Well hi-di-ho folks! Thursday on the ol’ blogarino means today it’s time for, you guessed it (or just read it in the title) for another one of these here ‘City Rumbles’. We’ve seen some interesting matchups this year, some cities that seem pretty similar, others that seemed poles apart and left us all wondering why they would be paired (the answer is simply that sooner or later to accommodate all the cities in the pool we are going to end up with some odd combinations) but perhaps none have presented me with such stark contrasts, especially not in two cities that are both national capitals. Let’s get straight into it, we have the US capital in Washington DC versus the capital of Bangladesh, the chaotic city with a real heart – Dhaka. So folks, let’ get ready to RUMBLE!
GDP – for a change
Washington DC sits at the centre of the richest and most powerful country on Earth. I’m going to start with looking at the average per capita GDPs here, not something I would normally do but I want to start by showing the stark differences in the two cities. The USA per capita GDP average is according to Lord Google $54,200USD per year. How about Bangladesh then? Well we find it has an average GDP per year of $2,064USD. So the US GDP is around 27 times that of Bangladesh, on average.
That’s pretty dramatic, you have to agree. Wouldn’t it be interesting to compare cities an places on a sliding scale according to GDP. It could be argued straight away that Dhaka has achieved a lot compared to Washington in direct relation to its GDP. It’s a functioning city which houses a government which runs a country of 163 million crammed into 148,460km2. Let’s see how that compares – Victoria, the state I live in has over 227,000km2 and a population of just over 6 million. Let’s look stateside. Wyoming is over 253,000km2 with a population of less than 600,000. A little unfair maybe. Georgia, the US state has and area of nearly 154,000km2 and a population of just over 10 million. Bangladesh has slightly less space but 16 times the population. Any resources the country might have are stretched as thin as one could imagine. Yet – people live. Yes there is a lot of “poverty”, but people live, friendly, warm, kind people. People who will share what they have with the traveller. If you haven’t been to a place like Bangladesh – GO! You will learn so much, you WILL be changed.
Before I proceed any further in what is clearly going to be a very different City Rumble, let’s refresh how the two cities made it here to the third round. Washington DC made it’s way via the second chance “and others” round beating off a city from the West Coast of the States in San Francisco. See that here – City Rumble – Washington DC versus San Francisco.
Dhaka has had an unbeaten record in City Rumbles up to this point and interestingly was a city I featured twice before this year, not sure if there are any other cities that have. So it got in an extra bonus round of its own you might say. It faced off against the nearest city of similar size here in Kolkata – City Rumble – Kolkata versus Dhaka, then I had to pit it against its name sake for the hell of it in 2019 when we saw City Rumble – Dakar versus Dhaka. Then earlier this year it narrowly won its second round bout against the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe. See City Rumble – Dushanbe versus Dhaka. So you see, it may have seemed like a simple choice but Dhaka punches well above it’s weight. Washington has its work cut out for it today. I don’t just hand wins to the cities because they have nice boulevards and are kept clean. There is more to a city for this traveller than the obvious. I think. Maybe.
Both are capitals. Populations are – Washington DC 692,000 Greater Metro, to Dhaka 17,151,925. Yeah. So that has Dhaka with over 28 times the population of DC. Urban Area Dhaka 306km2 and Washington … I don’t know I couldn’t find it in a reasonable amount of time. But Dhaka is over 17 million in 306km2. Trust me, that’s tight.
What are the costs? Well let’s be honest and obvious here, DC is going to cost you more than Dhaka. The currency of Bangladesh is the Taka and in 2021 one US Dollar can get you around 85 Taka.
Dhaka doesn’t have a Trump Hotel like Washington does, but I stayed both times at the Kushiara Guest House which was great value for money and the friendliest little guesthouse one can imagine. Now I look for it online and can’t find it, and as it’s 17 years since I was there, I have no idea if it still exists or what it’s like. In DC I stayed with people I’d met earlier on my trip, so basically, I have no idea on the true value of places to stay in DC. But there are hostels to give you budget options, whereas in Dhaka will have dirt cheap places, but they won’t be great value for money and might not even be on the net.
But for a decent option at $20-$50USD Dhaka will probably get you value for money that DC just can’t. It all depends on how much your budget allows for!
Knowing people in DC was great because we went out for dinner and drinks, and if I didn’t have those guys I wouldn’t have connected with others – unless I was in a hostel I guess. In Bangladesh people are easier to meet and in fact I met a few on the plane from KL to Dhaka who then invited me to places including some cricket training and to a school. And dinner at a home, plus the entire staff of Kushiara were so friendly and always happy to help. Bus tickets and things like that are not so straight forward in Dhaka and I got a lot of help there as the guest house bought them for me. Even if you head to a cricket game you are bound to meet people and chat. People are keen to know about you and it’s really what travel is all about in many respects in my opinion!
Washington DC you are going to have a lot more choice, along with fast food options when you need a quick, cheap feed. Dhaka has loads of places for a cheap curry (watch out for peanuts if you’re allergic like I was!). In 2002 our whole group went to a Chinese restaurant on the last night for something different. We mostly ate at the guest house as I guess the organisers thought the food was dependable there. I had Pizza Hut one night on my second trip, and that was something very different from curries and fried things! But the food in general will be familiar if you like Indian or Pakistani food.
To See, to see..
Look the thing here is that you will head to the two cities for pretty much very very different reasons. Washington DC offers so much in the history of the US, with monuments to past Presidents and brilliant museums – with a whole choice of Smithsonian Museums including the amazing National Museum of Air and Space which is as cool as it sounds. And of course, you can see the US Capitol Building where the Congress sits, and the White House.
Then in Dhaka you have the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, the parliament building which from the outside looks like not much more than a concrete slab. But it is a famous architectural work completed in 1982 and designed by Louis Khan and Muzharul Islam. It’s a building of note and inside – I haven’t been but seen a couple of photos – it looks impressive, especially the way the light comes in through the giant circular window.
There is a museum to the Bangladeshi push for independence in the 70s from Pakistan, mosques and historic buildings to visit like the Ahan Manzil mansion – the first place in Dhaka to have electricity. Right on the banks of the Buriganga River where the life of the river is just amazing. Hectic, crazy, an amazing study of life.
And the Results Are In…
At the end of the day it’s a personal choice. And as I have in the past, today I am going for Dhaka again. Yes, DHAKA, Bangladesh is into the final EIGHT! Wowsers. It just…blows your mind. I would LOVE to explore Washington again because it really is a great city with so much to offer the visitor. And it will blow your mind, in very diffrernt ways to Dhaka. But Dhaka, it’s just a city that confronts, inspires, freaks you out, and so much more. This may be a controversial one. But Dhaka it is!
Thanks for reading today, take care – and May the Journey Never End!