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An afternoon getaway to the Napittachhora Waterfall

Winter is usually the season of trips. And there is no shortage of places to visit in Bangladesh. One of the best places to visit would be the Napittachhora waterfall in Chittagong. Here’s a short, essay type look into how my day went on such a trip.

At 11 am on a Friday morning we set off, with Napittachhora Waterfall as our destination. There were only three of us. Even though the original plan was to meet at 9 am, we always ended up being late. And thus we found ourselves trekking through hills under the glare of the mid-noon sun.

It took us about an hour to get to Mirashorai from the city. Then we asked the locals how to get to Noyaduaria road; where we would continue the rest of the path on foot. 

From the main highway, it took us another half an hour of walking through the village path. A road between rice fields and vegetable plantations led to the first large stream. Here is where the trail really began. We asked for directions at the intersections. The villagers were kind enough to point us in the right direction. Some of them even offered us lunch on our way back.

We crossed this particular house. In large pink lettering, the words ‘Ekhane adhunik oh ruchishil khabar pawa jay’ were painted across the wall. We found that amusing and frankly the food was good.

Most of the travel pages will recommend hiring a guide. You could go without one, but in hindsight, I may be biased. There was no shortage of guides on the way, so don’t worry about where to find one. I was confident that we didn’t need a guide, so we didn’t get one.

When we reached the first big stream, we saw only the native people who lived there. It was most amusing when two brothers, one about 13 and the other no older than 10, were offering to be our guide for a bargain price of 200tk. Shahid and Shamsil had managed to get lost on a different trip once before and were less inclined to risk it this time. In the end, using the combined powers of bargaining, we agreed to hire the little brother for 150tk.

We paled in trekking skills when compared to our little guide, named Shonka Tripura. While we were struggling, even Shamsil with his long limbs, Shonka was casually walking through the treacherous, slippery, rocky terrain as if taking a stroll. Trained by years of living in these hills, he could have scaled it in such time that it would make a mockery of us. And I on occasions felt as though he was.

There was a particularly tricky stretch of the trail right near the end, where stepping over the stream was not an option. Whereas until then we could see ground beneath the water, here the current was strong enough that it had eroded the bed and formed small pools of water of which we could not see the bottom. The stepping stones were more slippery, the ground was muddier, and one slip could lead to situations we would rather not imagine. Shonka was way ahead, of course. So far ahead, that we had lost sight of him. With some expertise and some holding on to rocks with both hands for dear life, we made our way to the Napittachhora waterfall.

It took us about an hour from where the first large stream began. Given it was winter, and it hadn’t rained for a while, it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting when we saw the pictures. This is when all three of us silently regretted not picking a “winter spot” to go on a trip to. I know this because we all slowly sat down and were telling each other (and ourselves) how it was a challenging trek up the stream.

Planning to travel a lot this year? Here are all the long weekends of 2020

Did you just make a resolution this year to travel more? Or are you back from holidays and finding it difficult to find the motivation to start the year? Was traffic extra bad and you need to leave the city ASAP? 

We have got you covered with a list of all the long weekends this year. 

  • Thursday, 26th March: Independence Day
  • Thursday, 9th April: Shab e-Barat
  • Thursday,  7th May: Buddha Purnima
  • Sunday, 24th May -26th: Eid ul-Fitr
  • Sunday, 30 August: Ashura
  • Sunday, 25th October: Bijoya Dashami

Bonus:

Victory Day falls on 16th December 2020, which is on a Wednesday. So save a leave day for the 17th of December 2020, which is a Thursday, to get a long weekend then.

All Public Holidays of 2020

Long weekend or not, one can always look forward to a holiday. Here is a complete list of this year’s public holidays:

21 February, FridayInternational Mother Language Day
17 March, Tuesday Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Birthday
26 Mar, Thursday Independence Day
9 April, Thursday Shab e-Barat
14 April, TuesdayBengali New Year
1 May, FridayMay Day
7 May, Thursday Buddha Purnima
22 May, FridayJumatul Bidah
22 May, FridayLaylat al-Qadr
24 May – 26th May
Sunday- Tuesday
Eid ul-Fitr Holiday
31 July- 1st August
Friday- Saturday
Eid ul-Adha
11 August, TuesdayShuba Janmashtami
15 August, SaturdayNational Mourning Day
30 August, SundayAshura
25 October, SundayVijaya Dashami
30 October, FridayEid-e-Milad un-Nabi
16 December, WednesdayVictory Day
25 Dec, FridayChristmas Day

Please note: these are according to the dates that are listed as Public Holidays by the Bangladesh government. Many dates are subject to change because of the moon and the country’s ever-reliable Moon Committee. We also assume that you have or can take Friday and Saturday off.

Wondering where to go?

5 countries you can travel to without a visa if you're Bangladeshi 5

Visit one of the most unusual visa-free destinations. Be inspired and see more of Bangladesh by going to Chattagram or Panchargarh. Plan a getaway from Dhaka to Dohar, Munshiganj or Sreemangal.

Trying to stick to a budget this year? Check out the cities you can travel internationally to, without breaking the bank. Yes, it is only the first week of January, but, ticket prices to popular destinations hike up around long weekends. The earlier you plan, the better.  Figure out your visa ahead of time for India and Thailand with some of our tips.

Mark your calendars and have a great 2020!

Let us know how you would want to spend your long weekends in the comments. Stay tuned for travel advice in HiFi Public for more.

“I escaped a day with Wander Woman. And I loved every moment of it”

As someone who loves clicking aesthetically pleasing pictures for her Instagram, the initial thought of going camping with over 100 girls (none of them I knew before) left me with mixed feelings.

“Should I go?”

“What if I don’t get along with them?”

“But I always wanted to try ziplining”

A bunch of these questions were running through my head.

However, when I first saw the announcement of Joya Sanitary Napkin presents Escapade 2019 on Wander Woman’s page on Facebook, I knew this was an experience I need to have!

With no idea of what a fantastic day was waiting for me ahead, on the morning of 6th December, I started my journey to Neo campers in Gazipur with faces that I have never seen before.

After a 2 hour long journey and a surprising realization that I still remember all the lyrics to ‘Ei poth jodi na sesh hoy’, our bus reached Neo campers.

Read more: 5 perfect places in Bangladesh for camping adventures

And as I entered the gates of the camp, the beautifully decorated camp made me feel like I’m here for a destination wedding. The organizers from Wander Women left no stone unturned to make this an experience to remember for years to come.

From goodie bags filled with coupons and membership cards from the sponsors of the event like Joya sanitary napkins, Foodpanda, chologhuri.com, Weddingberries.com and many more, to exciting games and activities, they had everything to make this day memorable.

Activities like zip lining, relay race, bigfoot, pottery making kept the girls on their feet (literally) the entire day. And don’t think it was just a friendly race where we just ran and went to have lunch afterwards.

It was a full-on competition. We were divided into groups of four, where we competed with our paired group.

And let me tell you one thing about me, I am probably the most competitive person you would meet. On top of that, when Sabira Mehrin (The founder of Wander Woman) announced the participant who gets the most social media engagement with hashtag would get one night stay at Dusai resort, I already started planning what will I have at the breakfast buffet there.

Read more: With Sabira Mehrin of Wander Woman: Creating a community of independent women travelers

There were prizes for the best performers as well during the games. After different rounds of activities, I realized, “okay, maybe I overestimated myself.”

Even though our team didn’t make the final cut, but boy oh boy, did we have fun!

Just after finishing our lunch, when I thought there might not be any other activity left, Sabira Mehrin and other organizers surprised us with the best possible way possible.

We didn’t realize that we were accompanied by one of the most inspirational female travellers in the country, Eliza Binte Elahi.

A session with her where she shared her travel stories made me notice how much more I have to explore.

The mental health seminar hosted by the M2H (Mission to Health) gave the girls the courage to talk about mental health openly without any fear. I was surprised to see how so many girls opened up about their mental health issues in front of strangers they just met that morning.

While coming back home after an incredible day with the girls in the woods, I couldn’t stop but think how refreshing it is to spend a day like this. And this would not have been possible without the beautiful members of Wander Woman.

I came to know about this group Wonder Woman last fall when one of my friends went on a trip with them. I didn’t know there is a community of amazingly inspiring women who are taking on the world with their adventure.

The idea of girls going on a trip by themselves has a lot of taboo attached to it. However, wander women is here to shatter all these narratives and inspire women travellers around the country.

Until the next trip, take a bow Wander Woman!

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.

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! 

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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

Visa Application 101: applying for a Thai Visa 

The demand for a Thai Visa in the recent times has been skyrocketing. Thailand has long been a dream travel destination for people all around the world. Growing up as a Bangladeshi, we all heard stories of shopping in Bangkok, partying in Pattaya and the pristine beauty of Phuket’s beaches.

At this point, most of the kids growing up on stories of Thailand are now young adults looking to go out into the world for their next great escape. But before anyone can do any of that, we need to get our hands on a valid Thai Visa first and foremost. Here’s a quick rundown as to what one will need and do to apply for a Thai Visa.

Read more: An Account of my Adventure through Bhutan

Essentials:

A Thai Visa applicant will require a number of documents depending on the type of visa he/she is applying for, but for simplicity’s sake, we point out the bare essentials one must have to apply for a tourist visa:

  1. Valid Passport of the applicant with at least 6 months validity
  2. Photocopies of the passport (at least the first five pages)
  3. Properly filled Visa Application Letter
  4. Photo with all the required criteria (size, background, etc) for a Thai Visa
  5. Bank Statement of the last six months and solvency certificate
  6. Cover letter or a travel letter
  7. Testimonial or a letter from the applicants’ workplace or the institution he/she is studying in
  8. Photocopy of work ID or school/university ID
  9. Photocopy of the national ID of the person sponsoring the trip.
  10. Photocopy of National ID/Birth certificate
  11. Letter of a parent or legal guardian’s approval in case of a minor i.e. anyone under 18.  

These are the essential document the applicant will definitely need to have in order to apply for the visa. We also encourage providing documents for a booked airplane ticket and/or hotel booking and will help with the application process.

How to apply:

Now depending on whether the applicant is applying for the visa through a travel agency or individually, there are two paths to take. If the applicant chooses to go through an agency, merely providing the aforementioned document to the agency should suffice. Although you should consider that applying via an agency will increase the costs due to service charges and fee and these fees are non-refundable, even in the scenario where the embassy rejects your visa application. If an applicant wishes to apply for the visa on his own, it will bring down the cost to a certain extent.

To apply for the visa, Bangladeshi applicants need to apply via the organization VFS Global which handles all Thai Visa matters in Bangladesh. They provide options for both online application as well as manual application process. The applicant can download the visa application form from their official webpage.  After collecting all the required documents and filling out the form, the applicant has to go to VFS Global’s office. The office is situated at North Badda, just past Gulshan 1(Check the webpage for exact address). Although they are open from 9am to 5pm, it’s wise to get there as early as possible. Once there, the security will issue the applicant a token. When called upon the token number the applicant has to head to the assigned desk where a VFS employee will check and verify the applicant’s documents.

Fees?

Once verified, the applicant should go to the bank counter where he/she is to pay the application fee. You can pay the Visa fees in cash at the Standard Chartered Bank counter located at the premises. This will be converted into a bank draft against which for every applicant the bank will charge a fee of 40BDT. Or, the applicant may bring a bank draft with him/her issued from any bank drawn in the name of ‘The Royal Thai Embassy’, payable at Dhaka. In addition to the visa fee and bank draft, the applicant will need to pay five hundred for service charge. In total, for a single entry tourist visa the costing would add up to around 3740bdt where the visa fee is 2900tk.

What’s next?

After making the cash deposit and submitting his/her documents, the applicant will receive a receipt. In it the time and date of passport collection will be given. Generally, it takes around 7 to 10 working day to issue the visa and doesn’t require an interview. But in some cases, the applicant shouldn’t be surprised if an official calls to cross-check the information in his/her form. The applicant can also track their application online through VFS Global’s website.

The passport collection process is almost exactly the same as submissions. The applicant will need to go to VFS Globals office to collect his/her passport. And by the end, the applicant will have his/her desired visa and ready to embark on their Thai journey.   

With Sabira Mehrin of Wander Woman: Creating a community of independent women travelers

Like many patriarchal societies, girls need permission to do basic things in life– to stay out after dark, to get a job, to make their own career choices. In this context, there are still women who are pushing boundaries and venturing out on their own. One big change is that more woman are now travelling and seeking adventure.

Read more: These 4 apps will make traveling a lot easier

What is Wander Woman?

Among many things, Wander Woman is a travel company– by women, just for women. Wander Woman started out as a Facebook group but is growing into so much more. The group currently has 10,030 members.

Wander Woman comes with one sole purpose – bringing all women together in one platform to share the love for travelling around the world.

Travelers post their tips, ask for help to navigate blocks in their journey and share their stories. Solo travelers can also coordinate with each other, form groups for short trips based on common interests.

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

Who is Sabira Mehrin?

Sabira Mehrin is the founder of Wonder Woman. She is full of life and full of determination. She is trying to bring women together, help them travel and see the world, while creating a community of cool explorers that help each other.

She is also efficient. She has to figure out how to deal with her biggest challenge in administering a facebook group and keeping the group authentic. “I was very picky! I only wanted member with authentic profile, with legitimate work portfolios- and it was extremely hard to administer the group. So I made the best use of all my time- in traffics, and such.”

Why Wander Woman?

In a little more than 12 months, Sabira Mehrin has turned a small Facebook group into a full-fledged start-up. But what made her want to create this group in the first place?

“When I was a student in IBA, I used to participate in global business competitions and conferences. All of them were organized by big companies. So whenever I traveled, I never faced any kind of hassle in the process of purchasing tickets and all. All of these were done by the professionals.

But when I got into job and started planning a self-funded trip for myself for the first time, I realized I only knew few people who could give me the right kind of information. Also, while researching, I came across very few Bangladeshi travel bloggers. So I saw the lack of information, the discrimination, and saw that the issues were mostly for the women. And I thought, how can I create a platform that makes it easier for women to travel? And my best friend gave me the idea to start the group- just to assess the situation. I opened the group and added 200 people. And from there it started to grow, and it didn’t stop!”

Why do people trust Wander Woman?

There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to woman and travel- including safety, reliability and of course, trust issues. However, the closed nature of the group, the direct interactions and careful moderation has led to a thriving community with trust.

When we asked this question, Sabira exclaimed with genuine surprise, “I don’t know! They just do! I have spoken to so many parents about permissions and stuff, and they all seem to come around after talking to me! And I feel privileged to be blessed with this type of trust. So if anyone has trouble getting permission for solo trips, just show your parents our group! Let them see that it is safe, and we will do our best to give you the best experience possible!”

What’s next?

What’s not next is a typical, commercial agency. Sabira keeps that in mind as she finds partners to help her build the community. “When we first started out, a lot of travel agencies reached out to us. But I soon figured they were all being very commercial. We would prefer if we could find people who were more interested in building the community with us.

Sabira has big plans for Wander woman for 2019. “Wander woman got registered”, she said. “We want to make travelling more accessible to the students in near future. And I know that people believe that wander woman is a little too niche, but I refuse to compromise the quality of our packages. So we might not reach out to the the mass market just yet. Let’s see what happens!”

Read more: 5 tips for the solo traveller in Bangladesh

Tips for a solo traveller?

Sabira is an avid traveller. So when we asked her for tips she said, “Solo travelling is about two things- courage and planning. You don’t have to be fearful, necessarily, but you need to be cautious. So while some places are safer than others, you can still make the best of your situation by being smart. I have come across so many helpful people, help was coming from unexpected places whenever I was in a pinch. That was really surprising for me.”

Read more: 4 Bengali traveling myths that are completely wrong

So if you are a girl and you love travelling, do check out their group! Because there is something for everyone!

6 places in Dhaka that remind us of our glorious past

Dhaka might be the second worst city in the world to live in, but it once had a glorious history. This four hundred-year-old city once boasted beautiful Nawab palaces, lush gardens, Mughal mosques, ancient temples and more. Dhaka, during the Mughal and British eras, was a prime example of urban settlement of the respective periods. Communities and diasporas like the Armenians, English, Portuguese and of course the native Bengalis, all settled here and made their own share of contributions to the growth of a great city.

The modern 21st century Dhaka has lost much of its old charm. But there are still places and landmarks in Dhaka that will take one back to the old glory days. Many of these places are now in near ruin due to mismanagement and a lack of interest in preserving their appearance. But if you’re looking for something off the usual path, these are the places to head to if you want a reminder of what Dhaka used to be and, perhaps, still can be.

Here are six such places for the history aficionados who want to reminisce about the golden days of Dhaka.

Bahadur Shah Park

Bahadur Park dhaka travel bangladesh heritage

Bahadur Shah Park, formerly known as Victoria Park, is located in Old Dhaka near the Sadarghat area. In the late nineteenth century, the park used to be the city centre of Dhaka with several important colonial establishments built around it. It was the main node of the road network of urban Dhaka back then. This is the site where the British performed public execution of the soldiers who took part in the failed Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

It was also the site from where the accession of Queen Victoria as the Empress of India was announced amidst much fanfare in 1858. Hence the name Victoria Park. It remained Victoria Park until 1947, after which it was renamed Bahadur Shah Park as part of the decolonizing that followed the Partition.

The park houses a memorial built by Nawab Khwaja, dedicated to the soldiers executed in 1857. It also has Dhaka’s only obelisk, erected in memory of the Nawab’s late son.

Bara Katra

Bara Katra old dhaka bangladesh travel heritage

Bara Katra is one of the oldest surviving Mughal palatial buildings in Dhaka. Built between 1644 and 1646 CE, it was built to be the official residence of Prince Shah Shuja, son of Emperor Shah Jahan. The prince later endowed it to his diwan.

Bara Katra boasted a magnificent Mughal architectural style and used to be one of the finest Mughal buildings during the time of its construction. In the 19th century, James Atkinson described it as a “stupendous pile of grand and beautiful architecture”.

Located near the Chawkbazar area of Old Dhaka and close to the Buriganga river banks, much of its grandeur is now lost due to the negligence of the authorities tasked with its preservation.

Armenian Church

Armenian Church Dhaka Bangladesh Travel Heritage

This magnificent church in Armanitola of Old Dhaka is a significant architectural monument. It bears testimony to the existence of the Armenian diaspora in the Bengal region in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Following the invasion of Armenia by the Persians in the 17th century, a significant number of Armenians were sent to Bengal for establishing an Armenian community overseas in the interests of self-preservation. The Armenians played a major role in the political and economic scene of Bengal back in the time. They were mostly traders and businessmen dealing in jute and leather, operating out of the Armenian district, which now bears the name of Armanitola.

In 1781, they built a church adjacent to an Armenian burial ground. After several years, a massive clock-tower was erected in the church. The bells of the clock tower could be heard from four miles away and people used to synchronize their watches according to it. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 1897.

In 1996, Mother Teresa stayed in the church compound during her visit to Dhaka. The Bangladesh Archeological Board recently recognized it as a heritage site, and personal efforts by an Argentinian of Armenian descent is looking to preserve the history of the Armenian diaspora in Bangladesh.

The Dhaka Gate

Dhaka gate travel heritage

Dhaka Gate, also known as the Mir Jumla gate, is located at what is now the Dhaka University Campus. It can be seen on the two sides of the road that leads to TSC from Doyel Chattor. The Dhaka Gate was originally built by Mir Jumla II during the reign of Aurangzeb, as a gateway to enter Dhaka from the North East side.

The Dhaka Gate marked the official entry to the capital city. Adjacent to it was the Bagh e Badshahi, the royal garden of the Mughals that added to the beautification of Dhaka. The site of the garden is now known as Suhrawardi Uddyan.

The Dhaka Gate was later damaged in an earthquake. Magistrate Charles Dawson re-erected it in 1825 in a mixture of Mughal-European architectural style.

Today, the Dhaka Gate lies in neglect but still bears the signs of its glory days.

Rose Garden Palace

Rose Garden Palace Dhaka Bangladesh Travel Heritage

The Rose Garden Palace is an elegant 19th-century mansion in K.M. Das Lane of Tikatuly, Old Dhaka. Zaminder Hrikesh Das built it as a Jolshaghor in the late 19th Century. Statues and fountains adorn the large garden in front of the main building. The main balcony of the building served as a viewing platform for the performances that were held in the garden.

At that time Jolshas, or lavish parties with music and dancers, were an important aspect of the social life of rich Hindu merchants and landlords. In 1936, Hrikesh Das declared bankruptcy due to his extravagant lifestyle and sold it to a wealthy Muslim businessman.

It was at this palace that the Awami League, the political party closely associated with the Bengali independence movement in 1971, was born when East Bengali liberal and social democrats converged here to form an alternative political force against the Muslim League in Pakistan.

Ruplal House

Ruplal House Dhaka Travel Bangladesh

The Ruplal House in Farashganj of Old Dhaka is a mansion built in the late 19th century by Armenian landlord Aratun. The Ruplal brothers bought it in 1835 and hired Martin and Co. of Calcutta for the renovation work. Ruplal House and Ahsan Manzil, which is nearby, used to be the architectural jewels of Dhaka back in the day. The area served as the residence for the rich merchant class and top-level British officers. Ruplal House hosted a significant portion of the cultural activity of the time. Gurus of Indian classical music like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Wali Ullah Khan and Lakshmi Devi regularly hosted shows here. Ruplal House was also politically important at times.

The Ruplal House was expensive to build on site. The structure features an Indo-Greek architectural style, massive blocs, porticos, tinted glasses, ballrooms and banquet halls. There used to be a clock tower at 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 and is in a state of disrepair.

Travel solo at least once in your life, it can be enriching

Traveling has always been one of our top choices for choosing what to do in upcoming holiday seasons. However, as our lives get hectic- the fond memories from our childhood of travelling with our family simply become memories that are difficult, or in most cases impossible to relive. In addition, knocking your best friends on Facebook to check their schedule and plan trips result in nothing but utter disappointment, as you find them drowning in deadlines or juggling a hundred things going on in their lives.

So, do you let go of your plans and spend the vacation like a typical weekend with Netflix and pizzas? Of course not.

Solo trips to the rescue! Although solo trips are not a popular choice or a choice for many at all, they are an incredible life-experience. Today, we bring you some reasons to consider travelling solo at least once to have the experience of a lifetime!

Confidence and Responsibility

Solo trips would surely help you gain confidence as an individual. You initiate conversations, get to know people and enjoy little things you normally wouldn’t. Moreover, as a solo traveler, you would also seem more approachable and locals might start the conversation themselves. As you explore and return from the trip, it would also clear your misconception of solo trips being anxiety-inducing, no-good trips. Additionally, solo trips teach you to be more responsible as you take care of your belongings, passport, and other documents and try your best to avoid any danger in the foreign country.

Moreover, solo trips are more peaceful and therapeutic as you escape from your daily life. You can get away from people you know and spend more time with yourself at a quiet cottage. This also means giving yourself the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Imagine giving yourself a fake identity to strangers like all those times in the movies; fun, eh?

Make friends along the way

One unique and wonderful aspect of solo trips is that it also gives you the opportunity to meet more locals. When going with your family, friends or your significant other to a trip- it is given that you would go to have all your meals with them or sit next to them in public transportations, movie theatres and amusement park rides. However, travelling solo lets you meet people along the way and do the activities with them, which can be very fun.

A big advantage travelling solo brings is the reduced waiting time. For example, from perceiving theme parks as a noisy, rowdy place filled with screaming kids, crowds and endless walking, you would perceive it as the truly magical place it is meant to be- simply because of the amount of time you save skipping lines and entering as a solo rider. I had a similar experience in Universal Studios Singapore and I cannot describe the sheer happiness as you cross the long queues, get on your ride as a solo-rider and look at all those people waiting in groups.

Step out of your comfort zone

A solo trip like any other trip lets you meet new people and experience new cultures, traditions and food. However, it also lets you do those to a greater extent as you step out of your comfort zone, transform into a more confident, responsible and ‘fun’ individual and surround yourself with people living their life to the fullest to be a part of them.

So go out there, plan a trip for yourself and experience the magic. After all, a solo trip can be exciting, nerve-wracking and rewarding all at the same time; let go of the fear, have one for the first time and you shall find yourself planning the next one soon enough!