In the southern part of Bangladesh, at the meeting point of the three districts – Barishal, Jhalakathi and Pirojpur – is situated the largest guava orchard of Asia.
Not only for the orchard, but the place has also become quite popular among travellers because of the floating guava market which is the largest of its kind in Bangladesh.
Our journey today is to the floating green market filled with the fragrance of fresh guava.
There are a number of ways to get to the Bhimruli floating guava market from Dhaka.
The easiest and most comfortable way is to take a launch from Dhaka to Barishal, and from Barishal you can reach Bhimruli by auto-rickshaw or other local transports.
So, one chaotic evening, we boarded a passenger launch from Sadarghat and reached Barishal in the early hours of the following day.
After having breakfast in a local restaurant we took an auto-bike to Swarupkathi.
It is important to reach the market in the morning because usually no new seller comes after 11am.
The best month to visit this fantastic floating market is August, although the guava market, usually, lasts for three months – July, August, and September.
From Swarupkathi, we rented an engine boat for half a day. You can also take the boat just for a couple of hours if you want to.
Since we had a plan to visit the backwater and then the lovely lush green villages around, we rented the boat for a longer time. You can always bargain over the rent with the boatman.
Just after reaching Swarupkathi, we saw people coming on small boats carrying different kinds of goods.
A boat full of green plants looked like a beautiful, floating nursery. We even saw little children riding boats alone and carrying stuff.
Bangladesh is crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers but no other division has as much connectivity by waterways as Barishal.
It looks like a small piece of Venice in Bangladesh but much greener than the real Italian city. And soon, we all started to feel connected with the calm water world.
Beside colourful vegetables on the boat, there were also some flowers; especially the water-lilies, which is a popular dish in this part of Bangladesh.
But from the name of the market you can guess that guava outnumbers other produce sold at the market. Every nine boats out of 10 were carrying fresh, ripe yellow and green guava.
We tried to talk with as many boatmen as possible to know if they were happy with the market value and with receiving so many tourists for the last few years.
Of course, more tourists mean more business for the locals, but at the same time uncontrolled tourism creates nuisance. Many locals complained about loud music from tourist boats.
Some of the boats were just like a piece of art; it was simply amazing the way the sellers arranged various kinds of vegetables on them, by size, shape, and even colour.
You can easily get immersed in the beauty of a place for a few hours because each boat will bring you a new excitement and you will get something to look at or take photographs of.
After a small tea-break, we got on a high bridge and took some fantastic photos of the floating market, the canal and all the boats coming and leaving. Then we visited some guava orchards and backwater villages.
The guava orchards here are very different from other orchards. As I grew up in Northern Bangladesh, I am not new to orchards but here, there is water everywhere!
These creative farmers invented their own way to plant guava trees on each side of the narrow canals, so it is easy for irrigation and taking care of the trees using boats. We saw both male and female workers were picking guava using boats.
The price of the fruit was much lower compared to Dhaka, so our friends bought many kilos without any bargaining.
After a refreshing boat trip to the neighbouring backwater villages, we went to Kuriana Bazaar for lunch and the famous local sweets.
From there, we had to leave for the lunch station so we did not have much time to explore Barishal city. But any enthusiastic traveller can stay overnight in Barishal if they want to explore the city the next day.
The other route to visit this floating market is to take a launch to Swarupkathi from Dhaka, which can be a bit challenging and not quite comfortable. It is always a good idea to go in a small group.
And of course, travellers should act responsibly to keep this green heaven as it is.