Sunday, 17 February 2008

Day 270 - Sreemongal

Heading out of Dhaka was a doddle, far easier than getting in. I took Mahmud's advice and followed a road that was not marked on the map. It proved to be a good recommendation as it was a little road heading through villages and paddy fields. The drivers here have the same mentality as the Indians thoguh, because at a single track bridge they blocked both carriageways in both side so that nobody could get through. I just about managed to squeeze the bike through, but even that was tricky. I eventually had to join a main road to Bhairdar Bazar where I stopped the night, but the roads were quiet as very few people own cars leaving the highway for a few lorries, but mainly buses that will slow down for nothing. In the town I was struggling to find a hotel, but a couple of men helped and led me through a little alleyway where I had to force my bike past the goods spilling out from the stalls. The hotel was up some steps but I didn't even make it to reception before I was turned away as they didn't take foreigners. I was led to another, neither of which I would have found by myself as they had no signs in English. This one was down another little alley, but I was assured it was the next best place in town. I suppose I shouldn't complain as it had an attached loo and tap and was the cheapest hotel of the trip at 61p. But that is nothing to get excited about as it wasn't worth it! It was a little cell, no window, concrete floor, puke green walls to disguise the phlem running down the walls and the mosquitos and fleas were all in the price. But home is where the bike is and I just about managed to get that into the cell. I went for a wander, a strange place where pink sheep roam the streets. The town is on the bank of a river which effectively makes it a little port. News travels fast here and people of the river front knew that I had arrived by bike even though I hadn't ridden there. It also seems to be a transportation hub for rice as there were wholesalers in town and sacks of the stuff where being manually loaded on to wooden boats, being carried on the heads of both men and women. I was latched on to by a guy and when I stopped to take a photo of a man and a bunch of children no older than 5 crowded around he kicked out at them. I gave him a lecture and told him to go, but he kept following me. I made it clear that I wanted no more to do with him and he walked off laughing, so I called him back and gave him a far more aggressive lecture telling him that kicking childen was not a laughing matter. I know I come from a very different culture, but there is no excuse for kicking yougsters, especially if they aren't even yours.

Today was more paddy fields and rivers. Bangladesh is very much a nation dominated by water. In the rivers men fished with nets dropped into the water from bamboo poles and everywhere you looked you could see people working in the fields, and by heck they work hard here, the men being very fit and supple. Even with my new slim look they make me feel a slob. The scenery suddenly changed this afternoon as the paddy fields gave way to gently rolling hill and tea plantations. The roads were easy going weaving there way through the hills.

I keep learning a bit more about ettiquette here. Latest tricks are to gob out any bones straight on to the table, then when you have finished your dinner wash you hands by pouring your drinking water over them into the bowl you have just finished with. I feel a right snob eating rice with a spoon. I am messy enough with that let alone just using my right hand.

But so far I have liked Bangladesh, far cleaner than India and it seems less crowded. There are fewer people in the streets, but people everywher in the fields making a pee stopped nigh on impossible.

I am travelling light too, having left all of my camping gear back at the hotel in Dhaka as I have to return there. Weight was so much the consideration, I was more interested in saving a journey up and down all the steps of hotels for a load of things I wont even be using.

I am also getting used to being stared at. My every move is watched, waiters stand and watch me eat, people watch me take photos and are looking over my shoulders and hotel staff fill my room until I physically have to push them out when I want a bit of privacy as they seem to understand nothing else. Strangely enough though it doesn't bother me, I just carry on with what I am doing, as no harm is meant. On the whole people are friendly here but also very inquisitive.

Aoiffe, the windows without glas that you refer to are balconies with washing hanging from them, at least I think that is the one you are talking about.


Basher Barlow said...

Good to see you in one of my favourite countries, Dhaka being my favourite capital (is it still rickshaw madness there?).

Make sure you go to Kantanagar temple near Dinajpur town... Fantastic. Also, take a break and get on the old packet steamer overnight if it stil running, it is magic going down the Ganges delta with the river dolphins in a steam paddle boat (pay the small amount and go 1st class all maghony cabins and something from yesteryear). Jealous of hell you being there :-(

PS: minus -8 overnight and now frost is slowly clearing so about to brave a cold 35 miles on the bike...brr.

aoiffe said...

Not he building with balconies but rather the huge concrete looking structure with various triangular and circular holes(?) in it, wide steps leading up to it, and in your photo grass meadow dotted with flowers in the foreground.

Rosemary said...

Stuff your pockets with rice and anywhere else you can think of as rice is becoming a scarce commodity due to increased world demand.

Keep peddling.



Ganesh Pandey said...


Warm Namaste and Sweet Hello from Kathmandu, Nepal. you are a brave man who can kiss the ladders of success. Bravo! for your cycle tour around the world. Keep it up. Hurray and cheers.
Wish you all the best.
Ganesh Pandey
Kathmandu, Nepal