Feeling better today, it was time to go into the countryside for some hiking. We hired a guide from our resort and headed towards the first tribal village.
The trail was steep, at times made of bricks and at other times, plain mud. Either way, it wouldn’t be a fun trail to be on after a rainy day. We walked up and down hills, past banana and teak plantations. More lovely, sweeping views were to be had any time we reached a hilltop.
The first village was the Haatibandha village, populated by the Tripura tribe. This was the best village of the day, if only because it was full of life. Kids tending livestock, women weaving, women getting water from the well and children playing with each other’s hair. There were a few men around, but mostly it was all women. This was a nice change from every day Bangladesh! It was also lovely to see some round, Asian faces.
Not all of the women were wearing traditional clothes, but some were. Hand-woven sarong skirts were common, and a few women sported layers and layers of bead necklaces and stretched earlobes. It was a pretty cool look. There were also a few cute children, with two girl toddlers wearing string earrings. As you can probably guess by now, there were some pretty awesome people pictures to be had – unfortunately no one in the village, except for two men, would agree to have their picture taken. One got the impression that they were growing tired of having tourists in their village every day… and no one here seems to have realized that you could charge for pictures…
Soon it was time to go. We backtracked for a little while, and embarked on a similar trail which then followed a creek and community garden. The second village was another Tripura tribal village. It was really small, with about half the houses from the first village. It was also mostly empty, with people away in the fields working.
Once we reached the last house I noticed a nice, old woman, topless, sorting flowers in her bamboo house. She was wearing the layers and layers of beads, and I really wanted a picture. The guide spoke with her, and she agreed to be photographed, but for money. At this point, I was just happy to be able to photograph a woman, and beside, she wasn’t asking for much (by Western standards): 100 taka (less than $1.50). She came out of the house, put a shirt on and posed for a photo. It may not have been as great of a shot as when we first saw her, but I was still really happy.
I asked out guide about the necklaces: is it something that they always wear? Do they add to it over the years? Is it one long strand, or many? He understood instead that I would like a necklace, and the old lady gave me one of her colourful ones. I never got any answers, but now I have a really cool souvenir!
We left the village via rice fields and walked to a Marma village. We only saw two women there, and their dress was different. It reminded me of what Cambodia women wear, with their shawl on their head to block the sun. We didn’t look around the village though, and left right away.
After following another creek we arrived at an elementary school. People were more excited to see us there, with children waving and giggling. We had to make a decision there: to go to another village, or to head back. Because the sun was hot and beating down on us, ad because we anticipated more of the same type of village than we had visited, we decided to head back to the resort.
We walked back along the main road. We came across a construction crew, busy at work paving the road with tar. The technique was a bit less technologically friendly than what we have at home, and a lot worse for the health. These workers, all Burmese, were melting the tar in barrels over an open flame, while a different crew were mixing small rocks with tar over a fire of rice husk. The whole place was smoky, and at times huge flames shot up when tar and fire met.
We finished our hike, 3 hours after leaving the resort, and settled back on the restaurant’s terrace, drinking Coca Cola and watching butterflies and birds hover by the flowering trees.
While we were happy to have a guide to show us the way (the trails are clear, but not marked), we were disappointed with our guide. He provided us with little to no information about the area, the environment, the cultures or the people. Questions went unanswered, or when answered, it was either incomprehensible or unrelated to the question. When I pointed out wild figs to Travis, he said “figs” right away, beaming as though he had told us what it was. It was weird, and frustrating, but we still had a great day regardless.
We did have a second guide though: a cute dog who hangs around the resort sometimes. He stayed with us from the beginning to the end (you can see him in the very first shot), and while he made trouble with other dogs along the way, it was really cool to have him there. A female dog, who seemed to be his partner, also followed us, but she was chased off by other dogs at the Marma village.