Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Srimangal Crash-Course!

What kind of time is five in the morning to be waking up?! Well, today it was certainly worth it. Our guide, Russell, arrived at our hotel with three bikes for us all to ride directly through the tea plantations and to the Lowacherra Rainforest. Although we went through there yesterday, today was the big day of exploring deeper inside the jungle.
It was interesting to notice the orchestral harmony of the different forest-dwelling animals as they naturally called out to each other. What seemed to be a musical masterpiece, started with monkeys softly howling to one another as they swung through the elevated maze of branches and leaves; then as the monkeys became quieter, sounds of loudly humming insects echoed through the forest, and then came the multi-tonal birdsongs that put the icing on the cake.
We stood for ages, watching the monkeys in awe whilst they sprung themselves high through the air as they leapt from one tree to another. It was especially amusing to see baby monkeys hanging onto their mothers for dear life as they jumped around and balanced on the thinner branches of the trees. Infact, it was so intriguing that we didn’t realise that the sun had already risen by the time we had to leave to see a village that is home to the Kashia tribe.
On the way though, we came across the “Bash Bagaan”. Before the guide mentioned this place, these words only meant to us a small Indian restaurant, ran by Bangladeshi nationals, in the small town of Wadebridge, in Cornwall. Today, we learned that these words translate from Bengali to English as ‘Bamboo Garden’. The garden was packed full of an unordered arrangement of green, giant bamboos that grew to great heights and crossed over each other. Although it was unique and magical, we marched on to visit the Kashia tribe.
Their homely village, nestled in the deep jungle, had houses that were made of light-coloured mud with corrugated iron roofs. All Kashia tribal villages, including this one, are built on top of hills surrounded by betel nut trees. It was surprising to see how awake everybody was at eight in the morning. A man was already at work, sawing the largest bamboo we’d ever seen, and the women were starting their domestic chores. There were also young, happy children playing. One child was very content as he ran around, dragging an old cake box with a pair of flip-flops inside. It is wonderful to see that so many people here, who don’t have much, appreciate what they do have. Of course we made sure to say a hearty “Koblai!” as we met the different tribal people because this is ‘hello’ in their language.
On we went, through the forest towards a mixed fruit plantation where we saw pineapples, jackfruits and lemons being grown. The plantation was high up on a hill overlooking extensive fruit gardens and far out above the peaceful forest. It started to tip down with heavy rain and so we sheltered underneath the roof of the mixed garden inhabitants until it passed, discussing with Russell the difference between life here and back in England.

It was time to proceed to another tribal village, also belonging to the Kashia tribe, where we met friendly people who offered us chairs to sit down on and some washed fruit. We politely declined the fruit of course, because the consequences could have been severe. This village was quite similar to the first one we visited, only it was larger and it had a small, white church within. It was EXACTLY how you might want to picture an ideal, quaint tribal village: infact, almost TOO perfect: clean and tidy, complete with decorative shrubs with stunning red flowers.
We also went to a village inhabited by people of the Indian state of Tripura: these are the tea pickers. They were very shy, infact, too shy even to say hello. Some women were in the middle of putting together a simple hand-woven cloth, but they disappeared inside as they saw us approaching.
We cycled to the Zareen Tea Estate, which is probably the most beautiful of them all! It was much hillier, and many different shades of green greeted us from all sides. We were also greeted by the loud croaks of frogs that were hiding in the tea bushes. On the way out of the tea estate, we saw the tea pickers going out to work, wearing their unique straw hats and moving silently.

Meanwhile, back in town, booking tickets to get OUT of Srimangal proved to be quite demanding, if not amusing. At first, the booking-clerk at the railway station gave us completely the wrong train times. He recited the daily trains to Chittagong instead of Dhaka. The difference in sound between these two places is hardly rocket, is it? After this confusion was sorted out, we attempted to clarify on which day we wished to take the night train out of town. It departs at 00.12hrs, which of course is technically Thursday morning for us, and NOT Wednesday night.
All this investigation of pineapple plants earlier had caused a deep-seated craving to kick in: pineapples! Here in Srimangal they are cheap (only Tk 20) and locally grown. We found a huge supply on the station platform and snapped up two there and then! It only remained for us to buy a Tupperware container and a knife to allow the rest of the expedition to have a new, regular feature: fruit of the day. Today’s pineapples tasted especially good for the simple reason that they were only grown just down the road. Maybe tomorrow will see a fruit salad of pineapple, mango and lemons!
And finally, more food: Simon was very keen to have a complete break from curry today, especially Bhuna. Within thirty minutes of him relating this desire, the intrepid duo were seated in the salubrious Shah Restaurant eating, amongst other things, a very fiery and tasty chicken Bhuna.


  1. The place sounds like paradise. ps I thought it rather amusing that you thought 8am was early to start chores. Just shows you get up late LOL I start my chores a lot earlier!! love Nataliexx

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Bash Bagaan &

    Read this then watch the video about the Kashia Tribe - Joanna Lumley is fighting for them.

    Yeah be very carful about washed fruit … anything uncooked .. u don’t want the deli_beli.

  5. OH and herz your weather forecast.

  6. Loving Greg's comments! Has Simon lost even more weight? Looking good the pair of you! x