A Travellerspoint blog

Rajshahi

As we had altered our plans in Bangladesh we had a few days spare and the Rajshahi district in Northwest Bangladesh popped onto the radar. A couple we had met in Srimangol had said how beautiful it was so we thought we'd take a look. Rajshahi itself is a university town on the banks of the Padma/Ganges river and we spent the first day wandering past the very British looking university buildings (they were built during the British Raj period) whilst watching the students playing cricket on the playing fields. We attempted to locate the Baro Kuthi building to find out more about the indigo trade and the atrocities committed by the British relating to this trade. I'm not sure if it was the massive thunderstorm that suddenly appeared or the delicious fuchkas we ate on the banks of the river that distracted us but we never found the Baro Kuthi!
The following day saw us set off early for Puthia, keen to try to avoid the heat and humidity of the midday sun again. The bus dropped us on the outskirts of the village and the locals quickly pointed us in the right direction. At the entrance to the village is the impressive Shiva temple, overlooking a pond. After a few photos we took a closer look and chatted to some local kids. They gave us some history of the temples in puthia after telling us the caretaker/guide Mr. Bishwana was ill and wouldn't be able to show us around. Thanking them we set off in the direction of another temple we could just see the top of. Although the pyramid shaped temple (Dol Mondir) looked impressive from the outside the kids had said we should climb to the top to get the best views. Unfortunately it was all locked up so we pondered what to do for a bit. We soon spotted a rather elderly man racing towards us. He introduced himself as Mr. Bishwana, produced a set of keys and opened the temple for us to climb. The views were spectacular and we were both taken aback by the marvel of both the Puthia Palace and Govinda Temple. The Puthia Palace, built in 1875 looks like an imposing stately mansion (albeit in a state of disrepair). What most impressed me however was the Govinda Temple. We have seen a fair few temples on this trip but this was hands down the best (so far). Built in the mid 19th century this striking temple is clad in the most intricate and exquisite terra cotta tiles. I could have happily spent a few days simply gazing at this place! Mr. Bishwana had other plans however and quickly hurried us through the village to see several other temples of almost equal beauty whist fending off the occasional unofficial guide' that was also trying to help us. It was a fantastic day and a memorable way to end our stay in Bangladesh.

James.

Posted by gonetravelling 23:42 Archived in Bangladesh Comments (0)

Sunderbans

The tour of the Sunderbans we took that was organised by Bengal Tours was spectacular. It lasted three full days and two nights spending the majority of the time aboard the good ship MV Bhelva. We were joined by a lovely couple from Switzerland, and old teddy boy from Australia, a family and rather quiet couple from Bangladesh and a boisterous group of guys from India and Bangladesh, one of them even worked for Nokia in Farnborough a while back at the same site as Robin, Craig etc! We all feasted like kings and queens during the trip and drank endless cups of tea; I don't think we have eaten that well all trip. The vegetation was unbelievably diverse and on one walk through the jungle, accompanied by an armed guard, we must have gone through at least four completely different types of forest in the space of what seemed like 30 minutes. Even had time to go to the beach, one of the strangest I have ever been to and we enjoyed a swim in the Bay of Bengal. The wildlife too was incredible. We saw several kinds of kingfisher, thousands of mudskippers, eagles, spotted deer, wild boar, falcons, monkeys, monitor lizards, bright red crabs, water snakes, dolphins, and a king cobra (one of the most venomous snakes in the world). Unfortunately we didn't get to see the famous Bengal tiger. Considering the Sunderbans covers an area of roughly 6000 square miles and there are only 400 tigers our chances of seeing one were pretty slim at best. Our guide had told us he has been doing this for the past nine years, has done over 200 tours of the Sunderbans and has only seen a tiger on four separate occasions. I guess we will have to hope our luck changes in Nepal.

James

Posted by gonetravelling 23:25 Archived in Bangladesh Comments (0)

Kulna


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We stayed at the City Inn in Khulna, quite possibly the grandest hotel we have stayed in so far... We were both blown away. Our room was huge and there was even a bath in the bathroom! We spend the first afternoon enjoying the luxuriousness of the hotel. The food there was to die for and Jane was soon salivating over the extensive menu. It was great to have more on offer than mixed vegetable curry, dhal and rice for a change. The staff were great too and they quickly sorted us out with train tickets to Rajshahi (something we had struggled with for several days) as well as a tour the next day to visit the last few surviving fishermen who use trained otters to help them fish.
The journey to the fishermen’s village the next morning took about three hours and we both appreciated the AC in the car. After a couple of wrong turns we found the fishermen and were taken through their village, past a fascinating ceremony, by the village kids. The fishing boats were lined up along the banks with the otters kept in cages. It was funny to see each separate family of otters fight and snarl at each other over their lunch. We set off down the river with our guide translating to us what the fishermen were saying about the dying art of fishing with otters. It is sad to think that in ten years this amazing method will probably be lost forever. Finding some shade along the river bank the three chosen otters, out of a family of about seven, were tethered to long rods and dived in. The otters swim up and down the banks scaring the fish, hopefully into the fishing net the men were rocking back and forth along the bank. The otters seemed to be ecstatic at being in the water and it was great to see them diving and calling out to one another whilst hunting down the fish. We also got a chance to feed them after all their hard work. They sure can eat a lot of fish!
The following day we set off early to Bagerhat in the hope that we would avoid the midday humidity. Bagerhat was founded in the mid 15th Century by Ulugh Khan Jahan, a muslim warrior saint. There are several old Mosques there and the bus dropped us at the first and most impressive one - the Shait Gumbad Mosque (60 domed mosque) . There are actually 77 domes in total and some very intricate stone carving details surrounding the doors and an interesting sloping arch to the roofs that gave the building an odd sense of perspective. There wasn't much to the museum so we set off in search of more mosques. The road up to Khan Jahan's Tomb was lined with shacks selling tourist tat and we seemed to acquire a guide without even asking for help! He showed me inside the tomb (Jane wasn't allowed in) and then around to the other, less impressive mosques. It was only about 11 but already the humidity was getting unbearable so we opted to jump on the bus and head back to the hotel. This time we were dropped off in a completely different place than where we got the bus from and after a bit of confusion realized we needed to catch the local ferry across the river to get to Khulna. Spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry, admin and generally relaxing.

James

Posted by gonetravelling 23:06 Archived in Bangladesh Comments (0)

Dhaka


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It felt a bit odd to be back in the chaos that was Dhaka and it took us a while to orientate ourselves, not helped by the fact we chose to stay in a different hotel than before. The staff at the Hotel Pacific were great and the food was delicious, Jane couldn't get enough of the bitter gourd. Unfortunately I succumbed to travelers belly on the first night and so that knocked out much of the second day. Luckily we had changed our plans a bit and had got here a couple of days early so could easily afford the downtime. Feeling human again on the third day we wandered through the streets of Dhaka to the Liberation Museum to learn more about the harrowing birth of the Bangladesh nation.
That evening we set off on a part of the whole trip I had been very much looking forward to... The Rocket Steamer! We waited on the Sadurghat ferry port being entertained (and stared at again) by the locals until the Steamer pulled into the dock. The ship looked every bit of its 85 years! We climbed aboard and were led to our cabin through a rather grand dining area. The cabin, although compact was incredible - all clad in wooden panels, you could really get a sense of the history of the ship. We passed the first few hours aboard looking around the ship and exchanging photos and more stares with people on other ships docked at the ferry port. We met an unforgettable girl called Mirakat and her brother whose family were in the cabin next to ours. It wasn't long before we were fully welcomed into the family fold and for the rest of the journey we were referred to as auntie and uncle'. I'm going to miss those two. Dinner was served in the grand dining area and we were joined by one of the stewards who told us of his time on a similar steamer with Michael Palin as a guest! The steamer paddled along at a leisurely pace passing the odd brick factory or fishing village on route to Hulerhat. It took most of the following morning to convince Mirakat that we couldn't disembark at her stop and visit her home. We took lots of photos with her and her brother instead and were quickly joined by other families all wanting their picture taken with us. It made a lovely end to a memorable boat ride.

James

Posted by gonetravelling 22:59 Archived in Bangladesh Comments (0)

Rangamati


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We checked ourselves into the Hotel Sufia, and although the room was dirty the staff were helpful and friendly telling us of their relatives in Yorkshire. Our first day in Rangamati we spent eating and trying to access the internet, which so far has always seemed to be a mission.
We had booked a boat ride for the following morning, and there seemed to be some confusion about which boat we would be getting on. The boat kept going up in size as one had engine failure and the other leaked a bit too much, finally a beast of a boat was picked out for the four of us going on the trip. As the engine sputtered into life the Bangladeshi couple with us, on holiday from Dhaka shouted for extra life jackets and it was a sobering reminder of the statistics for boat travel through Bangladesh.
Kaptai lake was beautiful, the emerald green of the water and blue haze of the distant banks. We passed fishermen pulling their hauls into small boats, boats motoring past weighed down by stacks of teak logs, and on small scraps of land there were upturned boats being repaired and cricket games where any big hit would be straight in the water.
We arrived at Chakma Islands where we walked through a small village, looking at the beautiful woven textiles and watching the carpenters making their finishing touches to hand carved bedsteads and chairs. We could have stayed much longer but the couples we were with moved us on. We continued across the lake to Shuvalong Falls, the area full of flowers although only a drip for a waterfall being the wrong season. It is easy to imagine just how beautiful it would be after the monsoon rains. We spent the time being photographed and bombarded with questions from curious locals making good use of their few days of holiday.
We stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant set high above the lake and sat down to a heavy mound of rice, dal and vegetable curry. Back on the boat and on to a Buddhist temple surrounded by cheeky monkeys and then an old site used by Chakma kings and since converted to an education centre for monks. Around the back of the building we found more beautiful textiles and couldn't resist buying a blanket for 500 taka (£3.85).
By the time the boat dropped us back to the hotel we had been out for 8 hours, nearly twice as long as we were expecting. We found a little restaurant with a boy expertly flipping parathas and the food looked so good we dived in, it was one of the tastiest meals we have eaten so far and just 90 taka (50p) for the both of us.
The next morning we waited by the side of the road for our 9am bus to Dhaka, watching people watching us. The bus rolled up half an hour late to shouts of "S. Alam" and thankful for a bus with leg room we just hoped the driver could see past the giant crack in the windscreen.

Jane

Posted by gonetravelling 22:20 Archived in Bangladesh Comments (0)

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