On 11 September we took a car and driver from the Hotel Norrjahan Grand in Sylhet to Green Leaf Guest House in Srimongol at a cost of 3500 taka (£40). Quite interesting that there is now a toll road (highway) between Sylhet and Srimongol which we took so it was under 2 hours journey.
We checked into the Green Leaf Guest House which we had found on booking.com but also who are highly recommended in the Lonely Planet. I particularly chose a place which mentioned that they could organise tours as I just didn’t want too much hassle. We booked a bigger room than we actually needed but it was just what we needed… plenty of space for Tiger to roam around on the floor! For the "deluxe family room" with two double beds it was £62 or $80 for two nights on booking.com.
By the time we actually arrived we only had time for a half day so we took a CNG organised by Tapas Dash the owner of Green Leaf Guesthouse. It was a very similar tour to the one I had done some years ago last time I was in Srimongol but the CNG driver was amazing. We went to the genocide memorial, to the tea gardens, to drink seven (actually eight) layer tea, to two mini zoos and finally (the absolute highlight in the end) to the middle of nowhere watching fisherman catch fish in muddy pool – something I have never seen in my life and completely amazing.
The next day, I had thought that I couldn’t really go to Lawachara National Park but was told, yes I could, but with some limitations i.e. it’s not really possible to trek through the pure rainforest with a baby strapped to you! I also had memories of leaches and only had one pair of shoes (sandals) but in the end we were fine. For Lawachara you must have a guide, who you can in fact hire at the gate but if you do that it’s a bit hit and miss if they speak English or not.
The costs at the gate (for foreigners) are:
Half hour trail hiking 5 USD (for native tourists 200 taka)
One hour trail hiking 7 USD (for native tourists 300 taka)
Two hours trail hiking 9 USD (for native tourists 400 taka)
Three hours trail hiking 10 USD (for native tourists 500 taka)
We, however, had a guide who was paid 2000 taka for the day who stayed with us the whole day. I can’t honestly say we did a lot of “hiking” but we stuck to the main trails and saw some gibbons, monkeys and birds from afar. We also stopped at a village within the National Park and played with the owner’s grandson. Until very recently they didn’t have electricity but now the Bangladeshi government has decreed that everyone shall have electricity so now they do!
Beyond the first village we visited were a few more including meeting a little boy who as born on the exact same day as Tiger (18 January)! It was, for me, quite interesting to see how they were weaning him with glass bottles and very well mushed up food in a bowl. There is a difference between us both of course – but it’s purely convenience with my Ella’s Kitchen pouches!
We also wandered into another village where we became a bit like the Pied Piper of Hamelin with a load of kids following us around chanting “Tiger, Tiger!”. I also discovered Tiger is the subject of a popular Hindi spy film called “Tiger jinda Hai” meaning “Tiger is alive!”.
I have to say that although this time our Sylhet and Srimongol trip was a bit of a surprise, having missed St Martin’s, it was absolutely amazing and had an incredible time. Thank you so much to Tapas Dash for helping us organise the days and for providing a lovely, safe, place to stay.
Our total costs with Tapas were:
Half day CNG tour 1200 taka (£11)
Full day CNG tour 2000 taka (to Lawachara) (£18)
Guide for one day to Lawachara 2000 taka (£18)
Return taxi to Srimongol to Sylhet 3500 taka (£32)