India Bangladesh Cruise 29 April 2019 – 15 May 2019
MV Mahabaahu completes its 16 night maiden voyage of India – Bangladesh Cruise starting from Guwahati Assam on the 29 of April 2019, going via various cities of Bangladesh and finally reaching Kolkata on 15 May 2019.
Airport arrival and Flag off at Pandu Port, Guwahati and
Sualkuchi – Silk Weaving
Bihu and Bodo Dance
The maiden voyage of MV Mahabaahu took off from Pandu in Guwahati on the 29th of April, 2019 amidst chanting of mantras, breaking of the nariyal in the presence of guests and flag off by the Inland Waterways Authority of India and media presence; an exciting day for Assam Tourism. It was the first time that MV Mahabaahu was going to sail under the Sarai Ghat bridge on an official cruise with guests on board. MV Mahabaahu dressed in robes of marigold sailed down the mighty Brahmaputra with a crew that was as excited as the guests.
We reached Sualkuchi, a hub of silk weavers and were greeted by the beating of khol and dhol and blowing of pepa. The Bihu and Bodo dancers clad in colourful costumes welcomed the guests in Assamese tradition with Gamusa and tika and we sat under the shade of gulmohar trees to witness the beautiful bodo girls in orange cotton sarees.
The graceful movements of Bodo performers with swords and sticks in their hands and their long dark flowing tresses set the ambience. This was followed by Bihu, the state dance of Assam by young artists clad in beautiful gold and red muga silk.
We visit the silk weavers and get a first hand insight into the complete process of silk production from pupa to silk thread and on to finished stoles of muga, eri and paat. This was very interesting and we realised that we needed to spend a lot more time in this small village of silk artists.
Manas National Park
We sailed on towards Goalpara and then drove on to our first of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites; MANAS NATIONAL PARK where we spend the entire day; An elephant safari to see rhinos, deer and wild elephants as Peacocks flutter around.
After breakfast we enjoyed a jeep safari and go all the way to the Bhutan Border to enjoy the landscape. This part of Assam and Bhutan was marked with heavily forested hills and Manas river flowed along the park quite torrentially.
We returned for lunch at the Manas National Park and on the way back we collected some fresh local mangoes.
Beginning of numerous Yoga sessions!
Damdama Sahib Gurudwara
Electric Rickshaw Ride
An early morning sail takes us to Dhubri where we enjoy an e-rickshaw ride to the famous Gurudwara Damdama Saheb of Guru Tek Bahadur ji. We are greeted with warmth and were informed of the history of the Gurudwara and the Sikhs and then enjoyed langar that is a unique feature of Sikhs.
We drove to the village of Asharikandi that is famous for its clay and terracotta work – we trid our hand at the potters wheel and indulged in chit-chat with the potter’s family. We enjoyed purchasing some of the clay work from this family. We went on to walk in the village and noticed that there were many shops that were selling a variety of clay and terracotta work and so we indulged in some more shopping. We decided that this was one place where we should spend some more time.
On returning to the ship we got on with the custom clearance formalities for the ship, the guests and the crew.
After custom formalities the ship sailed on a short distance and moored next to a sand bar as the weather was getting a little rough.
All along from Pandu to Dhubri the sail was green and lush and interesting; very different from Upper Assam.
Chilmari – Custom Clearance Formalities
Beautiful Bangladesh Video Presentation
We were all up early to witness every moment of our voyage as we sailed through the different posts; the handsome Indian Border Security Force at Shishumara came on board, checked and then bid us farewell with a lot of selfies in the process and then we reached the Border Guards of Bangladesh at Shahaber Agla who again come on board and greeted us warmly.
Soon we left for Chilmari where we formally checked into Bangladesh. Our Bangladeshi tour managers stepped on board and we knew we were in the company of experienced tour Managers. They bring us a lot of Mangoes and ofcourse this evening we indulge. We show our foreign guests how to eat mangoes the traditional way and all have a blast. In the evening we enjoy a video presentation on ‘Beautiful Bangladesh’
Sirajganj – Mahabaahu welcomes Faani!
Talk on Bahadurabad and Video Presenation on Jamdhani Fabric
Talk on Bangladesh
A Cultural Performance by Bangladeshi Artists on Jamuna River
Pachalia Weaving Village for Gamchas, Lungis near Sirajganj
Hatikamrul Nabratna Temple near Sirajganj
The weather took a turn for the worst. Though cyclone ‘Fani’ was miles away but the effect on the river and the wind was immense. Now we were on
Meghana river; as we sailed we noticed the changing banks of the river. We could see for ourselves that Bangladesh’s mode of travel was primarily water and now the river became more interesting with sand dredgers and big boats fearlessly cruising the waters and smaller vessels riding the disturbed waters. The winds were strong and the clouds let loose the moisture. MV Mahabaahu took shelter next to a high bank and stayed moored.
It was time for our excursion to the weavers in Bangladesh. We put on our parasols and took a ride on the tenders to the opposite bank to see what was in store for us. Our drive was waiting and we enjoyed every moment of this village in Sirajganj. We noticed that jack fruit grew in abundance; these trees were everywhere.
The huge loom and the rainbow colours of the threads mesmerised us. The village trees were loaded with mangoes and the children ran around with raw mangoes and we too indulged. All guests were game at digging into green sour mangoes with salt.
Some guests purchased gamchas and lungis and then we visited the Hatti Navratna Temple. It is an architectural delight.
The temple had lost all its nine spires.
In the temple courtyard we found a different fruit of interest and that is Ram phal. Everyone took a bit of the flesh of this fruit. It was sweet.
On our drive back we saw a man making some fresh local food; a very traditional tiny fish and potato curry with rice and the poorie too was interesting. The man demanded an exorbitant amount but we were happy to part with it and understand that this is his one victory on a gloomy rainy day and we let him bask in the company of lady luck. Our tenders were waiting on the eastern shore to take us back to the ship.
The stormy weather kept the performers from reaching on board but some of these bravehearts ride out the rough weather and reach us on board. Their dancers could not come but the singers were right on board. They sang us odes to the River Jamuna and their voices were deep and well-trained. We were surprised to see that all the singers were just children, both Hindus and Muslims and singing beautifully and confidentally. They sang us several songs and each one of them performed a solo. The evening was culturally rich. Their parents and relatives had accompanied them to the ship.”
All the British ladies learn to wear Sarees!
Day 6 was a relaxed morning, late – lazy -lavish breakfast and ‘fani’ warning. We were going to lose a day of sailing but the guests were happy to enjoy some rest. We organised a saree tying demonstration and then each of the foreign ladies had to wear a saree which they skillfully did. The gentlemen enjoyed watching the ladies and indulged in photography.
Sailing under Bangabandhu Bridge, Sirajganj
Sailing to Aricha and onwards to Mawa
Look at confluence of Jamuna and Padma Rivers
On Day 7 the landfall of ‘fani’ was to happen but strangely the winds subsided and the sky cleared and we sailed away led by the pilot vessel. MV Mahabaahu sailed towards the confluence of Jamuna and Padma and the different waters were indeed visible. Sailing on the Bangladesh waters was so very interesting; sitting on the top deck and looking at the Bangladesh waters and all the different vessels pass by was very interesting. We crossed interesting industrial areas and saw different types of fishing boats. The fishermen rode the river and flashed around the ship in their fishing boats.
Once again we spent the day leisurely with early morning sail, Yoga in the morning and a relaxed breakfast. We didn’t want to take our eyes off the river; there was so much to absorb. We reached Mawa and then on the sail was tight and skillful in between vessels of various sizes. The Buri Ganga river was laced with lights and a variety of water transport. We had dinner but spent the time either in our balconies or in the fo’c’s’l’ area. It was exciting to see the ships and boats dextrously moving and avoiding each other. This sail for the last 4 hours was beautiful and exhilerating. Each one of us enjoyed ourselves and our Master skillfully moved the ship into position at the VIP Jetty.
Sonargaon – City of Painam
Jamdhani local village for Jamdhani Weaving
We buy Jamdhani Sarees and we eat homemade bangla food
Press Conference and Bangladeshi Welcome
Cultural Evening of Folk Performance
Old Dhaka–Sonargaon day started early in the morningat O500 hrs. A light snack and we accommodated ourselves in a 26 seater bus and drove through the city of Dhaka and saw the city waking up. We reached the ruins of Painam City and walked through the left over of the Indo-sarcenic architecture. These were interesting and we moved on towards a museum where a building similar to that in Painam city was intact and preserved and it showed how beautiful the old town on the trade route must have been when in full glory.
We drove to a village famous for Jamdhani weaving where the famous intricate Jamdhani work on sarees was in process. The owner of this enterprise had arranged lunch for us. We saw many Jamdhani sarees and then enjoyed the most amazingly soft parathas made by his wife along with a lavish spread of fish, lentils, vegetables and famous Bangladeshi sweets. We purchased the Jamdhani sarees and admired the beautiful colours and workmanship. Everyone was happy.
We drove back through the Dhaka traffic and boarded MV Mahabaahu at 1600 hrs where our master was waiting impatiently and so were the Bangladesh Jetty authorities. We sailed away and instead of resting we immediately sat on the Donyi Polo Deck to enjoy our exit from this jetty. The sheer number of a variety of boats was enigmatic.
This evening sail was to be for 2 hours; never a dull moment, we wanted to take snapshots in all directions. Soon we saw the next jetty that we were to be along ‘ Marie Anderson’. The navigation team manoevered the ship carefully and we were greeted by the Press, the Bangladesh Inland Waterways Authority and our Bangladeshi partners who had brought in one of our British Guests from Dhaka.
This was a warm moment and the Bangladesh hospitality was genuine. There was a short welcome ceremony in a traditional Bangladeshi style followed by a very colourful cultural performance. We were amazed at how culturally rich Bangladesh was.
Dhamrai Metal Craft Village for ancient art of Brass metal work
Kakran Pottery Village
National Martyr’s Monument
Drive along side the National Assembly Building
On Day 9 we again welcomed the rising sun and escaped the rush hour. We crossed a narrow river on local boats and walked through Dhamrai Potters’ Village. It was enlightening to walk through lanes and by-lanes lined with mango and jackfruit trees. Here we bought guavas and borrowed a knife from a local restaurant and enjoyed guavas with salt and pepper. We could see kneaded clay lying in or out of every house indicating that all were clay engineers. We reached the designated potter but he had just finished firing his pots and was very tired. Luckily another village folk offered to take us to his home and let us try the art. We bought ‘diyas’ or oil lamps and the family felt happy. We all realised the strength of tourism for bringing about economic upliftment.
On the way back we visited the Kakran Pottery Village where we saw the metal work involving the almost extint wax work. The artists and craftsmen were extremely talented and were bent seriously crafting sculptures. The proprieter excitedly explained the complete process and the risks of pouring molten metal into the moulds. He shared with us some of the interesting experiences.
We drove alongside the National Assembly Building and then towards a restaurant to enjoy some local food. After a sumptuous meal we drove back to MV Mahabaahu enjoying the evening rush hour sights.
Dhakeshwari Temple Visit
National Language Monument
Rickshaws ride through streets of Dhaka
Lal Bagh Fort
Ahsan Manzil – Pink Palace
Ramadan Dinner with Mr and Mrs Chowdhury’s Family
An early morning Dhakeshwari Temple visit was a reminder of Hindu culture in harmony with Muslim lifestyle of the country. It was indeed a pleasure to see that the Muslims could walk into the temples too.
We enjoyed an interesting cycle-rickshaw ride from the National Language Monument to the Curzon Hall University – a very impressive building.
We also walked through the Lal Bagh Fort and then spend some time in Ahsan Manzil followed by some very interesting shopping time in a wholesale market. All the ladies were excited and the gentleman were making the most of this bazaar too.
We returned to MV Mahabaahu so that we could have some lunch and get ready to see Dhaka by the night.
We arrived at this eminent area of Bangladesh where the elite had their residences where we were invited by a well-known family. This was a special evening for us as we were going to witness the breaking of Ramadan fast in the company of a muslim Bangladeshi family. As we arrived at the apartment we found ourselves in a very beautiful home of Mrs and Mr Chowdhury . We had a lovely time and sampled some very delicious and authentic Bangladeshi cuisine at Iftar.
We drove back to the ship and talked about all that we had done in and around the capital city of Bangladesh for three days. We had managed to explore it quite extensively; Narayanganj, Sonargaon and Dhaka! Our Dhaka Managers had organised these three days brilliantly well.
Chandpur – Experience of Hilsa Fishing
Sailing for the whole day towards Barisal
Barisal Market and local ferry visit and breaking Ramadan Fast with the locals.
MV Mahabaahu sailed out of Dhaka very early in the morning and reached a small village in Chandpur just when we had finished a relaxed breakfast. We walked through the fields to the bank where all the boats that had brought in the Hilsa fish haul. We were surprised to see that this little village was engaged in such a huge business. They had many types of fish. We were especially interested in the tiger prawns and hilsa. We bought some and quickly saute’d some in the small village restaurant right there and all of us enjoyed fresh prawns and took back hilsa and prawns for crew and guests.
We sailed back to the floating market area and walked in the village. It was evening and the freshly cooked local food was inviting and delicious. We tasted almost everything and the shopkeeper and his wife were pretty pleased. We picked some local vegetables and fruits and some guests bought Bangladeshi lungis.
This evening we had for dinner all that we had bought during the day. So we had hilsa and prawns for dinner along with all that was on the menu
Floating Markets of Barisal
Sailing towards Sunderbans
We reached our destination after lunch and got into our tenders to sail amidst the Barisal vegetable market. We took a local boat and sailed on a small river and all around us were boats cruising in and out with vegetables, coconut, bananas and pineapples. It was interesting to be crisscrossing among boats carrying logs of wood and some boats were carrying smaller fishing boats in large numbers. This one hour spent in the floating market was very enlightening. We stopped at one village and walked through the village. One house that looked better maintained caught our eye and we knocked on their door. The gentleman and the son were village teachers. The senior gentleman was a writer and his two daughters-in-law were beautiful. They were all happy to have us in their home.
All the village people gathered around us and we asked one of the ladies to show how a Bengali saree was worn and she obliged. Every child, teenager and adult of the village came to bid us farewell. We felt humbled in this green paradise.
Boat Safari towards Kotka Forest Station, Sunderbans
Spotting wildlife in boat safari, near Kotka Wildlife Sanctuary
Jamtola Beach, Bay of Bengal, Sunderbans
Night Safari near Chandpai Dolphin Sanctuary, Sunderbans
MV Mahabaahu finally sailed towards the awaited visit to the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE OF SUNDARBANS; The World Heritage site is comprised of three wildlife sanctuaries which form the core breeding area of a number of species of endangered wildlife. Areas of unique natural beauty, ethno botanical interest, special marine faunal interest, rivers, creeks, islands, swamps, estuaries, mud flats, and tidal flats. The boundaries of the Sundarbans protect all major mangrove vegetation types, areas of high floral and faunal values and important bird areas.
We reached the Kotka area and took our tenders after a very early breakfast for a sail through the narrow creeks to be as close to the Sundarban flora in order to catch a glimpse of its well camouflaged fauna. We had with us a knowledgeable naturalist from Bangladesh along with two armed forest-guards A palash’s eagle was flying above when we spotted a King Cobra in the middle of the river and then a crocodile sleeping peacefully but the movement of the boat in close proximilty alerted him and it rushed into the river but all the guests managed a photograph. We spotted some spotted-deer. We were excited, the weather was pleasant and the breeze cool. Soon we spotted a white rumped vulture, an endangered species and we went on to spot the ruddy kingfisher, the white breasted kingfisher and the brown winged Kingfisher. It was not about wild life but the flora, the aerial roots protruding out of the mud flats, the beutiful light green keora trees, the Sundari Trees, the dark leafed Gewa trees and so many more. The tidal flats where the tides had receded showed small skipper fish and tiny mud crabs.
The end of our morning boat safari through creeks took us to the ship and we grabbed a quick breakfast and sailed to the Kotka Forest Station and we walked on the raised wooden platform with aerial roots all around and the spotted deer in the vicinity.
We climbed up the two towers to spot some wildlife. From here we walked into the real forest with the two guards and two naturalists. We saw large herds of deer. This walk through the forest was very very interesting and we spotted tiger pug marks.
After lunch we sailed away to another part of Sundarbans and then went for a late afternoon walk and came out towards the Bay of Bengal where we saw huge trees uprooted amidst large aerial roots. We walked through this brown spread of leafless trees and dark brown roots protruding from the ground and now we could hear the waves roaring. We had to get rid of our footwear, it was time to walk with the waters of the Bay at Jamtola Beach. We splashed water at each other; at all those who were game and some watched us from a dry distance. Wonderful Experience at the end of a hot walk. We returned to the ship, had dinner and plunged into the night safari experience near Chandpai Dolphin Sanctuary. All was quiet, water all around and then a safe creek and we spent a quiet one hour and then spotted a big buffy owl. The night safari has its own charm; one can hear the sounds of the forest. Our naturalist managed to capture the owl. We sailed back to the ship.
Boat Safari near Harbaria Forest Station
Forest Walk at Harbaria Forest Station
Spotted Deer Farm, Karamjal Eco Tourism Centre
Crocodile Farm, Karamjal Eco Tourism Centre
Daingmari Dolphin Sanctuary
Otter Fishing Technique, Daingmari
UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bagerhat
‘Poter Gaan’ Cultural performance on Sunderbans
On Day 14 we were once again in time to see the rising sun and sailed away towards the Harbaria Forest Station and enjoyed a boat safari close to the thick and varied Sundarban flora hoping to spot its fauna. We spotted a lesser adjutant stork foraging the muddy banks of the Sundarbans. and then went straight for a forest walk at the Harbaria Forest Station and saw fresh tiger pug marks. We also spotted some deer. After breakfast we walked through the Karamjal Eco Tourism Center where there was a Spotted Deer Farm and the guests fed them with some fresh leafy twigs, we went on to see the Crocodile farm too and as the high tide started we returned to the ship for lunch and sailed towards the Daingmari Dolphin Sanctuary. Here we could see Dolhins all around us.
Before lunch we got into our tenders to be in the area where one of the fishermen had brought his boat and his tame and trained otters to show us fishing with otters; a 6th century skill. We closed on to the fisherman’s boat where the smooth coated otters jumped into the river and pushed the fish into the net as the net was lowered. It was most interesting to see the otters shouting and screaming till the fisherman gave them a big haul of small fish which they devoured heartily. A new and fresh experience for all of us!
We returned to the ship and enjoyed a hearty meal and after resting for a couple of hours MV Mahabaahu brought us to the city of Bagerhat and we went ashore in our tenders. Our drive took us to the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE of BAGERHAT that had been recovered from thick vegetation. All along the road were commercial shrimp farms as this was the estuary area where the sea and river waters mixed. We arrived at the 60 domed mosque where we were greeted by the maulavi who recited a couple of verses from Koran. He had the most beautiful voice soulful voice to sing praises of his Allah. There was a lake close by and an expecting female crocodile had come out and was resting. We managed to venture close. We noticed a beautiful gulmohar tree in its full orange blossom and captured its colours in the setting sun and then drove back.
MV Mahabaahu was ready to receive us. We got ready for dinner and soon our performers arrived and showcased the Poter Gaan; lifestyle of the Sundarban people who worked variously as wood-cutters, fisherman, honey gatherers, leaves and grass gatherers. They sang and danced and played the music. They displayed their emproidery work; it was naqshi kantha work; within no time all their handicraft had been hungrily bought by the excited guests. The Sundarban folk; men and women went home happy. Once again we realised the importance of tourism; we had touched many lives and they had enriched us with their simplicity and skill.
Shekbaria to Hemnagar – Custom Formalities at both the borders
We sailed out early so that we could reach Shekbaria, the exit point of Bangladesh. The custom formalities took some time but the Bangladeshi officials surprised us with their hospitality. They showered us with sweets and brought us beautiful flowers and honoured each of the guests too. We then sailed towards Hemnagar where the Border Security Force; handsome uniformed men stepped on board and made sure that the customs officers completed the formalities. We soon moved on with two custom officers on board as the Indian Custom clearance was to be done in the Kolkata Office. All was smooth and simple process.
Purulia cultural performance on Indian side of Sunderbans
Baul singing cultural performance on Indian side of Sunderbans
Visit to Mangrove Interpretation Centre at Sajnekhali, Indian Sunderbans
Boat Safari through Mangroves of Indian Sunderbans
Sajnekhali – Spotting wildlife in boat safari in mangroves of Indian Sunderbans
Enjoying last sunset aboard the MV Mahabaahu sailing towards Kolkata
On Day 16 we were a little apprehensive. We had slept late the previous night as relaxation was in the air. We got up early for an early breakfast and got into a local boat that was waiting for us and we sailed towards a small village that our local guide led us to. He had made arrangements in a green open area in the shade of the trees. Here the Purulia dancers sang in the local dialect about Sundarbans and performed local tribal dances and songs. Then came the bauls of Bengal who sang folk songs on vegetables and fish and how these were items of romance. Their lively tunes, rythmic graceful movements and colourful attires reminded us of ‘the music in my heart I bore long after it was heard no more’.
We returned to the local boat and walked towards the tower but then a shop caught our eye where the seller was enjoying a nap in the morning breeze. We got him up on his feet and he opened up the Battik store and the minimum prices got everyone to buy as much…………nationality was no bar for prices………all men and women just went beserk and we tried on the wrap arounds and made some of the men wear those too and all were hysterical and game. The watch tower was interesting and the Sajnekhali Mangrove Interpretation Centre was very informative.
We continued exploring the Indian Sundarbans and walked through a protected patch and to another tower and observed a lot of different flora that was marked with local and botanical names.
We embarked our local boat and cruised the narrow creeks of Sudhanyakhali of Sundarbans. The Keora trees, the Gewa trees, the Sundari trees and the breathing routes and then a flitting deer and the kingfishers and adjutant storks. Just to be in the close proximity of this dense forest during low tide is amazing. One can never tell what is lurching in the thick groves. It is paradoxical and engaging and bewildering………we were scared to close our eyes in case we missed something. On the way back to the ship the sun was already vertically up in the sky but the breeze was cooling and comforting and slowly we could see all dozing away and giving in to slumber.
We bid farewell to our guide and MV Mahabaahu sailed on towards Kolkata. We could see the change in the look of the villages but the same flora continued. The look of the local boats changed. Bollywood music could be heard as we passed closer to small towns. We were definitely in India. The fishing boats were different and we were sailing through rough estuary waters as the high tide had just begun. We rested and packed after lunch. Nostalgia was setting in; the cruise was coming to an end; strong friendships and bonds had formed. We gathered on the Sundeck for the last sale and the last sunset of the Indo-Bangladesh Maiden Voyage. The mesmerising hues of the orange sunset and the powder blue and violet hues in the water during the golden hour were to stay with us all. The farewell dinner called for ‘Mughlai Cuisine’ and we sailed on beyond dinner.
Sail into Kolkata
The last breakfast on MV Mahabaahu was at a comfortable hour. We had packed but the last moment packing and checking if all was in order is always part of travel dilemmas. We had settled our bills the previous night and some were still settling it the next morning. We reached the customs office that was 10 minutes from our jetty and all was quick and smooth. We bid farewell to all and the guests departed for the airport by 1000 hrs.
It was now that we realised that we had accomplished a feat and we congratulated each other.
Our Maiden Voyage on MV Mahabaahu on the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route had been completed as scheduled. A big applaud to our navigation team, especially the master and the LC Driver. We could not have accomplished this without the precise planning of Mr Motiur Rahman, Mr Zihad Bari and Riaz of our Bangladeshi Partners.
A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL THE GUESTS, OUR BANGLADESHI PARTNERS AND ALL OUR CREW
We are so delighted with the success of this maiden voyage that we will be taking this up once again starting on the 1st of September 2019 as a 19 night cruise.
We look forward to hearing from you and booking this 2nd Voyage on the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route with us on MV Mahabaahu
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