After an interesting but frantic tour of Dhaka city we decided to relax and took a peaceful cruise on the Meghna and Sitalakhya Rivers rives, part of the Ganges delta. This slow and peaceful journey away from the crowd city gave us another insight to one of the most populous countries in the world. It was like being in another country, the freneticism was gone, most of the people appeared happy to see us and spent time with us and life certainly appeared more liveable.
The tourist information we received stated that it was a one-hour drive from Dhaka to Narayanganj, where we were to board a traditional wooden boat to cruise the Ganges Delta. Nevertheless, we were in Bangladesh and sometimes it takes one hour to cover three kilometres in Dhaka. Perhaps they should have stated that it was a 40-kilometre trip to Narayanganj.
Whatever, we were on our way, our driver incessantly tooting his horn at anything that moved, threading our way between buses, trishaws, tuk-tuks, trucks and cars we eventually reached the outskirts of Dhaka and managed to speed up to 50 kilometres per hour. As we hurtled down the road, believe me, 50 kilometres per hour appears the equivalent of 200 kilometres per hour on an Autobahn after driving at a speed where the pedestrians overtake the cars for a seemingly never-ending hour-long ride through the city.
Farida and I finally boarded the boat, which bore no resemblance to the photograph in their brochure. The explanation was that there were only two of us and the advertised vessel was for at least six people. We decided that we would accept their rather flimsy explanation and proceed with our journey.
It was an interesting journey, lazing on the deck, watching the goings-on and the people going about their daily chores, fishing, threshing padi, tending to their agricultural plots, doing their washing and just wandering about. The people were extremely friendly and very laid back compared the hustle and bustle of Dhaka. We stopped off at a small island where the inhabitants were busy with their padi, however they did make time for us as they took a break from their apparently tedious work.
One of our boat crew was discussing with Farida and I about his recent marriage. He was explaining why it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven and that he had been conned into this marriage. He continued his saga, explaining another reason why he was adamant that he had been conned. His sister was talking to his wife, after their marriage, and his wife told her that when she first meets her prospective groom she should not spend more than three minutes with him. The reason; the groom might find hidden flaws and faults with his new bride-to-be.
Eyasin Papon, doesn’t sound very Bangla to me, appeared out of the back of the boat and introduced himself to us. He explained that he had been busy cooking our lunch, which I took with a grain of salt, as there had been no flavours or aromas drifting from the stern of the boat.
The boat was moored on a very small island, tables, chairs and a cover erected and we were served lunch in the most unusual of places. Yes, it was an enjoyable meal, good food and great service. Then everything was packed up and we were on our way again.
Then it was a slow cruise back to Narayanganj and the tedious drive to Dhaka with a stop in the town of Sonargaon.
If you are in Dhaka I would highly recommend this cruise – it’s different and very interesting, however don’t expect 5-star cruise facilities. Actually the traditional boat makes one feel part of the surroundings rather than a tourist.