Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Lalbagh Fort in Old Dhaka

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Old Dhaka was to visit Lalbagh Fort as when I had been previously on Fridays, it had been closed. Construction of the fort began in 1677 but it was never finished. However, three structures were finished in 1684 - the Hall of the Audience, the Quilla Mosque and the Mausoleum with the latter shown in the photo below.
It was set amid well-maintained gardens and from up on top one of the surrounding walls there was a good view over the shops and street that adjoined it. While close to the mosque, local boys were using the space to play an impromptu game of cricket. But these ones peered at us through the fence and were quite happy to have their photo taken.

As the day was still quite hot, the shady alcoves at the bottom of the wall provided an ideal seat. It was also a place where couples could meet and spend time together.

Then of course, we attracted attention all along the way. This brave person even asked to have his photo taken with some of our group!!

The river is a harbour

While in Old Dhaka last weekend, we went down to the river's edge to check out the action. The river area is actually Dhaka's port - bundles of bananas were being carried on heads from the wooden boat at the river's edge, along planks and up the slope to the nearby warehouse. Here they were being piled into baskets before heading off to their sale destination. A warehouse (well open shed with 3 walls and a roof) opposite was the pineapple distribution centre.
The man below carries live chickens on his head. Since I first saw one wandering around Gulshan where I live, I have wanted a photo. While near the river, as I am about to round a corner I almost get run over by a man and his chicken hat!
There are boats everywhere on the river, from small wooden boats like these are the river-crossing taxi service where many in checked lungyis sit waiting for customers, some under umbrellas. Dredges lumber along the middle of the river while the large passenger ferries float side by side waiting for there passengers to board. Hustle and bustle is everywhere - boats, people, rickshaws and CNGs.
As is the usual situation in Bangladesh, people like having their photos taken and readily pose for the camera such as this young man.
Alice and Zac got brave and took one of the small wooden boats out onto the river for a 20 minute cruise around, doding the naked boys swimming, the small boats criss-crossing the river, the slow-moving dredges and the general flotsam and jetsam that dots the river. AND they arrived back safely . . . ..

Friday, 23 October 2009

Golf in Dhaka

This morning was another great Dhaka adventure when I went and played 9 holes of golf with some of my work colleagues. My first serious hit after 6 years I think. At least I didn't make a complete fool of myself and managed to hit some good shots. But it certainly is different -:
- you have a caddy to carry your clubs (and tell you what to do) plus hand you your clubs
- then theoretically you have a ball marker each, who watches where you ball goes and shows you, plus if it goes off into the trees they put it back onto the edge of the fairway
- so there is you plus you 2 accomplices which turns a group of 4 players into 12. But due to it being a super busy morning there was a shortage of caddies and some ball markers got promoted.
- the only woman there were myself and my 2 colleagues I played with. Somehow I cannot picture Bangladeshi woman (in their sari or salwar kameez) playing golf, but at least they have womens tees!
- played at the army course, a 9 hole course close to the airport so had the taking off planes directly overhead plus the rail line and road meant trains and cars also provided plenty of noise.
- one hole had a couple of lots of water you had to hit across but I managed to lose only one ball
- there was also quite a few bunkers but I don't think I'd describe the sand in them as light and fluffy
- you line your balls up behind the marker on the first tee when you arrive and that is your hit off order
- it wasn't expensive - 580 taka for 9 holes (A$8) plus 200 Taka for the caddy and a little for the ball marker. You could also hire clubs but I had my own so didn't need to.
- the highlight was holing a long put on the last green for a 4 on a par 3 . . .. .

Monday, 19 October 2009

Dhaka traffic at standstill 7.5 hrs a day!!!

From the Herald Sun in Victoria - here is the link.

Now remind me why I am here????

What do you think???

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Tripping around Dhaka today

Sharing a van with another teacher today, I got to drive around Dhaka today and went to four places that I hadn't been to before.
1. National Museum
With an entry fee of only 5 taka (10c) it was a bargain but I had to hand in my camera before entry. Inside one gallery led to another, each with a theme displaying relevant artifacts and examples. Some had brief labels in English but certainly more details would have been helpful. There was pottery, boats, rocks, birdlife, animals, weapons, pottery . . . . . The place really needs a facelift as many of the displays were dusty and looking very worn. It was worth a visit though but I don't think I will be going back again.

2. Drik Gallery
A gallery in Dhamondi that regularly holds photographic exhibitions. Today there was one with a series of mostly colour photographs of 'Kash-phool'. 'Kash-phool' or 'Kans grass' is native to South Asia and the plant that is used to make the traditional straw brooms. Although there were a few good photographs, I though most of them were fairly ordinary - not good composition wise and too many distracting features or lines in them. Many had sold for around 10 000 Taka, about $150. At least I now know where it is so have no exceuse for not visiting it another time. here is a link to an article about the exhibition: .
Here are two of the photos:

3. Nandos for lunch.
Just like in Australia it features chicken with periperi but as a bonus even had a good bathroom. I had a nice meal of chicken strips with spicy rice plus a nice drink.

4. Sally Anns
This is the Bangladeshi version of the Salvation Army shop. It has lots of handicrafts produced by the less fortunate here and even the girl using the computerised cash register had deformed arms, sort of thalidomide-like arms. Lots of Christmas decorations for sale plus bags, table clothes, baskets but best of all was waffles with fresh cream. Yum.

Now back to reality and work tomorrow.

Hong Kong - Sightseeing

After the workshop finished and before my flight back to Dhaka, I had a good half a day to get out and about and do some sightseeing other than shopping streets and centres.

First stop was the bird market as it was close to the hotel. The bird market was a combination of stalls selling birds, food for birds including insects and bird cages with generally older men bringing their birds in their cages, hanging them in trees and letting the birds sing away. Was there a bird singing competition while the men chatted? I have no idea.

Close to that was the flower market. It was really one lang narrow block where on one side there was lots of plant shops with lots of beautiful plants. Oh, how I wish I could have stuck some of the orchids in my suitcase!! Plus many had pots, vases, seeds and fertiliser. Then on the other side were the cut flower shops, busy unwrapping the bunches when I was there as it was relatively early in the morning.
Then I got the Metro across to Hong Kong Island, as I was staying on Kowloon. After a short walk I caught the tram up to the top of Victoria Peak, or just The Peak, from where there were stunning views across the skyscrapers and harbour. The smog did spoil it a little though. It is a real tourist trap though with high prices for food and souvenirs plus it costs extra to go to the sky terrace! Instead a short walk outside takes you to places that give just as good of view. It cost HK$33 for the return tram trip, 6-7 Australian dollars. Here are some of the views of the tall, tall buildings.

Finally, after another walk I caught the Star Ferry back across the harbour. It was a short trip but very peaceful and relaxing. Nice views of both Honk Kong Island and Kowloon from the ferry.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Hong Kong . . . belatedly

Even thought I have been back from Hong Kong for 10 days, it has taken me this long to get Cambodia finished on my blog and to have the time to do a couple of entries about Hong Kong.

First thing, I do not like the Dragon Air flight - leaving at 3 am and arriving at 7.30 am. Little sleep, if any so that is not a good start. Fortunately, when I arrived at the hotel - the very flash Royal Plaza, they had a room free so I managed to get a couple of hours sleep.

Then went shopping. Managed to get myself to lots of them as I sought out book shops, Marks & Spencers and even found a Spotlight store. It was easy to get around though on the Metro, especially since the hotel was directly above a station. My best shopping effort was getting half a dozen novels on my "must read" list. This included Kabul Beaty School, Love Marriage, Breath and The Angel's Game. Below is the ornate decorations of one shopping centre.

In addition to the shopping centres, I managed to find the nearby electronics street that is full of shops selling digital cameras, laptops, phones and everything else electronic. Lucky in some ways that I only had a limited budget. Parallel to electronic street was the Ladies Market with its clothes, jewelry, leather, bag and bits and pieces stalls. My big spend up there was a "rolly" suitcase.
Of course, as soon as it is dark, the streets light up with a myriad of neon signs as shown below.

Even though the Metro was my main form of transport (we actually got free bus transport to the workshop), the presence of double decker buses didn't really come as a surprise but the presence of a double decker tram like the one below did.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Other "Temples" around Siem Reap

Although the temples around Siem Reap that were the highlights for me I covered in previous blog entries, there are still many more.

One of the best was Kbal Spean. Not only did it involve 90 minutes of peaceful travel in a tuktuk through rural Cambodia, this was then followed by a 1.5 kilometre walk through the jungle. The destination is very different- carved figures in rocks beside a stream and above a small waterfall. Some looked like bells, other were people (or gods) plus there were lingas carved into rocks in the base of the stream. These resembled a checkerboard of round circles on top of the rocks, often hard to see because of a covering of mud. Many locals come here for picnics and to splash in the stream, while a couple of saffron-clad monks were also there when I was. Here are some photos.

This is Sras Srang, what today looks like a large lake but was actually once the Royal Baths. Its shores make a popular place on the weekends. Here I met the girl below in the pink, who talked to me - well actually tried to get me to buy something from her - while playing on the boat. She eventually left to head off for English lessons.

Bakong Temple shown below is part of the Rolous group. These structures were built prior to those closer to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. It is believed to be the first temple with the pyramidal structure. It looks better in black and white than in colour.

The feet of a statue in front of Chou Say Thevoda, a small structure that was under heavy renovation when I visited.

Also part of the Roluos group is Neak Pean, another very different structure. Resembling a Buddhist stupa, the temple is surrounded by pools with stone stairs leading down to its shore. The photo below shows the detail of a statue depicting a horse rescuing drowning sailors.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Stepping into another world: Preah Khan

As far as the temple experience went while in Angkor, Preah Khan was the best. It was my last day around the temples and after going to sunrise at Angkor Wat (a dismal failure) I went straight to Preah Khan, arriving about 7 am. The amazing part was that I spent 30 or more minutes wandering around the ruins: under arches, along dead-end corridors, looking through windows and endless doorways and being amazed at some of the spectacular carvings; all alone. There was not another person in the complex, not even the workers had arrived at that stage.

The ruins were splattered with blotches of white, light green and pink courtesy of the lichen growing on them while is dark corners there was patches of bright green - moss this time. Even other tourists arrived as I started to head back out. It was breakfast time!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Closely followed by . . . . . . Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom is an even more vast complex than Ta Prohm. It consists of a number of temples and terraces and even pools for the residents to bathe in hundreds of years ago. In between the souvenir stands and the hawkers trying to sell you silk scarves and bamboo flutes, the carvings on the structures are stunning and very ornate. The centrepiece in Bayon Temple, which is featured later.

The first three photos are off the Terrace of the Leper Kings, probably more aptly called a wall. But not just any wall, rather one that is covered in carved figures and carved faces. The next two photos are two of my favourites from the whole trip.

Bayon Temple could be better titled the "Temple of Heads". Once you head up the steps towards the centre and higher up part of the temple, there are faces looking at you from all directions - not the moving faces of the fellow tourists but rather the 173 that adorn the stone towers. Looking down, they face the four cardinal points. It is a bizarre, yet completely fascinating place. I went there twice and could still have gone back again. Se some of the faces and heads below -:


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