We were up and ready to explore Dhaka by 7 am. We thought that this would be the best way to tolerate the heat and humidity of the city. Apparently we were the only ones with this idea, at least in the area around our hotel. All the shops were still closed and there was almost no action on the streets, in sharp contrast to our arrival at rush hour the night before. We delayed our departure an hour or so, but it didn't really matter, because it was already hot and sticky.
By 9 am, we were standing in front of the Sadarghat boat terminal, being swept away by a boatman, promising us a tour of the Buriganga river. I think he saw the hesitation in our eyes, because he didn't even let us say a word as he ushered us through the crowds of people and onto a tiny wooden craft sandwiched between too huge passenger ferries. Yann looked utterly terrified (although swears he was only slightly worried) as we slipped through the narrow gap separating the two boats and into the open water. The man who had intercepted us at the entrance tot he boat terminal, was in fact not a boat driver, but an "English speaking guide" named Jewel, who had subcontracted our oarsman. According to Jewel, his mission was not to make money, but to make sure that Bangladesh was known to the world as a wonderful place for tourists, "yo pwoblem is my pwoblem". Almost immediately into our river ride he began pitching us his tour of Old Dhaka. We didn't pay too much attention to him, we were too busy watching everything going on around us. There aren't as many boats on the river as there are rickshaws on the streets of Dhaka, but the traffic is equally disorganized and chaotic. We felt slightly vulnerable as we were rowed down the river next to boats that probably couldn't even tell we were there. We docked on the opposite river bank and visited a small fish and produce market. Right next to the market was a grade school, where Jewel's two boys attended. He was happy to introduce us to his children, who spoke the best English among their schoolmates. Within a few minutes of our arrival, it seemed like the entire school had come out to greet us. Women at the local market lined up to have their photos taken and shake our hand. A produce vendor threw potato peels at me until I finally understood that she wanted me to bring her to Canada with us. The village lined up on the edge of the river to wave goodbye as we pulled off. One of the most enthusiastic sendoffs we've ever had. Jewel then brought us further down the river to his neighborhood, where he wanted to show us his home. He lives in the ship-building district, where huge ship hulls seem to be formed anew by hammering scraps of metal together. Its unbelievable that these ships eventually become sea-worthy. Thousands of men, young and old, work all day hanging off the ships bashing pieces of metal together. You can hear the sounds of hammers clanging against the ships frames from every direction. Most of the local shops sell old ship parts. Jewel brought us to his friend's shop where men were actually building soldering machines from scraps. We navigated through the maze of ships and ship parts until we arrived to Jewel's house. One small room where he sleeps with his wife and two boys. A kitchen is shared between a few other families housed in similar one-room homes. His room was perfectly tended to, with all the pots and pans carefully hanging on the wall and all the family's possessions neatly tucked away out of sight. We spent a few minutes resting while the neighbors gathered at the window. Everywhere we visited, crowds gathered around to have their photo taken or to inquire about us. We were always greeted with smiles and laughter. Jewel proudly informed us that these were "his people" so we need not worry about anything happening to us. Although, he couldn't guarantee "full protection" on the other side of the river, back in Old Dhaka. This is where we were heading next. We had given in to Jewel's tour offers and decided he would show us around for a few more hours, even though it wasn't his turf and he was slightly annoying.
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