18 Sept 2010
Today was a rest day before work commences tomorrow. Firstly, thank you Raj (one of my fellow SMECiens) for looking after me so well today, bartering for me and making sure I didn’t get into too much trouble.
OK today was a chance to see the local shops and also see some new territory. I am also finding photography challenging here as it attracts crowds of people hoping to get into the pictures. Interestingly, it’s the men who love to see themselves – the women are quite shy.
OK a little background on what it is like here. The city of Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world. There is a staggering 46,000 people per square kilometre. Wow. The location of Old Dhaka is where this is most obvious. Many of the streets here are so narrow that cars can not make their way down them. All the shops seem to be centralised into their restrictive trades. Reminds me of the old economics question about where is the best please to sell ice-cream on a beach? Driving past the public hospital is an eye opener – The building appears half built and certainly looks a place you would not want to visit. The Private hospital on the other side of the road looks more like it was transported from another country. turn their faces away. Therefore many of my photos are being snapped from the car as we carve our way through the traffic.
I think the hardest thing here for me to personally accept is the street beggars that approach your car, knock on the window and plead for your assistance. There are also streets of blue tarps where families squat on the side of the street. Strangely, the last time I saw anything like this was Hawaii where people lived in their cars in small areas of the city. Additionally, in Australia so much of our poverty is hidden in the aboriginal communities where white Australia is rarely welcomed. The optimist in me hopes that this all changes one day.
Another sight which strikes a lasting memory is the sheer number of half finished hi-rise buildings and also the quantity of overhead cables in the streets. Many of these cables have come loose and hang dangerously a few feet about the ground. If a cable is too long – it is simply coiled up & cabled tied to the existing wires.
Train surfing is also popular here. It’s not a sport, but a way to get on a train when they are so full of commuters – I hate to think how many people are injured in this activity as they duck under obstacles and in some cases overhead cables as the trains make they way on their journey. Also as space is scarce, people use the railway lines as commute routes, stepping aside to let the trains through & then go back to walking on the tracks.
Also today I went shopping in one of the large malls here – the number of shops was mind numbing. I purchased a local dress – I believe it’s called a 3 piece as it comes with pants, top & a wrap. I solved a mystery that has bugged me for years back in Australia. Why can’t you buy whitegoods in any colours other than white or stainless steel? It is because they sell the coloured ones here! Ok a little exaggeration!. The colours of the white goods here are anything by white with all colours of the rainbow represented. It was also amazing to see what gets transported here by bike.
In the afternoon I walked a short distance into the suburbs from a western style steak house we had had lunch at. For 700-800 Taka the steak was excellent and this was accompanied with chips salad & king prawns. You could buy Australian (2300 Taka) or American steak (2400 Taka) here as well – would never have guess US beef was more expensive than Australian! Oh 65 Taka to 1 Australian dollar at the moment.