A New Experience Visiting Dhaka
In the summer of 2011 my wife and I travelled all the way to Bangladesh as part of my economic commercial specialist work for an American beverage company based in Dhaka City. My two months stay in the so called land of rivers included a tour of the key tourist spots of the country. My wife enjoyed our stay on this flat and very low lying land that is rich in scenic landscapes, interesting tribes, rich culture and history. Although it is often times visited by natural calamities (monsoon rains, floods and cyclones) I admire the people for being resilient and united in times of disaster.
We began our tour in the wonderful city of Dhaka. We got amused as we toured the National Parliament House of Dhaka a large complex building that came into fruition by world famous Jewish architect Louis Kahn. We book ahead to avoid long lines and avail of the inside tour of this legal complex. The building which is composed mostly of concrete and marble epitomizes the sophisticated taste and blend of old and modernized architecture. From afar it stands beautifully, surrounded by large open spaces and heavily guarded. The surrounding pond further complements its beauty. The huge building which was designed by a great master in the world of architecture is laden with bold shapes and clear views from its cylindrical doors and windows. The three hour guided tour includes a complimentary tea and biscuits which we enjoyed having at the officer’s lounge area. Picture taking is not allowed inside and the main area is restricted to tourists and visitors. Within the premises of the main park we get to visit the tomb of a previous president. Outside the complex are a wide selection of food carts and a nice park to wait around and chill to relax. This is a great tourist site to see when visiting the capital.
Moving on we headed next to see the history and craft exhibits at the Sonargaon (Golden City) museum complex. This complex is under the protection of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a pity that the beautiful old buildings are not restored when they are really worth preserving. It seems the government is more focused on preserving the temples, palaces and cultural parks. The tourism board advocates that this place be preserved in its natural state to add charm and mystique to the museum complex. Exploring the inside we saw some old ruins that are occupied by informal settlers, but it is still interesting to see the old but still beautiful fragile facade of the ancient houses on this attraction. The museum complex possesses souvenir stalls and small factories where saris are woven and jute bags, belts and borders are skillfully crafted. A good addition that adds color and glam to this complex is the presence of lychee trees common in this area. When this popular fruit is in season the women sell it in bundles of 100 pieces and sell it everywhere around the city. Sonargaon lychees are sweet, very juicy and delicious. This former capital of Bangladesh is located just a few kilometers outside of the city.
On most days what we do is take a cab and ask the taxi driver to show us the interesting points of the capital. So he got us to this interesting monument called The National Memorial. It is located a bit outside of Dhaka. It is a huge monument to commemorate the war between Bangladesh and India. It signifies the establishment of the state. The monument which is well maintained is littered with kids selling flowers, a rose for 10 cents. We bought one flower from each child and they looked very happy. At night the memorial looked solemn as it gets lighted up, giving away a sense of drama and images of history with its imposing presence. Standing marvelously around manicured gardens and surrounded by grave of the unknown soldiers it leaves an impressive symbolism of their endless patriotism.
After spending an hour here, the taxi driver took us to another interesting historical place called the Lalbag Fort. Decorated in pink building, it creates a good impression outside. Unfortunately we cannot visit the inside and the area is not well maintained on this attraction that is said to be the first site of the battle for independence. The beautiful part is the park like area in front of it lined with colorful planted flowers. Outside we watched an art exhibition by Bangladesh artists along the sidewalk, while nearby is a sports field where we get to see young athletes playing cricket. It was interesting to watch the kids play their national game and they were happy about their audience cheering them on. The “Red Fort” is perhaps the most worth seeing building in the capital where the busy Buriganga River rises. We found solemnity and relaxation after our visit to the lush greenery around the Ramna Park. We enjoyed that quiet afternoon with a soft cool breeze coming from the huge lake surrounding the area.
The next morning we got just in time to witness offering of flowers at another historical monument in the capital called the Shahid Minar. It is a historical memorial for their fallen language warriors. Located in the middle of the city the memorial place is also the venue for important national events of the country. It is an amazing testament to an undying love and advocacy for their national language. We got more enlightened about this love for language history when we visited the Liberation War Museum. Some of the pieces exhibited here showcase a gruesome part of Bangladesh history. It has well laid out collections and vivid images of the Liberation War in 1971. The more than ten thousand pieces of artifacts found inside this museum chronicles their extreme patriotic sense of pride and nationalism. Every exhibit signifies the sad and tragic way of how horrible war is and what people can do in terms of sacrificing their lives for freedom. Before the day ended we found solemnity and calm as we pray inside the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection. We stayed awhile and were given a brief tour by its resident caretaker and we found old tombstones of Armenians around the grounds of the multi denominational church. Before leaving we left a humble donation to help the church and their charity works for the people of Bangladesh.
On our last day in Dhaka we did not miss passing by this pink colored palace built by the Nawab family called the Ahsan Manzil. The family even has their own graveyard inside this popular palace in Dhaka. Getting inside the palace ground gives an impression of the old city and how they lived. We were amazed at their cute little garden more so when we got inside the palace because it has a museum with an old dining room. Intricate dining pieces and other furniture used by the Nawab family are still preserved and exhibited in its museum. Towards the afternoon, we boarded a docked ferry along the wharf area to have a better appreciation of the Sadarghat Port. Designated as the landing area for all visitors and trading ships, it was relaxing to observe life on the river and enjoy a walk along the restaurants and cafes alongside this port. It was absolutely fascinating to find time to relax and hold hands with my wife as we watch the sunset over this wonderful city.
It was such an experience to see this beautiful city that treasures so much of their national history as evidenced by the countless memorials and museum. Its resilient people add to the charm of this country.