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Love Hate
Cox's Bazar

Honestly, Cox's Bazar is more popular than Google in Bangladesh!

Known for its wide tanned sandy beach which stretches a mammoth unbroken 125 km in length and much wider than any famous Thai beaches. Known for its immense potential to be an international tourist hotspot, which is yet to be realised. Known because it's the most famous travel destination for Bangladeshis. Known, because all buses travel to Cox's Bazaar and no train reaches it. Known because it might well be the well-known bad example of ” how to develop a tourist place.”

Cox's Bazar is also known by the name "Panowa” and then "Palongkee" and finally Cox's Bazar after a market was named after Captain Hiram Cox (died 1799), an officer who served British India.

Getting there
From Dhaka you can go there by almost any recognisable bus service. Green Line Scania is probably the most luxurious one which charges about Tk.2500 for a return trip. Other buses will be around the same price range or maybe lower.

The journey which should take no more than eight hours usually takes twice that.

Flying is ridiculously and quite insensibly expensive. Return fares are between Tk.12 000--14000.

Places to stay
The hotel scene unfortunately has grown disproportionately; as a result not many hotels boast a sea view. Tall hotels that mushroomed at the edge of the beach have blocked the view for the rest. Architecturally what could have been a splendour is a mess.

Sea Crown has the best view. You can not only see the sea but also hear the roar of the waves crashing on the beach. For any fit person it's a 10-second run to the sandy beach. Service-wise the hotel needs to improve in all aspects. Budget-wise it would land in the over Tk. 2000 per night range in the off season.

Seagull is still a landmark but probably has lost the charm it once had. The toilets are too narrow and service is still way off from where it should be. Budget-wise it lands over the Tk. 3000 per night range in season.

Long beach is probably the best hotel with a great view of its swimming pool. Although it's just a mere consolation as there cannot be an alternative to a sea vista. Service is excellent and it delighted me as most people have a “green personality” which means they would say yes to almost everything. Most of the staff have been recruited locally and have that local accent. Even as an internal tourist I enjoyed it. Budget-wise it lands in the Tk. 3000 range in the off season.

Ocean Paradise is the newest. Structure-wise its very large and the view is very nice. Budget-wise it should be a little cheaper but lands in the Tk. 3000 range, which goes up to twice that in peak season. Aesthetics could have been a lot better given the investment that went with it.

You can find a hotel that will suit your budget in the off season very easily. Rooms for as little as Tk. 600 is pretty easy to get as long as budget is your only parameter.

Food talk
Cox's has an interesting collection of food, which Bangladeshis generally love. Bhartas, fried fish, shutki and rice adds to the colours of Cox's

Jhaubon is a common and popular destination. Bhartas like chingri and taki and pomfret fry are great.

Nitol has bad ambiance but is unquestionably the best place to eat local food. They usually take a long time to serve but when the food arrives, it is delicious. You must try the crab curry which is out of the world. They have probably the best beef in Cox's bazar.

Niribili is very unlike what the name suggests. It's very crowded and has some brilliant lentils and rice. Add with it the most common fish which is the pomfret and you are ready to lie down in one of the beach chairs and take a lethargy tour.

Mermaid Café has the ambience of any international beach café but service-wise it can embarrass you. I must say that the waiters are very well-behaved but they take about 40 minutes to serve even the simplest lime juice.

Things to do
Aggmeda Khyang: a large Buddhist monastery, and a place revered by around 400,000 Buddhist people of Cox's Bazar and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The main sanctuary is posted on a series of round timber columns. It has a prayer chamber and an assembly hall along with a repository of large and small bronze Buddha images and a number of old manuscripts.

Ramu: about 10 kilometres from Cox's Bazar, is a village with a sizeable Buddhist population. The village is famous for its handicrafts and homemade cigars. There are monasteries, khyangs and pagodas containing images of Buddha in gold, bronze and other metals inlaid with precious stones. One of the most interesting parts of these temples is on the bank of the Baghkhali river. It houses not only interesting relics and Burmese handicrafts but also a large bronze statue of Buddha measuring thirteen feet high and resting on a six feet high pedestal. The wood carvings of this khyang are very delicate and refined. The village has a charm of its own. Weavers ply their trade in open workshops and craftsmen make handmade cigars in their pagoda-like houses.

Dulahazara Safari Park: This safari park is an extension of an animal sanctuary located along the Chittagong-Cox's Bazar road about 50 kilometres from Cox's Bazar town. The sanctuary itself protects a large number of wild elephants which are native to the area. In the safari park there are domesticated elephants which are available for a ride. Other animal attractions include lions, Bengal Tigers, crocodiles, bears, Chitals and lots of different types of birds and monkeys. It is a wonderful project to attract tourists.

Inani Beach: This is another magnificent place to see. Inani is full of stony beaches and it's calmness and serenity is enchanting.

The potential is far greater than has been realised. An amateurs' recommendation would be to plan it and plan it conservatively. We must not make another Dhaka in the world's longest beach by creating poorly-designed buildings which will not uphold the unique character of the place.

By Taskin Rahman
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


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