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.
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.
12/1. After the guided
Bhutan tour, I arrival in
Bangladesh in the afternoon,
all by myself. 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: Perfect!
The airport ATM claim my pin-code is wrong, and that can cause a
problem. I have ordered an 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
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 map, and asking around, get us there. A
friendly ATM on the way supplied the needed cash.
The airport and the tour to the hotel in Dhaka
severe cultural chock! Dirty, crowded, noisy and people keep waning
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
I need some time to redress, reorganise and resettle after the
flight (and especially the cultural bomb), and
then it is five
in the afternoon. At
least, it is still light, but it is too late to experience anything,
but supper for to day. I try to join the Wi-Fi, but the manager
haven't a clue to what their router is called, or what the password
is. He just know they have Wi-Fi...
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
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 -
It turns dark at half pass five, but I'm too restless to head back
home. The alley the hotel is found in, 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 Wi-Fi cafés. I am
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
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.
Finding a taxi is 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 an 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
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 nametags on, 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
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 their "English". 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 new 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
the lower, 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 one, and one real scientific one. One thing I notes is that
most employees and guests seems to be Hindi. My guides find me a bus
around two, which brings me right to my destination in the old part
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. Cant figure how they lost
all the paint....
Two guys sit next to me, and their English is not bad. That way, I
learn that the
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 use their
ear warmers to keep it there.
The traffic is immense intense, but it flows almost perfectly
anyway, in its own organic structure. I do not see a single private
car. Where Bhutan's houses
fascinated me, I think the paint-less busses catches my attention
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 in a Muslim
I get a couple of milo-teas at a small shop, while I 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.
every where else, betel 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
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
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 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 this 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 betel 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 it 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, it sure will be worth it!
Supper on another chicken restaurant, where the serving includes
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;
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 to outside
Sylhet. 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?
the usual group of armoured policemen make it a bit more clear: Stay in
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 is 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
than 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 see 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 rice on huge
yards, start to turn up. The rice factories have all square chimneys
with "steps" on. The rivers look like
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
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
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
platform, and in
the waiting train. Some goats walk freely around, nipping to the
The fish-market is part of a even larger market. Here are
tobacco, coconuts, vegetables, betel nuts, a lot of fish, dried
fish, rice, beans, chicken, cows, ducks, ceramics, bananas and other
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
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 Wi-Fi, 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 bus-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. I can't rent a car, the busses
on strike and only one daily train on the few tracks does complicate
things. The photos of the day is in
Lowacharra National Park and
The epic journey continues in