Stories of Dhaka

Dhaka is one the world's megacities with 15 million and rising

Dhaka is one the world’s megacities with 15 million and rising

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Across the road from the hotel where I’m staying is a large watery slum, built on the surface of Banani Lake. It sits right in the middle of the city, just a brisk row away from Gulshan, the Manhattan-esque isthmus where the city’s expats, diplomats and elite reside. I’m at the hotel restaurant and an American from the USA arm of BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, which incidentally owns the hotel I’m staying at, comes over to introduce himself. We talk for a bit, and then I excuse myself to go outside. Just around the corner is my favourite chai wallah, and I sit in his makeshift stall while an endless stream of cycle rickshaws ferry their passengers through the sea of traffic.

Development expats, rickshaws, diplomats, chai wallahs, slum dwellers, and the world’s largest, multi-national NGO are crammed together in this neighbourhood – an area no larger than a college campus. This is the reality of modern Dhaka. Over 10 days I weave in between all of these worlds, glimpsing enough of each to get a sense of how all these parts fit together in this marvellous, crazy corner of the Earth.

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Tuesday morning at Seniman’s Cafe

Best Coffee in Ubud at Senimans

Best Coffee in Ubud at Senimans

Seniman's Cafe

Seniman’s Cafe

“Look I can do it, I can do it!”

A girl, no older than seven, spins a glass top on the communal table. She’s trying to outdo her dad, John a middle aged Englishman – sporting relaxed grey singlet, and relaxed grey goatee. They’re competing for the important title of being the best spinner of the glass tops. The girl, Mabel, is adorably competitive. The way John interacts with her is inspiring. They laugh and flip through magazines, talk, play at the communal coffee table. A father-daughter excursion to the best coffee in Ubud. Mabel moves back and forth in the specially designed rocking chairs that dot the cafe.

One of John’s friend, Tegan, comes into the cafe. She’s in her early 40s, by herself, Australian, friendly. They exchange greetings. It’s soon clear they are both part of the expat scene here in Ubud.

“I was speaking to Diego last night and he’s joined some transcendental club”.

I’m not sure what a transcendental club is, but it seems exclusive.

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