First Impressions: My Solo Travels to Dhaka, Bangladesh

Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. The city of Dhaka is infamous for its chaotic crowds and traffic. I had been warned by a Bangla friend about how confusing Bangladesh and the Dhaka International Airport could be to the first time visitor. “Be careful of pickpockets,” said one friend. “Watch your bags at the airport like a hawk,” said another.

Of course, this being my first solo journey ever, I was more than a little worried about having decided on traveling to Dhaka, Bangladesh on an impulse. I wondered if I would like living and working in Dhaka and if I would be miserable within the first few hours, wanting to take the first flight back. I knew for a fact that my dad had been worried sick when I’d first announced to him that I was ready to travel solo to Dhaka. “Why Dhaka?” he’d asked patiently, knowing that had he dismissed it at once, I’d probably fly the next day. Just to prove to him that I could.

A day or two before my flight, I decided to brush aside the worries and keep an open mind. I would be careful but not paranoid. I would get my own experiences.

As it turns out, the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is no jungle. The staff was friendly, just like they are at other airports. Bangladeshi people, in general, (I have to say this after spending some time in Dhaka) are very helpful. Some of them are willing to go well out of their way to help you, simply because you are visiting their country, and they are proud of that.

The traffic in Dhaka is crazy, especially in the evenings. One of the reasons is the road work going on along the Mirpur road (true as of 2012). I guess that makes all the drivers (auto-rickshaw, taxi and bus) a little crazy. I mean, these guys make you feel like you are in a Hollywood thriller/action movie.

A crazed driver sent very kindly by my hotel drove me to the Grand Prince in Mirpur, where I was to begin my Grameen Bank Internship the next day. Although I was exhausted, I didn’t want to die sleeping in a car, so I kept my eyes wide open throughout the journey. As if dying with your eyes open is somehow better. More like looking death in the face. Or so I told my paranoid self. It was strange, trying to make out the shapes of people, trees and vehicles that passed us by in the darkness, with no street lights most of the way.

First Impressions: My Solo Travels to Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Walking the 10 minute distance to the Grameen Bank, early next morning, introduced me to the sights and sounds of Dhaka. What fascinated me most were the cycle rickshaws. They are beautiful, adorned with vibrant colours and unique rickshaw art. The cycle rickshaw riders are like true heroes, I would learn in a few days.

Shopkeepers were just getting started, cleaning their wares, arranging window displays. Roadside vendors, selling fruits, vegetables and kitchen wares were busy setting up their makeshift carts, sometimes shouting, “Hello, how are you?”, having spotted us foreign interns walking along. Tourism is very new to the country and most people can only say, “How are you?” and “Fine, thank you”, but no more in English. A tourist or anyone who does not look local gets a lot of attention in Dhaka because really, how many people do you know can say they have or will travel to Dhaka?

If you’re wondering about traveling to Bangladesh as a solo female, here’s a great guide to solo female travel in Bangladesh.

Beggars of all ages were getting ready to start business, positioning themselves along the footpath, at the same time chatting up the vendors. Men stood in small groups on the street, sipping on their morning tea from the tea vendor. Groups of school children huddled, some walking to school, some waiting for the bus and some younger ones being packed into cycle or auto rickshaws. The traffic on the roads moved in all possible directions, as the drivers pleased. We walked along, keeping in sight the logo of the Grameen Bank on a tall building not far away, taking it all in. Just another morning in Mirpur, in the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Curious about why I traveled to Dhaka? You can read about my internship with the Grameen Bank and the week I spent in rural Bangladesh. If you’re planning a trip to Dhaka, read about the seven-layered tea, worth making a short trip from the city.

Have you been to Dhaka, Bangladesh? What was your first impression?

15 Comments

  • Ray says:

    Bangladesh fascinates me because it is so overlooked by Western backpackers travelling through Asia. Either they travel around Nepal and India for a few months or they go straight to the well trodden path of Southeast Asia. I definitely want to get there at some point.

    • Natasha Amar says:

      I highly recommend it- it’s completely different from India, Nepal, or Sri Lanka, which because of their tourism infrastructure are better prepared for foreigners. But what Bangladesh lacks in infrastructure, it makes up in authenticity and hospitality.

  • Ahmed Anwar says:

    Bangladesh is a beautiful landscape and my birth place. I spent 4 years in Dhaka BUET. Always in my memory, Sylhet, Dhaka, the people and the dream to betterment for people aspires. all.

  • Linda martin says:

    Bangladesh is such a beautiful and awesome place to visit.I visited last year and went some historical places like Ahsan Manzil,Central Shaheed Minar,Curzon Hall,Hazrat Shahjalal Mazar Sharif,Shat Gambuj Mosque .There are also some park where visited.My journey was full of enjoyable and pleasure..Wish to go again 🙂

  • I’ve never been in Dhaka or any places in Bangladesh, but a few weeks ago I hosted a Bangladeshi CS member in my room. He’s from Dhaka.

    That pulls my interest to go to Dhaka 🙂

    Anyway, I live in Bandung, a big city in Indonesia, 3 hours car ride from Jakarta the capital.

  • siam says:

    The roads are the main problem….
    So much traffic…
    Broken at places……

  • Md shamim says:

    Bangladesh is my country.it has many river.my country so very beautyfull.

  • Ashfaqur Rahman (Noor) says:

    Thank you for visiting our city, Hope you will come back and visit our city again 🙂

  • Elen Turner says:

    I’m so pleased to find a female blogger who has written on Bangladesh! I’ve had Bangladesh right near the top of my bucket list for a long time (because I specialise in South Asia) and have struggled to find helpful blogs. So, thanks 🙂

    • thebohochica says:

      It isn’t a easy country to travel to, and as a woman, you do have to dress conservatively. As much as some female travelers find that annoying, I for one have no problem adjusting my attire to show respect for local culture. Also tourism is non-existent, which makes the experience more unique and also challenging. That being said, the people are very friendly and helpful and that’s what I loved most about the country.

  • Pedro says:

    I have never been to such kind chaotic city, although Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other Russian cities can get really wild and have terrible traffic jams 🙂 Nice to get your impressions 🙂

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