Bangladesh transport 2015 2/3 – Planes, Trains and Automobiles – and buses, CNG’s, motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles

TRAINS

My preferred mode of transport is by train. I flew from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar in order to save two days getting there, two coach journeys instead of one, and covering the same ground twice. But once I could, I travelled by train. I knew from my research not to expect too much. I made two rail journeys. From Chittagong to Srimangal, and from Srimangal to Dhaka. (Srimangal is about two hours south from Sylhet, which you can see on this map in the north-east.) Here is a rail / road map of Bangladesh:

rail / road map of Bangladesh

rail / road map of Bangladesh

As explained in the blogs on preparation for the trip there are various train classes. Speaking two words of Bengali I wasn’t going to be too fussy. I just wanted a seat on the train I had decided on.

Chittagong Station ticket windows

Chittagong Station ticket windows

At the station the ticket window information is all in Bengali, so I chose the shortest “queue” – er scramble of people all pushing in. I more or less took my turn, not pushing in, but not letting anyone push in on me. I had written out the train and date, and handed the paper to the employee. The station employee spoke English and asked if I wanted air-con. Then he told me the fare, I paid, received the ticket and checked it. There is a computer monitor showing what he is doing, but he is quite fast and by the time you are starting to understand the display he has handed you the ticket. In fact, it had only taken five minutes and was easier than I thought. TK524 from Chittagong to Srimangal.

ticket from Chittagong to Srimangal

ticket from Chittagong to Srimangal

The train station at Chittagong has a tea room on the ground floor, and a restaurant, waiting room and toilet on the first floor.

Chittagong Station

Chittagong Station

For the trip bring something to drink and something to eat that doesn’t preferably involve using your hands.  My choice would be water and bananas.  But only drink any water if you really have to.

my supplies, plus water

my supplies, plus water – I also had hand wipes to clean my hands

Arrive at the station before the scheduled time, but then ask any employee if the train is on time and show your ticket.  I was told the train was an hour late, but in fact it was almost two hours. There is no whistle or announcement, so keep on asking (every 15 minutes or so) if the train has arrived yet, and as soon as it has, board.  Except for this caveat.  For a couple of hours before riding the train restrict liquid intake, and use the toilet at the station immediately before boarding. This is because the toilets on the train are disgusting, and dangerous.  Dangerous because the outside door is often open with someone hanging on. If not, you can close it, but if someone is hanging on to the outside rail you have almost nothing to hold onto as you attempt to unlatch the door to the toilet, and if the train happened to jolt at the wrong time you could fall out the open door.

platforms at Chittagong

platforms at Chittagong

locomotive shunting

locomotive shunting

Just show your ticket to any employee and they will show you the correct carriage. The seat allocation is on your ticket and won’t be hard to find.

carriage

carriage

air-con carriage

air-con carriage

seat signage on wall

seat signage on wall

The seats recline a little, there is adequate leg room, but no seat pockets or rubbish bin.  The windows cannot be opened and are dirty.  The overhead rack will accommodate quite reasonable size luggage.

seats

seats

And now for anyone interested:

guard compartment at end

guard compartment at end

guard compartment

guard compartment

guard compartment

guard compartment

last carriage

last carriage

hmm

inside

The next carriage was presumably a different class:

next carriage

next carriage

compartment

compartment

There are people walking through the train selling food and drinks – in most cases I would avoid it unless it is wrapped like chocolate.  And the water is dusty on the outside so you get dirty hands if you buy it.

selling food onboard

selling food onboard

selling food onboard

selling food onboard

selling food onboard

selling food onboard

selling food onboard

selling food onboard

You can buy also when the train stops in the station.

one of the train stops

one of the train stops

If you alight check how long the train will be in the station.  It is only single track, so often the train has to wait in the station where there are at least two tracks,  for an oncoming train to pass, and this could be 10 – 15 minutes. If the train starts to move you can still leap onboard if you have at least one hand free.

food stalls at the station enroute

food stalls at the station en route

food stalls at the station enroute

food stalls at the station en route

food stalls at the station enroute

food stalls at the station enroute

food stalls at the station enroute

food stalls at the station en route

Often it is hard to know where you are, although occasionally you see a station sign in English.

station sign in English

station sign in English

I used Google Maps to check progress.

20150424 (52) (Copy)

Google Maps

Google Maps

At last we arrived at Srimangal – not all that later than scheduled.

arrival in Srimangal

arrival in Srimangal

Srimangal Station

Srimangal Station

My second and final train trip was from Srimangal to Dhaka.  I am told that as the train originates in Sylhet and not Srimangal there is only a small seat allocation for tickets originating in Srimangal, and no air-con seats were available.  Price Tk225. The advantage of non-air-con is that the windows can be open, and thus it is better for photography. However, once the train I was on departed there was only one hour of light left, anyway, and I took few photos.

ticket to Dhaka

ticket to Dhaka

Srimangal Station

Srimangal Station

towards Srimangal Station and Dhaka

towards Srimangal Station and Dhaka

And the other direction:

looking north towards Sylhet

looking north towards Sylhet

train to Dhaka arriving

train to Dhaka arriving

train to Dhaka arriving

train to Dhaka arriving in Srimangal

In this carriage you can open the windows. So, another caveat. You can buy food through the window from vendors at stations. Ensure you receive the product first before paying, as sometimes they will just run off with your money if you pay first. Also, give them exact money as they may keep your change. Warnings from a local. Best to take your own food, as mentioned before.

non-air-con carriage

non-air-con carriage

My train was about 30 minutes late and every seat  was taken. Around 8PM there was an insect plague. Lots of flying insects – not mosquitos – entered the carriage and bothered everyone for at least the next half hour.  They didn’t bite, but landed all over you.  In theory this wouldn’t really happen in the air-con carriage as the windows are closed.

The train stopped at the  airport station on the way to Dhaka. 30 minutes from there to main station, approximately. All signs in Bengali at the main station.

arriving at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

at Dhaka Station

arriving at Dhaka Station

at Dhaka Station

Dhaka Station from outside

Dhaka Station from outside

There was traffic chaos outside the station, with rickshaws, CNG’s etc all over the place and trying to get your business. Anyway, you are now in Dhaka.

 

 

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