Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Electricity (or the lack of) in Dhaka

Getting back last week from Australia, there was a real electricity shock. Before I left, at worst we'd have no electricity for 1 hour in the evening. Instead when I got back, during the afternoon and evening it was 1 hour on, 1 hour off, 1 hour on, 1 hour off . . . . . . .. until I'd give up and go to bed! The trouble is that the a/c doesn't work when the electricity is off, nor does the fridge. Unfortunately there is not one power point in the apartment that works when the generator is on! I just hope that the food doesn't go off and I don't get sick as a result. Then again maybe the school would do something about it if that happened. Of course all this is compounded by the fact that temperatures have been in the high 30s and even low 40s for the past 2 weeks. No sign of rain.

However, this week the situation seems to have improved a little. Now seem to have 2 hours of electricity before it goes off for 1 hour! Apparently there is being slightly more electricity produced, hence the improvement. But will it last?????

Saturday, 25 April 2009


After a small delay (well a 2 week trip to Australia) here is the final instalment about the trip up north before the break.

Day Three involved travelling from Syhlet further south to Srimangal from where we would eventually catch the train back to Dhaka. It was about a 3 hour trip in total. It was a pretty journey that continually involved dodging other traffic on the road, mostly CNGs but also trucks, other cars and rickshaws. Then of course there is always pedestrians wandering along or back and forth across the road where they always expect the vehicles to stop.

Along the way at Moulvibazar, on the "main" road we came across a large crowd of people blocking the road so had to detour. This meant an opportunity to explore the side streets and see Bangladesh country town life.

As usual rickshaws were the most common form of transport.

We passed lots of shops and people going about their everyday business including this man in white.

Passing through Srimangal we went on to Lawachara National Park where a small area of tropical forest is preserved. This forest, rather dry when we visited but still pleasant to walk through, is home to a myriad of colourful birds, lots of butterflies flitting around, hoolock gibbons and we saw a couple of macques including 2 on a branch up above the track with the younger one scratching its mother's back.

As is the case everywhere you go in Bangladesh, our "groupies" tag along. Always a crowd gathers or our group magical get a few extra people joining on. Curiosity!

After a nice lunch in Srimangal at an Asian restaurant, I just soup because I had a stomach upset, we went to the town outskirts to visit a Monipuri village. This is one of the many tribal villages in the area. In this case we went to see the traditional weaving. It just so happened that this woman below is our guides mother.

Then of course we had to support this traditional craft and do some shopping. I just bought a couple of scarves - great idea in a hot climate but gave one to my mother.

And just to prove how small the world is, right where we stopped is the sign below Melbourne North rotary club helped to set up the craft/weaving project.
Srimangal's real claim to fame is TEA. We stopped for a quick look at a tea plantation where the tea bushes are shaded by cedar trees scattered around. Unfortunately the bushes are waiting for rain before sprouting their lush green leaves that are then picked for processing into tea.
Then of course there was the enevitable to sample the local speciality - 5-layered tea. Not that I tried it as I don't like the taste of tea. But everyone else said it was nice. Topped with cinnamon and lemon tea in the bottom, its recipe and method of production still remain a secret!
we then caught the train back to Dhaka at about 5 pm, which is another whole story in itself!!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Up north - Jaflang

One of the highlights was the visit to Jaflang, close to the India border and on the Jaflang River. It was a bizarre place where the river had almost become a desert with huge piles of sand resembling sand dunes. Scattered in between were pools of water while the river still meandered a narrow course in between. Many, many Bangladeshis in their best saris wandered the sand or sat aboard one of the wooden boats and cruised the waterway or crossed to the Khasi village on the other side. We joined them and took the ride to the other side too. However, one fo the most amazinf sights amid the sand dunes of the river bed was to see people digging deep holes into the sand, then seiving the sand and stones to separate the stones that are then sorted into different sizes. Such is the shortage of stone and gravel in Bangladesh. Here is a picture of the workers digging and sieving.The scary thing is that the people work in this environment for 12 hours a day for just 100 Taka, just over a dollar a day!
Obviously used to Bangladesh tourists wandering around, these childen came to peer at the pale strangers that had ventured far into rura Bangladesh.
Besides stones, the area is also known for colourful weaving with a number of stalls on the river edge selling large bedspreads/bed covers that could be purchased for 500 Taka. Did I buy? No as I already have a number but some of the others in the group with me did. Here are the stall sellers showing off their wares.
Close to India - that bridge spanning the gorge is in India, so yes. Unfortunately a visa is required to cross so I couldn't do so this time. This photo also shows the mountains that form the backgrop to this border town.

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