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.

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