Srimongal, Bangladesh – A walk in the Rain Forest

Before I continue with my recollections of Cambodia, I need to share my enthusiasm about an area of Bangladesh I discovered this past week-end. My posts about our life here have been rather gloomy, overall, so I’m immensely pleased that I finally found something positive to say. This was not unexpected. I have often heard people state that Dhaka is one thing, and the rest of Bangladesh another one entirely. But I had yet to experience it.

Srimongal (it can also be written Sreemongal) is the tea capital of Bangladesh, with dozens of tea gardens, a national park, wetlands attracting rare species of migrating birds, and a gorgeous lake with carpets of purple lotus flowers. It is quiet, the air is clean, and the pace, leisurely.

So, let’s begin with the bad stuff, so we can quickly forget about it. We drove six and half hours to get there, and another seven hours to come back. This would be bad enough, but I also need to mention the way people drive in this country, particularly bus drivers. Either they think they’re blessed with several lives, and loosing this one in a road accident is no big deal, or they all drive under influence (even though Bangladesh is officially a dry country) and have no clue as to the risks they take (and force upon the poor souls trapped inside these deathly cans on wheels.) I shut my  eyes an awful lot, and we all let out some loud expletives as huge buses overtook us madly, in a cacophony of horns, or as we narrowly missed another one driving straight at us.

It is possible to reach Srimongal by train, but the tickets were sold out. Plus, trains don’t necessarily leave on time,and the trip can take anywhere from five to seven hours, anyway. One last option is to fly to Sylhet, and then drive a couple of hours to Srimongal. Not necessarily shorter, and more complicated, logistically. More expensive, too.

All this for just a day and half of fun and beauty. But it was totally worth it.

The first morning, we hiked a jungle trail.

I like that sign (picture below) at the entrance of the National Park. At first, I wondered if it was the kind of “shooting” done while hunting, but it’s the shooting pictures variety. We had five kids with us from the ages of 7 until 11, so avoiding loud noises was not a realistic option.
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We saw the widest bamboos I’d ever set eyes upon.

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We just missed Eric Carle’s famous caterpillar.

Here is the gang of junior explorers!

And their parents.

A signpost, lest you loose your way in the jungle.

We saw some poisonous (and very pretty) spiders, but no snake, thank goodness. Apparently, they come out during the rainy season. Not sure where they go the rest of the time, and I don’t want to know.

And the tiniest papaya in the world, said our guide. See the small brown grape-looking fruit ?

One of the soothing highlights of this short trip, for me, was how peaceful it is, over there : the town of Srimongal is busy, for sure, but the countryside is all nature, a few people walking or cycling along the roads, some cars, and that’s about it. Coming from crowded, noisy, overly congested Dhaka, it felt like luxury. Which doesn’t mean we didn’t see anybody. Once out of the jungle trail, in fact, there were quite a few families enjoying their week-end at the Lawachara National Park, many women among them wearing shimmering saris.

I loved how these scattered, skinny trees seem to tower over the carpet of tea bushes. In the mist (it was quite cold) the scenery had an eery quality.

More to come about Srimongal. It will help me tap into the reserves of positive energy I brought back with me – along with some tea.

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