September 7-12, 2010: Eid Break - A group of 9 WorldTeach volunteer teachers traveled to the Sylhet Division for some R&R and adventure in Srimangal and Sylhet! Our trip started with an overnight train from Chittagong to Srimangal with an unknown arrival time - luckily many passengers were curious as to where the foreigners were traveling so we were woken up in time to hop off at the small train station in Srimangal. Our time in Srimangal was wonderful! We stayed at the Eco Cottage, tucked in between tea plantations and a peaceful river. Our two days in Srimangal flew by -- tea plantations, pineapple farms, a lime market, a man-powered boat ride, 7-layer tea tasting, hiking through the Lawacherra National Park (leeches and all), watching women package Betal leafs while seeking shelter from the rain, and good food and a great tour guide :) Then, it was time to give Sylhet a chance - on the neverending van ride to Sylhet we fortunately took a break to see Madhabkunda, Bangladesh's tallest waterfall! Our time in Sylhet was cut a little short but we were thankful to not be stuck in Sylhet indefinitely....or take a 9ish hour van ride home to Chittagong....
*sidebar* So in Bangladesh you can only buy your tickets usually 10 days in advance but since it was Eid Break we were only able to buy our tickets 5 days in advance, which meant we purchased our tickets from Chittagong to Sylhet on Sept 2nd but were unable to purchase our return tickets. These were then going to be bought via telephone but for some reason that didn't work so we were told we could buy our return tickets when we arrived in Srimangal. When we arrived in Srimangal the ticket office wasn't open...then when it did open we were told we couldn't buy a ticket that would leave from Sylhet in Srimangal....then we got to Sylhet and were told that the trains weren't running the day we wanted to go home, so we started looking for a van and driver to drive us home, then the hotel sent someone to the train station with a 300tk ($4) bribe so that someone would sell us tickets! ahh Sooooo with all that said and done we were able to take a day train home on the 12th (versus the originally planned night train on the 12th). *end sidebar*
While in Sylhet we went shopping (I bought 2 new fabrics to take to a tailor for new shalwar kameez and a nakshi katha, embroidered bed cover), we had an Eid meal at an AUW employee's relative's house, we went to Jaflong for a boat ride (where we met up with Russell, our tour guide from Srimangal), and visited Tamil - the Bangladeshi/Indian border.
All in all our trip was a much-needed break from the hussle and bussle of the city...the air was fresher, the streets were calmer - they even had sidewalks, the sky was clearer - just right for star gazing....they even had fewer/no mosquitoes! Here are a few pictures from our vacation, more to follow later...I promise!
Kristen, Ayla, and I stayed in this cute cottage at the Eco Cottage in Srimangal
man-powered boat ride in Srimangal
fishermen on the water in Srimangal
colorful boats in Jaflong and the young captains
The group of WorldTeach volunteers and Russell, our awesome tour guide, and new friend :)
We met this family at the waterfall and then again the next day in Jaflong - small world :)