Feeling refreshed after a full night's sleep things did look better than they had the night before.
After omelette and toast for breakfast we stepped outside the hotel. A cycle rickshaw approached and the driver asked us, in broken English, where we would like to go. We couldn't go with him. He was tiny, standing side by side, if I had my arm around him, his shoulder would fit under my arm pit. Not only was he not in the first flush of youth, he was pencil slim. We couldn't possibly let him peddle our enormous, bloated selves to the old city, a couple of kilometres away.
'No, please, please, sir. I have strong. I take you', he looked at each of us in turn, imploring us to say yes. He eventually convinced us, and we climbed aboard. One buttock each on the rickshaw's seat.
He was strong, strong enough to stay with us all day, and give a full tour of the sights, plus some bonus venues, not featured in the guide book.
He introduced himself as Abdul and during the course of the day, we grew to trust him as our guide. His English was good enough to explain where we were going and what we were looking at, all as he negotiated the busy roads and the hair raising antics of Bangladeshi drivers.
Our first day site seeing was packed full. We stopped at the botanical gardens, one of Abdul's suggestions, he told us it would give our brains a rest but we were pleased to give his legs a break. The gardens were well maintained with dusty trees of different types, neatly labelled - Dhaka's answer to Kew. There were plenty of nooks between the trees, which gave privacy to young Muslim couples, giggling and canoodling, away from disapproving parents and guardians.
From the gardens it was a short cycle to the Christian cemetery, another of Abdul's suggestions. This was a walled enclosure, about the size of a football pitch and had been in existence since the 1600s. My first impression was Creepy, with a capital 'C'. It looked like something out of a horror movie. Many of the graves had a stone cross at the head, one had an angel statue, not dissimilar to a graveyard in Britain. But what gave them the creepiness was their crumbling state coupled with the gloom from the numerous trees.
After a brief stop we continued on to a workshop where craftsmen were making cycle rickshaws. Each one is hand made from scratch and one of the men was working on an order of several rickshaws destined for America.
Abdul continued tirelessly on towards the river, described as the 'life blood' of the city. The water was inky black but this didn't deter children from diving and splashing, young men from fishing - waist deep in the water and another, older man thoroughly soaping up for a proper wash. As it was Friday - a rest day, it was quieter than usual, but there was still plenty of activity on the water, as huge open deck boats cruised along as well as barges and working boats.
Abdul negotiated a river crossing for us on a wooden flat bottomed boat, with a single oarsman who used a long paddle, a bit like a Cambridge punt.
On the other side of the river we were greeted by several cheeky, giggling children. "Your country?" was their opening line followed by a request to have their photograph taken with us. Due to our white skins and western clothes we're treated like visiting celebrities, and the adults everywhere we go behave no differently to the way these children did. A phenomenon we also experienced during our travels through India in 2001.
We walked around the boat yard before our row back to the other side.
The dirt track alongside the river had market traders on either side, selling mainly onions and garlic. Abdul explained that the garlic was imported from India and the onions grown in Bangladesh. A Muslim trader stepped out to greet us, he offered us tea. We accepted and entered a shed with a corrugated iron roof. The floor was divided into large squares, several of which had a large heap of onions on it. On one side of the area women were sitting on the floor sorting through the onions. Someone found two plastic garden chairs, these were placed on an empty onion square and we were asked by our host if we would like tea. While we waited a crowd quickly formed in front of us, clearly we had become the matinee. We felt a little self conscious from this attention but Mike managed to think up a stream of pleasantries. The tea eventually arrived and this was different to previous cups. These had been made with a tea bag and condensed milk. This was red tea, with no milk and flavoured with sugar and spices. I think I could taste cinnamon. It was delicious, even Mike liked it.
Forget how Abdul's legs must have been feeling, we were starting to tire, but he wanted to take us to the Hindu market so we could compare it to the Muslim one.
Then homeward bound we went, stopping for a delicious curry on the way.
We arranged with Abdul to meet at 10.30 the following morning, for our second full day in Dhaka.