Family vacation to Bangladesh (South Asia)
Trip Start Aug 21, 2006
1Trip End Aug 28, 2006
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Map of Bangladesh
Map of Sylhet
We were staying in Sylhet in the North East of the country in a town called Moulvibazar, which is in the south east of Sylhet.
Even though we were born ad bred in the U.K, We all see Bangladesh as our motherland.
So going on this trip were, my wife and I, my parents, my sister, her husband and their two kids. I was staying for 3 weeks with my wife and the rest of the gang were staying for 4 weeks. We were flying by Air India from Heathrow to Dhaka with a stop at Kolkata. Flight was at 10pm check in at 7pm.
Because the flight was in the evening we were able to do some last minute packing during the day, I even had time to get a hair cut! My parents were monitoring the political situation in Bangladesh there was strikes going on for 3 days from the day we land so we would have to stay in the main city for 3 days before we can go to Sylhet or even leave the hotel. What a bummer! Never the less we were just happy to go there, but decided on getting travel insurance just in case the trip got cancelled or interrupted. Finding a travel insurance provider for a trip to Bangladesh was tougher than I thought, but I found these companies useful: www.e-sure.com
Check in was very painless as I discovered an old mate behind the desk! The flight took off on time as well, now that was surprising. Once aboard the plane I fell asleep straight after they served supper, it was continental chicken, which wasn't bad at all.
Day 2 - Arriving in Bangladesh Dhaka
I woke up eight and a half hours later when we landed at Kolkata and saw/felt the busking sun and its heat. My dad told me it was another 40 minutes flight to Dhaka Bangladesh so I sat up in excitement while my wife and sister hurried to the ladies to get ready.
We landed at 3pm local time, the sun was out and it was hot even though it was winter. We went through immigration and customs with no problems. We got out the airport to find my uncles eagerly waiting. I was surprised to recognise them, they gathered us into 3 people carriers and off we went to the closest hotel. It was called "Aero link" and located right next to the airport.
Good news my uncle said we wouldn't have to stay here for 3 days, at nightfall we could avoid the strikes and riots and make a run for our town, excellent. So we had to kill 6 hours, I was getting very impatient as I wanted to go to my dad's house and see the rest of the family. We ate and then eventually set off at 10pm, it was dark very dark and foggy very very foggy I couldn't see the front of the car; I don't know how the driver managed. The roads don't have street lamps so it's really dark and scary oh and how could I forget very foggy. It was going to be a long journey as we had to travel very slowly and carefully through the fog I think at one point we were travelling at 5mph. about 2 hours into the journey we got a puncture, didn't take long to get the spare on but by then I was bursting to go to the loo.
We pulled up at the next service station where I got my first insight of Bangladesh by visiting the loo. It wasn't dirty but very smelly and they had the low toilets, I closed my nose and did my business. Everyone else was having tea and light snacks I spent the time fighting flies away from my 4 year old niece who by now was in tears trying to fight them her self. My 2 year old nephew was astonished by the ceiling fan and spent the time staring at that.
Day 3- Almost there
It was about 2am now and we were parting ways from my sister and her family as they live in Sylhet it self. We were about an hour away, but due to the fog that became 2 hours. About 4am we entered Moulvibazar, my dad's home town, his village is close to here. But our house is in another smaller town about 17miles from Moulvibazar called Shamshernagar but it has its own Military base and airport.
At 5am we got to our house, where we were greeted by my little cousins and aunts, we got introduced to all of them including my maternal grandmother who couldn't stop crying. The house is on the main road with other houses behind it, when dad built the house no other houses were around so luckily our house was the only one with a 200 feet front yard and a 500 feet rear yard, excellent. I went for a stroll in the garden, which had huge trees bearing all kinds of fruits. This is where I met the care-taker's son who was about 19-20 he was to become my personal guide and minder! So first things first I gave him some money (TAKA) and asked him to sort some cigarettes out for me by the time I wake up. So off to my bedroom I went. WOW massive bed, wardrobe all hand crafter in wood. And the best thing was my own on-suite with a proper toilet and it was clean! The wife and I liked that.
We woke the same day at 1pm, had a much needed uninterrupted few hours of sleep. We headed of to my dad's village where he has another house with the rest of his brothers. I have an uncle that lives there with his kids, so I was excited about meeting them all now that we've all grown up.
The journey was short about 30 minutes, I was amazed by the beautiful views we were driving past. Empty paddy fields neighbouring harvested land a true mixture of brown and green.
When we entered the village it started to feel more like a 3rd world country, the roads were small and narrow, cows trotting along the road, half naked children playing in the empty paddy fields. We had an enormous welcoming committee at the house, who welcomed us with flowers and sweets.
I grabbed my cousin and went for a tour of the village, continuously being interrupted by the locals who all somehow knew who I am, scary. He took me around our house land which was massive; normal for a village house it had 2 lakes one in the front and one in the back. I walked through drenches where in the olden days boats were used to travel, he showed me all of our land around the village. He took me to our grandparent's grave where we spent a few minutes before my uncle called for us.
My uncle took us to a crop field where he had dug a massive ditch to trap the fish form the local river. Wow, the ditch was full of fish big and small, my dad and I decided we were going to jump into the ditch and grab some fish; we did jump in but failed to grab any fish, no surprises there.
We headed back towards the house to eat, on route we jumped in the lake and washed our selves, good thing I knew how to swim. We stayed here for the next few days visiting relatives.
Day 6 - Fish Market
Once a year there is a huge fish market held 30 miles away from our place, the fish market is part of a Hindu festival where they all buy fish cook it and celebrate the end of the Bengali year. My dad and I decided we couldn't miss this, so we woke up at 3am and started the journey; I slept through most of it.
Once we got there I was astonished by the amount of fish around me, wow, and these fish were fresh the river was literally a stone throw away as I discovered when I asked a fishmonger where he got the fish from. There were all kinds of fish, although some did look uglier than some. Dad and I bought 3 fishes, although we never ate any.
Day 8 - Madhabkunda Waterfall
After visiting relatives for the past 4 days we decided to do a little sight seeing local to us, everyone recommended Madhabkunda. The water fall is in Lawacherra Rain Forest which is one of the important and well-reserved forests in Bangladesh.
Once your there you'll have to be and entrance fee which is very minimal and includes car parking. The water fall is in pretty deep so it's a bit of a trek up and down hill. You walk along the natural stream that comes from the waterfall, it's very peaceful, and all you can hear is the water trickling along.
As you get closer to the waterfall you can hear the sound of the water falling 200 feet, truly magical. At the foot of the fall you can have a picnic, take a dip in the water or take horse rides through the fall. Please be aware the water is freezing cold in the winter season. After running around for a bit I found a little spot on the hill where I could sit and listen to the water topped by birds singing, no amount of money buys you this kind of serenity.
Now if you're like me and the normal site seeing does it do for you then you can go to the top of the waterfall through the dense trees and get a birds eye views. The fun part is going through the forest, scared out of your wits of what you might bump into, step on or swallow! Great fun for the adventurer in you.
Day 10 - Cattle Market
My dad's family has a proud heritage of bull raising and bull fighting, so I wanted to follow in the footsteps, excluding the fighting part. My uncle is an expert at raising and taming bulls. I wanted to buy a baby bull and let him raise it for me, so dad, uncle and I headed to the cattle market in the hunt for a baby bull.
My uncle told me it can't be any bull, it has to be of a certain build and stature easy enough I thought looking at the amount of cattle in the market. I was wrong nothing in this market in our local town was worth while.
The hunt goes on!
While we were there though we bought 2 sheep and 4 baby chickens, I couldn't resist I had to have something weird as pets! The sheep and chicken will go to my grandmother who promised not to slaughter them and eat them.
Day 11 - Moulvibazar, Dikirpar Bazaar Cattle Market
The quest for our baby bull led us to yet another cattle market, this time in my dads home town, where both my uncle and dad were confident we would find the right breed of bull. I had no idea what they're looking for but went along pretending anyway. We picked out 2 bulls that I liked and my uncle inspected them closely and said both we good. So we started bargaining with the seller of one of them, he realized I was British and thought he can squeeze a lot of money out of us but no he failed we moved to the other bull owner where we settles at a slightly higher but reasonable price. I got my bull!!!! Check out the pictures.
Day 12 - The Shrine of Hazrat ShahJalal
Hazrat ShahJalal was a Muslim preacher who came from Delhi (India) to over throw the Hindu King of then Bangladesh. You don't have to be a Muslim to visit the shrine, if you like history you'll like this. 600 years old history is in the shrine, the holy saints Quran and robe are still displayed here. The catfish outside in the foyer were amazing, there's hundreds and hundreds of them in very shallow water. They all stay on the surface waiting to be fed by visitors, who can get a pot of food from the stall for 5 TAKA. I'd recommend everyone to visit this historic location.
You will find a lot of beggars here, almost harassing you, it is advised not to give them money as you will then be overwhelmed by them as my dad experienced. Instead there is a donation office where you can give whatever amount you want to be distributed amongst the poor.
Day 13 - Bangladesh Tea Research Institution (Srimongol)
While on a shopping trip we decided to pop in the BTRI, it's a research institution where they research the growth of tea plantation. We didn't get a guided tour or anything, we just walked around. They were acres and acres of tea plantation, separated into sectors, labeled with the experiment going on. In some sectors you can see the obvious results of an experiment when batches of plants have died! It was very picturesque.
Day 14 - Rashidpur Tea Estate (Duncan Brothers)
One of my mum's brothers works at Rashidpur Tea Estate near Srimongol Sylhet. The road to his house twisted and turned through hills of tea plantation, lush green leaves with little streams of water coming from a man made canal. Tea pickers with their baskets on their back picking the greenest leaves.
As you walk you can smell tea, not the most beautiful of smells but still a rare experience. All the plants are of same height and width, just looks to perfect to believe, these people really do look after their tea plants.
My uncle took us on a tour of a nursery of tea plants, I never knew that tea plants don't come from seeds, and they come from a stem. They are very picky as to how much water they are given, it's a very fine line as my uncle explained. He also showed us the rubber plantation, how they grow the trees, how they are planted and how they extract rubber from the trees.
Day 15 - Rashidpur Sylhet Gas Field
A gas field amongst these beautiful landscapes how weird I thought. The field was surrounded and covered by the green hills of the tea estate. My uncle knew someone from the gas field so we had a full on guided tour, unfortunately we were not allowed to film or take pictures, oh well you'll just have take my word for it.
We started at the 10,000 feet deep reservoir where the gas is extracted from, then we followed the massive pipes to four holding cylinders all with a capacity of 400,000 liters, trust me they looked huge. We were then taken to the control room, and explained how the gas is filtered, stabilized and extracted form the source. It's a tricky process; the gas extracted here is then piped to the North-South national grid which supplied most of Bangladesh.
Day 17 - Madhobpur Lake
This was quite a surprise, a hidden gem, no one recommended this place to us nor did my uncle know about it. Our driver decided to take us their, he wasn't sure if we would like it or not. Once we got there we were gob smacked. We climbed to the top of the hill to find the most stunning views I have ever seen.
The water looked refreshing with water lilies growing neatly, I asked my cousin if the water was ok to dip in, he went in knee deep and screamed "its fine". So in I went followed by my dad. Must admit the water was pretty cold but not cold enough to put us off.
Standing on top of the hills looking down at the lake you can see through the water to the bottom. Parrots flying in pairs between the mountains, wow the images have stuck in my head. Have a look at the pictures and see what I'm talking about.
The last few days of my trip, I spent shopping and visiting family and friends.