Thu, Dec 19, 2013: Srimangal
06.40 Parabat Express – but there is a delay and about 1,000 folks waiting for the train. We are exhibit A here, so we make use of a waiting room. A few street kinds, amputees, and beggars – we are sitting ducks for them. Getting on is well a real bun fight, especially with our luggage and the need to haul yourself up 3 large steps to get on board. It’s every woman for herself, and we didn’t get 1st class seats. Poor Julie lags behind and is dragged onto the train by Richard like she is a puppy pulled from her neck – bless her!
Once we find seats and put luggage up and once all the pushing and shoving is done, it’s not too bad and an interesting albeit slow journey – a new speed restriction is in place, given the derailments recently. So we arrive late into Srimongal, the heart of the tea region. Verdant green small hills 100-meter high maximum. It’s run down one-horse kind of town. We are staying outside in an Eco-lodge. Hmm more like garden sheds on legs. A lot of mossies too. We are close to the Indian border here.
We visit late afternoon a tribal village and head of to try a famous 7 layer tea. It does have 7 layers and 7 flavors. The secret to its making is a secret needless to say. The layering is in the sugar I feel sure. Dinner average chicken curry, nice aubergine fritters, rice, daal, usual fayer.
Fri, Dec 20, Srimangal – Dhaka
Breakfast is good. Richard goes to the station while we head to the national park. Really nice place and we have it all to ourselves with a good local guide. We are also very lucky to find Hoolock Gibbons quite quickly – only 200 left in the world. We also see golden cap languors and leaf monkey. Some nice birds. We enjoy this. We visit other tribal villages too. They are well laid out, bordering on smart, and have a really good agriculture infrastructure, and are quite well-off. Betel leaf and nut production earn them a lot.
We visit a tea plantation, collect Richard at Station, visit a pineapple farm, take more 7 layer tea as the boys like it so much. I love the ginger myself. The itinerary seems to change over the next few hours as the train is canceled. There are different ideas on getting us back to Dhaka. We need to connect for a steamer tomorrow evening, so it’s a quick pack and hasty checkout. 26 hours here only – not enough, but we have to work around blockades. We take supper at the soon-to-be-opened “Grande Sultan Resort”, meeting GM Toni Khan, a world-famous chef in his day. It’s a lovely place and the meal is OK. A real treat! Such a luxury place they have. Some way to go with service and open Xmas day.
Everyone else is heading back under the cover of darkness. It’s slow going, and bad driving – we dodge or seem to dodge anything from huge Lorries to pedestrians in the darkness. Arrive at the apartment after midnight – Made it!
Sat, Dec 21, 2013: Rocket Steamer
A lay-in. It rained heavily last night, so there is a lot of fog about it. A day to crash really. So catch up on paperwork, luggage, laundry, etc. Shop for picnic stuff etc. Head to the famous Sadarghat for our boat at 4 pm – takes almost an hour in traffic to get there.
It’s hard to describe the chaos. I feel Like Michael Palin. Lots of boats moored up and YES, the rusty one at the end is ours! It’s a bun fight to get on. Folks are getting off as well up to flights of stairs to 1st class! 08 cabins, a 1st class deck crew including toilet attendant. All on the smelly Buringanga river. Food is amazing – soup-fish and chips for dinner, roast chicken, and creme caramel – all agree best fish and chips ever! Cabins are basic and small, to say the least. Ian and I do go to bed and wake into the night to the fog horn blowing and find us tied for safety alongside another boat. The fog lifts and we head on our way again.
Toilets well………any port in a storm!
If you’ve missed the previous parts of my diary, you can start reading it from here: Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – I). Consider sharing the story on social media so that more travelers can know about this amazing country which is little known to everyone. Enjoy!
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