*This is a guest blog from my friend Amanda, who recently visited me in Bangladesh. Her views are not necessarily my views.
A firetrap. That was my first thought as I entered Bongo Bazaar. If that place were to catch on fire, everyone would be a goner and done for.
Elaine had raved about Bongo Bazaar and told me it was one of her favorite places. She talked about the great deals on name brand clothing and how you have to haggle the prices. She did however, leave out a few things.. Like the fact that Bongo Bazaar is a maze or that the vendors are aggressive and constantly call out to you saying, “Madam, Madam!” to get you to look in their stall. You have to dig through piles and piles of clothing. It was nothing like I had imagined from the description that Elaine gave.
When we arrived, a teenage Bengali decided he would be our guide. He was very short and I am sure he was and is constantly ridiculed. He led us through the labyrinth of the bazaar and kept picking up things to say, “You like this?” He picked the most hideous items. When we did find an item we were interested in, he took it upon himself to haggle the price for us. He would try to discreetly tell us to walk away when the vendor refused to give us the price we wanted. Let’s just say that his idea of discretion was about as inconspicuous and Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky’s tryst or as subtle as Elaine in a crowd of Bengalis.
I felt uncomfortable the entire time. It was like being at a low-end flea market, minus other people shopping. I do not like aggressive salesmen and I was sweating profusely. Elaine seemed to be in her element. She was thoroughly enjoying every moment. She enjoys the challenge of finding something she wants and bargaining a price. I did find one shirt to purchase. It was a boat-neck pink shirt with buttons down the front. Absolutely adorable.
After Bongo Bazaar, I decided that department stores were still my shopping paradise. I love the organization, set prices (especially when they are sale prices), cleanliness, private dressing rooms, nonagressive salespeople and of course, the wonderful air conditioning. Unlike Elaine, who thinks shopping should be a challenge, I am a believer in using shopping as retail therapy to relax. I was relieved to leave that fire trap and I look forward to my next therapy session when I return home.