I could write this article just because of you. U changed my perception about Bangladesh.
We miss you dear Sidrat Amin.
This was my first visit to a country, where I don`t have anyone known to me: Bangladesh a country widely known for its, notorious and unfriendly people and chaos all around. But my four day visit in this country, changed this perception completely. Even though, there was not a single sign board in English (everything was written in Bangla), the helpful and kind people helped me to travel till the extreme south of Bangladesh and visit an island beyond that, and reach back safely. Everyone I met was really helpful and were very friendly.
My trip to Chittaging and Cox`s Bazar
When you visit Bangladesh plan your route along Chittagong and then to Cox`s Bazar: to the extreme south of Bangladesh and then a ship journey to St Martin Island, 30 kilometers off the main land…its an ideal trip in Bangladesh. It covers comprehensively everything in Bangladesh.. beautiful beaches, backwaters, mangrove forests, lifestyle, agriculture, culture, fishing, hills, waterfalls and of course chaos and little confusion (only little)….. Make sure you do a train trip between Dhaka and Chittagong: narrow gauge across the traditional and beautiful villages of the the country.
SIGNS OF FRIENDSHIP : As a sign of friendship between the nations, India and Bangladesh, a flag hoisting ceremony is done every day at the border. The ceremony starts with flag hosting, a parade with a couple of hard stampedes on the road and a handful of shake-hands between the a few representatives from army of both countries in a very ferocious facial expression…followed by smiles and handshakes between the civilian visitors of both the countries. The evening ceremony usually starts at 5 PM or 5:30 PM, depending on the local weather.
WELCOME TO INDIA : Akhoura, check post at the border between Indian and Bangladesh, two kilometer away from Agartala town: the capital of the Indian state of Tripura. A good fencing and an array of search lights installed at the border separates the countries which lived together and thought together a few decades ago. Civilians are allowed to cross the border only with a valid visa.
I stayed at Agartala with a friend of mine named Blessen who was working at Federal Bank: from whom, I got the idea of visiting Bangladesh: Its only 2 kilometers away. Agartala is a miniature version of Bangladesh town, from where you can exchange currency at the market. Indians can easily get a Bangladesh visa (if you have a valid Indian passport) in 10 minutes through agents for 500 Rs: a 30 day single entry visa…. which can be used to walk into Bangladesh from Akhoura check post. You can also enter from Kolkotta side in India to Bangladesh and there is a train from Kolkotta to Dhaka. Buses to Dhaka are available from Agartala, but not to Chittagong.
I reached Agartala by train from Guwahatti (the hub of North East India in Assam). This is one of he most beautiful train routes in India: narrow gauge slow train across hills and valleys through tunnels and bridges. Even lonely planet recommends this train trip: though there are only one or two trains daily connecting these places. Agarthala is not very interesting city: unless you take a visit to the tribal hamlets in the hills around Agartala: there has been conflicts frequently between the aboriginals and the migrants from Bangladesh in Tripura : its advisable to check the local situations before heading to Agartala. There is air service between Agartala to Guwahatty and to major cities of India.
AKHOURA RAILWAY STATION : The first railway station in Bangladesh, seven kilometers from Agartala along a straight road through paddy fields on flat land from the Indian Border. Most of the trains between Chittagong and Dhaka passes this station. Most of the trains looked much like what the Britishers left behind except for a new fleet of trains with a mordern aerobic design.
BACK TO BRITISH ERA : Trust me, I could feel that charm and rhythm like visiting a railway station in the early 20th century… similar to the ones shown in the old English films about India. That was one of the most memorable experiences.. I really loved it.. it felt like nirvana, a different world, a different era.
ROAD TO AKHOURA FROM CHECK POST : There were very few people on the road. Most of the people who uses this road are the people people of Bangladesh who come to India to work in Bangladesh! confused?
Most of Bangladesh is a flat land, but south: Cox`s Bazar is completely different from other parts of the country. There are clean beaches, extremely comfortable places to stay and very much tourist friendly. This place is slowly growing up as an international tourist destination for its beautiful long beaches: considered to be the longest beach in the world.
TRAIN TO CHITTAGONG : Bangladesh is one of the most poor countries in the world with highest population density: obviously with limited infrastructure, a lot of people will have to travel like this on top of train to reach their destination. The other side: sitting over train is more fun than sitting inside.
Tea and food supplied inside train was much better and tastier than the food supplied by Indian Railways.. coffee was supplied in cup and saucers… nothing has changed from the British era.
Backyards of Chittagong, said to be the cleanest city on Bangladesh. This city is not very different from the congested cities of Mumbai and Kolkata. The people in Bangladesh are hardworking and ready to do any low end work to survive.
POPULATION DENSITY : Some of the lucky ones get a chance to travel by sitting in front of the engine. If we do this in India, our destination would be just behind bars.
A good part of the passengers sit on top of the train. As the trains run at about 40km/hour, this is not a dangerous attempt. The engines are mostly diesel engines and no electric cables pass above the tracks.
EVENING AT CHITTAGONG CITY: Evening traffic jam at Chittagong City:Bangladesh Cities are notorious for traffic jams: two wheelers and rickshaws run between big trucks and buses like colony of ants .running between herds of elephants. Accidents are very common, killing many people everyday and most of the big vehicles has roobars installed to make the situation worse.
Its good to do a train journey in Bangladesh, as its comfortable, convenient, cheaper and safer. There are trains frequently running between Chittagong and Dhaka and to Indian border at Kolkata side. Even at the last moment black tickets will be available in the shops inside railway station: though they charge double or triple of the actual charge. Make sure your don`t get catch hold by rickshaw wallas to get tickets: but they are extremely good when compared to the rickshaw wallas in Bangalore.
You will find many people sitting on train to travel: If you are ready to take up little adventure: believe me, that was one of the best experiences during my trip: a birds eye view of the flat lands and villages and rivers. I filled my pocket at an ATM inside the railway station: thank lord International Debit Worked.
BEAUTY OF CHITTAGONG AT NIGHT : Both sides of the roads are full of shops selling food, clothes,electronic equipments and music cassettes and CDs. Evening time is shopping time for the urban people of Bangladesh and these makeshift rode side shops fill their demand.
SHOPPING LANES AT CHITTAGONG : One of the buzy shopping lanes of Chittagong. Both men,woman and children visit these shops to get Chinese goods for cheap price. Most of the clothes and sandals are made in Bangladesh, mostly at the small scale industries around Dhaka:the capital of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one of the largest exporters of textile in the world.
Chittagong is full of people: people people everywhere and tons of shops selling goods for cheap: mostly made in Bangladesh or imported from China. Clothes and fabric made locally or at Dhaka was extremely cheap, which is mostly exported to US and Europe. Good food is expensive: though there are a lot of street food: I don`t recommend it, and always use bottled drinking water: most of the water in Bangladesh is polluted by the industries in Bangladesh and people of India (..rivers in Bangladesh originate or pass through India).
There are a lot of beautiful hills near Chittagong, which can be reached in one day. These hill are more beautiful than the hills at Cox`s Bazar.
SHARED TAXI : Farmers visiting their fields on shared taxi between Cox`s Bazar and Chittagong. Though Bangladesh is a poor country, inflation and bad governance has caused a lot of depreciation in money value. Most of the farmers cannot afford public transport.
EARLY MORNING AT COX`S BAZAR : Due to the presence of sea on all three sides of Coz Bazar, the place is always humid and mornings are beautiful with condensation of water vapour, giving these magnificent views.
DETERMINATION : People of Bangladesh are more deterministic than any other people. A physically disabled boy, who has only one leg, plays cricket with his friends in front of Chittagong Railway Station. Survival is not easy in Bangladesh, which makes people more deterministic.
Buses connect the cities of Bangladesh, which are not connected by rail. Buses come in very odd size and shape, air conditioned buses connect only major cities. The bus station of Chittagong is about a kilometer away and any rickshaw guy can take you there. There are buses to Cox`s Bazar even during midnight. If you are really running out of money and ready to take heavy rick, you can try shared vehicles connecting the cities: believe me, an auto rickshaw may carry 20 people…
Most of the big vehicles drive rash on the road and accidents are very common. Double check before crossing the road and while traveling on a small vehicle.
YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR : Many of the kids of Cox Bazar earn by selling shells and handicrafts to the tourists. They skip going to school, becoming an earning member of the family
TOURISTS HUB AT COX`S BAZAR BEACH : Cox`s Bazar has become the tourism hub of Bangladesh attracting both nationals and travelers from all around the world. Most of the visitors restrict their visit in an area about 2 kilometers long from Cox Bazar, even though the beach is more than 125 kilometers long. As Bangladesh is a Muslim Traditional country, drug scenes and sun bathing scenes are non existent unlike most popular beaches in the world.
LUXURY AND LIFE AT COX`S BAZAR: Many luxury resort and hotel chains have already started their projects all along the beach near CoxzBazar. This is the only place in Bangladesh, where you find a lot of posh hotels. The actual town of Cox`s Bazar, which is about two kilometers north is very traditional.
Photographer kids at the beach, who takes photographs of the tourists to earn living. .If you see these kids there, please tell them about this website.
THE LONGEST BEACH COX`S BAZAR BEACH: Overlooking the longest beach in the world which is about a 150 kilometers long, to the south of Cox Bazar in Bangladesh
Unlike other places in Bangladesh, Cox`s Bazar is extremely beautiful: its a must visit place in Bangladesh. Its worthy to travel all through the rest of the country to reach this place to see this 125 Kilometer long beach..the longest in the world.
Most of the people in Cox`s Bazar are fisherman..its one of the fishing districts of Bangladesh. Many youngsters do little tourism business, by selling tour packages, or working as tourist guides or photographers in town.
FISHERMAN AT COX`S BAZAR BEACH: The earliest settlers of Cox`s Bazar lived on fish, later they became one of the fishing communities of Bangladesh, supplying fresh fish to other parts of the country. Even today many of these fisherman, use traditional fishing methods. On the eastern side of this peninsula, fishing is done in semi-sophisticated fishing boats. As this backwater is hundred meters wide and bounded by Mynmar on the other side, there has been several cases Burmese security forces arresting Bangladeshi fisherman, in the name of crossing the boundary. The international boundary is marked along the center of the backwater channel, but most of the old fisherman living here are not even aware of boundaries and separations and they lived and worked together with the fisherman from Myanmar, a few decades ago.
South of Cox`s Bazar is mostly reserve forest, where construction and commercialization is not allowed to take place.. so the beach is still clean and beautiful.. This is the most beautiful and lovely beach I have visited.
This beach is 125 kilometers long and you can reach a place called Dakshinpara at the extreme south of the country, to reach the elliptical shaped beach.
THE BEAUTY OF COX`S BAZAR BEACH : Most of the visitors restrict their visit to beach around two kilometers near Cox. To enjoy Cox` Bazar to the fullest, you must continue south from the town along Cox`s Bazar Marine Drive along the never ending beautiful beaches. On one side of the road is clean pristine beach and hills on the other side…. and very few people. This is one of the most interesting points during my visit.
BANGLADESH ARMY HOSTEL : An army hostel near Himchrai, an affordable and comfortable space to stay near Himchari, 10 kilometers south of Cox`s Bazar. Himchari is a small National Park and many tourists visit to a small waterfall here. The hostel faces the beautiful beaches and a stay here is very relaxing.
BANGLADESH ARMY CANTEEN : A very good place to eat, near Hichari, the food was very good, though expensive than other places.
A postal employee buzy sorting letters inside a running mail train at 3 AM. He packs letters to each destination in small bags and hands it over to the postal person at the nearby railway station. Though internet and email has penetrated to most of the country,snail mails are considered to be dear and more attached to emotions than the electronic alternative.