Srimangal, Land of Tea
Trip Start Feb 10, 2012
20Trip End May 11, 2012
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Hermitage Guest House
The train from Dhaka to Srimangal takes about 5.5 hours. Riding second class non-ac both ways was perhaps a bit more than I bargained for. Good thing we had a recovery day before heading back to work! The scenery was lovely, but the distractions were frequent.
We arrived at the train station in Dhaka somewhat early, and due to the holiday weekend, there were actually hordes of people. We soon generated our own personal audience, of course. Most people, after realizing we weren't doing anything interesting, would move along, but there were always more waiting to replace them
The train trip was further spiced up by a somewhat elderly woman. I noticed her shortly after boarding the train and really felt that I should give up my seat, but I didn't really want to stand for the trip either. Eventually, the guys next to us slid down to make room for her. This did mean that she literally slept in my lap for most of the journey. Literally on top of me! It was ok though because it was still better than giving up my seat, and I felt a little better. She also gave me some fruit and wouldn't take no for an answer!
It probably goes without saying that we were relieved to reach our final destination. After a delicious lunch and milkshakes at Kutum Bari (translates approximately to relative's house), we obtained our bicycles. The countryside was really fun to bike through and we got all sorts of bemused/amused glances cruising around with our sweaty scarves
We finished up our ride at Rasel's house with some well deserved cookies and tea. We then puttered off in a CNG to our guest house and some dinner.
The Hermitage house was lovely. There were shelves and shelves of really random books all over the place and it was clean and cockroach free! A sample of titles: Silhouettes and Starlight (poetry from Bangladeshi author), fantasy (trolls, goblins, etc.), Truck Repair, Intro to Islam, The Horse and His Boy, something about truth and beauty, something about BRAC in India, Encylclopedia Britannica, etc. I'm sure you get the idea!
We were roused well before seven by what sounded like several small children running circles around the guest house screaming. So much for the peace and tranquility
The first item on the agenda was off to a wetland bird sanctuary. It was about an hour away by CNG, but the drive was very scenic! We came across a man milking his buffalo and stopped to say hi. He did offer us some fresh milk which I regretfully turned down in the interest of health. Our next stop was beside a man stabbing pointy sticks into the mud. What was he up to? Eel hunting! It was crazy, while we were watching he felt one with his stick and quickly dug in the mud and came up holding an eel! He had a bag full of a few and everyone in our group felt a little different. Mary just focused on photographing the nearby cows, Rasel thought it was kind of cool but was kind of creeped out, and I wanted to try it myself :)
The wetland area was really pretty. There were lots of flowers and many species of birds: purple mudhens, cormorants, fish eagles, herons (of various types), etc. The observation tower actually had a pretty fancy telescope provided by USAID and after a while enjoying the views, we also got to pole out in a boat! It was quite sunny and peaceful. The man steering us enjoyed singing in time to the poling :)
We headed back, grabbed some lunch, and zoomed away to visit the 7-layer tea place and Monipuri tribe that makes handicrafts
Then we were invited to visit our CNG driver, Aloo/Aloom Bai's (Brother Aloo--spelling is questionable) home. We picked up some mishti (sweets) to bring as a gift and hung out for a little while. Tons of kids gathered giggling peeking in the door from the alleyway and his family was very sweet. They loved my attempts at speaking Bengali! Seriously everyone gets so excited by the very little I know, and it has been well worth learning. I also got to hold a small goat (1 month old). May also have been my favorite part of the whole weekend even though it is something that I can do at home!
After that, we hiked up Red Hill for a scenic overlook and visited Rasel's family's land where he is planning to build some eco-lodges. Red Hill was quite cool looking! They also have a plant here that I had seen before in Hawaii
Oh man, then as we were driving to dinner, we came across guys caring a dead, upside-down pig suspended from a pole. This would have been remarkable enough, but they had shot it with bows and arrows! So crazy! I was very impressed--also wanted to try this (at least shooting with the bows)!
After another night of rest and some more morning yoga and exploring the neighborhood, we finally met Tapas, the master mind behind the weekend's plans. He took us into Lowacherra Forest and we hiked around for a while looking for the elusive monkeys. I think that I might have seen some off in the distance but it was unconfirmed by Tapas :) Unfortunately, a couple hours in, I started feeling a little ill so we cut short the hiking and instead went to a Kasia tribe village that produces betel leaves and nuts. Despite the questionable stomach, I did try a little nut/leaf. It was pretty gross, but the lady that was making them was so cute. Her son had a bunch of soccer trophies so I felt quite at home.
Around 5 pm we boarded the train back to Dhaka. It was a long, grueling, hot, uncomfortable journey and I was excited to arrive home, shower, and eat a very late dinner!
Rasel and Tapas were both great! Tapas was a little more polished and knowledgeable but Rasel was more silly and fun so I think there is a niche for both of them
Also, on 3/27 there is free breakfast at work in honor of Independence Day yesterday (26 March). Tribute to my small but increasing bengali vocablulary--Free breakfast makes me shukhi (happy), long lines make me dukhi (sad) :) Thanks Priyanka!
And on 3/28, I finally get back to my usual lab work routine for the first time since Dr. Petri's visit and I bring brownies to work to celebrate! Haha a little taste of home, and I figure they look like the samples we run anyway :) They are quite unlike all the desserts I have had here, but the tupperware came back with only a few crumbs so I hope my labmates enjoyed them! Who doesn't like brownies though? :)