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Himalaya

Day 123: Dhaka to the Delta

Michael Palin - HimalayaLife down in the delta rarely makes the news. Goings on in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet hog the headlines. But today is different. In between all the hartal horror stories, the New Nation has a mention of the Sundarban Islands, my final destination. Apparently, the decomposed remains of six villagers, killed by man-eating Royal Bengal tigers, have been discovered deep in the mangrove forest. I sort of wish I hadn't read that.

On the way to the boat terminal, through lanes crowded with commerce and alleyways of go-downs where old men, still calculating by abacus, sit cross-legged beside sacks of rice or swat flies away from fruit stalls with feather dusters, we pass an incongruous set of cast-iron railings. Behind them rises the Ahsan Manzil, a wedding-cake pink building that was the palace of the Nawab Abdul Ghani, a Muslim and the largest landowner in East Bengal at the time of the Raj. By all accounts, this influential man was also a man of learning and culture, and his son Salimullah founded the Dhaka Medical School. The Pink Palace, as it's known, has been restored to its former glories and is a reminder of the beauty that lurks beneath the surface of this scuffed and overworked city, and makes me wish I'd had more time to explore.

The Sadarghat boat terminal is Dhaka at its most exasperating and exhilarating. Everyone fights for everything: parking and unloading space, space at the ticket counter, space on the long pontoons, space on the boats that moor up against them. No-one is actively hostile, they're just there. There where you want to be, and in huge numbers.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 123: Dhaka to the Delta
  • Country/sea: Bangladesh
  • Place: Dhaka
  • Book page no: 276

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