Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |   Volume 6, Issue 23, Tuesday, June 07, 2011



Travelogue 101

A question of necessity and equipments

As the holiday season, especially for parents with school-going children, come around, the time is ripe for a well-deserved vacation. However, for those who have already tired of the same old activities, a little adventuring is just what the doctor ordered. But before you start wondering where you should go for some high-octane fun, pause and consider what you should remember to take along with you.

A walk down a quiet forest or a hike up one of the many serene hills in Bandarban may sound enticing, but without the right gear, it could mean disaster.

First off, let's start with the preliminaries. Before picking a location and deciding where to go, gather some information on the area of your choice. The weather of the place should be analysed first, as your travel gear will usually reflect the weather conditions of the preferred area.

Once you have ascertained whether to expect rain or sunshine, you can easily decide on what kind of threads you should take with you. For this particular period, say June-July, rain is to be expected in most areas of the country. Nothing too warm needs to be taken, as the weather remains hot throughout Bangladesh, although it may dip a little in certain Northern districts, but that's why we suggest a little research.

Clothing is always one of the most important factors. Lightweight jackets (perfect for this weather) are readily available in Bongo Bazaar, Doza Market, New Market and College Gate. The price obviously varies but with good bargaining skills, you can get absolute steals. Such lightweight jackets usually cost in the region of Tk350-1200, depending on the quality and your ability to haggle.

Complement your lightweight jacket with a pair of lightweight trousers, available in the same places but with the welcome addition of being more friendly to your wallet.

Jeans are not suitable for trekking at all. Cotton pants aren't bad but certainly not always the best idea. For those who want to blend into the natural environment even more, keep your eyes opened for camouflaged wears, sometimes available in Bongo Bazaar.

When it comes to footwear, the choices are down to track shoes or boots. Of course it is a wise idea to carry both. Track shoes are cheap, readily available and very durable. But here we suggest that instead of scouring the city for bargains, one should rather stick with a tried and tested brand.

Bata has a good collection which is relatively affordable and can be expected to last throughout the arduous journey; however, many regular adventurers express a certain level of dissatisfaction with those shoes.

Boots are also hard to come by and many prefer buying the shoes from abroad, where the options are vast. In Dhaka, police boots can be found at Baitul Mukarram or behind Anondo Cinema Hall. Two pairs of woolen or cotton socks, a pair of sandals and finally a set of gloves are also advised.

"Boots can also be bought at Palwel Market. Biking helmets can be bought from the Hockey Stadium Market, and exercise mats which can be used to put in tents and oars can be found in sports shops like Body and Sports and Shop 2," informs Anashua Madhubanti, an avid traveller.

After selecting your choice of garment (preferably more than one set), it is time to move on to the accessories.

A GPRS would be a handy-device to have but it's hard to come across. Stadium Market and Eastern Plaza have two or three shops which have a few of these devices left. While there, be sure to pick up a travel adaptor as well and a universal charger, which will help in times of dire need, just before your phone is about to die.

Torches, knives and umbrellas can all be found in large amounts around Baitul Mukarram and New Market. The prices of the objects depends on the brand and once again on the purchaser's bargaining skills. These common objects are also readily available in the Town Hall at Mohammadpur, but comparatively the prices are higher around here. Stock up on batteries as well.

Also, when the need comes to cook your own food, be sure to purchase those kerosene stoves used during Ijtema as burners are hard to come by. These stoves can be found in Baitul Mukarran and New Market and once again there are vast options to choose from. Prices usually start from around Tk2200 but there are cheaper options. People also usually carry cameras, films, books and of course compasses (available at New Market).

These things should be carried in a bag-pack, the cheapest and best of which are available at New Market for a wide range of prices. For further accessories, Anashua states that '…there are stores near the port in Chittagong, which sell things found in ships. You can find good leather flasks, gumboots, binoculars, oars and headlamps here. Binoculars are also available at New Market.' But she adds that the best of the lot are available abroad and she touts Nepal as one of the places for such things.

But just before you are ready to head off, stop by Lazz Pharma or Almas and get one of those mosquito repellant creams.

Pick up some gul as well, as once these are sprinkled around the edges of your shoes or boots and rubbed around your exposed skin, they do a good job of keeping away those pesky leeches.

Finally, head down to Suhrawardy Hospital or the pharmacies sprinkled over Panthapath and pick up a few portable toilets, which are indeed a must. Take anything else that you feel you need. But remember to be practical and travel as light as possible.

By Osama Rahman
Special thanks to Anashua Madhubanti who provided valuable information and insight.


Cool as cucumber, warm as honey

By Iffat Nawaz

“Excuse my incoherentness” she said, “I haven't slept in a while.”

There were no dark circles under her eyes but they looked hungry. I asked her “But why no sleep? Why deprive yourself from your body's rights?”

“The thing about sleep” she said, “is that you can never get enough. At least that's how I feel. Lately I have been depriving myself of sleep just to see how many days I can go ignoring the dreams that shut eyes can bring only if you give it a chance to play with your mind.”

I realised she was one of those empty philosophical types, the ones who come up with split second philosophies based on some conversation she was having at that moment, and then made those thoughts sound profound like they were written by the wise men themselves. She was not to be gotten close to, trouble I thought, trouble.

“Are you a big fan of sleep?” she asked, “you look like the type who goes to bed at 11 pm sharp and then wakes up to your maid-made breakfast of two eggs sunny side up and wheat toast.”

“Indeed!” I answered, “minus the maid-made breakfast, I fend for myself”

“A self sufficient being, very nice” she smiled out the window. Tea stalls passed by and random goats, chickens and cows continued to cross the road in front of us making the car break abruptly.

“The next time we break that hard,” she told the driver, “I want some tea.”

And then we were sitting under a mango tree, a woman and her husband ran a typical tea stall, one of Bangladesh's roadside constants.

She took sips and said, “There was a boy, I never asked him his name. I was too sleepy those days. He would ring the bell at 7 am, I would get up from my morning memorisations and open the door. He had a jug of milk, I had a bowl that he filled up. It was from his cow, the milk man, or should I say the milk boy. The tea in our house always tasted better.”

I nodded. Another random story wanting to be more special than it should be.

She continued, “…then one day the boy stopped coming around. I didn't really miss him, it's not like we bonded over fresh milk. But he was a part of my life, growing with me, I was 12 maybe then, and he was a bit younger. A man came instead of him and the boy disappeared for good.

Years later sitting around the dining table at my mother's house far off from Bangladesh I asked my mum what happened to that boy. My mum did one of her 'Tui janish na? Ohho tokey to amra boli ni! He died of a snake bite.'

I felt a nudge inside. Yet another truth-hiding from childhood, protection by parents. I didn't accuse her like a childish teenager that she should have told me. But since then every time I sip into a tea with fresh milk I think of that boy and his long unwashed face.”

I wasn't sure if I should say condolences. She finished her cup of tea and walked off to the car. I felt uncomfortable walking in behind her, I wish she would not tell me any more stories, or her philosophies. I wished she would sleep, and the dreams would take her away. The road trip continued. She spoke of emptiness, wingless birds and uneven paths. I held myself back from falling in love.


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