

As with the other two bedrooms (just storage rooms for me as no beds) there is an en-suite bathroom. I got rid of the stained cream shower curtain and put the floral one in instead, but it did take a bit of finding.

This is the kitchen, compact but still larger than the one I had in Morocco with much more cupboard space. Not the bottled water - this has to be used for drinking, ice cubes, cooking vegetables, pasta etc. in and only costs about 50c for 20 litres. I also use it to clean my teeth. The problem with the water here is not so much that it might not be treated properly and full of bugs but rather high arsenic levels!

Australian Club

Last night I went to the monthly Aussie BBQ at the Australia Club. It is on the last Thursday of every month and a whole group from work went. Some go for the happy hour, others for Australian wines (the Penfold's red was nice), while others go for the food. Arriving at the entrance, as we got out of the van the smell of the meat on the barbeque met us. There was barbequed drumsticks, steak and onion, sausages and hamburgers. Plus there was lasagna, stir-fried prawns and vegetables, scalloped potatoes, green salad and probably more. It was nice food I thought although general opinion varies depending on who you ask! I left before dessert, which sometimes includes pavlova.

The Australia Club is typical of all the expat clubs here - a tennis court, pool, gym and semi-outdoor bar/restaurant area. It is also one of the cheaper ones to join and relative easy if you are Australian but the problem is that Saturdays are reserved for Australian High Commission staff and families only. Plus I am told that the Australian High Commission staff are rather stuffy and stuck up, not at all friendly. (I hope none of them read this or any readers know anyone that works there!) Anyway I am not in a hurry to join any club but it is one I would consider. I am also sure I will go back to the BBQ again.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Around my apartment

I haven't taken any photos inside my apartment yet. That is for later in the week after I pick up a few things I am getting framed. Meanwhile here is the exterior and surroundings to give some perspective.

First, here is the outside of the apartment block, if you can manage to see anything behind the mass of wiring (that is the norm here).
This is the street outside the apartment block on a Friday, by far the quietest day here. The scratches on the side of the bus are typical and not surprising as the traffic is crazy. I sometimes wonder as we drive home from school, how the drivers manage to get us home without running into anyone or anything! Then there are the rickshaws - they are everywhere.

This is the view across the lake from the rooftop of the apartment block. The warm, humid climate means trees grow well if they have the space. Apartment blocks are everywhere including many still under construction.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Australia shop

Last week a couple of other teachers took me to the Australia shop when they had the van one evening. It would probably take about 20 minutes to walk there but almost takes as long in the van in the evening as the traffic is so bad. It is a very small shop that obviously has Australian-produced goods, some of which can't be bought elsewhere. This includes ginger-nut biscuits, Fab washing powder, dried fruit mix and some fruit juices. They, like all the other shops here do not use plastic bags but instead thin fabric bags made from I'm not sure what. Here it is:Afterwards we met up with a couple of other teachers at the American Club, as they were members and could sign us in. Apparently it is the "flashest" of the expat clubs here. A couple of tennis courts with lights, a gym, a swimming pool, a large grass area and a 3 storey restaurant/bar. Lots of trees - a real oasis in the mayhem and madness of Dhaka. The tooting horns, the continual stream of rickshaws, the sudden braking while in traffic and the noise. I had stir fry special plus lemon chiffon pie plus a lime and soda and it cost me US$5.90. You don't pay cash though, instead have to buy chits/tickets, which of course you don't spend totally. So that means you have to come back again.

PS - On the Australia theme, I do get to watch the AFL football here. Last night I watched the bulldogs beat the bombers, while last Friday I did get to watch Collingwood. Although I missed one quarter as the electricity had its regular outage. Rarely does a day go by when the electricity is not off for one or two one hour sessions!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Out and about in Dhaka

Here a few other photographs I took while out and about in Dhaka today.

A quiet Friday street. During the rest of the week it would be packed.

Building construction

Are there enough wires?

A pineapple seller

The railway track becomes a footpath.

Water and apartment blocks - this is Dhaka!
Please note that some of these photos were taken through the bus window so may lack clarity.

Dhaka shopping mall

Today I have been with a group of teachers to Dhaka's one real shopping mall - Bashindara Shopping Centre Mall. We went because there was a tourism expo on there, so I managed to collect lots of brochures about different trips that different companies do both within Bangladesh, and from Bangladesh to places such as Nepal, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India. I didn't know there was a lot of beautiful archeological sites in Bangladesh: old palaces, forts, temples and ruins. I did not about the mangrove area of the Sundarbans and the beach at Cox's Bazar. What else I noticed is that you can do trips to Bhutan for 26800 taka ot about $400 for 6 nights/7 days. Something to think about. . . . . . . Here is a photo of the entrance to the tourism expo.As for the shopping centre. It was 7 floors around a circular atrium with lots of glass. Apparently built and owned by the same guy that did the school and the Apollo hospital. On the top floor is a food court with lots of shops with strange names. I knew I should have written some of them down. But apparently Jingle Bell that was next to Taco Bell has closed down. Here is the food court. (And the whole shopping centre was air-conditioned!)

The other 6 floors consisted of lots of shops that tended to be grouped together. The bottom 2 floors were electronics including phones and electrical equipment. The 5th floor had spectacle shops and pirated DVD and music CD shops (the DVDs were 70 taka each, about $1). The third and fourth floors had lots of sari shops and salwar kameez shops - not womens clothes chops as wee no them plus lots of children's clothes shops. They also many shops that sold fabrics with a few scattered tailors. The men's clothes shops were located on the lower levels. Here you can see the different levels.

This is the skylight above the central atrium.
Here is a view of Dhaka from a 6th floor balcony.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

More shopping

Groceries and supermarket shopping is a bit boring, so here are a few of my other purchases. Not that there is many. I bought a bunch of orchids to decorate my dining table, but with no vase I had to use a glass.

Last weekend when some of us new teachers went to Newmarket, I bought some cotton fabric that is meant to be used for a Salwar Kameez, one piece for the loose pants, a contrasting piece for the long tunic top and a small piece for a scarf. I'm not sure that I will use them for that as I have already used the scarf to cover the base of my shelves in the lounge room. I also bought a book from which to learn Bangla, well hopefully . . . . . maybe??? Newmarket is a huge 3 storey complex near the middle of town. it took us about 1 hour to get there on a Friday, which is the quiet day! There are lots of small shops, many of which sell mens clothes - the left overs from the textile manufacturers who make them for the big brand name stores throughout the world. Then there was crockery resulting from a similar situation, lost of plastic and kitchen ware, stationary, books - many of which were in English, lots of fabrics, artificial flowers and lots more. I certainly didn't get to see it all in the 2 hours I was there. But 2 hours was enough in the heat and humidity. I don't think I will rush back there though. (And I got the coasters , one of which is under the flowers, as I needed some desperately.)

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Bangladesh prices

I thought I'd list the prices of a few things to give you an idea of the cost of living. The Bangladesh currency is the Taka, A$1 = 60 Taka or 1 Moroccan dirham = 9 Taka.
A small bottle of diet Pepsi (500 ml) 25 Tk
A small can coke/diet coke 80 Tk (can't get Diet Coke in bottles of any size)
1 litre long life orange juice 130 Tk
1 litre long life milk 170 Tk
Tim Tams (from New Zealand) 80 Tk
Cadbury's chocolate bar 50 Tk
1 capsicum 200 Tk
4 onions 24 Tk
3 mangoes 115 Tk
1 pineapple 25 Tk (these are the prices from the supermarket but fruit and vegetables are cheaper at the market)
Bottle of Thai sweet chilli sauce 165 Tk (I can get it here!!)
3 kg laundry powder 450 Tk
large bottle V05 shampoo 230 Tk
Sunsilk hair conditioner 150 Tk
large can whole peeled tomatoes 190 Tk
medium box tissues 38 Tk
flour 1 kg 45 Tk

So from this you can probably tell I have pretty well stocked up on food. I have even managed to cook twice and make spaghetti bolognaise and stir-fried chicked, vegetable and noodles. I also walked (about 25 mins each way) to the German Butcher, which is really a shop in a house but it is the only place to buy meat here. Both the chicken and the minced beef I have got there have been fine. They also make their own yoghurt there and sell it in plastic containers, which you then take back to be reused. You can also get cheeses there, sausages, salami, bacon, ham, pork and decent brown bread. I will try it for lunch shortly. For an idea of prices, the yoghurt is 50 Tk per container which does me for about 3 meals, mince beef is 220 Tk per 500 grams, casserole beef is 450 Tk per kg and salami is 100 Tk per 100 gram.

I hope you weren't hungary before you started reading this because you probably are now.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


Here is last night's sunset from my balcony. A tough life . . . . . . . .

Monday, 11 August 2008

Whether Weather?

Looking this afternoon on the BBC website at the forecast for Dhaka, it was the same for Monday as Tuesday and for th next 5 days. 32˚C maximum, 28˚C minimum and rain with a little sunshine with 91% humidity. Somehow I don't think I need to check the weather forecasts for a while. Hot and humid it sure is.

What a contrast! Talking to Mum last night in Australia it was also raining there, but cold. Instead I am heading to the coolness produced by the air conditioners, assuming the electricity is working, which it regularly doesn't.

Hmm. . . . . , all this changing temperatures can't be good for my body - 43˚C in Morocco before I left, 12˚ in Australia for a month before striking the heat and humidity here. I'm probably lucky that I have only had one cold in all of this (fingers crossed)!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

First Impressions

Here are some fist impressions of Bangladesh, in particular its capital Dhaka.
* It is hot and humid at 32-33˚C and very reminiscent of Fiji weather in Summer
* There is a lack of electricity so in Summer when air conditioners are being used there are regular blackouts of different areas. Most apartment blocks, including mine, have generators although only the fan and 1 light in the main bedroom run off it.
* There is a large range of foods available in the supermarkets - lots of Australian things such as Milo, Vegemite, Tim Tams, Cherry Ripes and canned spaghetti. However I am still looking for canned whole tomatoes (only found pureed), ground black pepper (I have only found whole black peppercorns but no pepper mill to grind them in), glad wrap, diet coke in anything other than small cans and normal oatmeal (I have only found quick cooking but that is better than nothing)
* Plastic bags are banned here. Shops and supermarkets mostly use string bags like onions and potatoes used to come in in Australia and some have very thin cloth bags. The only plastic bags I've been given are ones with vegetables in the market but in the supermarkets vegetables and fruits are put in paper bags.
* There are lots of traffic jams. Lots of cars and buses (big trucks are banned from the city of Dhaka during the day). There are also lots of rickshaws powered by human pedal-power. At least they are not contributing to an increase in the greenhouse gases. The rickshaws are all ery colourfully decorated. I will have to take some photos to show this.
* There is little smog/pollution in the air contrary to what I expected.
* People are very friendly and most people in the areas I've been speak English.
* Bargaining is a way of life, except in the supermarkets!
* Bangladeshi food is wonderful such as the curries and the small filled pastries called phuska.
* Yummy tropical fruit is presently in season - juicy mangoes, sweet pineapples and lots of bananas.
* Phone calls are cheap - 1 Taka per minute in Bangladesh and 7.5 Taka per minute to Australia. There is about 65 Taka to 1 Australian dollar.
* Beggars, there are lots. When are school bus stops at traffic lights in at a roundabout, they come up and knock on the windows trying to get money. Many have amputated limbs, some mothers and children, some are blind. It is sad but once you give to one then others will appear out of the woodwork so I feel it is better to contribute to a project the school students are involved in.


Welcome to my Bangladesh blog. I have been here now for 5 days and now have the internet on at home so I am making a start on this blog.
To start with, here are some photos of the view from my apartment balcony, that is on the 5th floor.

More to come!

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