Travelblog Paddle steamer Bangladesh | Pyala Travel

Read our experiences while travelling with one ofe the last operating paddle steamers in Bangladesh

Journey on one of the last Paddle steamers in the world

"Picture yourself in a boat on the River", came to my head this morning as I woke up early on the deck. Fog patches blow on the Kali Ganga river, one of the many branches of the great Asian rivers, the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, which create Bangladesh into a large delta.

Boats sail in and out, we are docked at the port of Barisal. I sit on the PS Mahsud, one of the last paddle-steamers in the world still operating as scheduled. (The other three also sail in Bangladesh). The boat was built in 1928 in Calcutta and since then, little has changed. Welcome back to British India on this boat. Do not expect luxury, but lots of nostalgic atmosphere.

The arrival in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, was overwhelming. What a city, love it and hate it, at the same time. You stand hours in traffic, but once in the Old Town, youare blown away by the sights surrounding you. "Welcome to the 'Rickshaw Capital of the World ". And not those motorized tuk-tuks which infest the streets of Delhi and Bangkok, these are the old-fashioned, nostalgic cycle rickshaws. Four hundred thousand there are, only in Dhaka. Of course I make a trip by rickshaw through the old city, no better way to explore the city. Like you are sitting in a movie, so much happening, so much life on the streets, so many street vendors, many shops and above all, a lot of people who go through the narrow streets of this magnificent city.

I get off at the quay, Bangladesh in the ends mean water, and Dhaka is no different. The craziness and crowds moved here continues, but over water. Hundreds of boats in as many shapes and sizes sail together, brush past each other on the water. Small boats take passengers to the other side, passenger boats that sail throughout the country, cargo boats loaded with bananas and coconuts, giant tankers, yachts and yes, I also see are some paddlesteamers. I allow myself one hour to sail around the Buriganga river, and then return to the Sadarghat quay. Here I board the paddle steamer. I am called neatly and transferred to my first class cabin. Two beds, a sink and fan. Simple, but already much more luxurious than the second and third class (just sleep on the deck). On one side of my cabin, I walk on the deck, on the other hand, I walk the 'dining room' in a long dining table that invites you to be part of a film about life in the roaring twenties. I stay a while on the quayside overlooking the buzz.

Passengers walk back and forth, street vendors trying to sell their wares, porters carry goods on board and then a loud horn, steam and sail. Slowly in the dark we leave Dhaka behind us and get ready for dinner. I try to get a cold beer at the bar, but no alcohol for sale, sir!. After a simple but sumptuous dinner, I go to bed on time, so I can wake up earlyto enjoy the early morning scenerey.

And here I am, what a world of difference to Dhaka. It's so tranquil and quiet, the boat glides slowly through the water, the landscape is green and tropical, in the distant people work on the rice fields and you see men carrying stones to one of the brick factories, egrets fly over and I even see some dolphins.
I walk around the boat and are are welcomed everywhere by everyone. The third class is very colorful with many families who sleep and eat. They are all as curious as I am and contact is easily made. I visit the engine room and see the large rotating radars, it really works! Street vendors have come on board andsell  with great interest their wares.
Onboard there is as much to ee as in the surrounding landscape. And then at 10:00 am we arrive in Hularhat where I go ashore. The boat continues  a little further to his final destination Morelganj. I am now on the edge of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and one of the highlights of a visit to Bangladesh, looking for the Bengal tigers. Unfortunately I do not have time for this, but still a day to explore Bagerhat.

On the way to Bagerhat we stop at the Badam market  (biweekly on Sundays and Wednesdays), a very colorful market which is known for its betelnuts  which are sold. Another attraction is sugarcane. Again, I am surrounded by great scenery and here I am as big an attraction and being welcomed as on board. By rickshaw we explore the villages around Bagerhat, in search of an ancient Hindu temple, the temple Khodla Math. An imposing temple, made of finely crafted bricks, but the journey to it is an experience in itself and offers a delightful glimpse into rural life of Bangladesh.

I continue visiting some of the many mosques in Bagerhat, one of the holiest cities of Bangladesh and then on the way to Khulna. Here I marvel at the night market with a huge range of tasty fish and then go to bed and looki back to a fantastic journey with one of the last paddle-steamers in the world.

You can find the pictures of this trip with the rocketsteamer here.