Srimangal is a town in North Eastern Bangladesh known for its serene natural beauty, friendly people, and rows of endless tea gardens as far as they eye can see. I spent two nights here in May, 2017, and it was one of the main highlights of my trip throughout the entire Indian subcontinent.
How to get there
Srimangal can easily be accessed by bus or train from Dhaka. Train tickets are sold from Kamalapur Train Station in Central Dhaka. There is a large sign board near the station entrance noting the train schedule in English. There are several trains to Srimangal everyday; however, some have one “off” day per week meaning the only option would be a later train or the bus.
I arrived in Dhaka on one of those off days so I took the bus to Srimangal. The main bus station for Srimangal is Sayedabad Bus Terminal located a 15 minute walk from Kamalapur station or perhaps a 40 taka rickshaw ride. At the main bus station, I was directed to Shayamoli transport company which has hourly non-a/c buses to Srimangal. There might also be A/C options, but these are less frequent.
The bus drops passengers off in central Srimangal making is easy to find a hotel. The total trip time is about four hours.
Where to stay
Before coming to Bangladesh I mapped out various hotels so I would always have options at each new city I visited. I did this because tourist infrastructure and English ability are severely lacking in Bangladesh. This helped make my trip much smoother and hassle-free.
I stayed at Green View Rest House just a block away from the bus stand. I opted for a non-a/c room which was not a problem since the overhead fan was so powerful. My room had a cold shower (which I preferred in this heat) and a western toilet. The entire hotel was spotless. I paid 1,000 taka a night for the room. The only downside was no wifi, but most budget hotels in Bangladesh don’t seem to have wifi.
I personally think the best way to see Srimangal is with a tour guide. Normally I am someone that likes to go at it alone, but I decided to spring for a guide this time, and I went to many places I would have never gone on my own.
In Srimangal, there are very few foreigners so the guides tend to find you if you walk around town enough. On my first day I met Jahid of Sreemangal Tours. Jahid is an entrepreneurial university student originally from Srimangal who speaks impeccable English and loves sharing his culture with foreigners. I had a great experience with Jahid, and I would strongly recommend him for tours.
To set up the tour, Jahid will meet with you and discuss many different options for the day depending on your interests. I opted for a “highlights” tour to see the best of Srimangal in one day. His guiding fee was $30 per day, and for transportation we rented a CNG (auto-rickshaw) for another 1,500 taka.
Tour of Srimangal
Jahid came to my hotel at 8:30 am to pick me up and bring me back to his family’s home for breakfast. We probably had the best meal of my entire time in Bangladesh. I was also able to meet his parents and older brother. His brother teaches English at a Canadian international school in Dhaka. Because of his high level of English, I picked his brain about the current politics of Bangladesh to learn much more about the country.
After breakfast, we met our CNG driver and began our tour. First we went to Lawachara National Park to walk through the native Bangladeshi jungle and check out the three different species of monkeys living in the park. We also stopped in a small village on the national park property where hill tribe people prepare betel leaf for export.
Next we visited a beautiful lake on the outskirts of Srimangal – an excellent place for photos. We wandered around the banks of the lake stopping for tea and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Jahid also took me for a quick stop at one of his favorite local Bangladeshi snack shops where we ate singara – a spiced potato and vegetable mixture wrapped in a thin dough and fried. It was delicious.
After snacks, we took our CNG out to a quiet road deep in the tea fields where Jahid taught me how to drive it. I actually quickly picked it up and drove for about a kilometer, but I had some trouble when the road was rocky. I needed to downshift and slow down, but the shifting on a CNG is a little confusing compared to a motorbike. Rather than attempt the rocky areas, I let our driver take back control so I could enjoy the rest of the ride.
We continued along through the tea fields stopping in many places for photographs until we finally reached what I thought was the highlight of the trip – a real pineapple plantation.
When we arrived men working on the farm were loading freshly picked pineapples up into some wheel barrows. One of them had a machete and grabbed a couple pineapples to peel off the skin. I’ve eaten some good pineapple in my life, but nothing compares to what I had on this farm. Wow. The pineapples were still warm from the sun and couldn’t have been juicier.
After taking sometime to photograph the plantation, we checked out another small village of pineapple farmers before getting back in the CNG to return to Srimangal. The final stop on the tour was supposed to be a tea plantation factory, but the workers said we would have to wait 45 minutes for a tour. It was getting close to dinner time so I chose to skip it, but it definitly would have been cool to see.
I am more of a do-it-yourself person, but for the most part I’ve always been happy when hiring out a guide. Jahid was a great tour guide for Srimangal, and I would recommend his company if you are in town. As for choosing guides in general, I think the best thing is to chat with them beforehand and determine their knowledge and English language ability. If they don’t seem worth it, skip the guide, but if they pitch the tour well, sometimes its worth it to spring for a guide.
I only had five days in Bangladesh so my time was limited. I think without Jahid I would have needed at least two days to visit all we did in Srimangal, but there is no way I would have found that pineapple plantation on my own. Bangladesh is a beautiful country, and there is nothing like seeing it through the eyes of a passionate local.
If you end up visiting Bangladesh and use this guide, let me know in the comments below!