I have lived in Bangladesh for 8 years now, but I have done very little travel on boats and ferries. A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity. I knew my bus would have to cross a large river. I knew I had paid for the whole trip, but I didn’t know whether I would cross the river in a ferry on my bus or on a small boast with another bus waiting to pick me up on the other side. We all were let off the bus and told to get into a launch. I followed other passengers and I tell you, it was like a huge crowd pushing pushing pushing, onto a small boat. The kind of crowd that literally carries you ahead! I bet in America, 1/3 of the people would have been allowed on. There were one and a half floors, and even though we were all squeezed on, some vendors and beggars had managed to come too. The ride across the river was like fifteen minutes at least. Then it was push push push to get off. On the other side of the river there was a market. It reminded me of the markets on the Laotion border: very dirty and made up on bamboo stilt-shacks. I kept my eye on fellow bus-mates, and the walk was at least ten minutes. I thought my bus-mates would know where the bus was, but when we arrived at the bus stand, they began to ask around. “Where’s our bus?” There are no lines or numbers or signs, or directions, but there are shouting men who are herding people on to the right bus. We were heard the right man shouting and made it on the right bus!! So I have had the crowded launch experience.
The month of December was a month of political strikes. On hartal days, almost all public transport closes. Stores stay shut. There is sporadic unpredictable violence and vandalism on the streets. In mid December, there were so many back-to-back strike days that when a day was not a strike day, everyone was out doing business and traveling. I had to travel out of Dhaka on that day too. Bus prices went up, seats on the bus were double booked, and even on the ‘nice’ buses, people were standing up for their whole 6 hour journeys. The traffic was horrendous.