Wednesday, October 31, 2012


As I look back on our trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh, the following words come to mind: intense, passionate, insanity, color, people, noise, horns, confusing, fascinating, and different.

I suppose I could end my post right there, because that pretty much sums everything up - but I'm guessing you'd like a little more explanation than that.

Michael and I both arrived in Dhaka (in the middle of the night) very tired, but excited and open to whatever new experiences were to await us. We were certainly in for some surprises! We stayed with our friends, Jack and Wendy, who are friends from our church here in Bangkok. They have since moved to Dhaka, and our main purpose for going there was simply to visit them. Experiencing a new culture was a big bonus, though!

We did all sorts of things during the week, mostly including following Wendy around on various errands as well as visiting a few notable sites. (I'd call them tourist-y, but since there really isn't any tourism in Dhaka, I'd be misleading you on that point!) One morning was spent going to a school that Wendy helps to teach at; we also visited some stores and markets of various sorts throughout the week, and ate at a few of the nice restaurants that can be found in the area. Most of our time was pretty relaxed, with no particular goals or destinations.

 (above) Our first and only experience riding a rickshaw - we were in the middle of nowhere, so it wasn't quite as scary as it would have been if we were in the middle of the city!
 (above and below) A couple of sights at an old fort that we visited


I think the most enjoyable thing for me was simply being out and about for a while each day. No matter where we were, or where we were going, there was always something to look at out the window. In Bangkok, there's a fair amount of things that happen on the street, including traffic, motorcycles weaving in and out of cars and (occasionally) on the sidewalk, vendors making and selling food on the street, etc. All of that is nothing in comparison with what we saw on the streets of Dhaka! The traffic alone was fascinating (and scary) to watch! Various types of rickshaws coming and going through traffic, bikes, motorbikes, buses, trucks (none of which necessarily followed any particular rules of driving), people walking (often with bulls or goats, which I'll explain in a bit), beggars tapping on car windows asking for money, and above it all, car horns honking constantly. I'm pretty sure, in terms of any vehicle, that the horn is more important than the brakes in Dhaka. I thought we were going to get into an accident upon many occasions as we drove through the loud, crowded insanity that filled the streets. Fortunately, we didn't; our friends have professional drivers to take them places, so we were in very safe hands wherever we went. Below are a few of the sights that we saw while on the road to different destinations:

 (above) A CNG - looks somewhat similar to a tuk-tuk in Thailand, except it's caged in

(above) Most of the buses are in pretty wretched shape - they tend to scrape against each other while on the road, and many of them don't have tail lights, which makes it a little frightening to drive at night!
 (above) Rickshaw art
(above and below) At an intersection - there's just SO MANY PEOPLE!

We happened to be in Dhaka during two important holidays: Durga Puja, a Hindu holiday worshiping the goddess Durga, and Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday remembering Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael (not Isaac, as is described in the Bible). Our friends have Hindu and Muslim employees, so we had some interesting insight into the holidays that were being celebrated. We visited a Hindu temple, which was decorated accordingly for Durga Puja:

We also had some interesting experiences with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. Part of the celebration of the holiday includes slaughtering/sacrificing a bull or goat, and the days leading up to the sacrifice day are filled with buying, selling, and transporting the animals. We saw quite a number of bulls and goats during our stay:

The killing of the animals happened during our last day in Dhaka, right on the streets outside people's homes. That experience was slightly overwhelming - we took a walk through some of the streets prior to it, just to see some of the animals, but once the actual sacrificing started, we headed back to our friends' house. We watched from the balcony as the neighbors killed and butchered a bull and goat; although it was a bit gruesome to watch, we could not help but think about the Israelites and how they were required to sacrifice animals for atonement. How much blood had to be spilled so that sins could be forgiven, and how grateful I am that we no longer need to sacrifice the lives of animals, since the ultimate sacrifice has already been made!

Overall, we had a really fantastic time - seeing friends, experiencing a new culture, and learning a lot of things that we never knew before. Despite these things, Michael and I were both quite happy to come back to the familiarity of Bangkok and Thai culture. Vacation is great, but coming home is pretty great, too.

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