Tea Country: Exploring Sreemangal
There aren’t many foreigners who venture to Bangladesh for travel but this country has a lot to offer. What surprised me was being able to experience natural and open spaces.
I took my last opportunity to leave the hectic, never-ending honking, traffic-life of Dhaka to explore perhaps a more “well-known” area of Bangladesh for tourists. While I would still not consider this country a popular destination, it seems that slowly and surely people are realizing that Bangladesh has a lot of seemingly forgotten beauty.
I met with my guide and we took a surprisingly comfortable train to the North-Eastern part of the country. I say surprisingly because I’ve seen images of how crowded trains can get – people clinging onto almost every available space inside and on top of the train.
Sreemangal and the surrounding areas are well-known for its quality and the large quantity of tea production. The British during the colonization started to cultivate these tear in the 18th century. There are hills and hills of tea bushes that flourish in the high rainfall and cooler temperatures. I found out that when I arrived, it was the start of the tea picking season and many workers were working in the fields collecting the tea.
It was my first time to experience and observe the tea cultivation. In the past, almost all of the tea was exported abroad, surprisingly, now almost all of the tea is consumed within Bangladesh. The first thing that is offered when entering someone’s home is tea – black tea with milk (and usually lots of sugar).
Meeting the women who were doing the tea picking came with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they were quite busy (naturally) and unwilling to even make eye contact, which was understandable. I also learned about their poor working conditions. The picking is almost only by women, many who come from Odisha in India (generations ago). For the women, there is often a quote to pick a certain number of kilograms and an underweight bag could mean a docking of wage. On the other hand, it was a touching experience when time-to-time the ladies would give me a quick wave and even stop to talk to me.
World Famous Multi-Layer Tea
In a shop that looks modest, nothing fancy, and very local is a hidden “gem”. This tea shop serves a tea that has made its name known worldwide. Romesh Ram Gour is known around the town as the inventor of the famed multi-layer tea.
For less than 1 Euro, you can get a small glass of hot tea. The multi-layer tea can be up to 7 layers, and each layer has a slightly different colour than the others making it a sort of rainbow of brown and yellowish hues.
To be honest, the taste was a little bit strange. Each layer was a different taste and somehow altogether it just didn’t sit well with other flavours. Now that I’ve tried the famous multi-level tea, I’m happy to resort back to the classic black tea with milk.
Lawachara National Park
In addition to the tea plantation, the weather is also suitable for forests and biodiversity to thrive so I was incredibly excited to also explore a nearby National Park over the weekend. I was able to see a well-known photo opt. of a train track running through the middle of the forest, creating a green tunnel around the train.
If you didn’t already notice, this post is coming to life with photos that feature green and blue hues. Bangladesh has so much more to offer for those who venture out of Dhaka. Having the time to explore this area of Bangladesh was an incredibly meaningful opportunity and I hope to continue to find time to see and share this beauty with you.