5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most of us miss out on

Dhaka has a long way to go before it becomes a conventional tourist destination. Nonetheless, tourism is common in the 400-year-old city. There is a fixed rounded up list of places that people always go to whenever they visit Dhaka.  But Dhaka has more to offer than Lalbagh fort, Jatiya Sangsad and the National Museum. There are a ton of places to visit and things to do outside of what the brochure or your tour guides tell you about.

Whether you are visiting Dhaka for the first time, or you’re a local who wants to experience this city like never before, here are the 5 things you must do to complete your Dhaka experience.

1. Embark on a spiritual journey in Hussaini Dalan 

Hussaini Dalan Muharram Dhaka
Hussaini Dalan during Maharram

The Hussaini Dalan serves as the main Hussainiya in Dhaka. The shrine is a major gathering place for Shia Muslims, followers of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. It was originally built during the latter half of the Mughal rule (17th Century) and patronized by prince Shah Shuja, son of Emperor Shah Jahan. The structure has an elegant Mughal and British architectural style. Followers of the Shia community come here to say their prayers; the atmosphere is amazingly calm and serene. You can feed the ducks in the adjacent ponds, listen to the sermon and exchange deep philosophical talks with the clerics.

Pro tip: Visit during the Muharram festivals. You can see and even take the part in the vibrant Muharram parades.

2. Visit the historic Ruplal House

Ruplal House Dhaka
Ruins of Ruplal House

The Ruplal house in Farashganj of old Dhaka is a mansion built in the late 19th century by Armenian Landlord Aratun. Ruplal brothers bought it in 1835 and hired Martin and Company of Calcutta for renovations. Ruplal House and Ahsan Manzil, which is nearby, used to be the ornament of Dhaka back in the day. The area was the residential area for the rich merchant class and top-posted British officers. Ruplal house hosted a lot of cultural activity of the time. Gurus of Indian classical music like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Wali Ullah Khan and Lakshmi Devi regularly hosted shows. Ruplal house was also politically important during the Renaissance period.

Ruplal house was expensive to build on site. The structure features an Indo-Greek architectural style, massive blocs, porticos, tinted glasses, ballrooms and feast halls. There used to be a clock tower on the top which was damaged by an earthquake. The fall of Ruplal House began after the Ruplal family left during the partition in 1947. Now the Ruplal House is jointly owned by several private and commercial owners.

Visit Ruplal House to find bits and pieces of the old glory days of Bengal. Dhaka boasts a number of establishments which remind us of our glorious past. Ruplal House is just one of the many.

3. Grab lunch in Beauty Boarding

Beauty Boarding hotel Dhaka
Beauty Boarding

Beauty boarding is a famous hotel, or as its commonly known, a boarding house. It also has a restaurant that serves Bengali food in a traditional homely atmosphere. The building was originally a zamindar house. A local rented the house in 1951 and then turned into a boarding house and restaurant. Located near Banglabazar book market, the spot became popular with the local book traders, literature aficionados, poets, and artists.

In terms of its intellectual importance, Beauty boarding can be compared to the Coffee House in Kolkata.

The boarding was a regular spot for poet Shahid Qadri and Nirmalendu Goon who stayed for five years in the boarding. Poets like Shamsul Haque, Rafiq Azad and Shamsur Rahman used to gather for their evening tea.

Pro tip: Beauty boarding doubles as a great background for your photos if you want to keep some mementos of your visit to the land of Bengal.

4. Go book hopping in Nilkhet

Nilkhet book market Dhaka
Nilkhet book market

Nilkhet is the second largest book market in the country and a heaven for book lovers. 2500 shops are crammed together. The shops sell local prints and second-hand copies of original books. Bookworms of Dhaka, especially the students, go to Nilkhet for the best deals on books.

Pro tip: Looking for a rare book? Chances are you’ll find an original first edition copy of it, tucked somewhere in the piles of books that are on display. Make sure you bargain hard to get the best deals.

5. Take a boat ride in Buriganga

Buriganga river ride in Dhaka
Boatride in Buriganga

Buriganga is the major river on which the city of Dhaka stands. On it, is Sadarghat, the largest river port in the country. Hire a boat for an hour from Sadarghat, for only 200 takas per hour. The boatman will take you on a river ride to the other side of Dhaka. On a clear sunny afternoon, see the Dhaka skyline. Ahsan Manzil, the palace of the nawabs of Dhaka, will be visible from the river. Stay to enjoy the sunset. You’ll see hundreds of people commuting and crossing the river on wooden boats.

Riding a boat in Burganga is a chance to spend time in the calm waters, away from the bustling city while getting intimate with the lifestyle of the locals.

The best part of Dhaka is its people. What the city may lack in traditional grandeur and glamour, is made up for by the kind-hearted, lovely and forever curious people of this magical city. Open up to Dhaka, and it will open up to you with its four hundred years’ worth of culture, history, and tradition.

It’s November, the perfect month to see the Himalayas from Panchagarh!

Sounds too good to be true? Welcome aboard this week’s travelogue that will take you on a journey all the way to the far north of Bangladesh, Panchagarh. The isolated corner of Bangladesh and the only place in the country where you can view the Himalayas from.

If you are, like me, broke to the bones and cannot afford a trip to Darjeeling or Nepal to bask in the magnificence of the Himalayas, fret not. Panchagarh is the hidden gem of Bangladesh’s travel scene and an exciting destination that has a lot more to offer than just the Himalayas.

Getting to Panchagarh

Buses to Panchagarh leave from Shyamoli every night. Hanif and Nabil Paribahan are two of the most trustworthy services in this route. Both AC and non AC buses are available and the tickets will cost you 1200 TK and 600 TK respectively. This will be one of the longest bus journeys you’ll ever take in Bangladesh, so prepare accordingly. Of course, the bus will stop on breaks two times on the way so there’s nothing to worry about.

The bus will drop you off in Panchagarh town in about 12 hours. By the time you reach there, it will be well past 7. Have breakfast in any of the local hotels. Take a minibus or an autorickshaw to Tetulia, the last border town in Bangladesh to the north. It’s a 1.5 hours ride from Panchagarh. If the weather favours you, the Himalayan mountain range will be visible on your way to Tetulia.

Where to stay

It’s November and it’s the perfect season to see the Himalayas from Panchagarh!
Tetulia Dak Bungalow

In Tetulia there are two mid-range tourist hotels and two government rest houses. To stay in the government rest houses, you must take prior permission from the officials. You can get the clearest view of the Himalayas from the government rest houses. Right behind the rest houses, there’s a river and on the other side of the river is the Indian border. At night, you can see the border lights lit up and BSF guards walking around.

Kangchenjunga!

It’s November and it’s the perfect season to see the Himalayas from Panchagarh!
Himalayas, or Kangchenjunga as the locals call it. From Tetulia

6AM in the morning is the perfect time to view the Himalayas as the sun rays fall directly on the peaks and that gives a clear and spectacular view of the mountains. Beneath the mountain range, you can see smaller hills and tiny lights flickering on and off. That’s Darjeeling. At night, you can often see tiny spectrums of car headlights running down on the spiraling roads of Darjeeling.

Although October-November is the perfect time to see the Himalayas, often it is not visible due to bad weather over at India. In case you’re unlucky this time, don’t worry. The daughter of Himalayas also has magnificent tea gardens, ancient historical ruins such as Maharaja Dighi and one of the smoothest and most beautiful roads in the entire country. Panchagarh won’t disappoint you at all.

November, perfect season to see the Himalayas from Panchagarh
Panchagarh has some of the most beautiful roads in Bangladesh to enjoy a drive.

The Himalayas are a magnificent sight. It cannot be boiled down to a few words of appreciation in an article. And we’re not even going to try. Pack your bags and head over to Panchagarh to see it for yourself. Let us know how it made you feel.

5 Puja Mandaps in Dhaka that you must visit this year

Before I start off, Sharodiyo Shubheccha to everyone reading this. I am overjoyed because Durga Puja started with weekends this year and so, more time for us to enjoy!

If you’re a resident of Dhaka and are interested to visit some of the mandaps that are extravagantly beautiful and cater (literally) to everybody who walks in, constantly offering you elements of entertainment till Dashami, then you must visit these 5 mandaps without a second thought! 

Gulshan-Banani Puja Mandap 

Located at the heart of Banani, Gulshan-Banani puja mandap always steals the show when it comes to being extra festive. And this year, they have gone one extra mile to illuminate the streets starting from Gulshan 2 signal point and ending at Kakoli. The entrance of this mandap will definitely mesmerize you at night because they have probably used all the bright colours in the world to decorate. The decoration of the pandal, colourful lights, dedicated security guards at the entrance, everything is top-notch, like every year.

The Durga Murti, as beautiful and divine as ever will surely warm your heart. Also, instagrammable pandal corners? Checked. Fuchka stalls? Checked. Just visit already! 

Baridhara DOHS Puja Mandap 

Now, this puja mandap is new in the game and is already stealing hearts with heartwarming hospitality, entertaining cultural events, gorgeous decorations and delicious food! That too, available for anybody who visits.

Organized by the Baridhara DOHS Puja committee members, it is slowly gaining popularity among the other puja mandaps nearby.

The separating factor for this puja mandap is that the crowd is relatively less and it takes place in the Baridhara DOHS convention centre. Even then, this puja mandap is open for all and welcomes anybody who wishes to visit and have some gorom gorom khichuri-labra-begun bhaji before leaving. 

Kalabagan Puja Mandap 

Kalabagan Puja Mandap is one of the biggest mandaps in Dhaka. Celebrated at the Kalabagan Field Ground, every year it creates hype with effortlessly beautiful mandap decoration, themed Durga Murti and folk artist enriched cultural events.

This Puja mandap never fails to amaze visitors and the effort that’s put behind making all of it possible shows in every corner of the mandap. This is one of the puja mandaps that becomes more crowded by the night and after midnight, it becomes more alive than ever. 

Khamarbari Puja Mandap 

For those of you wondering where Khamarbari Puja Mandap is, it is at the heart of Farmgate. Located just beside KIB complex (Krishibid Institution of Bangladesh), Khamarbari Puja Mandap has an eye-catching LED entrance gate that will be seen even from the farthest corner of the road. The mandap itself is massive and the entire street is illuminated with lights that make the roads glow at night.

This mandap is not your regular puja mandap, its decorations are unique and it does not have only one Durga Murti inside the pandal. Every year it follows a certain theme and the entire pandal is decorated according to that. Make sure you have your phone battery full because you might have to take a lot of photos here! 

Dhakeshwari Puja Mandap 

Dhakeshwari Puja Mandap is one of the oldest and biggest puja mandaps in Dhaka. The temple was originally built in the 12th century by King Ballal Sen of the Sena dynasty. Dhakeshwari puja mandap gives you more than just Puja celebration. It gives you the feeling of belonging to the cultures of time as old as 800 years. It takes place inside the Dhakeshwari temple and caters to everyone who visits.

The best part of this puja mandap is that elements of Bangla fair (Mela) are seen around the mandap. Muri murki, Naru-Mowa, Fuchka, Kulfi, Glass bangles, everything that may make you nostalgic or fascinated is available around this mandap. If you’re planning to visit Dhakeshwari at night, drop by anytime because this mandap is always full of people, colours, happiness and food! 

With Dhaka celebrating Durga Puja with more colours and lights this year, take the time to not miss out on this heartwarming occasion and be a part of the festivities that gives you an opportunity to celebrate diversity, charity and happiness! 

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A guide to falling in love with Darjeeling

The majestic Kangchenjunga in the backdrop of a bustling small town, the echoing sound of the old steam engine train running through its streets, the captivating smell of momos and warm tea. Welcome to Darjeeling. 

People who grew up listening to Anjan Dutt and reading Satyajit Ray have an irresistible fascination for Darjeeling. Even if you’re not into any of those, the appeal of a small town lifestyle in the backdrop of the mighty mountains, the Tibetan culture, the sound of prayer bells and the colourful prayer flags is sure to call you back to Darjeeling over and over again.

Does this not want to make you go to Darjeeling right away?

Also, a trip to Darjeeling would probably cost you less than your usual trip to Cox’s Bazar. Did I get you hooked yet?

Is winter in Darjeeling a good idea?

Some people have an extremely low tolerance to cold. So, if you sleep with heavy blankets in 25 degrees, you probably should not go to Darjeeling in December. But winter in Darjeeling is beautiful. The temperature usually stays between 12 to 13 degrees, so with enough warm clothes, you will be set. Don’t forget to take multiple pairs of socks, gloves, and winter caps. Load up on moisturizers and dry shampoos. Also, make sure your hotel has a constant supply of warm water and a proper heating system. Checking on these before your trip will help you get the full winter experience in Darjeeling.

Darjeeling: An experience of a lifetime
A bustling city at the foothill of the Himalayas

Bon Voyage!

The route to Darjeeling is fairly simple. Want to go by road? Take a train to Panchagarh. The border is about an hour away from the rail station. Cross it and you will be able to enter through the Phulbari port. Make sure you apply for Phulbari while applying for the Visa. The immigration will not be too hectic, and you can reach Shiliguri in about another hour. From there, it is a two hour drive to your destination.

Another way to go to Darjeeling is by air. You will be dropped off at Bagdogra airport, and from there it will take a little more than an hour to Darjeeling. Pay attention to the fare, though. Everything in Darjeeling is a rip off if you are not careful.

Everything that Darjeeling has to offer

As tempted as I am to recommend that in Darjeeling, the best thing to do is just find higher ground and keep staring at the majestic Kangchenjunga, there are a lot of other things to see in Darjeeling.

A bustling city at the foothill of the Himalayas
An unworldly view from Tiger hill

When going to Darjeeling, take the long way through Mirik, and you will be amazed how organized and colourful everything is. It almost feels like someone handcrafted this entire place, and the creator put a lot of thought into the design.

You’ll see colourful little cottages decorated with flowerpots. You will see a billion types of flower bushes. The air will make you feel as if you haven’t breathed in years. The spiral roads, the echoes of the toy train, the colourful temples, the valley with a million tiny lights, and people with the friendliest smiles- everything about Darjeeling is heartwarming and perfect. Once you get there, hire a car with a package. The car will take you to all the tourist spots in Darjeeling. You can go paragliding/river rafting in Kalimpong too- so there will be plenty of food for your adventurous soul! But these sports are not always open. Ask around before you head out to Kalimpong.

Beauty and culture

Darjeeling has a beautiful Tibetan culture to show off. You’ll see colourful prayer flags hanging around from almost every other establishment in Darjeeling. Contrary to popular belief, the Tibetan prayer flags do not carry actual prayers or mantras to particular deities or Gods.

Darjeeling: An experience of a lifetime 40

It is believed in the Tibetan culture that the mountain wind will carry the messages of peace, compassion and wisdom that’s written on the flags and bring peace to the world.

And the best part? On every turn you take in the mountainous roads of Darjeeling, Kangchenjunga will peek out and welcome you. And that is a sight unforgettable.

Pro tip- Do not miss out sunrise on Tiger hill, as the first ray of the sun touch the peak of Kangchenjunga before dawn breaks upon the city. Visit Ghoom Monastery, Mahakal Temple, Rock Garden, and the zoological park. If you are into history, check out the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Museum. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes because there will be a lot of uphill walking.

Eat like there’s no tomorrow

Darjeeling is a heaven for food lovers. From fancy English breakfast to street style Maggie- you will have way too many options and not enough space in your stomach.

Start your day with mouthwatering breakfast from Sonam’s Kitchen, a small cafe run by a lovely couple who’ll fire up a conversation with you. Treat yourself with momos, pakoras and other street food at Batasia Loop. Warm your stone-cold heart with a bowl of steaming Thukpa at Kunga restaurant. Lose yourself in the live music at Glenary’s while munching on delicious food and enjoy a scenic mountain view from their wooden deck. For such a small place, Darjeeling has a lot to offer. It’s your job to take full advantage of it.

Shopping in Darjeeling?

Darjeeling has a lot of souvenir shops and old Tibetan art shops. You can buy beautiful winter clothes, breathtaking silver jewelry, and simple trinkets as gifts. Go to mall road and take your pick. If you want branded stuff, go to Big Bazaar. But if you’re shopping from the streets, make sure to bargain. Otherwise, you will be ripped off, and you won’t even realize it until it’s too late.

Darjeeling: An experience of a lifetime 35

The night life!

Darjeeling at night is exquisite. But unfortunately, everything usually closes down by 9 because of the cold. This is the reason why, you will not get to dance your night away at clubs. However, you can still enjoy your evenings at a number of cafes, pubs and restaurants.

But that’s not it. You’ll experience an unworldly sight at night if you’re looking out of your hotel window, balcony or rooftop. You’ll see a sky full of a billion stars. And the entire Darjeeling city on the hills with its flickering white and yellow lights in the dark offer an illusion that the stars have come down on the dark hills.

In the distant, the white snowy peak of the Kangchenjunga will still be visible in the dark.

And you’ll hear distant sounds of prayer bells and hymns from temples. Words fall short in describing this ecstatic and unworldly experience.

Is it safe to roam around alone?

The thing I loved about Darjeeling was how safe it was. The people are helpful, and they will be kind to you as you are a tourist. As a result, travelling alone is not gonna be as hard as you might think. But even if you are alone, chances are that a kind stranger will help you find your way. Again, it’s India. It doesn’t hurt to stay on your guard.

Go easy on the ol’ wallet

Last but not the least, do not worry much about the money. As long as you have around 15,000 BDT in your hand, you can have a comfortable, three day tour (minus the shopping, of course).

What are you waiting for? Go explore this piece of heaven on Earth! And don’t forget to let us know about your experience!

Chittagong port: Reliving the history of the oldest port in the East

The story of the seven seas

Remember Sindbad? The sword-wielding, brave, adventure loving Sindbad the sailor who sailed his ship through Africa and Asia, fighting monsters and mythical creatures? Or do you fancy about Pirates instead? The daring pirates in the sea, sailing on their ships, looting and hiding their treasures in deep jungles, destroying merchant ships in deep sea waters. What if we told you that Sindbad had probably moored his ship in Bengal or that an infamous pirate had, at some point in history, hidden his treasures in our deep enchanting jungles?

The finest port of the Eastern world

History of Chittagong sea port
Dutch Ships in Chittagong port, the 17th Century

In the 7th century, Chinese explorer Xuanzang described Chittagong as “A sleeping beauty rising from mist and water”. A 2000-year-old city, a mythical realm of hundred tribes and an exotic land where the mountains meet the ocean. As for its rich history, Chittagong area has been a recorded seaport since the 4th century BCE. In the 2nd century, the harbour appeared on Ptolemy’s map. The map mentions the harbour as one of the finest in the Eastern world.

Chittagong seaport has always been the trade hub between the East and the West. Records indicate frequent trade between private merchants of Europe and the merchants of the East during medieval times. According to the works of Fa-hien, Hieu-en tsng, lbn Battuta, the port of Chittagong mingled with the ancient civilization of the world.

Arab traders frequented Chittagong since the 9th century. The port appears in the travelogues of Chinese explorers Xuanzang and Ma Huan. The Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta and the Venetian traveller Niccolo De Conti visited the port in the 14th century. The historical port had ship trade with Africa, Europe, China and Southeast Asia.

In 1552 De Barros described Chittagong as the “most famous and wealthy city in Bengal” due to the port of Chittagong which was responsible for all trade in the region.

Turbulent times

History of Chittagong sea port
The Mughal-Arakan war in Chittagong that got the Portuguese expelled

The Portuguese settlement in Chittagong centred on the port in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Portuguese engaged in piracy, slavery and forced conversion in the region. After the Portuguese were expelled, Chittagong came under the rule of the Mughal Empire and was named Islamabad. It became an important shipbuilding centre, catering to the Mughal and Ottoman navies. After the rise of British dominance in Bengal following the Battle of Plassey, the Nawab of Bengal ceded the port to the British East India Company in 1760.

During WWII, Chittagong port was used by the allied forces in the Burma campaign.

Slave trade

History of Chittagong sea port
British slave trade

Chittagong port was also the hub of the slave trade between the East and the West during the 16t-17th Century. Slave traders would bring in African slaves to the port to sell them to local lords or transport them to the west. Often they would capture local boys and girls and ship them to Europe as slaves.

A chance to relive history

History of Chittagong sea port
Chittagong port in present times

If you’re planning a trip to Chittagong, do not forget to visit the seaport at least once. It might not look the same as before, but the touch of history is still alive. Standing on the same grounds where pirates and sailors of the seven seas once stood, you wouldn’t want to miss it for the world, would you?

All you need to know about the floating guava market of Bangladesh

Cover photo by Md. Moazzem Mostakim

To start off, the 200-year-old market is absolutely fascinating! You are surrounded by water and hundreds of boats filled with guavas. If you look above, you can see the blue sky with grey hues. The place is so serene that it feels calm, no matter how much noise you make. But, don’t make noises though.

For obvious reasons, the place has become quite a tourist spot lately. Here is all you need to know about the floating guava market.

When to go there

Every year, the market starts getting lively from the first week of July. The season stays till the first week of September.  The locals start picking guavas and the activities of the market happen between the hours of early morning and noon.

How you will go there

The floating guava market is mainly located in a village called Bhimruli. The village is a part of Swarupkathi Upazila in Pirojpur District. You can easily go there by road from Barisal City, passing through Jhalakathi and directly stopping at Atghar Kuriana (at Swarupkathi, Pirojpur). You will find many wooden boats and various types of trawlers waiting there to take you into the villages.

The journey is about 21 kilometres from Barisal City to Swarupkathi. It will take approximately one and a half hours to reach your destination if you go by road.

Read more: Day trips from Dhaka: 5 places you can visit for a quick fix

What you will see

Besides seeing boats and trawlers full of guavas, hog plums, bananas and other local fruits and vegetables around you, you will get to enjoy a view of the beautiful village landscape! There are shades of blue all around in the greenery.

There are about 30 villages in Swarupkathi containing more than 7,000 guava orchards! You can get a quick glance of them via taking the water transport. The one-hour boat trip gives you a taste of the local village lifestyle in this way as well.  

How much it will cost you

The cost of renting per small boat is around 300 BDT to 500 BDT.

Per medium to big boat costs around 500 BDT to 700 BDT.

The trawlers are clean and safe. They cost 1000 BDT to 1200 BDT.

The cost given here is including the fare of the skilled boatmen and helping hands of the boat/trawler you rent there. If you choose Atghar Kuriana as your starting spot, your one-way trip will be a little more than 2 kilometres, so safe to say your round trip will end up being more than 4 kilometres.

The price of guavas

Quick question. How much do you think per kilogram of fresh guavas can cost at least? In Dhaka, it costs around 60-80 BDT depending on the place you are getting them from.

So how low can the price actually get? 30 BDT per kilogram or maybe 20 BDT per kilogram?

Here, the guavas cost only 5 BDT per kilogram!

(We bought 20 kilograms of guavas with 100 BDT only! Distributed most of them in the neighbourhood and we still have a fridge loaded with guavas.)

A couple of heads up

It is safer to take a trawler than a boat if you cannot swim. Keep your belongings by your side and tightly grip your phone when you take the pictures. Remember, you are surrounded by water.

Most importantly, do NOT throw water bottles, packets of chips, or any kind of plastics into the water. The place is still quite neat, we do not want to ruin it, do we?

Lastly, there are some low bridges throughout the boat trip. Watch your head!

Pro tip: Take a pack of salt to make the garden-fresh guavas taste their best when you eat them during your trip! 

Like our content? Follow us on our Facebook page for regular updates. We want to hear from you. Take a moment to write to us with your stories, contributions and suggestion. Contact us for advertising and partnership opportunities at [email protected] Thank you!

How living in Kolkata as a Bangladeshi made me more culturally aware

In August of 1947, the Bengali nation found itself divided into two countries. But geopolitical borders can only separate people, not their cultures and souls. West Bengal and Bangladesh are two bodies with one soul, with their hearts beating within the people who contain a bit of both entities. The culture differences might be overwhelming to some, but to many, the similarities is where the harmony is strengthened. The capital of West Bengal, Kolkata is specifically loved by many Bangladeshis because of still containing the residue of original Bengali traditions and inspirations gracefully enough, while becoming a modern cosmopolitan city.

A tale of two cities

Kolkata is not just a city to many, it is also an emotion for being the heart of emergence of the historic personalities, events and art that have shaped the dimensions of our collective culture. It will forever remain precious since it has still preserved it all with simplicity, sincerity and joy.

In Kolkata, the city of joy 14

Read more: In Kolkata, the city of joy

Dhaka is different. It might not be as aesthetically pleasing but it has had the fortune of being the home of Nawabs. This 400-year-old city still preserves the faint scent of its lost glory days in the narrow alleys of Old Dhaka. Being someone who appreciates food and fraternity, my love for Dhaka is eternal since you will find it in loads here. The versatility of cuisines and food habits here beats some of Kolkata’s for me. Old Dhaka is undeniably the heart of likeable chaos and urban heritage. This is how it steals my breath, even after being overwhelmingly crowdy.

Read more: 6 places in Dhaka that remind us of our glorious past.

A tale of two teachers

I have been blessed with the fortune of having a residence in Kolkata, unlike many. Being a wanderer in nature, Kolkata as a city has always actively taken part in shaping my emotions, feelings, values and cultures. The city has a particular aesthetic that no other city could beat for me till now. This is a city for the people with a hearty appetite and curious eyes. Kolkata gave me so much more than a place to stay. It gave me comfort, peace, diversity and joy. So much, that I became addicted to its roads flooding with sodium lights, yellow ambassadors with loud Bollywood songs from the 80s, earthen tea cups that have their own flavour and so much more!  The air of this city has a distinct smell, the smell that will excite anybody who is familiar with the diversity it offers.

How life in Dhaka University changes you

Dhaka pampers you with unpredictability and availability. It gave me a home to grow up in and understand myself better. Nothing in Dhaka is too far but it consumes time like no other. Even then, it will still give you hope. From the delicacies to the nightlife, everything here is a trade. The trade of time, energy and sometimes, life.

Kolkata or Dhaka, why not both?

While Kolkata wows me with art and ethereal beauty, Dhaka prepares me for the worst. It is like Yin and Yang, balancing each other in harmony. Kolkata was originally inspired by the British. Their credit? They built it. Kolkata’s credit? It preserved and carried it, even today, like it’s their own. The historic buildings, churches, temples, mosques, offices.. everything gives you the feeling of being in the right place, no matter how many times you’ve visited the place already. The best thing about Kolkata carrying its cultures so devotedly even today is the candidness behind everything in this city. Nothing feels forced, nothing feels odd. Even the shady alleys will offer something to your thoughts.

6 places in Dhaka that remind us of our glorious past

Being a frequent visitor of Kolkata since the age of 4, I realized there’s more of Kolkata in me than Dhaka, as I am now labelled an adult by society.

The cultural similarity we share has been sowed within me by Kolkata and was nourished here in Dhaka. Every time I visit Kolkata, I learn something new, even if it isn’t directly associated with anything cultural.

A tale of two art forms

Dhaka has its own way of expressing itself. It will express its ‘sorrows’ through the sweat stains of a tired Rikshawala on a humid day, ‘happiness’ through the smile on the face of a mother when her child returns home, ‘fear’ with the speeding buses and trucks on busy streets, ‘anger’ with every innocent life lost, ‘hope’ with every warning a girl receives from random strangers when her orna is tangled to the wheels of a rickshaw and ‘joy’ with every cricket match Bangladesh team manages to win. We have our own graceful way of doing things here.

Rad more: 5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most tourists never see

In Kolkata, the city of joy 9

Kolkata is a living art. From Howrah to New Market, the extended roads with shadowy alleys, sodium lights and oversized billboards, the faint smell of incense coming from a distance and the classic yellow ambassadors lining up one after another in traffic, everything will please your eyes. Kolkata isn’t entirely modern but it doesn’t want to be it either. It is almost like a modern cosmopolitan woman draped in a saree, unpretentiously appreciating the combination. This effortlessly beautiful city has always been therapeutic for me, whenever I felt dilemmatic, whenever I needed a breath of fresh air. The discipline of this city despite the chaotic charisma as it may seem to many, is praiseworthy as well.

In Kolkata, the city of joy 7

Being in a love-hate relationship with Dhaka has enabled me to appreciate the best of both cities.

Dhaka will always capture a bigger part of my heart and a broader part of my understandings of culture. The city may not be as artistic and aesthetically pleasing, but it will make you appreciate the little things in your life. Dhaka lets you set priorities and act on it everyday. Dhaka will disappoint you, but some days it won’t and you’ll fall in love with it. The heart of Dhaka is not what it contains but the people who make this city liveable. Culturally, Dhaka has given me the concepts of assertiveness, relationships and the importance of being there for each other. Dhaka will destroy you first and then build you up better. Compared to Kolkata, Dhaka gives you hopes with conditions. Dhaka gives you freedom with restrictions. But Kolkata?

Divided by a border, united by culture

Kolkata lets you live, in all the ways you want to. As Dhaka keeps me grounded, Kolkata gives me the wings to fly. The combination of two didn’t only help me appreciate the beauty of the Bengal, but also it gave me a strong sense of security and cultural awareness.

If these words didn’t make enough sense to you as someone who’s yet to breathe the air of Kolkata, why don’t you pack your bags and board the next flight to make sense out of it? And if by any chance, you’re reading this from Kolkata, it’s never too late to visit this cousin city at least once.

5 unusual, visa-free destination for travelling Bangladeshis

Travelling has many benefits- it teaches you about other cultures, it helps declutter your mind, and it also gives you a clear idea about who you are.

In 2017, about 1.32 billion people travelled worldwide, and more and more people are taking an interest in it. However, for Bangladeshis, the formalities surrounding an international trip can often be daunting. For us getting a visa is fairly difficult. But does it mean your dream of travelling the world will remain a dream?

Many countries offer visa-free entry/ on arrival visas for Bangladeshis. So sometimes, all you need to do is pack a bag and get on a plane. And here are 5 countries that will gladly welcome you.

Read more: 5 Visa-free countries for Bangladeshis

Cambodia (On Arrival Visa)

Source: Unsplash

Cambodia is blessed with a vibrant culture and natural beauty. It is home to Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument ever built. The massive structure will take your breath away, but that is not all Cambodia has to offer. It has untouched beaches, historical sights, and ancient temples that will take you back in time. The visa process is very easy, and you can get an on-arrival visa at all the major airports like Phenom Penh and Siem Reap. All you need is passport-size photographs and a filled out form. And like a cherry on the top, Cambodia is not super expensive. So what are you waiting for? Hop on a plane!

Fiji (Visa-Free entry)

Source: Google

Despite being a breathtaking country with a warm, rich local culture, Fiji is often not on the radar of Bangladeshi travellers. It does not make sense- because Fiji offers visa-free entry for tourists, where you can stay up to 4 months! Fiji has over 300 islands and over 500 islets, making it the perfect destination for beach lovers. It also has a very interesting culture, delicious food and intriguing history. Did you know that cannibalism was widespread throughout the islands? Neither did we!

Kenya (On Arrival Visa)

Source: Google

Yes, we know that Kenya is not at the top of your bucket list. But it should be. Kenya is a leading safari destination in East Africa. It has a number of wildlife conservatories that you can visit, and they all boast the beauty of wildlife. Fun fact: The biggest five animals- rhinos, leopards, lions, buffalo, and elephants can all be found in Kenya. For travelling Bangladeshis, Kenya offers an on arrival visa. So pack your bag, and feast your eyes on how diverse the world is.

Madagascar (On Arrival Visa)

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

The name might remind you of the movie Madagascar, but real-life Madagascar is far more enthralling. There are only 17 countries in the world that are considered to be megadiverse, and Madagascar is one of them. This place is undoubtedly a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. You will get to see numerous types of lemurs, birds and chameleons. And no, there’s no lion or giraffes or hippos. From 500-year-old burial sites to labyrinths of limestones, Madagascar has a few well-known world heritage sites. But forget about all that. Visit Madagascar because it’s beautiful.

Bahamas (Visa-Free Entry)

Source: Lonely Planet

Does the idea of swimming with sharks intrigue you? If yes, then travelling to the Bahamas will be a great experience for you. With 700 islands and 2500 cays, the Bahamas will completely change your perspective of the underwater world. These subtropical beaches attract over five million tourists every year, and we see the appeal. They offer visa-free entry for Bangladeshis, so this might be the perfect place for you to explore!

Did we miss any of your favourite places? Don’t forget to let us know!

Everything you need to know about Indian visa

India, the country we love and support except for when it comes to cricket matches. Visiting India might not seem like a big deal because it’s a country that we visit so often, but for people who are planning to get their visa for visiting India for the first time and can’t find where to look or whom to go to, this article is for them. 

Read more: In Kolkata, the city of joy

Visa types

The first and foremost thing you need to do is find out what type of visa you need.  You could apply for 

  • A tourist visa
  • A business visa 
  • A short-term single-entry visa 
  • A long term multiple entry visa
  • Transit single entry visa
  • Transit double entry visa 
  • Medical visa
  • Student visa 
  • Research visa 

Now, here is the most important thing you need to remember while deciding which visa to get, unlike other countries which might be a bit more lenient, Indian airports or railway stations will reject your entry if you try to enter the country with a type of a visa that does not match your purpose.

Read more: 5 visa-free countries for Bangladeshis

This is the most recent law passed by the Indian government. So, if you are going to a conference, get a conference visa and not a tourist or business visa.  However, in this particular article, we will focus on what you will need to do to get a tourist visa for India being a Bangladeshi citizen. 

Visa validity

A tourist visa is applicable for either 3 months, 6 months or 12 months. you can choose whichever option you prefer along with either single entry or multiple entries.

In Kolkata, the city of joy
Streets of Kolkata

However, it is always better to apply for 6 months if you are aiming for a 3 months visa and to apply for a 12 months visa if you are aiming for a 6 months visa. This is because you sometimes may get a visa that is less than the time frame for which you applied. 

Required documents

  • NID/Birth certificate,
  • Bank statement/Dollar endorsement (Endorsement should not be older than 1 month at the time of submission)/Active international credit card / Travelcard (Issued by Indian Visa Application Centre or IVAC. Read on to find out)
  • Profession proof i.e. Photocopy of trade license if the employer is NOC, student ID card or salary receipt and trading
  • Last passport copies and all old passports. the passport must be signed and have 6 months validity beyond stay in India. It should also have at least two blank passport pages available for Indian visa stamps. 
  • One recent (not less than 3 months old) passport-size colour photograph depicting full face; Applicants would be required to scan and upload their photograph in the designated space provided in the online application form.
  • Photocopy of a utility bill (electricity bill, gas bill, phone bill)

Read more: 10 cities to visit under budget

Applying for a visa

You can go to the website http://www.ivacbd.com/existing/online_visa.php . This is the official website for the Indian visa application centre. You can download the form from this website. The documents you will be required are already mentioned above.

Darjeeling: An experience of a lifetime 36
Magnificent Darjeeling

Now, you can appoint an agent to do this for you if you don’t want to go through the tedious process. However, given the Indian visa form is very extensive, the chances of a mistake being made by the agent are very high. So, it is better to do it by yourself. Once you are done with filling the form, you have to make the payment. 

Visa fees and how to pay them

According to the most recent (5th August 2018) visa processing law in India, the visa processing fees is 800 bdt. You can pay this fee by yourself through Bkash, Rocket, DBBL Nexus, credit card, etc.

The number to which the money is to be transferred can be found on the IVAC website and this payment getaway link. This information will only be available to you after you fill the form.

Once you have made the payment, you will have exactly 3 days to submit the form at a visa application centre. If you do not submit the form within 3 days, the payment will be considered inapplicable for the form. 

Submitting the application

All Indian visa applications from Dhaka are now accepted only at the IVAC centre in Jamuna Future Park. When you submit the form, you will receive a receipt including your Name, Passport Number, Web file number and Date of delivery. You can use the Web file number to track your application status by logging into the IVAC website. 

It usually takes about a week to get an Indian visa. When your visa is done, you will get a text message and you can collect your passport using the receipt. 

As per the new rule, walk-in applications are also accepted at IVAC without prior application.

Read more: A guide to falling in love with Darjeeling

Necessary contact

Indian Visa Application Centre, Dhaka ( JFP )
Floor – G1, South Court, Jamuna Future Park,
Progoti Sharani, Baridhara, Dhaka-1229, Bangladesh Hot Line: 09612 333 666
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.ivacbd.com

Day trips from Dhaka: 5 places you can visit for a quick fix

It feels nice to get away from the city once in a while. It feels nice to go somewhere, away from all the hustle, dust, crowd and everything else. 

What we lack is not the enthusiasm or the drive to travel, but time and money. And places near Dhaka which can be covered in a day are a blessing when it comes to getting away for a short time with a limited budget. 

Here are 5 places you never knew you wanted to visit for a day tour:

Read more: 5 countries you can travel to without a visa if you’re Bangladeshi

Chandpur:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

About a hundred kilometres away from Dhaka, Chandpur is a quiet and calm city situated on the banks of Padma and Meghna. Interestingly, Chandpur is the point where the rivers Padma and Meghna meet and the spectacular view of the two rivers makes Chandpur a coveted yet somewhat undiscovered tourist destination.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Chandpur here

Sreemangal:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

They say it’s never a bad time to visit Sreemangal. Sreemangal, called the Tea Capital of Bangladesh, is adorned with hill after hill of lush green tea gardens, rubber trees and of course, is home to the famous and mysterious Lawachara  National Forest.

The best time to visit Sreemangal is either in the rainy season, when the rain makes the tea gardens greener and the smell of raw tea leaves you a little high, or in winter, when the dense fog keeps the forests and the tea gardens covered in mystery and you can enjoy one of the coldest climates in the country.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Sreemangal here. 

Cumilla:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

Cumilla is a famous and historical town with a bagful of surprises. With a rich history spanning from ancient Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms to the British Era, World War 2 and home to the famous Rosh-malai, Cumilla is one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Bangladesh.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Cumilla here

Dohar:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

It’s called the mini Cox’s Bazar. And for good reasons too. The endless horizon of water and splashing small waves at your feet on the muddy banks does remind one of Cox’s Bazar.

Yes, talking about Moinot Ghat or Dohar as many prefer to call it. About one and a half hours journey away from Dhaka, Dohar is the perfect place to spend a day away from the busy urban life. The best time to visit Dohar would be now, as the continuous rain has filled the river Padma to the brink and the overcast sky and the calm Padma waters together make an unforgettable view to feast your eyes on.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Dohar here

Read more: 5 perfect places in Bangladesh for camping adventures

Munshiganj:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

Munshiganj, also known as Bikrampur is located about 33 kms away from Dhaka city. An ideal location for a day’s visit, Munshiganj is a little bit underrated as a travel destination and the lack of selfie savvy tourists is perhaps one of the best things about travelling to Munshiganj.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Munshiganj here

Honorary mention: Uttara

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

Artwork by: Fahim Anzoom Rumman

Uttara is a nice little place to leave the city for a day, away from the hectic weekdays. Ideally, this little, somewhat primitive small city-state should not take more than 30 minutes to visit. But thanks to the adventurous route that leads to this place, it almost takes an entire day to visit Uttara and come back to the city, safe and sound.

Read more: 5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most tourists never see

So, if you’re tired of all the cliched places people visit these days like Sreemangal and Cox’s Bazaar (or you want to turn your image of a lazy duck who sits at home all day playing PUBG into that of a spontaneous traveller), buckle up. You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Uttara here.