Getaway of the week #5: the Republic of Uttara
Cover illustration by Fahim Anzoom Rumman (botagainsthumanity). Find his page here.
This week’s getaway is a special place located about 13 km away from the city of Dhaka, the Republic of Uttara. Uttara is a nice little place to leave the city for a day, away from the hectic weekdays. Ideally, this little, somewhat primitive small city-state should not take more than 30 minutes to visit but thanks to the adventurous route that leads to this place, it almost takes an entire day to visit Uttara and come back to the city, safe and sound.
So, if you’re tired of all the cliched places people visit these days like Sreemangal and Cox’s Bazaar (or you want to turn your image of a lazy duck who sits at home all day playing PUBG into that of a spontaneous traveller), buckle up. You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.
Getting to Uttara is the tough part. Finding a bus that goes to that town is tougher. You have to wait in Shahbagh square for at least 20 minutes and literally beg the conductor mamas before someone takes pity on you and lets you on their bus. You might have to keep standing all the way so wear light and comfortable clothes and keep your baggage low. We recommend you don’t carry expensive gadgets, especially a camera. Two reasons. Number 1, Republic of Uttara has little to none views that would require the attention of a lens. And if you want to take a photo of the daily life of Uttara people let us tell you that this is the place where urban planning goes to die. Uttara is rich in experience, not in suitable photography subjects. Number 2, you will get mugged in Uttara and lose your gadgets. Even if you get spared in Uttara, you will most definitely get pickpocketed on the bus. So, take ample precaution in protecting your belongings.
The bus journey to Uttara can take we-don’t-know-how-many-hours long. If you are blessed, it might, just might take 2 hours, if you’re lucky. Take a few dry snacks with you and a bottle of cold water to save you from dehydration (unless you’re fasting, in which case…you will die.). Try not to get annoyed by people falling over your shoulders. Bangladeshi people have little to no concept of personal space and they are generally curious in nature. But they’re all good-hearted people, we’re sure. At least that’s what the brochure says.
After getting down in Uttara, roam around the broken and tattered roads for a while. Watch what life is like in a small town away from civilisation. Eat cheap street food and gamble with diarrhoea if you dare. Take a rickshaw and head to a famous tourist spot called Dia Bari. This is the pride of Uttara. Anyone who’s from that region will proudly boast about Dia Bari and recommend you this place when going to Uttara. In reality, it is nothing much. Just an open field with a small water-body nearby. But hey, even that is hard to find in Dhaka so the tourist spot tag is justified for this green field.
Get back to town after you’re done exploring Dia Bari. Go window shopping in the street market that illegally occupies all the footpaths you were supposed to walk on. Have the roadside milk and water drink that they call tea. Roam around the town again to explore the bits and pieces of the old way of life the natives of this land once lived.
By the time you’re done with everything, it’ll almost be dusk. Prepare your mind and your body for another long journey back to the civilisation and get on a bus, if you can.
The Republic of Uttara is a small, underrated place to be visited. But the experience is one of a kind. There is no immigration system yet so you don’t need to get your visa done. But we hear it’s in the works. We cannot promise you that you’ll fall in love with Uttara, but we can promise you one other thing. When you get back from Uttara to Dhaka, you’ll realise how much you loved Dhaka. Uttara is your place to go if you want to rekindle your love for Godforsaken Dhaka.