After three weeks in India, I passed the border from Kolkata to Bangladesh where I discovered the less touristic country where I’ve been, and where the people made me live ones of the best moments in my trip! In almost two weeks I just had time to visit the south, from the doors of the Sunderbans to the East part in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar where I met the Rohingyas, to finally finish my trip in the capital, Dhaka.
Woman travelling alone in Bangladesh
Bangladesh isn’t in the top list of the country you think about to visit in south east Asia. Well, I didn’t really have any preferences as it’s a continent I didn’t know and I was interested to discover everything! Bangladesh sounds sadly unsafe, and unpopular maybe due to the last troubles in 2016 in Dhaka where five militants took hostages and opened fire in the Holey Artisan Bakery. There’s also a red hair french guy of my age who mysteriously disappeared there this year. But hey, I already travelled alone in Colombia or Mexico where there’s also bad stuff happening…
You just need to take care of where you go, trying not to go out by night, and when you’ll meet banglas people and see there benevolent look and smiles, you will forget every a priori you could have about this country. It’s true that, like in India, people will stare at you (and not discretely), and ask for selfies, because they’re not used to see tourists, but in exchange you will be treated like a prince (or princess) by them.
It’s an experience I wish to everyone who’s willing to meet local people and see nice landscapes more than historic monuments or nice cities.
Arriving in Bangladesh from India
From Chennai to Bangladesh border:
Chennai => Kolkata: 665 Roupies (29h train)
Kolkatta => Border: 300 Roupies (3h bus)
First I arrived to Bangladesh after a very long trip. I started my journey taking a train from Chennai to Kolkata. 29 hours in a sleeper train sharing my seat during the day with other travelers, and during the night with a guy sleeping sited on my feet… It was an experience I really don’t regret. I haven’t seen the time passed, starting on Wednesday night at 11pm and arriving Friday morning around 5am in Kolkata. During the trip a lot of food saler will pass with great samossas, drinks, teas… I shared time with a nice indian couple who didn’t really speak english but with who I shared food and lot of smiles.
Arrived on Friday morning in Kolkata (more precisely to Howrath train station), I asked to the train station how to reach Bangladesh, and they told me to go to the Kolkata station where there is an express train to Dhaka. Well I didn’t want to go directly to the capital as I already planned to finish my trip there, and anyway there was no train on this day. So I went to Markar street (taking the bus 13 from Kolkata railway station) where I finally found an agency to go to the border. They also had different buses to go to Khulna or Dhaka, but I was out of Roupies so I decided to pass the border and find there a place to stay!
And that’s what I did. I already had my visa that I get from the bangladesh’s embassy in Paris (just didn’t have an address to stay, but I had the chance of being helped by a bangla guy who will be my guardian in Dhaka and who shared his address to the policeman and told me to contact him at the end of my trip when I’ll reach Dhaka… So be sure to have a booking before arriving, even if you have the visa !
After the border I asked the people where I could stay for the night (it was already dark and I was tired of this huge journey). They told me to go to Jessore. I must recognize I haven’t seen much of this city, I was more occupied to program my next days and to reconnect with the world after more than one week without wifi! But during the afternoon I decided to go to Khulna to try to find a way to visit the Sunderbans. So I took a first local bus and started to pray! (you must know the drivers are just CRAZY, think the buses has the priority, even with the others coming in front of you, on small and shitty roads… It’s fun though!).
From the Sunderbans to Barisal
I took a local bus from Khulna to Mongla, and met two guys who sold me their tour for 2000 takas (they started the price at 4000 but the guide of Khulna told me not to pay more than 2000). They brought me to Karamjal forest, crossing a huge river and stopping at the entrance of the Sunderbans where there’s a kind of zoo with a 345 Takas entrance fee. You’ll see there babies crocodiles, and deers and a nice walk through the jungle. But that’s it. It was nice but a bit disappointing for me to be true. If you really want to enter inside of the Sunderbans you will need to pay more, for the boat right and for a guide with a gun (because of the crocodiles and tigers).
This tour supposed to be a 4 hours tour last 2h so instead of staying in Mongla I took the road for Barisal which seemed to be a nice city. On my way, waiting for the Ferry to cross a river, I met Rana, a bangla searcher in agriculture who offered me to make me visit Barisal the day after. So we went together to the river border, a nice parc and the place of the city. Rana also introduced me his boss, Amrita, and they both invited me to follow them in the countryside! We went to various farms and finished the day in Kuakata to see the sunset.
About tigers my guide was working there for 6 years and just saw one once…
From Khulna you can probably find some tours, but it’s less touristic than it was before, and a lot of agencies closed, but I found a old guide who told me you have different ways to go there :
– From Dhaka with a one (huge) day tour
– From Mongla where you can find private boats and have a look to Talamjal forest
– Booking a 3 days tour and stay on a huge boat with a lot of people (croisiere)
I think the third option is the best to really discover this biggest mangrove forest of the world, but I hadn’t book nothing and didn’t want to waste so much money (around 200$usd) to be alone on a boat…
From Barisal I had diferent options to go to Chittagong :
– A direct bus (leaving at the end of the day)
– A boat to Dhaka and then a direct bus
– A boat to Lackshipur and then a bus
The last option was the faster and shorter way. I started at 7am and arrived at 5pm in Chittagong where I’ve been hosted by Tristan, a french guy working there I found on Couchsurfing.
Tristan recommended me two sightseeings to do in one day : The ship breaking yard and the port (the old city). I just did the ship yard as I met a nice family who invited me to take tea with them in their village.
To go to the boat yard you need to go to Shadargate and to cross the village to the ship breaking yard where you can see the destruction of the big ships, and the cemetery.
Cox’s Bazar and the Rohingyas’ camps
Tristan invited me to join him and his friends from Dhaka to go to help he Rohinga’s for a week end. So we took a night bus from Chittagong and a CMG (Tuk Tuk) to Kutupalong camp where we visited a bit the camp, meeting the people on the way and playing with the children. It was a really great experience to see their smiles back on their faces after what they lived and where they’re staying…
If you also want to go and help you can contact the Facebook Group “Aide aux réfugiés Rohingyas“, a community of people living in Bangladesh who has all the contacts and informations needed to go there!
> Watch the video of the visit
This capital is the most cloudy I saw in my life. You can easily pass more than 2 hours to do 15km… But the old Dhaka is a treasure, full of shops and small streets, including Indian street, the nicest, and the Pink Palace you can visit. I passed an amazing time there, visiting the city center with Mathilde I met in Cox’s Bazar, and meeting Nafiz’s family, the friend I met in the border who invited me for my last night to have dinner with them and who passed hours in the trafic to show me the city and to escort me to the airport.
The distances really don’t matter, the time you will pass in transport is HUGE and the drivers are crazy! I recommend you to use the boats and trains when you can…
Bus border – Jessore: 50 Takas (1h)
Bus Jessore – Khulna: 80 Takas (2h30)
Bus Kulna – Mongla: 80 Takas (2h)
Bus Mongla – Barisal with a change at Katakari: 30 + 200 Takas (4h30, but depends on the ferry)
Barisal – Chittagong via Lakshipur: 305 Takas for the boat and 350 Takas the bus (4h each)
Bus Chittagong – Cox’s Bazar: 350 Takas (3h30)
Bus Cox’s Bazar – Chittagong: 250 Takas (4h)
Bus Chittagong – Dhaka: 480 Takas (6h)
I only booked in advance the hostel in Dhaka, and found the other ones arriving in the cities, where the taxis know where to lead you as you can only stay in international hotels (at least when you’re a woman travelling alone).
– Jessore: Hassan International (1200 Takas double private room)
– Khulna: JH International (1000 Takas double private)
– Barisal: Arena Hotel and it’s huge rooftop restaurant (1000 Takas double private room)
– Cox’s Bazar: Muscat Holiday Resort (800 Takas per person for a private apartment with 5 people and 3 rooms)
– Dhaka: Golpata BnB (1400 Takas in a dorm)
Day 1 – Border to Jessore
Day 2 – Jessore to Kuhlna
Day 3 – Mongla
Day 4 – Barisal
Day 5 – Countryside and playa
Day 6 – Travel to Chittagong
Day 7 – Chittagong
Day 8/9 – Cox’s Bazar
Day 10 – Back to Chittagong
Day 11 – 12 Dhaka
Thank you Bangladesh!
You don’t visit Bangladesh for the huge historic monuments, or the culture, but you’ll see there great landscapes everywhere! I wish I could have time to visit Sylhet and the North West but I definitely recommend to live the experience of this country and discover the traditions, people, transports and cities!