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Road to Boga Lake

The inception:

It was late noon of mid October. I was working in my office room. Wahid vai, Suhan vai and others were also in the room. I was tiered of long work. Suddenly I stopped what I was doing and shouted “damn it! I don’t like the works anymore. Need to have a break”. There are times when I get bored with my routine life and I become desperate to go out of the town. This was something like that. I  knew there is a 3 day holiday coming up in next week. I didn’t want to waste this vacation sitting idle in my home. I asked Wahid “what’s your plan for upcoming holidays?” in return Wahid asked ‘What’s your plan?” I replied ” I want to get out of town. Let’s go somewhere.”

Few day back, Wahid shared a Facebook post regarding how to go to Bogalake and Tindu areas from Bandarban district. I recalled that post and replied to wahid vai ” lets go to Bandadban!”. I have visited bandarban once but Wahid have visited several times except boga lake. He has become an expert on Bandarban. For next 10 to 15 minutes Wahid described how beautiful Boga lake is and how wonderful it will be to stay night by the side of the Lake. His description raised my interest even higher.

Wahid, Manik and I were planning to go to Bhutan couple of times but each time we had to think of something else due to schedule conflicts. This time it was no exception. So to get somewhat feeling of mountains and clouds, we have chosen Bandarban as a proxy.

We have spent next two days for making an cost estimation, journey schedule, obtaining confirmation from Manik, Suhan vai, Talha & Roki. It was hard to get a bus ticket. Suhan van and Manik was not sure whether we will be able to pull it off. But at the end with Wahid vai and my endless effort, we managed bus ticket to Chittagong just before the night of journey. It was fastest tour plan and arrangement with my colleagues. Even though the it was raining heavily for last couple of days, it didn’t bother anyone.

Beginning of Journey:

Our initial plan was to start at evening and reach Chittagong by early morning. From Chittagong we will go to Bandarban and without any journey break we will reach to Roma Bazar by noon. After having lunch at roma bazar and shopping for BBQ, we will take a jeep and reach to boga lage by late afternoon. We will enjoy the evening by the side of boga lake and have BBQ. We will enjoy the moonlight night from the cottage and stay there for the night. Next day morning, we will go to Keokaradong mountain and return to Boga lake at the evening. We will head back to Roma bazar next morning and by noon we will start for Bandarban. We will reach Bandarban by evening and start for Dhaka if any bus is available. If there is no bus is available, we will stay the night on Bandarban and start to Dhaka next day. If the bus is scheduled for the evening, we will take go to Nilgiri and see around the Bandarban district.

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Road to Boga Lake

But things do not always go with your plan. We purchased our bus ticket from busbd.com which allows to buy any long distance bus ticket. Our transport provider was AK Travels. Busbd.com charged us around 650 per person. Our bus was scheduled to start at 11:30 PM from Gabtoli bus stand. But at the day of journey, someone from AK Travel called me around 4:30 pm saying that they will not be taking us to our destination. When I asked the reason they replied that fare was not much enough during this busy time. After that he hanged up the phone. I was shocked and informed Wahid vai. We both decided to call the help line of busbd.com. After couple of call, they picked up the phone. I informed them about the situation and they said they will have a look.

After 10/15 minutes they called me back informing that AK Travel demands around BDT 1000/ per person and if we want to go we have to pay additional 350 taka per person. I instantly refused as their demand was too much higher. I told the customer care from busbd to reconsider this or else we will publicly disclose the issue. After conversation with them, I talked with several transport services and found out that there was no vacant sit for the day.

After hearing the issue with bus, Manik voted for cancel the tour while Wahid was in hesitation. Both of them was worried about the outcome of the tour as the beginning was not smooth. Meanwhile, Roki, Talha and Suhan vai laid back to their sits and informed us that they are with us in whatever decision we take. I was pissed of with the situation but I was determined to go for the tour. I wasn’t ready to quit at the very last moment. But finally everyone agreed to go for the tour.

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Road to Boga Lake

At the evening, people from busbd.com called me and informed me that AK travel has agreed to settle on BDT 800. We can ride on the bus if we agree to pay additional BDT 150. Or else we have to manage our own ride. In that case busbd will refund our money within a week. I didn’t have any other option available so I agreed to pay additional money and confirmed our travel later in the night.

After settling the issue with AK travel and busbd, our journey has been confirmed. We were suppoed to get on the bus on 11:30pm. So I instructed everyone to be at the Gabtoli bus stand by 11:00pm. I was sure that rest of the tour will go smoothly according to our plan. But I didn’t know that luck was not in our favor with this tour and lots of troubles were waiting for us.

(to be continued in Episode 2)

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Uber has gained much popularity since its foundation back in 2009 a UberCab. Since then it has expanded its operation in different parts of the world. In continuation to that, Uber has started its operation on 22 November 2016 creating a hype among the young generation of the country. People were welcoming Uber and excited to get on a Uber ride.

I was one of persons welcoming Uber expecting that it will be a solution to the current problems with CNG Auto rickshaws and CNG drivers. Ever since Uber started operation in Bangladesh, I have been closely monitoring Uber’s customer feedback. I was getting positive feedback from most of the customers.So I thought of getting a Uber ride myself. I  requested several times but I was unable to get a ride. My rides were either too far from my location or there were too much traffic on the roads.

On the first week of December, I had a business trip to India. I had my first Uber ride in India. During our visit in india, we used Uber for our local transportation in the city. It was way better than getting a traditional taxi cab. Upon having a good experience from our first ride, we used Uber taxi for rest of our local travels. When I returned to Dhaka airport, it wa almost 11 PM at night. I needed a ride to go home. After having Uber experience in India, I was ready to have my first Uber ride in Bangladesh. So I tried once again and requested for a Taxi. My request was responded withing a minute and my ride arived in next 5 minutes. I was extremely happy to get a ride on a such short time. I returned home safely. As it was almost mid night, roads were empty and reached home withing half an hour.

After having a great Uber experience in Bangladesh, my expectation and interest grew higher. I become interested in Uber’ operation and had several other Uber rides. I also referred Uber to some of my colleagues and enjoyed couple of free rides for referring. During my Uber rides, I did some research in Uber operation. Let me share findings of my research on Uber:

  1. Uber is more expensive than traditional CNGs but more comfortable than CNG. You can call it cheaper form of  Yellow Taxi cab.
  2. Almost all of the Uber drivers are decent and friendly. Most of them are ex-driver of different companies. Most of them lives in Gulshan or Nearby areas.
  3. It’s easier to track the driver or the customer from the Uber App. You can complain against the driver if there is any problem. It’s much safer than traditional CNGs or Taxi services. You can actually report and get back any items if you lost it in the Uber Cabs.
  4. Uber charges you for miles you have traveled and the time you occupied Uber cab. Note that traditional CNGs bill you if there is a waiting time. But Uber bills you for time even if there is no waiting time.That means you have to pay for the time you get into a Uber Cab to the point you get down. At present Uber charges you a base fee of BDT 50 Plus BDT 30 for per miles you travel plus BDT 2/minute for the time you occupy a Cab.
  5. Uber sends you a money receipt in you Email so that you can claim reimbursement from your employer when necessary.
  6. You can pay to Uber by cash or Card. If you provide card details to Uber, it will automatically charge on your card when you travel user Uber. You don’t have to pay by cash. In India, Uber also accepts Paytm (a form of mobile banking in India). May be soon Uber will accept bKash or Rocket or any other mobile banking channels available in Bangladesh.
  7. You don’t have to look for ride on the streets. You can call it from anywhere and show a area for pick you up. Furthermore, you don’t have to negotiate the fare amount with the driver. It will be auto determined after your ride.
  8. There are limited Number of Uber Cabs available in Dhaka. Approximately 200 Uber Cabs roam around in Dhaka City. Soon Uber will expand its operation in Chittagong and other major cities.
  9. At present, Uber operates just within Dhaka City and you can get Uber ride up to 12 AM in the night.
  10. As there is a shortage of Uber Cab than the demand, it takes some time to find a Uber car. At present Uber cars takes more than 30 Minutes on an average to reach the pickup point due to heavy traffic in Dhaka City. Uber bill becomes higher due to the traffic too (as the travel time increases).

To me, Uber is very much useful and offers comfortable rides. Primary challenges for uber is the severe traffic of the Dhaka City. If they somehow can overcome this challenges, Uber will become unbeatable. Another challenges for Uber is teh legal framework of Bangladesh. At present, Bangladesh Road Transport  Authority (BRTA) has imposed a restriction on Uber stating that Uber doesn’t have necessary permission to operate a taxi services. Similar restriction was imposed on Uber when it was founded in U.S. It was able to overcome that restriction and hopefully it will be able to overcome the restriction imposed by BRTA. Hopefully, our government will also understand the technological application in real live and allow Uber to operate in Bangladesh as a way out for current traffic problem in Dhaka City.

 

মধ্যরাতে মাঝ নদী বরাবর জাহাজ চলছে। আমি জাহাজের বারান্দায় একা বসে আছি। প্রচন্ড বাতাস বইছে। মনে হচ্ছে সব উড়িয়ে নিয়ে যাবে। খুব সতর্ক হয়ে বসা দরকার। কিন্তু আমার ইচ্ছে করছে না। বাতাসের সাথে সাথে দু এক ফোটা বৃষ্টি পরছে। আমার কেন জানি খুব ভিজতে ইচ্ছে করছে। দু এক ফোটা বৃষ্টিতেই ভেজার চেষ্টায় রেলিং এর কাছে ঝুকে বসলাম। নিচের দিকে তাকিয়ে দেখি নদীর পানিতে জাহাজের আলো পড়ছে। সামান্য সেই আলো কিন্তু সেই সামান্য আলোতেই নদীর প্রমত্তা রুপ দেখা যাচ্ছে। বেশ বড় বড় ঢেউ আছড়ে পরছে জাহাজের গায়ে। ঢেউয়ের আঘাতে মাঝে মাঝেই দুলে উঠছে জাহাজ।

আমার মন এমনিতেই ভাল নেই কিছুদিন ধরে। তার উপর এই আবহাওয়া আরও নাজেহাল করে দিচ্ছে আমাকে। অনেকদিন হল ওর সাথে দেখা হয় না। শেষ কবে দেখছি ঠিক মনে পরছে না। বছর দুয়েকের বেশি হবে। আগে নিয়মিতই ফোনে কথা হত। ক্রমশ কমে আসছিল কথাবার্তা। ইদানীং ও কথা বলা বন্ধ করে দিয়েছে আমার সাথে। আমার সাথে কথা বললে নাকি ওর মন খারাপ হয়ে যায়। আমি নাকি ওর জন্য কিছুই করার চেষ্টা করিনি। আসলে চেষ্টা করিনি তা নয়। সফলতা আসেনি। ভুল সময়ে ভুল মানুষের কাছে ভুল ভাবে চেষ্টা করেছি।

হঠাৎ করেই জোরে একটা দমকা হাওয়া বয়ে গেল। জাহাজটা একটু কেপে উঠল। আমিও সম্বিৎ ফিরে পেলাম। আশেপাশে কিছু লোক হাটাহাটি করছে। একটু দুরেই কয়েকজন জটলা পাকিয়ে বসে কথা বলছে। পাশে কয়েকজন ফোন নিয়ে ব্যস্ত। একজন গান শুনছিল কিছুক্ষণ আগে। কলকাতার কোন সিনেমার গান সম্ভবত। ফোনের গান থামিয়ে এখন সে নিজেই গান ধরল। সেই কলকাতার গান। গানের গলা খারাপ না। বেশ রোমান্টিক একটা গান, এই আবহাওয়াতে খারাপ না। অন্যসময় হলে ভাল লাগত কিন্তু এখন ঠিক ভাল লাগছে না। ভাঙা মনে রোমান্টিক গান ভাল লাগে না। ইচ্ছে হচ্ছিল গিয়ে ঝাড়ি দিয়ে গান বন্ধ করতে বলি। পড়ে ভাবলাম তার কি দোষ। তার মনে ভালবাসার রংধনু উঠেছে, সাত রং মাখানো গান সে গাইতেই পারে।

আমি উঠে পড়লাম। কিছুক্ষণ হাটাহাটি করে বুঝলাম জাহাজটায় যাত্রী তেমন নেই। যেদিকে বসেছিলাম ঐদিকে না যেয়ে উল্টোপাশের বারান্দার রেলিঙ এর ধারে বসে পড়লাম। এইদিকটা বেশ অন্ধকার। জাহাজের লাইটগুলোও বন্ধ হয়ে গেল। দূরে কিছু আলো দেখা যাচ্ছে। হয়ত ছোট কোন মাছধরা নৌকা অথবা নদীপাড়ের কোন বাড়ির আলো। হঠাৎই হারিয়ে যায় আলোগুলো। নেমে আসে গভীর অন্ধকার। অদ্ভুত এক শুন্যতার সৃষ্টি হয়। এই অন্ধকারে জাহাজ কোনদিকে যাচ্ছে ঠিক বোঝা যাচ্ছে না। কিন্তু ছুটে চলছে জাহাজ। আর শুন্য বুকে আমিও চলছি সেই উদ্দেশহীন জাহাজে।

বি.দ্র.: এটি একটি ছোট গল্প ও একটি কাল্পনিক ঘটনা।

 

Last month I have been to Keshabpur for audit purpose. Keshabpur is an Upazila of Jessore District in the Division of Khulna, Bangladesh. Purpose of the visit was to audit a partner NGO of the client I have been auditing. Iftekher vai (my senior at AQC) and I were selected for the team. We were required to finish our assignment by 3 days.

Our journey started at early morning. I arrived at bus stand almost half an hour before the departure time. Ifti vai arrived shortly. Our bus started for the destination  at 9 am. Though it was not my first tour without my friends and family, I was excited. I was excited mostly because we didn’t know anyone where we were going. Also we had no idea how we will reach the client’s office and where we will stay. We were told to contact with the partner NGO when we reach Keshabpur.

Our Bus dropped us at Jessor. Till then journey was great. Nothing special to tell except for I slept almost whole time. Then we got into a local bus which will take us to Keshabpur directly. I don’t want to describe about the bus or its environment. But I must describe the view I enjoyed from traveling though it.

The  local bus was running through a narrow road. I was sitting just beside bus window. I was enjoying an awesome natural beauty. There were fields with different crops in both side of the road. Fields were  mostly paddy fields. However most of the fields were water-logged. It is one big problem in this area. But the view of green water logged fields were great. I could see many small hut in distance. This huts works as resting place for the farmers and provide shade when they have their lunch and shelter during rain.  It was raining just before i got down from the highway bus. The road and the surrounding was still wet.Rain drops washed away the dust and dirt of the leaves of the trees. Everything was looking green and fresh. I could resemble the view with the description of an ideal village I read in books and essays.

It was dawn when we reached Keshabpur. It took us 1 hour to reach from Jessor and 9 hours from dhaka. Ifti val called the contact person and ask for instruction about how to go to the office. We were instructed to take a man-pulled van. By the way, Rickshaw is not available in this region. Rather man-pulled van and shallow-machine van (also know as Nasimon or Karimon or Votvoti) are prevalent. we took a man-pulled van and reached the office in 10 minutes.

After the introduction with office personnel we were taken to our room. It was upstairs of the office. As we were tired of journey, we planed not to do anything. After refreshing ourselves and resting a while, we started our audit planning. We shared our audit planning with office personnel over dinner. For your information, most of the office personnel lives upstairs of the office. After dinner I called my home and let them know I arrived safely. Nothing much happened afterwards as we called it a day.

Next day was busy a day. But it started with an entertaining scene. A group of languor was roaming in the rooftop of the building next our office.I knew that Keshabpur is famous for Gray languors. I was hoping to see them but never thought to see them these closely. We spent few minutes watching them. Then we went for breakfast. Afterwards our work started and we worked till lunch. After lunch we took some rest and went out for field visit. We returned at dawn. As our time was limited and work load was huge, we decided to take all the documents to our room and work till late night. We indeed worked till late night. But could not finish our work. We finished our work next day before lunch. After lunch, we went to our room to take some rest and organize everything. We started to prepare for the exist meeting. However it took us till evening to organize to discussing points.

Before exist meeting we booked two seats for our journey to Dhaka. Though we were permitted to stay another night, we decided not to take that option. After the exist meeting, we went to our room and hurried to pack our bags. Our bus was scheduled to leave within couple of hours. After dinner ifti vai went to office manager and paid all our bills. Few minutes later we left the office for bus stand. Two officer accompanied us to the bus stand. Our bus came after 15 of the scheduled time. It was last bus to Dhaka from Keshabpur. We were tired and sleepy. I fell asleep right after I got in our bus. I don’t  remember anything what happened next except for Ifti vai telling highway police at midnight that these bags (pointing to our bags) belongs to two of us. We safely arrived at Dhaka next day. Our senior recommended us to take the day off and report to Client’s office next day. That was a great news for us because we had no energy or stamina left to attend the office.

The tour was great. I got the change to see and culture of Jessore region. Got familiar with food cooking and social behavior. I was planning to visit the place once again with my friends. But I didn’t know that I have to come to same region with in few days. But that’s another story.

Redwan

 


It was decided that we eight friends, Murad, Sifat, Abid, Leu, Ricky,Yamin, Imran and I, are going on a tour at the end of December. After long discussion, we selected Kuakata as our destination of the tour. We were having trouble in setting the date for the tour. Later on we fixed the date but Ricky had to skip this tour because of his personal problem.

Our plan was to go Potuakhali first and then to Kuakata. We started for Kuakata at the afternoon of 31 December of 2010. Our launch, Sundarban-6, was supposed to start for potuakhali at 5:30pm  and reach at Potuakhali at 8 am of the following day. So we all got on board by 5 pm. Apart from Abid, Leu & I, this was the first launch journey for everyone. So the journey was full of excitement. Again, it was the new years eve. Of course we couldn’t celebrate the day like most of you but we celebrated in our own way. Also we enjoyed the winter night of the river. Though our launch was supposed to reach Potuakhali by 8 am but  we reached at 10 due to the deep fog. Then we went to Abid’s house, took some rest and then had our breakfast. Half an hour later we started for Kuakata by bus. After four hour journey, we reached at Kuakata at 3 pm. Then we checked in to “Jhinuk Dak Banglo” of Potuakhali Zila Porishodh. It took us nearly 24 hours to reach Kuakata from Dhaka.

Immediately after having lunch, we set out to see the beach. We passed the evening in the beach. During this time we made a deal with some boatmen to take us following day to the Fathrar Chor which is the starting point of Shundarban . During the night we roamed around the beach and looked for the restaurants.

Next day, after having breakfast we started for Fatrar chor.  It was really exciting to do a boat journey in the sea. It was even more exciting for Abid & me because we were actually controlling the boat.  Our boatman was just giving us direction. He worked as our guide.  It took us nearly half an hour to reach the fatrar chor. We spent around an hour in fatrar chor. It is really a nice place to visit. On our way back to the beach, we also got down in leburar chor.

When we returned to the beach, it was almost noon.  We got down little bit far from the main beach. There was no one around us. So we decided to  have some fun of our own at the beach and then take bath in the sea. Leu or someone else proposed to play football in the beach. We liked it so much that me sent Yamin and Imran to buy a plastic football. We played football about half an hour until our football was carried away by the tide. I swam after the ball but after few minutes I gave up. But, watching me swimming in the sea,  others also came forward.  We spent another half an hour in the sea and then headed back to the dak banglo. Rest of the day we stayed in our rooms. but at the night everyone except me went to the beach. In the mean time I slept like hell. I was so damn tired. Don’t know what they did afterward.

Following morning we hired 4 bikes to roam around the beach. We returned to our dak banglo at afternoon. In the mean time we visited the Buddha‘s temple, Gongamoti beach, Crab island and eco-park. We had a great time visiting those places. Also we had lots of photo sessions. I’m sure you guys have seen some of those in Facebook. After our lunch, we went to the Shutki polli (dryfish village).

When we returned to our room, we started talking about our return to Dhaka. None of us wanted to have another 24 hour journey. So after long discussion we planned to go Borishal first and then take bus. Of course launch was another option for us. But we couldn’t manage any cabin, so we had to choose the bus ride. It was 11:30pm when we reached Dhaka. And by 12am I was at my home.

After we returned to Dhaka, I started to miss the four days of our tour. It was the second time we had our own time. We were of out own and out of all sort of restrictions. This tour was totally different than our first tour at Sylhet. Apart from the 24 & 15 hours journey, we enjoyed every moments of the tour.  Sifat will leave the country in upcoming February. Don’t know when we will see him again. But we will sure miss him a lot. This tour to Kuakata will be our another great memory with Sifat. Moments that will help us to remember him.

[ To see more photos of Kuakata Tour please visit my flicker photostream ]

 

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