Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Treading water with a Tiger

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam

Photo: Shahrear Kabir Heemel
It’s a beautiful midday Saturday morning in Dhaka. The sun is on your face, but peeking out from behind the low-slung clouds its intensity is calming instead of unbearable. It is perfectly complemented by a cool southern breeze. And silence, of course; blessed silence. A siren that seems to emanate from the heavens breaks the spell. The navigator smiles sheepishly at the startled look in his direction. He points outwards. Even riverways have traffic.
We are standing on the deck of the considerable MV Tanguar Haor, sailing the calm, grey, no-colour waters of the Shitalakshya. A day-cruise organised by the lovely people over at Tiger Tours sounded like the perfect recipe following a neurotic and hectic week. So far it has proved to be exactly that.
The organisation has been impeccable. Pickup at 10 am on a Saturday morning was just perfect -- not too early, nor too late. A short (by Dhaka standards) bus ride on pleasant air-conditioned coasters to Demra and then just like that the painfully stifling city opened up to remarkable views of the Shitalakshya.

Photo: Shahrear Kabir Heemel
We board the regally named boat via a nifty looking contrapment that we later figure out is called a gangplank. Cue sniggers. On the boat, the welcome drinks are sweet and the coffee perfect. There is a live band, ready to entertain and once the Tiger Tours people take the microphone to announce the schedule for the day, we are good to go.
The lounge is the heart of the boat and rightfully so. It is large and inviting at the same time, a place to congregate for more than just lunch or dinner. “The boat was made locally,” says Sumala Chowdhury, director of Tiger Tours. It is a fact that surprises many that do not know how advanced the ship building industry in Bangladesh actually is. “The company that made it delivered it last January but we had to make a number of alterations before we could open for business so it took until June to get started,” she said.
Photo: Shahrear Kabir Heemel
“Our motto is 'Bangladesh unlocked',” continues Sumala. “And on that end, MV Tangaur Haor was designed with a purpose. It has been created specifically so that we can access these untouched areas where infrastructure is not great.” Even the name itself is borrowed from the hard to access haor of the same name located in the country's Sunamganj.

Photo: Shahrear Kabir Heemel
Back on the cruise, the low clouds finally bring forth the rain that they had been threatening. It’s beautiful watching the rain disturb the surface of the water as on the banks young children come to savour it and wave our way. The rain also has the added benefit of driving away the retirees who had taken full control of the inviting sunloungers without any sign of moving. So I try it out. Turns out sunloungers in the rain is not a bad idea at all.
Its soon time for lunch, a delicacy of chicken, fried rice and fresh fish topped off by some quite ridiculously good waffles and honey. It's a feast prepared by the continental chef who makes an appearance at the end to lap up the applause.
Big lunches automatically lead to low energy afternoons, and in this case it was no different. But what better way to spend a holiday afternoon lounging on a river cruise while the live band plays your favourite tunes.
All too soon it is time to go and the giant arc to turn back is greeted with a resigned sigh from all 60 people on board. The journey back home is smooth and Tiger Tours are impeccable hosts.
The company offers six-hour day-time cruises and overnights as well, all within the stately boat that can double up as a hotel in case of a night stay. Certainly all facilities are forthcoming. Yes, hot water included.
If you want to sail up the Padma, the company offers attractive packages in trips towards Faridpur and Shariatpur. But it is the travel downwater that holds the most appeal with the boat capable of travelling all the way down to such luminous attractions as Kuakata and the Sundarbans. Prices of packages vary based on the number of people available, but there is room for 25 people on board for overnights in 11 rooms. Promotional rates currently apply, so waste no time. If you are looking for an escape from the neurotic pace of the city, the MV Tanguar Haor is a fine release.
If you want to know more about Tiger Tours, find them on facebook or go the old route and click on their website (www.tigertoursbd.com). And if you have time, then don't fail to check out their very nifty blog – bangladeshunlocked. blogspot.com
Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Link: http://www.thedailystar.net/treading-water-with-a-tiger-39505


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