Shuffling within the endless crowds of New Market, Dhaka, one of Bangladesh’s largest markets and certainly the busiest. You are not your own person here – you must follow the movement of the colony, the hive, whose intentions are unknown to foreigners like me.
Feeling atomic, just one tiny moving part of a gigantic organism, it’s best to let go and go with the flow, or risk losing your mind…
Until you see a shop you like the look of.
Then you must fight your way to it, every step towards it a battle as you go against the tide and will of the masses. Since when has shopping ever been so difficult?
It is in Dhaka’s New Market.
It’s certainly an overwhelming place. I’ve not experienced anything like it. The best comparison I can think of is when you’re leaving a festival. Then add in stifling heat, dust and/or humidity, the constant drone of car horns and rickshaws, and you’re close. It’s touch and go whether it’s amazing or just one huge living, breathing nightmare. But if you go there with no agenda other than to experience being moved along the largest crowd you’ve ever seen, you might just find it exhilarating…
Admittedly there is a huge amount of things to buy here – jewellery, clothes, shoes, and so much more. It’s probably the best in Dhaka. The market itself is a gigantic concrete triangle, holding over 400 shops and stalls, which continue to sprawl outside its crumbling walls. Then there’s amazing food like khichuri (rice and lentils) and biriani. My personal favourite is fuska, mouth-sized cripsy shells filled with potato paste and tamarind sauce, that is particularly good here. You’ll get a great deal, too (don’t believe that the prices are fixed).
But to actually go shopping takes serious will power. I don’t care much for shopping but I was determined to buy gifts for my friends at home, it being my second to last day of a 4-month stay in Bangladesh, and having very little to take home for them. New Market cracked me after about half an hour. I bought some bracelets and then gave myself back to the crowd. If they could see the mania of this place they’d surely understand, right?
A gap in the market! I don’t think this guy appreciated my pun…
After giving up on shopping I walked up a bridge to get a wider view of this world. Down in the hive it’s impossible to see anything beyond the head or back of the person in front of you, or to think or comprehend anything beyond don’t walk over someone, don’t get walked on yourself.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
How can there be so much life in one place? So many people, so many stories. Every person following the crowd in their own unique way. I could have stayed there for hours.
But this isn’t a place you can just stand and stare. The pressure from the hive to keep on moving is strong. I let it take me.
If you don’t like shopping, go to New Market for the experience. If you do like shopping, go for the experience and try a little bit of shopping on the side. It’s an unforgettable place.
New Market is just north of Azimpur in the southern region of Dhaka, starting on Nirpur Road, and quite close to the University of Dhaka. You can reach it by CNG (an auto rickshaw/tuk tuk green in colour) if you’re coming from further away, or a traditional rickshaw if you’re close. You can pick up CNGs or rickshaws almost anywhere in the city – you can just flag them down. The traffic is notoriously bad around this area, so it’s sometimes best to jump out a street or two before it and walk the rest of the way.