We walked to the street that follows the Buringanga river, and looked for a good spot to catch a boat from. Apparently riding on the river is the best thing to do in town, so we were looking forward to it.
We make it onto the wrong dock, but we can see the small boats from the bridge. A boatman waves us down, and meets us at our dock. We have the climb down the platform to get into the low, wooden boat, and we’re on our way.
Our boat navigates through huge ships and steamers called “Rockets” to get us onto the middle of the river. The water looks dark, like Chinese ink. There is not a breeze, which feels unusual. The water smells like what comes out of the tap – strong, sour, sewage like.
We see boats of all sizes, but many boats transporting people around from one part of the river to another.
We see daily life along the river: people bathing, doing laundry. Kids playing. We see different industries, like wood transport, bamboo rafts, recycling.
They really know how to load up boats as much as possible! It’s probably quite unsafe, but it’s fascinating to look at.
The sun is setting over the river. This is really, really nice.
At some point during the ride Travis points out that his cheeks hurt from smiling so much, and it’s so true. We’ve been smiling at everyone all day, and these muscles haven’t worked this hard in a very long time. This place is filled with so many happy, joyful, nice people: it’s incredible. You can’t help but feel the love.
In the end, we paid just under $3 for our hour-long boat ride, which is twice as much as the guidebooks said. It was well worth it: I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
With the sun having set, and a long way back to our hotel, we decide to take a rickshaw instead. A friendly cop helped us get a rickshaw, and said that it should cost 40 taka (about $0.60) at most. In the end, we paid him 100 taka, because he worked so hard and it was a really long ride through thick traffic. He was a lovely man, laughing with us all the time, and we liked him.
He never said his price, as is often the case here. People don’t like to say how much they want for transport, instead they look at you and do a head wobble that seems to imply “what do you think?”. When Travis gave him the money, he smiled and touched his heart with his hand. See, they don’t usually say thank you here, but when they are happy, they touch their heart in gratitude. I think it’s a beautiful gesture. Travis, having not noticed this before, was confused because the rickshaw driver wasn’t really saying if the amount was OK. Travis turned to a stranger who was standing by us, looking for help. The stranger said: “he’s happy” – and then Travis understood and was happy too.
I put my camera shyness away today and wore my camera around my neck, but underneath my shawl. I figured that it was a good compromise. As it turns out though, my fears were unfounded. Every time I took it out, someone wanted their picture taken. And unlike elsewhere we’ve been, these people, waiving at me or even shouting at me from far away to get a photo only really wanted a photo. On the street or on the river: they were thrilled to have their photo taken, and not one asked for money. People even thanked me after I took their photo! The lady at the water pump busted out laughing after seeing herself on the screen.
This is the best place on earth for people pictures I’ve decided, and the best place to get over the fear of photographing people.