Istanbul to Dhaka

Greetings.

It has been awhile since I have posted to this blog. The Dhaka/Istanbul trip has come and gone. It was an amazing experience. As soon as I got through security at the airport in Houston the sole of one of my shoes came off, leaving me with only flip flops. It was cold in Istanbul so my feet were cold, but other than that an amazing experience.

Istanbul is beautiful and clean. We stayed in the old part of the city a few blocks from the Hagia Sophia. As someone passionate about art I was super excited to see the Hagia Sophia. Our first and only night we (my mom and I) went out for a traditional Turkish dinner which was tasty. They we had a look at two oblisques which had been brought from Egypt at some point.

In the early morning we were awaken by the call to prayer. It was very beautiful and moving. Breakfast at our rooftop restaurant was fantastic. We could see the water of the Bosporus and the cheeses were amazing! We headed out early just to look around. A carpet seller tried to trap us, but he didn’t. First we went in the Basilica Cistern, which was built by the Romans. It was peaceful. As we were early there weren’t many people and it was great. It is know for two of the column bases made from Medusa heads. We checked those out and got our photos in and slowly headed out buying some souvenirs on the way out.

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Next we went to the Hagia Sophia! It was impressive. The structure is massive and you can feel the history. We got there at the right time as there was no line. Once inside we marveled at the height of the ceiling and the mosaics. You feel the history and the past people as you walk up to the second floor. There you can get right up close to several Christian mosaics. After some time checking out the building we headed back out, as we only had about four hours to check stuff out. From there we went to the Topkapi Palace.

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The Topaki Palace was super cool. It is the first palace I have ever been in. The architecture was cool and so were the artifacts. While there it started raining and all the walkways were made of marble stone. Good times for me. After almost falling a dozen times we made it back to the hotel and headed to the airport.

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Next stop Dhaka. We got to Dhaka early. Getting our visa was interesting as they wrote everything down in a ledger, no computer. Once we got our visa and made it through customs we got a taxi to the hotel. It was good to be in Dhaka as soon as we got there the humidity and smells of South Asia hit you. The strange familiarity was comforting.

We got checked into the hotel and then got ready for the day. No nap. We were meeting with a tour guide that morning. He called when he was supposed to be arriving and arranged to be there in two hours. We waited. When he showed up he had a driver which turned out to be amazing. We headed out of Dhaka to Sonargaon the former capital of the area. In Sonargaon there is a Folk Museum and some cool old architecture. There was a festival going on a the Folk Museum. That made for a festive atmosphere. There were a good number of people there and I was like a famous person and the teenage girls and families wanted to take photos with me. It was super fun for me. I think the guide thought I didn’t like it. But what they hey, it adds to the experience for everyone. Out on the grounds we got to see regional crafts and tried some fried foods.

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Then we checked out the old architecture. We paid some baksheesh and got to go inside some of the buildings. One had an amazing ballroom with stain-glass windows. None of my photographs do it justice. We continued down the street and then went to another area where there was a former minting plant (where they used to make money). It was cool.

We left there and headed back toward Dhaka but took another side trip to a replica of the Taj Mahal. It was a peaceful place. Not many people were there. The structure isn’t that big and is made of tile. It is beautiful in its own right. We had lunch there, chicken biryani. Back at the car there were two cute puppy dogs! I photographed them but did not touch them, you can never be sure.

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Our next stop was a place were they make a very intricate loosely woven fabric called Jamdani. The piece I bought is now hanging on my dinning area wall. We got to go in to the small factory area and see the people working. I was extremely tired and I was not sure how I felt about being there. The workers were very friendly and seemed genuinely excited for us to be there. They made my mom and I bracelets out of the string. Then we went inside to the showroom and the men took out and unfolded an overwhelming amount of fabrics. I was too tired to do the math to figure out how much stuff costs, so my mom and I each bought one piece of fabric. My fabric is white with gold accents. My mom’s fabric purple with silver accents.

Once we left Jamdani shop we headed back to the hotel and experienced the crazy Dhaka traffic. You can’t explain the pandemonium of vehicles and people and time it took to get across town, you just have to go experience it yourself. Once back at the hotel we had dinner at the hotel restaurant and headed to bed.

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