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    Barishal Blog

    Place of Warmth and Generosity: Swarupkathi to Jhalokathi

    January 29, 2019

    An American journalist came to my place months before! She shared her experience with me while traveling to Barishal. This is disgraceful for me that I had to learn about Guava floating Market in the Swarupkathi River for the first time from a traveler. However, after going through her pictures, I have decided to explore that river this time.

    Remember the great Rahman? I shared my wish to visit that place during our first-day meeting at his office. “This is not possible to see any floating market now, because it’s a dry season. You can only find some boats, vegetable boats, and some guava plants but the boat ride would be really interesting!” – said Rahman. Though I was a bit disappointed still, I wanted to go on that boat trip to make our journey memorable. I shared with Alebrtao and Artem about the probability of not finding the Guava Market but they were okay with that.

    The next day, our morning started a bit early since we had to cover a lot that includes one hour journey to Swarupkhathi, a river ride, sightseeing, photography, and back to Barishal to catch the launch in the evening. I woke up with the horn of Mahendra Auto at 4:45 AM that was hired by the hotel owner. To the travelers, please note that the hotels in Barishal have their personal Mahendra for going to Swarupkathi for a whole day trip. If you are interested, just inform them a day before your trip and book by paying the money in advance. If you take a round trip for the whole day, it will cost around 2500 taka that includes picking up from the hotel, take to the places you want to visit, drop you back at the hotel in the afternoon or evening. Additionally, if you are a photographer, you can get down anywhere you want to take photos. You can also hire random Mahendra auto but that might be risky since you don’t know anyone in that city. So, if you face any troubles there will be no one who could be a responsible person for that. I prefer to have one local connection for avoiding any extra hassle during my trips to anywhere in this world.

    Alberto is very sincere about his timing! He wakes up and knocked on Artem’s door to wake him up. All of us went down, checked out, and kept one room for three of us! The reason was, we will be reaching the hotel around 7 PM and our launch will depart at 8:35 PM, so we don’t need to have three rooms to fresh n up! We dropped out bags in one room and handed over the keys to the reception. Oh, remember, Alberto was confused about his return date to Dhaka? But later he also decided to go with us on that same date. So, we all were following the same schedule.

    We hopped into the Mahendra and started our journey to Swarupkathi day trip! Thank God! I was properly covered by a winter jacket. Otherwise, no idea, what would have happened! So windy and cold during a winter morning. Around 6:10 AM we picked up Deb Dulal, a genius young guy, introduced by Rahman a day before. He arranged everything for that day trip! Before I write about the trip, you must know that Deb arranged our boat, plan the day, guided us for every step. Trust me, without him it would be difficult for us to explore.

    We changed our Mahendra in Swarupkathi Bazar because of the rough roads. We hired a battery auto that charged 180 takas to go to the Kuriana Ghat for the boat trip. Guys, a small piece of advice, Mahendra auto actually can go to the ghat but the driver lied to us. He wanted to chill and didn’t want to take pressure whereas he was bound to do that. So, if they say they can’t or don’t want to take to wherever you want, just call the hotel contact instantly to deal with him. Otherwise, you have to pay extra money for trips inside the village.

    Deb called the boatman and we started exploring the morning river ride to see the floating market. Our boat was not very strong since I requested him to give us the genuine village flavor. But if you are scared and don’t want to take any risk, please hire a trawler. It might charge 2500 to 3000 taka for 2 hours round trip but you won’t feel the waves and shakes. Interestingly, small boats can go to the tunnels of the river but the big trawlers can’t! So, you might not be able to see guava plans, betel plants while boating if you go for a trawler. It was a lazy morning but we all enjoyed the waves, wind, trees, few vegetable markets on our way. Deb told me, that during winter it’s impossible to find Guava Floating Market but if we could go on Thursday, we might see Hat (market day) with a lot of vegetable boat markets in that river. But best if you can go during the rainy season (June, July, August) to see the actual beauty of the floating market.

    After a long boat trip, we reached the other side and had an amazing breakfast! A woman was making roti (bread), egg omelet, and vegetables in her shop and it seemed delicious to us. We were hungry and had a lot. Later we took a battery auto to visit Kirtipasha Jamidar Bari, Jhalokathi. Again, time to have some small guidance. In that place, you will find a lot of autos but they will ask you for 400 takas for a round trip! I would suggest going by sharing auto that costs 15 takas per person. Deb suggested me to go for sharing auto and we all agreed. Instead of paying 400, we paid 60 (15 for each) and reached there within 15 minutes.

    I had to use a bathroom and Deb took me to his friend’s place! His auntie was so welcoming and gave me some Murir Moa, a local sweet to eat and share with others. I was so thankful to her. Later we went to see the amazing Jamidar Bari, which probably a century-old house. Unfortunately, right now it is abandoned! So, travelers are careful while walking on the roofs because the foundation is not in decent condition. Especially female travelers, you must take one person with you to explore!

    We went to the nearest school after visiting Jamidar Bari and took another sharing auto for going back to the river! Getting autos is easier from the place we went, so don’t need to hire by spending 400 takas (as I said earlier) if you feel like waiting for a while. After reaching the river, I called that lady of the hotel to talk to the Mahendra auto driver and told him to pick us from the ghat, because the driver was denying it. While coming back to the kuriana ghat, the water level started going down! Yeah, time to a low tide of the river, and we couldn’t go further. We had to drop our boat and walked to the center that took 20 minutes.

    On our way, we found a lot of content for Artem and Alberto to see the village life. After reaching the ghat by walk, it was time to pay the bill for the boat ride. The contractor started bargaining by seeing foreigners and trying to get more money than he asked! Instead of 600 takas, they were charging 900 taka out of no reason. But you all know that I am a queen of arguments, so, I fought for the money and finally fixed 700 taka. If Deb was not there, they might have charged 1200 to 1500 taka from us. So, travelers are careful while bargaining. If you want you can give some money to the boatman because they are not well paid.

    After talking with the lady, our driver called to pick us up from the Zombuddhi bride to the Swarupkathi Kather Bazar (wood market)! The Sandha River in Pirojpur was the name but nowadays known as the timber trade. If you go to Swarupkathi, never miss the chance to miss the famous market. Because you will get to see a lot there.

    After spending some time, we headed towards Barisal city and drop Deb at his home. Well, I told you about the young guy, he belongs to a nice family who invited us for a coffee at their place. Meeting his aunt, who has visited Sweden, Denmark and some other European countries added an extra value to the visit. Alberto and Artem enjoyed local fruits like Sopeda and Boroi at Deb’s place. Later we said bye to his family and started for the Barishal city!

    Though it was almost 3:30 PM, we got down to a beautiful Mosque on our way. (The Baitul Aman Jame Masjid Complex, commonly known as Guthia Mosque of Barisal, is a mosque complex of Bangladesh having a land area of 14 acres, comparing to the 8.30 acres land area of the national mosque Baitul Mukarram of the country (information collected from Wikipedia). I was mesmerized by the view and architecture of this mosque though I was not allowed to go inside!

    After spending some time, we went to Madhobpasha Dighi known as Durga Sagor! The area was really big and you must have 45 minutes to explore the real beauty. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to sightsee. Readers, you must get tickets before entering there and the ticket price is 20 Taka for all (locals & foreigner).

    The time we arrived was perfect for us! I called Rahman and invited him to join us for a dinner. That was the only thing we could do for him to show our gratitude for his wonderful support. Though that was not enough! I was happy to have him and my friend Reza without whom that journey could be a blunder. We didn’t think too much because of their support and love.

    I always heard that people from Barishal are welcoming and lovely! They know how to love and treat guests with warmth and generosity. So, I witnessed and felt proud that I belong to that division! A great journey to find my origin which made me delighted!