Another day, another bus ride from a totally random spot on the side of the street.
The destination today was Lalakhal, a stretch of river also near the Indian border, albeit a different part. A 40 taka (less than 50p) bus ride took me to Sarighat, where it was up to me to negotiate my own boat ride along the river.
Unlike the previous day when I visited Shada Pathor, I was the only person there and the offers of a boat ride weren’t particularly forthcoming. In fact, I found myself wondering if I’d even gone to the right place as many of the boats seemed to be for workers who were digging out sand from the riverbed.
Eventually I tracked down the pimp of the boats, who set the bar high with a 2000 taka (£19!) price tage. I’d been told around 1600 was par for the course, but on account of having a white face I eventually settled on 1800 (£17). The man certainly knew how to drive a bargain.
In all honesty, the peace and time to myself was worth every penny of the 17 quid I paid! By this point I’d started to get a little exhausted and overwhelmed with all the attention I was receiving, so to spend a couple of hours on my own in beautiful surroundings was a welcome change of pace. Well, I say on my own…
It really was beautiful at Lalakhal, and it was a perfect combination of peace and stunning blue waters that gave me a brief respite from the madness. Slowly making our way along the river, being waved at by families and children playing on the riverbank (too far to ask “What’s your name? Where are you from? Are you married?”), tipping my hat (metaphorically, of course!) to the men digging in the river, I felt a million miles from the city.
I feel like I’ve used that phrase ‘a million miles from…’ more in my Bangladesh writing than I have the rest of my 30 years combined! It really is a country of contrasts though; never have I been to a place so exhausting, yet with so many serene spots to escape to just around the corner. A true paradox.
After a brief stop at the border where I was massively intimidated by a number of guards with massive machine guns, it was time to head back to the road.
I had the option to continue along the road to the popular domestic tourist destination of Jafflong, but with it being mid-afternoon already and with the feeling of having done enough for one day, I decided to venture back into the city for a relaxed evening. Well, as relaxing as an evening in a mental, polluted city that never sleeps can be.
Subsequently, I headed from the peace and quiet of a boat to myself, to being cramped into someone’s armpit on a bus seemingly driven by the Bangladeshi Lewis Hamilton.
As I said, a country of contrasts.