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Himalaya

Day 125: Mongla to the Bay of Bengal

Mongla, Bangladesh 
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Fisherman's riverbank home.
Michael Palin - HimalayaAbout an hour south of Mongla, the cultivated land comes to an abrupt end and we are hemmed in by the dark, impenetrable walls of the largest coastal mangrove belt in the world. There are few settlements down here, and the short, steep, slimy banks offer no landing opportunities. If one needed any further reason for staying away, the forest is also the habitat of the much feared Royal Bengal tiger, whom the people of the forest refer to as 'uncle'. It's considered bad luck to utter its real name.

Occasionally, we come across some fishing boats, at which, oblivious to our deadline, the cooks insist on stopping so they can investigate luncheon ingredients. They eventually settle on crab, sweet-water lobster and some of the largest prawns I've ever seen. Ishraq says these are of such quality that these small fishermen sell them on to bigger trawlers, which take them up to freezer plants at Mongla, from where they will be sent to the dining tables of the USA and Europe. It's a business worth $100 million a year.

I watch kingfishers skimming along the shoreline and a fish-eagle with bold, rufous wings hunting in our wake, snapping up tiny fish and eating them on the wing. After a while, I drift into a deep sleep in which I dream someone shouts.

'Michael! Crocodile!'

I wake up to hear someone shouting.
Mongla, Bangladesh 
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Aboard Feni 1, with crew and amiable security guards.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 125: Mongla to the Bay of Bengal
  • Country/sea: Bangladesh
  • Place: Mongla
  • Book page no: 283

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