10. Haggling with street vendors in Dhaka
People selling different kinds of goods in the streets are not new to me. We also have those in my country, but I think how they roll in Bangladesh is a lot more interesting. We saw a man selling books on the streets. He was carrying a stack of assorted volumes on his shoulders. We stopped and tried to haggle with him for a copy of Dan Brown’s latest novel Inferno. We did not agree on the price so we decided to drive on. After about a mile, we saw the street vendor running after us (we only realized it really after a mile, poor vendor). We stopped the car and tried to haggle with him again. He really does not want to give the book on our price so we decided to leave. He tried to run after the car again. Well, to cut the story short, we eventually got the book for five hundred Takas after he ran five miles just to chase us; five unsuccessful haggling sessions; and five close call accidents.
9. Lunches and Suppers with our host families
Bangladeshi people love eating. So do I. Home cooked traditional food of about five to seven viands shared together in a long table sound like a feast, yeah? Other than eating our meals with our bare hands, the custom of serving the guests by literally pouring some food into our plate made the experience extraordinary; not to mention the laughter in between bites and the stories shared whilst enjoying the sumptuous meal. It is a truly a unique dining experience that exemplifies a traditional feast bound by culture, tradition, and most especially, family and love. By the way, Bangladeshis have a different meal time schedule. Their breakfast is usually served by 11am, lunch at about 2:30pm and dinner at around 10pm.
8. The Road trip in the Countryside
To really explore a country, you should get out of the main cities and go to the outskirts. Far from the noise and hustle of the metro, the countryside of Bangladesh seems like a different world. Vast green fields and mountain shadows paired with the scent of earth and fresh air give a perfect ambiance to forget everything about the city. The dirt roads on the sides and some muddy puddles; as well as the old railroad which lays there for centuries makes up a scenario that you only see on movies.
7. The House Parties and Dancing
It is not just eating they love; also music and dancing. Musical nights and house parties filled with lively music and heaps of dancing is not just once in a blue moon. They pretty much do it quite frequently. Their dancing standard is not high too. As long as you can move a part of your body with the beat (actually, even not with the beat), it is considered dancing. The most important thing is that you are having fun, good fun! Music is a huge part in their culture and tradition. As a matter of fact, musical nights called “Holud” which involve lots of performances like singing, and dancing; and a house party hosted by the groom are both part of a traditional wedding celebration. I just love the energy on these parties! Everyone just dances the night away!
6. Rush Hour Traffic in Gulshan Road
Who loves traffic? I bet no one really loves being stuck in traffic- most especially in the main roads of Dhaka. During rush hours (usually mid morning and after office hours), the roads of Dhaka become a huge parking lot. Trucks, buses, cars, tricycles, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, and technically anything that moves and has wheels on it squeeze inwards on the ongoing traffic only to be stuck for hours. Sounds not fun at all, yeah? I am sure you are now wondering why I made this one of my favorite experiences. When you are stuck in traffic, it gives you a time to observe your surroundings in a more in depth sense. Best time to people watch as well. Enjoy the sight and sound of the capital city made more interesting by the street vendors of all ages and persistent beggars knocking on your car windows. The heavy traffic in Dhaka contributes on the identity of Bangladesh as a country. Being stuck on it makes you feel you are really there; experiencing everything the country has to offer.
5. After dinner Milk Tea and Desserts
Milk tea is really my thing, same as with desserts and sweets. I seriously love this perfect combination served every after dinner. The smoothness of the milk tea and the sweet treat of the desserts make the chilling moments with friends and families a lot more sweet and warm! I also love the late night chilling moments with our friends as we exchange stories, play games, joke around, or just lazily lay on the couch over a cup of freshly brewed tea leaves and a plate of some local sweets and pastries.
4. Overtaking Elephants on the Road
Yes you read it right; we did overtake an elephant on the road, twice! How random, yeah? My first encounter with the Bangladeshi Dumbo was during our road trip in the countryside. I was so amazed by the experience that I panicked with excitement I forgot I have a camera on my hands. The second encounter was a bit more random. We saw one on the main roads of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh! Imagine a full grown elephant trotting in the main highway side by side with a Mercedes! These random things are something you never really see everyday.
3. The Hookah and Shisha at Regency Hotel
Our last night in Bangladesh was capped with an authentic Hookah and Shisha session at the Hookah and Shisha lounge located inside the Regency Hotel. It was fun blowing out thick flavored smoke from a pipe in between laughter as we share stories with friends. The ambiance is so relaxing and the entire place just shouts “goodtimes”.
2. Strolling the Tea Gardens of Sylhet
A three to four hour drive northeast of Dhaka will bring you to Sylhet- the home of the Saints and Tea Gardens. You will be amazed by the picturesque view of the Surma Valley covered with terraces of tea gardens and lush green tropical forests. Be lost for miles of green carpet of tea garden on the hill slopes as the scent of fresh tea lingers your nose. Take a stroll and walk on the trails and emerge yourself with nature in this beautiful green paradise. Indeed, a visit to the tea plantation in Sylhet is truly a memorable experience. An adventure you would not want to miss when visiting Bangladesh.
1. Attending a traditional Bangladeshi Wedding
This will definitely on the top of my list. Well, obviously not every tourist would have the chance to witness one so I guess we were just pretty damn lucky. We were invited to take part in the wedding of the awesome Ashik Ahmed and his beautiful bride Sara (thanks to my good friends Sadid and Tanya Chowdhury who extended the invitation). It was one of the most memorable experiences as far as my traveling career is concerned. They made us wear their traditional attires and even made us part of the weeklong wedding celebration! We were given the opportunity to join the groom’s entourage and perform at the “Holud” or the musical night where we danced and sang for the guests. We also helped in some preparations of one of the most expensive and grandest weddings I have seen so far. By the way, just for a quick fact, the total number of guests in the weeklong celebration is estimated to reach about 5000. Yes, the wedding is that big! (I am so amazed by the experience that I plan to write an entire separate article just on the wedding experience alone) The total experience is surreal! Very impressive!
I may have stayed in Bangladesh for just over a week but the memories and experiences it brought me will remain for a lifetime. It may not be the most beautiful country on the planet, but It has a unique charm not only through its culture and tradition but most importantly to its amazing, amazing people. Trust me, you should include a visit to Bangladesh in your bucket list. A humble country with a unique appeal that will definitely give you an adventure of a lifetime!