Diary of my first 03 weeks trip to Bangladesh (Part – IV)

Thu, Dec 19, 2013: Srimangal

06.40 Parabat Express – but there is a delay and about 1,000 folk waiting for 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 really bun fight, especially with our luggage and the need to haul yourself up 3 large steps to get on board. Its every woman for herself, and we didn’t get 1st class seats. Poor Julie lags behind and is dragged onto 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, heart of the tea region. Verdant green small hills 100 meter high maximum. Its 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.

Inside a Bangladeshi train

Fri, Dec 20, Srimangal – Dhaka

Breakfast is good. Richard goes to station while we head to 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 languor’s 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.

Tea plantations of Srimangal

We visit a tea plantation, collect Richard at Station, visit pineapple farm, take more 7 layer tea as the boys likes it so much. I love the ginger myself. Itinerary seem to change over the next few hours as train is cancelled. 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 check out. 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 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 cover of darkness. Its slow going, and bad driving – we dodge or seem to dodge anything from huge Lorries to pedestrians in the darkness. Arrive at apartment after midnight – Made it!

The creator of 7 layer tea at Srimangal

Sat, Dec 21, 2013: Rocket Steamer

A lay in. It rained heavily last night, so there is a lot of fog about. A day to crash really. So catch up on paperwork, luggage, laundry etc. Shop for picnic stuff etc. Head to famous Sadarghat for our boat at 4pm – 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!

Century old paddle steamer still on service in Bangladesh

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 in social media so that more travelers can know about this amazing country which is little known to everyone. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: Have you ever visited Bangladesh? How amazing have you found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Contact us to publish your Bangladesh travel story here. Check out our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.

My 11 days vacation in Bangladesh during security alert from the west

A couple of weeks ago I returned from Bangladesh. I spent there 11 days.

It was a long-awaited trip for me. At first several years ago I chanced to read a book written by Dr. Muhammad Yunus which had been just translated into Russian. Then I bought a book in English about Bangladesh history. I hadn’t found a contemporary edition of history book in Russian and ordered this one in some USA online shop. Generally speaking, 30-40 years ago we had a lot of books published in Russian about Bangladesh, including Bengali language textbooks and other numerous works. And I hope the number of books translated into Russian will increase.

Books in Russian that inspired me to travel Bangladesh.

Besides reading, I love traveling. And to that time I had already been at least twice in every country bordering Bangladesh: India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. And every time traveling to South Asia, I was planning to visit Bangladesh “next time”. I imagined how nice it would be to find a way to visit Bangladesh sooner or later.

This year I’ve decided that neither the absence of direct flights from Moscow to Dhaka, nor the small number of reviews from travelers would be a significant obstacle for me. Also it was great that I found a good travel company from Dhaka – Nijhoom Tours, who had an excellent website and were attentive to my numerous questions and replied very quickly and professionally.

It was a well-organized and informative trip. Bangladesh is not an easy country for traveling independently but with the help of the local travel agency, it becomes a really attractive and easy trip.

Waiting for train in a train station in Bangladesh.

Capital City Dhaka

In Dhaka, you find yourself in the heart of one of the most densely populated countries. There are too many people everywhere. It’s a very lively and active city. And as we were in the country with a very rich heritage, we chanced to see many interesting places, including National Assembly Building, Lalbagh Fort, Dhakeshwari Temple, Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque, Armenian Church, Star Mosque, and Ahsan Manzil.

In Ahsan Manzil, a beautiful palace from colonial period in Bangladesh.

Most of all I liked the National Parliament House (one of the largest legislative complexes in the world, 200 acres) and Ahsan Manzil. Ahsan Manzil is a national museum nowadays and it was built as a palace (its construction was started in 1859 and was completed in 1872). After sight-seeing, we had a boat ride at river Buriganga and enjoyed sunset on a wooden row-boat.

Sunset at river Buriganga on a wooden row-boat.

As for accommodation, most hotels here are rather simple. But people are very hospitable and friendly everywhere and we felt like very dear guests in every hotel on the route. Anyway, in Dhaka I stayed for a night in a very nice place.

Sundarbans Mangrove Forest and Srimangal

Then we had a night on Paddle Steamer called Rocket and arrived Hularhat station in the morning. Our goal was visiting Bagerhat. There are many magnificent and ancient Mosques here. This is a very unique and beautiful place.

We stayed for a night in a hotel in Mongla.

And then we went to the boat which forwarded us to Sundarbans forest. Sundarbans is one of the most beautiful place in the world if not the most beautiful! It is the world’s largest mangrove forest and covers a territory of 6,000 sq km. Rivers in the Sundarbans are meeting places of salt water and freshwater. It is a mix of the freshwater of the rivers originating from the Ganges and the salt water of the Bay of Bengal.

Sunset in Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest on earth.

We spent 3 days on the boat. It was a very relaxing time. We explored creeks and canals on a wooden boat in the forest. We visited Jamtola beach on the edge of Bay of Bengal. We saw many colorful birds, many deers and other wildlife. And there were nearly no other people at all. I’m not a good photographer (and my smartphone is not a good tool for this) but I guess my companion made a thousand photos. It’s a heaven for those who love photography. And there were fantastic sunsets too! And dolphins…we saw many dolphins.

Deers in Sundarbans, the most beautiful place on earth.

After Sundarbans, we had a long way to Srimangol where we visited tea plantations and tribal villages. We tasted its famous 7 layers tea. We also did a trekking in the Lawachhara National Park and spent here several hours watching giant spiders and listening to gibbon cries. It was a nice experience.

Tea workers going to deposit the tea leaves after full day's peaking.

I wish to come back!

So our program was interesting, intense, but not exhausting or tiring. All the hotels during the trip were comfortable: Wi-Fi (in one hotel it was available at the lobby only and in the others – in the rooms too), hot water, good food and drinking water…everything was OK.

In conclusion I must say that I have never met so many sincere, smiling, and helpful people as in Bangladesh. They are glad to meet you, do selfie with you on the streets, help you with your luggage in the train; they invite you to join their family events!

Photo shooting with the locals in Bangladesh.

We’ve heard from the news that Bangladesh (as many other Asian countries) was continuing to face numerous economic, social, and environmental challenges, including poverty, over-population, and global warming. And recenty there have been added alarming reports concerning possible terrorist activities in the region. The issue of security is very important and I was in doubts whether it’s a safe place for coming or not. But while being in Bangladesh, it became clear to me that my anxiety and doubts had been groundless, and a hype in the Western press was too exaggerated. The security situation here is like in any other tourist destination around.

So I have many precious memories from my journey. This is a very friendly country, it was a fantastic time and I wish to come back!

If you’ve enjoyed the story, consider sharing it in social media so that more travelers can know about this amazing country which is little known to everyone buried in some popular myths. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: Have you ever visited Bangladesh? How amazing have you found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Contact us to publish your Bangladesh travel story here. Check out our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.

Bangladesh: Off the Tourist Trails, and Off the Beaten Track

Our two week holiday in Bangladesh began with a flight from Guangzhou, China to Dhaka. I was pretty excited about returning to Bangladesh, after 46 years and had organized a tour guide through a company called Nijhoom Tours, which I found on TripAdvisor. I asked them what they could provide and together we made a two week package.

You see I’ve already lived in Dhaka; in the 70’s. I was a volunteer smallpox vaccinator for WHO, and lived with my family who were working on a New Zealand aid program teaching pilots how to fly. I am one of the last people to see smallpox on the planet.

Boat ride on green-water canal Lalakhal in Sylhet, the north-eastern part of Bangladesh.

I already knew that Dhaka was a chaotic place and to buy tickets for transport would be hours – valuable time, that I did not want to waste on my holiday. So all of the purchasing was done ahead of time by Hassan at Nijhoom Tours.

We traveled at the end of the monsoon. I like this time because the air is really clean, and the rivers are full and the paddy fields still hold lots of water. It is very picturesque. Actually Bangladesh is photo heaven.

Our lodging at Srimangal, the tea capital of Bangladesh.

On arrival we went and had lunch in Old Dhaka and then went on the little wooden boats on the river for a small paddle before boarding our 1929 paddle steamer to go on an overnight journey to Bagerhat.

We traveled First Class, Bangladesh style. We are both physically fit and used to camping. Bangladesh is a developing nation so nothing is what you expect, the beds are hard, things can look grubby and run down, and people stare at you. If you are a 5 Star tourist, this is not the place for you.

On the other hand if you love color, other cultures, and have some travel endurance, then this might be your next destination.

Bangladeshi ladies in colorful saries.

We traveled on little boats, big boats, trains, tri–shaws, hiking, cycling, and a jeep from one side of the country to the other. We ate everything, and everywhere and never got sick. We used signs and laughs and smiles to communicate with the local people, and we got plenty back. Bangladeshis made us feel like we were visiting royalty. They were so pleased that we had come to their country to visit them. And of course by being there we were helping the local little communities by spreading our dollars.

We were in a country with 160 million Muslims. That’s quite a few and I have to say I felt safe the entire time. Bangladeshis are people going about their lives eking out a living, and feeling very optimistic about their future.

Trekking inside Rajkandi Reserve Forest at Srimangal in Bangladesh.

Now remember I’d lived there in the 1970’s and things had changed. This is a quick-list of the changes..

Women are loving wearing brightly colored saris.
There is not a strong prevalence of skin disease among the children.
There were few beggars.
The pie dogs look healthy.
People are optimistic.
People work hard.
There is plenty of healthy food and everyone appeared well fed.
Our tour leader Arafat was conscious of litter in the National Parks and collected it up.
It was OK for cross dressers to collect funds on one section of the train route.

The traffic in Dhaka is worse, so get out into the country.
Book a tour leader AND GO EXPLORE.

If you’ve enjoyed the story, consider sharing it in social media so that more travelers can know about this amazing country which is little known to everyone. Enjoy!

Editorial Note: Have you ever visited Bangladesh? How amazing have you found it? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments. Contact us to publish your Bangladesh travel story here. Check out our Bangladesh tour packages and holiday packages in Bangladesh to visit Bangladesh with comfort.