Majestic all the way, the sail is a sight to behold, and you can feel the wind propelling you onwards.
The beat of labour ringing in my ears, I was out on the deck resting with eyes closed, the winter chill soothing my face; I think at that exact moment, frozen in time, was when I felt a sort of mortal bliss. I was thankful that the hectic year was ending on a high tide on the mighty Padma.
River cruises are an ubercool thing to do in winter and Contic’s river cruises are the epitome of how it should be done. Contic (Confluence of Technology Ideas and Culture) is a concern of Friendship NGO, Bangladesh.
It is a river tourism operator that offers cruises through Shitalakhya, Dhaleshwari, Padma, Meghna, and Jamuna, and even goes all the way to the Sundarbans.
A three-hour drive on the Dhaka-Aricha highway, amid the lush yellow mustard fields, takes you to the Contic jetty, where their cruise boats are docked for winter.
The main attraction of Contic is the B613, perfect for lavish day cruises. In 1997, Contic transformed a country boat called Malar into a cruising boat. The Malar is commonly used in the waterways around the Pabna district for carrying crops. This cruising boat was built according to the millenary technique of the Brahmaputra carpenters. The B613 is currently the longest wooden country boat that is to be found in Bangladesh.
Made entirely out of wood, the sturdy boat could house a maximum of 30 people and has six bedrooms, with two lounges, and a functional kitchen. The cabins are covered with shed tops made out of bamboo. The lounge areas are speckled with floor cushions, comfortable chairs, ‘moras’ or local cane stools; for entertainment, a carom board and a chess board suffice, the day bed fluffed up with plush pillows, and the dining station and the tea station have lavish spreads to munch on throughout the day.
You can take a dip in the Padma if you are brave enough, walk on the sandy chars, or just let go and lose yourself on the peaceful waters; the boat cruises along the estuary of Padma and Jamuna, and you can see a distinct line separating the different hued aqua blue and green water streams of the two mighty rivers of Bangladesh.
Contic takes special care of their guests by welcoming them with lemonades, both sweet and salty, breakfast of piping hot pan cakes, toasted bread with local honey, and sunny side up eggs.
Lunch offers a special delicacy call gozzal, which is an eggplant and omelette dish in coconut sauce, sweet and sour fresh barramundi fish, along with some delicious assortment of beef and chicken dishes, coupled with polao. And the lavish lunch is topped off with a Contic special orange spongecake and cups of tea.
You can take a full day, half day, or overnight stay trips. On this soul-searching cruise, you may find yourself watching the splendours of a red sunset or sunrise over the rivers, or spend a night chatting under the full moon, an experience I am certain you will treasure for life.
Do read our Friendship Colours of the Chars cover, where the NGO Friendship works with the women living in the remote char areas of Bangladesh, giving them a livelihood through vocational training on dyeing, weaving, tailoring and crafts making. As a result of which they have a beautiful line of saris and scarves that are bound to take your breath away. Flip to our centrefold for the related article and check out our Page 6 and 7 for some awesome coats and shawls.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Wardrobe and Jewellery: Studio Mayasir by Maheen Khan
Makeup: Noyon Ahamed