DISCOVER your home
Traffic gridlock, pollution, broken roads, power outages, processions and rallies, strikes; for locals of this country all these sum up their life here. So at the first chance, they hop onto an airplane or a bus and make their way away from home, away from all the disappointment and frustration it has to offer.
However, we tend to forget that beyond all these lies a Bangladesh which is rich in natural and historical beauty and is no less able of transporting people away from the conundrums of daily life to a peaceful state of being.
Since the holiday season is upon us, most families are planning getaways. This season, why not bring out a little patriotism and give our country a try for the attractions it has to offer?
The very first place that comes to mind in terms of touring Bangladesh is always, without fail, the world's largest beach, Cox's Bazar. Even if you have been before, revisiting this place will not tire you and it is the perfect destination for a quick, relaxing trip, more so if you travel by air. Sitting by the beach in the moonlight or walking barefoot on the cool sand in the chilly wind.
If you are in Cox's, trips to Inani beach and Himchari are musts. During winter a banana boat ride and water skiing is also done in the sea which may be a fascination to many. If you are visiting Cox's Bazar, a trip to Saint Martin's Island is called for. During high tide the only way of getting here is via launch. Keari Tours and Services, with their basic and premium cruise ships, are the most popular way to get there. A two- to three-hour-long journey has to be made from Cox's Bazar to Teknaf, from where the journey continues on a launch. Saint Martin's is famous as a coral island and is a tranquil place to relax in. During low tide the connecting road from Cox's Bazar to Saint Martin's rises and if you are looking for some adventure you might want to put on your backpack and sneakers and make your way on foot! Moreover, a half-hour's ride from Cox's Bazar is a safari park. Although still not very popular around the country, this safari park takes you on tours on jeeps through the natural habitats of many animals and is something that is rare in our country.
Located 77 Km from Chittagong, it is an ideal holiday site because of its beautiful landscape. Fishing, speedboat cruising, the Kaptai lake tour are some of the popular activities here for tourists. The spiralling Karnaphuli flowing along the mountains gives Rangamati a heavenly feel. The Shubholong Fountain and Hanging Bridge are a few of the must-see places in Rangamati. Also, there is a tribal museum and Buddhist temples which may interest many. A short two-day trip is enough to see everything around Rangamati.
If you make your way to Bandarban from Rangamati you can go directly from there as well other than from Chittagong. Bandarban Hill district is situated 92 km from Chittagong and boasts the highest peak of Bangladesh -- Tahjindong which is 4632 feet high. Nilgiri is perhaps what Bandarban is most popular for. Nilgiri, 46 km from the town, is one of the tallest peaks and arguably the most picturesque site in Bangladesh. You may choose to stay at the resort maintained by the army on Nilgiri but booking has to be done a while before your visit, so plan well.
If your are visiting Bandarban you should take some time to visit the Buddha Dhatu Jadi, popularly known as the Golden Temple. It is the largest Theravada Buddhist temple in the country, and a sacred site for the Marma tribal people who are predominantly Buddhist.
The waterfall named Shoilo Propat at Milanchari, 4 km from the town on the road to Thanchi, is also an excellent site maintained by Bangladesh Parjatan.
A beautiful lake surrounded by high hills and a small village just beside it is the Boga Lake. The Boga Lake is one of the most beautiful natural lakes in Bangladesh. It is also known as Bagakain Lake or Baga Lake. This lake, which has many mythological stories behind its creation, is worth a visit.
Plus, if you are at Bandarban you might as well do some shopping of Thai, Chinese and Burmese products at the various markets there!
Finally one of the most exhilarating things you can do here is going hiking. Keokaradong (883 m) or Tahjindong (967 m), the two tallest peaks, are ideal for hiking with Boga Lake lying directly on the trek and Raikhiang Lake lying a little off the way.
The world's biggest mangrove forest lies in our very own country. Sundarban is a must-visit if you are a Bangladeshi. A large number of foreigners come to tour the Sundarbans for its unique mangrove forest each year. This place needs no introduction about its natural beauty and diverse flora and fauna. A heaven for photographers, this place can only be accessed through waterways from Khulna or Mongla Port. The prime tourist spots here are Karamjol, Katka, Kochikhali, Hiron point and Mandarbaria. Hiron Point (Nilkamal) and Katka are where you can glimpse the Royal Bengal Tiger, deer, monkeys, crocodiles, birds with the scenic beauty in the background. Grassy meadows run from Katka to Kachikhali (Tiger Point) which provides opportunities for tracking wildlife.
Private motor launch, speedboats, country boats as well as mechanised vessels of Mongla Port Authority may be hired for travelling in the Sundarbans. A minimum two-night visit is needed to sample all the important spots. To visit Sundarban prior permission has to be obtained from the Divisional Forest Office. The best time to visit this place is from November to March.
Sylhet deserves a visit just for its tea gardens in Srimongol spread over miles all around like a lush carpet over the slopes. Sylhet is an ideal hiking place for adventure-loving individuals. The Jaflong river is a must-visit because of the serene scenic beauty that it is. Madhabkunda and Hum Hum boast beautiful waterfalls.
Lawacherra Rainforest is one of the best reserved forests in the country and will be a delight for bird-watchers. Tanguar Haor is a valley with a number of dips which fill up in the rainy season and one of the top tourist spots in Sylhet.
Although Barisal is rarely considered a vacation spot by most of us, it does have things to offer. In Barisal, the place to be is Kuakata, which is locally known as the Sagor Kannya.
The sandy beach of Kuakata meets the Bay of Bengal with hundreds of coconut trees lining the background. You can visit Kuakata if you want a change from the beaches of Cox's Bazar. The Buddhist temple there is also quite famous. In Barisal Town Durga Sagor is a must-visit if you are going in winter, which is the peak tourism season. This is a beautiful Dighi where numerous migratory birds fly to every winter. Another place to visit if you are in Barisal is Horinghata. As the name suggests this is the place where you can see deer and at times some get a rare lucky glimpse of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
Housed in Netrokona about 200 kilometres north of the capital, Shuong Duragpur of Birishiri is the very definition of picturesque beauty. What makes up this beautiful scene are the ceramic mountains of Duragpur, a mixture of grey and white in colour, and flowing alongside it the Shomeshwari river in the most mesmerising blue there can be, with the hues playing with the eyes.
This place is also rich in ethnic culture with numerous ethnic groups residing here. Other than the river and the hills a must visit is the ethnic museum and the garo village here. Birishiri comprises of part of the Bangladesh-India border and is thus, quite remote. The best way to get here is by bus from Dhaka which will take around 7 hours. Once there, you can go around the place in rickshaws.
You can stay at the YMCA rest house here, but do give them a call before visiting. If you are a person with an adventurous streak and are visiting in a group, you may also want to camp on the hills.
While these are place more for relaxing and sight-seeing, if you are one of those kinds who go to places to taste slices of heritage and history then many spots in Bangladesh will be a delight for you.
Mainamati in Comillla is quite well-known throughout our country. An isolated ridge of low hills where archaeological excavations have revealed Buddhist remains of numerous monuments and mounds. This place lies as a proof of the existence of ancient Buddhist civilisations.
Paharpur is another important archaeological site in Bangladesh situated in Paharpur village in the Naogaon district. Here stands a ruin of an ancient temple reaching high into the sky. These are the remains of a gigantic Buddhist monastery which was previously surrounded by jungle.
Kanataji Temple in Dinajpur is one of the best remains of terracotta art in the country. The entire temple had been adorned with terracotta in figures of people and animals interlaced with rosette, geometrical and floral designs.
Finally, Mahasthangarh deserves a visit if you are a history freak. This is the oldest archaeological site here and lies about 12km from Bogra town. Four rivers pass through or by Mahastangarh. It contains the remains of an ancient city which was called Pundranagara or Paundravardhanapura in the territory of Pundravardhana. The Barind terrace of Mahastangarh boasts a series of uplifted blocks of Madhupur Clay, believed to be of similar age to the Pleistocene.
Bangladesh is rich with scenic beauty and historical and cultural heritage but we barely think of visiting more than a few of these places. This time around give the beauty that our country has to offer a chance and pack your bags and really visit Bangladesh.
By Karishma Ameen
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed