With a population of 160 million people, Bangladeshi transportation comes in all shapes, colours, and sizes. Find yourself a seat/platform/cage, whack some wheels on it, and you have yourself a rickshaw. All aboard!
These are everywhere, and are the default mode of transport for short distances. Old Dhaka is full of them. I walked a kilometre along Cycle st (Bangshal rd), before I found a gap in the rickshaw traffic jam and could cross the street! They also have some pretty gnarly artwork. Pretty cheap fares, around 15 – 30 taka. No extra charge for a third person, luggage, or cattle if you can all fit
These things are battery powered, and despite their appearance can actually go pretty quick. More room than a CNG, and there is no cage, so you can hang out the side.
Pretty common way to cross rivers. These photos are from the Sadarghat in Dhaka. 2 taka set price.
Ferry and Launch
Some of these are huge, and carry a lot of people. Like lots of people. Many routes run overnight.
These are bigger versions of the rowboats, normally used if the river is really wide. They row a short distance, and then turn on the motor. These photos are from the Karnaphuli river, in Chittagong. About 5 taka from memory.
The Party Boat
Get there, get on board, and get amongst it.
There are also some other forms of transport in Bangladesh that you're probably already familiar with.
1. If less than half of your passengers are vomiting at any one time, you're not going fast enough.
2. Rickshaws, motorbikes, other buses, cars, animals and small children are a blight on gods green earth, and must be destroyed at all costs. 10 points for hitting any of the above
4. Suspension is for pussies, and maintenance is for girls.
5. Any object in front of you MUST be overtaken, regardless of oncoming traffic. It is your sworn obligation to god and country. Bonus points for blind corners.
6. More Horn
7. If you arrive at a blind corner and have somehow failed to find another vehicle to overtake, you are a disgrace to your country, your fellow bus drivers, your father, his father, Cox's Bazar, god, and all of humanity. Taking the corner on the wrong side of the road whilst loudly honking your horn is the least you can do to attempt redemption.
9. Don't stop to let passengers on or off. Slow down slightly, and speed up just before they grab the door handle. You are a soldier in the war on obesity.
The Bangladeshi drivers are pretty reckless, and Bangladesh does have a high rate of road deaths. Although a large proportion are made up of the passengers and drivers of smaller vehicles, such as rickshaws, that are hit by larger vehicles. You are actually statistically more likely to die on the NZ roads than the roads in Bangladesh, when you factor in the number of people travelling every day, and the size of the population. That fact is completely unverified; I just did a quick calculation on my old Nokia travel phone when I was feeling nervous on a bus ride. It made me feel better.
A Danish girl in my hostel here in Kolkata told me a story last night, about a particularly suicidal bus driver in the Indian mountains. Everybody on the bus, Indians and foreigners alike, were scared witless and shaking. Except for one Buddhist monk, who was laughing. He said to her 'The worst that happens, is we die!'… Monks aye.
I'm blessed with the ability to sleep almost anywhere (my claim to fame is falling asleep during the opening act when Motörhead played in NZ), and I actually managed to doze off on most journeys. There is a never ending procession of hawkers selling newspapers, blankets and delicious food, and if you're really lucky, you'll get to share your already limited personal space with a grumpy Bangladeshi woman, her luggage, and her coughing and spluttering (but cute) sick kid.
I avoided the Dhaka to Chittagong highway, which is apparently a death trap. The other routes are normally clogged with traffic, so you can't actually go that fast. I caught the Bagerhat to Barisal bus later than intended, when it was getting dark. It wasn't full, and everybody looked really worried. I put my hood up and tried to look inconspicuous. Best to avoid travel at night. Be prepared for some scary moments, and don't sit on the seat up the front next to the driver, as it's the most dangerous in a crash. Also, if there is a kid in front of you, close your window, as they tend to vomit out of theirs, and you don't want splashback. I'd use the buses again tho, they weren't really that bad. I spent over 35 hours on the Bangladeshi buses, and I'm still here.
The only thing I'd do differently, is that if i ever catch another bus that looks like this..
…i.e full, and it gets on one of these…
… a vehicle ferry…
I'd get the hell off the boat to 'take photos', and get back on when it reached land. If something happened to the ferry, and when the bus is that full, especially bearing in mind that there are bars over the windows… Anyway…
I actually have to admit that I really enjoyed them. I met some nice Bangladeshis, and saw some great scenery. I had an Indiana Jones moment when the bus drove off with my luggage and I had to jump on. The bus wallahs are cool too. They hang out the door, yelling the name of the destination. 'Barisal Barisal! If someone wants to get on, the bus wallah bangs once on the side to signal to the driver to stop, and twice to go. A surprisingly efficient system! Except, when the bus wallah is preoccupied with laughing at the strange foreigner sitting by the door, who forgot his scarf and is freezing, you may have to run and jump. Our bus from Bandarban to Ruma Bazar had a long line of convicts chained together, and a couple of armed guards, the bus from Cox's Bazar to Chittagong had a prison cell style cage door between the driver and the passengers, which thankfully was kept open, and it's pretty common for people to get on carrying what appear to be cans of petrol. The buses in Bangladesh were an experience!
I'll leave you with some pictures of my favourite Bangladeshi buses.