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Himalaya

Day 119: Chittagong

Michael Palin - HimalayaHave a lie-in this morning. Unfortunately, it's at the Harbour View Hotel in Chittagong. I have a distinct feeling that they are demolishing the room above me. Roars, thumps and metallic crashes above my head mingle with a tumult of car horns in the street below and ear-splitting bursts of pneumatic drilling from a building site opposite.

I pull back the curtains for a view of the harbour, but can't see it anywhere, and I'm on the tenth floor. Instead, there is a wall of concrete right opposite me, smeared grey-black as if it had been in a fire. Dozens of slight, spindly figures are at work on top of it, either demolishing it or building it. It's hard to tell.

I fear this unpromising start to the day is not entirely fair on Chittagong. We've come here, after all, in search of industrial destruction and dereliction, at the legendary ship-breaking yards further down the coast, and have no time to investigate the old bazaar or the wooded hills that rise out of the heart of Bangladesh's busy second city.

We drive out to the south, past the port that stretches along the banks of the River Karnaphuli, with its armada of mixed traffic, from break-bulk freighters to sailboats that look like sampans, waiting out in the roads. We follow the coast road through straggling suburbs and villages. Our driver hurtles along, firing off blasts of the horn at anyone and anything that moves. Basil notices that the driver's thumb is in such continuous use that it's worn a hole through the plastic on the steering column.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 119: Chittagong
  • Country/sea: Bangladesh
  • Place: Chittagong
  • Book page no: 267

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