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Second visit to Dhaka

Second visit to Dhaka

A few weeks ago I went to Dhaka, Bangladesh for the second time (read about the first visit here). I am now the project leader for the project we have with the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD), and the first visit I organized was not quite a routine one, as we were going to have an event to launch a climate report written by BMD with the help of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. More on this later…

Our trip went smoothly this time and we stayed in the same hotel again. This is the view at night from my room on the 20th floor…

Dhaka by night, view from my hotel room

The project meetings in Dhaka have always been in November, when the weather is stable and not too warm. This time we were visiting just before the monsoon. This meant it was a lot hotter and it rained at times – but it also meant it was the season for fruit! And were we in for a pleasant surprise… I NEVER knew for example that mango can taste a 1000 times better than the ones we buy in Europe. On this plate were two different types of mango, and both were so rich in taste and SO good… we ate this every day and never got enough of it. They actually came from the farm of one of our project members family 🙂

The best mango's EVER!!

I also finally got to try jackfruit, a fruit I first came across in Brazil (where it’s not native, and not eaten a lot). I asked if it would be possible to taste it here, as it’s the national fruit of Bangladesh – and look what we got the next day 😀 So the huge jackfruit that you see hanging from the trees actually looks like this inside, almost like yellow peppers. They taste like a combination of all sorts of fruit, and is not too sweet. I loved it!

Jackfruit, very very tasty

Ayesha in our working room, with lots of flowers – we got a very warm welcome 🙂

Ayesha & flowers

Here I’m eating another very tasty fruit that was in season: lychees. So tasty! We were really spoilt during the visit with so much fruit, other snacks and lunch boxes.

Eating more amazing fruits: lychees

Then it was time for the big day, the launch of the climate report. The report is available here and describes the climate of Bangladesh up to now. It is the first time Bangladesh published a report like this themselves, and an important milestone for the country. The report can be used by others, and it this is also a base that is needed for starting to look at future climate, an important topic for a vulnerable country like Bangladesh.

The launch event was so different to what we are used to. It was a big event, with the guests of honour being the senior secretary of the ministry of defence (that the department falls under) and the Norwegian ambassador to Bangladesh (Merete Lundemo). The meeting started with singing and reading from the Quran. Every single speech had to start with greeting all the honourable guests, in the right order and with the right titles etc. I did a speech together with Hans Olav, and I spent half of it just greeting everybody! Quite a show 🙂

The big happening, the launch of the climate report. With tv & other media present.

They had decorated the room with lots of flowers, very pretty. Here the director of BMD (on the left) is talking, with the senior secretary in the middle and the ambassador on the right. And of course a banner in the back, they make banners for every occasion here – we had one in our meeting room as well 🙂

Lots of flowers, and from left to right: the director of BMD (Bangladesh Meteorological Department), the senior secretary of the Ministry of Defense, and the Norwegian ambassador to Bangladesh (Merete Lundemo)

A group photo with the climate report that the embassy had asked for, to use on their Facebook page

Group photo presenting the climate report, written by three people on the right: Ayesha, Bazlur and Hans Olav

And a group photo with the whole team from Norway in it. We are easy to spot 😉

And another one with the whole Norwegian team. Second from left is Rashid, the project manager from the Bangladesh side, my counterpart

Eivind, Hans Olav and Shadekul in front of the main building.

Eivind, Hans Olav and Shadekul in front of the main building

We left after the event, so we got back to the hotel early. This time it was ok for us to leave the hotel and walk around by ourselves (last time we were advised to stay in the hotel apart from visits to BMD). It was so exciting to experience the chaos and heat of the city – I really enjoyed it. We even found some almost idyllic views in Dhaka…

An almost idyllic part of Dhaka

This is part of Banani Lake not far from our hotel. We went to a nice shop here. I tried some very pretty clothes on but had to conclude I don’t have the same body build as people here 😉 so I only bought a book for my mum’s collection of foreign language children’s books, and it cost me 75 euro cents 😉

Panorama at Banani Lake

Street views in Dhaka, a lot of battered busses, this one is actually in quite good condition 😀

Typical bus - and this one is in quite good condition

Rickshaws waiting for customers on a street corner…

Rickshaw drivers waiting on a street corner

And insane electrical wires!

The electric wiring is slightly insane in places!

Some even reaching down to parked cars…

Here the wires even hang down on parked cars...

We visited a meat market, where the meat was hanging on hooks in the 30 degree heat – the smell was practically unbearable and we quickly escaped to an airconditioned supermarket.

Very skinny cows behind a meat market..

Cute little goats, but not such a cute sight after you have seen what they do to them inside the meat market. I’m not a vegetarian, but you’d almost become one…

Cute... until you saw what was done to them inside the meat market :(

A colourful street scene just outside the hotel. With a very rare sight included: a foreigner getting ready to bike through Daka traffic, brave!!

Colourful street scene outside the hotel. On the right a very rare side: a foreigner getting ready to cycle!

Another view from my hotel room… It was fun comparing this picture to the one I took last November, see here. The big white building is starting to look finished for example, and the building on the far left has grown taller.

Hotelroom panorama - this time we saw blue skies and much better views

One last group photo on the last day of our visit – the meeting went very well! They will come to Norway in September, so my next task is to organize that visit 🙂

Final group photo on the last day

The last afternoon, finally time to relax by the pool…

Last afternoon, finally time to relax by the pool!

One last sunset from the lounge where we had most of our dinners…

The last sunset from the lounge room...

Before leaving very early to catch our 06:15 flight. Nice views over Dhaka after takeoff…

Dhaka from the plane

And about 18 hours later, pretty views of a cumulonimbus on the landing approach to Oslo. At that point I had basically been travelling for 3 weeks, and I was so glad to come HOME 🙂

And a pretty cumulonimbus on the landing approach in Oslo - HOME!

It was an exciting week in Dhaka, and I was much more relaxed than on my first visit (where everything was so new and different) – this made it so much more fun, and I look forward to experiencing more of Bangladesh!

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Last week I spent a couple of days in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. The ministery of Foreign Affairs in Norway pays for a project where my institute helps the Bangladesh Meteorological Department. This project has been going for 4-5 years already, and I have recently been asked to join.

It was my first visit to Asia, and the traffic chaos was overwhelming! It can take anything from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours to reach the department from our hotel. I couldn’t get my head around the population either, Dhaka is the 11th city in the world with 12 million inhabitants, and the Greater Dhaka Area has 17 million people – that’s more than the Netherlands (which is already the most densely populated country in Europe apart from Malta/Vatican City/Monaco/San Marino which are so small they don’t count 😛 )

Traffic in Dhaka: complete chaos The Bangladesh Meteorological Deparment. Apparently the side wings were planned to be as high as the middle part, and they keep adding floors!

Bangladesh is a developing country and a lot is still done by hand. I visited the weather office, where weather maps and weather forecasts were done on paper.

Written weather forecasts Weather map drawn by hand, showing every hPa...

Yet things are slowly changing, and some of the Norwegian products for visualising meteorological data are now in use in Bangladesh. Very nice to see!

Some Norwegian products in use for visualising meteorological data The weather office

We had lunch with the project group. The flags that were decorating the building on the outside and the inside were showing the names and faces of people who were running for union elections 🙂

They served us a tasty lunch every day Crossing the courtyard. Another smoggy day...

On our last day, there was a strike and we were told it was safer for us to stay at the hotel. So instead, some of the project members came to our hotel where we had our final meeting.

Final meeting at the hotel

We were staying at a very posh hotel, and my room was on the 22nd floor! I took these two photos from my room…

Construction site seen from my hotel room The fascinating view from my room on the 22nd floor!

Around sunset, I took some photos from the balcony on the 23rd floor…

Sports field and lots of highrise buildings Sunset over Dhaka

We only had 3 days in Dhaka (it should have been 4, but we lost one in Istanbul), so time flew by. There was not much time for sightseeing, and even if there had been – we had been advised by the Norwegian embassy to stay in the hotel and not venture out in the city by ourselves, for security reasons. If everything goes to plan, I will become project leader for this project in 2016. That means I will travel there once a year, and hopefully on one of those trips I’ll have the chance to discover more of the country!