Timeout: Sylhet City (Photography locations of Jaflong, Sarighat, Lalakhal, Sylhet, Bangladesh)

The lure of blue skies and clean air and beautiful scenes took us to Sylhet in the first place
The lure of blue skies and clean air and beautiful scenes took us to Sylhet in the first place | Source

Sometimes it gets so that you reach saturation point with the hustle-and-bustle of daily life. The same grinding of the axe, or so to speak. I guess a large part of all our lives are comprised of such axe-grinding. Be it the corporate office lifestyle, or be it the running after the next big thing that will take you from rags-to-riches, or be it the sweatshop-slave like-exploitation type work of long hours which erodes away at your very sanity. And on top of such grinding, having to face the everyday traffic demons, the oppressive heat and the intermittent electricity blackouts. It gets so that after a couple of work days, we start desperately gasping for some oxygen. But alas, I am told that Dhaka City has one of the most impure air in the entire world (Dhaka has just recently beaten Mumbai & Mexico City in the top air polluted cities, yay!). So its small wonder that sometimes it gets so that by the time you have managed to live through Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the calendar does really say WTF (Wednesday-Thursday-Friday :p). So, in the face of such dastardly conditions, and pleas of a friend of mine (Adib) saturated with just about everything Dhaka city has to offer, we decided to embark on a journey of epic proportions (drums rolling……) haha.

Enter the idea of going to Sylhet (for lack of a better idea :p). Very quickly we made our plans and executed them, least we backed out of it. I quickly bought bus tickets (One-way - A/C: Tk. 700 per person, Non-A/C: Tk. 380 per person) from Panthopoth Bus Stand (Shohag, Shamoli, Greenline). Adib made reservations over phone for a hotel, Hotel Holy Side (yes, you heard it right, it called THAT :p. ) in Sylhet city, near the Shahjalal Mazar Area. The Hotel room was surprisingly nice actually and the pricing was okay-ish (Tk. 1650 plus VAT per night for a twin A/C bedroom with TV, mini-bar, and bathtub washroom-toilet). It may be possible to get a bit of discount with some bargaining with the Hotel people but can’t guarantee that. We quickly packed up our bags for 2 days weekend stay (2 days and one night to be exact) at Sylhet with the intention of returning to Dhaka on Sunday Morning after travelling through the night. On our minds were some sight-seeing, some fresh air, some greenery for our souls and lots of photography and good food! And I can say first off that we were not disappointed!

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Enter the idea of going to Sylhet (for lack of a better idea :p). Very quickly we made our plans and executed them, least we backed out of it. I quickly bought bus tickets (One-way - A/C: Tk. 700 per person, Non-A/C: Tk. 380 per person) from Panthopoth Bus Stand (Shohag, Shamoli, Greenline). Adib made reservations over phone for a hotel, Hotel Holy Side (yes, you heard it right, it called THAT :p. ) in Sylhet city, near the Shahjalal Mazar Area. The Hotel room was surprisingly nice actually and the pricing was okay-ish (Tk. 1650 plus VAT per night for a twin A/C bedroom with TV, mini-bar, and bathtub washroom-toilet). It may be possible to get a bit of discount with some bargaining with the Hotel people but can’t guarantee that. We quickly packed up our bags for 2 days weekend stay (2 days and one night to be exact) at Sylhet with the intention of returning to Dhaka on Sunday Morning after travelling through the night. On our minds were some sight-seeing, some fresh air, some greenery for our souls and lots of photography and good food! And I can say first off that we were not disappointed!

Travelling by night is usually a breeze and this journey was no different. We started off from Panthopath at around 12:15 AM and reached Sylhet Shahjalal Mazar area at around 5:40 AM. We dozed off pretty early on during the journey and there were no hiccups during the journey. Finding our Hotel was pretty easy as well and as already stated before, we were pretty happy with the hotel facilities. We did doze off after checking-in and finally started out on our Sylhet exploration at around 11:30 AM in the morning.

Before starting off for Sylhet, I did a little bit of online research to find out what kind of areas we could explore which would be good for photography. I also talked with some of my colleagues and acquaintances who had already been to Sylhet and could give some good pointers to me. It is always a good idea to do a bit of pre-trip research before travelling, especially if you want to get into some photography action. I found some pictures of Sari-river/Sari-Ghat that I liked. I was also told that Lala-khal/Lala-Ghat was also quite close to Sari-Ghat and may also be a point of interest. In addition to these two locations, Jaflong was definitely a place to be visited. Interestingly, all these three locations were along the same route, starting with Sari-Ghat, and then a short detour along the route led to Lala-Ghat and then further on, one would reach Jaflong. Along the way, another location of interest could be Tamabil, a place where coal mining/extraction is carried out.

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A bridge on the road between Sarighat and Lalaghat
A bridge on the road between Sarighat and Lalaghat
Lalakhal - Lalaghat - the water of this stream is even more turquoise than that of Sari river and is rumored to be even more clearer and transparent during the winter season.
Lalakhal - Lalaghat - the water of this stream is even more turquoise than that of Sari river and is rumored to be even more clearer and transparent during the winter season.

After coming out of our hotel at around 11:30 AM, we asked around a bit and found of out that there were three ways for travelling to Sari-Ghat, either by CNGs (tok-toks) or local bus or by tampoos (large tok-toks which can carry 12 people). Sari-Ghat is about 1-1.5 hours away from Sylhet city. Travelling by CNG directly from Sylhet city to Sarighat may cost around Tk. 300-500. On the other hand, if you want to travel by bus or tampoo, then you would first need to go to Sobhani Ghat by rickshaw (will cost around 15-20 taka). Once at Sobhani Ghat, you will find the local buses which travel from Sylhet city to Jaflong via Sari Ghat and Lala-Ghat (you will need an additional CNG/electronic three wheeler ride costing 20-30 taka to Lala-Ghat from the main road. The local bus/tampoo rides to Sari Ghat costs around 30-40 taka and takes about one hour to reach.

We travelled by tampoo to Sari Ghat but be forewarned that the ride is a bit uncomfortable due to the long duration required to sit on the uncomfortable bench-like seats. We disembarked at the local market/haat adjacent to Sarighat and made our way down to the river-side. There we saw about 7-10 passenger boats docked at the river-side. These boats are fuel engine powered and can carry around 20-25 passengers and are primarily used by tourists to visit take short river cruises from Sarighat to Lala-Ghat. We approached the boatmen and were told that we would have to reserve an entire boat if we wanted to go from there to Lala-Ghat and that it would cost us two thousand taka. We were quite taken back by the rent price but after a bit of haggling, the price came down to twelve hundred taka. But even then, the cost seemed quite high to us as it would have to be split between the two of us. While contemplating what to do, we were approached by a boatman who was about to leave for Lala-Ghat with some sacks of goods in a small boat and he told us that he would take us to Lala-Ghat for four hundred taka. After a bit of bargaining he agreed to three hundred taka. However, ultimately we were unable to take the trip on his boat as the other boatmen with their tourist boats would not allow him to transport us on his boat. Becoming rather enraged and disgusted with the situation, and after hearing that we could actually get to Lala-Ghat by road, we got back on the road and took a rickshaw (Tk. 15) to a three wheeler station a little way away from Sari-Ghat, from where we could reach Lala-Ghat on a shared (as in shared with other passengers going to Lala-Ghat) electronic three wheeler. It took us a good 30 minutes for us to reach Lala-Ghat and the road was quite bumpy at times.

Once at Lala-Ghat, we were quite disappointed with what we saw. Basically, there wasn’t much difference between Sari-Ghat and Lala-Ghat other than the fact that the water was turquoise rather than greenish in color (as seen at Sari-Ghat). The watercolor was rather unique actually and we were told that in winter season, the water would be much clearer and transparent. Apparently, as it had rained throughout the night as well as in the morning, the water was much cloudier and less turquoise in color. Having nothing much to do, we decided to rent a boat and go to the “Zero-Point” from Lala-Ghat. The Zero-Point is basically an area extremely near to the Bangladesh-Indian border. It cost us about three hundred bucks to take the return trip on the boat but actually it shouldn’t have cost us more than one hundred taka. We were fooled in to paying that much as the boatmen were asking for seven hundred taka! The return journey lasted about twenty minutes approximately. There wasn’t anything to see at the Zero-Point, it was pretty much empty and devoid of any people or structures. I guess it would have been worth our while if we had visited during winter, because we would have been able to enjoy the clear and transparent waters then. By the time we returned to Lala-Ghat, it was getting quite dark. We were told that travelling from Lala-Ghat to Sari-Ghat would cost us about five hundred taka, if we were interested. We were not. We decided to take the road again but found that no three wheelers were available back to the main road from there! We had to wait there for around half an hour before we were lucky enough to hitch a ride on a privately reserved tampoo carrying a group of rowdy youngsters.

It was a narrow shave for us, because we were pretty close to being stranded there after dark and that would have been an uncomfortable place to have been in. Anyhow, we didn’t do much else that day, just ate and got back to the hotel and shutdown.

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The next day we got up reasonably early and were out of the hotel after breakfast at around 10:30 AM (ahem!). Once again we headed over to Sobhani Ghat and then got on a bus destined for Jaflong. The bus ride cost us 60 bucks each and the journey lasted for over one hour thirty minutes (A trip by CNG would have cost us at least 500 hundred bucks). Once at Jaflong market place, we disembarked. The journey there was quite pleasant, especially the cool weather and the awesome country side views, comprising of towering hills in the near distant (we were told that the hills were situated inside India). We also saw a lot of machineries breaking stones into smaller pieces and large piles of coal being transferred to waiting trucks (we later realized that we were crossing through Tamabil at that point). From the market place we took an electronic three wheeler to the actual part of the Jaflong River where labors are engaged throughout the day carrying stones and sand from boats to waiting trucks. We did not go to the tourist spot/picnic spot of Jaflong River, where tourist usually head over.

The Jaflong River was quite shallow due to the closeness to the winter season and lack of rain. A lot of small boats were parked on the shorelines and a lot of day laborers were engaged in carrying sand and stones from the boats to waiting trucks. We talked with a few of the workers and found out that they are engaged in such activities throughout the week without any stoppage and usually work from dawn till dusk and earn about 200 taka per day. The work carried out by these labors is back-breaking hard work and the effect of such hard work could be seen on the physique of a lot of the workers. We spent quite a lot of time there taking pictures of their activities and most of them were quite amused to see us scampering around taking photographs. The stones bought by the boats are dug up from further up the river, from the river bed using machinery and then transferred on to the waiting boats. The boats then make their way down the river and then the sand and stones are transferred by the labors on to the waiting trucks.

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Thereafter, we got on a passenger ferry boat and crossed the shallow river ( 5 bucks per person). On the other side of the river we asked around and were informed by the locals that things that we may check out included seeing a tea estate, Shupari bagan (Betel nut garden), Paan bagan (Betel leaf garden), and Orange garden. All of these gardens were maintained by the local indegineous people, called Kashi. Source of transport to visit these areas included electronic three wheelers (quite expensive! Not less than 500 taka) and rickshaws. We managed to bargain with a rickshaw puller for the whole sight-seeing trip for 220 taka. Point to be noted is that during our journey by rickshaw, we had to walk quite a bit of the way actually, due to the extremely poor condition of the mud roads. However, the trip by rickshaw was quite amazing actually and pretty much worth it. The weather was amazing and cool and the air was crisp and fresh and the scenery of green tea trees all around was great. The rickshaw wound its way through the earth roads and at one point we were besides the river area from where we could see machineries extracting sand and stones from the middle of the river. There was a lot of activity that was going on in the middle of the river and extracted sand had formed an artificial sort of island there.

So far on our epic rickshaw ride through the mud roads, we had mostly been going through the tea gardens and then on a road besides the river. However, our rickshaw puller suddenly headed towards what looked like a dense forest, with really tall trees. At this point we stated to feel a little apprehensive, what with our photography gear with us and the isolated look of the whole area. However, we gritted our teeth and held on and let our sense of adventure prevail over all odds! And that led to one of the most amazing experiences of our trip!

Once we were very near the forest, we could just make out a dirt road leading into the darkness of the forest. By this time, our heart beating rate had definitely gone up a notch or two. No matter! We entered into the belly of the beast or so to speak…… and were quite surprised to find ourselves in a a narrow passage of green! A narrow road lead through the “forest”, or rather, Shupari bagan and Paan bagan, as we gradually came to realize. After traversing through this passage of green for about 10-15 minutes, we finally approached a clearing. And what a “clearing” it was. What we saw in front of us was like seeing a foreign land with foreign buildings and foreign people. It was the village of the Kashia indigenous people. The architecture and design of the houses were very different and the whole population of the village were Kashia. The small narrow streets of the village were quite good and well maintained. To me it felt like we were visiting some quaint little European village. It was quite an experience, especially since we did not have any idea that the Kashia village was at the end of the passage of green! Finally, our epic rickshaw ride ended on the banks of the Jaflong River once again, but on the opposite bank of the Jaflong picnic/tourist spot. We crossed over using one of the local ferries and after a bit of respite, headed back to Sylhet.

Overall, it was a pretty good exploration/photography trip and we were very happy with the overall experience. Cost-wise, we sent around eight thousand taka in total (combined). Sylhet city is quite a well developed city and standard accommodation can be found quite easily. Also, there are plenty of eateries for all kinds of budgets and tastes. Transportation IS a bit of a challenge. But if you are willing to rough it, and have the sense of adventure, then there should be no problems in visiting and exploring the nooks and crannies of Sylhet!

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Comments 5 comments

richardmohacsi profile image

richardmohacsi 5 years ago from Florence

Some great photos here. I'll be looking out for more of your hubs.

Voting this hub up and following you.

Good job.


Sanjida Alam profile image

Sanjida Alam 4 years ago from Bangladesh

Voted up :-)



emon 4 years ago

excellent photography. I appreciate it.


riea 20 months ago

thanks....onk information pelam...

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