Sylhet-Where Bangladesh Grows Tea
Trip Start Jul 01, 2005
18Trip End Oct 01, 2007
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We made the 4-day weekend trip - five of us North Americans on a mini in-Country retreat. Sylhet is in the north east corner of the Country, and one of the few places in the Country that is not flat. The British developed a tea growing industry there which still survives today.
The 5-6 hour train ride was a great way to see Bangladesh. The train travels a different route than do the roads and this gives a different impression of the Country. It is the rice harvesting time; fields are yellow, not green like they were when we arrived in September. People were busy harvesting; not a stitch of machinery, mind you, just a small hand scythe and lots of arms and legs to move the cut grain around. The country keeps itself supplied in rice, by this very low-tech way of growing it
But the train also goes through the backside of towns, and this is not a pleasant sight, especially leaving and entering Dhaka. I won't mar your good images of Bangladesh and its people with a description of how the real poor here live.
We arrived at the train station in Srimangal, near Sylhet; the 5 of us piled into a small 3-wheeled taxi built to carry only 3 (two of us hanging on with our arms around the driver) and traveled the 2 Km. to the Tea Resort, where we lived for the three days we were in the area. Lodging there was not fancy, but comfortable. Being out of town and having no wheels of our own, we had to be creative.
Our creativity ran away with us our first full day there. We decided we could visit the tea gardens, and tea factories by bicycle better than anything else, so we ordered up 5 bicycles. Well, let me tell you, these were low tech, poorly fitting, even poorer maintained bikes. They didn't fit us, the seats could not be adjusted, the one tire was flat and the rest looked like they could deflate anytime. The females (Ethel plus two others) were wearing their normal suitable long flowing local dresses, and the bikes were all male bikes!......We went for plan B. We ordered up a car and driver to take us where we wanted to go!
The next day's agenda was to visit a local tribal village. This sounded close enough to walk so we set out. We didn't know where we were going exactly, so after some distance we decided it was time to tap into the local wisdom
We discovered some beautiful locally made handicrafts, visited their local Hindu shrine and were warmly received by everyone we met in the village. The trip from village to town was a short one. We ate at one of the two Lonely Planet (guide book) recommended restaurants in town - not a relaxing time at all, the curry was strong and water questionable! Another (fresh) rickshaw took us back to the Tea Resort for supper. We spent the evenings in devotions, some light program planning and informal team building.
Sometime during this venture we encountered the monkey. I'll call him Pooh Monkey (you know, like in Pooh Bear). We saw him first high in the jungle canopy (we also drove through a small jungle area). Excitement; the first wild monkey sighting for most of us
It's good to be back in Dhaka. But, anyone reading this who wants to visit Bangladesh, we may suggest we take this trip to Sylhet. It has a lot going for it, if experiencing Bangladesh is a goal.
Postscript: We're getting used to being watched, but this trip brought the sport into sharp focus again. Many of the relative few foreigners who visit here travel in their own cars and so are not seen so often using local transportation, eating at local restaurants and walking the streets. So, we are watched a lot. I thought of a marketing bi-line for North American travel agents to use when promoting Bangladesh travel: "Travel to Bangladesh and Entertain the Locals". This one is said to actually exist hanging on the wall in one of the government offices here in Dhaka. "Discover Bangladesh before the Tourist Do"