Situated in the lap of Garo and Meghalaya mountains, and blessed with Someshwari and Kangsho River, Birishiri in Bangladesh is a fantastic place to visit. Read this amazing travel diary to Birishiri to get some inspiration for visiting Beautiful Bangladesh.
If you look at the map of Bangladesh carefully, you will realize that Dhaka, the capital, is located in the middle of the country. So, if you start from Dhaka in any direction and drive between 6 to 10 hours, you will reach the border! Just plan to start the journey early in the morning to avoid the notorious traffic. I decided to visit Birishiri, a beautiful village in the northern part of the country in an area named Durgapur. The place is in the Netrokona district, which shares the border with the Indian state of Meghalaya. Unlike my other write-ups, this one is not particularly a travel guide but kind of a diary and photo book of my trip to Birishiri.
Table of Contents
The Journey from Dhaka to Birishiri
Dhaka to Gazipur: 45 kilometers, 2.5 hours
We started our journey from Dhaka at 7:30 in the morning. It’s the end of January, and the temperature in Dhaka was hovering at 19 degrees Celcius. It’s a challenge to get out of Dhaka because of the traffic. It’s like a narrow funnel where the buses and trucks jumble in the street and would prohibit you from accelerating.
After crossing the Gazipur Chowrasta, the congestion became less, and we enjoyed the speed! As we didn’t eat anything in the morning, we were looking for a good restaurant for breakfast. We stopped at Hotel Niribili & Misty Ghar in Gazipur. It seemed to be a popular highway restaurant, as it was buzzing with people. I later understood the reason: they serve tasty food! I ate tandoori, paratha, duck curry, vegetables, sweets, and tea. It was difficult for me to move as I was full of food! They have a toilet on the premises, and it would be a good idea to use it as the journey ahead is not short.
Gazipur to Mymensingh: 80 kilometers, 2 hours
The next leg of the journey was fantastic through the highway. The road was in good condition, and the car ran faster than an airplane! The next major junction was Mymensing, a divisional town in Bangladesh. We didn’t enter the main city. Mymensing is famous for the largest agricultural university in Dhaka and a beautiful river named Bramhaputra. You will cross this river and continue the journey.
Mymensingh to Birishiri: 55 kilometers, 2 hours
After crossing the Bramhaputra River, our last leg of the journey started. The roads became narrower, but the landscape became pretty. Bangladesh is gifted with amazingly flat and fertile land. The greenery of the villages is pleasant for the eyes. At one point in the journey, the road went in two directions. One towards Netrokona, and another towards Durgapur. We took the road towards Durgapur. The road became narrower and bumpier.
Insaf Madrasa: Our Accommodation in Birishiri
A member of our tour group had a friend in a madrasa in Birishiri. They invited us to stay there. A madrasa is a residential educational institute for studying Islam. They were generous enough to empty a room for us. It was basic accommodation; they laid futons on the floor. I had a hostel-like feeling and loved it immediately. Just out of my room, there was a pond, which gave me a sense of tranquility.
This madrasa has an interesting history. A gentleman named Syed Jaglul Waseq came to Birishiri just like me six years ago. He fell in love with the place. Later, he thought about building a mosque here and a residential religious institute. He lives in Dhaka and has a full-time job, but he built this campus with devotion and passion. He visits this place at least once a month and dreams about making it big. Currently, about 200 children study here; many of them are orphans.
This madrasa campus has several buildings as classrooms. The classrooms are converted into accommodations at night. It also has a beautiful mosque, which is still under construction. Nevertheless, I loved the exterior and interior designs of it. The door of the mosque was exquisite, with carvings of the minaret, the Kaaba, and holy verses written in Arabic.
A Walk in the Evening
After having a late lunch, we didn’t have much light left for the day. So we went out to take a quick stroll around the area. The weather was about 3 degrees cooler than Dhaka. The winter is about to go away, but still, it was chilly. If you take a walk in a typical village in Bangladesh, you will be able to experience raw nature. The domestic cows will be gazing in the field. There will be a lot of trees; most of them are unplanned and in patches.
You will not find a place without a water reservoir. And you will find paddy fields in different shapes, mostly rectangular. From paddy to rice, it goes through different cycles. I saw most of them during my walk in the evening. I spent time taking in the fresh air and stayed outside as long as I was not freezing. It was already a long day. I came back to Insaf Madrasa to take some rest.
Study at Night
When I came back, it was already dark. I could hear loud voices of study from the young learners from different sections of the campus. I was curious about a typical day for the students. As this is a kind of institution that I am not very familiar with, I was surprised to know their routine. The day starts very early in the morning, during Fajr prayer. That’s around 5 to 6 in the morning, depending on the season. The class continues from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM. They study on their own in the evening again. You can’t have any exceptions to this; it’s a pretty strict routine they have to follow. There is no room for a weak guy like me.
Hospitality all around!
The hospitality we received there was simply mind-blowing! The students volunteered and took care of every need. When I wanted to do star trail photography in the middle of the night, one of them came with me; they simply didn’t want to leave their host alone at night.
They cooked for us inside and served the food. Those are some of the most sumptuous foods I ever ate! The foods tasted even better because of their freshness. During our two nights of stay, we ate barbecued beef and chicken, beef curry, duck curry, fish fries, vegetables, salads, lentils, and cow milk. I can still taste them in my bud, and I am ever grateful to them for the hospitality they extended to strangers.
Day Long Expedition in Birishiri
We started early in the morning to explore Birishiri. Most of the attractions are on the other side of the river. I loved the name of the river—it’s Someshwari. When I came near the river, I became sad instantly. The water of the river has waters and stones. When people realized it, they began to exploit it like crazy. You will see tons of devices sucking the water from the river and extracting the sand and stones from it.
When I walked further, I got confused about the place. While I was expecting a mighty river, I could only see endless sands. For a moment, I thought about reaching Dubai. Maybe it’s winter, so the rivers have dried up. I believe that then things will be different during the monsoon. I hope that the greed of humans has nothing to do with it.
Crossing the Someshwari River
Although the Someshwari River didn’t have much water, it had a strong current. There is no bridge to cross it. So we rented a boat to cross the river. It was an engine-driven boat and took us less than 10 minutes to arrive at the Kamarkhali boat terminal. The water in the river was pretty transparent. The one-way cost for crossing the river is BDT 20 per person.
Renting a three wheeler in Kamarkhali
The boat left us in a village named Kamarkhali. From there, we took a short walk and found a place where several battery-driven three-wheelers were waiting. They will take you to most of the famous places in Birishiri. It can accommodate six people, and the rent varies from 600 to 700 per day. Make sure to negotiate the price with the driver before commencing your journey to avoid any issues in the future.
Zero Point – the border between India and Bangladesh
Bangladesh and India share more than 4000 Kilometers of international land borders making it the fifth-longest international land border in the world. Unlike European countries, the borders between sub-continental countries mean tensions! In most places, the borders are guarded by border control police and it’s not uncommon for them to shoot people often suspected as intruders. In this process, they even kill innocent people. The location above marks the end of part of Bangladesh. The shades at the other parts belong to the Indian state of Meghalaya. Interestingly, people cannot go to the other side
The border guards of Bangladesh (BGB) have a regiment here, and you need to get permission from them to reach zero points. Usually, the police will accompany you to ensure safety. The journey to the zero points from the border post takes about 10 minutes, and it’s a scenic route. The road is surrounded by green Meghalaya mountains. Interestingly, people are not allowed to cross this border. What’s the point?
Taking a boat ride in Someshwari River
After getting back from the zero points, head towards the boat terminal adjacent to the office of the Border Guard of Bangladesh. You will find several small boats there. Earlier we took the boats to cross the river. Now is the time to relax and enjoy your time on the Someshwari River.
Short Hike to Orange Garden Hill
A short hike will take you to an orange garden hill. I don’t know why it is called such because I didn’t see any orange garden on top. However, when you climb up, one can expect to have a nice view. Sadly, I didn’t find the views interesting as the trees blocked the view. However, a hike is always fun, isn’t it?
Time for some shopping?
At the base of the hill, you will find some shops selling Indian products. They are particularly popular as the price is reasonable. I bought some chocolates and cookies from there. However, look out for the oranges and coconuts in the streets. Although their looks might be uninspiring, they are delicious! Don’t miss them.
The Beautiful Lake!
This is the most beautiful part of Birishiri, and whenever you see a photo of this area, you will see this. This lake changes its color in different seasons. When I went there, it was emerald blue. In a different season, it turns completely blue. If you are in bad luck, you might end up seeing a murky lake!
You can traverse the entire lake in less than 30 minutes. It will not be an easy one at times, as there are no paved roads and you need to climb up without any support. Do not forget to take a good pair of hiking shoes with you; otherwise, you will struggle. I won’t be surprised if you spend an entire day here enjoying the ever-changing color of the lake.
The Walk Continues
From the lake, I headed towards the ceramic mountains. On my way, I enjoyed the entrepreneurship of people. As a handful of tourists visit here, people earn by selling different things. The boy above was selling fresh cucumber. Not far from him, I found coconut water.
I found another lake on my way. It was calm and quiet with some gorgeous trees. You will find several small mountains adjacent to it. The tourists were having a fun time taking photos all around. I wanted to sit below the tree but I didn’t, my walk continued.
The Pink Mountain
Another short hike along the way took me to the famous pink mountain. There was a mix of yellow and pink. Due to the chemical formation of the soil, it looks like it.
You will find an even bigger lake than the previous one, surrounded by these ceramic pink mountains. However, the color of the water does not have any magic here; it is simply like the color of a typical lake. It does not make it less beautiful, as the vibrant color of the mountains overcompensates it. After spending some good time there, we headed back towards our den.
A Typical School in Bangladesh
On our way back, I came across a government-run primary school. Interestingly, the school has been here since 1918, although they got a new building in 2006. Here, we consider level 5 (starting from 1) as primary education. In government institutions, primary education is absolutely free. Sadly, the school was closed, an effect of COVID-19 that we are still carrying.
Smile, please. Happiness in the Air
Birishiri is remote. You will not find strong cellular signals everywhere. Needless to say, the internet connectivity is patchy. People mostly live on rice and domestic animals. If you hear these, you might think them unfortunate, as you have good internet connectivity and endless sources of entertainment in the form of Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, and so on.
However, if you like to measure happiness just like I do, we all are wrong. I could sense happiness in the air in one of the remotest villages in Bangladesh. Their life is simple, they are not chasing happiness, it’s everywhere they go. Whenever I met someone, he greeted me with a smile. I envy them!
A Muslim is supposed to pray five times a day throughout the year as instructed by their holy scripture. Each of the prayers has its name according to the timing – Fajr (just before dawn), Duhr (after midday), Asr (evening), Magrib (after the sun sets), Isha (at night before taking dinner). A not so good Muslim like me prays occasionally, however, the students at the Madrasa offers their prayers 5 times a day. It takes a lot of dedication and devotion to maintain such a strict routine – comes what may. I can’t imagine getting up on a chilly morning during winter when everything is dark outside!
A Hike to a Hill through Village
During the evening, we went out for a stroll. The objective was to climb the hill and have a walk in the village. I always love to take a walk through the villages of Bangladesh, I enjoy every little thing I see.
The light was fading away. The shepherds were taking the cows home. They were gazing throughout the days and now they will get a shade to take a rest. If you look carefully, it’s a narrow path of mud and hills on one side of it!
I got fascinated to see my location on the map. I was literally residing at the edge of the border between India and Bangladesh. Interestingly, it was unmarked and unguarded. My aim was to climb the little mountain at the front.
The signs of crop fields were visible everywhere. I found a shade made of bamboos and straw on my way. It gives relief to the farmers during scorching heat.
15 minutes of the relatively easy hike took me to the top of a hill. I didn’t know the name of it, maybe it is one of those in the Garo range. The sun is already set and it was pretty dark. Still, I could enjoy the mountain range in the far – those belong to India.
I took a circular route during the descent. It left me on the other side of the village. Although it got dark, I saw kids playing in the field. A bunch of them were lighting a fire to get some warmth in the winter. You can see a no-frills bi-cycle above; these are super cheap and of great utility to traverse the rugged terrain of the village. I was feeling a bit sad as I knew that my time in Birishiri had ended and I had to get back to Dhaka tomorrow. I tried to enjoy the last few minutes of it before it got completely dark.
On our way back to Dhaka from Birishiri
We took the same route from Birishiri to Dhaka through Mymensingh and started earlier, around 7:00 AM. In the roundabout of Mymensingh, we stopped to take our breakfast. It was an ordinary restaurant from the outside. However, in the kitchen, I found a man preparing jilapi, a traditional sweetmeat in Bangladesh. This made my breakfast delicious; God knows how many parathas I ate!
Before leaving Birishiri, Motiur, a wonderful soft-spoken lad came to say goodbye. He asked me in a low voice:
“Do you pray five times a day?”
I nodded my head from left to right.
He suggested to me with a gentle smile, “Please try!”
While I am struggling to make any marks in this life and the afterlife, fantastic people like Motiur are surely preparing for what matters most to him. My trip to Birishiri was not only a rewarding one for enjoying nature but also a mind-boggling experience of interacting with real humans. The trip to Birishiri was one of the most unforgettable trips of my life.
Where else can I go in Bangladesh?
- The longest uninterrupted sea beach in Cox’s Bazar.
- An amazingly beautiful island, Saint Martin’s.
- Play with clouds in Sajek Valley.
- Explore the buzzing capital of Dhaka.