Getaway of the week #2: Sreemangal
They say it’s never a bad time to visit Sreemangal.
Located about 174 km away from Dhaka, Sreemangal falls under Sylhet division and is arguably the better destination between the two. Sreemangal, called the Tea Capital of Bangladesh, is adorned with hill after hill of lush green tea gardens, rubber trees and of course is home to the famous and mysterious Lawachara National Forest. The best time to visit Sreemangal is either in the rainy season, when the rain makes the tea gardens greener and the smell of raw tea leaves you a little high, or in winter, when the dense fog keeps the forests and the tea gardens covered in mystery and you can enjoy one of the coldest climates in the country.
Sreemangal is accessible by train and bus. Both bus and train take around 4 hours to reach Sreemangal. Buses are available all through the day, but the best way to travel is probably by the night train, Upaban Express. However, since we’re talking a day’s trip, there’s also a train that leaves Dhaka at exactly 6.30 AM from Kamalapur and drops you off at 10.30 AM in Sreemangal. Don’t worry, you can still catch the bus if you miss the train by minutes (surprisingly, trains do depart on exact times in Bangladesh). Bus tickets cost 380 Taka.
After getting off at Sreemangal, have breakfast and freshen up a bit at Shah Hotel, Panshi or Paanch Bhai restaurant. They’re about two to three minutes’ walk from the station. Then get a autorickshaw to the Lawachara forest. They usually charge 40 Taka per person. Takes about 30 minutes to reach the forest.
What’s most appealing about Lawachara is perhaps not the deep dark jungle itself or the never-ending railway lines that pass right through it but rather the road that leads to Lawachara from Sreemangal town. As your rickshaw runs through the asphalt amidst the rubber gardens and tea gardens, the weather suddenly gets colder as it enters the Lawachara region. You can smell the jungle air here. This is Sreemangal for you. Calm. Quiet. Magnificently untouched.
Spend as much time as you want inside the forest before it closes down at 5. Walk around the jungle trails, take pictures, keep sitting, mediating on the railway tracks in the middle of the quiet, cold forest. You may even get to see wild boars or monkeys if you’re lucky. There’s a pineapple stall right outside the main entrance of Lawachara that sells the sweetest hilly pineapples. Do try if you’re into it.
You can also visit the Humhum waterfalls instead. The trek to Humhum takes about two hours. So, that’s four hours up and down. You need to hire a guide for this one. Talk to your autorickshaw driver for the arrangements.
If you want to get back to Dhaka by nightfall, its better to catch a bus at 6/7 from the town, so plan accordingly. On the way back, you can visit the pineapple gardens on the hills, take a stop at BTRI and walk around the tea gardens, have a cup of tea and fritters at Rangdhanu Tea Cabin inside the BTRI complex. Visit the famous Nilkantha Tea Cabin for the seven-layered tea and judge it for yourself. You can reserve an autorickshaw for the day and the driver will show you around the places himself.
After you’re done exploring almost everything, get back to the town to catch the bus and get back to Dhaka within the night. Sreemangal will definitely call you back. Next time perhaps, plan another trip for a day or two?