Friday, March 21, 2008

February 23, 2008

I arrived in Khagrachari in the evening. The Parjatan hotel that we were staying at looked nice and new, but I discovered it had two serious flaws: 1) there is no generator so when the power goes out everyone fumbles around in the dark and 2) the food is TERRIBLE! (Parjatan is the national tourism organization in Bangladesh; they also run several hotels.)

Borhan and his tour group arrived by bus the next morning. The group was very nice; there were a couple of extended families. I originally thought the trip was going to be a hiking excursion to some of the hill tribes in the area, but aside from myself and the guides, the other tourists were not really in good enough physical condition to do any hiking.

We did visit a cave while we were there. It was very "Indiana Jones" - we carried torches and climbed through a cave with a stream running though it that was barely tall enough to stand up in. You had to be careful not to step in the water (as I was unfortunate enough to find out), because the pools were several feet deep in places. Some women went through that cave in saris and heels! I have no idea how they did it!

There was also a small waterfall that I visited with the guides (the other guests weren't able to climb back up the steep hill.) The waterfall was really mostly just water running down a cliff, but it did end in a very cool incline, which created a kind of natural water slide.

Borhan's organization put on a cultural show in the evening which I thought was quite nice. We got to hear singing, watch dancing, and eat food from the various tribes in the area. Some of the tribes woman rode in the car home with us. The tribes are all matriarchal, and it was very interesting to observe these women. They definitely seemed much stronger than the average Bangladeshi woman and were not at all intimidated by the men. It was quite refreshing actually!

The next day I made a trip to the local market and bought a few of the local tribal skirts.

I was supposed to take the bus from Khagrachari to Rangamati the next day, but that evening the guards came to my hotel room and told me that I should take the bus back to Chittagong and then take another bus to Rangamati. This would be traveling three times the distance, however, so I was not at all happy about that "suggestion". They told me it would be much safer and that I would be much more comfortable. They also told me that because the roads were so bad through the hills that it would take five hours to get there (it was only 60 km away). In the end, they did succeed in intimidating me to going back to Chittagong, but I was cursing their name all the way to Rangamati, because it took me EIGHT hours to get there their way and I had a lot of difficulty finding the bus that went on to Rangamati. PLUS, I had to take the local bus anyway. Next time, I will definitely just take the direct local bus. My chances of getting kidnapped are quite low I think!

Anyway, after a lot of hassle, I did finally arrive in Rangamati...

I always wanted to try pulling a rickshaw. In Khagrachari I finally got my chance! Needless to say, the white woman pulling the two Bangladeshi men in the rickshaw got quite a few confused looks...

Biriyani is a typical Bengali rice and meat dish. It is prepared in these giant cauldrons and is often made when you need to serve large amounts of people.

Because of the hills, jeeps are used to travel to places outside of the main town. As you can see, they try to pack as many people in as possible!

Cultural Program
These tribal dancers performed at Borhan's cultural program. It was quite impressive how they danced around with plates with candles on their head!

Weighing Holud
I love these scales. This guy was weighing holud at the market.

Holud means "yellow" in Bangla. This type of "holud" is a spice, however. Remember the gai holud wedding party?

Tribal Women
Photo of a couple of tribal women at the market. All of their textiles are hand made.

Banana Tree
I just love bananas! Not only are they yummy, but they are also photogenic!

This is the waterfall/ water slide that we visited.


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