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BANGLADESH
                                2015


INFO and DIARY 1                                                                

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In an effort to be affiliated to a new project at the university, dealing with the in vitro propagation of endangered plants from the foothills of Himalaya. I found it necessarily to make a expedition to those locations, Bangladesh being one of them, Nepal, Bhutan and northern India others. While literature list various characteristics within the flower, they fail to list the growing conditions for these plants. That is what I need to know, and it seems like visiting the original habitat, is the only way to learn.  

I will be able to observe, learn, measure and understand their preferred conditions in the wild. I will analyse light, humidity, pH and concentrations of nutrition along with other factors like ventilation and animal interaction. This is a very little studied subject, and with the array of species found in a relative little but climate diverse area, Nepal offers a perfect study.

I hope to be able to visit nurseries, private growers and botanical gardens along the road. However, this present diary does not deal with those experiences; it merely describes the adventures I encored along with the studies, which took me pretty much all around this beautiful and friendly country. The scientific work will be published elsewhere, and used in my daily work.

Some facts about the country.        (Jump to diary)
Bangladesh, officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is almost surrounded by India and the Bay of Bengal, only connected to Myanmar in the fare south. A population of 155 millions packs this 147,570 km2 large and very low swampland, made up by the delta of the mighty Ganges. The capital; Dhaka is located in the central part. Muslims make up 90.4% of population. Hinduism makes up 8.2% of the population, Buddhism 0.7%, Christianity 0.6%.

MONEY: The currency is Taka. 100 Taka equals €1 and 7,41 DKK. Then again; they don't use that many. The GDP is US$1700. In Denmark, it is US$58.894.

CLIMATE: Bangladesh is dominated by the low-lying Ganges Delta, but has highlands in the north and southeast, though most are below ten meters and 10% below one meter above sea level.

ANIMALS and PLANTS: Due to the rather homogeny landscape, only 116 species of mammals and five species of marine mammals, 53 species of amphibian, 19 species of marine reptiles, 139 species of reptile, 380 species of birds are found around the country. Never the less, here are truly some interesting species: Elephants, tigers, giant pythons, Capped Langurs, giant hornbills, cobras, gibbons and many more.
The fauna is truly rich with over 6.000 species, although only eight seems to be endemic. Most plants are angiosperm (5000+) while here are only four gymnosperms.

DIARY
(Hoover over the photos to enlarge them and see the text)

12/1. After the guided Bhutan tour, I arrival in Bangladesh in the afternoon. The question the embassy and tourist board refused to answer: How are your visa rules, finally got answered: Apparently, the 14 days Visa  On Arrival can be negotiated into 20 days, and accordantly to the man issuing it, I can leave the country by land.
The airport ATM claim my pin-code is wrong, and that can cause a problem. I have ordered a airport pick-up, but I can't find anyone with my name. The taxi stand know my hotel, and I get a slip for the taxi.
After a while, the driver ask for a contact number to the hotel - he have no clue to where it is! The four numbers I have, don't work, but I have a dot on a blurry card, and asking around get us there. A friendly ATM on the way supplied the needed cash.

The airport and the tour to the hotel was a severe cultural chock! Dirty, crowded, noisy and people keep waning me about just being here - I think. I want to go back to Bhutan, cold or not! Here is a nice 26C, and the forecast promises sun the next week at least.
The room is clean, and if you like a hole for toilet and a bucket for a shower, the bathroom is fine too. Somehow, I doubt my bed will be made during the day. The notice is deadening at best. The room is on fifth, but at any given time, I can hear at least five horns. And I doubt they go to sleep between seven and eight, as the Nepalese and Bhutanese do.
Their English is a real hard nut to crack. I'm not really sure they actually talk English. From the first policeman in the airport, the guys in the taxi stand, the taxi driver to the hotel manager, have only made a few sounds I have recognised with certainty.
.
I need some time to redress, reorganise and resettle after the flight (and especially the cultural bomb), and then it is five. At least, it is still light, but it is too late to experience anything but supper for to day. I try to join the WiFi, but the manager haven't a clue to what their router is called, or what the password is. He just know they have WiFi...

The hotel is in a side-alley to a side-street, but close to the main street in this area. A walk up and down reveals a lot of traditional Muslim-dressed men and some women. The side-walks is a mess, and pools of undefined liquid is found everywhere.
The shops are a mix of blacksmiths, cellphone dealers, live and prepared chickens, clothing and shoos, tailors, hardware, barbers, wholesale rice and anything else imaginable. In front to the established shops are beggars, footstalls,  shoemakers, more live chickens and a lot of people.
I try one of the chicken restaurants, and get a quarter tiny chicken, some vegetables with a lot of cheese sauce and a large, flat bred. Cached down with a milk tea, I have to pay 110 Taka - €1,10.
It turns dark at half pass five, but I'm too restless to head back home. The alley the hotel leads into a mace of surprisingly cosy back-alleys with loads of tiny shops and street salesmen. Only a few trishaws and mopeds passes bye, and it is kind of quiet. I have not taken many photos, considering it after all is a Muslim country, and now it probably too dark - but it has to be tried.
Where everyone in Nepal and Bhutan smiled back, I have not succeeded that here yet. I wonder, if there is a law against a little smile?
Back at my room, I try to plan tomorrows adventures. The botanical garden, of which I know nothing, but they should have a tissuelab, is in the north east of the city. The more cultural sights is gathered around the river in old Dhaka, southern part of town. I can't figure how their busses works, and I guess their taxi drivers must live too. One bus we drove along from the airport was so bashed, I couldn't tell its colour. Some double-deckers look older than they can be.
I could sure do with some internet, both to seek information and to upload the recent days wild experiences in Bhutan. Just before I left Bhutan, I got in contact with the server again, and I'm so fare behind with uploading. This is not an area with WiFi cafés. I was looked on a lot, and I have not seen any pale people at all since Max left in Bhutan. Even in Dhaka airport, I had the different emigration lines by my self!

At eight, I head out in the search of tea and entertainment. The main street is still too crowded, but the back-alleys considerable more cosy. I find a barber and offer him 10 Taka for a moustache trim. Nice job, but I head off when he find out the racer. A couple of milkteas in a restaurant, but when I spot Milo in a little joint, I have to get reacquainted with that sweet milk-crème once again. That is charged 6 Taka = €0,06. Can't help thinking the 8 kilometre fare from the airport was heavily overcharged at 1000 Taka = €10.
I get some more photos of the different shops, and even a few, small smiles. When the side alleys start to be less crowded just before ten, I head home. I feel quite safe, being well over a head and a half higher than most, and weighing half time more, but...

13/1. Breakfast is rather easy to find - if you eat anything. I manages to get some roti and a fries egg, but additional, I get some spicy stuff, some vegetables and a tasty soup with lumps of chicken bones with a bit of meat on. I fail to get milk in my tea, despite numerous trials.
A taxi somehow more difficult. Here are no fancy hotels to draw them to, and I end up in a tuck-tuck despite it is a 16 kilometre tour to the National Botanical Garden. It turns out the driver have no clue at all, about what a botanical garden is, or where is is located. I just have a dot on my rather rough map, but after asking quite some times, we actually find it after a hour, and at nine where they opens.
The ride it self is some of a trial. As every other of the green tuck-tucks, it is a iron cage. The doors to the back are locked by the driver in the front cage. The intense traffic does not slow down, just because of the pea-soup of a fog. The cage and the fog in combination with a real bumpy ride prevent me form taking any photos.

Entrance fee is a symbolic 10 Taka, and due to the rather heavy mist - or actually fog, I have a hard time orientating me. After only a rather short walk, I end at a gate, and believe this is the end of the garden. The only real interesting I have spotted through the fog is a huge rose garden. It is pristine kept, and most are in flower. Not a single has name on it, but when I meet the gardener, he know them all by name. Quite impressive, considering they have 300 sorts! In the middle of the rose garden is a small pond with a flowering Victoria cruziana.
There is a path around the big lake, and while I walk it, I am apposed by three persons. The first two might say something about I shouldn't be here, and especially not alone - but I have a hard time understanding the. The third is a Muslim gentleman; Doktor S.M. Yunus who without a doubt strongly ask me not to walk the botanical garden alone. We talk for a long time, and he assign two young students to accompany me.

It is two real bright  Hindi students with perfect English, and they take me around a part of the garden. Calling it a "garden" is actually a misleading term. It should be called a National Park! It is huge! The gate I thought was the exit, was just to one of the other ten areas. There are an even bigger rose garden, several big orchid houses, some cacti houses, many other houses, huge areas with flowering plants, several nurseries, trees and nine lakes. The good doctor told me the data, but unfortunately, my memory filed, and the big sigh was not in letters and numbers I can understand.
We meet the very distinct director of the garden in one orchid house and later in the cacti department. I have read they should have a tissuelab, and we spend quite some time tracking it down. We end at professor Sarder Nasir Uddin's office at the Bangladesh National Herbarium in a impressing building. He tells us, they have received the funding to the lab, but so fare, they have not started it.
We visit one of the nurseries, which seems to be kept real tight, the huge area with surprisingly many flowering Tagetes and other annuals, the other rose garden which have a funny green rose. It is the colourful leaves and the pollen sticks which all are transformed to the loves, green leaves.
What I specially pay attention to, is that fact their orchids either sit in the free, or under what appears to be a 10% shadow net: They get a lot of sun!
The two students invites me on tea, and show a lot, although they say it will take at least two days to go through the garden breathily. And here are two other botanical gardens in the city, one real nice on and one real scientific one. One thing I notes is that most employees and guests seems to be Hindi. My guids find me a bus around two, which brings me right to my destination in the old part of Dhaka.

The bus has one advantages: I can try to take photos from it. At least; I try. It is from one corner of the huge city to the other. And we do a lot of stops, either to pick-up passengers or just because the traffic jams. All the busses look like they have taken part of a demolition derby and lost - several times. On some, they have given up any kind of lights. A major part of the transportation is on trishaws and tuck-tucks, and there seem to be no limit to their ability to pack the up. Here are several horse carriages for person transport, drown by tiny horses. Time and time again, we are centimetres from other busses, but despite I drive around 60 kilometres during the entire day, I don't feel a single bump from another vehicle.
Two guys sit next to me, and their English is not bad. That way, I learn that the huge building on a lawn we passes it the parliament, and another the high court. An unbelievable big part of the population have a cellphone in their hand, and many has it pressed to their ear. Some us their ear warmers to keep it there.
The traffic is immense intense, but it flows almost perfectly anyway, in its own organic structure. Where Bhutan's houses fascinated me, I think the paint-less busses catches my attention here.
I get kicked off right at the start of Shankaria Bazar. This is a Hindi street with temples and strange shops. Some make tombstone, other kites and some music instruments. Here are significantly more smiling faces, compare to last night.
I get a couple of mili tea at a small shop, while a admire the craftsman in the shop on the other side of the street. He is building harmonicas from scratch, but is a grumpy guy. I buy a cup of milo tea for him, and get a friend for life.
Here are quite some Muslim men still, and many of the older ones have bright orange hair and beard.
Like every where else, betle nuts are a big thing. The leaves, the nuts and the pasta are sold every where, and the rotten, red teethes seen everywhere. The spit, on the other hand, blessfully absent. Guitars and drums are build from scratch and necklaces of flowers too.
The streets are crossed with ropes several places, making life for the trishaws significantly more difficult - on purpose. At the end of the street, the normal traffic chaos takes over.

A bit of asking around brings me to Ahsan Manzil; the Pink Palace. It is truly pink and pretty big. The garden was not the entrance fee worth, but the exhibition inside slightly better. One could say the fame of this place rest on the fact is was destroyed by a tornado, only sixteen years after its completion in 1872. Restored in the 1980'ties after photos - and warren d down a bit since. I get several requests for photos and selfies with me, and feel a bit like a freak! Well, it has to be considered; I am to only pale face in town today, it seems.
It is located right down the the mighty Buriganga River, and here are the Sadarghat Boat Terminals. A chaos easily rivalling the land traffic. Here, the trishaws and tuck-tucks are replaced with tiny wooden boats, and the busses with huge ferries.
Here, I accomplice to recreate loads of smiles, and people even ask to be take photos of. It is impossible to describe theis vivid chaos - see the photos. The sun is low and in my face, but here are endless motives! I zigzag slowly through iron work shops, fruit stands, wholesale betle nuts and leaves, colourful clothing, tea shops, goats, onions in tons, ginger, trash, fruit, vegetables, spices, pumpkins and much, much, much more.
I reach the end of the piers at dusk, and the last photos in the wood wholesale area are a bit blurry.

Despite some asking around for a bus home, I end up in a tuck-tuck. It is once again cross city, and it is rush-hour. And rush-hour in Dhaka is something special. Dark, compact, intense and noisy to the extreme. We manages to find my hotel due to my waypoints, but is is two hours on the edge of life and death. I'm a bit surprised, when the drive just smile when I give him the pre arranged 500 Taka.
On the way in from the street, I look for a warm bath, in the shops. To avoid the swamp in the street, I go through some shops. The last one before the hotel ,has a 1000W "dip cooker". That should turn my bucket of cold water into nice bathing water. I have to pay 170 Taka - €1,70, but if it works just a few times, worth it!
Supper on another chicken restaurant, where the serving includes cucumbers, roti, chilli and half a little real roasted and tasty chicken.
On the way home, I do a quick loop thought my waypoint; the tallest building around: Confidence Shopping Mall, Three lower floors contain only boring stores, and I head home to work. 
320 photos and a lot of data, followed by more detailed routing of tomorrow's tour towards the north-east. Considering the languish problems, I have to use my maps and waypoints to the fullest extend. I thought I should never say it, but I kind of hope I will run into more tourist acquainted areas. And people stop worrying for my safety, and let me walk alone.. . It is passed midnight before I feel almost finish.
The last two days photos can be called; Dhaka, Bangladesh.

14/1. It is a long way to Srimangal, and I take my warm bath early. The diner next door supplies me with two roti and a bottle of water for the tour. A group of men and boys discus which bus can lead to Srimangal - or actually Sylhet, the next big city. I end up in a real big bus, and drive concerning much south.
Despite it is only seven, the town is very much alive, but the traffic jams not really bad yet. The ticket man forget to kick me off at the right busstop, and I have to take a bus back. One of the other passengers walk me to the local ticket table - it is just a table - and introduces me to the officer. He tells me, It will take an hour before the next bus, and I start wandering around.
It is more or less in the middle of nowhere, where two big roads meet. Some other waiting passengers try to communicate, but I have a real hard time understanding them.  Something about "un-dangerous" and "safe" - or is it the other way around. One of the usual group of armoured policemen it a bit more clear: Stay in my sight!
After only fifteen minutes and one and a half Milo tea, the bus passes. I get a VIP introduction to the ticket-man, and a front seat in another large bus. Here are two seats in one side, three in the other. I have the single, right inside the door.

We drive through scatted cities with a few fields in-between. Then some large rivers and more fields. Despite we stop as much as the other smaller busses, this an express bus: The driver just drive faster and more reckless.
We reach a huge area with brick factories. The tall and round chimneys stands on an open field, surrounded by red and gray bricks.
The cities and villages we passes are, if possible, more warren down then Dhaka. The bus carry quite some freight as well. It is placed on the cargo-man's head, and walked up on the roof of the bus.
We do a half hour stop in a larger city for lunch, and the ticket man takes care of me. As we head on, the area get more green. The rice patches are newly prickled, and here are timber on some yards. I se two small people working a single saw-blade through a stem, more than a meter in diameter. It will  take them days!
The rivers we cross are farmed with rice in the dry season, and here, the fields are with vegetables and vine. 
Some huge factories and small store houses, drying rise on huge yards, start to turn up. The rice factories have all square chimneys with "steps" on. The rivers look like fjords, and the big ships add to that impression.
The fields turn brown again, and farmers are cultivating them with rice-tractors, oxen and wives.
In each village we do breath stops, a swarm of young men offers fresh fruit, betel nuts, single cigarettes and other temptations for travellers.

As we reach Chunarughat - I think, the ticket-man follows me to another bus, and pay my ticket. I give him a tip, he made it a great tour for me. Here, I get the middle of the three seeds, in forth row. No more photo-taking on this tour.
The landscape changes rather fast, from flat, open fields to small hills with tea and rubber plantations, and here are some forest. Just before two, we reach the larger city of Srimangal, and I find my hotel quite easy.
It is some change: People want to talk with me, almost every body smiles, and here is a good atmosphere. I drop the bag and find a tuck-tuck. I can't be bothered with spending time finding a bus for the ten kilometres out to Lowacharra National Park, when I can get the tour for 150 Taka. I'm sure it is too much, but I can't even be bothered haggling about it. The park fee on 500 Taka seems a bit steep, but that is fixed. 1250 hectares is a lot, and 167 species of plants, four amphibians, six reptilians, 246 birds and 20  mammals are something.
The main attraction is the Hoolock Gibbons of which 60 of the total population of 200 are found in this park. To me, the semi-evergreen forest and its twenty different orchids is a more realistic game. I see quite some birds, a few squirrels and clear the path from the web of many spiders. Some tadpoles in a creek is impossible to catch with the camera, and so are most of the orchids and ferns, high up in the trees. What is easy to catch is the barbwire palms!
Here are several tracks, but the signs are either missing or only in Bangladeshi. I walk around as I pleases, till it is too dark to see anything in this rather dense forest, because of the descending sun. I find several of the orchids and most of the trees. Further more, I find some entreating mud-towers, I can't place at all. I try to make some photos, but as always, the lacking light and density of the forest make it rather difficult.
I start walking back the ten kilometres back home, hoping for a bus. A tuck-tuck offers me a lift with two others, and I happily pay the 15 Taka, when we reach my hotel in Srimangal. One of the other passengers advises me to see the station and fish-market.

The station is a treat. Set back a hundred years, with a lively mix of passengers and freight in wooden boxes on the station and in the waiting train. Some goats walk freely around, nipping to the trash.
 The fish-market is part of a even larger market. Here are tobacco, coconuts, vegetables, betle nuts, a lot of fish, dried fish, rice, beans, chicken, cows, ducks, ceramics, bananas and other fruits.
I start taking photos rather discreet, but end up being asked of everyone to take theirs. I got a feeling of, they never see tourists here! They all want to talk with me, shake my hand and show me things. At some point, it get too much, and I try to have a Milo tea and a break.
Then I seek down to the city, and all the shops here. It is dusk, but their light help making photos. They make drums, food, cookies, televisions, silverworks, sell robs, dry stuff and everything else imaginable.
I find some rather disappointing food: Some plain rice, a good sauce and a leg from a pigeon-sized chicken. A few tours around the centre of the city give me a cup of tea and a cake.
When I head home at seven, the city is more alive than during the day. It is like the day shops just keep being open, and a night marked starts up.
Back at the hotel, I ask for WiFi, but as I can see, here are not any in this city!
It seems like the market was a photo success; I have so many pretty good photos from that market, I ought not to make any more. In a matter of fact; I should start deleting them rudely - but I can't.
I hope the country side people I meet from now on, will be as smiling and friendly as these great citizens here.
Never mind how I look at it, and how I turn the map, tomorrow seems to be a day in the busses. I'm not even sure I make it all the way to Barisal, and that is just to sleep. The next point of interest is further on, way south of Dhaka. I check the train station, but apparently, every seat is taken the next two days at least.
The hotel manager try the busses, but due to a strike tomorrow, there will be no busses! Sounds a bit strange, but you never know... He might have found me a 17.00 train-seat tomorrow, more will follow after ten in the morning? My tight schedule in Bangladesh might get a severe dent, early in the season. The photos of the day is in Lowacharra National Park and Srimangal

The epic journey continues in Diary 2.

                   Diary 1  2  3  4