Hi all. It’s time for a ‘Retro Review’ as I like to call them, a review of a place that I went back in the day that for one reason or another, good or bad, was memorable to me. And today, it’s destination Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and the always warm and welcoming Kushiara Guest House.
I am not sure whether or not this place is still open, I must confess, I have sent them an email as I write this review in the hope that they are but honestly, I suspect they are not because there’s been nothing updated on their small Facebook page since 2015, which in this day and age is a very long time to absent from social media, and they don’t have a website either (although there is a giant Kushiara Convention Centre in Dhaka which I am very is not related in any way!) Actually looking at the Facebook page I can see this guesthouse, if still open, is in completely the wrong part of Dhaka so if it is the Kushiara I went to, it’s been moved.
Sigh. Like sands in the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Or if you prefer, egg-timer, old school. But bigger I guess. So anyways, let me tell you what I can about this iconic place to stay in Dhaka.
It was located on Mirpur Road, opposite the Shymoli Cinema. This was the thing I remember, along with the overpass over the busy and chaotic Mirpur Road, and I used that memory to find the spot on Google Maps. You can see below, this is as far as it zooms in and sadly there are no markers for a ‘Kushiara Guest House’. But nothing lasts forever and as I write this blog I realise that one day if I do get back to Dhaka, I am going to have to find another place to stay, hopefully one with somewhere near the warmth and friendliness of Kushiara.
But that will be something that is hard to find! And what it was all about was the staff. The concern and care they took for all their guests, I can honestly say, has been without equal at any place else I have ever stayed in my life. I went to Bangladesh in November 2002 with RMIT – my university, on a trip in a group with perhaps 25 people including a couple of staff members. And this was our base in Dhaka.
I was one of the lucky ones to get a single room, a lot of the others on the trip knew someone else on the journey I guess and there must have been an uneven number of males. Frankly – I snore, and I like my own space so I was pretty happy to have my own room. It was basic and clean, I’m pretty sure there was a television and phone. It wasn’t purpose built as a hotel or guesthouse, I think it was probably a rather large home originally. There was a reception area and a restaurant. It wasn’t anything flashy, but it was welcoming and comfortable. It wasn’t bare-bones either. I can’t remember what the per night cost for a single was, but it couldn’t have been more than #$30AUD per night.
The restaurant was Asian and South Asian food, but with modifications for international guests and the usual mix of a western breakfast option and I think perhaps some basic pasta dishes. And frankly, that keeps me happy. It was just across the road that I went with a couple of new friends on the trip where I had a curry which had peanuts in it and had my most severe anaphylactic reaction. I managed to make it back to the guesthouse fairly quickly and it was there I started to get in a bad way and required the one and only use (thus far, touch wood) of my EpiPen. There was a doctor’s surgery just up the way where I was then taken and a hospital down the road, and the staff were more worried than I was, facilitating transport and I’m sure someone came along with me along with a couple of other students.
Afterwards until we left they were constantly asking after my welfare. And now it’s 17 years later and I can’t remember the names of anyone there except for the owner, Mr Jamal. In 2004 we had a couple of long philosophical chats in his office about tourism in Bangladesh and this incredible journey I was embarking on that year – what I called ‘Dhaka to Dakar’, which in the end didn’t quite work out but was still a great adventure and I did get to Europe by land from Bangladesh.
Getting picked up at the airport by the same people was actually really cool. On the first trip we had family and friends of the university Professor taking us there and those from Kushiara greet us at the airport with a big banner. The restaurant became our briefing room, and on a few nights, as it was Ramadan at the time, we would join in a special breaking of the fast after sundown also in the restaurant. We even had some of the staff come to the cricket with us. It really was a special place and every bit was positive in some way, even when I was having an allergic attack!
So even though it’s been 17 years and I don’t think I can return to this place, I still remember it extremely fondly. From the staff, to the cinema, the overpass – oh I almost forgot, I would get a shave at a little shop just outside Kushiara on Mirpur Rd – the guy had a picture of Saddam Hussein stuck on his mirror! I will never forget THAT!
No ratings today. I don’t have what I gave it in 2004 any more and anyways, it’s probably a 25/25 as it was so awesome. And yes, there was air conditioning and I slept pretty well there. Have you a place that you stayed at that stayed in your heart? Do let me know! Thanks, and May the Journey Never End!