Our very short stay in Mongla saw us wake up and head down to the dock with our guide. He owns (or at least operates) a boat, and we took a 2-hour rid into the Sundarbans, the largest littoral mangrove forest. In fairness, two hours is enough to get to the entrance to the area where you require a permit and then head back again. As a result, we saw more of the human life along the river’s edge than we saw in the way of wildlife. Apparently deeper in, there is a huge collection of fascinating creatures including Bengal tigers. Having said that, I did catch sight of a dolphin or something popping out of the water. I only caught two glimpses of this creature, so I’m not 100% certain what it was, but it was certainly big, grey and smooth enough to have been a dolphin and such animals do live in the area.
On returning to dry land, we collected our bags and were bundled onto one of the numerour local buses to get us up to Khulna, the largest city in the area. The journey was a little over an hour, and not too expensive although we had to pay for four seats due to the size of our rucksacks! The legroom left a little to be desired as well. Essentially, they’d measured the bus up for normal Bangladeshis (who seem to be about the same dimensions as myself) and then jammed an extra two rows of seats in. A family of Chinese pygmies could perhaps have travelled in relative comfort.
We had some time to spare in Khulns before our bus to Dhaka arrived, so we grabbed lunch at the Hotel Royal and attempted to use the internet connection at their business centre, but it broke. Outside the bus office, one young kid played hide and seek with us for about an hour after I gave him a packet of biscuits. At first he seemed pleased, then he realised he was getting them instead of cash, not as well as. Can’t blame him for trying, though.
The highlight of the day was Hans having the tables turned on him by a couple of beggars. A woman approached us with the usual baby in arms, miming for food and money while rattling off in Bangla (which, obviously, she seemed to think we’d understand). We made the usual “no Taka” gestures, while I pulled out my empty pocket lining to prove a point. She poked at my rucksack as if it was a cunningly disguised picnic hamper and wasn’t impressed when I showed her it contained a bundle of wires and a toothbrush.
Hans, however, did the usual “him Taka” routine, pointing at another Bangladeshi. Eventually, the beggar woman took pity on poor, penniless Hans… and handed him a 2Tk coin! She refused to take it back and it eventually ended up in the hands of another (very confused looking) female beggar. The crowd which had gathered were in stitches.
Our bus rescued us and we settled in for the comfy journey up to Dhaka. A good job the seats were good (including built-in massager) as it proved to be a much longer trek than we’d expected. Our arrival time was supposed to be around 8pm. Due to a holdup at a river crossing, we didn’t reach Dakah until almost midnight.
The bus station wasn’t too far from our hotel, but the first taxi driver was insistent that we pay him 200Tk for the trip. We tried haggling down to 150Tk. No? OK, how about 175Tk? No, OK, how about the taxi behind you? That guy instantly asked for 100Tk, a much fairer price. We jumped in while the first taxi driver called after us. Too late, pal. You had your chance.
A quick checkin and the hotel told us of a place to eat around the corner. Handy as we’d not eaten since Khulna. We just had rice, curried mixed veg and dall for two plus a couple of Cokes. No way could we finish all they gave us, and it was decent grub. The bill was a minute 74T – 50 pence, give or take. For two people. Unreal.
While we were eating, the staff had been spooning meals into little cardboard boxes and wandering outside with them. As we left, we saw a queue of beggars chowing down on the free food. Hans has worked in a lot of Muslim areas and this is apparently just part of the Muslim “code”. As well as giving some of your income to charity, giving food to the poor and welcoming travellers are also encouraged. Hence why Hans couldn’t go more then 100 yards in eastern Turkey without being offered a cup of tea!
We’d slept for ages on the bus – nothing else to do – so ended up sitting around till 1:30am to catch the Simpsons again. Worth the wait as it was an other episode neither of us had seen. Alarms set for 7:30, we finally nodded off.