My train was scheduled for 11.20am today.
I managed to cram absolutely all of my luggage into my backpack, so that I could leave the bike in a different coach if need be.
Mr Shiny Shoes cycled to the train station, feeling a little too shiny. I wished Dhaka’s tendency to cover everything with a grey layer of dust would apply to my shoes quicker than usual. But two kilometers of cycling (including getting lost on what is a pretty easy route) is not enough for that.
I paid 110 Taka (approx. 1.20 Euro) for the 8+ hour (again, a bit more than 200km) trip to Rajshahi.
While waiting for the train, I was of course the attraction, mostly for beggars and children. I try not to give money but buy food, if possible. But many times I just refuse to give anything. This is a very difficult topic, and fortunately, outside Dhaka and Chittagonga, begging is quite rare.
I had a crowd of people around me, when all of a sudden a guy, in his mid twenties, stepped forward. He held a speech to everyone around me, in Bengali, in a seemingly friendly tone. Of course, I didn’t understand a word, but it felt like he was speaking in defence of my privacy. The crowd slowly dispersed and he looked at me and smiled. I smiled back and asked what he had said, but he didn’t understand my (English) question.
He stuck around, without asking the usual, and let me know when my train finally arrived. One of the conductors quoted a 500 Taka fee for the bike, but my friend just showed me to the next coach and said “no money”, pointing at the bike. He then stayed around until departure (one hour later than scheduled) and we struck up a bit of a conversation with the help of two other guys who spoke more English.
This time, everyone was on my side, as far as money was concerned, and told me repeatedly not to pay anything to the conductors.
When they finally came to check tickets I politely but firmly refused their requests to pay the bideshi (foreigner) tax – from 500 down to “some money”. They came back and tried again a couple of times, but I just pointed at everyone else’s luggage and explained that there was no difference between those bags and my bike. And since there were no special provisions for bicycles anyway, there was no reason to treat a bike differently, fee-wise. Eventually they gave up and left me alone.
After it was clear that I wouldn’t pay, the conductors even became friendly. After nightfall they warned me to be careful, as fellow travelers might feel inclined to push me off the train to get a hold of my possessions. I found that slightly exaggerated…
Beyond that the trip was long but uneventful. I would recommend traveling by mail train, though, as you meet a whole bunch of different people than in the faster intercity trains. Bring a lot of time.
I arrived in Rajshahi at 11pm, 4 hours late.