Outside Dubai Airport's Terminal 2 at 1am on a Thursday morning for my 3:15am Flydubai flight to Dhaka. I had last visited India in 2010 and Sri Lanka in 2015, and was keen to travel back to South Asia again.
And in the Marhaba lounge after going through immigration and security. I had bought my Flydubai ticket to Dhaka 11 months prior during one of their regular sales for a very reasonable $184 return.
My flights for the trip were:
Day 1: Flying Flydubai (FZ) from Dubai to Dhaka (DXB-DAC).
Day 3: Flying Novoair (VQ) from Jessore to Dhaka (JSR-DAC).
Day 4: Flying Flydubai (FZ) from Dubai to Dhaka (DAC-DXB).
Boarding ontime just before 3am. Almost all of the passengers were Bangladeshi workers who were heading home. With Flydubai charging to check luggage and being a full flight, the overheads inevitably filled up quick. When one guy decided he would just keep his bag on his lap, one of the flight attendants dropped the niceties and shouted "This is not a public bus, you cannot keep your bag on your lap and will have to put it in the hold!"
Looking down on Pakistan just before dawn as we fly east about an hour after takeoff.
A dose of Starbucks and Netflix halfway through the ~4.5 hour flight.
Looking north out to the Himalaya's in Nepal.
As we were coming in for landing in Dhaka and literally 10 seconds before touchdown, one of the passengers decided to take a stroll down the aisle. One of the flight attendants immediately yelled at him to get back to his seat, which he fortunately did mere seconds before the wheels touched down.
And a short walk to the visa desk at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The visa on arrival was $50, plus a $1 admin feed. After getting my visa from the visa desk I queued up for immigration but was quickly directed to bypass it since all entry formailities were taken care of at the visa desk.
There was a long queue of people waiting to have their passport checked after immigration. I was directed by an airport staff member to jump ahead of the locals. I was a bit apprehensive about doing this, but the other people in the queue quickly ushered me ahead. I then headed to the taxi desk to book my ride into the city.
Driving into the city. I had heard that Dhaka is notorious for its traffic jams. Although it wasn't as bad as I expected, it still took ~90 minutes to drive the 15 kilometres into Central Dhaka.
In Central Dhaka with the Fars Hotel in the distance on the other side of the street. I was departing Dhaka this evening on a river boat and wasn't staying at the hotel until day 3 of the trip, but after asking nicely, they were happy to look after my bag for a few hours while I had a walk around Dhaka.
After storing my bag I then headed out into the city for a bit of a walkabout.
Beggar. Although there were a few panhandlers about, they weren't that demanding and quickly left you alone.
Rickshaw. My first impressions of Dhaka were surprisingly good, the chaotic traffic was almost tolerable and the people were quite friendly, despite me often sticking a camera in their direction. I felt quite comfortable and safe to walk around, enjoying the sights and sounds of this bustling city.
It was getting close to 1pm and I was starting to get hungry, especially after not having breakfast, so headed to a local restaurant and had a tasty lunch of rice and spicy curry.
The restaurant staff were really friendly and surprised to have a westerner visit, and I duely obliged when they requested a photo.
Taqiyah for sale outside a mosque.
Queueing for the bus.
A game of cricket in Osmani Udyan park.
At about 3pm I headed back to Fars Hotel, picked up my bag and treated myself to a piece of cake from the hotel café.
I then met up with Mr. Awal from the tour company to pay my for the trip I had organised for the next two days and then we drove down to Sadarghat Port to catch the river boat. Stopping to buy some water on the way.
And down at Sadarghat Port, looking across to the riverboat (the bigger one) for my overnight trip to Morrelganj.
The M.V. Madhumoti moored at dock, my home for the next 20 hours. The water-laden country has more than 700 rivers, resulting in ~8000 kilometres of navigable waterways. Travelling by boat has been a way of life in Bangladesh for centuries. From the Lonely plant guidebook, "It almost goes without saying that taking a boat trip along a river is a quintessiential Bangladesh experience."
The 254 kilometre route for the river boat, departing Dhaka at 6:30pm in the evening, reaching Barisal in the early morning via the Meghna River before continuing onto Morrelganj in the afternoon.
My cabin on board the M.V. Madhumoti. After dropping my bags I thanked Mr. Awal and went to check out the rest of the boat.
Looking out to the passengers on the top deck of a neighbouring ferry.
One of the nouka dingi or small rowboat taxis ferrying people across the Buriganga River.
The upper deck was a great place to take in the hustle and bustle below of people and boats coming and going from the dock.
A vendor selling snacks on the neighbouring ferry.
Passenger heading over to the south side of the Buriganga River.
A boy on top of one of the other ferries docked at port.
More boats criss-crossing the river.
The sun now low on the horizon.
Vendors selling their wares to passengers as they board.
The view out of my cabin window of the last few moments of sunlight .
Buying some snacks at the shop on the first deck.
A final call for boarding before the ferries start to depart.
Pulling away from the dock just after 6:30pm.
Looking back at Sadarghat Port after we begin our journey down the river.
Dinner was served on the boat just after 9pm where I enjoyed some spicy rice and chicken before retiring to my cabin for some much needed rest after a very interesting first day in Bangladesh.
The view of the rising sun of my cabin window after a very good sleep at the start of day 2.
Docking at one of the stops to drop off and pickup more passengers.
Passing a couple of cargo boats with one majorly overloaded and struggling to stay afloat! The rivers in Bangladesh throughout the Ganges delta are vital arteries of transport and commerce.
At another stop, this time for some cargo too.
At the bow of the boat as we continue our journey along the river. It was my first travelling long distance on a boat/ship and found it quite a relaxing way to travel.
Breakfast onboard of omelette, toast and jam for 150 taka ($1.80).
A shipment of banana's on their way down the river.
Slowly making our way closer to Morrelganj.
The colonial era Rocket Paddle Steamer (although now powered with diesel engines). It was my original plan to take one of these old boats for the river trip but unfortunately it's schedule didn't line up with my plans.
Breaking through the rafts of water hyacinth as we make it to another port of call.
Some friendly guys who were on the boat for a short hop who wanted their photo taken.
Lunch on board at about 12:30pm for 300 taka ($3.75).
At about 1:30pm we docked up at our final destination, Morrelganj, where I met my guide, Popul.
We then headed over to the other side of the river in a water taxi.
A ferry full of motorbikes and cars coming into dock as we arrived on the northern side of the river.
We met up with our driver and then began the journey to Khulna.
The plan for the next two days was to head to Bagerhat to see the UNESCO World heritage site of the Sixty Dome Mosque before continuing onto the city of Khulna. Tomorrow we would then drive to Jessore Airport so I could catch the flight back to the capital, Dhaka.
Our first stop in Bagerhat was the shrine of Khan Jahan Ali.
Rosewater and ribbons for sale outside the shrine.
Just in front of the shrine is Khanjali Dighi pond, which was excavated in 1450. Part of the ritual at the shrine involves bathing in the water, which is also home to a few crocodiles and has resulted in at least one person being eaten!
One of the crocodiles by the pond. One of the rituals is to offer them live hens and goats, so luckily he had been well fed and wasn't too hungry when we arrived.
Inside the nearby Nine Dome Mosque, built in the 15th century.
The smaller Zinda Pir Mosque, also from the same era.
We then went for a short drive to the Sixty Dome Mosque, a UNESCO World heritage site. Despite the name, the mosque actually has 77 domes.
The mosque has exactly 60 pillars though and it is thought that the mosque was originally referred to as the Sixty Pillared Mosque where Amud (شصت عمؤد ) meaning column in Arabic/Persian, later got corrupted to Gombuj (গম্বুজ) in Bangla, which means domes.
A strikingly beautiful building, both with its many domes and restored brickwork.
We then made the drive to Khulna. Outside my hotel for the night, the City Inn.
And inside my room. Clean, spacious and good air con so I had no complaints at all.
And the complimentary fruit, snacks and water.
I then headed out into the city for a bit of walkabout. Nearby was a festival with stalls selling various foods and goods.
It was Friday so there were lot of locals out enjoying the evening.
Roast nuts vendor.
I stumbled across a local photo competition held by the local university with lots of great photography on display.
One of the local photographers posing with his photo.
Khulna is Bangladesh's third largest city.
Trying to navigate safely through the throng of rickshaws, tuk-tuks, motorbikes and cars was not an easy task!
Western tourists in Bangladesh are rare enough to be a bit of a novelty so I was frequently asked for a selfie and which I happily obliged (and couldn't resist taking one too).
Stopping for tasty and very spicy street food mix.
As darkness fell I headed back to the hotel. I was too tired to venture out again so just went to the hotel restaurant for dinner.
A nice and cool lassi to start.
Followed by some spicy prawn stew. Prawn farming is very common in the area, and is one of Bangladesh's largest exports.
And then enjoyed an early night at the end of day 2.