Same same but different tour travel blog

Shopping with Mary at the Banga Bazaar, Dhaka - fantastic saris

WWII War Memorial, Comilla - 7 young Australians here, along with hundreds...

Running repairs to a CNG

Sand barges fully laden (obviously!), Turga River

Workers going home. Turga River

Dhaka Railway Station - the guy in black was a student practicing...

Family butcher - not sure how you'd cook the head though

How many men can you fit on a Toyota! (you pay less...

Fishing boat going out to St Martin's Island. Burma in the background.

Australia eat your heart out!

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

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Fish Market Cox's Bazar

Well, we did say we were out of the nest - and how!!

Train from Dhaka to Chittagong was 3 hours late (not unusual) so we waited on the platform. Nearly caused a bloody riot - curiouis men at least six deep, all wanting to practice their English and STARING - the no-blinking-only-a-baby-can-get-away-with stare (see photo). I wondered if I could cope with this massive intrusion - OK so far but getting quite fed up with the constant attention. Trip down was great, our carriage was filled with holidaying locals, very noisy with lots of laughing and yelling and the most amazing smelling lunch (think it was biriani). Unfortunately they didn't offer us any though!

Overnighted at Teknaf (right on the tip of Bangladesh). Caught the ferry to St Martin's Island which is a popular local holiday island in the Bay of Bengal- so far so good. Got to the island, after having our photos taken about 50 times with various children, their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers (you get the idea). The island looked OK apart from the rubbish on the beach. Got a rickshaw to a couple of guest houses, all very expensive and really crappy. Settled on Blue Marine Hotel which was the best of a bad bunch. Of course we checked the room and asked the usual questions. After booking in found out there was only electricity between 6pm - 10pm as only generator power. Bloody great as it was stinking hot in our room and the fan was really necessary. After walking the grotty beach, along with 6 stray dogs snarling and biting each other and dinner at an equally dubious shack/cafe, got back to the hotel, NO power, had been on for 1 1/2hours and as we were the only guests, the manager (?) refused to turn the generator back on. Managed to pursuade him (Peter did get a tensy bit vocal) so had the generator roaring outside our window until 10pm. At 3am were hit by a mini-tornado, lots of shouting and men running with torches (presumably trying to secure their bamboo huts). Peter actually made an escape plan (...hide in the toilet...), imagining being trapped on the island as tornadoes are common at this time of year. Anyway, it blew itself out so we just listened to the drone of the mozzies and sweated until morning. Not great!

Caught the ferry back in the morning, more photo shoots, this time the captain and crew, and bused to Cox's Bazaar, the honeymoon capital. The beach was actually quite OK, again, apart from the rubbish. Lots of couples hand in hand, a few women in the water in full salwar kameez (long lose tunic worn over baggy pants). Even the men wore t-shirts to swim. Looked rather hazardous actually, being dragged down by the weight.

Stayed for 3 days at The Sea Park Hotel. Justed explored, ate, walked etc (note the absence of drinking!!). At this stage the staring is becoming very irritating - my chest has never had so much attention, even through baggy long sleeved tops, so much so that I now permanently wear my day pack on my front. The beggers here are at plague proportions, a very difficult situation as if you give any money at all, the numbers explode within seconds. Of course there are genuine cases but trying to work out which is which is impossible. Like most of the ex-pats here, we sometimes give food (rather than money) but this is not always well received (ungrateful sods!!)

Next a bus to Chittagong for our long-awaited tour of the ship breaking yards through a contact of Doug and Gen's. Absolutely incredible. The ships (up to 65,000 tonnes) are driven up on the beach and picked completely clean, absolutely everything is re-cycled. There are shops surrounding the yards, each one specialising in a particular component, port holes, furniture, steel, fridges etc. Our contact, Rumi, then took us to his jute mill. Holy smoke - the raw jute went in one end of the huge factory and came out the other as carpet backing or grain bags. 1000 men are employed over 4 shifts in extremely dusty and noisy conditions, but evidently think themselves lucky to have a job. The machinery looked like stuff from the industrial revolution, indeed some pieces were. Rumi then insisted we come home with him where his wife cooked the most amazing banquet, fish, chicken, beef, rice, all wonderful. Definately the best Bangla meal we've had yet - even ate with our hands, mixing and kneeding the food into balls and placing into your mouth. We made a bit of a hash of it (just try it, not as easy as it looks!) but just added to the atmosphere. After a really nice night with his family, again everyone practising English on us, he dropped us at the railway station for the night train back to Dhaka. We were blown away by his generosity - he'd given up his day off, usually spent with his family, to ferry us around, treated us to a fabulous meal and then insisting on paying for our train ticket and considering he didn't even know us, boy oh boy!

Back to the safety of the High Commission at 5.30am yesterday, and a little haven it is too after battling the stares, intended touching (don't start me!!), beggers and general chaos and myhem outside. After a week on our own our attitudes have changed somewhat, unfortunately we are huge targets, presumed very rich (which in comparison we are) and therefore are seen as worthy prey. Had breakfast in a cafe thing and got charged double the price written on the menu - the cashier said the prices had changed (!!!!!) but the menu not altered. This really lit my fuse and he quickly backed down but this is fairly typical. On the other hand, people like Rumi, and another old fellow we met on the street who invited us into his house to meet his family and have tea which, of course, we did, are real positives.

More next time.

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