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Day 121: Dhaka

Michael Palin - HimalayaYou need help to enjoy Dhaka. You certainly need help to understand Dhaka. Otherwise, you might easily be scared off. In 1971 the population was one million. Even conservative estimates believe that number to have grown to 15 million, and with 80 per cent of the country's jobs located here, there's little sign of this headlong growth rate slowing down. I've been warned that getting around can be slow and uncomfortable, but I have great faith in my companion Ishraq Ahmed, a short, canny man with a trim beard and an immense list of contacts.

This morning's Bangladesh Observer carries front-page reports of the second hartal this week. Both leading parties use these one-day strikes as political weapons and there are reports of marches, arrests, accusations, counter-accusations and several deaths in violent clashes with the police. The paper's mailbag seems united in condemning yesterday's action. Today, Dhaka is back to normal. This means unmoving lines of cars, trucks, buses, and over-revving, smoke-belching tuk-tuks, interwoven with any number of the estimated 700,000 bicycle rickshaws that offer a sporting alternative to the traffic jam.

There seem to be very few rules of the road. Road sense, in Dhaka, is knowing how to get to your destination by any means possible.

'It's the only country in the world where every one has right of way,' says Ishraq, with, I detect, a certain quiet pride.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 121: Dhaka
  • Country/sea: Bangladesh
  • Place: Dhaka
  • Book page no: 269

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