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Himalaya

Day 123: Dhaka to the Delta

Dhaka, Bangladesh 
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Looking for the Ostrich at the Sadarghat boat terminal, Dhaka.
Michael Palin - HimalayaAfter many wrong directions, I eventually find our boat and can't understand why I hadn't seen it earlier. With an ochre-painted superstructure and massive paddle wheels, the PS Ostrich is an old-fashioned, pleasing shape, like a great nautical sausage. It is part of the Rocket Service, pride of the succinctly named Bangladesh Inland Waterway Transport Corporation. The identification plaque records that its Year of Built (sic) was 1929 and that it was 'Renovated and Dieselized' in Narayagonj (just outside Dhaka) in 1996. It accommodates a total of 700 people on two decks and has 24 places in First Class.

I step onto the gangplank. Below me, the water is thundercloud grey. An evil-smelling, viscous grease-slick covers the surface of the Buriganga like lacquer. Then I'm shown to a flight of steps with a banister rail in polished wood, which leads up to the first class accommodation. Here, the world is transformed. The cabins, their numbers in polished brass, lead off a long and gracefully proportioned state room, down the centre of which runs an elegant mahogany table. The wood panelling on the walls is painted a subtle combination of light and dark grey, and interspersed at intervals with fluted bas-relief columns picked out in gold leaf. Outside, a covered deck set with tables and chairs offers the enticing prospect of cocktails at sunset. Sadly, this being a Muslim country, there is no bar on board, but Ishraq, ever ingenious, has access to supplies of his own.

Five minutes before our scheduled departure time the Ostrich emits two sonorous blasts from its horn, warning late-arriving passengers and waterborne tradesmen selling hard to the open decks below us that departure is imminent. We cast off and pull away from the seething Sadarghat dead on time, narrowly avoiding collision with one of the many ferries fighting for our place at the pontoon.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 123: Dhaka to the Delta
  • Country/sea: Bangladesh
  • Place: Dhaka
  • Book page no: 278

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  • Day 2 
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