Parliament Building in Dhaka
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh.
Dhaka is a thriving, colorful, chokingly polluted and congested metropolis of some 12 million people, and growing steadily. Many people loathe Dhaka at first site - it has to be one of the most frenetic places on Earth. The streets are rivers of chaos filled mostly with very colorful rickshaws - around 400,000 to be exact, the highest number of any city in the world.
According to recorded history it was founded in 1608 A.D. as the seat of the imperial Mughal viceroy of Bengal. Dhaka has been developing fast as a modern city and is the country's center of industrial, commercial, cultural, educational and political activity. The gap between rich and poor is widening throughout the country but it's at its most glaringly obvious here. A 10 minute rickshaw ride can take you from impossibly crowded shantytowns near Old Dhaka to the glitzy high-class neighborhoods of Gulshan and Banani where a meal costs more than most people make in a week.
Motijheel is the main commercial area of the city. Dhaka's main waterfront, Sadarghat, is on the banks of the river Buriganga in Old Dhaka and is crowded with various ferries, yachts, paddle steamers, fishermen's boats and floating dhabas all bustling with activity.
The weather is tropical - hot and very humid during the monsoon season (April-August) and drier and cooler in the winter (October-March). Visitors from colder countries might want to visit in the winter when temperatures are around 20C and humidity is low (around 60-70%).
Visa extensions are available at the Immigration and Passport Office on Agargaon Rd in Central Dhaka. Most drivers know it, an auto-rickshaw from Old Dhaka will run about Tk 50. Su-Th 10AM-1PM receiving applications, 3-5PM delivery.
Zia International Airport (ICAO: DAC) is well served by international flights from most continents.
British Airways has direct flights from London, Thai Airways has direct flights from Bangkok.
Being the capital and geographical center of the country, Dhaka is the natural hub for the countries bus companies. There are several bus stations around Dhaka, and which one you need to be at depends where you want to go, so ask around before heading out to one of them. Most are as chaotic as you would expect them to be.
Sayedabad bus station is useful for buses to the eastern half of the country including Sylhet Division and Chittagong Division.
Gabtali bus station serves most of the western half of the country including Jessore, Rajshahi Division and Khulna Division.
Luxury buses like Green Line, Shyamoli, Silk Line and Shohag serve the major cities and tourist attractions. They all have a few offices around town, the most central being those near the Eastern Hotel on Inner Circular Rd in Central Dhaka, just north of the Motijheel area. Green Line serves Chittagong (Tk 400, 5-6 hours), Cox's Bazar (Tk 630, 8-9 hours), Rajshahi (Tk 350, 4 hours), Sylhet (Tk 400, 5 hours), Khulna (Tk 450, 7 hours) and Jessore (Tk 400, 5-6 hours) in its comfortable Volvo buses. It also has a couple of super luxury Scania buses to Chittagong (Tk 550) and Cox's Bazar (Tk 850) if you feel comfortable floating through such a poor country in high style and have taka to burn. Seats are huge and fully recline.
Direct buses run between Dhaka and Kolkata in India. Inquire at the Shyamoli or Green Line offices.
Most ferries arrive at and leave from Sadarghat in Old Dhaka. This area and the streets surrounding it are unbelievably hectic so allow plenty of time and watch your bags and pockets carefully. If arriving here, fight you way to the left on the frontage road and then make your first right - this turns into Nawabpur Road and leads north to the hotels. Even if you aren't staying in this area, it's easier to walk several hundred meters north to catch an onward rickshaw, the ones near the ghat are at a standstill.
The Rocket Steamer runs to Barisal and Khulna several times per week, departing from Sadarghat around 6pm. To Barisal is Tk 480/300 in first/second class, while all the way to Khulna will run Tk 1010/610 and take 26-30 hours. Tickets should be booked at the BIWTC office in Motijheel just east of Dilkusha Circle I. It's open until 5PM Su-W and until 2PM on Thursdays, closed on Fridays.
Multiple other boats are available for short and long distances - head to Sadarghat or Badam Tole ghat (about 1 km further west) and ask around. Tickets aren't pre-sold, and bargaining is likely necessary.
Given the plethora of all forms of transport, if you're having trouble getting a decent fare with a driver walk a few feet to the next one. Not all are out to gouge you, so better to find the honest ones and give them your business. Occasionally a driver will demand more money on arrival - the best way to deal with this is to hand over the agreed fare/metered fare and walk away. Make certain from the start that the driver knows where you're headed (unless you can direct him yourself) - they often have limited local knowledge, but will always SAY that they know where somewhere is and take you round the whole city searching whilst the meter ticks.
- Cycle-rickshaws are the most popular form of transport, and good for short distances. They make up the bulk of the cities horrendous traffic, and charge around Tk 5 per kilometer. Negotiating a fare beforehand is essential as a foreigner. Cycle-rickshaws in wealthy areas such as Banani and Gulshan often must pay local mafia men for the privilege of servicing the high-price areas. Additionally, foreigners should also be warned that cycle-rickshaws will sometimes begin the ride with a pitch to sell drugs or prostitutes. One or two simple, but firm, declines will generally solve the situation.
- Auto-rickshaws (also known as 'baby taxis') are also abundant and have meters, which drivers can sometimes be persuaded to use. They're the cheapest way to cover longer distances - an 8km ride from Old Dhaka to Gulshan should cost around Tk 60. The meters start at Tk 12, but for shorter distances you'll likely have to negotiate a fare instead.
- Taxis also ply the roads, some yellow and some black, all with meters. Black taxis start the meter at Tk 15 while yellow taxis are a little nicer and start at Tk 20. Black taxis are typically in notoriously poor condition and lack air conditioning. Yellow taxis are required to have air conditioning, but not all do. They are also considered far safer by the local Dhaka elite (when compared to black taxis and auto-rickshaws).
- Buses run routes on the main roads, but are horribly crowded and noisy, signed only in Bengali and aren't likely to be of much use to travelers. Save yourself a headache and take a rickshaw.
There is the stunning Parliament Building, designed by Louis Khan, numerous bookshops, and art galleries around the city, Ramna Park, Lal Bagh Fort and museum, Old Dhaka, the Shahid Minar memorial, the Shattarghat port, Ahsan Manjil, the National Museum, Bangabandhu Memorial, the Mukti Juddha Museum, National Poets' Graveyard, Suhrawardy Uddyaa, National Leader Mausoleum, Banga-Bhaban, Shadhinota Stambha, the Arts & Crafts Institute, Curzon Hall, Old High Court and 1857 Memorial, the National Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, Baldha Garden, Sitara Mosque, Baitul Mukarram Mosque, Hindu and Christian churches and temples, New Market, Boshundhara City Mall, countless other bustling bazaars and shops, and many other places to visit.
Ahsan Manjil, the pink palace, has a 2 taka entrance fee and a small exhibition about the history of the palace and a garden. Star Mosque (Sitara Mosque) is a small mosque dating back three hundred years, inlaid with mosaic and tiles. Shisu Mela is the children playground in Shyamoli.
- Mosques around Dhaka: Dhaka has several hundred mosques. Prominent are Baitull Mukarram-National Mosque, the seven Domed Mosque (17th century), Star Mosque (18th century) , Chawkbazar Mosque and Huseni Dalan Mosque.
- Hindu Temples: Dhakeshwari Temple (11th Century), Ramkrishna Mission.
- Churches: Armenian Church (1781 A.D.) St. Mary's Cathedral at Ramna, Church of Bangladesh or former Holy Rosary Church (1677A.D.) at Tejgaon.
- Buddhist Temples:
- Dhammarajika Bouddha Maha Vihar , Atisa Dipankar Sarak, Kamalapur. Tel:+88 2 841-162. email: [email protected]
- International Buddhist Monastery, Merul Badda, Gulshan. Tel:+88 2 881-2288. email: [email protected]
- The National Memorial: It locates at Savar, 35, km. from Dhaka city. The memorial designed by architect Moinul Hossain is dedicated to the sacred memory of the millions of unknown martyrs of the war of liberation.
- Lalbagh Fort: It was built in 1678 A.D. by Prince Mohammad Azam, son of Mughal emperor Aurangazeb. The fort was the scene of bloody battle during the first war of independence (1857) when 260 sepoys stationed here backed by the people revolted against British forces. Outstanding among the monuments of the Lalbagh are the tomb of Pari Bibi , Lalbagh Mosque, Audience Hall and Hammam of Nawab Shaista Khan now housing a museum.
The capital city Dhaka predominantly was a city of the Mughals. In hundred years of their vigorous rule successive Governors and princely Viceroys who ruled the province, adorned it with many noble monuments in the shape of magnificent places, mosques, tombs, fortifications and 'Katras' often surrounded with beautifully laid out gardens and pavilions. Among these, few have survived the ravages of time, aggressive tropical climate of the land and vandal hands of man.
But the finest specimen of this period is the Aurangabad Fort, commonly known as Lalbagh Fort, which, indeed represents the unfulfilled dream of a Mughal Prince. It occupies the south western part of the old city, overlooking the Buriganga on whose northern bank it stands as a silent sentinel of the old city. Rectangular in plan, it encloses an area of 1082' by 800' and in addition to its graceful lofty gateways on south-east and north-east corners and a subsidiary small unpretentious gateway on north, it also contians within its fortified perimeter a number of splendid monuments, surrounded by attractive garden. These are, a small 3-domed mosque, the mausoleum of Bibi Pari the reputed daughter of Nawab Shaista Khan and the Hammam and Audience Hall of the Governor. The main purpose of this fort, was to provide a defensive enclosure of the palacial edifices of the interior and as such was a type of palace-fortress rather than a seige fort.
- 1857 Memorial: ( Bahadur Shah Park) Built to commemorate the martyrs of the first liberation war (1857-59) against British rule. It was here that the revolting sepoys and their civil compatriots were publicly hanged.
- Bangabandhu Memorial Museum: The residence of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Dhanmondi has been turned into a musuam. It contains rare collection of personal effects and photographs of his lifetime.
- Liberation War Museum: Situated at Segun Bagicha area of the city the museum contains rare photographs of Liberation war and items used by the freedom fighters during the period.
- Ahsan Manzil Museum: On the bank of the river Buriganga in Dhaka the pink majestic Ahsan Manzil has been renovated and turned into a museum recently. It is an example of the nations rich cultural heritage. It was the home of the Nawab of Dhaka and a silent spectator to many events. The renovated Ahsan Manzil is a monument of immense historical beauty. It has 31 rooms with a huge dome atop which can be seen from miles around. It now has 23 galleries displaying portraits, furniture and household articles and utensils used by the Nawab.
- Curzon Hall: Beautiful architectural building named after Lord Curzon. It now houses the Science Faculty of Dhaka University.
- Old High Court Building: Originally built as the residence of the British Governor, it illustrates a happy blend of European and Mughal architecture.
- Dhaka Zoo: Popularly known as Mirpur Zoo. Colorful and attractive collections of different local and foreign species of animals and birds including the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger are available here.
- National Museum: Located at the central point of the city, the museum contains a large number of interesting collections including sculptures and paintings of the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim periods.
- Botanical Garden: Built on an area of 205 acres of land at Mirpur and adjacent to Dhaka Zoo. One can have a look at the zoo and the botanical garden in one trip.
- National Park: Situated at Rejendrapur, 40 km. north of Dhaka city , this is a vast (1,600 acres) national recreational forest with facilities for picnic and rowing etc.
- Central Shahid Minar: Symbol of Bengali nationalism. This monument was built to commemorate the martyrs of the historic Language movement of 1952. Hundreds and thousands of people with floral wreaths and bouquet gather on 21 February every year to pay respect in a solemn atmosphere. Celebrations begin at zero hour of midnight.
- National Poet's Graveyard: Revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam died on the 29 August 1976 and was buried here. The graveyard is adjacent to the Dhaka University Mosque.
- Suhrawardy Uddyan (Garden): A Popular Park. The oath of independence of Bangladesh was taken here and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheik Mujibur Rahman gave clarion call for independence on this occasion on the 7th March 1971. The place is famous for its lush verdure and gentle breezes. Eternal Flame to enliven the memory of the martyrs of our Liberation war has been blown here recently.
- Mausoleum of National Leaders: Located at the southwestern corner of Suhrawardy Uddyan, it is the eternal resting place of great national leaders, Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Haque, Hossain Shahid Suhrawardy and Khaja Nazimuddin.
- Banga Bhaban: The official residence of the President, located in the city. One can have an outside view of this grand palace.
- Baldha Garden: Unique creation of the late Narendra Narayan Roy, the landlord of Baldha. Year of establishment was 1904. Located in Wari area of Dhaka city, the garden with its rich collection of indigenous and exotic plants is one of the most exciting attraction for naturalists and tourists.
- Ramna Green: A vast stretch of green garden surrounded by a serpentine lake near the Sheraton Hotel.
- Parliament House: Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban (Parliament House) located at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar has distinctive architectural features. Designed by the famous architect Louis I. Kahn, it may be called an architectural wonder of this region.
- Science Museum: The museum is a modern learning center related to the latest scientific discoveries. It is situated at Agargaon.
- Institute of Arts and Crafts: Situated in the picturesque surroundings of Shahbagh the Institute of Arts and Crafts has a representative collection of folk-art and paintings by artists of Bangladesh.
- Sonargaon: About 29 km. from Dhaka. Sonargaon is one of the oldest capitals of Bangal. A Folk Arts and Crafts Museum has been established here.
Other attractions in and around Dhaka include the Institute of Arts and Crafts with its representative collection of folk art and paintings, handicraft shops. Aparajeya Bangla monument, picnic spots at Chandra and Salna, industrial estates of Tongi, Narayanganj, Demara, Tejgaon, cruising by country boat in the nearby river or a visit to a village to see jute cultivation, weaving and pottery making. Last but not the least travel by a horse driven cart or rickshaw along busy Dhaka streets is a rewarding experience.
About 27 km. from Dhaka, Sonargaon is one of the oldest capitals of Bengal. It was the seat of Deva Dynasty until the 13th century. From then onward till the advent of the Mughals, Sonargaon was subsidiary capital of the Sultanate of Bengal. Among the ancient monuments still intact are the Tomb of Sultan Ghiasuddin (1399-1409 A. D), the shrines of Panjpirs and Shah Abdul Alia and a beautiful mosque in Goaldi villaae.
- Picnic Spots: There are good picnic spots in the area around Savar and Mirzapur. Other beauty spots connected by road with Dhaka include Joydevpur, Sripur, Madhupur, Rajendrapur National Park, Chandra and Salna, all of which have rest-houses that can be used by tourists on request to the Forest Department.
Bangaldesh Parjatan Corporation owns two picnic spots with Bunglows at Chandra and Salna which can also be hired by tourists.
- Mosque of Baba Adam: Of a slightly later date the elegant 6-domed mosque (43'x36') of Baba Adam in Rampal near Dhaka was erected by one Malik Kafur during the reign of the last llyas Shahi Sultan, Jalauddin Fateh Shah in 1483 A.D. It displays the same characterstic features of the period such as the faceted octagonal turrets at 4 corners, the curved cornice, the facade and 3 mihrabs relieved richly with beautiful terracotta floral and hanging patterns.
- Star Mosque: A very beautiful mosque of the city is situated at Mahuttuly on Abul Khairat Rd; just west of Armanitola Govt. High School. Architecturally faultless (Mughal style) is a five-dome mosque with hundreds of big and small twinkling stars as surface decorations. The stars have been created by setting pieces of chinaware on white cement. Seen from the front and from far it looks as if shining above the surface of the earth. The inside of it is even more beautiful that the outside, lovely mosaic floor and excellent tiles with many floral patterns set on the walls, are all in complete harmony. The sitara Masjid was built originally with three domes in early 18th century by Mirza Ghulam Pir, a highly respectable Zamindar of Dhaka. Frequently used in calendars. Entrance: through a lane named after the mosque
To get a feel for what things should cost in the local markets check prices in the western-style fixed price shops and then deduct 10%.
- Aarong, . A well known chain with several outlets around Dhaka. It is owned by BRAC (a large NGO) and sells handicrafts and clothing at moderately high prices.
- Aranya, 60 Kemal Ataturk, Banani. Another good store with beautiful crafts. .
Dhaka has an enormous variety of food catering to all budgets. Old Dhaka is overflowing with cheap Bangladeshi food where a meal can be had from Tk 50 ($0.70), while in the upscale neighborhoods like Gulshan and Banani you can find just about any type of cuisine you can imagine - Chinese, Indian, Thai, Greek, Mexican, and franchises such as Pizza Hut are abundant - at prices that the majority can't afford. Reservations are usually not required in most restaurants.
Local sweets (misti/mishti) like rasgullah and gulab jamun are excellent. Shops throughout the town (and especially near Gulshan) sell imports from the U.S., Dubai and Malaysia at a premium. Imported chocolate is especially expensive - and usually not in the best condition as it gets melted and resolidified daily in the tropical heat.
Be careful when buying food from street vendors as health and hygiene standards are not always topnotch.
Restaurants are crammed throughout the narrow alleys and along the main streets - duck into one of them and you'll likely not be too disappointed. A full meal will usually run less than a dollar, though fish will push it closer to two.
- Hotel Al-Razzaque, 29/1 North South Rd (Nazira Bazaar), ☎ +880 2 956 1990. On the ground floor of the hotel is a large and popular restaurant, busy anytime of the day with Bangladeshi families and businessmen. Food is pretty darn good, if unpredictable in its timing. Sometimes you'll have a choice of chicken and mutton curries, fish and vegetables, other times it's chicken biryani or the highway. Fish will double the price of your meal at least. It's sandwiched between a clean and well-stocked juice bar and a clean and well-stocked sweet shop. Tk50-150.
- Jharna Grill, In Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, ☎ +880 2 811 1005. The top restaurant in the hotel serves very good seafood. Expect to pay Tk 3,000 for a 3 course meal with drinks. The hotel has other good restaurants too.
These areas are packed with crowded trendy and upscale restaurants, a magnet for the Dhaka elite who like good food or just want to be seen in their shiny Corollas.
- Bamboo Shoot, Gulshan. A Chinese/Thai restaurant that prides itself in offering 'authentic' cuisine, and this is backed up by the number of Chinese expats seen eating there on any given night.
- Dhanshiri, Gulshan 2. Serves excellent Bangladeshi food.
- El Toro, House 1A, Road 138, Gulshan I, ☎ +880 1 861 6343. 11:30AM-10:30PM. A fantastic Mexican restaurant serving burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas and the like. Delicioso! Mains around Tk 100-150.
- A&W Rootbeer, just south of Circle I, Gulshan. Yes, the American chain, and in full swing. A burger, fries and rootbeer float will set you back nearly Tk 300, which seems to be no problem for the well-off young Bangladeshi teens that fill the tables. The pumpin' jukebox filled with Backstreet Boys adds/detracts from the experience.
- Andersen's of Denmark, House 34, Road 136, Gulshan Circle I, ☎ +880 1 881 8553. 11:30AM-midnite, Fridays 2PM-midnite. Excellent ice cream such as mint chocolate chip, oreos & cream and banana fudge, sundaes and milkshakes, cappuccinos, espressos and hot chocolate. Resist the urge to spend the entire day here. Tk 80-260.
There is a party network between the different expat clubs (Dutch Club, Canadian Club, Scandinavian Club, International Club, American Club, etc.) and some Bangladeshi clubs (Heritage, Privilege, etc.). These clubs usually require membership to enter, or befriend a member and have them sign you in.
Alcohol is not easily available except at the international clubs, top hotels and the Duty Free Shop.
Old Dhaka is the best bet for the budget conscious, and if you've arrived or are leaving by the Rocket Steamer, Sadarghat is about a 10-15 minute walk south of most of the hotels down Nawabpur Rd.
- Hotel Al-Razzaque, 29/1 North South Rd (Nazira Bazaar), ☎ +880 2 956 1990. A moderately priced hotel popular with Bangladeshi men, it's got decent clean rooms with attached bathrooms with squat toilets, and a popular restaurant. From Tk 160.
- Hotel Grameen, 22 Nawabpur Rd, ☎ +880 2 956 2422. A big hotel on busy Nawabpur Rd, just south of Bangsal Rd. Tk 60-150.
- Hotel Sugandha, 24 Nawabpur Rd, ☎ +880 2 955 6720. Much the same as Grameen. Tk 100-350.
If you're staying long term consider one of the many guesthouses in the Gulshan and Banani areas.
- Eastern House, . $50-90.
- Ambrosia Guest House, in Dhanmondi Residential Area. $40 per night, with breakfast and free broadband internet connection from the rooms. +880 966850/9665760
- Lake Shore Hotel, Gulshan 2 (in the diplomatic area of town), ☎ +880 2 8859991 ([email protected]), . Luxury 80-room hotel, rooftop pool, fitness, wireless and LAN internet. Corporate discounts of 30% available. Probably the best medium sized 5* in the city. $100-220. (latitude,longitude)
- Radisson Water Garden Hotel, Airport Road (15 miles from downtown, outside the diplomatic enclave), ☎ +880 2 8754505 ([email protected]), . Arguably the best large hotel in the city. $160-220. (latitude,longitude)
- Dhaka Sheraton, 1 Minto Road, ☎ +880 2 865 3636 ([email protected]), . This hotel has been running for over a decade now, and was, for the longest time, considered one of the top hotels in the city. It is part of the Sheraton group but not quite comparable with 5* Sheraton's you would find in other countries. Internet access in the room is expensive. Room service choice is fairly limited. (latitude,longitude)
- Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, 107 Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, ☎ +880-8111005 ([email protected], fax: +880 2 811 3324), . This hotel has been running for over a decade now, and was, for a long time, considered one of the top hotels in the city. Internet access in room is available and works well, with wireless in public areas. Currently being refurbished, so pool is not available (May 2007). A room on the Pacific floors (7/8) will cost $150 including breakfast. There are good restaurants and service is excellent. (latitude,longitude)
- Hotel Sarina, Plot # 27, Road # 17, Banani, ☎ +88 02 8859604 ([email protected], fax: +88 02 988-9989), . $110-450. (latitude,longitude)
- Hotel Orchard Plaza, 71 Nayapaltan Rd, Motijheel, ☎ +880 2 933 3904, . Built in 2003 it's one of the newer top end hotels in town. Rooms are equipped with complimentary internet, and it's comfortable and clean with super friendly staff. The restaurant on the 11th floor is also good and has broad city views. $70-150, but immediate 30% discounts are offered.
Dhaka isn't terribly unsafe, but as in any huge city you should keep aware of your surroundings and try not to walk around at night, especially lone females. There's a very large amount of people living on next to nothing in the city, and while the vast majority are friendly there's undoubtedly a few that would love to help you depart with some of your seemingly abundant wealth.
The greatest danger probably comes from speeding buses and rickshaws - keep well alert when walking along main roads.
Being the capital, it's the area most affected during hartals, and you should do your best to keep a low profile during times of political unrest. Avoid any sort of large gatherings, even positive ones, as there's a good chance you'll become the center of attention and you probably don't want that from a group of raucous chanters.
Pollution is at an all time high in the city, and you've likely never experienced worse. It's not uncommon to see people with face masks on, and at the least you should carry a handkerchief with you to cover your mouth and nose during rickshaw rides.
Internet is most widely available in Gulshan and Banani at numerous internet cafes hidden in the various shopping complexes - ask around. Tk 20-30. You may also stumble on to a computer or two in Old Dhaka or Central Dhaka.
- Gopalgonj - Birthplace of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
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