Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sonargaon
September 21, 2007

My trip to Dinajpur really made me realize that even though I have been here almost a year, I really have not seen much of Bangladesh at all. I have resolved to rectify that problem and have decided to start close to home. Sonargaon is the old capital of Bangladesh and is only an hour away by scooter from Dhaka.

I decided to leave early Friday morning to beat the city traffic. This plan worked really well as the roads were pretty much empty at 6:30am on a Friday. (Fridays are weekend days in Bangladesh.) Things got a bit dicey just as I was leaving the city, however, as there is a bottleneck going out of town where four hundred buses are all trying to squeeze through a narrow crumbling roadway to get to the highway.

After dodging several buses, vangaris, and cows, I did make it to the highway (which is actually a nice divided road!) A brief scoot later and I had arrived in Sonargaon. The ruins of the old city are located in a small town. I went to the folk art museum there first. There I met a little boy who kept following me around all day asking for tips. He was very persistent!

The outside of the museum was beautiful, but the exhibits inside were old, dingy, and uninspiring. The grounds were beautiful though, and there was a little amusement park in the back.

When I was done at the museum I got back on my scooter and went out to search for the ruins. I turned a corner and there was Faisal, the boy from the museum! I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t believe that he could get there on foot as fast as I could on my motorcycle! I warmed up to him after that and he showed me where the old buildings were. I let him ride on the back of my scooter which he thought was tremendous fun! I bought him ice cream and he invited me back to his house to meet his family. His mother gave me some dessert and I met everyone in the neighborhood. They were all very excited to meet a bideshi (foreigner) and all of the kids wanted their photos taken.

I never did find the rajbari (rich person’s house, literally “king’s house”), but I had a very enjoyable day none the less…

On the Way to Sonargaon
Here are some of the homes that I passed on my scoot out to Sonargaon.

Sonargaon New Town
This is the new town section of Sonargaon. It is very typical of the Bangladeshi cities outside of Dhaka.

Craft Museum
This is the craft museum. It is located in a beautiful old house. If only the exhibits were as nice!

Door
Detail of the main doorway to the museum.

Merry-Go-Round
Here is one of the rides in the small amusement park behind the museum. :)

CNGs
The CNGs here are much prettier than the ones in Dhaka!

Old Sonargaon
This is the main street in old Sonargaon. The entire street is like this: filled with beautiful decaying houses. Only the facades remain. If you walk through one of the doorways you can see that the rest of the building is gone and that people have set up homes behind them.

Another View of the Street
It is quite picturesque!

Faisal
Photo of Faisal standing in one of the doorways.

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