Diary 1, and the north eastern corner, I'm now heading on
15/1. That dip-cooker is one of my greater
inventions. Besides from
getting a warm bath, I am sure there will
be water enough, and it will stay warm. Neither can be taken for
granted around here! The power fails a few minutes after I have
heated my bucket of water.
I hit the city of Srimangal at nine, and it is surprisingly closed and - in
bangle-eyes - empty. The shops slowly starts to open at ten, but I
find a open and dissent diner, and manages to get some roti and a
spiced omelette. To me, it feels a bit strange eating without any
tools. On top of that, you are defiantly only supposed to use your
right hand! The left is used for something else! A clue: Here are no
toilet paper, just a bucket of water.
Almost every customer try to talk with me, and I have learned by
now: Never mind what words/sounds they make, I can reply: "Denmark,
I love it (Bangladesh), two weeks, alone, not married, no children",
and that will satisfy them in general.
When I'm about to leave, the owner ask for a photo. I can't see the
interesting in his diner, but it is of him and me! I get a hug like
I only had, last I was in a steady relationship!
In an effort to get some peace, I head back to my room. On the way,
every second person want to talk with me, and now, it begins to be a
bit too much. I feel like a politician or a rock-star - and not in
the good way.
The manager of the hotel had managed to get me a
train ticket to Dhaka this afternoon at five. Great, but then I will
hit the big city around midnight, and for sure; in the dark! But I
save half a day, and perhaps, there is a night train further on?
Either way, I'll use this day to relax a bit, and catch up on
things. I have heard roomers
of an internet cafe, and I figure I'll
try to upload the bunch of diaries, pages and slideshows I have made
recently - a great way to back-up my work. As no surprise, it is closed due to the continuous power
failure, and I'm forced to drink some tea. Here, the milktea
is called du-tjai. The next shop teaches me, it is called
rana. Some understand milktea, but fare from all.
Someone has made a lethal invention in this city: They have taken
the electronics from a battery bike, added a car accumulator and a
big electric engine, then added it to the trishaws. That give you a
soundless, lightning fast suicidal maniac, roaming the streets. And
you never know from which side he fly in, or from where he attacks. Only
a spastic machine-gunner could ad potent to that cocktail!
I do some loops in the (too) friendly city, and around noon, it is
getting rather warm; 30C. I have walked the four shopping streets,
seen the market and station again, been out where the water buffalos
walk in water to their belly, and seen the cricket field.
I have a clear feeling of being addressed by everyone, being photoed
on selfies and alone so many times, and I can't even drink one more
du-tjai. Many of the small joints I buy them from does heat
their water by a hand-pulley. It is stored in a open tank, and that
is all I want to know about it...
At two, I give up on the internet shop - and power. Figured they also
might be on strike. I buy 8GB data on a SIM card, and begin uploading
diaries and catch up on emails. The photos might follow, although it
is a major amount of data, and it fails anyway.
At half pass three, I head out to find some supper, thinking
the train might not offer anything healthy. The four o'clock Dhaka
train is on the dot - but I have a ticket for the five o'clock, and
it eventually turns out to be five and a half hour delayed.
Those five and a half hour is rather tiring. I have from ten to
thirty people around me at any given time, asking the same five
questions, or just looking at me. A few of them speak a bit of English, and are real keen
to speak with me.
One person, dressed in a Hindi women's dress offers me "a personal
service" for 20 Taka - in a real deep voice. Another is real keen to
take me to a Muslim convention I Dhaka. Luckily, I don't have to
choose, as I have some new friends, saving me for any long terms
At half pass five, it turns dark, and it is a bit
erring to be at the complete dark station, not knowing if it is a
cow or a person that is pushing you - especially because everyone
who have been able to warn me, has done it. And another bit of
advise; do not fall asleep in the train. I have seen some of the
other trains passing, had no light inside at all, and I'm told I
should reach Dhaka around ten in the morning. Long night to stay
awake in the dark!
My plan is to make a lot of friends, who will take care of me on the
journey. People seem so friendly here. They want to buy me tea or
even food, and
do everything they can to help. The first part of the trainride, a friend
stand next to my seat, and later, the two big guys (Bangladesh
scale) in front of me is
having a laughing conversation almost to Dhaka, promised my friend
to take care of me. That let me hug my
bag and doze off. It was tempting to work on the computer, and take
some photos, but I rather not flash these valuable items after all.
To my great surprise, we reach
Dhaka already at five,
meaning I have spend 12 hours, going 192 kilometre by "express
train". And additionally ten hours due to the strike on the busses.
I might have gambled, sleep the night in Srimangal, but none could
tell me, if the busses would be running in the morning. And it is
Friday and weekend.
I find a tuck-tuck to bring me to the bus station. Here, I have to
wait for a couple of hours for the ticket office to open, and
additionally one for the bus, and one more for the bus to start
driving. The good thing is, it will take me the entire way to
Barisal, including the ferry - they claim. While I wait at the bus
station, I get several warnings about safety. I wished they would
I get a seat in the middle of the bus, which only have two seats in
each side. I ask the man who have the window, if he will switch, and
he agree. It turns out he had a four-five year boy along, but it a
quiet and cute boy, and we get fine along.
After only one hours - rather fast -driving, we reach the ferry area
along the mighty River Meghna. Here, we are stocked for two
hours with very little to do. A bunch of trishaws are fitted with
kitchens and sells all imaginable to travellers - but ferries.
When we finally embargoes it is clear, why it take that long. Despite
it is car ferries, the loading ramps are on the sides! I can't
imagine anything more stupid! Each bus, truck and car have to
manoeuvre, and they are not exactly good at it! We end up with
around a bus's space lost.
The waters are filled with all kind of vessels. Most look like it is
refugees they are transporting. Overloaded in a rather reckless way,
some would say. The engine on many ferries are made up by a
tog-boat, and they go more or less sideways. This is really a great
example on the utterly perfection Bangladeshi people can drive
un-effectiveness, and they are good. Another thing that strikes me
is this: Why make something half, if you can get away with doing it
a quarter - or less. It is like nothing have been made finish, but
all have been beaten back to scratch and trash - but it is still in
Here is a single invention which apparently works great: The usual
small, white plastic bags are replaced with small nets. I don't
really see them lying anywhere - like anything else around the world. The nets sink
into the mud. Here are no
trash-buckets. Everyone just drop anything. Shops throw their trash
a little meter out on the sidewalk, that's it.
After two hours, drifting down the river with way too little
engine-power, we reach the other side at Char Medua, and the tricky
part with getting the vehicles untangled and out the side starts.
Two more hours racing on narrow but well sealed road bring me to Barisal.
Here are trees along the entire road, giving some nice shadow to the
travellers, but also some challenges
to the photographer. I get off
at the bus station as planed, but I figure I deserve a slightly
better hotel than the one I have found.
A trishaw know just the right place, and
delivers me the the
Church in centre of town? A bit asking around leads me the
the finest hotel in town, and after negotiating a bit about the
price, I got a nice, clean room with hot shower. Additionally to the
receptionist, here are an almost English talking and well dressed guy
at every floor to attend the four rooms on that floor. One of the reasons
I up-graded my self was so that I could catch up on the uploading of
slideshows. But: this hotel has no Wi-Fi??? That was unexpected.
It is close to dusk, and I take a fast stroll
through the centre of Barisal. It look like so many other
places, except the "square" is a big pond. Most shops are weekend
closed, but a few offers food. I go for the most fancy, and get some
real good fried rice with mutton and vegetables, treated as they
should go in tartlet's. Except from Bhutan, this is the most fancy
place I've been on this tour - and the first time I see a live rat
on this tour. Half a meter from my table, and not shy at all. A
dub-tjai on the way home to catch up on work and sleep.
Despite I spend all night in a train, I am 24 hours behind. I will
catch up by shortening the Sundarbans stay with a day - unless they
are real great.
I am ready to go to bed at eight, but I have a bit more to see. I head out
for a dub-tjai - or two. They cost 5 Taka each, and despite I
go through quite some a day, the budget should last. It is time to
try one of the local cakes. Just as expected; Fancy looking crème,
no taste. I have to try another, and that do taste. I thought it was
a heavy chocolate, but is is a bit like a Danish with spiced salami?
I doubt very much that will catch on at home. While I'm out, the
computer uploads the delayed Bhutan and Bangladesh slideshows
through my phone.
While the computer works, I try to stay awake by the TV. Bollywood
or cricket??? It is South Africa versus India. And then it once
17/1. Early up to catch an early bus. A couple of
from a street stand, and then some hard negotiating with a trishaw
driver. I get the twenty minutes tour for 40 Taka; a bit more
expensive than yesterday, but I guess I can afford it.
It is real hard to find the right bus - especially because I'm at
the wrong bus station! All the tuck-tucks in this town are yellow,
and not really tuck-tucks: They are electrified and called something
else. Here are a slightly larger version of the tuck-tucks - called
something third, and it is one of them, I have to take cross city to
reach the right station.
We drive through rice fields and pond after pond in a lush, green
landscape. The few villages we passes
are real tiny, but the road is
not bad. A single huge and beautiful mosque stands out from the
Some strange palms catch my eyes. Their stems reminds me most of all
of the Easter Islands' statues. Later, I find out the harvest the
sap from them, and the cutting make this strange looking stems. The
sap is used in some local rice cakes, and can only be found in the
I finally make it to the village of Banaripara.
Not to see anything special, but to have a way-point leading me out
on the countryside - and it worked! It feels like they never
experienced a tourist here before, and I have a hard time getting
from a English speaking politician.
Actually, the majority of the English speaking people I have talked
with on the street have either been politicians or at least real
into politics, and all complained about how bad their system is
these days. Four days of strike against the government might add.
The other part have been mullahs or alike, wanting to know which
mosque I belong to, what my priest's name is, to join them to a
Muslim congress in Dhaka or alike. I'm pleased with my diplomatic
skills so fare.
Anyway; I walk the street of Banaripara, and back again. A single
stop at what might be called the square. I get a dub-tjai and
then I drawn (by hand) to the stage on the other side of the widening of the
road. It is some sort of religious ceremony, and the leader of the
local mosque is so eager to talk with me, and I have to take a photo
of the stage.
every time I have gathered a too large crowd, I walk on. When I'm
back at the main road, I gather a new bunch, but at least, the bus
arrivals soon after.
Smiling faces all over, but the slowest driving I ever experienced.
The road is narrow, and the "sealing" somewhat missing, but that
have not restrained any other driver. We cruses through harvested
rice fields and plantations of coconut, bananas and alike for hours.
Then the bus stop at a small port, and I'm told to make a photo of
A well dressed gentleman with some English explains to me, I have to
cross the river on a small boat to reach Bagerhat. I think it is
quite fast we have reach my destination, the lack of speed
On the other side, I find my self in a somewhat larger village, and
check with three, to be sure it actually is Bagerhat. My map is not
good, and I walk thought a business area and passes a school. Here,
I feel a bit like the flute-player from Hammel: I draw quite some
kids along with me.
Despite my big group of followers, I have a hard time finding the
mosques and lake I want to see. After an hour,
someone finally explains
to me: I'm in Iluhar, not Bagerhat. Back to the rowing-boat-ferry
and another slow bus. I start in one bus, and wait for a long time
before it starts its engine. Then we are all lead to another bus,
and waits again. When we finally drive, it is slowly, and only
short. New brake for almost an hour, while other busses passes us.
We cross one big river on a small ferry, just to continue in the
same type of landscape. One small stretch have some nurseries with
We meet a huge river; Swarup, and drive along it for a long time -
several kilometres... A short ferry ride along the river side, and
then across another river to Pirojpur.
Now, there are dry rice plants on the fields. Some look like the top
have been harvested. Soon after, newly prickled fields and flooded
ones dominates. The entire day, I am bothered by bad seats in the
bus, and road trees, blocking my view.
four, before we reach Bagerhat, and I have to prioritise. It is
the biggest city close to Sundarbans, but here are apparently no
tour operators, they must be in the bigger Khulna. I had planned to
se several mosques, gathered in a small area, but I settle for the
big pond: Thabar Dighi and the Tomb of Khan Jahan Ali next to it.
As a real unexpected treat, a big and very fat crocodile is resting on the
stairs down to the ponds waters. The tomb is not really impressing,
and fare from enough to let me give up my boots.
I noticed where the Khulna road went, when I drown down here with a
trishaw, and walk back, grapping a dub-chai on the way. Along
the road, two smiling young men insist on taking their photo with me.
I, on the other hand, have to take one of a ring-salesman.
I reach Khulna in the dusk, and ditch the
first rather aggressive - or over-eager tuck-tuck drivers offer on
300 Taka, just to find a trishaw driver who will do it for 50. And
it is actually a long drive to Hotel Jalico. I get a nice room with
hot water in the morning, and the smiling manager will try to find me a tour to
I head out to find some supper, and see the nearby shopping area.
Here are many shops, but few restaurants. I find one who call it
self "Fastfood", and it is pretty well visited. The food is a bit
like fried noodles/rice, but I'm not sure what the main ingredients
is. It taste great. The soup on the other hand, is way too spicy for
me. Along the fried something comes some shells which should be
crusted over the main course. I see some other guests get them stuffed with
something, and despite the warning, I get a tester. Not bad, but I
go for another serving of the first. Along with it come a smoothie
with mixed fruits - great!
Next door, they have some new cakes I just have to try. Real sweet,
and not bad at all. A dub-cjay to chase them down with, and
back at the hotel at exactly seven, as promised.
The manager have arranged a tour operator will come and have a
meeting with me a bit later, and I start working in my room. The
well spoken and smiling Md. Shahadat Hossain from
Tours & Travel knocks on my door soon after. Unfortunately, he
have no tours the first three days.
The strike have made a lot cancel their tours, and the entire
business is not really function at present. He will make some calls
around, and soon after, he might have a plan. We walk to his nearby
office and meet with Sk. Mohd. Ziaul Haque, another sympatric young
He explain to me, the tours are either real expensive or in 8-12
person groups. The problem is, here are not that many tourists in
town at present. He might know of some, and will call the other companies
to see, if he can gather a group. Alternately, I can have a one day
tour, but that will only be to the border of the vast area, and
almost as expensive.
Shahadat walks me back, and some time later, brings me the good
news: They have managed to gather a sufficient group through another
company, and I can go tomorrow evening.
I have caught up the day I
was behind, and this fit my schedule, except I would have liked to
have four days, biding the tiger. Strikes and all
considered, I think I have been very lucky, and from the
description, the tour sounds just like I wanted it. The price is
another story; probably more than the rest of expensive I will have
in Bangladesh together. But who can go to Bangladesh without
entering the Sundarbans? The climate and environment in the worlds
largest mangrove can not be missed! And I'm actually looking forward
to a few days without decisions. And even meeting the first other tourists in
It is late, but I do a few loops in the closing city, only to find a
du-thar and some "Danish Pineapples" - some sort of candy?
I don't have much to do tomorrow, and I work way pass midnight. The
photos must wait, till I can add tomorrows.
When I un-plug my self (ear-plugs,
not charger), I realises the hotel is right next to a Hindi temple,
and they do some celebration Sunday mornings. Meanwhile, there are
some construction going on in the neighbour plot. I misses a lot due
to those ear-plugs.
I realizes I have quite some errands to run today, and several
things to organise. After some roti and a nice omelette, I find the
nearest Somali Bank, which should be the only one accepting the 300
Taka Travel Tax. Personally, I thought it would be easier, if the
added it to the $50 visa fee, but this is Bangladesh.
The first branch I find is a ruin. The next is
rather baffled about my request. Finally, one understand, and know I
have to go to the main branch in town. He even catches me a
trishaw and give him instructions.
On the way, me meet a big group of armed policemen and then a big
demonstration. Bit eerie, especially because my
We get around it, and get safely to the bank. It is major building,
with endless counters. I spot a distinguish gentleman, who
accompanies me to second floor. Here, they talk a lot, and another
gentleman follows me downstairs again. It is now 500 Taka, and she
want my passport. I get away with name and number, and when I turn
around, I meet my travel agent.
I ask him where I might find a souvenir, considering I have not seen
a pale face so fare. Regarding that, he tells me, the ambassadors have been called
to a meeting, and the government have advised none should travel to
Bangladesh, due to the political situation. I go home and write the
foreign ministry in Denmark, if I should be worried. Then I pack,
and leave laundry and warm cloth at the hotel, along with my bag. I
recon I can use some flip-flops at the ship, and I still have the
unfinished matter of a souvenir to solve.
As I wander round in this 855.000 citizens big
city, I realises most of the water come from manual pumps, getting
the water from one meter debt - not as filtered as I would want it!
I find a small fish market near the docks at the river; Bhairab.
My hunt for a tiger-souvenir brings me wide around in the waste city. I use
some of the tiny "busses", made up by electric tuck-tucks. It is a
rather effective way to scalp for shops that might have a small
At one point, I end up at the docks again, and find a long line of
warehouses. They are more or less in groups, some having hand made
nails, some small red onions, some
robe, some all sorts of rice,
some spices, some toys - except tigers and all kind of other
Then I get a trishaw to drive me to the New Market. It is a
stadium-like building with rather modern shops and cafés. And they
do only sell coffee! I walk back towards the hotel, and passes the
furniture street, then the kilometre long second-hand cloth market.
I had planed to reach my hotel around five, and against all odds, I
actually find it five minutes before. Exactly how remains a mystery.
I check my emails, and to my relief, the ministry have no warnings
for Bangladesh at present time.
I head down pass my travel agent, but the office is closed. I find a
restaurant serving some good chicken and plain rice with fresh
vegetables, and as usual, I have to get the tea another place. I
spot what could be the entrance for a market, and it turns out to be
the big fish market. Plenty of nice looking fish and huge shrimps,
then chickens, ducks and geese.
Back at the office, one of their mates call them, and they turn up
soon after. I sit at their office and work with diary and photos,
realizing I won't be able to do it in the evening.
It is time to make a slideshow from
Barisal, Banaripara, Bagerhat and
At half pass
eight, they walk me to the boat, where I can sleep as long as I
like, instead for paying for a hotel and get up real early and spend
several hours in some busses. Fare from the usual Bangladeshi
At the docks, I loaded into a rowing boat with a Dutch and a
Canadian, and I have to admit, it is great to be able to talk with
someone without it is about religion or politic. They also been
travelling a lot, and we talk till after midnight. Then we are joined
by some Bangladeshis, two Danes, a Swiss, some Germans, a Dutch, a
Zimbabwe-American and out
guide, making a group count fourteen.
Our newly restored boat is build for 60, but as we only are
fourteen, I get my own nice cabin. I can feel the engine, but that
only help me to sleep
Considering the change of scenery,
the epic journey continues in