20.03.2014 - 22.03.2014
We stayed at the Green Leaf Tea Guest House in Srimangal and the place had a certain Hawaiian theme about it. The staff were very attentive and we even had a choice of double bed in our room! We spent the first evening relaxing after the early morning train journey, and chatting with a German couple about Nepal. We were also introduced to the overly self assured Tapash, who was only too pleased to mention he was the top guide in all the guide books (he even memorised the page numbers). After some interesting haggling we settled on two half day tours.
Our first tour was to the Lawachara National Park where we would hopefully see the Hoolock Gibbons. Our guide, Santosh was very knowledgeable, pointing out everything in sight and doing amazing Tarzan impressions. The jungle was incredibly noisy and full of all sorts of wildlife and vegetation. I couldn't help thinking I was on the set of Predator and either Arnie or the Predator would jump out at any moment. We heard the distinctive call of the Hoolock Gibbon but didn't have time to venture further into the jungle to see them. Instead we headed to the local Khashai village to see the women there expertly pick the Betel Leaves and bundle them together to be sold all over Bangladesh.
Our second half day tour turned out to be a rather short one hour boat ride! We set off a bit late at 9 for what Tapash had promised would be "a wonderfully memorable half day tour of the Hail Haor Wetlands where we would see huge amounts of flora and fauna". During the 30 minutes journey out to the wetlands we were told by our guide that because it was the dry season there wouldn't be any birds and the flora hadn't flowered yet... Not quite what was said in the brochure me thinks! The boat ride was still very enjoyable and we heard how many of the farmers in the area are switching from growing rice to farming fish now to make better money. We did see some cormorants and the odd heron which was nice. To end the ride we were taken to a beautiful lily pond that you could see would be gorgeous when all the flowers are in bloom. We were back at the Guest house by 11, disappointed and feeling somewhat deceived by Tapash. As we now had loads of spare time we decided to drown our sorrows with the famous seven layer tea and set off through the tea and rubber plantations to find it. The tea plantations were very flat and looked a little worse for wear compared to the ones in Sri Lanka. We eventually found the tea shack and spent a while trying to figure out how the tea was layered as well as guessing what the different flavours were.
We had the same overnight train to Chittagong as Annie, one of the other guests and we chatted about life in Bangladesh whilst we waited on the platform for the delayed train. Annie had a first class berth while we were in third class (what you get when you don't book in advance) and we agreed to meet again when the train got in to compare notes. The ride itself was fine in the cramped carriage. I think Jane managed about 30 minutes sleep and I got about 5 minutes. I felt sorrier for the people who had to stand for the entire journey!