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28 Feb 2020

Dhaka – the human traffic

Dhaka – the human traffic

Imagine a place which look like there would be stocked almost half the world’s population, where every street, square, park, every piece of land is tightly filled with people. Such an impression you get being in Dhaka – capital of Bangladesh.

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Here you won’t feel lonely

Country, flat as a car park, of an area half of Spain and population of over 160 million people, 4 times more than in the country of Cervantes. Every year, half of Bangladesh is under water as a result of ravaging the country monsoons. The masses of people losing their homes flee to the capital in the hope of a better life.

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Meanwhile, Dhaka swells. Chaotically spilling in every possible direction where the land is not YET covered by water. Yet, since it’s estimated that in 2050 when the population of Bangladesh is expected to grow to 220 million people, rising sea levels flood the southern stretches of the country, where residents will have to escape somewhere.

In Dhaka, therefore, it’s impossible to feel alone. People are everywhere. In the morning the sidewalks are filled with sleeping homeless, and in the afternoon all get stuck in the ubiquitous traffic jams. Although it could always be worse. It would, if not a family planning program that was started in Bangladesh in the 70. With 6.6 children per woman, they managed to reduce the number of births to 2.4 today.

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If explore, only with local

I still haven’t seen much of the world, but sometimes it seems to me that the poorer the country, the kinder the people. The proof of that gave Sanat – couch surfer, which I contacted through the portal (website, which enables to offer, to find free accommodation or meeting with locals). Sanat incredibly positive and funny 31-year-old guy sacrificed for me and for Aisha from the US whole Saturday. He made sure we saw as much as possible, and at the same time to pay the least.

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When we were about to catch some transportation he told us to stay behind that the driver, seeing tourists, wouldn’t rise the price. In addition to the many jokes with which he kept us laughing all the time, he were feeding us with historical facts, wherever we were. For which I’m sincerely grateful to him.

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What and how you ride here

For start we went to Sadarghat river port. We got there by a vehicle resembling a tuk-tuk shuttle from Southeast Asia, but here called CNG because of the fuel supplying them. Ride in the 3-wheeled was an adventure in itself.

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Squeezing among 1000 other road users in a green cage, where as a result of crazy maneuvers of our driver, again and again we’re bouncing on seats and bounces off of each other. Such drawbacks, however, were completely nothing comparing to the fatigue that can haunt you after an overnight flight, and thus sleepless night, of which the great example was Aisha :)

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Although CNG can be seen anywhere, anytime, its popularity can’t beat rickshaws whose density is the highest in the world here. If in Manila, which I described to you recently,  a car traffic jams were common sight, here frequent are rickshaws traffic jams…

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But what I will remember most is the jumping into a moving bus. We were already slowly moving towards the hotel. Nightfall, the streets clogged with traffic as usual. Sanat gives the sign that we must get on that bus. If you imagine that the red double-decker bus stops at the curb where the bus stop is none of these things. It goes approx. 15 km/h in the middle of a huge 5-line road. We decide to leave a safe walkway and run. Around chaos. Rushing from all sides tricycles, rickshaws and dilapidated buses in the accompaniment of horns and shouts. Sanat jumps first, I, at this point, about 5 meters behind him in the middle of the road. But wait, where’s Aisha?! And if again you mind think that poor girl stands on the edge of the road, screaming because she doesn’t know what to do, then you’re mistaken again! I turn around, and this girl, like a local, fearlessly runs dodging all those vehicles. In the end, we jump one by one into a speeding bus (yes! 15 km/h it isn’t a jog trot!), Guy selling the tickets catch us in the lane, and we excited, pleased, and still buzzing with adrenaline breathe a sigh of relief :)

How does it even float?!

Sadarghat port on the River Buriganga is one of the largest river ports in the world. Every day small boats and big ones moors here filled with passengers or goods to trade . Seeing all these ships I was surprised that, in spite of its condition, it was able to remain on the water.

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But the real gem was the boats remembering the XIX century serving for the British East India Company (Bangladesh was part of the colony of British India, in which the following also included, among others, India, Pakistan and Bhutan).

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A permanent element of the landscape were also kheya nouk – water taxis. And no wonder. The few bridges that cross the river are perpetually stocked in traffics, so it’s much easier to get to the other side by boat.

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If someone might do only one thing in this city, I’d recommend just that. Cruise on the river Buriganga is a compressed image of Dhaka. Dirt, stench, poverty, run-down infrastructure, but also very favorably oriented to foreigners locals.

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What’s your country?

It’s the only thing you can hear in your address from the locals. To every each of them I was patiently answering Poland, although I had the impression that if I’d say Bungabanga, they would also smile, waved their heads saying ooo nice!

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It’s hard to communicate here with English. There’s no point, however, require them to know the language of Shakespeare, since half the population of Bangladesh is affected by illiteracy. Besides, in Poland there is no illiteracy, and still sometimes communicating in English might be a little askew ;)

Fortitude!

Bangladesh is one of the poorest places on Earth where a lot of people don’t have access to toilets not to mention other convenient elements of day to day  life that we know.

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But I’m really impressed by their ability to adapt. Despite these extremely unfavorable climatic conditions, overcrowding, corruption, they come to Dhaka in search of a better life and establish their own businesses.

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Strolling through the streets of this city again and again I encountered plenty small entrepreneurs. Tailors, mechanics and vendors who don’t give up just because there’s no other option.

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And here you can watch a short video from my trip:

2 thoughts on “Dhaka – the human traffic

  1. Jose Garcia February 5, 2016 / 6:51 pm

    “Imagine a place which look like there would be stocked almost half the world’s population, where every street, square, park, every piece of land is tightly filled with people” I think that is the beginning of a horror dream of mine or a scary story! I am social as you know but if something I love about Arizona is that there is SPACE and there is always spots where you can be totally alone.

    So… judging by the pics and the confirmation you wrote about people’s higene… how many people pooping randomly did you get to see?

    • FlyingPolack! February 16, 2016 / 2:39 pm

      Quite a few unfortunately… Enjoy the lots of free space in Arizona :)

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