Bangladesh – Barisal, Bamrail and Bhola Island

After a bit of a hairy overnight launch ride from Dhaka, (see the 'Welcome to Bangladesh!' Post), we made it to Barisal.



Traffic in Barisal


Fruit wallah


Rickshaw wallah


Kids at the Cha shop


Bangladeshi sweets


Somewhere in Barisal


Mahmud has family in Barisal and the surrounding area, and after breakfast at Ruma's parents house, we went to Bamrail to visit them. Bamrail is an example of what Mahmud calls 'the real Bangladesh'. It's slow paced, green and beautiful, and it feels a little bit like time has stopped.


Fishing net


Foreigners are a bit of a novelty in these parts. This was the first (of many) times that this happened….



The next day, Mahmud met me at my guesthouse, and we caught a motorboat across the river.


We also stopped for Cha and Singaras, which are kind of like vegetable samosas. They're delicious.


Mahmud was going back to Dhaka that night, but had sorted out my ticket for the Sunderbans trip in 4 days time. I promised him I'd catch up with him in Dhaka, and after a lovely introduction to Bangladesh, I was on my own.



The next day i caught the ferry to Bhola Island and back. I just said 'Bhola' to the first official looking person that I saw at the ghat, and he led me to the right ferry. Bangladeshis are so friendly and helpful, it's like being a kid again. You don't have to take any responsibility for yourself. Great! The ferry trip is really scenic, and takes about 3 hours each way. There are heaps of photos of boats in the 'Boats in Bangladesh' post. Here are some photos of things other than boats.


My ticket.


My ticket the right way up.


'That's how you hold a ticket'


Boats. Couldn't help myself.


Another boat. Sorry


Sugary nut cake.


Not sure what this is, but it's delicious


When our launch arrived on Bhola island, this guy…



…told me to catch this bus.



His extremely limited English was far better than my non-existent Bengali, but I still didn't understand where the bus was going. I got on anyway, as I figured that we'd end up somewhere! The bus ride took about 30 minutes, and it dropped us at a bus station in a small village. From there i caught a rickshaw to the Bhola town centre. For some reason I'd assumed that Bhola was just a small village and that the ferry would drop us straight in the midst of it, which is why I was confused about the bus. Actually it's a pretty large island with a pretty sizeable town and lots of people. There are so many people in Bangladesh that even relatively small towns and villages are normally pretty busy.

Here are a couple of videos of Bhola, and some photos of the town, the ghat and the return ferry trip.



Side street in Bhola.


Launch Ghat, Bhola Island

What do you call the cockpit on a boat?


Fish wallah


Barisal to Khulna bus.


The next day I got up early and caught a rickshaw to the Rupatoli bus stand, to catch the local bus to Khulna for the Sunderbans trip. This was my first time traveling all on my own in Bangladesh. Feeling pretty badass, I sauntered into the bus stand, pointed to myself and said 'Khulna Bus', and was directed to a small hole in the wall.


'Assalamu alaikum.'

'Khulna bus!'


'Khulna bus?'

After taking scissors from Auckland to Singapore in my carry-on, walking into a bees nest and surviving an earthquake in Burma both in one day, catching what felt like some sort of dysentry in Bangkok, sneaking past the security guards into the first class section of the Nong Khai sleeper train and living through a launch crash in the Dhaka harbour, i wasn't going to be defeated by a small grumpy Bangladeshi man with a big Moustache in some pokey little hole in the wall ticket booth in the Rupatoli bus stand in Barisal.


I sat down on a seat and to have a think, when I saw another hole in the wall. Maybe I could get a ticket there! No such luck; they just sent me back to the moustache man. I remembered that on my way in, I'd seen some official looking guys in uniforms with big rifles. Maybe they would help me out… They also just pointed me to the same whole in the wall. I had an idea…



'Assalamu alaikum, Khulna bus?'




Feeling like a bit of a failure, I gave up and called Mahmud, and passed my phone through the bars covering the hole. McMoustache listened for a minute, shouted something down the phone, and passed it back to me. Apparently there were no buses running today, as there was a Hartal.


Hartal Hartal!


A Hartal (strike) is a form of protest which is pretty common on the subcontinent, and especially in Bangladesh. They are often organised by political parties, in this case the communist party, and generally involve a complete shutdown of transport, other than CNGS and rickshaws. They often have roadblocks, and sometimes buses and cars get torched, so nobody risks driving. In a relatively small city such as Barisal, they are generally pretty low key, feel non threatening and represent an interesting cross section of the community. Business men, mothers with babies, chai wallahs, kids and toothless old Grannys… Anybody can be a communist!
They are pretty cool to watch, and I really like the communist party chant, even though I have no idea what they're saying. 'Death to the capitalist swine, long live our motherland Russia!' perhaps.

I spent the rest of the day checking out the Rowboat Ghat, (different from the launch ghat), and walked around exploring Barisal. Here are some photos.


This is like an extreme finishing school.


Traffic in Barisal. No big deal.


The best restaurant in Barisal.


The awesome staff at the restaurant.



The next day, I caught the bus to Khulna…



Shocker FTW




A note on logistics, prices, some info etc.

Hotel Athena: I paid 400 taka for a single

In Barisal town there is a town hall, and when I was there they had some sort of concert at night which was cool.

Bus to Khulna:

  • 160 taka from memory.
  • You don't actually have to go inside the station, your rickshaw driver will prob just drop you off outside at a small shack where you can buy the ticket. Normally the bus is waiting there for a awhile before it leaves.
  • Get the hell off the boat when it goes across the car ferry. It's crowded, and on the slight chance that something happened, there's no way you'll get out unless you're right by the door. Get back on when the ferry docks. You'll know when the crossing is coming, as you stop briefly first. You can buy food, and there is often a queue of cars waiting to cross.
  • If you leave early, you can get off at Bagerhat, which is about an hour out of Khulna. I stashed my pack in the guard office at the 60 domed mosque. Despite what the guide book says, I went on Sunday and it was open. After you check out the ruins etc, you can rickshaw to the bus stand and carry on to a khulna. I did this in reverse – on the way back from Khulna to Barisal.

Bhola Island

  • Just go to Barisal launch ghat, and say Bhola
  • Ferry about three hours each way, was about 90 taka I think?
  • You can catch a speedboat back for more money. 250? Don't know how safe it would be
  • The launch ghat in Bhola is outside the town centre, you catch a bus from the street to a bus stand outside of town, and catch a rickshaw into the centre.
  • On the way from the bus stand to the town centre, there is a rundown looking amusement park, which I wish I'd checked out!
  • I got a rickshaw all the way back to the ghat. Didn't take too long, but make sure you say 'Barisal ghat', as we went to a completely different one for Dhaka first.



One thought on “Bangladesh – Barisal, Bamrail and Bhola Island

  1. shalikh

    In case you’re still wondering, the procession was saying ‘Jamaat – collaborators of 1971- leave this land right now’ and ‘let the weapons of 1971 fire off once again’ you seem to have been during shahbagh, it was a wonderful uprising demanding proper trial and strict verdicts of the local war criminals from the independence war. second of its kind since 71, so these slogans were boldly different from the ones we usually hear.


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