Saturday, May 19, 2012

Srimangal Trip February 2012

Some of Andy's friends from work that are from Bangladesh organized a trip to an area of the country called Srimangal.  Srimangal is home to many tea plantations that have been in existence since at least the beginning of last century.  We took a train to get there and the experience was one I will never forget.  I don't know if it is Asia or Bangladesh in particular, but people don't do cues very well (at all).  The tickets were purchased well in advance by one of our local friends, and we got to the train station and waited.  While we waited we were surrounded by about 60 or more people staring at us, since there were several white people in the group.  Nobody talking to us, except for an occasional beggar asking for baksheesh (donations).  Just staring, and staring, and some picture taking with their cell phones, ugh. 
The train pulls in and there is nothing written in English anywhere at the station on the train, nothing.  I don't know how non-Bangla speakers can get on the trains here.  One of our friends spotted the car we needed to board and we started pushing our way through the crowd like everyone else and then I about lost it when I realized Hollis was down there and getting shoved just as hard as I was and he is half my size!  So I start screaming and cussing and pick him up not worried about who gets an elbow and literally hand him to our friend that is already on the train over the heads of people. 

So, once on the train we get settled in and we got private 4-6 person cabins.  The doors are supposed to latch shut from inside, but still every so often someone opens it trying to sell us food, newspapers, or beg for more baksheesh.

About 4.5 hours later, we make it to the train station in Srimangal and are whisked away to our new digs at the Tea Resort and Museum:

The Americans all kind of freaked out because it was so quiet and we hadn't experienced that in 3 months.  It was really lovely to just hear silence.  We got settled in and then went into town to eat at a local place.  We went back and hung at the plantation for the afternoon, took a beautiful drive to a lake, drank some tea, then went back in town again to get some "world famous 7-layer tea".  I use quotes because I seemed to be the only one who had never heard of it.  The tea was really cool, though.  Each layer had a different density and stayed put and had its own individual flavor to it.  We lost track after about the 3rd layer in, but there was one that was ginger, one that was cardamom, and one that was lemon/honey flavored.

We capped that night off with a bonfire and had a great time listening to music and mixing drinks.  Everyone talked the talk that night that they were going to go hiking in the morning at the national park down the road in order to try and see some wildlife.  My alarm went off at 6 am, and I went out to meet the van and only I went (see picture!).  Not feeling my best, but I was determined to see some Asian wildlife.  We didn't even make it out of the place we were staying before the driver pointed out a troop of rhesus macaques (look close at the second picture)!  I was pumped!  Then he stopped to point out a mama jungle fowl with her chicks. 

My main goal besides R & R was to see a Hoolock Gibbon, which is endangered and found only in a few parts of Asia, one of them this national park in Bangladesh  If you didn't know me in my pre-wife-of-a-diplomat life, I was a zoology major, and once started a masters in Anthropology, so this was quite a big deal to me!  The driver got me to the trail head and he and I were the only ones there along with a guard that took my money to be let in.  My driver didn't speak English so I asked him in my made up sign language if he thought I was safe to hike in there by myself or if I would be killed by motioning a throat slashing on myself.  He chuckled and reassured me I would not be killed.  We exchanged cell phone numbers so he could check on my in case I took too long or got lost or worse...He checked on me when I didn't come back at the right time and I reassured him I was on my way.  I felt glad that he was looking out for me!

The bamboo was huge in this rainforest, I had never seen nor thought of anything like it.  It was a peaceful hike and it was literally raining on me as rainforests do.  This girl from the suburbs of Chicago was thrilled.  I did not see my Hoolock Gibbons, but I did see some more rhesus macaques, which suited me just fine, and I ran into a lovely indigenous lady who was walking near her home with her baby.  Totally surreal experience and one I will treasure for my life.  We did return later with the group to hike and the place was filled with busloads of school children that were obsessed with taking our pictures, beggars, and sellers of all sorts of junk.  I was so glad that I got up so early, and got out and enjoyed the beautiful day in a beautiful forest.  

Later that day we checked into a dive of a place and I can rough it, but this place was too much.  When your kid is crying because they have to go to the bathroom but the bathroom is too disgusting, you feel like a failure as a parent.   I turned in early and was happy to be leaving the next morning with the experience under my belt.

Somewhere in this trip we also visited an indigenous group of people, who's name escapes me.  They were lovely and showed us some of the weaving they do.  They had a lot of animals and the kids seemed happy and healthy.

The trip home was less than stellar.  The benches in our cabin were wet from the air conditioner condensation leaking, and it stunk really bad, and the door wouldn't latch.  There was a lot of yelling at people as they would open our door and try and sell us stuff or try and bother us.  We finished up the rest of the booze and were surprised to hear ourselves say, "I can't wait to get back to Dhaka, I mean get back to our apartment that is in Dhaka."

Until next time......................................

1 comment:

  1. Simple, peaceful and so romantic and lovely place. thanks for sharing this post.

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