Ronnie, Hasan and myself visited Comilla today, mainly to see the Mainamati Ruins, one of the most important Buddhist archaeological sites in Bangladesh.
It took us more than 4 hours to reach Comilla by bus from Dhaka, after heavy traffic jams, a flat tyre and eventually some serious engine problems, which stranded us 15 km outside of Comilla. It was rather easy to find a cheap baby taxi though, and we got the driver to head straight for the Mainamati Ruins.
Unfortunately, at the first ruins we tried to enter, we were turned around by the guards. We were told that foreigners cannot enter here. Several ruins are actually within a military cantonment, and cannot be visited without a special permission from military officers.
Instead we took another baby-taxi to Salban Vihara, the most visited ruins of Mainamati. The gates did not open before 2pm, so we had time for a stroll into a wonderful forest on the opposite side of the road. This seemed to be a very popular picnic site for Bangladeshi visitors, who as usual, dress up in beautiful and colorful garments when going on a weekend trip. It was also very interesting to watch the daily life of the villagers here.
We went back to Salban Vihara at 2pm, paid the entrance fee (10 Taka for Bangladeshi and 100 Taka for westerns) and joined the Friday crowds of people. The ruins are not very impressive for someone who have visited hundreds of buddhist sites in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia etc. In fact, I much more enjoyed all the colorful people of Bangladesh visiting here. For quite a few of them, a white guy like me was a bigger attraction than the ruins itself. So after a lot of handshakes, curious questions and endless posing on photos together with them, I eventually got tired. After having spent several weeks in Bangladesh I start to understand how difficult the life of a real celebrity must be. Sometimes I just feel the need to lock myself into a hotel room for a day or two. But in most cases I just love all the attention, and have a similar experience from remote parts of China and Philippines.
At the end of the day, we headed into the town of Comilla for a meal, followed by a stroll along the beautiful lake/pond.